Peterson, Cris 1952–
PETERSON, Cris 1952–
Born October 25, 1952, in Minneapolis, MN; daughter of Willard C. (an engineer) and Carmen (a political consultant) Hoeppner; married Gary Peterson (a dairy farmer), February 10, 1973; children: Ben, Matt, Caroline. Ethnicity: "Scandinavian." Education: University of Minnesota, B.S. (cum laude), 1972; earned teacher certification. Politics: Republican. Religion: Lutheran. Hobbies and other interests: Flower gardening, quilting, knitting, collecting antiques, participating in a variety of sports.
Home—23250 South Williams Rd., Grantsburg, WI, 54840. Agent—c/o Karen Klockner, Transatlantic Literacy Agency, 23825 Stanford Road, Shaker Heights, OH 44122. E-mail—[email protected]
Children's author and workshop presenter. Dairy farmer and substitute teacher in Grantsburg, WI, 1973—; insurance agent, Grantsburg, 1986-98; Universal Press Syndicate, Kansas City, MO, nationally syndicated columnist, 1992-2000. Local historical society, president, 1974-86; 4-H Club, general leader, 1986-94; Sunday school superintendent, 1993—; new children's literature consultant for regional elementary schools.
International Reading Association, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, State Historical Society of Wisconsin & Minnesota Historical Society, Count Historical Society (past president), Wisconsin Department of Commerce Dairy 2020 Council (co-chair, 1999-present), Wisconsin Dairy Business Association (member of executive board, 2001—), Professional Dairy Products of Wisconsin.
Author of the Month citation, Highlights for Children, October, 1989; Science Feature of the Year citation, Highlights for Children, 1992, for article "New Dining for Dairy Cows"; Woman's Award for Children's Literature, Ohio Farm Bureau, 1995, for Extra Cheese, Please!: Mozzarella's Journey from Cow to Pizza, and for Harvest Year; Outstanding Children's Book, Wisconsin Library Association, 1996; Children's Book of the Year, Wisconsin Farm Bureau, 1997; Children's Book of the Year, Ohio Farm Bureau, 1996 and 1998; Wisconsin Dairy Woman of the Year, 1999; Book of the Year Award, Wisconsin Farm Bureau, 2000, and Woman's Award for Children's Literature, Ohio Farm Bureau, both for Century Farm: One Hundred Years on a Family Farm; selected as Woman of the Year, American Women in Agriculture and National Dairy, both in 2002; named World Dairy Expo Dairy Woman of the Year, 2004.
Extra Cheese, Please! Mozzarella's Journey from Cow to Pizza, photographs by Alvis Upitis, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1994.
Harvest Year, photographs by Alvis Upitis, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1996.
Horsepower: The Wonder of Draft Horses, photographs by Alvis Upitis, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1997.
Century Farm: One Hundred Years on a Family Farm, photographs by Alvis Upitis, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1999.
Amazing Grazing, photographs by Alvis Upitis, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2002.
Wild Horses: Black Hills Sanctuary, photographs by Alvis Upitis, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2003.
Fantastic Farm Machines, photographs by David R. Lundquist, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2006.
Also author of "Huckleberry Bookshelf" (weekly children's book column), for Universal Press Syndicate, until 1998. Contributor of stories and articles to periodicals, including Highlights for Children and Cricket.
Cris Peterson has expanded her multiple roles of dairy farmer, mother, 4-H leader, and teacher into another dimension as the author of picture books that both express her love of farm life and explain facets of it to suburban and urban children. She first met photographer Alvis Upitis when he visited her family's dairy farm in Wisconsin to shoot photographs for a magazine article about century farms. Working together, she and Upitis have collaborated on a number of picture books about farming and ranching. Peterson's longtime interest in children's books also led to her syndicated children's book review column, Huckleberry Bookshelf, which appeared in newspapers across the nation until 1998. In addition to her writing, Peterson also speaks to audiences on reading, writing, history, and farming.
"My writing career began when I gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a newborn calf and I knew I had a good story," Peterson recalled on the Boyds Mills Press Web site. She named the calf Breathless, and that was also be the name of Peterson's first short story about a twelve-year-old boy who saves a breech calf by administering mouth-to-mouth. The publication of "Breathless" in Highlights for Children magazine commenced Peterson's writing career in children's literature.
