Hearne, Betsy 1942–

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Hearne, Betsy 1942–


Born October 6, 1942, in Wilsonville, AL; daughter of Kenneth (a doctor) and Elizabeth Gould (an architectural historian); married Michael Claffey; children: Joanna Hearne, Elizabeth Claffey. Education: Wooster College, B.A., 1964; University of Chicago, M.A., 1968, Ph.D., 1985.


Home—Urbana, IL. Office—Graduate School of Library and Information Science, 501 E. Daniel, Champaign, IL 61820. E-mail—[email protected].


Wayne County Public Library, Wooster, OH, children's librarian, 1964-65; University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Chicago, IL, children's librarian, 1967-68; Booklist, Chicago, reviewer, 1968-69, children's books editor, 1973-85; Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, children's books editor, 1985-94, consulting editor, 1994-2007. University of Illinois—Chicago, instructor, 1970-71; University of Chicago, assistant professor, 1985-92; University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign, assistant professor, 1992-94, associate professor, 1994-99, professor of library and information science, beginning 1999, became professor emerita. Judge, National Book Awards, 1975, American Book Awards, 1981, Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards, 1997. Consultant, Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation, 1982-84, Chicago Tribune Charities Foundation classroom libraries project, 1985-86, and Chicago Public School's "Reading Handbook" project, 1989. Speaker at colleges, conferences, and libraries.


International Research Society for Children's Literature, International Board on Books for Young People (member of board of directors of United States chapter, 1995-97, 2000; president of United States chapter, 2001), American Library Association (consultant, Mildred Batchelder Committee, Newbery-Caldecott Award Committee, and Notable Books Committee, 1973-78; chair, Caldecott Award Committee, 2005).


Agnes Sayer Klein Award for Graduate Study, American Library Association (ALA), 1979; Children's Reading Round Table Award, 1982; Best Books for Young Adults citation, ALA, 1987, for Love Lines: Poetry in Person; Carl Sandburg Award, 1988, for Eli's Ghost; first place, Chicago Women in Publishing Competition, 1989, for Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale; Parents' Choice Award, 1990, for Choosing Books for Children: A Commonsense Guide; Anne Izard Award, 1993, for Beauties and Beasts; Choice Book citation, Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC), 1996, for Eliza's Dog; Jane Addams Children's Book Award, Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book, New York Times Notable Book, Children's Book of the Year, Child Study Children's Book Committee, Notable Book for Children citation, Smithsonian magazine, Notable Book selection, ALA, Booklist Editors' Choice, Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, National Council for the Social Studies/Children's Book Council (NCSS/CBC), Best Book selection, Working Mother magazine, and Best Book selection, New York Family magazine, all 1998, all for Seven Brave Women; Centennial Scholar Award, University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign, 1998; Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, NCSS/CBC, 1999, for Listening for Leroy; University Scholar Award, University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign, 2000-03; Children's Choice selection, International Reading Association/CBC, and Choice Book citation, CCBC, both 2001, both for Who's in the Hall? A Mystery in Four Chapters; Parents' Choice Silver Honor Award, and "Outstanding Book" citation, Horn Book, both 2003, both for The Canine Connection: Stories about Dogs and People; Graduate College Outstanding Mentor Award, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2004; National Teaching Award, Association of Library and Information Science Education.



South Star, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1977.

Home, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979.

Eli's Ghost, illustrated by Ronald Himler, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1987.

Love Lines: Poetry in Person (poetry for young adults and adults), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1987.

Polaroid and Other Poems of View (poetry for young adults and adults), photographs by Peter Kiar, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1991.

(Editor) Beauties and Beasts, illustrated by Joanne Caroselli, Oryx Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Eliza's Dog, illustrated by Erica Thurston, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.

Seven Brave Women, illustrated by Bethanne Andersen, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1997.

Listening for Leroy, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.

Who's in the Hall? A Mystery in Four Chapters, illustrated by Christy Hale, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 2000.

