Lawson, Julie 1947–
Lawson, Julie 1947–
Born November 9, 1947, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; married Patrick Lawson. Education: University of Victoria, B.A. (with first class honors), 1970. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, hiking, reading.
Schoolteacher in France and in Saanich and Sooke, British Columbia, Canada; full-time writer, 1991—. Speaker at festivals, workshops, conferences, classrooms, and libraries.
Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Writer's Union of Canada, British Columbia Children's Writers and Illustrators.
National Parenting Publication Award, 1993, for The Dragon's Pearl; Sheila A. Egoff Children's Prize, and honor book citation, Canadian Library Association, both for White Jade Tiger; White Ravens notable book citation, International Youth Library, 1997, and Tiny Torgi Award, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, both for Whatever You Do, Don't Go Near That Canoe!; regional Silver Birch Awards, 1997, for Cougar Cove, 1998, for Goldstone, and 2001, for The Ghost of Avalanche Mountain; "Teachers' Choice" citation, International Reading Association, for Emma and the Silk Train; citation among best children's books of the year, Bank Street College of Education, and "Books for the Teen Age" citation, New York Public Library, both 2002, for Destination Gold!; honor book citations, British Columbia Book Prize, for The Klondike Cat and Emma and the Silk Train.
FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
The Sand Sifter, Beach Holme (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1990.
My Grandfather Loved the Stars, illustrated by Judy McLaren, Beach Holme (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1992.
A Morning to Polish and Keep, illustrated by Sheena Lott, Red Deer College Press (Red Deer, Alberta, Canada), 1992.
Kate's Castle, illustrated by Frances Tyrrell, Oxford University Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1992, Stoddart (Buffalo, NY), 1997.
White Jade Tiger, Beach Holme (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1993.
Fires Burning, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995, published as The Danger Game, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996.
Blown Away, illustrated by Kathryn Naylor, Red Deer College Press (Red Deer, Alberta, Canada), 1995, Orca (Custer, WA), 1996.
Too Many Suns, illustrated by Martin Springette, Oxford University Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996.
Cougar Cove, Orca (Custer, WA), 1996.
Whatever You Do, Don't Go Near That Canoe!, illustrated by Werner Zimmermann, North Winds Press (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), 1996.
Goldstone, Stoddart Kids (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997, Stoddart (Buffalo, NY), 1998.
Emma and the Silk Train, illustrated by Paul Mombourquette, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997.
Midnight in the Mountains, illustrated by Sheena Lott, Orca (Custer, WA), 1998.
In like a Lion, illustrated by Yolaine Lefebvre, North Winds Press (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
Bear on the Train, illustrated by Brian Deines, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
Turns on a Dime (sequel to Goldstone), Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
The Ghost of Avalanche Mountain (sequel to Turns on a Dime), Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
Destination Gold!, Orca (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2000.
The Klondike Cat, illustrated by Paul Mombourquette, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
A Ribbon of Shining Steel: The Railway Diary of Kate Cameron, Scholastic (Markham, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
Arizona Charlie and the Klondike Kid, illustrated by Kasia Charko, Orca (Custer, WA), 2003.
No Safe Harbour: The Halifax Explosion Diary of Charlotte Blackburn (in "Dear Canada" series), Scholastic (Markham, Ontario, Canada), 2006.
"OUR CANADIAN GIRL" SERIES
Emily: Across the James Bay Bridge, Penguin (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.
Emily—Book Two: Disaster at the Bridge, Penguin (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
Emily—Book Three: Building Bridges, Penguin (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Emily—Book Four: Summer of Gold, Penguin (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Julie Lawson is a Canadian writer for children and young adult novels. "Like a character actor changing her role completely from one performance to the next, Julie Lawson shows a new face in every book," noted Annette Goldsmith in a Books in Canada review of Lawson's humorous picture book, Whatever You Do, Don't Go Near That Canoe!; "Only her love of language and the outdoors remain constant."
Lawson spent her summers at her family's cabin on the Sooke Basin in British Columbia. She loved writing from a very young age. "I decided that when I grew up I'd be an author," she once explained. "I became a teacher instead, but figured I'd be an author during the summer holidays and in my spare time. But I didn't have that much spare time, and in the summer holidays there was always something else to do. But I still kept saying, I'll be an author when I get older. Well, I got older and older, and finally I said to myself, stop thinking about it and do it!" Lawson took a six-month leave of absence and got down to the business of writing.
