Hazell, Rebecca (Eileen) 1947-
HAZELL, Rebecca (Eileen) 1947-
PERSONAL: Born July 23, 1947, in Austin, TX; daughter of Donovan Verloe Geppert (an electronics engineer) and Doris Geppert Knotts (a technical editor); married Mark Stephan Hazell (vice president of a real estate investment trust company), May 20, 1972; children: Elisabeth Olive Aloka, Stephan Harrison Ananda. Education: University of California—Santa Cruz, B.A. (cum laude), 1969. Politics: Liberal. Religion: Buddhist.
CAREER: Writer and illustrator.
AWARDS, HONORS: Notable New Book selection, International Jugendbibliothek, 1997, for The Barefoot Book of Heroes; Honor Title, Storytelling World Awards, 2001, for Heroic Children.
(And illustrator) The Barefoot Book of Heroines: GreatWomen from Many Times and Places, Barefoot Books (London, England), 1996, published as Heroines: Great Women through the Ages, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 1996.
(And illustrator) The Barefoot Book of Heroes: GreatMen from Many Times and Places, Barefoot Books (London, England), 1997, published as Heroes: Great Men through the Ages, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 1997.
The Barefoot Book of Heroic Children, illustrated by Helen Cann, Barefoot Books (London, England), 2000, second edition, Barefoot Books (New York, NY), 2002.
(And illustrator) Women Writers ("Women in the Arts" series), Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Hazell's work has been translated into Greek and Korean.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Two more books about women in the arts; a novel for adults, in trilogy form, set in the thirteenth century.
SIDELIGHTS: Rebecca Hazell is an author and illustrator of several books for young readers that provide role models embodying courage and compassion. Written in a "you are there" format, Hazell's The Barefoot Book of Heroines: Great Women from Many Places and Times and its two companion volumes cover the spectrum of human history from ancient Greece through modern times in presenting the lives of notable folk of many cultures, among them Socrates, Benjamin Franklin, William Shakespeare, Anne Frank, Marie Curie, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Hazell has also developed a second three-volume series called "Women in the Arts" which focuses on creative women working as writers and in other formats.
As a young girl, Hazell first fell under the power of a book when her mother let her borrow a treasured copy of Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels, which Hazell described to CA as "an imaginary trip around the world, led by the author, himself a famous world traveler." She credits her interest in world history—as well as her love of travel—as stemming from reading Halliburton's work. She was also fascinated by Andrew Lang's classic "colored" fairy books, such as the Lilac Fairy Book and the Olive Fairy Book. In addition, illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen, and Edmund Dulac captured Hazell's young imagination.
Hazell's first serious writing was undertaken in junior high school, when she signed on as journalist and staff artist for her school's newspaper. In high school and the first two years of college she took honors English classes and focused on writing poetry supplemented by the occasional short story. While attending the University of California—Santa Cruz, her classes were driven by her curiosity about the world, and history became her passion. "What always fascinated me were three themes," she explained to CA: "spirituality; myth, legend, and fairy tales; and the marvelous nature of this world. . . . I took every class I could in world history, from Japan to the African nations, plus classes in Oriental religions; at the end, when I had to declare a major in order to graduate, I totaled up my credits and voila! Russian and Chinese history won."
After graduating from college in 1969, Hazell toyed with clerical and sales jobs before settling down as a writer of educational filmstrips while also developing designs for needlepoint that she sold to high-end decorating stores. However, she did not find what she was doing to be ultimately satisfying. "What I really wanted to do was to share my vision of the world as an amazing place, full of amazing stories. . . . A practicing Buddhist by then, I created a coloring book for the children of our community: biographies expressing the vision that there are heroic and fascinating people everywhere, in every culture on Earth. It was quite a local hit." Encouraged to find a publisher for her work, Hazell prepared a book proposal and sent it off to England's Barefoot Books. The idea was accepted, and Hazell's publishing career was born.
The Barefoot Book of Heroines, followed by The Barefoot Book of Heroes: Great Men from Many Times and Places and The Barefoot Book of Heroic Children were Hazell's first three published works and were released in the United States as well as in England. Consisting of biographies and short stories focusing on the men, women, and children who have given of themselves and their time in an effort to improve their own corner of the world, Hazell's three-book series involves readers in the lives of her subjects, using first-person narrative. Praising The Barefoot Book of Heroines in Resource Links, reviewer Judy Davies noted that Hazell's effort is "set apart from other books on the topic of heroism by the author's clearly defined purpose and her ability to combine thorough research with exceptional design and illustrations." Reviewing the same book in Shambhala Sun, reviewer Laurie Fisher Huck cited "a respect for fearlessness and the power of compassion" as characteristics distinguishing Hazell's heroines, noting: "I was surprised by stories I'd never heard before and tickled by the author's ability to make an experience live for the reader." Calling The Barefoot Book of Heroic Children "an enjoyable collection" that can "help foster better communication and relationships among ethnic groups in our multicultural society," MultiCultural Review contributor Hannah M. Heller went on to praise Hazell for her willingness to discuss controversial issues such as poverty and child labor in Pakistan.
Researching The Barefoot Book of Heroines in over two hundred reference works, Hazell has been able to place each of her subjects—among them monarch Eleanor of Aquitaine, Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, Japanese novelist Murasaki Shikibu, Native American Sacajawea, aviator Amelia Earhart, and Underground Railroad worker Harriet Tubman—in an historical context that allows readers to fully appreciate each woman's contribution to history. Her follow-up work, The Barefoot Book of Heroes, follows the same format and includes profiles of Japan's prince Taishi Shotoku, artist Leonardo da Vinci, civil rights organizer Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cherokee leader Sequoya.
Hazell offers some advice to young writers and illustrators. "Keep in mind why you want to do this kind of work," she explained to CA. "Stay close to your vision, and don't be afraid to revise, change, and take leaps of daring if your work isn't expressing what you truly feel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of Heroes:Great Men through the Ages, p. 1814; April 15, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of The Barefoot Book of Heroic Children, p. 1540.
MultiCultural Review, September, 2000, Hannah M. Heller, review of The Barefoot Book of Heroic Children.
Publishers Weekly, April 3, 2000, review of TheBarefoot Book of Heroic Children, p. 82.
Resource Links, February, 1997, Judy Davies, review of The Barefoot Book of Heroines: Great Women from Many Times and Place.
School Library Journal, December, 1996, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Heroines: Great Women through the Ages, p. 129; June, 1997, Melissa Hudak, review of Heroes, p. 135.
Shambhala Sun, January, 1997, Laurie Fisher Huck, review of The Barefoot Book of Heroines, pp. 67-69.