Wishes, Kisses, and Pigs, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.

The Canine Connection: Stories about Dogs and People, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.

Hauntings and Other Tales of Danger, Love, and Sometimes Loss, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 2007.


(Editor, with Marilyn Kaye) Celebrating Children's Books: Essays on Children's Literature in Honor of Zena Sutherland (reference), Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1981.

Choosing Books for Children: A Commonsense Guide (reference), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1981, 3rd edition, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1999.

Beauty and the Beast: A Study of Aesthetic Survival (thesis), University of Chicago (Chicago, IL), 1985, published as Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1989.

(Editor, with Zena Sutherland and Roger Sutton) The Best in Children's Books: The University of Chicago Guide to Children's Literature, 1985-1990, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1991.

(Editor, with Roger Sutton) Evaluating Children's Books: A Critical Look, University of Illinois (Urbana, IL), 1993.

(Editor) The Zena Sutherland Lectures, 1983-1992, Clarion (New York, NY), 1993.

(Editor, with Janice Del Negro, Christine Jenkins, and Deborah Stevenson) Story: From Fireplace to Cyberspace, Graduate School of Library and Information Science (Champaign, IL), 1999.

Advisory editor, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, 2001—; member of board of directors, Cricket magazine. Contributor to books, including The Brothers Grimm and Folktale, edited by James M. McGlathery, University of Illinois Press, 1988; The Encyclopedia of Communication and Information, edited by Jorge Schement, Macmillan Reference, 2001; Learning, Culture, and Community: Multiple Practices in Online Education, edited by Caroline Haythornthwaite and Michelle Kazmer, Peter Lang Press, 2004.

Contributor of articles, reviews, and editorials to periodicals, including Bookbird, Library Quarterly, New York Times Book Review, Signal, Horn Book, Village Voice, School Library Journal, Library Trends, Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, American Journal of Sociology, and the Lion and the Unicorn. Recordings include "Evaluating Children's Books," Children's Book Council (New York, NY), 1979, and video recording, Sharing Books with Young Children, American Library Association (Chicago, IL), 1986.


Since Betsy Hearne began work as a children's librarian in the 1960s, she has made a variety of contributions to children's literature. During her career, Hearne has worked as a critic, editor, scholar, and children's book writer, and she has also earned advanced degrees and developed her talents as a poet. Hearne's commentaries on children's books can be found in Booklist and Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Her books for educators, librarians, and parents include Choosing Books for Children: A Commonsense Guide and Evaluating Children's Books: A Critical Look (which she edited with Roger Sutton), among others. Many of Hearne's children's books, such as South Star, Eli's Ghost, Seven Brave Women, Listen-ing for Leroy, Wishes, Kisses, and Pigs, and The Canine Connection: Stories about Dogs and People, have been well received. Additionally, Hearne's two volumes of poetry have been recommended for mature young adults.

Hearne was born in rural Alabama, the daughter of a country doctor. On her home page, she once stated: "I grew up in an Alabama pine forest with no one to play with except a dog, cat, horse, cow, alligator, raccoon, possum, owl, and garter snake. None of them talked much. They were pretty good listeners, though, and I learned from them to listen and also not to be afraid of silence." Hearne's mother taught her to read and write and also entertained her with tales of her ancestors and how they forged lives in a new land. When Hearne was older, the family moved to Tennessee in order to find better schooling, and Hearne grew into a tall, shy young woman who sought solace in literature and music. After earning a college degree, she went to work in the children's department of a public library, and it was there that she found her life's work: evaluating, creating, and relating stories to young audiences. She brought her hands-on experience with youngsters to bear on her own book reviewing and writing, while she also extended the study of children's literature from a scholarly point of view. To quote Mary M. Burns in Horn Book, Hearne's efforts result in "a significant contribution to understanding contemporary children's literature."

