Gleeson, Libby 1950-

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GLEESON, Libby 1950-

PERSONAL: Born September 19, 1950, in Young, New South Wales, Australia; daughter of Norman John (a teacher) and Gwynneth (a homemaker; maiden name, Whitten) Gleeson; married Euan Tovey (a scientist); children: Amelia, Josephine, Jessica. Education: University of Sydney, B.A., 1973; New South Wales Department of Education, teaching certification, 1975. Hobbies and other interests: Family, reading, swimming, tennis, community arts.

ADDRESSES: Home—11 Oxford St., Petersham, New South Wales 2049, Australia. Agent—Curtis Brown, P.O. Box 19, Paddington, New South Wales 2021 Australia.

CAREER: Instructor in secondary school and university, 1974-86; visiting lecturer at various universities, 1985—; full-time writer, 1989—. Has also been a consultant for teaching English as a second language, 1986-90. Authors' representative on Public Lending Right Committee of Australia. Chair of judging committee, New South Wales Premier's Literary Award, 2003.

MEMBER: Australian Society of Authors (chair, 1999-2001).

AWARDS, HONORS: Angus & Robertson Award for Writers for Young Readers, 1984, highly commended, Australian Children's Book of the Year, 1985, short-listed for New South Wales Premier's Award, 1985, South Australia Premier's Award, 1985, and Guardian Newspaper's Award for Children, all for Eleanor, Elizabeth; Honor Book, Australian Children's Book of the Year, 1988, and shortlisted for Victorian Premier's Award, 1988, both for I Am Susannah; Children's Literature Peace Prize, 1991, and International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Award, 1992, both for Dodger; Prime Minister's Multicultural Award, 1991, for Big Dog; Honor Book, CBC Picture Book of the Year, 1993, for Where's Mum?; shortlisted for Children's Book of the Year from Children's Book Council of Australia, 1994, for Love Me, Love Me Not; Lady Cutler Award for services to children's literature, 1997; Book of the Year citation from Children's Book Council of Australia, 1997, for Hannah Plus One; shortlisted for Children's Book of the Year from Children's Book Council of Australia, 1998, for Queen of the Universe; Honor Book citation from Children's Book Council of Australia, and shortlisted for New South Wales Premier's Literary Award, both 2000, both for Hannah and the Tomorrow Room; Bologna Ragazzi Award in fiction (infants category), and shortlisted for Children's Book of the Year from Children's Book Council of Australia, both 2000, both for The Great Bear; Picture Book of the Year award from Children's Book Council of Australia, 2002, for An Ordinary Day; Young Australian Readers Award, 2002, for Dear Writer.



Eleanor, Elizabeth, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, Australia), 1984, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1990.

I Am Susannah, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, Australia), 1987, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1989.

One Sunday, illustrated by John Winch, Angus & Robertson (Sydney, Australia), 1988.

Big Dog, illustrated by Armin Greder, Ashton Scholastic (Sydney, Australia), 1991, published as The Great Big Scary Dog, Tambourine Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Dodger, Turton & Chambers, 1991, Puffin (New York, NY), 1996.

Hurry Up! illustrated by Mitch Vane, SRA School Group (Santa Rosa, CA), 1992.

Uncle David, illustrated by Armin Greder, Ashton Scholastic (Sydney, Australia), 1991, Tambourine (New York, NY), 1993.

Where's Mum? illustrated by Craig Smith, Omnibus Books (Norwood, South Australia), 1993, published as Where's Mom? Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

Mum Goes to Work, illustrated by Penny Azar, Ashton Scholastic (Sydney, Australia), 1992, published as Mom Goes to Work, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

Love Me, Love Me Not, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.

Sleeptime, Ashton Scholastic, 1993.

Walking to School, illustrated by Linda McClelland, SRA School Group (Santa Rosa, CA), 1994.

Skating on Sand, illustrated by Ann James, Viking (Sydney, Australia), 1994.

The Princess and the Perfect Dish, illustrated by Armin Greder, Ashton Scholastic (Sydney, Australia), 1995.

Hannah Plus One, illustrated by Ann James, Puffin (Sydney, Australia), 1996.

Refuge, Puffin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1998.

Queen of the Universe, illustrated by David Cox, Omnibus Books (Norwood, South Australia), 1998.

Hannah and the Tomorrow Room, illustrated by Ann James, Puffin (Sydney, Australia), 1999.

The Great Bear, illustrated by Armin Greder, Scholastic (Sydney, Australia), 1999.

Dear Writer, illustrated by David Cox, Puffin (Sydney, Australia), 2000.

An Ordinary Day, illustrated by Armin Greder, Scholastic (Sydney, Australia), 2001.

The Rum Rebellion: The Diary of David Bellamy ("My Story" series), Scholastic (Sydney, Australia), 2001.

Shutting the Chooks In, illustrated by Ann James, Scholastic (Sydney, Australia), 2003.

Cuddle Time, illustrated by Julie Vivas, Walker Books, 2003.


Bizarre, Omnibus Books (Norwood, South Australia), 1989.

Stay Loose Mother Goose, Omnibus Books (Norwood, South Australia), 1990.

The Blue Dress, Heinemann (London, England), 1991.

Landmarks, Turton & Chambers, 1991.

Goodbye and Hello, Viking (New York, NY), 1992.

Top Drawer, Phoenix, 1992.

Family, Heinemann (London, England), 1994.

Out of the Box: Red Book, Phoenix, 1994.

The Phone Book, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.

The Champion and Other Stories, Phoenix, 1996.

Personal Best, Mammoth, 1996.

Blasters: Animal Tales, Heinemann (London, England), 1997.

Storykeepers, Duffy & Snellgrove, 2001.


