Hobbs, Will(iam Carl) 1947
HOBBS, Will(iam Carl) 1947
PERSONAL: Born August 22, 1947, in Pittsburgh, PA; son of Gregory J. and Mary (Rhodes) Hobbs; married Jean Loftus (a literary agent, formerly a teacher), December 20, 1972. Education: Stanford University, B.A., 1969, M.A., 1971. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking in the mountains and canyons, white water rafting, archeology, natural history.
ADDRESSES: Office—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins Children's Books, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Educator and children's author. Pagosa Springs, CO, and Durango, CO, public schools, taught junior high and senior high reading and English, 1973-89; writer, 1990—.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Phi Beta Kappa.
AWARDS, HONORS: Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, National Council for the Social Studies/Children's Book Council (NCSS/CBC), 1988, and Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award, 1992, both for Changes in Latitudes; NCSS/CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, 1989, Best Books for Young Adults, American Library Association (ALA), 1989, and Teachers' Choice citation, International Reading Association (IRA), and Regional Book Award, Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association, both 1990, all for Bearstone; Pick of the Lists, American Booksellers Association (ABA), 1991, ALA Best Books for Young Adults and Best Books for Reluctant Young Adult Readers citations, 1992, ALA 100 Best Young Adult Books of the Past Twenty-five Years, 1994, and California Young Readers Medal, 1995, all for Downriver; ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 1993, for The Big Wander; ABA Pick of the Lists, and ALA Best Books for Young Adults, both 1993, and Spur Award, Western Writers of America,-and Colorado Book Award, all for Beardance; NCSS/CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, 1995, for Kokopelli's Flute; ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, and NCSS/CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, both 1996, Spur Award, and Colorado Book Award, all for Far North; ABA Pick of the Lists, 1997, and Edgar Allan Poe Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1998, both for Ghost Canoe; ABA Pick of the Lists, 1997, and Colorado Center for the Book Award, 1998, both for Beardream; IRA Young Adult Choice selection, 1998, for River Thunder; ALA Best Books for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, ABA Pick of the Lists, and IRA Teachers' Choice, all 1998, all for The Maze; Best Books for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, ALA, Pick of the Lists, ABA, and Notable Children's Trade Book in Social Studies, NCSS/CBC, all 1999, all for Jason's Gold. All Hobbs's titles have been nominated for various state readers' choice awards.
Changes in Latitudes, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1988.
Bearstone, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.
Downriver, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1991.
The Big Wander, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1992.
Beardance, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1993.
Kokopelli's Flute, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
Far North, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.
Beardream, illustrated by Jill Kastner, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Ghost Canoe, Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.
River Thunder, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1997.
Howling Hill, illustrated by Jill Kastner, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
The Maze, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
Jason's Gold, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.
Down the Yukon, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Wild Man Island, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Jackie's Wild Seattle, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Leaving Protection, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Horn Book, ALAN Review, Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Book Links, Signal, Voices from the Middle, Voice of Youth Advocates, and numerous state journals.
ADAPTATIONS: Hobbs's novels are available in unabridged audiocassette recordings from Recorded Books, Inc., Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio, and Listening Library. Bearstone was adapted as a play by Karen Glenn, published in Scholastic Scope, January 14, 1994; Jason's Gold and Down the Yukon were adapted as plays published in READ magazine.
SIDELIGHTS: Author Will Hobbs has a unique way of beginning each day. He winds up a toy pterodactyl and watches it cross his desk. By the time it gets to the other side, he must start writing. That's the deal. For about six hours a day he commits himself to the task of putting something on paper, and, as he explained in an interview for Authors and Artists for Young Adults (AAYA), "I owe at least three books, especially Beardance, to that little guy. I might have given up if it hadn't been for my deal with the pterodactyl." Hobbs's wilderness-based novels, which include Bearstone, Kokopelli's Flute, and Far North, have been well received by both his young-adult audience and reviewers alike, in part because he knows his audience; Hobbs taught reading and English for seventeen years, mostly in Durango, Colorado. In the Colorado Reading Council Journal, Hobbs stated: "I believe that if kids come to care about and identify with the characters in stories, they will also learn more about and ultimately care more about preserving the treasures of our natural world."
