Mitchard, Jacquelyn 1956-

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Mitchard, Jacquelyn 1956-

PERSONAL:

Born December 10, 1956, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Robert G. and Mary M. Dvorak; married Dan Allegretti (a journalist), 1981 (died, 1993); married Christopher Brent, 1998; children: seven. Education: Rockford College, B.A., 1973.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Madison, WI. Agent—Jane Gelfman, Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents Inc., 250 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10107. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer and journalist. High school English teacher, 1974-76; Pioneer Press, Chicago, IL, managing editor and reporter, 1976-79; Capital Times, Madison, WI, reporter, 1979-84; Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, WI, metro reporter and columnist, 1984-88; speech-writer for Donna Shalala (then Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, later U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services), 1989-93; author of column "The Rest of Us," nationally syndicated by Tribune Media Services; author of nonfiction, fiction, and screenplays.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Maggie Award for public service magazine journalism, 1993 and 1994; Parenting Network Public Awareness Award, 1997; Milwaukee Press Club Headliner Award, 1997, for exceptional service to the community; Ragdale Foundation Fellow for three years; Anne Powers Award, Council of Wisconsin Writers, 1997, for book of fiction; Audie Award, 1998.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

The Deep End of the Ocean, Viking (New York, NY), 1996.

The Most Wanted, Viking (New York, NY), 1998.

A Theory of Relativity, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

Twelve Times Blessed, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Christmas, Present, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

The Breakdown Lane, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Cage of Stars, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Still Summer, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2007.

NONFICTION

Mother Less Child: The Love Story of a Family (memoir), W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1985.

The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.

CHILDREN'S NONFICTION

Jane Addams: Pioneer in Social Reform and Activist for World Peace, Gareth Stevens Children's Books (Milwaukee, WI), 1991.

(With Barbara Behm) Jane Addams: Peace Activist, Gareth Stevens Children's Books (Milwaukee, WI), 1992.

CHILDREN'S FICTION

Baby Bat's Lullaby, illustrated by Julia Noonan, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Starring Prima! The Mouse of the Ballet Jolie, illustrations by Tricia Tusa, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Rosalie, My Rosalie: The Tail of a Duckling, illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello, HarpersCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Ready, Set, School!, illustrated by Paul Ratz de Tagyos, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

OTHER

Now You See Her (young adult novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author, with Amy Paulsen, of the screenplays The Serpent's Egg and Typhoid Mary. Author of the essay "Mother to Mother," anthologized in The Adoption Reader, Seal Press, 1995; contributor to the anthology A Love Like No Other, edited by Pamela Krueger and Jill Smolowe; contributor to periodicals, including the Writer.

ADAPTATIONS:

The Deep End of the Ocean was adapted for film—starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams, and Whoopi Goldberg—and released by Columbia Pictures, 1999. A Theory of Relativity is in development for a motion picture. An unabridged version of The Deep End of the Ocean was adapted for audiocassette and CD, read by Frances Cassidy, Books on Tape, 1996; an unabridged version of The Most Wanted was adapted for audiocassette, read by Julia Delfino, Books on Tape, 1998; an unabridged version of A Theory of Relativity was adapted for audiocassette, read by Juliette Parker, Books on Tape, 2001; an abridged version of A Theory of Relativity was adapted for audiocassette and CD, read by Jacquelyn Mitchard, Books on Tape, 2001; other books adapted for audio include Starring Prima! The Mouse of the Ballet Jolie, Harper Children's Audio, 2004, and The Breakdown Lane, HarperCollins, 2005.

SIDELIGHTS:

A former newspaper reporter and columnist, Jacquelyn Mitchard was heralded as a first-rate storyteller when she sold her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, after writing a mere one hundred pages for a two-book contract worth 500,000 dollars. The story is about a Midwestern family, the Cappadoras, that collapses in on itself after three-year-old Ben Cappadora is kidnapped from a hotel lobby in Chicago.

