Garden, Nancy 1938-

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Garden, Nancy 1938-


Born May 15, 1938, in Boston, MA; married Sandra (Sandy) Scott. Education: Columbia University, B.F.A., 1961, M.A., 1962. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, gardening, weaving, woodcarving, hiking, anything to do with dogs.


Home—Carlisle, MA. Agent—McIntosh & Otis, Inc., 353 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10016. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer, novelist, short story writer, and editor. Junior Scholastic, New York, NY, contributing editor, 1969-70; American Observer, Washington, DC, contributing editor, 1970-72; Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY, associate editor, 1972, assistant editor, 1973, editor, 1974-76; teacher and freelance writer, 1976—. Has also worked in the theatre as an actress and lighting designer, taught at various levels, and done freelance editorial work for various publishers. Speaker at schools, libraries, and conferences, to children, teens, and adults on writing, young adult literature, and censorship.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, PEN American Center, Authors Guild.


Reviewer's Choice Award, Booklist, 1982, Best Books citation, American Library Association (ALA), 1982, Best of the Best citations, ALA, 1970-83, Best of the Best renewed citation, ALA, 1987, Best Books of the 1980s citation, Booklist, Booksellers's Choice citation, 1993, Best Books for Young Adults for the Past 25 Years citation, ALA, 1994, Best of the Best Books for Young Adults of the Last 4 Decades of the 20th Century citation, ALA, 2000, 100 most influential books of the twentieth century citation, School Library Journal, 2000, all for Annie on My Mind; William Allen White Award Master List citation, 1983-84, for Fours Crossing; Lambda Book Award in the Children's/Young Adult category, 1996, and Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, Children's Book Council and National Council of Social Studies, 1997, for Good Moon Rising; Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award, 2001, for work defending novel Annie on My Mind from banning in Kansas and for anti-censorship efforts in general; Margaret A. Edwards Award, School Library Journal, for her lifetime contribution in writing for young adults, 2003; Kathadin Award for Lifetime Achievement, Maine Library Association, 2005; Best Book of 2006 citation, School Library Journal, 2006, for Endgame; Saints and Sinners Hall of Fame induction, 2007.



What Happened in Marston, Four Winds (New York, NY), 1971.

Berlin: City Split in Two, Putnam (New York, NY), 1971.

The Loners (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1972.

Vampires, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1973.

Werewolves, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1973.

Witches, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1975.

Devils and Demons, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1976.

Fun with Forecasting Weather, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 1977.

The Kids' Code and Cipher Book, Holt (New York, NY), 1981.

Maria's Mountain, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 1981.

Annie on My Mind (novel), Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 1982.

(Adaptor) Favorite Tales from Grimm, Four Winds (New York, NY), 1982.

Prisoner of Vampires (novel), Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 1984.

Peace, O River (novel), Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 1986.

Lark in the Morning, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 1991.

My Sister, the Vampire, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.

Dove and Sword: A Novel of Joan of Arc, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 1995.

My Brother, the Werewolf, Bullseye Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Good Moon Rising, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 1996.

The Year They Burned the Books, Farrar Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 1999.

Holly's Secret, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 2000.

Meeting Melanie, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.

Molly's Family, pictures by Sharon Wooding, Farrar Straus Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.

The Case of the Stolen Scarab: A Candlestone Inn Mystery, Two Lives (Ridley Park, PA), 2004.

Endgame, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.


Fours Crossing, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 1981.

Watersmeet, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 1983.

The Door Between, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 1987.


Mystery of the Night Raiders, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 1987.

Mystery of the Midnight Menace, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 1988.

Mystery of the Secret Marks, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 1989.

Mystery of the Kidnapped Kidnapper, Minstrel (New York, NY), 1994.

Mystery of the Watchful Witches, Minstrel (New York, NY), 1994.


Nora and Liz (fiction for adults), Bella Books (Ferndale, MI), 2002.

Hear Us Out! Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress and Hope, 1950 to the Present, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.

Author's works have been translated into several foreign languages.

Also author of the serial novel The Secret of Smith's Hill, Breakfast Serials, 1999—.