Hobbs's father was an engineer in the U.S. Air Force, so the family moved often. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the author was only six months old when the family moved to the Panama Canal Zone. After that, family moves included Virginia, Alaska, California, and Texas. Being close to his three brothers and one sister made the moves easier. They were all involved in scouting, and Hobbs developed a love for nature and the outdoors at an early age. He explained in his interview that his mother "contributed the gusto to my makeup. She feels that life is best lived as an adventure. At the age of seventy-three she rafted the Grand Canyon." His father introduced him to rivers in Alaska. Hobbs recounted, "Years later he joined me for three trips up the Pine River, where Bearstone takes place. It's my idea of heaven on earth, and I'll always be able to find him up there."
Although Hobbs has hiked and backpacked in many regions, it was the Southwest that captured his imagination. He spent two summers during high school and two during college in New Mexico as a guide and camp director at Philmont Scout Ranch. In 1973, together with his wife, Jean, he moved to southwestern Colorado, near the San Juan Mountains and the Weminuche Wilderness, the largest wilderness area in Colorado. Hobbs lives at the edge of Durango, in a wooded area adjoining thousands of acres of public land, and from his writing desk he looks out at snow-capped mountain peaks.
Hobbs was thirty-three before he started writing novels, the first being Bearstone, which took six different manuscripts and eight years before it was published. In the California Reader, Hobbs noted that the writing of Bearstone "fulfilled my dream of setting a story for others to enjoy in the upper Pine River country of the Weminuche Wilderness, one of three favorite places in the geography of my heart." It is in wilderness settings such as this that many of Hobbs's characters are tested—to push themselves and to learn their limits. Their journeys are often difficult.
Bearstone tells the story of Cloyd, a Ute Indian boy from Utah who has been sent by his tribe to spend the summer with an old rancher named Walter. Angry and hostile, Cloyd distrusts the old man's affection. While exploring the mountains nearby, Cloyd discovers an Indian burial site and a small bearstone and begins his self-discovery as he renames himself "Lone Bear" and learns how to "live in a good way," as his grandmother has taught him. An incident concerning a hunter who illegally kills a grizzly bear forces Cloyd to face the dilemma of whether to tell and get revenge, or keep silent. School Library Journal contributor George Gleason described Bearstone as "far above other coming-of-age stories."
Cloyd's story continues in Beardance, which Hobbs published in 1993. Cloyd and Walter ride into the mountains together in search of a lost gold mine when they hear about the sighting of a mother grizzly with three cubs. While searching for the cubs Cloyd meets a wildlife biologist on the same trail and ultimately risks his life by staying on alone, with winter approaching, in a heroic attempt to save two orphaned grizzly cubs. "Cloyd's first experiences with spirit dreams are particularly well done," said Horn Book writer Elizabeth S. Watson of Beardance. Praising Hobbs's "satisfying conclusion," Merlyn Miller observed in Voice of Youth Advocates that the book "weaves Native American legends with real adventure. Not only is Cloyd connected with his ancestry, but he's focused with courage, determination, and strength."
The character of Cloyd, the protagonist of both Bearstone and Beardance, is based on a student from a Durango group home whom Jean Hobbs had taught. The old rancher who teaches Cloyd so much about life and forgiveness is also based on someone Hobbs knows. The author had helped this rancher bring in hay, gaining a feel for the ranching life and listening to his stories about the mine he planned to reopen someday. Beardream, Hobbs's first picture book, also focuses on these characters. Illustrated by Jill Kastner, Beardream describes how a boy called Short Tail awakens an oversleeping grizzly bear from hibernation, and how, in ancient times, the Ute people learned the beardance from the bears. In an author's note at the end of Beardream, Hobbs stated: "It is my belief that future generations of the human family will have greater and greater need for the inspiration of native wisdom, which sees humankind not apart from nature, but as a part of nature." "This tale . . . is respectfully told, but it may be confusing to readers," stated Leda Schubert in a School Library Journal review. In a Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy article, a critic recommended that Beardream be read aloud in order that the listener may "experience the beautiful . . . language that is a hallmark of Hobbs's work."