Her first published book, The Sand Sifter, was published in 1990 and would be followed within five years by six more picture books and two novels. Lawson's inspiration springs from a variety of things, she once commented. "I get ideas from myths and legends and folklore, stories I've always loved to read. I get ideas from my environment…. I get ideas from actual places and experiences: traveling in China, exploring Victoria's Chinatown, seeing the lava flow into the sea on the Big Island of Hawaii, these experiences have all worked their way into my stories. I also get ideas from my childhood memories—memories of people who were close to me, and memories of actual events."
Lawson's picture book The Dragon's Pearl was inspired by a trip she took to China. "I became very interested in dragons," she explained. "I'd always thought they were ferocious, fire-breathing monsters. But in China I discovered Oriental dragons are benevolent, good-natured creatures that don't breathe fire; they breathe clouds and make the rain. For thousands of years, dragons have been worshiped as water gods. And from ancient times they have been a symbol of royalty." Loosely based on a folktale from the province of Sichuan, The Dragon's Pearl tells the story of Xiou Sheng, a poor boy who lives with his mother. During a terrible drought, he finds a pearl that brings his family good luck. When robbers hear of this wonderful pearl and attempt to steal it, Xiou swallows it and is transformed into a dragon that makes rain fall from the sky on the parched earth. Described by Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman as a story "of shifting reality and glorious change," The Dragon's Pearl was also described by School Library Journal reviewer Susan Scheps as a "well-crafted" tale that "successfully presents Chinese tradition and culture in a manner that is both enlightening and entertaining."
In Too Many Suns, the youngest of ten brothers desires to capture the sun in a painting, while the youngest of ten suns wishes he could shine without having to rotate his position in the sky with his nine older brothers. When the youngest sun convinces his brothers to rise all together, they threaten the future of the earth, until the patient youngest brother finds a way to return the sky to the way it was. Based on a Chinese Yi myth, Too Many Suns was described by Quill and Quire contributor Bridget Donald as a read-aloud treat due to its "richly descriptive vocabulary and smoothly flowing syntax." In another picture-book offering, Midnight in the Mountains, Lawson describes a young girl's first evening in a cabin in the mountains in language that Quill and Quire reviewer Joanne Findon described as "simple yet lyrical, perfectly conveying the meditative mood of the story." And as Hadley Dyer noted in her Quill and Quire appraisal of In like a Lion, based on a true story about a curious cougar that strolled through a fancy Victoria hotel, "Lawson keeps the text simple, her phrasing short and breathless" in keeping with the suspense of her story.
In addition to her numerous picture books, Lawson has also written a number of novels for older readers, among them A Ribbon of Shining Steel: The Railway Diary of Kate Cameron, White Jade Tiger, Fires Burn-ing (published in the United States as The Danger Game), and the trilogy that includes Goldstone, Turns on a Dime, and The Ghost of Avalanche Mountain. Fires Burning finds Beth, already pushed to her limit by younger brother Field, totally perplexed after her older cousin Chelsea is sent to spend the summer with them. Emotionally distant for reasons Beth cannot understand, Chelsea begins to come out of her shell by playing a game of risks the children call the Danger Game. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted the novel's "intriguing mixture of ordinary and sublime elements," and added that Lawton's portrayal of the "inner torment of a teen who has been sexually abused should engage teen readers."
Like The Dragon's Pearl, White Jade Tiger was inspired by Lawson's research into Chinese Dragon lore. "I was looking through a book on Oriental art and came upon a picture of a white jade amulet carved in the shape of a tiger," the author once recalled. "It came from the Han Dynasty, some 2,000 years ago. In China, jade has always been associated with magical powers, and the tiger is the mythological animal that rules the West." In the book, which is a combination time-travel story and historical novel, twelve-year-old Jasmine loses track of her class during a visit to a museum in Victoria, British Columbia. Going back in time to 1880, she suddenly finds herself in Fraser Canyon, among the Chinese workers building the Canadian Pacific Railway. Meeting a boy named Keung who is in search of a missing jade amulet, Jasmine disguises herself as a boy and aids Keung on his search, learning much about her own family history as well. "Racism has been an underlying theme in British Columbian history," explained Janice Dawson in Bookbird, "and Lawson's novel provides young readers with an opportunity to explore the issue in depth."