Nancy Garden was born in Boston but moved around a lot as a child. Her uprooted life meant that she had to make new friends often. Like many future authors, Garden spent a lot of time reading. As a child she was influenced by Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book, Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, and A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh books. As a young adult she enjoyed and was influenced by the works of Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, and Thomas Wolfe. Garden was close to both of her story-telling parents, who strongly influenced her thinking, but she was especially close to her mother, whom she called "my best friend while I was growing up, my confidante, and my rock." Her father used to tell her that a girl could do anything a boy could do, but she had to do it twice as well to be recognized. She was also influenced by World War II and the fears of the Cold War and the impending threat of nuclear disaster that characterized the lives of World War II-era children.

Garden's childhood imaginative impulses were the result of being an only child, moving frequently, and staying home sick so often. She addressed her isolation by creating characters, and once even invented an imaginary twin for herself. Not surprisingly, as a teenager Garden became interested in theater. This led to her enrollment in the Columbia School of Dramatic Arts in New York City where she studied acting, directing, and lighting design. While aiming lights for a production in Maryland one summer, she fell off a high beam and broke her back. As she recuperated, she did a great deal of writing and stage managed for a community theater group. After completing her bachelors degree, she pursued a masters degree in speech education at Columbia Teachers College and then taught creative dramatics at a private school in New York and speech at Hunter College, supplementing her income with several part-time office jobs. One of these was with an insurance firm where she met Barbara Seuling, who was also interested in children's books. Seuling wanted to be an illustrator, and Garden wanted to be an author. The result was Aloysius P. Bookworm, which was never published, but was an important learning experience for both women, who became lifelong friends. Later, a trip to Wales ignited an interest in Celtic lore, which would serve as the inspiration for several of Garden's future titles.

Garden's books for young people vary between the realistic and the fantastic. What Happened in Marston tells of racial problems in 1960s New York. Her best-known and most controversial novel, Annie on My Mind, is a story of two high school girls who fall in love with each other. The story begins with the adult Annie and Liza reflecting on their relationship while attending college on opposite coasts. It chronicles their meeting at a New York museum and the discovery of their relationship by school officials, precipitating a crisis. At the end of the volume, in a positive reinforcement of individual values and choices, the two girls reaffirm their feelings for one another. The story was dramatized by the BBC in England and first broadcast in 1992. Though initially well received, the novel was highly controversial, and it became the focus of a federal district court case in Kansas in 1995, in which it was decided that the book had been unconstitutionally removed from the shelves of a Kansas school library. Garden's book Lark in the Morning is also about a homosexual relationship, but being gay is not the primary focus of the story. In this book, Garden also addresses issues such as teen suicide, runaways, and abuse.

Garden turned to fantasy with Fours Crossing, the first of a sequence of novels set in a modern-day New Hampshire town. Thirteen-year-old Melissa, whose mother has died, has just arrived in Fours Crossing to stay with her grandmother while her father travels. She befriends Jed, another near-orphan. It soon becomes clear that something mysterious is preventing spring from coming to the town. The two friends gradually realize that a sinister hermit is the culprit; Melissa and Jed determine to foil his plans. In "a genuinely exciting episode," according to Horn Book contributor Paul Heins, the two children are captured and imprisoned by the hermit. How they escape and save spring for the town is a story "likely to satisfy" most readers, as Patricia Dooley wrote in School Library Journal. Garden has published two more books in the "Fours Crossing" sequence. They include such adventures as meeting a mysterious visitor, testifying at the hermit's trial, and another adventure in which Melissa must thwart his evil intentions. These sequels, like the first book, are steeped in Celtic mythology and pagan lore. Other books look at topics such as Vampires, Werewolves, Witches and Devils and Demons. Susan Rich wrote in Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers: "Garden's success in the creation of dynamic and engaging works in the genres of both fantasy and realistic fiction demonstrates a breadth of ability. The topics explored in her writing show her making an important contribution to young adult libraries."

Dove and Sword: A Novel of Joan of Arc, retells the saga of the famous female soldier, using a fictional colleague named Gabrielle who comes from the same village and who follows Joan into battle as a healer and medic. Gabrielle believes wholeheartedly in the religious nature of Joan's mission, but also approaches life in the fifteenth century in a more modern fashion, deploring the status of women, seeking independence, and abhorring war. Garden offers credible details of military life, domestic life, and convent life as she relates Joan's inspirational but ultimately tragic story. The novel "achieves the highest goals of historical fiction—it vivifies the past, robustly and respectfully," then helps "steer the audience toward a more courageous future," noted a Publishers Weekly critic. "Writing with passion and concern, Garden has constructed a readable, well-paced historical novel focusing on the life, mission, triumphs, trial, and execution of [Joan] of Arc," commented Mary M. Burns in Horn Book.

