Shannon, George (William Bones) 1952-

views updated

SHANNON, George (William Bones) 1952-

PERSONAL: Born February 14, 1952, in Caldwell, KS; son of David W. (a professor) and Doris (Bones) Shannon. Education: Western Kentucky University, B.S., 1974; University of Kentucky, M.S.L.S., 1976. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Greenwillow Books, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Storyteller and author. Librarian at public schools in Muhlenberg County, KY, 1974-75; Lexington Public Library, Lexington, KY, librarian, 1976-78; professional storyteller and lecturer, 1978—. Guest lecturer at University of Kentucky, 1977. Member, external advisory board, Cooperative Children's Book Center, Madison, WI.

AWARDS, HONORS: Notable Book designation, American Library Association, 1981, and Children's Choice Book, International Reading Association/Children's Book Council, 1982, both for The Piney Woods Peddler; Friends of American Writers award, 1990, for Unlived Affections.



Lizard's Song, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1981.

The Gang and Mrs. Higgins, illustrated by Andrew Vines, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1981.

The Piney Woods Peddler, illustrated by Nancy Tafuri, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1981.

Dance Away!, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1982.

The Surprise, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1983.

Bean Boy, illustrated by Peter Sis, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1984.

Oh, I Love, illustrated by Cheryl Harness, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Sea Gifts, illustrated by Mary Azarian, David Godine (New York, NY), 1989.

Dancing the Breeze, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Laughing All the Way, illustrated by Meg McLean, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1992.

Climbing Kansas Mountains, illustrated by Thomas B. Allen, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Seeds, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1994.

April Showers, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Heart to Heart, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman, Houghton Mifflin (Boston MA), 1995.

Tomorrow's Alphabet, illustrated by Donald Crews, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1995.

(Compiler) Spring: A Haiku Story, illustrated by Malcah Zeldis, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1995.

This Is the Bird, illustrated by David Soman, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1996.

Lizard's Home, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Frog Legs: A Picture Book of Action Verse, illustrated by Amit Trynan, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Lizard's Guest, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Tippy-Toe Chick, Go!, illustrated by Laura Dronzek, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Wise Acres, illustrated by Deborah Zemke, Handprint Books, 2004.

Several of Shannon's books have been translated into Spanish, Chinese, French, and German.


Stories to Solve: Folktales from around the World, illustrated by Peter Sis, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1985.

More Stories to Solve: Fifteen Folktales from around the World, illustrated by Peter Sis, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1990.

Still More Stories to Solve: Fourteen Folktales from around the World, illustrated by Peter Sis, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1994.

True Lies: Eighteen Tales for You to Judge, illustrated by John O'Brien, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 1997.

More True Lies: Eighteen Tales for You to Judge, illustrated by John O'Brien, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2001.


Humpty Dumpty: A Pictorial History, Green Tiger Press, 1981.

Folk Literature and Children: An Annotated Bibliography of Secondary Materials, Greenwood Press (New York, NY), 1981.

(With Ellin Greene) Storytelling: A Selected Annotated Bibliography, Garland (New York, NY), 1986.

Arnold Lobel (criticism), Twayne (Boston, MA), 1989.

Unlived Affections (young-adult novel) Harper (New York, NY), 1989.

(Compiler) A Knock at the Door: 35 Ethnic Versions of a Tale, illustrated by Joanne Caroselli, Oryx Press (Phoenix, AZ), 1992.

Contributor of articles and reviews to magazines, including Horn Book, Children's Literature in Education, School Library Journal, and Wilson Library Bulletin.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Busy in the Garden, illustrated by Sam Williams, and White Is for Blueberry, illustrated by Laura Dronzek, both for Greenwillow.

SIDELIGHTS: Professional storyteller George Shannon combines his interest in folklore and the oral storytelling tradition with his love of literature for children in a series of picture books for the younger set that include Lizard's Home, Frog Legs: A Picture Book of Action Verse, and Tippy-Toe Chick, Go! the last a "sure pick for storytime" in the opinion of Booklist contributor Linda Perkins. In addition to several nonfiction works and a series of popular retellings of folk-tales, Shannon has written such well-received works as The Piney Woods Peddler, Dancing the Breeze, and Climbing Kansas Mountains, as well as an award-winning young adult novel titled Unlived Affections, which he published in 1989.

