Anderson, Laurie Halse 1961–
Anderson, Laurie Halse 1961–
Surname rhymes with "waltz"; born October 23, 1961, in Potsdam, NY; daughter of Frank A., Jr. (a Methodist minister) and Joyce (in management) Halse; married Gregory H. Anderson (a chief executive officer), June 19, 1983 (divorced); married Scot Larrabee, 2005; children: (first marriage) Stephanie, Meredith; (stepchildren) Jessica, Christian. Education: Onandaga County Community College, A.A., 1981; Georgetown University, B.S.L.L., 1984. Politics: "Independent." Religion: Quaker (Society of Friends). Hobbies and other interests: Reading, running, skiing, hiking, basketball, history, travel, genealogy.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Pick of the Lists designation, American Booksellers Association, 1996, for Ndito Runs; National Book Award finalist, and Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book designation, both 1999, both for Speak; Best Book for Young Adults selection, American Library Association, 2003, for Catalyst.
Turkey Pox, illustrated by Dorothy Donohue, Albert Whitman & Co. (Morton Grove, IL), 1996.
No Time for Mother's Day, illustrated by Dorothy Donohue, Albert Whitman & Co. (Morton Grove, IL), 1999.
Speak, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1999.
Fever 1793, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Saudi Arabia, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
The Big Cheese of Third Street, illustrated by David Gordon, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
Catalyst, Viking (New York, NY), 2002.
Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, illustrated by Matt Faulkner, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
Prom, Viking (New York, NY), 2005.
Twisted, Viking (New York, NY), 2007.
Independent Dames: The Women and Girls of the American Revolution, illustrated by Matt Faulkner, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2008.
The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher, illustrated by Ard Hoyt, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2009.
"WILD AT HEART" SERIES
Fight for Life, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2000.
Homeless: Sunita, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2000.
Trickster, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2000.
Say Good-Bye, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2001.
Storm Rescue, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2001.
Teacher's Pet, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2001.
Trapped, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2001.
Fear of Falling, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2001.
Time to Fly, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2002.
Race to the Finish, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2002.
Masks, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2002.
End of the Race, American Girl (Middleton, WI), 2002.
Manatee Blues, G. Stevens (Milwaukee, WI), 2003.
Say Good-bye, G. Stevens (Milwaukee, WI), 2003.
Speak was adapted as a television film in 2004 by Speak Film Inc.
Laurie Halse Anderson writes for children and young adults, her work ranging from lighthearted folktales such as Ndito Runs to earnest morality tales for the "American Girl" series to taut dramas for older teens, such as Speak and the historical thriller Fever 1793. Noting the variety of genres in which Anderson works, Cynthia Leitich Smith wrote on Cynsations online that the author is "always taking chances—writing books that are very different from one another—and still hitting it out of the literary ballpark." Speak, a first-person narrative written in the voice of a young rape victim, was a Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book the first year the prize was awarded. In her acceptance speech for this honor, as reprinted in Booklist, Anderson spoke of her admiration for her adolescent audience: "I love teenagers because they are honest. I love teenagers because they are raw and passionate. They think in black and white and are willing to go to extremes to defend their beliefs…. I love teenagers because they challenge me, and because they frustrate me. They give me hope. They give me nightmares. They are our children, and they deserve the best books we can write."
Anderson knew she wanted to be an author from a young age. As she once told SATA, after her second-grade teacher introduced her to writing poetry, she "spent hours and hours and hours reading every book in my school library. The books took me everywhere—ripping through time barriers, across cultures, experiencing all the magic an elementary school library can hold." She also traveled across cultures in her first published picture book, Ndito Runs, which was published in 1996. The book follows a young Kenyan girl as she makes her lighthearted and cheerful journey from her home to her school. Ndito leaves her village and enters the countryside, imagining herself to be any number of animals and birds indigenous to the African savanna. As Hazel Rochman commented in a Booklist review of Ndito Runs, Anderson's "simple, poetic words … express Ndito's exhilaration and her connection with nature and with people." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote that "both narrative and art paint an appealing portrait of an unusually vivacious heroine," and in School Library Journal Tom S. Hurlburt asserted that few multicultural titles share a similar "melding of illustration and text."
A more-humorous picture book, Turkey Pox introduces readers to young Charity who wakes up with chicken pox on Thanksgiving Day, just as her family is preparing to drive to Nana's house to celebrate the holiday. In the car on the way there, the girl's chicken pox are discovered, and the family returns home amidst a swirling snowstorm. Disappointed at the thought of spending her first Thanksgiving without the presence of her beloved
Nana, Charity is overjoyed when the woman arrives with a perfectly roasted turkey, helped by four snowplow drivers who are also invited to dinner. Nana has "dressed up" the turkey skin with numerous cherries, imitating Charity's affliction and creating the "turkey pox" of the title. Charity returns in No Time for Mother's Day, and here she is puzzled by what to give her tremendously busy mother for Mother's Day. Ultimately, it dawns on the girl that the best gift of all would be to turn off all the clocks and machines in the house since these timekeepers seem to be the cause of her mom's stress. "Featuring a satisfying story and appealing illustrations, [Turkey Pox] … is just right for reading aloud to classes," Carolyn Phelan noted in Booklist. Janice Del Negro wrote in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books that the combination of illustrations and text in the book creates "just the right note of jolly delirium."
