PERSONAL: Married; wife's name Judy.
ADDRESSES: Home—Suffern, NY. Agent—c/o Author in Schools, Meadowbrook Press, 5451 Smetana Dr., Minnetonka, MN 55343.
CAREER: Writer. Former teacher. Visiting writer at elementary schools; guest lecturer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Merit Plaque, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 2002, for "Sgt. Monday and the Enchanted Kingdom Police"; Best Book for Young Adults designation, American Library Association, 2005, for Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me.
Long Shot (middle-grade novel), Meadowbrook Press (Minnetonka, MN), 2001.
Playing for Pride (middle-grade novel), Meadowbrook Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me (young-adult novel), illustrated by Greg Copeland, Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2004.
Contributor of short stories to books, including Newfangled Fairy Tales, and periodicals, including Cricket; contributor of poems to collections, including Kids Pick the Funniest Poems, Rolling in the Aisles, and No More Homework! No More Tests!
SIDELIGHTS: Timothy Tocher is a retired teacher who writes humorous verse for children. He has also written juvenile novels with sports themes, including Long Shot and Playing for Pride, both featuring a young basketball star named Laurie. In Long Shot, fifth-grader Laurie must adjust to a new school and a new team when her father, a basketball coach, takes a job in a new town. Playing for Pride focuses on Laurie's experiences on the softball team, where her skills are not as great as they are on the basketball court.
In the young-adult novel Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me Tocher tells a fast-moving story set in 1919. The protagonist is Hank Cobb, a fifteen-year-old boy who roams the country with his abusive father, a baseball player. When presented with an opportunity to escape his cruel father, Hank seizes it. He falls in with another baseball player, four years older than himself. A Seminole Indian who goes by the name of Chief Sunrise, Hank's new companion is a gifted player set upon locating New York Giants manager John McGraw, in order to win a spot on the team. Along the way the pair has numerous misadventures, including running a con game at a carnival, unloading trucks, and doing janitorial work at stadiums. Cobb eventually discovers the reason for Chief Sunrise's secrecy: he is actually an African American passing as a Seminole because he would not be allowed to play in the major leagues if his real background were known.
"Tocher creates two intriguingly ambiguous characters … and masterfully positions them in a post-World War I America," noted Elizabeth Bush in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. While some parts of the story are humorous, "there's nothing laughable here about the racism that forces Chief to hide his identity in order to bring his prodigious ability into a proper arena," noted Bush. Reviewing the novel for School Library Journal, Marilyn Taniguchi called it "a deft blend of baseball lore and fiction," and concluded: Tocher's "treatment of issues of prejudice is sensitive yet the tone remains upbeat." A Kirkus Reviews writer praised Tocher for his accurate, well-researched portrayal of the era and recommended the novel as "engaging and engrossing."
Tocher told CA: "I grew up less than a block from a public library. There were no highways to cross or buses to ride. I just ran down from the hilltop where I lived and had access to all the books I wanted for free. Inside every avid reader, the germ of a writer is growing.
"As an elementary-school teacher, I read my students the best children's books I could find. Roald Dahl, Farley Mowatt, E. B. White, Richard Peck, and Louis Sachar are among the writers I learned to admire by sharing their work with my third-and fourth-graders.
"I write using the word processor on my computer. Whenever I rewrite, I read my work out loud. This is especially useful for editing dialogue. Each character has to have a distinctive voice if the reader is to accept him/her as a real person. Hard work is more important than inspiration. A great idea may arrive in a split second, but it takes hours of work to bring it to life on paper.
"Of my books, Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me is my favorite. I am a lifelong baseball fan who grew up rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Writing this novel gave me the opportunity to research the 'deadball era,' a period in which strategy and intelligent play were more important than brawn. I hope to share some of the pleasure that baseball has given me with my readers."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 2004, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me, p. 1630.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July-August, 2004, Elizabeth Bush, review of Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me, p. 451.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2004, review of Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me, p. 402.
School Library Journal, September, 2004, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me, p. 219.
AuthorsinSchools.com, http://www.authorsinschools.com/ (March 2, 2005), "Timothy Tocher."