Stutson, Caroline 1940-

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STUTSON, Caroline 1940-

PERSONAL: Born September 14, 1940; daughter of Malcolm (a purchasing agent) and Randolph (a librarian; maiden name, Hardy) MacLachlan; married Al Stutson (a wood carver), September 5, 1964; children: A. C., Christine. Education: Metro State College, certificate in early education, 1978; attended College of William and Mary, 1958-60, and University of Denver, 1960-62. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, puppetry, gardening, reading, and stitchery.

ADDRESSES: Home—5521 South Cedar St., Littleton, CO 80120. Agent—Nancy Gallt, 273 Charlton Ave., South Orange, NJ 07079. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Bemis Public Library, Littleton, CO, children's librarian, 1961-65; writer. Also worked as a kindergarten teacher and special reading teacher in Littleton. Highlands Ranch Library, part-time storyteller and puppeteer.

MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Colorado Author's League.

AWARDS, HONORS: Named Teacher of Excellence, Colorado Association for Childhood Education, 1991; Top Hand Award, Colorado Author's League, for Cowpokes.



By the Light of the Halloween Moon, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (Boston, MA), 1993.

On the River ABC, illustrated by Anna-Maria Crum, Roberts Rinehart (Boulder, CO), 1993.

Mountain Meadow 1, 2, 3, illustrated by Anna-Maria Crum, Roberts Rinehart (Boulder, CO), 1995.

Prairie Primer A to Z, illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb, Dutton (New York, NY), 1996.

Cowpokes, illustrated by Daniel San Souci, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (Boston, MA), 1999.

Star Comes Home, illustrated by Rick Reason, Benefactory (Wheeling, IL), 1999.

Night Train, illustrated by Catherine Tillotson, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor of poetry to magazines, including Children's Playmate, Highlights for Children, On the Line, and Spider.

ADAPTATIONS: By the Light of the Halloween Moon was adapted for video by Weston Woods in 1997.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Mama Loves You, illustrated by John Segal, publication by Scholastic (New York, NY) expected in 2005.

SIDELIGHTS: Caroline Stutson once told CA: "Looking back at one's life is an interesting process. If enough time has passed, you can see the pieces fitting neatly together. Yet, on a day to day basis, so much seems haphazard and iffy.

"One of the few things I know for sure about my life is that I've always loved books. Shortly before I was born, longer ago than I'll publicly admit, my mother worked as a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York. I was lucky to have lots of early links with literature, from my mother's reading out loud to me, to a friend of hers who sent me copies of book reviews she wrote for a parenting magazine.

"In addition to listening to and reading books, I always enjoyed playing pretend. My best friend and I were careful to note where our adventure left off when it was time to go home. That way we knew where our chosen characters would begin the next day. Writing for children still lets me play pretend. All those 'what ifs' are great fun, and you get to create your own universe with a happy ending to boot.

"My writing began in kindergarten. I didn't know how to write words then, but every day after school I drew pictures and made up stories to go with the drawings. Later when we had writing assignments, I struggled with the spelling. I still struggle with spelling, but it doesn't stop me from writing any more. I just circle the troublesome words and look up how to spell them later.

"Today, things are so much better for the students I meet when I visit schools promoting my books. Some of their writing involves choice. They get to write about things that really matter to them, and they get to share their work with each other. They also get to respond to the literature they are reading. I can't help feeling a little envious.

"After I graduated from Massapequa High School on Long Island, New York, I went to William and Mary College in Virginia and two years later I transferred to the University of Denver. During those years I changed my mind a million times about what I wanted to do, finally majoring in theater arts—not a very practical decision for making a living.

"I've changed jobs quite a few times too. I've been a reading teacher, a kindergarten teacher, and a children's librarian, all of which connected me to books. Currently, I work part time doing puppet shows and story times at the Highlands Ranch Library in Douglas County, Colorado. In my office at home I have a huge trunk of puppets ready to pop out and be part of a new puppet show each week.

