Winters, Katharine 1936-(Kay Winters)

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WINTERS, Katharine 1936-(Kay Winters)

PERSONAL: Born October 5, 1936, in Trenton, NJ; daughter of Robert (an aerospace engineer) and Luella (a homemaker) Lanning; married Earl D. Winters (a consultant), August 27, 1960; children: Linda Lee. Ethnicity: Scotch, English, Welsh. Education: Beaver College, B.S. (elementary education), 1958; attended Boston University (graduate studies in public relations); Wheelock College, M.S. (education); attended Lehigh University and New School for Social Research. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, biking, walking, gardening, and traveling.

ADDRESSES: Home—P. O. Box 339, Richlandtown, PA. Office—Box 339, Richlandtown, PA 18955. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Children's book author and literacy consultant. Massachusetts Public Schools, Newton, MA, elementary education teacher, 1960-63; Palisades School District, Kintnersville, PA, elementary education teacher and supervisor, 1968-92. American International Schools, education consultant, 1970-80.

MEMBER: International Reading Association (IRA), Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Author's Guild.

AWARDS, HONORS: Best Book of 1998, Bank State College, and Pick of the List, American Booksellers Association, 1997, both for Wolf Watch; Best 100 Books of the Year citation, International Reading Association (IRA) special interest group, for Tiger Trail; children's choice citation, IRA, for Whooo's Haunting the Teeny Tiny Ghost; Junior Library Guild Selection, for Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books; Golden Circle Award, Arcadia University (formerly Beaver College), for distinguished career as teacher and writer.

WRITINGS:

UNDER NAME KAY WINTERS

Did You See What I Saw?: Poems about School, illustrated by Martha Weston, Viking (New York, NY), 1996.

The Teeny Tiny Ghost, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

Wolf Watch, illustrated by Laura Regan, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

Where Are the Bears?, illustrated by Brian Lies, Bantam (New York, NY), 1998.

How Will the Easter Bunny Know?, ("First Choice Chapter Book"), illustrated by Martha Weston, Yearling (New York, NY), 1999.

Whooo's Haunting the Teeny Tiny Ghost?, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Tiger Trail, illustrated by Laura Regan, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.

But Mom, Everybody Else Does!, illustrated by Doug Cushman, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.

Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.

Voices of Ancient Egypt, illustrated by Barry Moser, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2003.

OTHER; UNDER NAME KAY WINTERS

(With Marta Felber) The Teachers Copebook: How to End the Year Better Than You Started, Fearon (Belmont, CA), 1980.

Also author of reading textbooks for Scott Foresman and Houghton Mifflin. The Teeny Tiny Ghost has been translated into French.

WORK IN PROGRESS: My Teacher for President, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, for Dutton; The Teeny Tiny Ghost and the Monster, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, for HarperCollins; John Appleseed: His Trail of Trees, for National Geographic; Amelia Earhart: And Fly She Did! for National Geographic.

SIDELIGHTS: Katharine Winters has written a number of popular children's books, many of them involving young children confronting the fears and troubles of their daily lives. Drawing on her twenty-seven years of teaching elementary school, Winters wrote her first book, Did You See What I Saw?: Poems about School, a book of poems devoted to the day-to-day goings-on in a typical schoolroom. Everything is explored in lighthearted verse, from the pleasure evoked by a new box of crayons to snow days and passing notes in class. Poems, such as "Lots of Spots," about the travails of chicken pox, and "Groundhog Day," paint amusing pictures of school life. "The rhythms and sounds and wordplay . . . are part of the fun," wrote Hazel Rochman in Booklist.

In The Teeny Tiny Ghost, Winters addresses the importance of mastering one's fears. In this take on a well-known tale, a diminutive specter is afraid of his own boos and howls. On Halloween night, a rap on the door sends shivers through him and his teeny tiny kittens. But summoning up all his courage, he swears to protect his feline companions and opens the door to his ghostly pals, who have come to take him trick-ortreating. Janice M. Del Negro, writing in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, said, "Tucked into this humorously written and illustrated tale is the kernel of stout-heartedness that makes young children love the hero." "This tale of banishing fear has just the right blend of wit and supernatural suspense," stated a reviewer for Publishers Weekly.

In the award-winning Wolf Watch, Winters uses poetic quatrains to tell the story of four wolf pups from birth until their first foray out of the den. The habits of a wolf pack are introduced, from howling to hunting and protecting their young. Danger is present in the form of a golden eagle who awaits the chance to prey upon one of the defenseless pups. School Library Journal contributor Susan Scheps called Wolf Watch "a treasure of a book," and wrote that "there is a lot of information to be gleaned from this sparsely written visual masterpiece." A critic for Kirkus Reviews called Wolf Watch "a splendid complement to titles with a more fact-based approach to wolf life."