Born in Caldwell, Kansas, in 1952, Shannon acquired the knack for spinning yarns early in life, and by the seventh grade was writing his stories down. Throughout middle and high school Shannon's teachers encouraged his efforts at writing, and at college he continued his love affair with books and writing by studying children's literature and library science. He spent several years working as a children's librarian before devoting himself to storytelling and writing his own books for children beginning in 1978.

Shannon's first published work for children, Lizard's Song, is the tale of a lizard who sings joyfully of his unique place in the world and, after a foolish bear attempts to set up camp near his rock home rather than in a cave, teaches other animals to be equally celebratory of their own. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the picture book, which has also been translated for Spanish-speaking children, calling it "a jolly, amiable fancy about the value of finding one's own niche and being one's own self." Lizard's Song, which features the colorful illustrations of Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, has since been followed by two sequels, both illustrated by Aruego and Dewey. In Lizard's Home, which a Publishers Weekly contributor dubbed a "bouyant and affirming" tale, a snake decides that Lizard's rock makes the perfect home—without Lizard. The clever Lizard outwits the snake as easily as he had outwitted the bear in the previous volume, and sings a new song that Patricia Manning commented in School Library Journal "will roll off the tongue as trippingly as his original hit tune." Lizard's Guest, published in 2003, continues the saga of Shannon's small reptilian homebody.

The Piney Woods Peddler is an adaptation of the story of "Lucky Hans" collected by the Brothers Grimm. A trader on the road doing business resolves to bring his daughter a silver dollar at the end of his travels; as his luck wanes, each of his trades brings in less than the one before, leaving him with only a silver dime. Fortunately the young daughter is cheerfully pleased with her father's small gift, providing a happy ending to a humorous story Ethel L. Heins described in Horn Book as "a repetitive, lilting tale that incorporates elements of traditional American swapping songs."

Shorter folktales also find their way into several collections by Shannon, among them Stories to Solve: Folktales from around the World, the sequel More Stories to Solve, and True Lies: Eighteen Tales for You to Judge. The last book contains short tales from all over the world, each story featuring a character who manages to trick others by twisting or omitting certain facts. Including detailed notes discussing each of the stories, Shannon creates a collection that has enough "brevity, humor, and accessible language" to attract even the most reluctant of readers, in the opinion of School Library Journal contributor Grace Oliff.

Relationships between family members are central to many of Shannon's tales for young people. A father and daughter await the moon in their flower garden in the poetic Dancing the Breeze, while Climbing Kansas Mountains finds Sam and his dad scaling a grain elevator in their native Kansas, from which height they can see the vast prairie stretching out before them. While Carol Fox found the latter story "more description than plot," she praised Climbing Kansas Mountains in her review for Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, noting that the story's "tone is warm and intimate with childlike language and viewpoint." And in This Is the Bird, described by a Kirkus reviewer as "a moving tribute to familial bonds," a carved wooden bird links generations as it is passed from one family member to another. Close friendship is dealt with in Seeds, as young Warren moves away from neighboring artist and gardener Bill, but retains ties to his friend by planting a garden in Bill's honor at his new home. Seeds "is a warm, satisfying story about a different kind of friendship, about loss, and about new beginnings," noted Stephanie Zvirin in her Booklist review.

Animal characters take center stage in several of Shannon's stories. Dance Away! finds Rabbit with so much energy that he out-dances all of his friends; he also out-dances cunning Fox, who had planned to trap a rabbit for his supper but ultimately ends up trapped in Rabbit's choreography. And in Laughing All the Way, Duck has a pretty awful day, which reaches a low point when Bear decides to pluck the fowl's feathers and make a soft downy bed. Fortunately, Duck keeps his sense of humor and soon has Bear laughing so hard that he accidentally lets Duck go. "Children who love silliness, wordplay, and colorful language . . . will delight in this book," commented Lauralyn Persson in a School Library Journal review. Shannon's Frog Legs also promises plenty of silliness within its twenty-four poems that "hop, prance, and even can-can across the pages," according to School Library Journal interviewer Carol Schene. Enhanced by joyous pastel illustrations by Amit Trynan that depict frogs doing all manner of childlike things, Shannon's verses more than keep pace, serving as "good fun" packaged in "small doses," according to Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin.

