Wright, Betty Ren 1927–
Wright, Betty Ren 1927–
Born June 15, 1927, in Wakefield, MI; daughter of William (a teacher) and Revena (a teacher) Wright; married George Albert Frederiksen (an artist), October 9, 1976. Education: Milwaukee-Downer College (now Lawrence University of Wisconsin), B.A.; attended University of Wisconsin and Middlebury College seminars. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, travel.
Home—Racine, WI. Agent—Sternig/Burne Literary Agency, 2370 S. 107th St., Milwaukee, WI 53227.
Writer and editor. Western Publishing Co., Inc., Racine, WI, children's book editor, 1949-78; freelance writer, 1978—. Racine Editorial, managing editor, 1967-78.
Allied Authors, Council for Wisconsin Writers, Phi Beta Kappa.
Why Do I Daydream? was named a Children's Choice Book, 1981; My Sister Is Different was named a notable children's trade book in the social studies category, 1981; The Dollhouse Murders was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1984, awarded the Missouri Mark Twain Award, Texas Bluebonnet Award, and Young Readers Award of the Pacific Northwest Library Association, all 1986, the California Young Reader Medal, 1986-87, Iowa Children's Choice Award, 1987-88, Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Award and Alabama Young Readers Award, both 1988, New Mexico Children's Choice Award and Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award, both 1989; Christina's Ghost received Juvenile Book Award from Council for Wisconsin Writers, 1985, Kansas City K3 Children's Choice Award, Georgia Children's Choice Award, and South Carolina Children's Choice Award, 1987-88, Texas Bluebonnet Award and Oklahoma Sequoyah Children's Choice Award, 1988, Indiana Young Hoosier Book Award, 1989, and Virginia State Reading Association Award, 1989-90; The Summer of Mrs. MacGregor was included in Redbook's list of Ten Top Books for Teens, 1987; Buckeye Children's Book Award from State Library of Ohio, 1995, for The Scariest Night.
The Day Our TV Broke Down, Raintree Publishers (Milwaukee, WI), 1980.
I Like Being Alone, Raintree Publishers (Milwaukee, WI), 1981.
My New Mom and Me, Raintree Publishers (Milwaukee, WI), 1981.
Why Do I Daydream?, Raintree Publishers (Milwaukee, WI), 1981.
My Sister Is Different, Raintree Publishers (Milwaukee, WI), 1981.
Getting Rid of Marjorie, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1981.
The Secret Window, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1982.
The Dollhouse Murders, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1983.
Ghosts beneath Our Feet, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1984.
Christina's Ghost, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1985.
The Summer of Mrs. MacGregor, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1986.
A Ghost in the Window, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1987.
The Pike River Phantom, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1988.
Rosie and the Dance of the Dinosaurs, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1989, published as The Midnight Mystery, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY).
The Ghost of Ernie P., Holiday House (New York, NY), 1990.
A Ghost in the House, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 1991.
The Scariest Night, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1991.
The Cat Next Door (picture book), Holiday House (New York, NY), 1991.
The Ghosts of Mercy Manor, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 1993.
The Ghost of Popcorn Hill, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1993.
The Ghost Witch, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1993.
A Ghost Comes Calling, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 1994.
Out of the Dark, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 1995.
Nothing but Trouble, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1995.
Haunted Summer, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.
Too Many Secrets, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.
A Ghost in the Family, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
The Ghost in Room 11, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1998.
Pet Detectives!, BridgeWater Books (Mahwah, NJ), 1999.
The Moonlight Man, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
The Wish Master, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2000.
The Blizzard, illustrated by Ronald Himler, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2003.
Crandall's Castle, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2003.
Princess for a Week, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2006.
Author of more than thirty picture books for Whitman Publishing (Racine, WI) and Golden Press (Racine, WI). Author of five preschool books in the "Disney Fun-to-Learn Library," Bantam (New York, NY), 1983, and two readers, "Disney Fun-to-Learn Library," Bantam, 1986. Contributor to periodicals, including Redbook, Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, Alfred Hitchcock, Ingenue, and Ladies' Home Journal.
The Dollhouse Murders was adapted as a video, 1992. Author's books have been adapted for audio, including The Dollhouse Murders, Live Oak Media, 1999.
Betty Ren Wright has written texts for picture storybooks and numerous novels for young readers. Her third novel, The Dollhouse Murders has received numerous awards and has remained popular among readers for many years. It was also adapted into a video for schools and libraries, and for commercial use.
The author has gone on to write many ghostly tales and other books. In A Ghost in the Family, published in 1998, Chad Weldon and Jeannie Nichols, who appeared in A Ghost Comes Calling and in Too Many Secrets, are thrust together again when Chad is told he has to go with Jeannie to see her Aunt Rosebud, who has a boarding house. Although Chad is not too happy about the prospect of spending two weeks in Milwaukee, he soon is caught up in another ghostly mystery as a psychic at the boarding house tells Chad that he is surrounded by danger. "Humorous touches … mix with scary moments … to make this a surefire hit for the middle grades," wrote Susan Dove Lempke in Booklist.