Peterson got the idea for her first children's book, Extra Cheese, Please! Mozzarella's Journey from Cow to Pizza, after attending a writers' workshop in 1988. "I knew I wanted to help kids understand where their food comes from," she stated in The Bridge. However, self doubts and her busy daily life on the farm prevented her from developing the story for over two years. Finally, Upitis convinced Peterson to move writing a book higher on her list of things to do. The result was Extra Cheese, Please!, which provides children with an inside view of every step in the cheese-production process. "Already a self-proclaimed dairy cow expert, I spent a day at our local cheese factory learning the cheese-making process," Peterson noted in The Bridge. "I formed the resulting information into a tightly written, somewhat boring text." Boyds Mills Press accepted the idea for publication, but it took another two years of working closely with an editor for Peterson to complete the final version.
Extra Cheese, Please! begins on the author's dairy farm—where Annabelle the cow has a calf and produces milk—and follows each step of the process, including milking the cows, pasteurizing the milk, converting milk into curds and whey, processing these byproducts at the cheese factory, packaging the resulting cheese, and selling it at a retail store for its final destination as part of a pizza. The book also includes a glossary and Peterson's own pizza recipe. In order to stage Upitis's photo of kids eating pizza for the cover of the book, Peterson cooked a total of twelve pizzas and gave her family indigestion. Despite all the hard work, however, she felt the final product was worth it, and so did reviewers. School Library Journal reviewer Carolyn Jenks called the book "attractive and informative," and Booklist critic Kay Weisman commented that the "clear, simple text" makes it "an appealing addition to primary farm and nutrition units."
In the process of writing Extra Cheese, Please!, Peterson learned important lessons about writing children's books, and she draws on these skills in her second work. In Harvest Year, a "very nicely executed photographic essay," to quote Paula M. Fleming in Catholic Library World, Peterson tells about the wide variety of crops that are harvested annually throughout the United States. Following a calendar format, she explains when, where, and how crops are gathered from the farm or orchard. According to Lee Bock in School Library Journal, Peterson's "spare and clear [text], with well-chosen details," makes the book "engaging."
Peterson takes a broader view of farming in Century Farm: One Hundred Years on a Family Farm. Though Peterson was born and raised in Minnesota, when she married Gary Peterson, she became part of a farming family that had worked the same land for five generations: over one hundred years. For her book, Peterson tells the farm's story from her husband's point of view, creating "a distinctly personal story," as a Kirkus Reviews contributor noted. The technology used on the Peterson farm has changed over the years, and these changes are reflected in the photographs, which range from sepia-toned family photos to Upitis's full-color images, chronicling both the family and how the hard work of farming has changed over the years. Booklist reviewer Susan Dove Lempke praised Peterson's "smooth, personal, descriptive narrative," while a Publishers Weekly critic cited the book for its "pleasing mixture of old and new." In a review for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Janice M. Del Negro praised the visual and textual presentation of Century Farm, remarking on Peterson's "friendly and congenial tone" and the "squeaky clean, wholesome farm setting" portrayed in the illustrations. Eldon Younce, writing in School Library Journal, found the photo captions "interesting" as well, remarking that they "add even more information" to a work that clearly evinces Peterson's knowledge and appreciation of farming.
Agricultural technology is the subject of Fantastic Farm Machines, as Peterson focuses on the mechanical tools that are essential in running a large farm, from miniloaders to eight-wheel tractors. Narrating her book from a personal perspective, Peterson often interjects biographical information about herself; she explains, for instance, why she loves being a dairy farmer and describes the joys of running her family's Wisconsin dairy farm. The text is accompanied by color photographs ranging in size and point of view. In addition to aerial photos of the farm, Upitis provides close-range views of farm equipment. "Writing in an invitingly personal way," noted Booklist reviewer John Peters, the book provides readers with "an informative overview of the various farm machines," and School Library Journal reviewer Carolyn Janssen deemed the text "easy to understand." Elizabeth Bush, in a review of Fantastic Farm Machines for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, noted that Peterson's book will make "farm kids … beam with pride" while "city kids [will] just eat their envious hearts out."
Peterson has also created two books about horses, one showing the breeds commonly found in a farm setting and the other focusing on the wild horses of the American West. Although draft horses no longer play the role they once did on many farms, they are raised for pleasure and are still used productively among such technology-eschewing populations as the Amish. Peterson celebrates the draft horse in her title Horsepower:The Wonder of Draft Horses. Introducing readers to the three main types of draft horses—Belgians, Clydesdales, and Percherons—she uses "appealing details," to quote Deborah Stevenson in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Peterson covers a range of topics, from the training of a young foal to horse shows and competitions, to workaday farm life. Writing in School Library Journal, Maura Bresnahan deemed Horsepower a "fine effort," noting that the "short, smoothly written text … nicely balances the past and present." Likewise, a Kirkus Reviews critic found "fascinating nuggets of draft-horse lore … embedded in the simple text," illustrating for readers both the beauty and importance of these gentle giants.