Lawson's novel trilogy that begins with Goldstone takes place in the early twentieth century, as twelve-year-old Karin rebels against her mother's traditional Swedish clothing and customs. When her mother is killed in an avalanche, Karin is wracked by guilt over their relationship, but after wearing her mother's goldstone necklace, the girl begins to dream of another, more deadly avalanche and wonders if she is being given the chance to save lives. In Turns on a Dime Karin's necklace serves as a link, as it is passed down to Karin's descendant Jo. Described by School Library Journal contributor Gerry Larson as "markedly naive and impetuous in keeping with the conservative but changing tenor" of the 1950s, Jo is out of sorts: her friends are caught up in the latest Elvis Presley recording, leaving her to the company of a new boy in her neighborhood. Then her babysitter winds up pregnant, pressure from her friends threatens her friendship with her neighbor, and the worst news of all hits when she learns she was adopted. The goldstone pendant again changes hands in The Ghost of Avalanche Mountain, as Jo, now a mystery author, sends it to niece Ashley for her birthday. When Ashley discovers that dreams she has while wearing the heirloom foretell the future, she becomes nervous: one of her dreams is far from pleasant, and an avalanche near the novel's end brings the trilogy full circle.
In The Klondike Cat, Lawson takes readers back to 1896, as a father and son travel to the Klondike River Valley of the Yukon. Noah is dismayed when his father tells him he must leave his beloved cat, Shadow, behind. Unable to part with her, Noah smuggles the cat aboard a steamship and then along the dangerous journey to Dawson. Pa discovers the cat, but agrees to let her come along. Lawson "trudges her characters up hill, down dale, and over a snow-covered mountain to a hard-flowing river," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic. Pa and Noah soon discover, however, that the prospects in gold country are not as good as they had heard; the good land has already been staked and they do not have enough money to buy a claim. Lawson "does not neglect the fact that many people who sought to make their fortune in Alaska were sorely disappointed at their arrival to find that all the land had been staked," expressed Victoria Pennell in Resource Links. In the end, it is Shadow who saves the day, earning enough money for Pa to buy a claim. Writing in Booklist, Todd Morning dubbed the book "a well-laid-out picture book" with "well-written and engaging text."
Arizona Charlie and the Klondike Kid is a historical fiction picture book in which Lawson takes readers back into the past in Canada. "Set in the Klondike Gold Rush the story is entertaining and fun, while offering a strong picture of life in that place and time," noted Linda Irvine in Resource Links. Readers meet the colorful real-life character, "Arizona Charlie," in the book. Charlie offers young Ben a role in the closing act of his Wild West show. Ben, who renames himself the Klondike Kid, is ecstatic, but a case of stage fright almost causes him to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. "This story provides a little bibliotherapy, a little history, and a lot of fun," concluded Sue Sherif in School Library Journal.Emily: Across the James Bay Bridge is one of four books launching Penguin's "Our Canadian Girl" Series. Set in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1896, ten-year-old Emily befriends her family's Chinese servant, Hing. Their friendship is politically incorrect, however, given the anti-Chinese atmosphere of the time. Emily is distraught when she unintentionally gets Hing fired. Writing in Resource Links, Cora Lee described the book as "a complex story involving difficult issues such as racism and economic hardship."
"The problems met by Emily, friendship, competing in sports, doing well at school, doing without things because her family cannot afford to buy them, are timeless and ones that students can understand," observed Rosemary Anderson in a review of Emily—Book Two: Disaster at the Bridge for Resource Links. In this book, Emily has a disagreement with her best friend, Alice, who has now befriended the new girl at school who has a bicycle, something that Emily desperately covets but that her family cannot afford to buy her. Emily's story continues in Emily—Book Three: Building Bridges. In this book Emily meets Mei Yuk, Hing's daughter who does not speak English. Emily slowly teaches Mei Yuk English, and, once they can communicate their bond strengthens. Resource Links reviewer Carroll Chapman described the book as "a heartwarming story about the pleasures of true friendship and the feeling of satisfaction that comes with overcoming obstacles." In Emily—Book Four: Summer of Gold, Emily further nurtures her friendship with Mei Yuk and also nurses a dog that she has found on the beach back to health. Emily's town is abuzz with talk of gold discovered in the Klondike. "Gold fever becomes one of the key themes in the book and it is delivered well with people on the street asking questions, hoping to make it rich and Emily too wondering where the Yukon is and her siblings asking if it was true or just a fairy tale," commented Marie Forte in Resource Links.