In addition to penning books for youngsters, Shannon is the author of a young-adult novel. Unlived Affections, which won the Friends of American Writers award in 1990, is the story of eighteen-year-old Willie Ramsey. After the death of his grandmother, who raised him since his mother was killed in a car accident when he was two, Willie is determined to break with his oppressive past, sell everything in the family home, and start a new life at college in Nebraska. While cleaning out his grandmother's things in preparation for the sale, Willie comes upon a trove of old letters, many written by his unknown father to his mother. The letters reveal many things Willie was told about his family to be untrue: his father did not desert his family but left because he was grappling with his sexual identity; and Willie's mother never told her husband that he had a son. "Shannon has a story to tell, and it is an unusual and moving one, full of secrets, lies, and dreams," commented Betsy Hearne in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the novel's narrative "honest and concise," adding that "readers will be moved by the sensitive portrayal of each character and the tragedies they endure."

When Shannon tells stories before an audience it is like "writing out loud," with each telling slightly different, slightly unique, he once explained to CA. Several of his books have sprung from the stories he has performed in public, repeated out loud many times prior to being committed to paper. An avid journal-keeper and letter-writer, Shannon also collects impressions, thoughts, and ideas that often make their way into his fiction. "I travel frequently to tell stories," he once noted, "and always at my side is the dog-eared journal filled with dreams, lines, phrases, plot snatches, and impressions that all feed into the next story I tell and the next book I write." "The sounds and rhythms of my stories are of major importance to me," Shannon also explained of his craft, "and I want them to flow on the tongue as if always being said aloud—always new to share."



Booklist, December 1, 1981, p. 506; December 1, 1985, p. 574; February 15, 1991, p. 1203; June 1-15, 1994, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Seeds, pp. 1844-45; April 15, 1996, p. 1444; January 1, 2003, Linda Perkins, review of Tippy-Toe Chick, Go!, p. 910.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1984, pp. 34-35; September, 1989, Betsy Hearne, review of Unlived Affections, p. 20; May, 1991, p. 226; January, 1994, Carol Fox, review of Climbing Kansas Mountains, p. 168; April, 1996, p. 279.

Horn Book, February, 1982, Ethel L. Heins, review of The Piney Woods Peddler, pp. 36-37; June, 1982, p. 283; September-October, 1990, p. 627; May-June, 1991, pp. 342-43; November-December, 1994, p. 750; May-June, 1995, p. 329; July, 2001, Roger Sutton, review of More True Lies, p. 465.

Junior Bookshelf, August, 1982, p. 129; June, 1983, p. 110; June, 1984, p. 120; February, 1986, p. 29.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1981, p. 431; September 1, 1983, p. 155; August 1, 1989, p. 1168; April 15, 1991, p. 539; July 15, 1994, p. 995; April 15, 1995, p. 563; March 1, 1997, review of This Is the Bird, pp. 387-388; December 15, 2002, review of Tippy-Toe Chick, Go!, p. 1856.

Library Journal, August, 2001, Lucia M. Gonzalez, review of Lizard's Song, p. 27.

New York Times Book Review, July 14, 1996, p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, May 1, 1981, p. 67; September 11, 1981, review of Lizard's Song, p. 76; July 14, 1989, review of Unlived Affections, p. 80; August 9, 1993, p. 477; April 1, 1996, p. 76; September 13, 1999, review of Lizard's Home, p. 83; November 18, 2002, review of Tippy-Toe Chick, Go!, p. 59.

School Library Journal, October, 1992, Lauralyn Persson, review of Laughing All the Way, p. 95; May, 1996, p. 108; September, 1999, Patricia Manning, review of Lizard's Home, p. 206; May, 2001, Grace Oliff, review of More True Lies, p. 146; February, 2003, Joy Fleishhacker, review of Tippy-Toe Chick, Go!, p. 122.*