Denslow, Sharon Phillips 1947-

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DENSLOW, Sharon Phillips 1947-

PERSONAL: Born August 25, 1947, in Murray, KY; daughter of Joe Hilton (a printer) and Mary Elizabeth (Riley) Phillips; married Leroy Allen Denslow (a newspaper editor), June 13, 1969; children: Erin, Kate. Education: Murray State University, B.S., 1969.

ADDRESSES: Home—130 Villanova Circle, Elyria, OH 44035. Agent—c/o Author Mail, 7th Fl., Greenwillow Books, 10 East Fifty-third St., New York, NY 10022.

CAREER: Porter Public Library, Westlake, OH, children's librarian, 1970-88, head of children's service, 1988-2000; writer.

AWARDS, HONORS: First place Juvenile Merit Award, Friends of American Writers, 1991, for Night Owls; Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, 2000, for Big Wolf and Little Wolf; American Library Association (ALA) notable book citation, 2001, among the best books of the year citations from Capitol Choices, 2002, New York Public Library, 2002, and Bank Street College, all for Georgie Lee.

WRITINGS:

Night Owls, illustrated by Jill Kastner, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1990.

At Taylor's Place, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1990.

Riding with Aunt Lucy, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Hazel's Circle, illustrated by Sharon McGinley-Nally, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Bus Riders, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, Four Winds Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Radio Boy, illustrated by Alec Gillman, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.

Woollybear Good-Bye, illustrated by Nancy Cote, Four Winds Press (New York, NY), 1994.

On the Trail with Miss Pace, illustrated by G. Brian Karas, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.

Big Wolf and Little Wolf, illustrated by Cathie Felstead, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 2000.

Georgie Lee, illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins, Green-willow (New York, NY), 2002.

All Their Names Were Courage, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to Country Living.

WORK IN PROGRESS: In the Snow, with illustrations by Nancy Tafuri, and Seven Nights a Week, a collection of lullabies and rhymes, both for Greenwillow.

SIDELIGHTS: Sharon Phillips Denslow is the author of a number of picture-books that have been praised for their gentle texts and positive portrayals of families. In titles such as At Taylor's Place, Riding with Aunt Lucy, and Georgie Lee, Denslow portrays affectionate, supportive relationships between grandparents and other elderly individuals whose lives touch those of young people in some special way. In each of these books, noted critics, Denslow illustrates with words that such love and support flow both ways, from old to young and vice versa.

Denslow was born in Murray, Kentucky, grew up in a small town, and spent much time on her grandparents' farms. "Everyone in the family was a wonderful storyteller," she once recalled, "and in small towns everything has its own story." During high school, she discovered a talent for writing, going on to major in English and journalism in college. After graduation, Denslow married, moved with her husband to Ohio, and found a job as a children's librarian. "I read children's books by day and wrote stories at night," she once recalled of her first attempts at being a published writer. "Once I got so discouraged, I burned up hundreds of my stories and poems. But I went back to writing.... Finally, at age thirty-eight, I decided it was now or never and began writing seriously."

Two years later, in 1988, Denslow had her book Night Owls accepted for publication. The story of an elderly woman and her nephew and their enjoyment of staying up late, Night Owls "is about everyone who has ever been reluctant to go inside and miss the magic of the night," its author once explained. "No matter how many books I write, Night Owls will always be my favorite." According to a Horn Book critic, Denslow's text is "brief, low-key, and conversational in tone," while School Library Journal contributor Kathy Piehl wrote that Night Owls celebrates life and "rejoices in night's beauty."

Denslow has gone on to see several more picture books published, their illustrations completed by a variety of talented artists. At Taylor's Place finds a craftsman willing to share his knowledge with an eager young apprentice in "a warm, gentle story of affection across the generations," according to School Library Journal contributor Joan McGrath. In a review for Booklist, Deborah Abbott had special praise for the everyday farm activities portrayed, as well as Denslow's depiction of a close-knit intergenerational relationship in this "quiet story." Also focusing on farm life, Georgie Lee features Grandmother and nine-year-old grandson J. D. working, playing, and exploring the family farm, with many of their activities prompted by the antics of the mischievous family cow. Denslow once wrote that the setting for Georgie Lee is based on her own grandmother's farm. According to a Kirkus Reviews critic, "country and city kids alike" will enjoy the pair's adventures—which involve sudden summer storms, a haunted house, and encounters with critters ranging from goats to catfish—in a book the critic dubbed a "deceptively simple first chapter book." Noting that the story "unfolds smoothly," Booklist contributor Denise Wilms added that Georgie Lee contains a "gentle humor [that] will go over well with younger children." Christine Alfano of Riverbank Review observed, "Georgia Lee offers a magic combination of simplicity, substantial characters, and humor.... Denslow understands that sometimes it's not so much what's at the center of our lives, but what pokes in from the sidelights, that truly and most beautifully shapes our days."