In Choosing Books for Children, first published in 1981 and revised in 1990 and 1999, Hearne and Deborah Stevenson present an introduction to selecting works for young readers. The volume "offers articulate, authoritative, and thought-provoking discussions," noted Carolyn Phelan in Booklist. In Evaluating Children's Books, Hearne and Sutton collect a number of essays based on presentations at the 1992 Allerton Park Institute conference. "This book provides informative and thought-provoking reading for those who have a serious interest in children's literature," wrote RQ contributor Katharyn Tuten-Puckett. "Written with clarity, inspired by concern, and marked by insight, these essays are timely, informative, provocative," noted Burns.

A Publishers Weekly critic described Hearne's first children's book, South Star, as "an exciting fantasy." It tells the story of Megan, a young giant girl who has escaped her family's castle, and the Screamer that has frozen the castle and her parents in ice. As Megan flees across a plain from the terrible Screamer, she is befriended and aided by a boy, Randall, who is also on his own. A bear helps the pair find the southern star to follow, and they begin a difficult journey. They finally find a valley populated by Megan's relatives and led by her sister. According to Ethel L. Heins of Horn Book, Hearne "successfully creates suspense and casts an atmosphere of primeval magic" in South Star.

In Home, the sequel to South Star, Megan is living with her sister. When Megan dreams that her sister's missing husband is calling for help, she leaves the peaceful valley to find him. While she waits at the seaside for the storms to go away and to train for a trip across the sea, she once again encounters her friend Randall. They journey across the sea to a desert land ruled by lion people, where Megan's brother-in-law is alive in prison. After battling the king of the land, the three return to the valley. "Both Brendan and Megan return home with a new appreciation for the people and places they left" and "better knowledge of themselves," explained Karen M. Klockner of Horn Book. Writing in School Library Journal, Margaret A. Dorsey commented that this book is "good stuff for growing girls."

Despite its title, according to Elizabeth S. Watson of Horn Book, Eli's Ghost "is definitely not scary." The action, set in the southern United States, begins when Eli runs away to a swamp to find his long-lost mother. When Eli falls into the water, his mother arrives just in time to save him. Still, Eli's ghost escapes his body and has some fun with the rescue party that arrives. Furthermore, Eli's ghost is nothing like him. "For Eli Wilson," observed a critic in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, "life will never be the same." Watson concluded in Horn Book: "The humor and suspense will appeal to intermediate readers."

In Eliza's Dog, "Hearne shapes a convincing portrait of a feisty, resourceful girl," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Eliza, who has always wanted a dog, finds a border collie while on vacation with her parents in Ireland. Although Eliza manages to convince her parents to let her keep the dog, she worries that it will grow too large to fit in its carry-cage for the trip back home from Ireland. In addition, Eliza must learn to deal with her new pet and his many needs. "This book has appeal," wrote a Kirkus Reviews critic, "mainly for other dog-obsessed children." Some critics noted that the value of Eliza's Dog lies in its realistic depiction of pet care, a job that is sometimes tedious and unpleasant. "The story clearly sends the message that owning a dog entails hard work," pointed out Carol Schene in School Library Journal. Horn Book critic Maeve Visser Knoth styled Eliza's Dog "a pleasing, well-told story."

In 1979, Hearne went back to graduate school; by 1985, she had completed a dissertation. She published this work, in revised form, in 1989 as Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale. This work traces the motif of beauty and the beast from its origins and takes a look at how it has been revised by various authors, storytellers, and illustrators throughout time for children. "Hearne's conclusions are provocative, illuminating, and stimulating," commented Mary M. Bush in Horn Book. "This book is a fine example of critical analysis of a traditional tale" and "offers a wealth of material for adults to use in fostering critical thinking in children," explained Jane Anne Hannigan in School Library Journal. Hearne's related book for children, Beauties and Beasts, features twenty-seven beauty and the beast folktales from different cultures and time periods. According to Judy Constantinides of School Library Journal, this book "will attract the attention of older primary grade children" and it will be useful to "adults teaching multiculturalism."

