Scott, Ann Herbert 1926-
SCOTT, Ann Herbert 1926-
PERSONAL: Born November 19, 1926, in Germantown, Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Henry Laux (a newspaperman) and Gladys (a homemaker, singer and painter; maiden name, Howe) Herbert; married William Taussig Scott (a professor of physics) September 29, 1961; children: Peter Herbert, Katherine Howe; (stepchildren) Jennifer, Christopher (deceased), Stephanie, Melanie. Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A., 1948, graduate student, 1948-49; Yale University, M.A., 1958. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Society of Friends.
ADDRESSES: Home—684 Benicia Dr., Apt. 6, Santa Rosa, CA 95409.
CAREER: Editor, writer, and lecturer. Rider College, Trenton, NJ, teacher of English, 1949-59; New Haven State Teachers College (now Southern Connecticut State College), New Haven, part-time teacher of English, 1956-58; Wider City Parish, New Haven, coordinator of volunteer work, 1958-61; American Friends Service Committee, Northern California Office, member of Reno area committee, 1966-84; cofounder and member, Children's Literature Interest Group, 1980—; director, All the Colors of the Race, Nevada Humanities Committee Conference on Ethnic Children's Literature, 1983; founder and chairperson, Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace, 1986; cofounder, Friends of the Homeless.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Phi Beta Kappa, Mortar Board, Sphinx and Key, Authors Guild.
AWARDS, HONORS: American Institute of Graphic Arts Children's Books, 1967-68, and Notable Book, American Library Association (ALA), 1967, for Sam; Children's Books of the Year, Child Study Association of America (CSAA), 1968, for Not Just One, 1972, for On Mother's Lap, 1993, for A Brand Is Forever and Cowboy Country, and 1996, for Brave as a Mountain Lion; Nevada State Council on the Arts Grant, 1987; Best Books, School Library Journal, 1993, for Cowboy Country; Notable Books, ALA, 1995, for Hi; Lifetime Literary Achievement Award, Art of the Children's Book Festival/University of Nevada, 2002; Distinguished Alumni Award, George School; Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace Award; Nevada Governor's Peace Prize; entered into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.
Big Cowboy Western, illustrated by Richard W. Lewis, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1965.
Let's Catch a Monster, illustrated by H. Tom Hall, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1967, Philomel (New York, NY), 1992.
Sam, illustrated by Symeon Shimin, McGraw (New York, NY), 1967.
Not Just One, illustrated by Yaroslava, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1968.
Census, U.S.A.: Fact Finding for the American People, 1790-1970 (young adult), Seabury (Minneapolis, MN), 1968.
On Mother's Lap, illustrated by Glo Coalson, McGraw (New York, NY), 1972, reissued, Clarion (New York, NY), 1992.
Someday Rider, illustrated by Ronald Himler, Clarion (New York, NY), 1989.
One Good Horse: A Cowpuncher's Counting Book, illustrated by Lynn Sweat, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1990.
Grandmother's Chair, illustrated by Meg Kelleher Aubrey, Clarion (New York, NY), 1990.
A Brand Is Forever, illustrated by Ronald Himler, Clarion (New York, NY), 1993.
Cowboy Country, illustrated by Ted Lewin, Clarion (New York, NY), 1993.
Hi!, illustrated by Glo Coalson, Philomel/Putnam (New York, NY), 1994.
Brave as a Mountain Lion, illustrated by Glo Coalson, Clarion (New York, NY), 1996.
Contributor to periodicals, including Reno Gazette-Journal and Nevada Highways.
ADAPTATIONS: "Books about Real Things" (based on Sam, along with discussion of author's work; filmstrip and cassette), Pied Piper, 1982; "On Mother's Lap" (based on book of same name; sound recording), 1994.
SIDELIGHTS: Over the last three decades, Ann Herbert Scott has published many stories for younger readers that share a simple narrative format and realistic dialogue and description. Through these stories, she evokes such universal themes as, in her own words, "the security of a mother's love, the yearning to be big and important, the courage to deal with fear or jealousy."
