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Robinet, Harriette Gillem 1931-

Robinet, Harriette Gillem 1931-

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "ro-bi-nay"; born July 14, 1931, in Washington, DC; daughter of Richard Avitus (a teacher) and Martha (a teacher; maiden name, Gray) Gillem; married McLouis Joseph Robinet (a health physicist), August 6, 1960; children: Stephen, Philip, Rita, Jonathan, Marsha, Linda. Education: College of New Rochelle, B.S., 1953; Catholic University of America, M.S., 1957, Ph.D., 1963. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Pets, bird watching, growing plants, reading, camping, knitting, crocheting, sketching.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—214 S. Elmwood, Oak Park, IL 60302.

CAREER: Children's Hospital, Washington, DC, bacteriologist, 1953–54; Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC, medical bacteriologist, 1954–57, research bacteriologist, 1958–60; Xavier University, New Orleans, LA, instructor in biology, 1957–58. Author, 1962–. Military service: U.S. Army, Quartermaster Corps, civilian food bacteriologist, 1960–1961.

MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Society of Midland Authors, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, National Writers Union.

AWARDS, HONORS: Friends of American Writers Award, 1991, for Children of the Fire; Carl Sandburg Award, 1997, for Washington City is Burning; Midland Authors Award, 1998, for The Twins, the Pirates, and the Battle of New Orleans; Scott O'Dell Award for children's historical fiction, 1999, for Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule; Jane Addams Honor Book designation, 2001, for Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues.

WRITINGS:

JUVENILE; HISTORICAL NOVELS, EXCEPT AS NOTED

Jay and the Marigold (picture book), illustrated by Trudy Scott, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1976.

Ride the Red Cycle (picture book), illustrated by David Brown, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1980.

Children of the Fire, Maxwell Macmillan International (New York, NY), 1991.

Mississippi Chariot, Maxwell Macmillan International (New York, NY), 1994.

If You Please, President Lincoln, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1995.

Washington City Is Burning, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1996.

The Twins, The Pirates, and the Battle of New Orleans, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1997.

Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1998.

Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.

Missing from Haymarket Square, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.

Twelve Travelers, Twenty Horses, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals.

ADAPTATIONS: Books that have been adapted for audio include Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule (unabridged; three cassettes), Recorded Books, 2000.

SIDELIGHTS: Influenced by her disabled son as well as by slavery of her ancestors, Harriette Gillem Robinet provides insight in her juvenile works into children's struggles and victories over physical and emotional obstacles. As a Kirkus Reviews commentator asserted, Robinet depicts "the sheer concentration conveyed, and the self faith" of her young protagonists.

Robinet's first book, Jay and the Marigold, portrays an eight-year-old boy who, like Robinet's own son, is handicapped by cerebral palsy. His inability to communicate clearly or control his physical movements makes him an outsider, until he is befriended by a new student. According to Karen Harris in the School Library Journal, "the story likens Jay to a marigold which manages to bloom under the most unfavorable conditions."

The author's associations with handicapped children are drawn upon in Ride the Red Cycle. An illness which resulted in brain damage has confined Jerome Johnson, an eleven-year-old boy, to a wheelchair. Jerome's dream is to ride a tricycle, even though he cannot walk, and after a summer of trying, he finally succeeds on Labor Day. "Simply written," declared a Horn Book reviewer, the "story conveys not only Jerome's physical struggle but his emotional one to achieve individuality and self-respect."

Robinet's Children of the Fire is the first of her historical novels for young readers and describes the changing reactions of a young orphan to the Chicago fire of 1871. The protagonist, Hallelujah, is the daughter of a woman who was a runaway slave. At first, Hallelujah is enthusiastic about the fire, thinking it a spectacle. Her perspective changes drastically, however, after she sees the once-stately courthouse destroyed and after she assists a young, lost white child. "No reader will doubt," proclaimed Joanne Schott in Quill and Quire, "that Hallelujah's experiences in the Chicago fire are great enough to work changes in her." A contributor to Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books believed that Robinet "has clearly done a great deal of research, and many of the historical details are of interest."