Although Bearstone was the first novel Hobbs wrote, it was not the first to be published; Changes in Latitudes, written second, was released in 1988. The author explained that this story came much more easily for him, after the many revisions of Bearstone. As he explained to AAYA, Hobbs starts his stories "usually with a single image that I have a strong feeling about." The image in this case came from a photo from National Geographic of a sea turtle swimming underwater. Letting his imagination take over, the author wondered what it would be like to swim with the turtles, and he developed a story in which he could encourage readers to care about endangered species. What he ended up with is a novel about two kinds of endangered species: the turtles and a human family on the verge of breaking up. The novel's title is drawn from Jimmy Buffett's song "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes."
In the novel, Travis, the oldest of three kids, is cynical and self-absorbed. At sixteen he attempts to hide himself from his problems by withdrawing into his own "cool" world. On vacation in Mexico with his mother, who has taken the trip without their father, Travis is only close to his little brother, Teddy. It is through Teddy that Travis becomes interested in the plight of the sea turtles. Nancy Vasilakis, writing in Horn Book, applauded Hobbs's talents as he "neatly balances the perilous situation of these ancient lumbering sea creatures against the breakdown of his family." She also commended the author for his "sensitive ear for the language of the young." When Teddy dies trying to rescue some of the turtles, Travis discovers that he can't run away from problems and relationships, and that hurt will, indeed, make you stronger.
Hobbs's third novel, Downriver, is set in the Grand Canyon, and the idea came from Hobbs's desire to have readers experience one of the great American adventures. Having rowed his raft through the rapids of the Grand Canyon ten times himself, Hobbs knows intimately the dangers and the beauty of the journey. Narrated by Jessie, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been sent away from home, this adventure story takes seven teens down the Grand Canyon where they are tested over and over again. Jessie and the rest of the group, known as "The Hoods in the Woods," leave their leader behind and take off on their own, consequently making their own decisions and living with the consequences. Downriver "is exquisitely plotted, with nail-biting suspense and excitement," wrote George Gleason in School Library Journal. Booklist's Candace Smith felt that "the ending is too tidy," but commended the novel's rafting scenes. "The scenery description is beautiful and the kids are believable," stated Voice of Youth Advocates writer Mary Ojibway.
Jessie and her companions are back together in River Thunder, published in 1997. In this story Jessie gets a chance to row the entire Colorado River through the Grand Canyon by herself. Unexpectedly high water on the river forces the entire group to confront their fears and to face the raging rapids of the Colorado together if they are to survive. In Voice of Youth Advocates, Cindy Lombardo felt that this sequel is "uninspired," perhaps due to a shortage of character development. Deborah Stevenson in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books commented that although the interpersonal relationships bog down the beginning of the novel, once the crew is on the river "Hobbs's terrific and involving descriptions" compensate for any shortcomings. "The vivid descriptions deliver high-volume excitement sure to entice many readers," said School Library Journal's Joel Shoemaker.
