Quattlebaum, Mary 1958–
Quattlebaum, Mary 1958–
Born May 2, 1958, in Bryan, TX; daughter of Con (an operations analyst) and Helen (a school nurse) Quattlebaum; married Christopher David (a chief technical officer and director of information systems), September 24, 1988; children: Christy. Education: College of William and Mary, B.A. (high honors), 1980; Georgetown University, M.A., 1986. Politics: "Independent." Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, juggling, Greyhound buses, local history, cartooning, gardening.
Home—Washington, DC. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, editor, and teacher. Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC, medical writer/editor, 1986-88; Arts Project Renaissance, Washington, DC, part-time director of creative-writing program for older adults, 1986-98; Georgetown University School for Summer and Continuing Education, Washington, DC, writing instructor, 1986—; freelance writer and editor, 1989—. Also teaches at Writer's Center, Bethesda, MD.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Women's National Book Association, Authors Guild.
Marguerite de Angeli Prize, and Best Book award, Parenting magazine, both 1994, both for Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns; Judy Blume novel-in-progress grant, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 1991; creative-writing fellowships, District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities, 1994, 1999, 2001; Sugarman Award for Children's Literature, 1998, for The Magic Squad and the Dog of Great Potential; American Bookseller Association Kids' Pick of the List choice, for Aunt CeeCee, Aunt Belle, and Mama's Surprise; Best Picture Book finalist, Texas Institute of Letters, for Family Reunion illustrated by Andrea Shine; Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, Children's Book Council/National Council for the Social Studies, for Jackson Jones and Mission Greentop; Bank Street School of Education Best Book selection, for Sparks Fly High; gold and bronze medals for children's book reviews, from Parenting Publications of America; books included on many state children's choice lists.
Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns, illustrated by Melodye Rosales, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1994.
Jazz, Pizzazz, and the Silver Threads, illustrated by Robin Oz, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1996.
The Magic Squad and the Dog of Great Potential, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1997.
Grover G. Graham and Me, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2001.
Jackson Jones and Mission Greentop, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2004.
Jackson Jones and the Curse of the Outlaw Rose, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2006.
In the Beginning, illustrated by Bryn Barnard, Time-Life Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Jesus and the Children, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth, Time-Life Books (New York, NY), 1995.
A Year on My Street, illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1996.
Underground Train, illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1997.
Aunt CeeCee, Aunt Belle, and Mama's Surprise, illustrated by Michael Chesworth, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1999.
The Shine Man, illustrated by Tim Ladwig, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, MI), 2001.
Family Reunion, illustrated by Andrea Shine, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, MI), 2004.
Winter Friends, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2005.
(Reteller) Sparks Fly High: The Legend of Dancing Point, illustrated by Leonid Gore, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor of numerous stories and poems to children's magazines, including Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, Babybug, Boys' Life, and Children's Digest, and to literary magazines for adults, including Poet Lore, Formalist, and Gettysburg Review. Contributor of articles and reviews to Washington Post, 1995—. Reviewer of children's books, 1986—, and columnist, 1997—, for Washington Parent.
Mary Quattlebaum is the author of a number of highly regarded picture books for children and novels for middle-grade readers. A frequent contributor to the Washington Post and Washington Parent, Quattlebaum also teaches courses in writing books for children at Georgetown University and the Writer's Center in Maryland. She writes children's books on a wide variety of topics, from a young girl's experience on riding the subway in Washington, DC, in Underground Train to a story about a long-time foster child who becomes attached to a foster baby living with the same family in Grover Graham and Me. "Ideas are all around," commented the author on her home page. "For me, they come from a hodge-podge of experiences."
"My first memory is of my dad reciting nursery rhymes right before bedtime," Quattlebaum remarked on the Children's Book Guild Web site. Since childhood, she added, "I've been fascinated with sounds and try to bring a sense of different rhythms and voices to my poems and books for children." The oldest child in a family of seven children, she often read aloud to her younger siblings and would make up stories and plays for them to perform. It was not until she began working as a medical writer for Children's National Medical Center, however, that Quattlebaum seriously considered writing her stories down. "While there," she recalled in an interview on the Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Web site, "my husband (who had been a professional magician as a kid) and I started a volunteer project called Magic Words. Once a week we would visit one or two of the hospitalized kids and, through magic and poetry, encourage them to write their own stories and poems. What a range of emotions their work expressed—courage, curiosity, anger, fear, boredom, tenderness, love! Their example was truly inspiring and encouraged me to try writing for an audience of children."
"I grew up with three brothers, three sisters, and lots of pets, and often draw upon my childhood adventures (and misadventures) in my writing," the author once recalled. "For example, the warm and wacky family in Aunt CeeCee, Aunt Belle, and Mama's Surprise is a lot like my own family. The hamster in Jazz, Pizzazz, and the Silver Threads and the big, goofy dog in The Magic Squad and the Dog of Great Potential are based on real-life pets."
