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Forrester, Sandra 1949–

Forrester, Sandra 1949–

PERSONAL: Born April 8, 1949, in Cullman, AL; daughter of Robert Martin (a transportation specialist) and Dorothy (a government employee; maiden name, Fine) Forrester. Education: Judson College, B.A., 1970; attended University of Virginia, 1972; University of North Carolina at Greensboro, M.L.I.S., 1996. Hobbies and other interests: Reading ("everything from mysteries to poetry to history"), restoring old doll houses, beachcombing, researching, collecting nineteenth-and early twentieth-century children's books, Majolica pottery, and Santa Clauses.

ADDRESSES: Office—National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 101 Alexander Dr., Research Triangle Park, NC 27709. Agent—Barbara S. Kouts, P.O. Box 558, Bellport, NY 11713.

CAREER: Department of the Army, Alexandria, VA, occupational analyst, 1974–85, Falls Church, VA, management analyst, 1985–92; National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC, management analyst, 1992–.

MEMBER: American Library Association, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

AWARDS, HONORS: Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, and Bank Street College Children's Book of the Year designation, both 1996, both for Sound the Jubilee.

WRITINGS:

Sound the Jubilee (young-adult novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.

My Home Is over Jordan (sequel to Sound the Jubilee), Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.

Dust from Old Bones, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.

Wheel of the Moon, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

"BEATRICE BAILEY" SERIES

The Everyday Witch, Barron's (Hauppauge, NY), 2002.

The Witches of Friar's Lantern, Barron's (Hauppauge, NY), 2003.

The Witches of Sea-Dragon Bay, Barron's (Hauppauge, NY), 2003.

The Witches of Winged-Horse Mountain, Barron's (Hauppauge, NY), 2004.

The Witches of Bailiwick, Barron's (Hauppauge, NY), 2005.

The Witches of Widdershins Academy, Barron's (Hauppauge, NY), 2007.

WORK IN PROGRESS: An historical novel for young adults, set in a small town in Alabama during the Depression, working title Leo and the Lesser Lion.

SIDELIGHTS: Sandra Forrester is the author of several novels for young adults, among them her lighthearted "Beatrice Bailey" series, which follows young witch Beatrice as she tries to receive the "Classical Witch" rating so she can learn important magic. Forrester's first novel was not related to fantasy at all, however; Sound the Jubilee and its sequel, My Home Is over Jordan, tell the story of Maddie, a runaway slave living during the U.S. Civil War. As Forrester once commented: "Sound the Jubilee is based on actual events that occurred on the Outer Banks during the Civil War. After the Union Army captured Roanoke Island in February 1862, runaway slaves began to arrive almost immediately seeking sanctuary. Their numbers grew rapidly, until there were more than three thousand people living on the island in what was called the 'Contraband Camp.' The federal government gave each family an acre of land upon which to build a house and plant a garden … and the result was the largest, most prosperous community on the Outer Banks up to that time. Sound the Jubilee is the story of a young girl named Maddie who fled to Roanoke Island with her family in search of freedom. The reality of their lives on the island was often difficult and quite different from what they had envisioned." Laura J. Mikowski wrote in the Voice of Youth Advocates that "the beauty of the book lies in two things: Maddie's growth and Forrester's balancing of the realities of the Civil War." Elizabeth M. Reardon stated in the School Library Journal that "the author's use of a modified dialect adds substance to her characterization."

"I learned about the Contraband Camp several years ago when I was vacationing on 'The Banks' and came across a brief reference to the camp's residents in a book on Outer Banks history," Forrester explained of writing her book. "I searched for more information on these people but found that practically nothing had been written about them. Eventually I located letters that had been written by some of the camp's men when they were serving in the Union Army, as well as journals and privately printed memoirs of Union soldiers who were stationed on Roanoke Island during the war. Many of the incidents experienced by Maddie and her friends and family are based on these first-hand accounts. Sadly, nothing remains on the island to remind us that a thriving business and residential community once stood there. The buildings were destroyed long ago, and the land has reverted to forest and undergrowth. I wrote Sound the Jubilee because I was inspired by the courage of these self-freed slaves and moved by the poignancy of their experience…. The many hours spent in libraries and archives researching Maddie's story rekindled a childhood aspiration," Forrester once recalled: "When I was growing up I loved libraries and always wanted to work in one. My … collaborative efforts with librarians, who were as excited by my research as I was, convinced me to return to school for a degree in library studies."