The Ghost in Room 11 finds new kid Matt Barber agreeing to a dare to see if his new school is haunted. He agrees to sleep in the school basement overnight as his classmates try to trick him by leaving gerbils running around to scare him. However, Matt tells his schoolmates the next day that he has seen a ghost, leading them to ostracize him even more. Matt goes on to receive counseling from the ghost on how to make his classmates accept him. Eventually the ghost reveals her existence to Matt's classmates. "Matt's honest sharing of his feelings of loneliness will encourage countless young readers," noted Shelly Townsend-Hudson in Booklist.
The Moonlight Man was called "a suspenseful modern-day gothic" by a contributor to Publishers Weekly. Fifteen-year-old Jenny Joslin's mother died when Jenny was ten, and Jenny has moved several times since then. When her family finally moves into a home Jenny likes, she discovers that it may be haunted by a crying woman and a man walking his ghostly dog. Determined that her family will stay in the house, Jenny and her little sister, Allie, discover the ghosts' origins, which appear to have something to do with a tragic love affair fifty years earlier. Candace Smith wrote in Booklist that the author "knows how to spin a story and capture her young audience."
In The Wish Master, the author departs from her normal ghostly tales to tell the story of Corby Hill, who is in Wisconsin with his mother while she takes care of Corby's sick grandfather. Corby soon meets Buck Miller and goes on a series of adventures that culminate in a trip to the Wish Master, a strangely shaped and marked rock that is supposed to have the ability to make wishes come true. School Library Journal contributor Alison Grant called the children's novel "a story full of action and suspense."
In her novel Crandall's Castle, Wright features young Sophia, who is living with her distant relations, the Crandalls, after her grandmother's death. Sophia, who can see into the future, makes friends with her neighbor Charli, who sees a ghostly cradle and hears a screaming baby in an old house that Will Crandall is planning on buying and renovating. In addition to the novel's ghostly happenings, the author includes subplots involving Sophia's fear of rejection and Charli's concerns over her mother's new husband. "This mistress of spooky once again delivers a thought-provoking thriller," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Terrie Dorio noted in the School Library Journal: "This novel will satisfy readers looking for a scary story."
The Blizzard, illustrated by Ronald Himler, is a picture book that tells the story of a blizzard that upsets young Billy because no one can come to his birthday party. However, when the blizzard worsens and Billy and his classmates are told they will have to stay at school overnight, their teacher decides that everyone will have to try to make it to the closest house so they can be comfortable. It just so happens that the closest house belongs to Billy's family, where all the students gather to enjoy birthday treats. Ilene Cooper, writing in Booklist, noted that "the feelings the events engender are tender and strong." A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to the picture book as "a great way to learn a bit about rural life before automobiles."
Princess for a Week, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers, is a brief thriller featuring Roddy, whose dad is in Afghanistan, and Princess, a bossy girl that Roddy's mother has agreed to look after. When Princess thinks something is going on at an abandoned house, she begins to stake out the place along with the help of the reluctant Roddy. In a review of the thriller in Booklist, Jennifer Mattson commented that "it's hard to argue with Wright's blend of shivery suspense and realism." Wendy Woodfill noted in School Library Journal that "the full-page illustrations add realism and depth to the story."
Wright told CA: "Reading is what made me want to write. I loved stories, and as far back as I can remember, I dreamed about creating make-believe worlds of my own. It was harder than I supposed, but I certainly enjoyed trying. And now, when once in a while a reader's letter starts out, ‘Your book was the first one I ever read all the way through’—I want to stand up and cheer. What could be better than introducing someone else to a life full of books!
"Like most writers, I've used my own memories in what I write. A setting from one book, a grandmother from another, a pet from a third, scary moments, sad moments, and wonderful moments from others—put all these scraps and pieces together and there is my ‘biography.’ In writing stories I've relived much of my life and had one great time doing it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 1998, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of The Ghost in Room 11, p. 1136; June 1, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of A Ghost in the Family, p. 1769; February 15, 2000, Candace Smith, review of The Moonlight Man, p. 1103; May 1, 2000, Stephanie Zvirin, review of A Ghost in the Family, p. 1606; November 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of The Wish Master, p. 542; April 1, 2003, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Crandall's Castle, p. 1398; July, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of The Blizzard, p. 1887; May 1, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Princess for a Week, p. 49.
Horn Book, July-August, 1998, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of A Ghost in the Family, p. 501.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2003, review of Crandall's Castle, p. 614; July 15, 2003, review of The Blizzard, p. 969.
Publishers Weekly, May 10, 1999, review of The Dollhouse Murders, p. 34; January 24, 2000, review of The Moonlight Man, p. 312; September 8, 2003, review of The Blizzard, p. 76.
School Library Journal, December, 2000, Alison Grant, review of The Wish Master, p. 151; May, 2003, Terrie Dorio, review of Crandall's Castle, p. 161; October, 2003, Lisa Dennis, review of The Blizzard, p. 143; April, 2004, review of The Blizzard, p. 26; May 1, 2006, Wendy Woodfill, review of Princess for a Week, p. 107.
Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/ (May 12, 2008), information on author's film work.
SFF Net, http://www.sff.net/ (May 12, 2008), brief profile of author.