Lawson lives in Victoria, Vancouver Island, within walking distance of the sea. "Escaping into books has always been a form of magic to me," Lawson concluded. "As a writer, I hope to create a little bit of that magic for others." In addition to writing, Lawson gives talks and lectures to school children and library groups, and enjoys the question she is often asked. Which book does she like the best? "Well, that's like asking parents which child they like the best. Each of my books is special in its own way." When answering the question of how one can become an author, Lawson commented, "My advice is: read, read, read! And above all, write!"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bookbird, winter, 1996, Janis Dawson, "Telling It like It Was in Western Canada: Postcolonial Historical Fiction for Children," pp. 24-28.
Booklist, April 15, 1993, Hazel Rochman, review of The Dragon's Pearl, p. 1513; July, 1998, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Goldstone, p. 1882; November 1, 1998, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Emma and the Silk Train, p. 504; October 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Bear on the Train, p. 455; February 15, 2001, Roger Leslie, review of Destination Gold!, p. 1128.
Books in Canada, summer, 1995, Pat Barclay, review of Fires Burning, p. 50; October, 1996, Annette Goldsmith, review of Whatever You Do, Don't Go Near That Canoe!, p. 28.
British Columbia Historical News, fall, 2004, Dorothy Dodge, review of A Ribbon of Shining Steel: The Railway Diary of Kate Cameron.
Canadian Book Review Annual, 2003, Alison Mews, review of Arizona Charlie and the Klondike Kid, p. 456.
Canadian Children's Literature, Volume 69, 1993, Shawn Steffler, review of A Morning to Polish and Keep, p. 80, and Shawn Steffler, review of Kate's Castle, p. 91; winter, 1997, Adrienne Kertzer, review of Cougar Cove, pp. 74-76; spring, 1998, Gillian Harding-Russell, review of Blown Away, pp. 57-60; winter, 1999, Leonore Loft, review of In like a Lion, p. 105.
Canadian Literature, summer, 1996, W.H. New, review of White Jade Tiger, pp. 200-201.
CM: Canadian Materials, April 25, 2003, review of Emily—Book Two: Disaster at the Bridge.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1999, review of Bear on the Train, p. 1228; October 1, 2002, review of The Klondike Cat, p. 1474.
Publishers Weekly, April 15, 1996, review of The Danger Game, p. 69.
Quill and Quire, August, 1992; August, 1993; March, 1995, Marie Campbell, review of Fires Burning, p. 76; March, 1996, Bridget Donald, review of Too Many Suns, pp. 73-74; May, 1996, Maureen Garvie, review of Cougar Cove, p. 34; January, 1998, Maureen Garvie, review of Goldstone, p. 38; November, 1998, Maureen Garvie, review of Turns on a Dime, p. 47; December, 1998, Joanne Findon, review of Midnight in the Mountains, p. 35; January, 1999, Hadley Dyer, review of In like a Lion, p. 43.
Resource Links, December, 2001, Cora Lee, review of Emily: Across the James Bay Bridge, p. 18; December, 2002, Victoria Pennell, review of The Klondike Cat, p. 10, and Rosemary Anderson, review of Emily—Book Two, p. 24; April, 2003, Linda Irvine, review of Arizona Charlie and the Klondike Kid, p. 4; December, 2003, Carroll Chapman, review of Emily—Book Three: Building Bridges, p. 18; October, 2004, Maria Forte, review of Emily—Book Four: Summer of Gold, p. 14.
School Library Journal, July, 1993, Susan Scheps, review of The Dragon's Pearl, p. 62; September, 1996, Elisabeth Palmer Abarbanel, review of Cougar Cove, p. 204; October, 1998, Ronald Jobe, review of Emma and the Silk Train, p. 105; January, 1999, Linda Ludke, review of Midnight in the Mountains, p. 97; June, 1999, Gerry Lawson, review of Turns on a Dime, p. 134; January, 2001, Heather Dieffenbach, review of The Ghost of Avalanche Mountain, p. 132; July, 2001, Ashley Larsen, review of Destination Gold!, p. 110; January, 2003, review of The Klondike Cat, p. 98; September, 2003, Sue Sherif, review of Arizona Charlie and the Klondike Kid, p. 182.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 8, 1997, Mary Harris Veeder, review of Too Many Suns, p. 7.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1996, Jennifer Fakott, review of The Danger Game, p. 211.
Canadian Society of Authors, Illustrators, and Performers Web site,http://www.canscaip.org/ (August 31, 2005), biography of Julie Lawson.