Mississippi Chariot is set in the Depression-era South, where a twelve-year-old boy is working toward the release of his father, who is serving on a chain gang for a crime he did not commit. The family's ultimate escape is to Chicago. In If You Please, President Lincoln, Moses, a young house slave living in Maryland, does not benefit from the Emancipation Proclamation, which frees only slaves held in the Confederacy. This story, based on fact, finds Moses first escaping and then being captured along with 400 others and shipped to an island off the coast of Haiti. The intelligent young man escapes to return to the United States with plans to pursue an education. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that the author "combines desert-island drama with an insightful story of a mind gradually freeing itself." Virginia, the protagonist in Washington City Is Burning, is the house servant of James Madison. When he is elected president, she is pleased to be chosen to work at the White House, but her new status does not dampen her anger at the suffering of her people. Virginia is a witness to the British taking of Washington City in 1814.

Twins Pierre and Andrew are young runaway slaves in The Twins, the Pirates, and the Battle of New Orleans, set during the War of 1812. As the title suggests, they face considerable danger, including from pirates, alligators, and the military conflict, and pirate treasure becomes the means by which the boys are able to free their mother and sister. Kay Weisman wrote in Booklist that "this is an ambitious novel—full of high adventure, natural detail, and historical particulars." In Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule, the Civil War is over and blacks and whites are offered land and sometimes a mule as part of Reconstruction. Gideon, who fled to fight for the Union, returns to explain to his brother, Pascal, that they are free, and the two set out to claim their forty acres on the island off the coast of Georgia.

Robinet moves forward in history with Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues, set in 1956 during the Montgomery bus boycott. Young Alpha and his sister, Zinnia, live with their great-grandmother, Mama Merryfield, in a tar paper-covered shack, but someone is stealing the rent money. Mama is well-respected, and Alpha works in a grocery store. He is inspired by the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., which helps the family overcome false accusations of stealing against the woman and the boy.

Missing from Haymarket Square is set in 1886 Chicago. Dinah Bell's seamstress mother has lost an arm in the factory, and her labor-organizer father has been arrested. Dinah and the sons of the immigrant Austrian family with whom they share a room work long hours in the factories to help feed their families, supplementing their meager wages by picking pockets. Twelve Travelers, Twenty Horses is a pre-Civil War story in which thirteen-year-old Jacob and other slaves are bought by a man who heads to California with his large party with the intention of capturing the gold that is coming out of that state and preventing news of the election results from coming in. Jacob knows he must intervene so that California will be come a Union state, making him a free man. School Library Journal contributor Carol A. Edwards wrote that "the true gift of this historical adventure is its offering of a slave narrative that builds esteem rather than pity."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of Mississippi Chariot, p. 591; August, 1995, Carolyn Phelan, review of If You Please, President Lincoln, p. 1947; November 1, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of Washington City Is Burning, p. 501; November 15, 1997, Kay Weisman, review of The Twins, the Pirates, and the Battle of New Orleans, p. 561; January 1, 1999, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule, p. 879; May 1, 2000, Michael Cart, review of Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues, p. 1670; October 1, 2001, Denise Wilms, review of Missing from Haymarket Square, p. 319; February 15, 2003, Julie Cummins, review of Twelve Travelers, Twenty Horses, p. 1082.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 1991, review of Children of the Fire, p. 20.

Childhood Education, mid-summer, 2002, Shelly So-bel, review of Missing from Haymarket Square, p. 308.

Horn Book, June, 1980, review of Ride the Red Cycle, p. 303.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1980, review of Ride the Red Cycle, pp. 911-912; December 1, 2002, review of Twelve Travelers, Twenty Horses, p. 1772.

Library Journal, May, 2000, Gerry Larson, review of Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues, p. 176.

Publishers Weekly, June 26, 1995, review of If You Please, President Lincoln, p. 107; November 2, 1998, review of Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule, p. 83; June 5, 2000, review of Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues, p. 94; June 18, 2001, review of Missing from Haymarket Square, p. 81.

Quill and Quire, January, 1992, Joanne Schott, review of Children of the Fire, p. 34.

School Library Journal, January, 1977, Karen Harris, review of Jay and the Marigold, p. 84; July, 2001, Carol A. Edwards, review of Missing from Haymarket Square, p. 112; February, 2003, Carol A. Edwards, review of Twelve Travelers, Twenty Horses, p. 147.

ONLINE

Harriette Gillem Robinet Home Page, http://www.hgrobinet.com (February 14, 2006).

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