The Libby Gleeson Video, Insight Profile, 1995.

Writing Hannah: On Writing for Children (nonfiction), Hale & Ironmonger, 1999.

Making Picture Books (nonfiction), Scholastic (Sydney, Australia), 2003.

Also author of numerous short stories, including "The Boy Who Wouldn't Get Out of Bed," "Bedtime Story," "Farewell," "In the Swim," and "Her Room." Gleeson's works have been translated into Swedish, Dutch, German, Korean, and Italian.

SIDELIGHTS: Award-winning Australian children's author Libby Gleeson is equally at home writing picture books for young children and realistic novels for older readers. The author draws upon her own imagination, her experiences raising three daughters, and her childhood to craft stories about family, friendship, and facing adversity. Although all of her books are set in Australia, their appeal is universal, and they have been translated into several foreign languages. Horn Book contributor Karen Jameyson cited Gleeson for "an impressive array" of children's books in which "the influences of family swoop through the pages."

Gleeson began her first novel, Eleanor, Elizabeth, while living in England. She based the work on aspects of her own childhood in Western New South Wales, Australia. The story centers around a young girl named Eleanor who has just moved to a new town. In the course of the move, Eleanor discovers her grandmother's diary, written in 1895 when her grandmother was twelve. The diary helps Eleanor come to terms with her new home, and, as Connie Tyrrell Burns wrote in School Library Journal, "to appreciate her own concerns in the light of her grandmother's." The diary also helps save the lives of Eleanor, her brother, and a friend when they escape from a raging bushfire by finding her grandmother's secret cave.

In I Am Susannah, it is the main character's best friend who moves away, leaving Susannah to deal with her self-involved mother, making new friends, and her first encounter with adolescent kissing games. At the same time, a mysterious woman with a supposedly tragic past, known as the "Blue Lady," moves into her best friend's old house. When Susannah, an aspiring artist, spies the Blue Lady's artistic talents, the two begin a friendship of their own. Nancy Vasilakis praised I Am Susannah in Horn Book for its "excellent characterizations and an exploration of pertinent contemporary themes."

In 1991, Gleeson published two works of very different natures, The Great Big Scary Dog and Dodger. The first, called an "unusual and engaging book" by School Library Journal reviewer Lisa Dennis, moved Gleeson's focus from adolescent angst to the typical fears of a preschooler. The Great Big Scary Dog is the story of how three young children, using their imaginations and a very colorful costume, help a little girl overcome her fear of a neighborhood dog. Horn Book correspondent Ann A. Flowers praised The Great BigScary Dog for portraying "a common childhood trauma brought to a satisfying resolution." Because that resolution involves a Chinese friend and a New Year dragon, the book won the Prime Minister's Multicultural Award.

Dodger returns to themes of adolescent anxieties and adjustments. Mick Jamieson, the central character, is a troubled student of thirteen. Since his mother's recent death, Mick has had to move from a small Australian country town to suburban Campbelltown to live with his grandmother. His father, a truck driver, is away all the time, although Mick is constantly hoping for his return. Dodger is also the story of Penny, a first-year teacher who sees enough in Mick to cast him as the Artful Dodger in the school production of Oliver, despite the resistance of several other teachers. In a review for Magpies, Stephanie Owen Reeder noted the sensitive handling of the relationship between the two characters, as well as Gleeson's portrayal of "young adolescents dealing with life in believable settings, and in a way which captures the emotions of the reader."

Following Dodger, Gleeson returned to books for younger children, including Uncle David, about a young child's tendency to exaggerate, Mum Goes to Work, which compares mothers' work with that of their children's in the day care center, and Great Bear, an award-winning fable about the creation of Ursa Major as a constellation. Both Uncle David and Great Bear are illustrated by Armin Greder, who has worked closely with Gleeson for more than a decade. As a team, Gleeson and Greder won the prestigious Bologna Ragazzi Award for the fanciful story and drawings that comprise Great Bear.

Gleeson's three children have had considerable influence on her work. "I am constantly observing them and being reminded of my own experiences as a child," she told CA. "I try to bring to the reader the feelings of those real experiences so that they can identify with the characters—whether they be kids from the bush as in Eleanor, Elizabeth, the city as in I Am Susannah, or suburbia as in Dodger." Now that her daughters have grown, the author also finds inspiration from children she meets when she visits schools to talk about her writing. Everything Gleeson writes, however, is filtered through her imagination and her wider experience—as Jameyson put it in Horn Book, "like all taking from reality it has to be fictionalized." Jameyson credited Gleeson for creating books that "have sprung from a rich, wonderful, and typically turbulent family life....Andthe dialogue is so authentic that you'd swear you had your ear to a cup on the wall instead of your eyes on a page."



Booklist, April 1, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of The Great Big Scary Dog, p. 1458.

Horn Book, September, 1989, Nancy Vasilakis, review of I Am Susannah, pp. 628-629; April, 1991, p. 65; July-August, 1993, review of Uncle David, pp. 443, 496; September-October, 1994, Ann A. Flowers, review of The Great Big Scary Dog, p. 576; March-April, 1997, Karen Jameyson, "Typical Turbulence: Writing and Raising a Family," p. 225.

Magpies, March, 1991, Stephanie Owen Reeder, review of Dodger, p. 4.

Publishers Weekly, April 11, 1994, review of The GreatBig Scary Dog, p. 63.

School Library Journal, June, 1989, p. 108; June, 1990, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of Eleanor, Elizabeth, pp. 121-122; September, 1993, p. 208; May, 1994, Lisa Dennis, review of The Great Big Scary Dog, p. 94.

Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1989, p. 212; August, 1990, p. 160.


Libby Gleeson Home Page, (May 5, 2003).