An earlier memoir, Mother Less Child: The Love Story of a Family, grew out of Mitchard's strong desire to have children, a nearly fatal tubal pregnancy, and her efforts to cope with her inability to conceive and overcome the emotional and psychological aspects of infertility. Reviewing the book in Publishers Weekly, Genevieve Stuttaford commented: "The casual reader may feel she covers the material too thoroughly, but those faced with a similar reality will empathize with the couple's plight. Mitchard writes frankly and well of a painful subject that haunts all too many."

In 1993, when her husband, journalist Dan Allegretti, died of cancer, Mitchard was determined to keep freelancing. She used her competence as a reporter and columnist to write "everything for anybody to pay the bills. I wrote warning labels: ‘Don't point the paint-sprayer at your face while operating.’ I put up with a lot of horrible rejection, but I wouldn't give in," she related to Jeff Giles in Newsweek. That persistence paid off in a big way. The success of The Deep End of the Ocean has provided financial security for Mitchard and her children. The novel was the first selection for Oprah Winfrey's television book club and went on to become a number one New York Times bestseller. In 1999, a motion picture based on the book was released by Columbia Pictures and starred Michele Pfeiffer, Treat Williams, and Whoopi Goldberg.

The heart-squeezing anxiety of The Deep End of the Ocean is enhanced by intriguing characters, including Ben's brother Vincent and his parents Beth and Pat. Donna Seaman wrote in Booklist that the author "describes [Ben's mother] Beth's unraveling with clinical finesse, then proceeds to chronicle every aspect of the high-profile search for the missing child, the media feeding frenzy over this ideal prime-time tragedy, and the psychological toll such a cruel and mysterious disappearance exacts."

Nine years pass in the suspenseful plot, giving adequate time to explore the various family members' feelings, especially those of teenage Vincent Cappadora, who at age seven was put in charge of Ben in the crowded hotel lobby while his mother Beth checked them in. During these years, Beth has neglected Vincent, baby daughter Kerry, and husband Pat. Reviewer Sybil S. Steinberg, writing in Publishers Weekly, declared that Mitchard's plot is permeated with "disturbingly candid" revelations regarding familial relationships. Gail Collins in the New York Times Book Review described the book as "not so much a thriller as a gut wrencher." Mitchard delves into all the relationships, Jeff Giles insisted in Newsweek: "Don't bother predicting the end: there's a plot twist that'll spin you around no matter which way you're looking."

Commenting on Mitchard's work for Bookreporter.com, Judith Handschuh declared: "Mitchard has a rare gift—she understands the connections between spouses, siblings and friends and she is able to transmute that understanding into … exquisitely developed characters and heartbreaking stories." Noting that Mitchard wrote The Deep End of the Ocean with "an honesty and sensitivity that is not often found in contemporary novels," Handschuh found the same quality in the author's next novel, The Most Wanted. The coming-of-age story focuses on fourteen-year-old Arley, whose pen-pal relationship with Dillon, a twenty-three-year-old imprisoned thief, ultimately leads to their marriage and her pregnancy. The novel succeeds, Handschuh contended, "because Mitchard understands her characters so well and is able to portray their actions and feelings in a way that is both engaging and believable." Other critics were less appreciative, however. Holly Hildebrand of the Houston Chronicle found the book "a glorified romance," but admitted that Mitchard is "good at creating a Texas atmosphere" and allowed that "toward the end Mitchard builds her suspense well, and many of the characters, especially the minor ones, are appealing." In an assessment for the London Times, Christina Koning observed: "Mitchard is a gifted writer who is not afraid to take risks." Lauding her characters as "well-drawn" and "entirely believable" and declaring that her portrayal of small-town life in Texas "has a similar authenticity," Koning still noted "a tendency to sentimentalise people and situations, and a happy-ever-after sunniness of outlook which seems ill-suited to the grim situation portrayed."

