PERSONAL: Married; husband's name, Neil. Education: Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge, B.A., 1996.
CAREER: Children's book author and illustrator. Has also worked as a futon maker, basket weaving teacher, shop clerk, and landscape gardener.
AWARDS, HONORS: Images 20 Student Prize, British Association of Illustrators, 1995; Mother Goose Award shortlist, Best British Book Award, and Smarties Book Prize Silver Award (0-5 category), all 1998, Kate Greenaway "highly commended" designation, 1999, and School Library Journal Best Book selection, Parenting magazine Book of the Year, and American Bookseller's Association Pick of the Lists, all for Come Along, Daisy!; Children's book competition award winner, Anglia Polytechnic University.
FOR CHILDREN; AND ILLUSTRATOR
Come Along, Daisy!, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1998, published as Come on, Daisy!, Orchard Books (London, England), 1998.
Daisy and the Egg, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1998.
Ebb's New Friend, Orchard Books (London, England), 1998, published as Ebb and Flo and the New Friend, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Go to Sleep, Daisy, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1999.
Daisy's Favorite Things, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1999.
Ebb and Flo and the Greedy Gulls, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Daisy and the Beastie, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000.
Daisy's Day Out, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000.
Daisy Says Coo!, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000.
Little Fern's First Winter, Orchard Books (London, England), 2000, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.
Daisy's Hide-and-Seek: A Lift-the-Flap Book, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.
Where the Fairies Fly, Orchard Books (London, England), 2001, published as The Dreamtime Fairies, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
Come Along, Daisy!, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.
Daisy: The Little Duck with Big Feet! (omnibus; contains Daisy's Favorite Things, Go to Sleep, Daisy, Daisy's Day Out, and Daisy Says Coo!), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.
Splish, Splash Daisy (jigsaw book), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
Quack, Daisy, Quack!, Little, Brown (Boson, MA), 2002.
Ebb and Flo and the Baby Seal, Orchard Books (London, England), 2000, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Daisy Says, "If You're Happy and You Know It," Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
Daisy Says, "Here We Go 'round the Mulberry Bush," Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
Bouncy Bouncy Daisy (jigsaw book), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
Goodnight Daisy, Goodnight Pip, Orchard Books (London, England), 2003.
Simmons' books have been translated into several languages.
ADAPTATIONS: Simmons' "Ebb and Flo" characters have been animated for England's Channel 5TV and the Canning Factory.
SIDELIGHTS: Children's author and illustrator Jane Simmons has made a big splash in juvenile literature since the publication of her first picture book, Come Along, Daisy, in 1998. Since then, she has written a series of stories featuring the cute little duckling Daisy that have become bestsellers worldwide. She is also the author and illustrator of the popular "Ebb and Flo" stories, as well as of several non-series books for kids.
Simmons has enjoyed painting since she was very young, but for many years she did not believe she could make a career of this talent. Instead, she pursued a variety of odd jobs, ranging from futon maker to landscape gardener, while selling an occasional piece of art. None of these jobs satisfied her, however, and she finally resolved to earn a formal degree in art at Anglia Polytechnic University. She was encouraged when she won a children's book competition at the university, and after she graduated she focused on submitting her ideas for children's stories to publishers. Simmons had little luck, however, until one of her instructors, James Mayhew, wrote a letter of recommendation for her. With letter in hand, Simmons was able to gain the attention of publishers, and Orchard Books in London accepted a submission that would later become Ebb's New Friends.
The adventures of the dog Ebb and little girl Flo would not be the first work by Simmons to be released, however. That honor went to Come Along, Daisy, which introduced the baby duckling Daisy to the world. Simmons got the idea for Daisy while observing ducks on the boat she and her husband have made into their permanent home. On occasion, she would notice that a duckling would become separated from its mother, and Simmons decided to turn this observation into a story about how Daisy becomes lost on the pond but is eventually found again by her mother. The debut of the inquisitive duckling quickly gained fans everywhere; international rights were sold, and before she knew it, Simmons had a bestselling book on her hands. Critics praised both her writing and the illustrations. For instance, Carolyn Phelan wrote in Booklist that Come Along, Daisy includes "dramatic, well-composed scenes—that also show the appropriate whimsy when called for." And a Publishers Weekly critic, noting that children will easily relate to Daisy's predicament, lauded the "double-page spreads, [which have] skillfully varied perspectives [that] heighten the tension." "The nice thing about Daisy," the author told Susannah Beer in a Bookseller article, while explaining why Daisy remains her favorite character, "is that she is a strong female character. And that's without trying to be: she just is."
Many other adventures featuring Daisy the duckling have followed, including Daisy and the Egg, Daisy's Favorite Things, Daisy and the Beastie, Daisy Says Coo!, Quack, Daisy, Quack!, and Daisy Says, "Here We Go 'round the Mulberry Bush." Some of these simple tales include somewhat-scary or worrisome moments, such as in Daisy and the Egg, in which Daisy frets that an egg her mother has laid might not hatch, and Daisy and the Beastie, in which Daisy and her younger brother Pip become frightened by a noise they fear might be a monster. In both cases, however, Simmons resolves the situation happily: the egg does hatch and the "monster" turns out to only be some kittens. While some reviewers, such as a Publishers Weekly contributor, were a bit put off by Daisy's mother in Daisy and the Egg, because "seems oddly detached from her own egg" when it does not seem as if it will hatch, many critics still enjoyed the return of "bold and sassy" Daisy, as Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper described the duckling. And a Horn Book reviewer asserted, "This gentle story of anticipating a new baby is given fresh spirit with Daisy's personal contribution." Critics also praised Daisy and the Beastie, with Lisa Gangemi anticipating in her School Library Journal review that "youngsters will laugh along with this first-rate storytime romp."