A nationally renown folklorist and storyteller, Hearne later served as coeditor of Story: From Fireplace to Cyberspace, a collection of essays that explore such topics as stories and culture, storytelling festivals, and the narrative in picture books. "Not surprisingly, one of the single biggest strengths of this collection is the richness and depth of the papers and bibliographies," wrote Libraries & Culture contributor Jennifer Stevens, who added: "In short, those interested in almost any aspect of storytelling will find abundant resources in this collection." In a Horn Book essay, Hearne speculated on the future of storytelling and discussed the ways that electronic media has impacted the oral tradition: "Storytelling seems bursting at the seams with innovations that can join tellers and listeners into an electrified global community that blurs the boundaries between tellers and listeners, allowing them to switch places more democratically than ever before. I suspect, however, that virtual appearances are deceiving and that a closer look tells a different story, which is this: the future of storytelling lies in the past. Despite constantly changing media, we keep rediscovering essentials of the oral tradition in variant forms."

Hearne is also the author of two volumes of poetry. Love Lines: Poetry in Person includes fifty-nine poems about love, family, and friends that Hearne wrote over the course of twenty-five years. According to Voice of Youth Advocates contributor Becki George, the work provides "quickly readable free verse" and "includes many sexual references." However, "None of the book's three sections … seems to speak directly to young adult readers," observed Kathleen Whalin of School Library Journal. A critic for Kirkus Reviews asserted that the volume, "rich in ideas and imagery," "should appeal to anyone mature enough to yearn after love." Polaroid and Other Poems of View contains forty-three poems. Many critics enjoyed the black-and-white photos by Peter Kiar, which help introduce each section of poetry. This volume, in the words of Brooke Selby Dillon of Voice of Youth Advocates, "will enthrall and delight the mature poetry reader." The "rhythms … are capricious and compelling," and the poems are "clearly the work of an artist in control of her medium," related Nancy Vasilakis of Horn Book.

Hearne's conviction that the best stories are often the most personal ones led her to write Seven Brave Women. This award-winning book for middle readers introduces the former generations of Hearne's family and tells of their adventures, beginning with her great-great-great grandmother, who arrived in America prior to the Revolutionary War. As the book explores each succeeding generation—down to the young narrator, who is still a student—it highlights the courageous acts performed by each woman, even though none of them ever fought in a war or earned headlines in the newspaper. "Although this is about one family of women …, children will grasp the universality in these lives," wrote Ilene Cooper in Booklist. Writing in Horn Book, Mary M. Burns liked the way the women in Seven Brave Women "surmount difficulties with grace, imagination, determination, and faith." She concluded that the work provides "a splendid tribute to women and their history."

Memories of a lonely childhood inform Hearne's novel Listening for Leroy. Ten-year-old Alice is growing up in rural Alabama in a home ruled by her strict but principled father. Since she is schooled at home, Alice has no friends her age, but she does find a confidant in Leroy, a hired hand who works for her family. Leroy gives Alice much valuable advice, and when he is run out of town by bigots, she misses him sorely. Even after her family moves to a more populous part of the South, Alice continues to remember Leroy and to wonder what happened to him. A Publishers Weekly critic called Listening to Leroy a "gentle, reflective coming-of-age novel" that "subtly conveys Alice's revelations about herself, her family, and a prejudiced society." Booklist's Shelle Rosenfeld likewise styled the work "a heartfelt look at the growing pains of an idealistic girl experiencing a less than ideal reality."

Hearne adopts a lighter tone in Who's in the Hall? A Mystery in Four Chapters. In this picture story for younger readers, three sets of children, baby-sitters, and pets in an eight-story apartment building all face the same dilemma: Do they answer the door when a stranger knocks and identifies herself as the janitor? How the children band together to solve the mystery of the unidentified knocker forms the crux of the plot. In Booklist, Connie Fletcher concluded: "Suspense in a mundane setting, rhyming games, and tongue twisters make this fun for reading aloud." School Library Journal correspondent Marlene Gawron called the book "an excellent blend of good writing and fine illustration," while Horn Book's Joanna Rudge Long found it "a dandy choice for newly independent readers."