How Will the Easter Bunny Know? was inspired by a real-life incident. Winters told Jodi Duckett of the Morning Call that her husband's friend had been asked by his young nephew, "Uncle John, if I come to your house for Easter, how will the Easter bunny know?" Using that question and its worry as her starting point, Winters tells the story of a six-year-old boy who figures out a variety of ways to inform the Easter bunny that he is staying at his grandmother's house. He draws a map to grandmother's apartment, even carefully including a picture of her green door, leaves a letter to the Easter bunny, and makes signs to guide him. "The child has to solve the problem by himself; that's an unwritten rule in children's books," Winters explained to Duckett. Carolyn Phelan in Booklist called How Will the Easter Bunny Know? the "likable story of a child-size dilemma."

Winters's character the Teeny Tiny Ghost returns in the book Whooo's Haunting the Teeny Tiny Ghost? This time he comes home from school to find the front door open and scary noises coming from inside the house. He must summon up all of his courage to go inside and discover just what is going on. According to Lauren Peterson in Booklist, "Both art and text convey a feeling of spookiness without being overtly scary." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the story "a lesson in bravery, a spine-tingler and an all-out charmer, this is the treat of the Halloween season."

In But Mom, Everybody Else Does! a young girl tries to "convince her mother that her acts and desires are not only legitimate but also universal," as a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote. All children have messy rooms, they all failed the test at school, they all get bigger allowances, and so on. The girl tells her mother that no one walks to school, everyone sleeps with the dog, nobody has to practice, and everybody can paint better than she can. Cushman's illustrations never push too hard for effect, supporting the girl's outrageous conjectures and her active imagination. Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman believed that "this farce reinforces every kid's frustration about bossy grown-ups."

Winters turned to the story of a historical figure in Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books, in which she recounts the president's life from his rural childhood to his time in the White House. Told in free verse, Winters's version of Lincoln's biography emphasizes his love of reading and his attainment of great heights not through formal schooling but through his own independent study. In a statement posted at her Web site, Winters explained how she came to write Lincoln's story: "I was drawn to exploring the life of Abe Lincoln because I wondered how someone could be born in extreme poverty, lose his mother at age nine, have less than a year of education, few role models, yet overcome these obstacles to become a beloved President whose words we remember today. I was delighted to discover that books made the difference." A reviewer for Kirkus Reviews called Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books "a moving tribute to the power of books and words." In like manner, a Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the book for dramatizing "the importance of words in shaping ideas and lives."

Winters once told CA: "From the time I was seven years old I was a writer. I kept diaries, journals, wrote for the school and camp newspapers, and the college magazine. When I graduated from Beaver College with a bachelor of science degree in elementary education and a minor in English, I took additional writing courses at Boston University. I submitted poems, essays, articles, and stories to educational journals and textbooks. Now and then they were published. But making a living by writing books did not seem like a viable possibility at that time. My husband and I were just out of graduate school, and we had a big educational debt to pay to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as well as a new baby.

"For the next twenty-nine years I worked in public schools as a teacher, a reading specialist, an educational consultant, and a college instructor. And I loved it. At every conference I attended I always went to hear the authors instead of the latest theory on the wonder of phonics. I continued to send in manuscripts now and then, but teaching was very consuming. There was little time for writing. In 1980, I coauthored a book for teachers with Marta Felber, The Teachers Copebook: How to End the Year Better Than You Started. In order to finish that project, I had to get up every morning at 4 a.m., sneak downstairs to my frosty office, and garbed in a fur robe, woolen gloves, and fleece-lined boots, would type until it was time to teach.

"In 1992, my school board offered early retirement. My resignation was on the superintendent's desk the next day. This was my chance! I was taking it. I started to write full time the day after I retired. I imagined that the Palisades School District was paying me to stay home and write. And write I did. I wrote every day. I went to the New School [for Social Research] in New York and took classes in writing for children with instructors Margaret Gable and Deborah Brodie. I attended conferences and met editors. I went to New York to the Children's Book Council and read all of the picture books from the years 1991 and 1992 that they had on their shelves.

"Gradually, the rejection forms from publishers changed into personal letters. Finally, in 1994, I got a phone call from an editor at HarperCollins. They were interested in The Teeny Tiny Ghost. From there, my writing career began to take off. Publishers were soon interested in Wolf Watch and Did You See What I Saw?: Poems about School. In the meantime, I was also writing reading textbooks. Soon, Where Are the Bears? and How Will the Easter Bunny Know? were going to press and I was writing Who's Haunting the Teeny Tiny Ghost, a sequel to The Teeny Tiny Ghost, and Tiger Trail, the companion to Wolf Watch. I was researching Voices of Ancient Egypt and Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books, and planning the pattern book, But Mom, Everybody Else Does."

Winters continued: "I write because that's how I know what I think. When I see what I say, ideas that were fuzzy come clear to me. And sometimes I am surprised at what I find out about myself.

"I write because I love to read and I want to give others that pleasure. Some of my happiest moments are when I am curled up by the fire in our old stone farmhouse in Bucks County. My husband and I seldom watch television. On summer evenings we read in the gazebo, which looks out on our ten acres of meadows and woods. The hummingbird stops by for a sip from our feeder. Butterflies light on the cosmos. We have wild turkeys, deer, and pheasants who visit. I hope that children will become more aware of small wonders from my books.