My Home Is over Jordan follows Maddie's life after the Civil War is over, and she has to decide between pursuing her dream of a college education and supporting her family. Maddie becomes the assistant to a local young black school teacher, and though things begin very well for Maddie and her family in their new life, racial tensions soon rise in the community. Ultimately, an attack on the teacher occurs, followed by the departure of a member of Maddie's family north. Calling My Home Is over Jordan a "docunovel," Hazel Rochman noted in Booklist that "Forrester sets Maddie's personal story of strength and integrity against the harsh historical truth."

Set in New Orleans, Dust from Old Bones describes the social structure of the free slaves living in that Southern city during the years leading up to the Civil War. Young Simone wants to be like her beautiful cousin Claire-Marie, and when Tante Madelon comes from Paris for a visit, Simone views the European woman as an ideal role model. When Tante Madelon betrays Simone to help Claire-Marie, however, Simone finds herself looking beyond appearances to find truth, and begins to fight for the freedom of her aunt's slaves. John Peters of Booklist called the novel "a diaristic tale of a thirteen year old losing some illusions."

Forrester explores another little-known part of history in Wheel of the Moon, which tells the story of orphans from London who are captured and sent to Virginia as indentured servants. Life in the colonies is better than life on the streets for Pen, the narrator of the tale, but the same is not true for all of her friends: some die during the sea passage, and others find themselves indentured to cruel masters. When Pen's friends Rose and Bram decide to escape, Pen must choose to embrace her new life or make a run for freedom. "The facts are authentic … and Forrester's style is clear and direct," noted Hazel Rochman in her Booklist review. Lisa Prolman, writing in the School Library Journal, considered the novel "a good, clear story about a time period not generally mentioned in history texts."

Along with her historical fiction, Forrester has created a series of tales featuring Beatrice Bailey, a young witch who wants nothing more that to receive her magic-rating on her twelfth birthday. She will either be rated as "Everyday" or as "Classical," the more prestigious of the two titles. When her birthday comes, however, the Witches' Executive Council give her a Noble Quest instead, telling Beatrice that her success at the task of rescuing a sorcerer and his daughters will earn her a rating. With her three best friends, Beatrice travels to the mythical land of Bailiwick to begin her quest. Elaine E. Knight, writing in the School Library Journal, found that the first volume of the series, The Everyday Witch, is filled with characters who "are a cohesive group and there is a nice emphasis on cooperation and individual efforts." Of another novel in the series, The Witches of Friar's Lantern, Catherine Threadgill wrote in the School Library Journal that "this fun, easy read is a satisfactory option for die-hard Potter fans." A critic for Curriculum Review commented on the "mix of humor, magic, and spooky adventure" in the series, while Heidi Hauser Green, writing in Kliatt, noted that the "Beatrice Bailey" books also contain a "satisfying blend" of magical elements and mystery.

"My passion for books is rivaled only by my love for animals," Forrester once explained. "I have been active in animal rescue for years because I believe strongly that all animals, wild and domesticated, deserve our respect and protection. Unfortunately, a majority of cats and dogs born in this country are 'throwaways' who never know the comforts of a secure home and a loving family. I can only hope that we will someday learn to value the lives of these innocents, who require so little and give so much. I currently live with two cats, Oliver and Cayenne, who have taught me to worry less, to play more, and to never sit in the cats' chair wearing my good navy suit."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 1, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of My Home Is over Jordan, p. 319; August, 1999, John Peters, review of Dust from Old Bones, p. 205; November 15, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Wheel of the Moon, p. 641.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1997, review of My Home Is over Jordan, p. 125.

Curriculum Review, October, 2003, "Another Day for the Everyday Witch," p. 12.

Kliatt, May, 2005, Heidi Hauser Green, review of The Witches of Bailiwick, p. 34.

Publishers Weekly, October 20, 1997, review of My Home Is over Jordan, p. 77; February 21, 2000, review of My Home Is over Jordan, p. 89.

School Library Journal, May, 1995, Elizabeth M. Rear-don, review of Sound the Jubilee, p. 118; October, 1999, Starr E. Smith, review of Dust from Old Bones, p. 150; October, 2000, Lisa Prolman, review of Wheel of the Moon, p. 156; October, 2002, Elaine E. Knight, review of The Everyday Witch, p. 163; July, 2003, Catherine Threadgill, review of The Witches of Friar's Lantern, p. 130; March, 2004, Elaine E. Knight, review of The Witches of SeaDragon Bay, p. 210.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1995, Laura J. Mikowski, review of Sound the Jubilee, p. 158.

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