Hobbs was fourteen years old in 1962, the same age as Clay Lancaster in The Big Wander. "I recognize a kindred spirit in Clay Lancaster. We both have an adventuring outlook, we're both romantics, and goofy things tend to happen to both of us," Hobbs explained. He placed Clay in Glen Canyon in the last summer before it was flooded by Lake Powell. To write the story, Hobbs kept an image in his mind of a boy, a burro, and a dog adventuring in a "blank spot on the map," the magnificent canyon country of Utah. Clay and his brother head for the southwest to look for a missing uncle, but the brother returns home. On his own, with no one to tell him what to do, Clay begins a journey that leads him to a Navajo family, through remote canyons, and eventually to his uncle. In the process he has adventures escaping quicksand, flash floods, and bad guys, and also finds time for a little romance. Reviewer Kathleen Beck was quick to praise The Big Wander, calling it "a rousing adventure with an appealing hero" in her Voice of Youth Advocates review. Booklist critic Chris Sherman similarly hailed the work, describing it as "an adventure that most teens would love to experience themselves."
When Hobbs writes a story, first he does research about the settings, backgrounds, and historical events that will provide the story's foundation. For The Big Wander he hiked into his settings, then studied maps, photos, and writings about the canyons and other places that would make their way into his fiction. In addition to reading, he watched old westerns in the evenings, knowing that he wanted Clay's uncle to be a former rodeo star. He also developed ten plot outlines. Hobbs's protagonists have to learn to survive alone, but ultimately achieve personal goals by establishing a strong relationship with someone else. Even with such planning, according to Hobbs, The Big Wander turned out differently than he had anticipated.
In 1995's Kokopelli's Flute, fantasy enters Hobbs's western settings. Thirteen-year-old Tepary Jones and his dog, Dusty, journey to the ruins of an ancient Anasazi cliff house overlooking the canyons near Tepary's home on a seed farm in New Mexico. Hoping to see a total eclipse of the full moon from this remote location, Tep soon realizes that he is not alone when he surprises looters searching for Anasazi artifacts. Picking up an old flute made of eagle bone that the looters dropped in their hurry to get away, the teen finds himself in the grip of an ancient magic, which transforms him each night into a bushy-tailed woodrat. With the help of dog, Dusty, Tep is able to track down the looters and also obtain medicinal herbs that save his mother from a deadly sickness. Hobbs "blends fantasy with fact so smoothly that the resulting mix can be consumed without question," wrote Darcy Schild in a School Library Journal review, while in Voice of Youth Advocates Nancy Zachary called Kokopelli's Flute "an engaging and delightful tale."
Published in 1996, Far North takes readers into the rugged wilderness of Canada's Northwest Territories. Gabe Rogers, almost sixteen and fresh from Texas, has enrolled in a boarding school in Yellowknife in order to be closer to his father, who works on nearby diamond exploration rigs. His roommate, Raymond Providence, a native boy from a remote Dene village, decides to quit school after only a few months, and on a flight home in a small bush plane both Raymond and Gabe end up stranded on the banks of the Nahanni River. This winter survival story was described by Horn Book contributor Mary M. Burns as "a thrill-a-minute account of their struggle, against seemingly impossible odds." The critic added that Far North "is not just another page-turner; there are deeper issues addressed," such as the differences between the two boys' cultures. Diane Tuccillo stated in Voice of Youth Advocates: "This classic Hobbs adventure takes readers to a rugged, amazing wilderness few know. Characters are well-drawn, and excitement and energy penetrate their entire trek." The American Library Association named Far North one of the Top Ten Young Adult Books of 1996.
Also in the outdoor adventures vein, 1997's Ghost Canoe is Hobbs's first mystery novel, and the 1998 winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult Mystery. Set in 1874 along the storm-tossed coast of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, this story follows fourteen-year-old Nathan MacAllister, the son of a lighthouse keeper. When a mysterious shipwreck leaves behind a set of unexplained footprints on the shore, Nathan suspects something is amiss. Writing in School Library Journal, Gerry Larson called Ghost Canoe "a winning tale that artfully combines history, nature, and suspense." In the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Elizabeth Bush noted that although the book's mystery is predictable, there is enough action "to keep the pages flipping."