"A strong sense of place is also very important to my work," Quattlebaum also noted. "The poems in A Year on My Street focus on images and sounds from my neighborhood in Washington, DC. There's a sax-playing man, a jump-roping girl, and an old cat who likes to be scratched. The setting for my first book, Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns, is a plot in a city community garden, similar to my own, which started fifty years ago as a Victory Garden to grow food during World War II. Like my main character Jackson, I often feel my most abundant crop is weeds! And the country setting and sweet gum trees of Grover G. Graham and Me were inspired by my childhood in rural Virginia, whereas Sparks Fly High: The Legend of Dancing Point drew upon my college years and time spent working in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.
Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns is a humorous story about a ten-year-old boy who wants a basketball for his birthday but gets instead a plot in the community garden. The resourceful lad decides to grow flowers in his garden, sell them, and in this way raise the money he will need to buy himself a basketball. Unfortunately, Jackson does not find flower-growing as easy as it appears, and the teasing he gets from "Blood" Green, the neighborhood bully, the fight he gets into with his best friend, Reuben, over a rosebush, and the unexpected pleasure he gets from gardening further complicate his money-making scheme. "A host of colorful characters and their lively banter keep the bloom on these pages," remarked a Publishers Weekly contributor in a favorable review of Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns.
Several reviewers of Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns singled out Quattlebaum's array of secondary characters, noting her realistic rendering of their speech patterns. The novel's cast was described as one comprised of "distinctive and dignified individuals" by a reviewer for Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. The young narrator's "humorous, street-smart style" draws in readers immediately, according to a Publishers Weekly critic, and "the cozy, apparently multi-ethnic apartment building makes for a lively urban milieu," according to a reviewer for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, the critic dubbing the book "fresh, sweet, and vigorous—a real daisy."
In a sequel, Jackson Jones and Mission Greentop, the enthusiastic ten year old learns that a land developer plans to build an apartment complex at Rooter's, the community garden where he grows roses and zucchini amid the weeds. Undaunted, Jackson uses his wits to prevent a corporate takeover and meet another challenge from nemesis "Blood" Green. "Jackson's way of looking at life is original and appealing," observed School Library Journal contributor Edith Ching. According to Horn Book contributor Susan Dove Lempke, "Quattlebaum's talent for depicting a lively, diverse neighborhood and funny interchanges between kids remains strong," and a Kirkus Reviews critic wrote that the author "has created a warm neighborhood with a good-hearted boy at its center."
Bad luck follows Jackson and Reuben after they steal a rose clipping from an abandoned cemetery in Jackson Jones and the Curse of the Outlaw Rose, "a well-written, fast-paced adventure," according to Jennifer Cogan in School Library Journal. "With Outlaw Rose, I wanted to play with the conventions of the ghost story," Quattlebaum explained on her home page. "Rather than an old house, this ghost haunts an antique rosebush. Because this ghost doesn't moan and rattle chains in stereotypical fashion, Jackson is slow to realize that he is, indeed, dealing with a ghost, which hopefully makes for some funny moments in the book."
The Shine Man: A Christmas Story is based on Quattlebaum family lore and takes place in 1932, just three years after the start of the Great Depression. Times are hard, but a poor shoeshine man still finds it in his heart to give a child his cap, gloves, and a toy angel made from empty wooden spools. In the process of shining the child's shoes, the man discovers the child's true identity and becomes an angel himself. "With a light touch, Quattlebaum leaves the deeper meaning of the story to reader's imagination," wrote a contributor to School Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the story a "lyrical, mystical tale."
A novel for middle-graders, Grover G. Graham and Me centers on Ben Watson, a young boy who has lived in several foster homes. Over the years, Ben has hardened himself to leaving his various foster parents behind. At age eleven, he lands in a foster home where he finds himself becoming attached to the family, especially to Grover G. Graham, an infant whose real mother is trying to regain custody of him. Fearing for Grover's well being and convinced he can take care of Grover better than his teenage mom, Ben makes a rash decision and takes Grover along for the ride. Reviewing Grover G. Graham and Me in Horn Book, Kitty Flynn remarked that "Quattlebaum pulls off this unlikely pairing with restraint and without resorting to sentimentality," ultimately "build[ing] … naturally to a heartbreaking climax." A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that, "as the tension skillfully builds, Quattlebaum ratchets up the stakes, thrusting her sympathetic but wrong-headed protagonist in a position where he could lose everything, finally delivering a credible, emotionally satisfying ending that will have readers reaching for their hankies."