Jan Montcrief and Kerry Socrides, the main protagonists of Good Moon Rising, are two high school girls who eventually fall in love with one another during the process of staging a high-school production of The Crucible. Though senior Jan initially believes her theater experience will ensure she gets the lead role in the play, she is stunned when newcomer Kerry is instead handed the role. Jan becomes assistant to Mrs. Nicholson, the drama teacher. Though the girls are at first separated by resentment and jealousy, as they get to know each other their relationship smooths out and soon begins to grow beyond friendship. When Mrs. Nicholson falls ill, Jan must step in as director. Meanwhile, Kent, the male lead in the play, begins to suspect a lesbian relationship between Jan and Kerry. Soon, the homophobic Kent has started a campaign of trouble for the two girls, fueled by the emotional rhetoric of the play they are all still trying to stage. Stung by the reactions of the people around them, Kerry and Jan must learn to deal with their feelings for each other even while deciding whether or not to reveal their sexual orientation to the world at large. Garden "has written an endearing love story about two young women who fall in love and face the brutal, yet empowering process of coming out," commented Crissa Cummings in Lambda Book Report. The novel "has all the components of a classic young adult novel: well-developed characters, an interesting plot, familiar setting (a high school, of course) and a powerful theme," Cummings noted.

In The Year They Burned the Books high-school senior Jamie Crawford has reached her goal of becoming editor of the school newspaper. When she writes an editorial endorsing frank and open sex education, including the distribution of condoms and free discussion of homosexuality, she becomes involved in a divisive controversy that causes the residents of her small New England town to choose sides. When a religious conservative is elected to the school board, she establishes a "family values" organization and works to dismantle the sex education curriculum and place restrictions on the paper's editorial freedom. Complicating matters is Jamie's nascent realization that she is a lesbian and is falling in love with Tessa, a new girl in school. Soon, the conservative group has conducted a book burning, and anti-gay sentiment against Jamie and her gay best friend Terry has escalated to violence. Booklist reviewer Michael Cart concluded: "This is an important book that deserves a wide readership."

At the beginning of Molly's Family, Molly's kindergarten class is preparing for Open School Night by drawing pictures of themselves and their families to hang on the wall. When title character Molly completes her picture of herself, Mommy, Momma Lu, and the family puppy, another child tells her that her drawing is wrong because she can't have two mommies. As the story progresses, Molly's parents explains the situation, that one is her birth mother, and that Momma Lu is her adoptive parent. Still unconvinced, Molly leaves her picture at home the next day. Soon, however, with the encouragement of her family and supportive teacher, Molly begins to understand that families may be different, but that the love and support of caring relatives is to be cherished. "By tying this specific household to the general diversity within all families, Garden manages to celebrate them all," remarked Martha Topol, writing in School Library Journal.

In Endgame, Garden addresses the sensitive subject of school violence. Fifteen-year-old Gray is a bright, sensitive, and musically talented teen who has experienced more than his share of trouble with bullies. After twice being suspended from his Massachusetts school for carrying a knife to defend himself, Gray and his family move to Connecticut. At his new school, however, Gray finds no relief; he quickly becomes the target of a new group of bullies, this time the local jocks. The abuse he suffers intensifies until it crosses the line into sexual assault and becomes life-threatening, but the school officials do nothing to solve the problem. Worse, Gray's macho father has devastated the teen's self-esteem with indifference and neglect. Eventually, Gray can tolerate no more. He takes a gun to school and kills or maims several other students but is stopped before he is able to kill himself as he intended. The story of Gray's troubles at school and home and his reaction to the abuse he suffers is revealed in conversations with his lawyer as he awaits his trial and sentencing. A Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that "readers will keep going to find an ending even more tragic than expected." A School Library Journal contributor named it an "unflinchingly honest and unsettling look" at the malignant effects of bullying and how it can lead to violence. "Reading the unfolding story is like watching a train wreck in slow motion: the tension is palpable, as is the sense of inevitable tragedy," commented Jennifer Ralston in School Library Journal.