Wishes, Kisses, and Pigs brings new life to the old adage, "be careful what you wish for, you just might get it." Quarreling with her brother, Louise Tolliver inadvertently calls him a pig while simultaneously wishing on a star. When her brother disappears and a strange, white pig with blue eyes appears on the farm, Louise realizes what she has done and seeks to undo it. Complications arise as she tries to formulate a magic spell that will restore her brother before he is chosen to be a menu item at an upcoming picnic. As a reviewer in Horn Book put it, the plot's "fairy-tale resolution satisfyingly admits ‘how nature's magic and magic's natural.’" In School Library Journal, Betsy Fraser deemed Wishes, Kisses, and Pigs "a delightful novel about the dangers of getting what you wish for."

The twelve stories collected in The Canine Connection explore the interaction between young people and their dogs—with emphasis on the people. The stories range widely in subject matter. In one, a blind and bereft young girl begins to reconnect with the world through the howling of her recently acquired guide dog. In another, a boy and a pit bull band together to protect each other from bullies in a bad neighborhood. Willa, the heroine of "Lab," must help her mother deliver a baby while the family dog, Millie, tends to orphaned kittens. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that each story in the collection "chimes to the rhythm … best suited for the unique characters involved. Best of all, Hearne writes the concerns and challenges of teens as if each word came from their hearts." In the School Library Journal, Alison Follos observed: "These stories are well drawn, told with refinement, and enlivened with credible characters." Booklist contributor Ellen Mandel concluded that The Canine Connection is "a rewarding collection that will stay with readers."

Hauntings and Other Tales of Danger, Love, and Sometimes Loss collects fifteen stories that explore the otherworldly. The work opens with retellings of Irish folktales and ballads, including "Tryst," about a handmaid who moonlights as a highwaywoman. "Hearne's verbal economy and the inexorable drive of the plot underscore the story's powerful, haunting folkloric features," noted Horn Book reviewer Deirdre F. Baker. The second section contains several contemporary tales set in the United States, and the final set of tales concern heaven and hell. Readers "looking for thoughtful, finely crafted explorations of the things that haunt us will be richly rewarded," observed School Library Journal contributor Sharon Rawlins, and Francisca Goldsmith, writing in Booklist, commented that the tales "use both action and mood to focus the reader's imagination."

In addition to her steady publishing schedule, Hearne continues to teach courses on children's literature and storytelling at the University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign. On her home page she wrote: "The heart of my work is stories, what they tell us and how they are told. Whether stories appear in the oral, print, or electronic traditions, they reflect and shape us." The author related in a Horn Book essay: "Our stories are as deeply embedded as our bones, and they begin to form with our bones as the fetus is imprinted in utero with the rhythms, tones, and patterns of the mother's voice. A lifetime later, the strength of our stories outlasts the strength of our elderly bones." Burns commended Hearne for offering works that "lure readers into confronting issues important to intelligent reading of today's literature for children."



Booklist, April 1, 1996, Lauren Peterson, review of Eliza's Dog, p. 1364; June 1, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of Seven Brave Women, p. 1694; November 15, 1998, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Listening forLeroy, p. 587; October 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Choosing Books for Children: A Commonsense Guide, p. 368; September 15, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of Who's in the Hall? A Mystery in Four Chapters, p. 240; March 1, 2001, Michael Cart, review of Wishes, Kisses, and Pigs, p. 1278; April 15, 2003, Ellen Mandel, review of The Canine Connection: Stories about Dogs and People, p. 1471; August 1, 2007, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Hauntings and Other Tales of Danger, Love, and Sometimes Loss, p. 73.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1987, review of Eli's Ghost, p. 126.