In other "Daisy" tales, readers find little tension while being carried vicariously away on the duckling's pleasant adventures. For example, Daisy's Favorite Things is just that, a description of some of the many things that Daisy likes best, including swimming, chasing butterflies and fish, and, most especially, cuddling up beside her mother and falling asleep, safe and warm. Lisa Falk, writing in School Library Journal, felt that young audiences would surely enjoy the "gentle, minimal text," as well as the "outstanding illustrations." Daisy Says Coo! is another simple story in which Daisy meets various animals and tries to imitate their sounds, an exercise that critics believed very young children would enjoy participating in. In her books Daisy Says, "If You're Happy and You Know It" and Daisy Says, "Here We Go 'round the Mulberry Bush" Simmons uses Daisy as a hostess to reintroduce audiences to traditional children's songs.
Quack, Daisy, Quack! is somewhat of a reprise of Daisy's debut book, Come Along, Daisy. In this case, Daisy becomes separated from her mother again, but this time she quacks as loudly as she can; her mother hears her call and returns to her. As with earlier books, critics praised Simmons "bright, bold illustrations," as Be Astengo described them in a School Library Journal review, adding that the pictures "are amusing and as engaging as always." Booklist writer Ilene Cooper similarly said that Daisy is "brought to life in bold strokes" and lauded the way that Simmons "varies her format in interesting and unusual ways."
In addition to her "Daisy" books, Simmons has written several tales featuring the dog Ebb and the little girl Flo. These characters appear in such adventures as Ebb and Flo and the New Friend, Ebb and Flo and the Greedy Gulls, and Ebb and Flo and the Baby Seal. Separation anxiety is again the theme in Ebb and Flo's debut, Ebb and Flo and the New Friend. Here, the dog Ebb become jealous that a goose named Bird is getting too much attention. He wishes Bird would leave, but when the goose actually does go, he misses her. A joyful reunion quickly resolves the jealousy in the end in what Booklist critic Susan Dove Lempke called "an excellent choice for story time." In Ebb and Flo and the Greedy Gulls Ebb gets blamed after seagulls eat a picnic lunch, but Flo eventually realizes she has wrongly accused her dog in what Booklist reviewer Connie Fletcher called a "delightful dog story set off with gleaming illustrations." And Ebb and Flo and the Baby Seal reiterates Simmons' separation theme when a Ebb and Flo help reunite a baby seal with its mother.
Other books by Simmons include Little Fern's First Winter, which features a bunny character, and The Dreamtime Fairies, which is about a girl named Lucy who creates an enchanting fairy tale to help her brother go to sleep. Despite the critical success of these tales, the author and illustrator remains most beloved for her Daisy duckling tales.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of Come Along, Daisy!, p. 1757; February 15, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of Daisy and the Egg, p. 1076; December 1, 1999, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Ebb and Flo and the New Friend, p. 714; March 1, 2000, Linda Perkins, review of Daisy and the Beastie, p. 1252; April 15, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of Ebb and Flo and the Greedy Gulls, p. 1554, Ellen Mandel, review of Daisy Says Coo!, p. 1554; January 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of Ebb and Flo and the Baby Seal, p. 868; March 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Quack, Daisy, Quack!, p. 1144; December 15, 2002, Lauren Peterson, review of The Dreamtime Fairies, p. 769.
Bookseller, August 31, 2001, Susannah Beer, "Faces behind the Names," p. 18.
Books for Keeps, January, 1999, review of Ebb's NewFriend, p. 19.
Chicago Tribune, January 13, 2002, review of LittleFern's First Winter, Books section, p. 4.
Guardian (Manchester, England), March 7, 2001, Lyn Gardner, review of Daisy and the Beastie, p. 7.
Horn Book, May, 1999, review of Daisy and the Egg, p. 321.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1999, review of Daisy and the Egg, p. 229; August 1, 2002, review of The Dreamtime Fairies, p. 1143.
New York Times Book Review, July 18, 1999, Linda Villarosa, "Don't Just Do Something, Sit There," review of Daisy and the Egg, p. 25.
Publishers Weekly, March 16, 1998, review of ComeAlong, Daisy!, p. 62; June 29, 1998, Amy Meeker, "Jane Simmons," p. 27; January 25, 1999, review of Daisy and the Egg, p. 94; July 12, 1999, review of Ebb and Flo and the New Friend, p. 93; January 10, 2000, review of Daisy and the Beastie, p. 66; October 1, 2001, "New Formats for Old Favorites," review of Daisy: The Little Duck with Big Feet!, p. 63; August 19, 2002, review of The Dreamtime Fairies, p. 87; February 3, 2003, "Fun with Favorite Characters," p. 78.
School Library Journal, September, 1999, Lisa Falk, review of Daisy's Favorite Things, p. 206; May, 2000, Lisa Gangemi, review of Daisy and the Beastie, p. 155, Maryann H. Owen, review of Ebb and Flo and the Greedy Gulls, p. 155; June, 2000, Meghan R. Malone, review of Daisy Says Coo!, p. 125; April, 2001, Genevieve Ceraldi, review of Daisy's Hide-and-Seek: A Lift-the-Flap Book, p. 122; March, 2002, Robin L. Gibson, review of Ebb and Flo and the Baby Seal, p. 201, Be Astengo, review of Quack, Daisy, Quack!, p. 201; August, 2002, Melinda Piehler, review of Daisy Says, "Here We Go 'round the Mulberry Bush," p. 168.
[Sketch reviewed by agent, Celia Catchpole]