Hodge, Deborah 1954–
Hodge, Deborah 1954–
PERSONAL: Born November 6, 1954, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada; daughter of John Lyndon (a writer, editor, and broadcaster) and Marion Joyce (a nursing instructor; maiden name, Baker) Grove; married David Hodge (a businessman); children: Emily, Michael, Helen. Education: Simon Fraser University, B.A., 1977, graduated from Professional Development Program (teacher training), 1978.
CAREER: Author and educator. Elementary school teacher in Armstrong and Golden school districts, British Columbia, Canada, 1978–91; British Columbia Ministry of Education, writer, editor, and instructional designer of elementary-school curriculum, 1991–99; children's author, 1994–.
MEMBER: Canadian Children's Book Centre, Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers, Children's Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia, Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable.
AWARDS, HONORS: Parents' Choice designation, Parents Choice Foundation, 1997, for Bears, Wild Cats, Wild Dogs, and Whales; Pick of the Lists fall selection, American Bookseller, both 1997, both for Bears, Wild Cats, Wild Dogs, and Whales; Parents' Guide to Children's Media Award for Outstanding Activity Book, 1997 and 2000, both for Simple Machines; Best Books for Children designation, Science Books and Films, 1998, for Bears, and 1999, for Deer, Moose, Elk, and Caribou; Red Cedar Book Award shortlist, 2000, for Beavers, and 2003, for Eagles and The Kid's Book of Canada's Railway and How the CPR Was Built; Silver Birch Award shortlist, 2000, and Information Book Award, Children's Literature Roundtable of Canada, 2001, both for The Kids Book of Canada's Railway and How the CPR Was Built.
NONFICTION FOR CHILDREN
Bears: Polar Bears, Black Bears, and Grizzly Bears, illustrated by Pat Stephens, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Wild Cats: Cougars, Bobcats, and Lynx, illustrated by Nancy Gray Ogle, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Wild Dogs: Foxes, Wolves, and Coyotes, illustrated by Pat Stephens, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Whales: Killer Whales, Blue Whales, and More, illustrated by Pat Stephens, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Simple Machines ("Starting with Science" series), photographs by Ray Bourdeau, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Deer, Moose, Elk, and Caribou, illustrated by Pat Stephens, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Beavers, illustrated by Pat Stephens, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 1998.
The Kids Book of Canada's Railway and How the CPR Was Built, illustrated by John Mantha, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Eagles, illustrated by Nancy Gray Ogle, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Salmon, illustrated by Nancy Gray Ogle, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Bees, illustrated by Julian Mulock, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Ants, illustrated by Julian Mulock, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 2004.
The Kid's Book of Coming to Canada, illustrated by John Mantha, Kids Can Press (New York, NY), 2006.
FICTION FOR CHILDREN
Emma's Story, illustrated by Song Nan Zhang, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2003.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The fiction book Lily and the Mixed-up Letters, illustrated by France Brassard, for Tundra Books, 2007.
SIDELIGHTS: Canadian writer Deborah Hodge spent over a dozen years as an elementary school teacher before leaving the classroom to write and edit curriculum for the British Columbia Ministry of Education from 1991 to 1999. During this time she pondered the lack of interesting nonfiction books available to beginning readers. As a teacher she had often observed her students looking for (and not finding) books that were easy enough for them to read, but still with compelling information on topics that fascinated them. With this in mind, Hodge decided to write her own manuscript, creating a book that was both readable and interesting for young students, and featured a topic (bears) she knew children loved. Her first book, Bears: Polar Bears, Black Bears, and Grizzly Bears, appeared in 1996. Praising the award-winning volumes that have followed, Wendy Flood, a contributor to Resource Links, reported that "simple text and realistic, detailed illustrations make them excellent for research projects for young children."
Born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Hodge grew up in Burnaby, British Columbia, and studied psychology at Simon Fraser University. Her later experience as an elementary school teacher provided her with insight into the mind of young readers; as she once explained: "They're fascinated by very big, very fast, or very fierce animals. They want answers to such questions as how long are a grizzly bear's claws, or how much does a blue whale eat?" In attempting to answer such questions, Hodge has produced a series of eight books, the "Kids Can Press Wildlife" series, focusing on the North American animals children find most interesting. In Bears, Salmon, and Wild Cats: Cougars, Bobcats, and Lynx, as well as her other titles, Hodge covers topics such as food, habitat, and birth, presenting enough facts to interest readers without overwhelming them. As Jonathan Webb claimed in Quill & Quire, Hodge's books "fulfill, reliably and attractively, the modest objective they set themselves."
Other titles in Hodge's wildlife series include Wild Dogs: Foxes, Wolves, and Coyotes, Whales: Killer Whales, Blue Whales, and More, and Eagles. These volumes follow the same basic, easy-to-read format and include a large typeface, naturalistic drawings, and cut-away diagrams. They also contain interesting animal trivia boxes on each page. Fred Boer, reviewing both Wild Dogs and Whales for Quill & Quire, wrote that "both books are well organized, with a glossary and an index." Judy Diamond, writing in Science Books and Film, deemed Hodge's works effective for an early elementary school readership and praised the material as clearly presented. Diamond concluded that, "overall the information presented is accurate and complete," making each volume "a useful tool for school reports on its topics."
