Shannon, Monica

views updated


Born Eastern Canada, 7 March 1893; died August 1965 Married Mr. Wing, circa 1927

Monica Shannon and her family moved from Canada to Seattle, Washington, and then to the Bitter Root Valley in the Montana Rockies. There, on a cattle ranch, Shannon lived among the Bulgarian immigrants and the Flatheads, Native Americans who, with her Irish ancestors, provided the inspiration for much of her writing.

After Shannon moved to California with her family, she received a B.L.S. and began work at the Los Angeles Public Library. As a librarian/storyteller and as a doting aunt to two active and inquisitive children, she first told and then wrote the stories that became California Fairy Tales (1926). In these tales, elements of several cultures—California Spanish, Irish, Native American—are combined in original fairy tales taking place in a land of bean fields, redwood forests, deserts, and droughts. Eyes for the Dark (1928) and More Tales from California (1935) are collections similar to California Fairy Tales in tone and subject.

Tawnymore (1931), a novel, was a less successful literary venture. Tawnymore, the hero, is a Pericu of the 18th century, and the book begins as the story of his adventures. It is soon taken over by the pirates with whom Tawnymore and his companion sail. The critical consensus was that the book was episodic and marred by the inclusion of distracting incidents.

With Dobry (1934), a Newbery Award winner, Shannon showed she could control an extended narrative. Dobry, a young Bulgarian boy, discovers he must be an artist. Against the wishes of his widowed mother, who naturally hopes he will become a productive member of village society, his storytelling grandfather defends Dobry and the primacy of his calling. In addition to celebrating the importance of art, Dobry presents a striking portrait of life in rural Bulgaria.

The love for nature, especially for the changing colors and lights of the high mountains, that is so much of the achievement of Dobry is also an important feature of Shannon's poetry. Her collection of poems for children, Goose Grass Rhymes (1930) is just such an example. Shannon's stories, filled with the sights and sounds of their settings and peopled by whimsical characters, appealed to her young readership.


Reference works:

Junior Book of Authors (1951).

Other references:

Horn Book (Nov. 1928, Aug. 1931, March-April 1935). LJ (22 Jan. 1930). NYT (24 Dec. 1934). PW (29 June 1935).