Mitchard's next novel, A Theory of Relativity, is a tangled tale of familial relationships. At the center of the story is young Keefer, who is left an orphaned one-year-old when her parents, Georgia and Ray Nye, are killed in an automobile accident. Each side of the family contends for her custody—Georgia's brother, Gordon McKenna, on one side and Delia Cady, Ray's cousin, on the other. Wrangling over the child's custody carries on for years, complicated by the fact that Keefer's maternal uncle Gordon, like her mother, was adopted, and the law allows only blood relatives to file for an expedited adoption. Reviewing the novel for Bookreporter.com, Daryl Chen deemed it "a gripping story."

In Twelve Times Blessed, Mitchard explores the life of a middle-aged woman who, like Mitchard, was widowed young and married a younger man. In an interview for the Capital Times, Mitchard described the book as "funny and vulgar and kick-the-chair-out-from-under-me honest." The author added: "It's about the true and deep-seated insecurities women feel when they're in their forties and certain choices narrow, and the anger engendered in that."

The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship is a collection of Mitchard's columns from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about family life, the death of her husband, and current society. "Direct, clear-eyed, and generous, Mitchard commits her thoughts to paper to help … readers articulate their own," wrote Donna Seaman in Booklist. In a review in People, Paula Chin wrote: "Few are her equal in illuminating the personal stake we all have in … living." A Publishers Weekly contributor referred to the author's "entertaining and thought-provoking commentaries."

In her novel Christmas, Present, Mitchard tells the story of Elliott and Laura and their final night together with their family. When Laura gets a headache, the couple soon learns that she has hemorrhaging in the brain and is going to die within twenty-four hours, leading to a poignant Christmas Eve. Referring to Christmas, Present as a "slim but moving Christmas story," a Publishers Weekly contributor also wrote: "What could easily have become a quicksand of sentimentality is saved by Mitchard's straightforward writing, which is poignant rather than mawkish, sometimes mordant and … surprisingly humorous." Michelle Tauber, writing in People, also noted that the author's "prose can be poignant."

Baby Bat's Lullaby illustrated by Julia Noonan, is a picture book featuring a mother bat extolling in rhyme her baby's many merits. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "excels at evoking a sense of place."Writing in Booklist, Jennifer Mattson commented that "lilting couplets pour forth." Susan Weitz wrote in the School Library Journal: "Mitchard infuses poetic freshness and a delicately compelling tone into the familiar format of a bedtime story." A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the author "offers a perfect tale for settling youngsters down for the night."

In Starring Prima! The Mouse of the Ballet Jolie, Prima the mouse lives with her family at the Ballet Jolie in an abandoned grand piano. When Prima befriends the young Kristen, she finds herself playing cat and mouse with Kristen's kitten, who sees Prima as a tasty morsel and not an aspiring artist. "Various characters … help make this a rollicking adventure," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Carolyn Phelan, writing in Booklist, noted "the wit, and the fun so evident in the text."

Advice columnist Julianne Steiner's husband has left her with three kids to live on a commune just as she discovers that she has multiple sclerosis in Mitchard's novel The Breakdown Lane. The novel follows Julianne's struggle to cope with her children, including her brilliant yet learning challenged son Gabriel, as each chapter begins with a segment from Julianne's advice column. "An astute observer of family dynamics, Mitchard renders her characters flawlessly," wrote Carol Haggas in Booklist. Jennifer Reese, writing in Entertainment Weekly, noted that the author "gets off some good lines." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented on the novel's "rousing melodrama; fluid, often funny, dialogue; and the convincing portrayal of children." Writing in People, Lisa Kay Greissinger called the novel "a tale of the life-giving—and often strained—ties between parent and child." Library Journal contributor Andrea Tarr noted: "Learning-disabled Gabriel, the most skillfully drawn character, is the heart and soul of this story, indicating that Mitchard certainly has an empathy for teens."

