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Shields, Charles J. 1951-

SHIELDS, Charles J. 1951-

PERSONAL:

Born 1951; married; wife's name Guadalupe.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Barboursville, VA. Agent—Jeff Kleinman, Folio Literary Management, 505 8th Ave., Ste. 603, New York, NY 10018; fax: 212-967-0977. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. Worked variously as an English teacher, public-radio reporter, and journalist.

WRITINGS:

BIOGRAPHIES; FOR YOUNG PEOPLE, EXCEPT AS NOTED

Amy Tan, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Annie Oakley, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Buffalo Bill Cody, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

George Lucas, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Martha Stewart, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Mohandas K. Gandhi, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Mythmaker: The Story of J.K. Rowling, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Roald Dahl, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Spike Lee, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Saddam Hussein, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2003, 2nd edition, 2005.

Vladimir Putin, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee (for adults), Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2006.

HISTORY; FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

James Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

John Cabot and the Rediscovery of North America, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

The Great Plague and Fire of London, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

GEOGRAPHY; FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

Belize, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.

Central America: Facts and Figures, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.

Costa Rica, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.

El Salvador, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.

Guatemala, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.

Honduras, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.

Nicaragua, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.

Panama, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.

Argentina, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Brazil, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Chile, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Peru, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Uruguay, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Venezuela, Mason Crest Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

COLLEGE/CAREER GUIDES

The College Guide for Parents, Surrey Books (Chicago, IL), 1986, 3rd edition, College Entrance Exam Board, 1995.

How to Help Your Teenager Find the Right Career, College Entrance Examination Board (New York, NY), 1988.

Back In School: A Guide for Adult Learners, Career Press (Hawthorne, NJ), 1994.

MENTAL HEALTH

Mental Illness and Its Effects on School and Work Environments, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2000.

Sexual Disorders, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS:

Charles J. Shields had been teaching high school English for twenty years when he did what was, to his colleagues, the unthinkable: He quit his job as department chair of a large suburban-Chicago high school to become a full-time writer. Shields soon found his niche writing nonfiction for middle-and high-school students, and he achieved steady work with several publishers writing short (20,000 word) biographies and histories. His books earned positive reviews for being descriptive, engaging, and complete. Edward Sullivan wrote in a School Library Journal review that Saddam Hussein is "extensively illustrated with captioned, full-color photographs and maps and serve as informative, useful introductions to their subjects." Of Shields's biography of Martha Stewart, Atlantic Monthly contributor Caitlin Flanagan noted that Shields "trots us through the high points of Stewart's early life and career in short order, making astute observations as to how these various experiences may have shaped her as a businesswoman.… This clear analysis is a welcome relief." School Library Journal reviewer Renee Steinberg commented that the "clear, descriptive prose and black-and-white reproductions" in The Great Plague and Fire of London "enable readers to almost see and smell … the chaos and congestion of the time." Another School Library Journal contributor, William McLoughlin, wrote that with John Cabot and the Rediscovery of North America, Shields hit upon "a winning formula: accessible text, abundant and diverse illustrative material, and sidebars that distill the main ideas of each chapter."

By the early 2000s Shields had moved away from young adult literature, and decided to try his hand at writing a large-scale biography with the adult reader in mind. For his first subject, Shields chose twentieth-century author Nelle Harper Lee, best known for writing the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. In an interview with So Many Books contributor Stephanie Hollmichel, Shields revealed his inspiration for choosing Harper Lee as a subject: "I wanted to answer a mystery: How could so little be known about the author of one of the 20th century's most popular novels? After all, she gave interviews regularly until 1965; she accompanied Capote to Kansas to research In Cold Blood; and she's alive. Yet not even encyclopedias could agree on simple facts about her upbringing and her life after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. I hoped that by tracing her life accurately, readers could learn more about how Lee created her novel, too." Published in 2006, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee became a New York Times Bestseller. Nancy Schiefer wrote in a review for the London Free Press that the book is "both intriguing and informative, a book which will give Lee's legions of loyal readers a singular glimpse into a remarkable and rarely scrutinized life." Library Journal reviewer Morris Hounion described the biography as "a well-written profile," further remarking that Shields "manages to portray effectively the author of To Kill a Mockingbird without receiving any help from Lee herself."

Shields told CA: "I tend to read slowly so I choose books that are recognized classics or have won honors of some kind. I want to see what makes them work. In the past year, I've read Ford Maddox Ford, Alfred Kazin, Lytton Strachey, Laurie Lee, Boswell, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Richard Holmes. Right now, I'm reading Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy.

"I try to be at my desk, Monday through Friday, by 8:30 a.m. and stay there, with short breaks, until about 5 p.m. Someone once asked me 'Why don't you go out to movies?' I was incredulous: How would I get anything done unless I treated my work as seriously as any other good worker? Sometimes I think of myself as a tradesman like a cabinetmaker. My study is my shop and I work there by myself, that's all."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Atlantic Monthly, September, 2002, Caitlin Flanagan, review of Martha Stewart, p. 158.

Library Journal, May 15, 2006, Morris Hounion, review of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, p. 102.

School Library Journal, March, 2002, William McLoughlin, review of John Cabot and the Rediscovery of North American, p. 257; June, 2002, Renee Steinberg, review of The Great Plague and Fire of London, p. 167; April, 2003, Edward Sullivan, review of Saddam Hussein, p. 190.

ONLINE

London Free Press Online,http://www.lfpress.ca/ (July 29, 2006), Nancy Schiefer, review of Mockingbird.

So Many Books,http://somanybooks.blogspot.com/ (June 6, 2006), Stephanie Hollmichel, author interview.

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