Riding with Aunt Lucy focuses on an elderly woman who only recently earned her first driver's license so she can go on trips with her great-nephew Leonard. The book is particularly special to its author. As Den-slow once explained, Riding with Aunt Lucy is "dedicated to my grandmothers who never learned to drive and who always had to wait for someone to take them wherever they needed to go. I wish they could have enjoyed the fun of the road like Lucy." In another story about traveling, Bus Riders depicts the friendship that develops between an elderly school bus driver and two elementary school-aged children on his route, a friendship that the children become aware of when the driver must leave work for several weeks to have minor surgery. Praise for Bus Riders came from Horn Book contributor Margaret A. Bush, who enjoyed Denslow's story that "celebrates the special community that develops among regular riders," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor commended the humorous text and the "ebullient, witty art" contributed by illustrator Nancy Carpenter.

Denslow's continuing focus on the elderly comes from her own childhood. She once explained: "My grandparents were very important to me when I was growingup.... Perhaps I hope my books will be a way for kids everywhere to feel the closeness I had. I believe that every child needs someone who thinks they're wonderful just the way they are, and I think children need to feel they have something important to do. In my stories, I try to capture small flashes of friendship children will enjoy and remember. I hope to capture something so truly that the story comes to life."

Denslow shared with CA her advice on why reading is important: "You have to read before you can do almost everything else in life. Math, computers, writing, composing, athletics, making up secret codes, deciphering treasure maps, filling out the forms for your dog's license, and learning about things so you can make up your own mind about them for starters. That's just knowing how to read. Real reading (reading more than you're absolutely required to) gives you something extra—the chance to be some other place, some other time, with people who don't live next door—the chance to share in the wonderful stories (real and imagined) everywhere around you—the chance to learn and know and appreciate what you didn't know before."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 1, 1990, Deborah Abbott, review of At Taylor's Place, p. 338; October 1, 1991, Hazel Rochman, review of Riding with Aunt Lucy,p. 336; May 1, 1992, Kay Weisman, review of Hazel's Circle, p. 1606; March 15, 1993, Sheilamae O'Hara, review of Bus Riders, p. 1358; June 1, 1995, Kay Weisman, review of On the Trail with Miss Pace, p. 1784; October 1, 1995, Lauren Peterson, review of Radio Boy, p. 325; May 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of Big Wolf and Little Wolf, p. 1676; July, 2002, Denise Wilms, review of Georgie Lee, p. 1856.

Five Owls, May, 1993, Kathie Krieger Cerra, review of Bus Riders, pp. 112-113.

Horn Book, May, 1990, review of Night Owls, pp. 321-322; November, 1990, Ann A. Flowers, review of At Taylor's Place, p. 725; May, 1993, Margaret A. Bush, review of Bus Riders, p. 315; July-August, 2002, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Georgie Lee, p. 458.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1993, review of Bus Riders,p. 298; May 1, 1995, review of On the Trail with Miss Pace, p. 632; April 15, 2002, review of Georgie Lee, p. 566.

Publishers Weekly, February 9, 1990, review of NightOwls, p. 59; May 22, 1995, review of On the Trail with Miss Pace, p. 59; May 15, 2000, review of Big Wolf and Little Wolf, p. 116.

School Library Journal, March, 1990, Kathy Piehl, review of Night Owls, pp. 189-190; November, 1990, Joan McGrath, review of At Taylor's Place,p. 91; November, 1991, Christine A. Moesch, review of Riding with Aunt Lucy, pp. 92, 94; July, 1993, Lisa Dennis, review of Bus Riders, p. 59; December, 1994, Ruth Semrau, review of Woolly-bear Good-Bye, p. 73; June, 1995, Ruth Semrau, review of On the Trail with Miss Pace, p. 80; September, 1995, Louise L. Sherman, review of Radio Boy, p. 168; May, 2000, Laura Santoro, review of Big Wolf and Little Wolf, p. 140; May, 2002, Terrie Dorio, review of Georgie Lee, p. 111.

ONLINE

Westlake Porter Public Library,http://www.westlakelibrary.org/ (May 28, 2003), "Youth Services Coordinator Sharon Denslow to Retire."

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