PERSONAL: Daughter of a pastor and a music teacher; married; children: two sons.
ADDRESSES: Home—Plymouth, MN. Agent—c/o Author Mail, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
Mommy Go Away!, illustrated by Petra Mathers, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 1997.
I Need a Snake, illustrated by Petra Mathers, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 1998.
It's My Birthday, Too!, illustrated by Petra Mathers, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 1999.
Let's Play Rough, edited by Susan Kochan, illustrated by Ted Rand, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2000.
Mom Pie, illustrated by Petra Mathers, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2001.
When Mommy Was Mad, illustrated by Petra Mathers, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2002.
Bravemole, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Emmy & the Incredible Shrinking Rat, middle grades fantasy, for Henry Holt, expected 2007, and its sequel, expected 2008.
SIDELIGHTS: Lynne Jonell is a children's author who often pairs with illustrator Petra Mathers to create books based on real-life experiences of young siblings. In books such as Mom Pie, I Need a Snake, and When Mommy Was Mad, Jonell and Mathers "respectfully portray the small dramas of a child's world," according to Horn Book Magazine reviewer L.A. A Publishers Weekly critic deemed the Jonell-Mathers collaboration "sharply funny."
In Jonell's first book for children, Mommy Go Away!, a young boy named Christopher becomes tired of his mother constantly telling him what to do. Christopher feels he must obey her, because she is bigger than he is. One day, when his mom makes him take a bath, he tells her to go away, and suggests she use his toy boat for the journey. When she protests that she is too large for the boat, Christopher wills her to be small, and it works. In miniature, on the boat, his mother is faced not only with the daunting prospect of the bathtub's wide open waters, but with a play date with other miniaturized moms together on a slightly larger vessel—complete with motor. Christopher helps his mom cope with her difficulties and fears, and offers the now-tiny woman tips on proper interaction with her peers such as "remember your manners" and "no hitting the other mommies!" When she asks to be returned to her normal size, Christopher willingly complies, and his mother then admits that she has learned something about the difficulties of being small. The illustrations Mathers has provided are simple stick figures, but a Kirkus Reviews critic proclaimed them to be "wonderfully expressive." Lucy Rafael in the School Library Journal affirmed that the story "will draw a smile from independent preschoolers," and also praised the suitability of Mathers's pictures for those readers. Similarly, the Kirkus Reviews writer described Mommy Go Away! as "highly original," concluding that the book "will strike a chord in every child's experience."
Jonell also teamed with Mathers for her next project, I Need a Snake. Like Mommy Go Away! the story explores a potential conflict between a mother and a small son and the experiences that resolve it. In this book, a young boy wants to have a pet snake in his house. His mother compromises by reading to him from books about snakes, and taking him to a museum and to a pet store so that he might get acquainted with the animals. After these trips, the boy is able to content himself with finding many snake-like objects already inhabiting his home.
Jonell is also the author of It's My Birthday, Too! another collaboration with Mathers. The conflict in this book arises from an older sibling's plans for a birthday party, and the younger sibling's feelings of jealousy and being left out. A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that with It's My Birthday, Too! Jonell and Mathers "hit the bull's-eye" with their treatment of sibling rivalry. The reviewer also noted that the book "feels both satisfying and authentic." A Horn Book critic maintained that in the story, Jonell and Mathers "go straight to the heart of the child's experience."
In Mom Pie, the quarreling brothers of It's My Birthday, Too! have patched up their differences. On this occasion, Mom is preparing for a dinner party, and she spurns the boys' offer of help in the kitchen. Missing their mom, the brothers create a "Mom Pie," using items that remind them of her—including the pretty candle in the table centerpiece. "This slice of life is told with humor and panache," claimed Luann Toth in School Library Journal. Toth also felt that Jonell is "definitely clued into the youngsters' world." In Booklist, Stephanie Zvirin praised Jonell's "novel solution for a familiar childhood situation."
Sometimes parents quarrel, and Jonell examines this fact from a child's point of view in When Mommy Was Mad. Mom bangs the pots and pans. She does not kiss Dad goodbye as he heads off to work. She snaps at her sons. The brothers—again brought back from former stories—worry that they have done something wrong, but they cannot think what it might be. Eventually the tension in the house boils over into the boys and makes them cranky, too. According to Hazel Rochman in Booklist, this title "dramatizes intense family feelings from a small child's viewpoint." In the New York Times Book Review, Dwight Garner noted that the plot of When Mommy Was Mad had his children "cracking … up for six straight weeks" over the humorous solution to Mom's funk.
In the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, Jonell felt inspired to write a story that could impart solace and understanding to young children. The resulting title, Bravemole, uses a community of moles as a metaphor for the citizens of New York City. An ordinary mole who aspires to greatness gets his chance to save lives and to comfort baby moles after giant dragons attack and savage two of the moles' tallest mounds. In the words of Shelley B. Sutherland in the School Library Journal, Jonell turns bewildering events into "an explicable universe for children." A Kirkus Reviews critic called Bravemole "purposeful and honorable."
In a statement published on the Children's Literature Network Web site, Jonell concluded: "I write about love…. Love is what opens the arms of a parent to a willful three-year-old, and love is what makes the child come running. And in the end, love is why I write."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of Mommy, Go Away!, p. 415; March 1, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of It's My Birthday, Too!, p. 1207; February 1, 2000, Gillian Engberg, review of Let's Play Rough!, p. 1029; March 15, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Mom Pie, p. 1404; May 15, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of When Mommy Was Mad, p. 1601.
Horn Book, September-October, 1997, review of Mommy, Go Away!, p. 559; May, 1999, review of It's My Birthday, Too!, p. 316; January, 2001, L.A., review of Mom Pie, p. 83.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1997, review of Mommy, Go Away!, p. 1306; April 1, 2002, review of When Mommy Was Mad, p. 494; July 1, 2002, review of Bravemole, p. 956.
New York Times Book Review, March 15, 1998, Margaret Moorman, review of Mommy, Go Away!, p. 23; April 11, 1999, Alison Leigh Cowan, review of I Need a Snake, p. 33; November 17, 2002, Dwight Garner, "Busted: When Mommy Ignores Him, Robbie Takes Matters into His Own Hands," p. 42.
Publishers Weekly, September 22, 1997, review of Mommy, Go Away!, p. 79; March 1, 1999, review of It's My Birthday, Too!, p. 68; January 1, 2001, review of Mom Pie, p. 92; July 29, 2002, review of Bravemole, p. 71.
School Library Journal, December, 1997, Lucy Rafael, review of Mommy, Go Away!, p. 94; May, 1999, Marian Drabkin, review of It's My Birthday, Too!, p. 91; March, 2000, Linda M. Kenton, review of Let's Play Rough!, p. 208; July, 2001, Luann Toth, review of Mom Pie, p. 84; June, 2002, Helen Foster James, review of When Mommy Was Mad, p. 98; September, 2002, Shelley B. Sutherland, review of Bravemole, p. 194.
Children' Literature Network, http://www.childrensliteraturenetwork.org/ (October 18, 2005), author biography.