"I write because I love to learn. Writers have the chance to play many parts, hear many voices, and dream many dreams. One of the exciting fringe benefits of being a writer is the ability to pursue what you care about. I am interested in so many things, nature, people, history, humor. Writing gives me a powerful motivation for learning. I loved finding out about wolves, presenting their warm family life, and dispelling the 'big bad wolf' myth in Wolf Watch. It's important to examine how to face fears and cope, as I explored in The Teeny Tiny Ghost, or how to observe and share experiences and memories, as in Did You See What I Saw?: Poems about School. I liked putting myself in the place of a six-year-old, as if I was going to Grandma's house for Easter and had no way of letting the Easter Bunny know of my whereabouts in How Will the Easter Bunny Know? Or imagining twin bear cubs, Sassy and Lum, in Where Are the Bears?, figuring out which activities they would copy as they met campers for the very first time. As I worked on the book about Abraham Lincoln I lost myself in the wilderness, suffered on his hundred-mile trek to Indiana and sympathized with Abe as he searched for books and learned to use words to lift himself out of grinding poverty. In Tiger Trail, I loved putting myself in the place of the mother tigress and feeling her fear, her concern, and her triumph as she taught her cubs survival skills. When I was writing my book on ancient Egypt, the workers seemed to come alive and walk right off the pages in their sandals. In Voices of Ancient Egypt, I loved taking on the role of an ordinary worker in that complex society that existed so long ago. Speaking in the voice of each worker helped me hear what the scribe, the birdnetter, and the dancer had to say. I hope that as youngsters meet the characters in my stories, they will realize that whatever their own circumstances may be, they can choose—to be brave, to forge ahead, to take positive risks, to be kind, to overcome severe obstacles, to appreciate the moment.

"My work habits are similar to those I used when I was teaching. I work every day. I am always on the watch for a story, even when we are on vacation, riding elephants in Thailand or sailing on Lake Nockamixon. I have been very influenced by writers who use poetic prose, such as Karen Hesse, Jane Yolen, and Byrd Baylor. I love poetry by Aileen Fisher. I think Patricia Reilly Giff gets into the heads of her characters in a way I admire. And even though I frequently try to use other genres, poetic prose seems to speak up the most often. I am more interested in character development than plot. The story comes from the characters, and they frequently have a mind of their own. Still, writing the book is only the beginning. I also visit schools, attend book signings, speak at colleges, conferences, and bookstores.

"My advice for aspiring writers is to work, revise, and persist. Treat writing like a job. Make contacts. Go to conferences. Read current children's books. Join a writer's group. I am lucky to have a husband who is an excellent editor. Don't send your manuscript right off when you finish it. Let it breathe. Look at it again. And be grateful that you have chosen a career that makes every day matter. Whatever is going on in your life today will fit somewhere, sometime, in a story.

"I hope that my books will reach out to people of all ages and encourage them to look around, to pay attention, to notice their world and the people in it, to realize the power of words and ideas, and to take the gift of reading and use it to make their days full of meaning, their hearts full of hope."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of Did You See What I Saw?: Poems about School, p. 1903; September 1, 1997, Lauren Peterson, review of The Teeny Tiny Ghost, p. 141; November, 1, 1997, Julie Corsaro, review of Wolf Watch, p. 485; March 15, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of How Will the Easter Bunny Know?, p. 1339; September 1, 1999, Lauren Peterson, review of Whooo's Haunting the Teeny Tiny Ghost?, p. 151; October 15, 2000, Lauren Peterson, review of Tiger Trail, p. 448; December 15, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of But Mom, Everybody Else Does!, p. 770; January 1, 2003, Kay Weisman, review of Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books, p. 901.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 1997, p. 107.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 1997, p. 1539; August 15, 2002, review of But Mom, Everybody Else Does!, p. 1239; November 15, 2002, review of Abe Lincoln, p. 1703.

Morning Call (Allentown, PA), October 10, 1997, Jodi Duckett, "Spirited Endeavor: Ex-Palisades Teacher Attains Goal to Write Children's Books," p. D12; March 26, 1999, Jodi Duckett, "Kay Winters Shares a 'Great' Story Idea," p. D7.

Publishers Weekly, October 6, 1997, review of The Teeny Tiny Ghost, p. 48; October 27, 1997, review of Wolf Watch, p. 75; September 27, 1999, review of Whooo's Haunting the Teeny Tiny Ghost?, p. 47; September 24, 2001, review of Whooo's Haunting the Teeny Tiny Ghost?, p. 95; November 25, 2002, review of Abe Lincoln, p. 67.

School Library Journal, October, 1996, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Did You See What I Saw?, p. 119; November, 1997, Meg Stackpole, review of The Teeny Tiny Ghost, p. 103, Susan Scheps, review of Wolf Watch, p. 104; April, 1999, Gale W. Sherman, review of How Will the Easter Bunny Know?, p. 110; September, 1999, Martha Link, review of Whooo's Haunting the Teeny Tiny Ghost?, p. 210; January, 2001, Sally Bates Goodroe, review of Tiger Trail, p. 112; September, 2002, Kathy Piehl, review of But Mom, Everybody Else Does!, p. 208.

ONLINE

Kay Winters Home Page,http://www.kaywinters.com/ (April 8, 2003).

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