Both in high school and in college Scott edited the newspaper, worked on the yearbook, and participated in the theater. In her teens and twenties, she also worked with inner-city children. As the author once told CA: "When I worked in New Haven in the 1950s, I was appalled by the lack of children's books picturing either urban neighborhoods or dark-skinned families. I initiated and directed LINK, a program designed 'to give inner-city children between the ages of eight and twelve the chance to become friends with a caring adult and, through an ongoing relationship, to widen their horizons and raise their aspirations.' I dreamed that someday I would write true-to-life stories that would be set in the housing project where I worked, stories in which my New Haven friends could find themselves. However, it was not until I had moved to Nevada that Big Cowboy Western evolved."
Big Cowboy Western is about an inner-city boy who gets a cowboy outfit for his fifth birthday but feels unimportant because he has nobody to play with—until an understanding fruit peddler gives him a job watching his horse. The book was praised by Zena Sutherland of the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books for its "excellent" depiction of relationships and the value of its "particular urban setting."
"I believe the pull toward children's writing comes from something childlike within me," Scott has written. "I've always enjoyed being around little children, and wherever we've lived—farm, city, housing development—there have been a few small children who have been among my closest friends. The sense of delight and wonder little children bring to the here and now seems to awaken something deep in me. In contrast to writing for adults, which is often dreary and difficult for me, writing for children is often fun; it springs up unexpectedly in familiar places with some of the same spontaneous independence as forgotten daffodils in a leaf-covered bed.
"In general I work over material for some time, usually simplifying and resimplifying, often cutting out favorite phrases because they are not necessary to the thrust of the story. When there is something I am unsure about, six-year-old children's ideas about monsters, for example, I do a lot of talking with children. Otherwise I work from memory and imagination. I always see picture books as I write them; the sense of the graphics helps the development of the manuscript."
The author's conversations with children about monsters led to 1967's Let's Catch a Monster, in which a small boy on Halloween tracks down a monster that turns out to be a cat. The story was described as an "appealing anecdote" by a Publishers Weekly reviewer. That same year, Scott's Sam appeared, which was an exception to the author's general rule of spending a lot of time on her stories. "It came as I was scrubbing out the bathtub after a visit from a particularly experimental young neighbor. I wrote it in a few minutes, made some minor changes the next day, and sent it off." Sam is the story of a small African-American child whose parents and older siblings are all too busy to pay attention to him. The story was widely praised. What one reviewer writing in Booklist called a "touching family story" was described by a later Booklist critic as "perceptively interpreted in expressive drawings," referring to the work of artist Symeon Shimin.
"As a writer who specializes in picture books for young children, my work has peculiar aesthetic concerns. Although I am not an artist, I continually work with images in mind, leaving much of the telling to the skill of the illustrator. My work is often described as 'simple,' and so it is. However, it is the simplicity of discovering the organic shape of an idea, eliminating all that is unessential, depicting the large in the small. My manuscripts often go through twenty to thirty revisions."
On Mother's Lap and Grandmother's Chair both illustrate this 'make-it-simple' ideal. In the first story an Eskimo boy happily snuggles with his mother, gradually adding his favorite toys until he is sure there is no room for his baby sister, and yet there is. "The simplicity and familiarity of the situation are universal," said Zena Sutherland in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. In Grandmother's Chair, children learn concepts of relationships and family trees from the story of a family heirloom that has been handed down through three generations. "Scott's text is plain and clear," wrote Booklist reviewer Leone McDermott. "Its understated warmth comes from the sense of continuity as the chair passes from one little girl to the next."
Scott once commented to CA that she had become "drawn to new themes and ideas linked to the life of remote Nevada, the buckaroos and ranchers, the Paiute and Shoshone people. The book ideas evoked by these themes are not just for children but the sort of picture book one critic called the 'Everybody Book.' An opportunity to interview a number of old buckaroos was provided by a Nevada State Council on the Arts grant in 1986-87, inspiring a number of partly finished stories and a book entitled Someday Rider."
In Someday Rider, Kenny wants to join his dad and the cowboys on their western ranch, but his parents have put off teaching him to ride. After Kenny practices riding a goose, a sheep, and a calf, his mother finally shows him the basics, and the two then join the roundup. "Would-be cowpokes should hanker to read this coming-of-age story," concluded reviewer Charlene Strickland. A Kirkus Reviews critic praised Scott for the "warmth" of the story. Mining the same western lode, Scott next wrote One Good Horse: A Cowpuncher's Counting Book. Writing in Horn Book, reviewer Elizabeth S. Watson noted that the book's theme would surely gain "warm reception" from the "spurs-and-six-gun set."