Although he has experienced first-hand many of the adventures he writes about, Hobbs's descriptions of hang gliding in The Maze are based on time spent with friends who fly, watching them jump off cliffs and soar. Like Icarus, young protagonist Rick Walker attempts to fly out of his own personal labyrinth, a life of foster homes and dead ends. "Rick is a richlytextured character," noted Sarah K. Herz in her Voice of Youth Advocates review. Hobbs set the story in the Maze, a remote region of Canyonlands National Park in Utah, an area noted for its beauty. Todd Morning, in a review for School Library Journal, asserted: "What sets this book apart is the inclusion of fascinating details about the condors and hang gliding, especially the action-packed description of Rick's first solo flight above the canyons. . . . Many young readers will find this an adventure story they can't put down." "Hobbs spins an engrossing yarn, blending adventure with a strong theme," said Horn Book writer Mary M. Burns.
Set amid the Klondike gold rush of 1897-98, Jason's Gold follows young Jason Hawthorn as he races to catch up to his brothers who have taken off for the gold fields in Canada's Yukon. Along the way he meets the not-yet-famous Jack London, but mostly he travels alone, with King, a husky he rescues from a madman. As he did in Far North, Hobbs creates an actionpacked adventure story filled with vivid descriptions of bone-chilling cold, personal courage, and friendship.
Down the Yukon, the sequel to Jason's Gold, features a now sixteen-year-old Jason Hawthorn and Jamie Dunavant, who is still Jason's girlfriend. As the book begins, Jason's brother Ethan loses the family sawmill business in a poker game. In order to recover the property, Jamie and Jason decide to compete in a canoe race to Nome in which the winner receives $20,000 in prize money. Unfortunately, the same characters who swindled the business from Ethan have also entered the race, and they manage to sabotage the brothers' canoe. "The ending, though predictable, features an appropriate twist," remarked Booklist critic Catherine Andronik. In her School Library Journal review, Vicki Reutter stated that Down the Yukon is "more exciting than its predecessor."
A sea-kayaking trip in southeast Alaska with his wife inspired the setting for Hobbs's novel Wild Man Island. Fourteen-year-old Andy Galloway, the book's narrator, has enjoyed a guided sea-kayaking vacation. On the last day he decides to leave the other travelers for just a few hours in order to visit the waterfall where his archaeologist father accidentally met his death years before. Then a storm arises, washing Andy's kayak ashore on a remote and wild island. Hunger, cold, and grizzly bears threaten Andy's life until a Newfoundland dog befriends him and leads him to a cave whose only inhabitant is a seemingly wild man. "Hobbs resolves the story's complexities in ways that protect the characters' integrity," commented Joel Shoemaker in School Library Journal. In the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, James Blasingame agreed that the novel's "conflicts are resolved in a satisfying conclusion." Wild Man Island is "a well-paced novel," added Horn Book's Burns, while a Kirkus reviewer commended the novel as "a rugged, satisfying episode for outdoorsy readers."
Jackie's Wild Seattle takes its name from a wildlife rehabilitation center in Seattle, Washington, that is central to this book's plot. Shannon and her brother become involved in their Uncle Neal's work with animals when they spend their summer vacation with him, and help rescue coyotes, bear cubs, raccoons and birds of prey. Mary R. Hoffman wrote in School Library Journal, "this exciting, poignant, and beautifully developed story covers a crucial few weeks for several people whose lives intertwine to change and benefit all. . . . This story will reach deep into the hearts of young readers."
In the summer of 2002, Hobbs had the opportunity to work on a salmon troller in southeast Alaska. He'd met a teacher from Craig, on Prince of Wales Island, who had earned her way through college working on her father's fishing boat. She invited him to work on their boat, and write a novel about life on a salmon troller. The result was Leaving Protection, a heart-pounding adventure on Alaska's stormy seas.