Horn Book, June, 1979, Karen M. Klockner, review of Home, p. 301; September-October, 1987, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of Eli's Ghost, p. 612; May-June, 1990, Mary M. Bush, review of Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale, pp. 353-354; July-August, 1991, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Polaroid and Other Poems of View, p. 471; May-June, 1993, Mary M. Burns, review of The Zena Sutherland Lectures: 1983-1992, p. 345; July-August, 1994, Mary M. Burns, review of Evaluating Children's Books: A Critical Look, p. 476; September-October, 1996, Maeve Visser Knoth, review of Eliza's Dog, p. 596; September-October, 1997, Mary M. Burns, review of Seven Brave Women, p. 558; December, 1997, Ethel L. Heins, review of South Star, pp. 662-663; July, 2000, review of Choosing Books for Children, p. 427; November-December, 2000, Betsy Hearne, "Once There Was and Will Be: Storytelling the Future," and Joanna Rudge Long, review of Who's in the Hall?, p. 746; May, 2001, review of Wishes, Kisses, and Pigs, p. 326; May-June, 2003, Joanna Rudge Long, review of The Canine Connection, p. 348; January-February, 2005, Betsy Hearne, "The Bones of Story"; September-October, 2007, Deirdre F. Baker, review of Hauntings and Other Tales of Danger, Love, and Sometimes Loss, p. 577.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1987, review of Love Lines: Poetry in Person, p. 1157; March 15, 1996, review of Eliza's Dog, p. 448; February 15, 2003, review of The Canine Connection, p. 307; August 1, 2007, review of Hauntings and Other Tales of Danger, Love, and Sometimes Loss.

Libraries & Culture, summer, 2000, Jennifer Stevens, review of Story: From Fireplace to Cyberspace, p. 484.

New York Times Book Review, March 25, 1990, Humphrey Carpenter, review of Beauty and the Beast, p. 25.

Publishers Weekly, September 19, 1977, review of South Star, p. 146; March 18, 1996, review of Eliza's Dog, p. 70; May 19, 1997, review of Seven Brave Women, p. 75; October 26, 1998, review of Listening for Leroy, p. 66; December 6, 1999, "What to Read Next?," review of Choosing Books for Children, p. 79; July 3, 2000, review of Who's in the Hall?, p. 70; March 26, 2001, review of Wishes, Kisses, and Pigs, p. 93; February 10, 2003, review of The Canine Connection, p. 188.

RQ, spring, 1994, Katharyn Tuten-Puckett, review of Evaluating Children's Books, p. 433.

School Library Journal, May, 1979, Margaret A. Dorsey, review of Home, p. 62; February, 1988, Kathleen Whalin, review of Love Lines, p. 88; February, 1990, Jane Anne Hannigan, review of Beauty and the Beast, p. 38; June, 1994, Judy Constantinides, review of Beauties and Beasts, p. 55; May, 1996, Carol Schene, review of Eliza's Dog, p. 113; August, 2000, Marlene Gawron, review of Who's in the Hall?, p. 156; April, 2001, Betsy Fraser, review of Wishes, Kisses, and Pigs, p. 140; April, 2003, Alison Follos, review of The Canine Connection, p. 164; November 1, 2007, Sharon Rawlins, review of Hauntings and Other Tales of Danger, Love, and Sometimes Loss, p. 124.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1988, Becki George, review of Love Lines, p. 296; August, 1991, Brooke Selby Dillon, review of Polaroid and Other Poems of View, p. 189.


Betsy Hearne Home Page,http://people.lis.uiuc.edu/~ehearne (July 1, 2008).

Cairo Gate Web site,http://cairogate.com/ (April 12, 2006), Andrea Lynn, "Hit Film Adaptations for Young Audiences a ‘Mixed Blessing’ Expert Says."

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Web site,http://www.uiuc.edu/ (July 1, 2008), Andrea Lynn, "A Minute with Betsy Hearne."