In Why Sparks Fly High Quattlebaum retells a Virginia folktale about Colonel Lightfoot, a skillful but vain dancer, and the devil who challenges him to a contest for his stretch of land along the James River. "I discovered the tale … in a book of Williamsburg ghost stories and loved the idea of opponents fighting not with fists but with fancy footwork," Quattlebaum recalled in an interview on the Farrar, Straus & Giroux Web site. Horn Book reviewer Joanna Rudge Long called the work "witty and nimbly paced," and in Booklist Gillian Engberg praised the author's "folksy words, which have all the infectious rhythm of a country dance."
Several of Quattlebaum's books for young readers feature verses accompanied by engaging illustrations. "Poems are these amazing little word packages," she told Washington Post Book World contributor Ron Charles. "In just a few lines you can play around with form, rhythm, rhyme, image and sound." In Family Reunion, a collection of fifteen poems, she looks at a family gathering through the eyes of ten-year-old Jodie. "The rhythms and rhymes in many of the selections lend an easy tone to the text," remarked School Library Journal contributor Shawn Brommer. Another comprised of verse, Winter Friends focuses on a young girl spending a snowy day playing outdoors. Quattlebaum "uses a variety of forms to good effect, including haiku and concrete poems," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor in reviewing the book.
"Writing for young readers continues to be a wonderful challenge," Quattlebaum noted on her home page. "I try to listen carefully to the world (to others this might look like daydreaming) and bring a sense of different voices and rhythms to the page."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 1996; February 1, 1997, Kay Weisman, review of The Magic Squad and the Dog of Great Potential, p. 942; December 1, 1997, review of Underground Train, p. 643; September 1, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of The Shine Man: A Christmas Story, p. 121; April 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Family Reunion, p. 1367; November 1, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of Winter Friends, p. 41; October 15, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Sparks Fly High: The Legend of Dancing Point, p. 52; January 1, 2007, Hazel Rochman, review of Jackson Jones and the Curse of the Outlaw Rose, p. 81.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1994, review of Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns, pp. 230-231; February, 1997, review of The Magic Squad and the Dog of Great Potential, p. 220; December, 1997, review of Underground Train, p. 137.
Children's Book Review Service, March, 1998, review of Underground Train, p. 87; August, 1999, review of Aunt Ceecee, Aunt Belle, and Mama's Surprise, p. 165.
Horn Book, May-June, 1997, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of The Magic Squad and the Dog of Great Potential, p. 327; fall, 1999, review of Aunt Ceecee, Aunt Belle, and Mama's Surprise, p. 624; January-February, 2002, Kitty Flynn, review of Grover G. Graham and Me, p. 83; September-October, 2004, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Jackson Jones and Mission Greentop, p. 595; September-October, 2006, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Sparks Fly High, p. 601.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1997, review of Underground Train, p. 1648; May 1, 1999, review of Aunt Ceecee, Aunt Belle, and Mama's Surprise, p. 726; October 15, 2001, review of Grover G. Graham and Me, p. 1490; July 1, 2004, review of Jackson Jones and Mission Greentop, p. 636; September 15, 2005, review of Winter Friends, p. 1032; September 15, 2006, review of Sparks Fly High, p. 964.
Publishers Weekly, November 29, 1993, review of Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns, p. 66; November 24, 1997, review of Underground Train, p. 73; April 19, 1999, review of Underground Train, p. 75; June 7, 1999, review of Aunt Ceecee, Aunt Belle, and Mama's Surprise, p. 82; September 24, 2001, review of The Shine Man, p. 53; February 23, 2004, review of Family Reunion, p. 74; November 28, 2005, review of Winter Friends, p. 50.
School Library Journal, March, 1996; May, 1997, review of The Magic Squad and the Dog of Great Potential, p. 111; November, 1997, review of Underground Train, p. 97; July, 1999, review of Aunt Ceecee, Aunt Belle, and Mama's Surprise, p. 78; October, 2001, review of The Shine Man, p. 68; June, 2004, Shawn Brommer, review of Family Reunion, p. 132; November, 2004, Edith Ching, review of Jackson Jones and Mission Greentop, p. 116; October, 2005, Kara Schaff Dean, review of Winter Friends, p. 144; November, 2006, Jennifer Cogan, review of Jackson Jones and the Curse of the Outlaw Rose, p. 108; December, 2006, Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, review of Sparks Fly High, p. 127.
Washington Post Book World, April 29, 2007, Ron Charles, interview with Quattlebaum, p. 9.
Childrens Book Guild Web site,http://www.childrensbookguild.org/ (December 1, 2007), "Mary Quattlebaum."
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Web site,http://www.eerdmans.com/ (June 1, 2004), interview with Quattlebaum.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux Web site,http://www.fsgkidsbooks.com/ (December 1, 2007), "Q&A with Mary Quattlebaum."
Mary Quattlebaum Home Page,http://www.maryquattlebaum.com (December 1, 2007).