Peterson, Cris 1952-

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PETERSON, Cris 1952-

PERSONAL: Born October 25, 1952, in Minneapolis, MN; daughter of Willard C. (an engineer) and Carmen (a political consultant; maiden name, Fossom) Hoeppner; married Gary Peterson (a dairy farmer), February 10, 1973; children: Ben, Matt, Caroline. Ethnicity: "Norwegian/German." Education: University of Minnesota, B.S., 1972. Politics: Republican. Religion: Lutheran. Hobbies and other interests: Flower gardening, quilting, knitting, collecting antiques, participating in a variety of sports.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—23250 South Williams Rd., Grantsburg, WI 54840. Agent—Karen Klockner, Transatlantic Literary Agency, 72 Glen-gowan Rd., Toronto, Ontario M4N 1G4, Canada. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Dairy farmer and substitute teacher in Grantsburg, WI, 1973—; insurance agent, Grantsburg, 1986—; 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.

MEMBER: International Reading Association, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

AWARDS, HONORS: 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; 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, 2002.


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.

Also authored "Huckleberry Bookshelf," a weekly children's book column appearing in newspapers nationwide, for Universal Press Syndicate. Contributor of stories and articles, including "New Dining for Dairy Cows," to periodicals such as Highlights for Children, Cricket, and others.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A hisory of the North American fur trade; a photo essay on big farm machines.

SIDELIGHTS: 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. After photographer Alvis Upitis visited the Peterson family's dairy farm in Wisconsin to shoot photographs for a magazine article about century farms, he and Peterson have worked together on picture books about farming and ranching. Peterson's longtime interest in children's books also led her to create and successfully sell a children's book review column, Huckleberry Bookshelf, to Universal Press Syndicate, which licensed it for use to newspapers across the nation until 1998. Additionally, for over a decade, Peterson has spoken frequently 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 at Boyds Mills Press Web site. "The calf lived. The story sold. Both were named 'Breathless.'" Peterson got the idea for 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 Alvis Upitis convinced Peterson to move writing a book higher on her list of things to do, and Extra Cheese, Please!, a book that provides children with an inside view of every step in the cheese production process, came about. "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.

First, Peterson had to rewrite the story in her own voice, making it "more personalized" so "a kid in the city" could understand it. Following her editor's suggestion, she wrote the next version as a letter to a child "who had never seen a cow," according to The Bridge. 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. Then came the time-consuming task of filling in all the necessary photos with Upitis. In order to create the 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. Among its enthusiasts number School Library Journal's Carolyn Jenks, who called the book "attractive and informative," and Booklist's Kay Weisman, who 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 had learned important lessons about writing children's books, skills that brought about her second work, again about the origins of food. In Harvest Year, a "very nicely executed photographic essay," to quote Paula M. Fleming of Catholic Library World, Peterson tells about a wide variety of crops that are harvested annually throughout the United States. Following a calendar format, she explains when, where, and how crops get from the tree or field. According to Lee Bock of School Library Journal, Peterson's "spare and clear [text], with well-chosen details" makes this book "engaging."

Peterson took a broader look at farming in her 1999 title, 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 imagined herself telling the farm's story from her husband's point of view, creating "a distinctly personal story," a Kirkus Reviews contributor noted. While the technology used on the farm has changed, and these changes are reflected in the photographs that range from sepia tones from the family album to Upitis's full-color images, an appreciation of the family and the hard work of farming has remained the same over the years. Booklist's Susan Dove Lempke praised Peterson's "smooth, personal, descriptive narrative," while a Publishers Weekly critic praised the visual presentation, calling it a "warm volume . . . [with] a pleasing mixture of old and new." In a review for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Janice M. DelNegro praised the visual and textual presentation of the book, remarking on Peterson's "friendly and congenial tone" and the "squeaky clean, wholesome farm setting" portrayed in the illustrations. Eldon Younce of 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.

For many children, the word "farm" conjures images of animals, like horses. Peterson has created two books about horses, one about these animals in the farm setting, another about the wild horses of the West. Although draft horses no longer play the role they once did on many farms, they are raised for pleasure and 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 of the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Peterson covers a range of topics, such as the training of a young foal, shows and competitions, and workaday farm life. Reviewers found much to like about the work. Writing in School Library Journal, Maura Bresnahan deemed it 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," which reminds readers of both the beauty and importance to our nation of these gentle giants.

In Wild Horses: Black Hills Sanctuary, on the other hand, 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, the "sparse, flowing text melds with vivid color photos to capture the beauty of these creatures." Writing in Publishers Weekly, a contributor claimed that Peterson and Upitis again had created "another eye-catching story of unusual interest."

Crucial to any ungulate, wild or tame, is fodder, a topic that is the focus 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.



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.

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. DelNegro, 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, "Read'em and Reap," review of Amazing Grazing, p. S-1.

Horn Book, 1999, review of Century Farm.

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 HarvestYear, 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.


Boyds Mills Press Web Site, (September 9, 2003), "Cris Peterson."

Transatlantic Literary Agency, 3, 2003), "Cris Peterson."


Peterson, Cris, The Bridge (publicity newsletter), "Kissing Calves and Birthing Elephants: One Writer's Journey to a Book," Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), March, 1994.

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