Rosalie, My Rosalie: The Tail of a Duckling is a children's book about a girl named Henry who finds that caretaking the duckling Rosalie, who was saved from being slaughtered, becomes an increasingly difficult task that must be resolved. Abby Nolan, writing in Booklist, commented that "this is about attachment and letting go." School Library Journal contributor Christine McGinty referred to Rosalie, My Rosalie as "warmhearted" and "affectionate." A reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly commented that "brief chapters and generous sprinkling of half-tone illustrations make it an ideal early chapter book." A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the author's "fey style … [is] often humorous."

In the novel Cage of Stars, Mitchard tells the story of Veronica "Ronnie" Swan and her search for revenge. Ronnie and her sisters Becky and Ruthie are playing hide and seek when Ronnie discovers their bodies. Both girls' throats are cut. A schizophrenic killer is quickly apprehended and ultimately sent to a mental institution. While Ronnie's Mormon parents seek out the path of forgiveness, Ronnie decides otherwise after the killer is released from the mental facility. "As always, Mitchard excels at vivid, telling detail," wrote Moira Bailey in People. Bailey added that the author's "exploration of life after unbearable loss should resonate." In her review in Booklist, Joanne Wilkinson wrote that the author "tells a compelling, even suspenseful, story; skillfully crafts an authentic narrative voice, and succeeds in humanizing the adherents of a religion that" is often stereotyped negatively. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented: "Ronnie progresses from a stock girl-next-door type to a young woman with considerable emotional depth." The reviewer added: "The results are sweet and solid." Nanci Milone Hill, writing in the Library Journal, called Cage of Stars "Mitchard's best novel to date."

Mitchard once told CA: "Writing is how I make my living, but I would never do anything for money I would not do for free. The privilege of being able to tell a story, which is one of the most powerful forms of expression in this or any time, in this or any culture, is a rare stroke of kind fate."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Atlanta Constitution, July 6, 2001, Teresa K. Weaver, author interview and review of A Theory of Relativity, p. B1.

Book, July, 2001, Kera Bolonik, review of A Theory of Relativity, p. 42, and Beth Kephart, review of A Theory of Relativity, p. 72.

Booklist, March 15, 1985, p. 1019; April 1, 1996, Donna Seaman, review of The Deep End of the Ocean, p. 1324; October 15, 1997, Donna Seaman, review of The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship, p. 380; April 15, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of The Most Wanted, p. 1356; April 1, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of A Theory of Relativity, p. 1429; July, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Starring Prima! The Mouse of the Ballet Jolie, p. 1844; September 15, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Baby Bat's Lullaby, p. 253; February 15, 2005, Carol Haggas, review of The Breakdown Lane, p. 1036; July, 2005, Abby Nolan, review of Rosalie, My Rosalie: The Tail of a Duckling, p. 1925; February 15, 2006, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Cage of Stars, p. 6.

Capital Times (Madison, WI), June 22, 2001, Heather Lee Schroeder, "Mitchard Blooms in Shangri-La," author interview.

Chatelaine, September, 2001, Bonnie Schiedel, "Blood Pressure," review of A Theory of Relativity, p. 20.

Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 1996, Merle Rubin, review of The Deep End of the Ocean, p. 14; July 23, 1998, "Oprah Propels Some First Novelists to the Stars," p. B4, and Kim Campbell, "Oprah's First Author Finds Round Two Tough," review of The Most Wanted, p. B5.

Entertainment Weekly, March 21, 1997, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of The Deep End of the Ocean, pp. 65-66; December 19, 2003, Tina Jordan, review of Christmas, Present, p. 83; April 8, 2005, Jennifer Reese, review of The Breakdown Lane, p. 70.