"A big part of my life has been spent being a mom. Our two children are grown now. Our daughter is a lawyer, our son, a police detective, and I am now a grandmother for the first time, having fun reading to my grandson from my ever-growing collection of books."

Stutson's fast-paced debut picture book, By the Light of the Halloween Moon, holds a "toe" up for grabs. The toe belongs to a little girl who dangles her legs over a footbridge while playing a fiddle on Halloween night. A cat, a witch, a bat, a graveyard ghoul, a ghost, and a sprite all stream through this boisterous tale, and each character, more pleasurably gruesome than the one before, aims to grab the toe. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the poem a "catchy, lilting cumulative tale." Ilene Cooper declared in her review for Booklist that this "rousing" tale with "bouncy text" makes a "terrific choice for holiday story hours." Ann A. Flowers of Horn Book also praised By the Light of the Halloween Moon, describing the book as "rhythmically bouncy and appealing."

In On the River ABC, an ant floats down the river on a leaf. As he drifts, wildlife from A to Z pass before his makeshift vessel. Stutson ends her book with factual information about each of these animals that live in the western regions of the United States. School Library Journal contributor Kathy Piehl commented favorably on the lyrical quality of Stutson's writing, noting that the author "does not fall into the trap of singsong regularity." Piehl encouraged teachers to use this picture book as a springboard for "children to create similar alphabet books based on trips in their own environment."

With Prairie Primer A to Z, Stutson once again presents a rhyming alphabet book, evoking the daily life of a Midwestern farm family in the early 1900s. Letters introduced help to explore life on a farm long ago: B is for "butter in the churn" and P is for "porridge in the pot." Unusual words such as "whirligig" and "velocipede" place the primer back in the era of homesteading. A critic for Kirkus Reviews suggested that the book may be too "old-fashioned" for today's "rough-and-ready preschool set," but Paula A. Kiely, writing in School Library Journal, called Stutson's book a "pleasant step back in time," pointing out that "young children will enjoy trying to pronounce" these forgotten words. Carolyn Phelan of Booklist suggested that the primer be used to introduce "today's young children to another time, another place."

Recently Stutson added: "One of my favorite things to do, when I'm not writing, is visiting schools and talking about the writing process. (I also love finding out what books students are reading.) The questions I'm asked help me focus on unconscious aspects of writing: how do I choose what to write about? How do I get started? How do I decide what to include or exclude?

"Through answering these questions, I've discovered that my best writing topics are those I can't forget—those that put butterflies in my stomach and stir up strong feelings whenever I think about them. I've also learned that I need to write quickly at first. (I often begin with lists I've brainstormed.) Writing fast shuts out the critic inside me who tries to whisper discouraging comments in my ear. Lastly, I've come to realize I need to read my work out loud to myself and, later on, to my treasured critique group to truly know what to include or subtract from my writing."



Booklist, July, 1993, Ilene Cooper, review of By the Light of the Halloween Moon, p. 1977; October 15, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of Prairie Primer A to Z, p. 437; May 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Night Train.

Children's Book Review Service, December, 1996, p. 41.

Horn Book, November-December, 1993, Ann A. Flowers, review of By the Light of the Halloween Moon, p. 728.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1993, review of By the Light of the Halloween Moon, pp. 942-943; September 15, 1996, review of Prairie Primer A to Z, p. 1408; March 1, 2002, review of Night Train, p. 346.

Library Talk, November, 1994, p. 37.

New York Times Book Review, May 11, 1997, p. 24.

Publishers Weekly, March 18, 2002, review of Night Train, p. 102.

School Library Journal, September, 1993, Kathy Piehl, review of On the River ABC; p. 220; October, 1996, Paula A. Kiely, review of Prairie Primer A to Z, p. 107; May, 2002, Wanda Meyers-Hines, review of Night Train, p. 128.


Providence Journal Online, (July 7, 2002), Peter Mandel, review of Night Train.