Beavers was praised by a contributor to Kirkus Reviews as having "concise, clearly organized facts corralled into brief, dual-page chapters." Dave Jenkinson, a contributor to Canadian Review of Materials, described this book as "a superb example of a well-written information book for pre-readers which will also appeal to students in the early elementary grades." Citing Salmon as "a graceful work about … remarkable creatures," Jean Pollock added in the School Library Journal that Hodge relays information on salmon from both coasts of North America in "a relaxed, informative style." Deer, Moose, Elk, and Caribou, which focuses on members of the deer family, was praised by Robert G. Hoehn in Science Activities as containing a "potpourri of information … guaranteed to pique the interest" of both children and adult readers.
Hodge explores the world of science in the "Starting with Science" series published by Kids Can Press. Simple Machines presents thirteen attractive and interactive experiments, accompanied by clear and detailed directions in an easy-to-follow format which encourages children's participation. Safety precautions are addressed in the text or illustrated in sidebars, and further details about each activity are listed in the appendix. Maureen Garvie, reviewing Simple Machines for Quill & Quire, noted that "the book reflects energy, esthetics, community, and curiosity…. With the aid of kitchen equipment and minimal supervision, science is no longer a fusty world of stained test-tubes, wire coils, and rotten-egg smells."
Ants and Bees are part of an insect series for young children that Hodge wrote in collaboration with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Both books feature photographs provided by the museum. Ants was dubbed a "straightforward, pleasing" example of science-based children's nonfiction by a Kirkus Reviews critic, while in the School Library Journal, Karey Wehner praised the book for its "abundant illustrations" and "clearly written" introductory text. Gillian Richardson, writing in Canadian Review of Materials, called the books "a great starter series that will capture a beginning reader's interest with its appealing presentation."
Hodge, whose grandparents worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), turns her attention from nature to the history of Canada's first transcontinental railway in The Kids Book of Canada's Railway and How the CPR Was Built. She recounts the quest to follow the builders of the United States' Transcontinental Railway and stretch a single track of rail across Canada from the eastern regions to the Pacific. From information about William van Horne's planning of the railway, the Chinese and European immigrant laborers who blasted through mountains and tackled difficult terrain, and the types of trains eventually used on the railway, Hodge also discusses the railway's impact on Canada's Metis and Aboriginal peoples. Writing in Quill & Quire, Gwyneth Evans suggested that "the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway is an incredible story, and this informative new book … does quite a good job of presenting it."
Hodge has continued to add to her growing list of nonfiction titles, and has even ventured into fiction with the picture book Emma's Story, a tale of international adoption in which a young Chinese girl begins to question why she looks different from the rest of her fair-skinned Caucasian family. As Hodge once commented: "Every day when I wake up I have more ideas for books I want to write. Although I'm not teaching any more, I still feel like I'm talking to my students whenever I write a book. I love the challenge of trying to create something that young readers will find interesting."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, reviews of Bears and Wild Cats, p. 238; April 15, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of Starting with Science: Simple Machines, p. 448; January 1, 1999, April Judge, reviews of Deer, Moose, Elk, and Caribou and Beavers, p. 865; November 1, 2000, Gillian Engberg, review of Eagles; April 1, 2004, Stephanie Zvirin, reviews of Ants and Bees, p. 1385.
Canadian Review of Materials, August 11, 2000, Dave Jenkinson, review of Beavers; June, 2003, Gail Hamilton, review of Emma's Story; March, 2004, Gillian Richardson, review of Ants and Bees.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 1998, review of Beavers, p. 1459; April 1, 2004, review of Ants, p. 331.
Publishers Weekly, November 3, 2003, review of Emma's Story, p. 74.
Quill & Quire, March, 1996, Jonathan Webb, "Charismatic Cats and Winsome Bears," p. 73; December, 1996, Maureen Garvie, review of Starting with Science: Simple Machines, p. 39; January, 1997, Fred Boer, reviews of Wild Dogs, Whales, and Living Things, p. 38; September 1, 2000, Gwyneth Evans, review of The Kids Book of Canada's Railway and How the CPR Was Built.
Resource Links, October, 1998; October, 2003, Isobel Lang, review of Emma's Story, p. 5.
School Library Journal, November, 1997, Lisa Wu Stowe, reviews of Wild Dogs and Whales, pp. 108-109; July, 1998, Kathryn Kosiorek, review of Simple Machines, p. 88; July, 2002, Jean Pollock, review of Salmon, p. 107; November, 2003, Rosalyn Pierini, review of Emma's Story, p. 96; June, 2004, Karey Wehner, review of Ants, p. 128.
Science Activities, spring, 1999, Robert G. Hoehn, review of Deer, Moose, Elk, and Caribou, p. 39.
Science Books and Films, December, 1997, Judy Diamond, reviews of Wild Dogs and Whales, p. 275.
Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers Web site, http://www.canscaip.org/ (July 6, 2005), "Deborah Hodge."
Children's Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia Web site, http://www.cwill.bc.ca/ (September 17, 2005), "Deborah Hodge."