In her books, A Brand is Forever, Cowboy Country, Hi, and Brave as a Mountain Lion, Scott has continued to explore mostly western subject matter and universal themes, using the same pared-down approach. The author has also not been afraid to deal head-on with a topic like branding that might not be considered suitable in an age of political correctness but that nevertheless exists in the real world. A Brand Is Forever is basically "a warm family story" and "a good yarn" about a girl on a ranch and her pet calf, according to Horn Book reviewer Elizabeth S. Watson. Critic Roger Sutton praised "Scott's quiet but plain-speaking tone." But isn't branding a cruel practice, and isn't Annie's mistress-pet relationship behind the times? the reader may ask. Reviewer Ilene Cooper tackled these questions in an extended essay-review in Booklist and reached several conclusions. On one hand, "it's a bit disconcerting to see the pleasures of ownership celebrated quite so blatantly, especially when the item being owned is a living animal," contended Cooper. At the same time, Cooper added, "Scott makes a good case for the practical reasons behind branding, and readers with some knowledge of branding are likely to agree . . . that the procedure is necessary." For Cooper, the bottom line is that "the book should be judged on [its] merits, not on how well it fits the attitudinal climate of the times."
Drawing on her research and interviews with old Nevada buckaroos, Scott's next book, Cowboy Country, shows an old-timer guiding a young greenhorn in both the work and the lore of the cowboy, contrasting present practices with earlier methods. "Youngsters swept up by space-opera technomyths may rediscover the wonders of the West with this book," maintained Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books reviewer Deborah Stevenson. Elizabeth S. Watson of Horn Book found that "the strength of the book is the atmosphere created."
In Hi, Scott returns to the theme of persistence that she first treated in Sam. Margarita and her mother are waiting in line at the post office. The toddler calls out "Hi" to each person in the line, but when she gets no response her greeting becomes progressively weaker. Finally the "post-office lady" to whom she gives her package responds warmly, and Margarita's confidence is restored. "A delightful moment in time perfectly captured," commented reviewer Anna Biagioni Hart in School Library Journal. "It's a simple scenario but Scott captures a child's emotions nicely," noted a critic for Publishers Weekly.
In 1996, the Shoshone tale that the author referred to years earlier finally came to fruition with the publication, to wide acclaim, of Brave as a Mountain Lion. Spider, who lives on a contemporary Shoshone reservation, is afraid of participating in a school spelling bee. But, encouraged by other family members, and finally through his own efforts, to think of himself as "brave as a mountain lion, clever as a coyote, silent as a spider," he wins second place. "Scott knows how to take a universal childhood anxiety and particularize it to the needs of a story," commented Roger Sutton in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 1968, review of Sam, p. 702; May 1, 1973, review of Sam, p. 836; November 15, 1990, Leone McDermott, review of Grandmother's Chair, p. 667; April 1, 1993, Ilene Cooper, review of A Brand Is Forever, p. 1434; May 15, 1994, p. 1684.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1965, Zena Sutherland, review of Big Cowboy Western, p. 68; December, 1972, Zena Sutherland, review of On Mother's Lap, p. 64; November, 1990, p. 70; April, 1993, Roger Sutton, review of A Brand Is Forever, p. 263; November, 1993, Deborah Stevenson, review of Cowboy Country, pp. 98-99; February, 1996, Roger Sutton, review of Brave as a Mountain Lion, pp. 202-03.
Horn Book, July-August, 1990, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of One Good Horse: A Cowpuncher's Counting Book, p. 447; November-December, 1992, pp. 741-742; May-June, 1993, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of A Brand Is Forever, p. 330; November-December, 1993, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of Cowboy Country, p. 760; July-August, 1994, p. 445.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1989, review of Someday Rider, p. 1251; May 15, 1994, p. 706.
Publishers Weekly, October 9, 1967, review of Let's Catch a Monster, p. 60; July 18, 1990, p. 53; March 23, 1992, p. 71; May 30, 1994, review of Hi, p. 56.
School Library Journal, December, 1989, Charlene Strickland, review of Someday Rider, p. 88; April, 1990, p. 96; July, 1994, Anna Biagioni Hart, review of Hi, p. 89.