When sixteen-year-old Robbie Daniels leaves his home in Port Protection for the nearby fishing town of Craig, hoping to find work as a deckhand for king salmon season, he can hardly believe hid good fortune when legendary fisherman Tor Torsen unexpectedly hires him on. Out on the open ocean, alone with Tor, Robbie discovers his mysterious captain is not only fishing, he's searching along the coastline for historic metal plaques buried by early Russian explorers laying claim to Alaska. When Robbie learns how valuable these possession plaques are, he fears for his life, as Tor's wrath and a violent storm at sea put his courage and wit to the ultimate test.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 39, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, Continuum (New York, NY), 2001.
Gallo, Donald R., editor, Speaking for Ourselves Too, National Council of Teachers of English, 1993.
Hobbs, Will, Beardream, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Hobbs, Will, Ghost Canoe, Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.
Writers for Young Adults, edited by Ted Hipple, Scribner (New York, NY), 1997, pp. 121-129.
ALAN Review, fall, 1994.
Booklist, March 1, 1991, Candace Smith, review of Downriver, p. 1377; October 15, 1992, p. 424; May 1, 1997; September 1, 1997, p. 106; September 1, 1998, p. 126; February 15, 2000, Jeanette Larson, review of Ghost Canoe (audiobook), p. 1128; March 15, 2000, review of Jason's Gold, p. 1340; April 1, 2001, Catherine Andronik, review of Down the Yukon, p. 1482; November 15, 2001, Anna Rich, review of Down the Yukon (audiobook), p. 589; April 15, 2002, review of Wild Man Island, p. 1395.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 1997, Elizabeth Bush, review of Ghost Canoe, p. 285; July, 1997, Deborah Stevenson, review of River Thunder, pp. 397-398.
California Reader, winter, 1992, pp. 15-16.
Colorado Reading Council Journal, spring, 1993, pp. 7-9.
Five Owls, fall, 2001, review of Kokopelli's Flute, The Maze, Downriver, and Beardance, p. 2.
Horn Book, May-June, 1988, p. 358; January-February, 1993, p. 91; January-February, 1994, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of Beardance, p. 70; March-April, 1996; November-December, 1996, p. 745; September-October, 1998, Mary M. Burns, review of The Maze, p. 609; July-August, 2002, Mary M. Burns, review of Wild Man Island, p. 462.
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, September, 1997, review of Beardream, p. 83; May, 2000, Joel Taxel, review of The Maze, pp. 780-781; February, 2003, James Blasingame, review of Wild Man Island, pp. 442-443.
Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, spring, 1995.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1997, p. 462; March 15, 2002, review of Wild Man Island, p. 413; March 15, 2003, review of Jackie's Wild Seattle, p. 468.
Kliatt, September, 1999, p. 8; March, 2002, review of Wild Man Island, p. 11.
Publishers Weekly, February 12, 1988, p. 88; February 1, 1991, pp. 80-81; November 2, 1992, p. 72; October 12, 1998, review of Howling Hill, p. 77.
School Library Journal, March, 1988, pp. 212, 214; September, 1989, p. 272; March, 1991, George Gleason, review of Downriver, p. 212; November, 1992, p. 92; December, 1993, p. 134; October, 1995, p. 134; April, 1997, Leda Schubert, review of Beardream, p. 104; September, 1997, Joel Shoemaker, review of River Thunder, p. 217; October 1998, Virginia Golodetz, review of Howling Hill, p. 102; May, 2001, Vicki Reutter, review of Down the Yukon, p. 150; October, 2001, Sandra L. Doggett, review of Down the Yukon (audiobook), p. 89; May, 2002, Joel Shoemaker, review of Wild Man Island, p. 154.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1991, Mary Ojibway, review of Downriver, pp. 171-172; December, 1992, p. 279; December, 1993, p. 292; February, 1996, p. 372; February, 1997, p. 328; October, 1997, Cindy Lombardo, review of River Thunder, p. 244; February, 1999, Sarah K. Herz, review of The Maze, p.434; June, 2001, review of Down the Yukon, p. 122.