Houston Chronicle, June 14, 1998, Holly Hildebrand, "Mitchard Falls Short with Trite Texas Teen," review of The Most Wanted, p. 17.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1985, p. 81; April 15, 2001, review of A Theory of Relativity, pp. 529-530; May 1, 2004, review of Starring Prima!, p. 445; August 15, 2004, review of Baby Bat's Lullaby, p. 810; February 1, 2005, review of The Breakdown Lane, p. 142; March 1, 2005, review of Rosalie, My Rosalie, p. 292; February 15, 2006, review of Cage of Stars, p. 153.

Library Journal, April 15, 1996, Jan Blodgett, review of The Deep End of the Ocean, p. 123; September 1, 1998, Theresa Connors, review of The Most Wanted, p. 237; May 1, 2001, Michele Leber, review of A Theory of Relativity, p. 127; February 15, 2005, Andrea Tarr, review of The Breakdown Lane, p. 119; April 1, 2006, Nanci Milone Hill, review of Cage of Stars, p. 85.

Newsweek, June 3, 1996, Jeff Giles, review of The Deep End of the Ocean, and interview with Mitchard, pp. 72-74.

New York Times, June 21, 2001, Janet Maslin, "Who'll Win Her Little Heart? Duck Puppets or Barbie?," review of A Theory of Relativity, p. E7.

New York Times Book Review, August 18, 1996, Gail Collins, review of The Deep End of the Ocean, p. 22; August 30, 1998, Linda Barrett Osborne, review of The Most Wanted, p. 17.

Parenting, October 1, 2004, Jennifer Abbasi, review of Baby Bat's Lullaby, p. 232.

People, July 15, 1996, Louisa Ermelino, review of The Deep End of the Ocean, p. 37; December 8, 1997, Paula Chin, review of The Rest of Us, pp. 45-46; December 15, 2003, Michelle Tauber, review of Christmas, Present, p. 54; May 23, 2005, Lisa Kay Greissinger, review of The Breakdown Lane, p. 55; May 8, 2006, Moira Bailey, review of Cage of Stars, p. 51.

Publishers Weekly, February 1, 1985, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Mother Less Child: The Love Story of a Family, p. 353; April 1, 1996, Sybil S. Steinberg, review of The Deep End of the Ocean, p. 54; September 22, 1997, review of The Rest ofUs, p. 57; October 27, 2003, review of Christmas, Present, p. 43; June 7, 2004, review of Starring Prima! p. 51; October 25, 2004, review of Baby Bat's Lullaby, p. 47; January 31, 2005, review of The Breakdown Lane, p. 47; May 9, 2005, review of Rosalie, My Rosalie, p. 71; March 20, 2006, review of Cage of Stars, p. 37.

San Francisco Chronicle, May 17, 1998, Georgia Jones-Davis, "Desire in All Its Forms: Love Story Goes to the Maternal and Carnal Heart of Life," review of The Most Wanted, p. 3.

School Library Journal, February, 1999, Catherine Charvat, review of The Most Wanted, pp. 142-143; September, 2004, Linda Zeilstra Sawyer, review of Starring Prima!, p. 175; October, 2004, Susan Weitz, review of Baby Bat's Lullaby, p. 124; June, 2005, Christine McGinty, review of Rosalie, My Rosalie, p. 122.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 24, 2001, Gail Pennington, "Master of Emotion, Mitchard Fizzles in the End," review of A Theory of Relativity, p. F8.

Time, June 15, 1998, Elizabeth Gleick, review of The Most Wanted, p. 81.

Times (London, England), January 23, 1999, Christina Koning, "Heart of Texas," review of The Most Wanted, p. 22.

Us, June 4, 2001, Nan Goldberg, review of A Theory of Relativity, p. 66.

ONLINE

Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (March 15, 1999), Judith Handschuh, author interview and review of The Most Wanted; (November 1, 2001), review of The Deep End of the Ocean, and Daryl Chen, review of A Theory of Relativity; (February 7, 2007), interviews with author.

Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (February 7, 2007), Wendy Anderson, "An Interview with Jacquelyn Mitchard."

Jacqueline Mitchard Web site,http://www.jackiemitchard.com (February 7, 2007).