Garden once told CA: "I write for young people because I like them, and because I think they are important. Children's books can be mind-stretchers and imagination-ticklers and builders of good taste in a way that adult books cannot, because young people usually come to books with more open minds. It's exciting to be able to contribute to that in a small way."

Garden divides her time between Massachusetts and Maine, and, though she lived in New York City for fifteen years, she said she "cannot imagine living in the city again. It's fun to go back once in a while," the author added, "but after about two days, I long for woods and sea, fresh air and quiet."



Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.


Advocate, August 14, 2001, profile of Nancy Garden, p. 89.

ALAN Review, winter, 2007, William Broz, "The Bully and the Book and in the Classroom," review of Endgame, p. 34.

Booklist, February 1, 1995, Chris Sherman, review of Mystery of the Watchful Witches, p. 1004; December 15, 1995, Carolyn Phelan, review of Dove and Sword: A Novel of Joan of Arc, p. 698; April 15, 1996, Michael Cart, "Winning One for the First Amendment," profile of Nancy Garden, p. 1431; October 1, 1996, Sally Estes, review of Good Moon Rising, p. 340; September 15, 1998, Sally Estes, review of Good Moon Rising, p. 220; August, 1999, Michael Cart, review of The Year They Burned the Books, p. 2045; October 15, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Holly's Secret, p. 437; June 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Year They Burned the Books, p. 1863; December 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of Meeting Melanie, p. 664; April 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Molly's Family, p. 1446.

Horn Book, August, 1981, Hal Stubbs, review of The Kids' Code and Cipher Book, p. 431, and Paul Heins, review of Fours Crossing, p. 437; March-April, 1996, Mary M. Burns, review of Dove and Sword, p. 206; November-December, 1996, Marilyn Bousquin, review of Good Moon Rising, p. 743; September 1, 2000, review of Holly's Secret, p. 568; September-October, 2007, Claire E. Gross, review of Hear Us Out! Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress and Hope, 1950 to the Present, p. 596.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002, review of Meeting Melanie, p. 1129; February 15, 2004, review of Molly's Family, p. 177; March 15, 2006, review of Endgame, p. 290.

Kliatt, March 1, 2006, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Endgame, p. 10.

Lambda Book Report, September, 1996, Crissa Cummings, review of Good Moon Rising, p. 33; spring, 2007, Rachel Wexelbaum, interview with Nancy Garden, p. 4, and review of Hear Us Out! Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present, p. 6.

New York Times Book Review, March 2, 1986, Merri Rosenberg, review of Peace, O River, p. 29; March 10, 1996, review of Dove and Sword, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, July 6, 1992, review of My Sister, the Vampire, p. 56; October 16, 1995, review of Dove and Sword, p. 62; October 28, 1996, review of Good Moon Rising, p. 83; August 30, 1999, review of The Year They Burned the Books, p. 85; September 11, 2000, review of Holly's Secret, p. 91; August 26, 2002, review of Meeting Melanie, p. 69; May 1, 2006, review of Endgame, p. 65.

School Library Journal, May, 1981, Patricia Dooley, review of Fours Crossing, p. 72; September, 2000, Lauralyn Persson, review of Holly's Secret, p. 230; January, 2001, "Q&A," interview with Nancy Garden, p. 17; September, 2002, Betty S. Evans, review of Meeting Melanie, p. 225; June, 2003, Christine A. Jenkins, "Annie on Her Mind: Edwards Award-winner Nancy Garden's Groundbreaking Novel Continues to Make a Compelling Case for Sexual Tolerance," interview with Nancy Garden, p. 48; May, 2004, Martha Topol, review of Molly's Family, p. 110; March, 2005, Betty S. Evans, review of The Case of the Stolen Scarab, p. 211; May, 2006, Jennifer Ralston, review of Endgame, p. 124; October, 2006, review of Endgame, p. 74.

Washington Post Book World, March 9, 1986, review of Peace, O River, p. 10.


American Library Association Web site, (August 5, 2003), biography of Nancy Garden.

Children's and YA Author Cynthia Leitich Smith, (August 5, 2007), interview with Nancy Garden.

Nancy Garden Home Page, (August 5, 2007).