In Wild Horses: Black Hills Sanctuary the author takes a look at the wild mustangs at the Black Hills Sanctuary in western South Dakota. Peterson explains how "cowboy-conservationist" Dayton Hyde purchased 11,000 acres of range in 1980 and created this preserve, where rescued mustangs are free to live out their lives in a natural state. According to School Library Journal reviewer Carol Schene, Peterson's "sparse, flowing text melds with vivid color photos to capture the beauty of these creatures." Writing in Publishers Weekly, a contributor claimed that author and photographer and Upitis successfully create "another eye-catching story of unusual interest."
Crucial to any grazing animal, wild or tame, is fodder, and this is the topic of Peterson's Amazing Grazing. In this "accessible title," to use School Library Journal reviewer Carolyn Janssen's description, Peterson describes the environmentally sound practices of three Montana cattle ranchers. Remarking that little has been written for children on this topic, Booklist 's Helen Rosenberg complimented author and illustrator, respectively, on the "cleary written text" and "beautifully formatted color photos" presented in Amazing Grazing.
Peterson once commented: "I live on a dairy farm in northern Wisconsin where the winters are icy cold and the summers are filled with the sounds of corn growing, loons calling, and cows mooing. It's a great place to live and an awesome place to write about. When I'm not milking cows or feeding calves or staring at my computer screen, my favorite thing to do is speak to kids in schools and to parents and others about literacy and agriculture.
"I think it's important for kids and their families to know where their food comes from. Farming is a complicated, risky, amazing business that feeds our nation and the world and is a far cry from the Old McDonalds's farm of storybook fame. My goal in writing books about farming is to create a sense of wonder: the 'wow, I didn't know that!' reaction that connects readers to new experiences and information."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 1994, Kay Weisman, review of Extra Cheese, Please! Mozzarella's Journey from Cow to Pizza, pp. 1368-1369; September 15, 1996, Susan DeRonne, review of Harvest Year, p. 224; March 1, 1999, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Century Farm: One Hundred Years on a Family Farm, p. 1210; April 1, 2002, Helen Rosenberg, review of Amazing Grazing, pp. 1322-1323; February 15, 2006, John Peters, review of Fantastic Farm Machines, p. 100.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 1997, Deborah Stevenson, review of Horsepower: The Wonder of Draft Horses, p. 292; March, 1999, Janice M. Del Negro, review of Century Farm, p. 253.
Catholic Library World, March, 1997, Paula M. Fleming, review of Harvest Year, p. 55; December, 2001, Rosanne Steitz, review of Horsepower, p. 133.
Farm Journal, December, 2002, Pamela Henderson, review of Amazing Grazing, p. S1.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1997, review of Horsepower, p. 226; February 1, 1999, review of Century Farm, p. 227.
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, March 9, 1994, Cathy Collison, review of Extra Cheese Please!
Plays, May, 2001, review of Horsepower, p. 69.
Publishers Weekly, February 1, 1999, review of Century Farm, p. 85; December 9, 2002, review of Wild Horses: Black Hills Sanctuary, p. 84.
Reading Teacher, November, 1997, review of Harvest Year, pp. 256-257; October, 1998, review of Horsepower, p. 168.
School Library Journal, April, 1994, Carolyn Jenks, review of Extra Cheese, Please!, pp. 121-122; November, 1996, Lee Bock, review of Harvest Year, p. 117; April, 1997, Maura Bresnahan, review of Horsepower, p. 130; April, 1999, Eldon Younce, review of Century Farm, p. 122; April, 2002, Carolyn Janssen, review of Amazing Grazing, p. 180; March, 2003, Carol Schene, review of Wild Horses, p. 223; March, 2006, Carolyn Janssen, review of Fantastic Farm Machines, p. 212.
Boyds Mills Press Web site,http://www.boydsmillspress.com/ (September 9, 2003), "Cris Peterson."
Cris Peterson Home Page,http://www.crispeterson.com (October 6, 2006).
Peterson's Famly Farm Web site,http://www.fourcubsfarm.com/ (October 6, 2006).
Transatlantic Literary Agency Web site,http://www.tla1.com/ (October 6, 2006), "Cris Peterson."
The Bridge (publicity newsletter of Boyds Mills Press), March, 1994, Cris Peterson, "Kissing Calves and Birthing Elephants: One Writer's Journey to a Book."