The Big Cheese of Third Street is a charming story told from the perspective of Benny Antonelli, a very small kid in a neighborhood filled with tremendously large men, women, and older kids. Benny's ability to climb is often the only thing that saves him from good-humored torture by older children, until the day of the neighborhood block party. Benny's triumph in climbing a greased pole to capture the cheese at the very top makes him a tiny hero that any kid can relate to. "Anderson's urban tall tale is a hoot, from her cheeky take on the woes of runt-hood to her plain use of exaggeration and sassy street talk," observed a contributor to Publishers Weekly.
The picture book Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving describes Sarah Hale's efforts to turn Thanksgiving Day into a national holiday through her appeals to President Abraham Lincoln. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote of the book that "Anderson offers readers both an indomitable role model and a memorable, often hilarious glimpse into the historical development of this country's common culture." Louise L. Sherman, writing in School Library Journal, described Thank You, Sarah as "fresh, funny, and inspirational."
Focusing on older readers, Anderson's first young-adult novel, Speak, was nominated for two prestigious literary awards. The narrator of Speak is a high-school freshman who is rendered almost mute as a result of being singled out by her classmates. Melinda has beeen ostracized since phoning 911 during a teen drinking party the previous summer. Although she can hardly bring herself to speak to her peers or teachers, Melinda's written narrative is bursting with language that is angry, sardonic, frightened, sad, and sometimes even funny, according to reviewers. "An uncannily funny book even as it plumbs the darkness, Speak will hold readers from first word to last," predicted a Horn Book contributor. Other reviewers focused on Anderson's realistic depiction of adolescent life. According to a Publishers Weekly critic, the author "uses keen observations and vivid imagery to pull readers into the head of an isolated teenager." A popular novel, Speak was also adapted as a television movie.
Also geared for teens, Fever 1793 is an historical novel set during a yellow-fever epidemic that swept through Philadelphia, which was then the capital of the United States. Like Speak, Fever 1793 features a first-person narrative, this time that of a fourteen-year-old girl who runs a coffeehouse with her widowed mother and grandfather. Matilda reports, with growing horror, on her life as her community is struck by yellow fever, resulting in the death of thousands in a matter of a few months. "Anderson has carefully researched this historical event and infuses her story with rich details of time and place," remarked Frances Bradburn in Booklist. Kathleen Isaacs, reviewing Fever 1793 for School Library Journal, concluded that "readers will be drawn in by the characters and will emerge with a sharp and graphic picture of another world."
Catalyst follows the consequences of eighteen-year-old Kate's decision to only apply to the college attended by her late mother. When she is rejected by the school, she must confront issues regarding her identity as an independent young woman. Also dealing with feelings of loss, Kate gains an insight into the life of her intimidating fellow student, Teri. A series of revelations show the difficult life Teri has survived, and when tragedy strikes, Kate decides to put her life on hold and help her friend. Noting that Kate had intended to study chemistry, Paula Rohrlick wrote in Kliatt that "the chemistry metaphor is cleverly employed throughout, and readers will quickly become caught up in Kate's and Teri's dramas and struggles." A Kirkus Reviews critic described Catalyst as "intelligently written with multi-dimensional characters that replay in one's mind." Noting that the book is set in the same high school as Speak, Lauren Adams wrote in Horn Book that "readers will return for Anderson's keen understanding and eminently readable style."
Lighter in tone, Prom describes an ordinary teen named Ashley as the girl becomes drawn into her best friend's plan to save their school's senior prom. Because one of their teachers embezzled the funds intended to fund prom, Ashley and Natalia need to come up with a way
to finance the entire operation. "Teens will love Ashley's clear view of high-school hypocrisies, dating, and the fierce bonds of friendship," wrote Gillian Engberg in Booklist. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that "modern teen life just outside Philadelphia is vividly drawn" in Anderson's text, while Laurie Adams wrote in Horn Book that "Ashley and her friends could be any American teens, less defined by their background than by their dreams." In Publishers Weekly a reviewer predicted that readers "will be enraptured and amused by Ashley's attitude-altering, life-changing commitment to a cause," and Karyn N. Silverman concluded in School Library Journal that Prom "will delight readers who want their realism tempered with fun."
In Twisted nerdy Tyler goes from social outcast to local legend when he is caught spraying graffiti on school property. Although he initially likes the attention he receives as a result, Tyler soon begins to wish that he could go back to being invisible, especially after queen bee Bethany accuses him of posting nude photos of her on the Internet. "Anderson skillfully explores identity and power struggles that all young people will recognize," wrote Engberg. Erin Schirota, reviewing Twisted for School Library Journal, observed that, "with gripping scenes and a rousing ending, Anderson authentically portrays Tyler's emotional instability" as he contemplates increasingly desperate ways to change his situation. A Publishers Weekly critic concluded of the book that Anderson's "dark comedy gives a chillingly accurate portrayal of the high-school social scene."
In addition to picture books and novels for teens, Anderson has also written the "Wild at Heart" novel series for older elementary-aged readers. Part of the "American Girl" library, the novels feature a preteen named Maggie and her adventures surrounding a veterinary clinic run by Maggie's grandmother and staffed by teenage volunteers. In the first installment, Fight for Life: Maggie, Maggie begins to suspect that a puppy mill may be operating in the neighborhood when a litter of ten sick puppies is brought to the clinic. "Pet lovers will identify with the young characters as well as with their strong need to solve a real problem," remarked Janie Schomberg in School Library Journal. The series continues with Homeless: Sunita, which centers on a young girl's desire for a cat of her own, despite her parents' objections and a recent outbreak of rabies among wild cats in the area. Another book in the series, Say Good-Bye, adds a new character, Zoe, whose volunteer work at the Wild at Heart Clinic helps her learn how to housebreak her new puppy and teaches her about therapy-pets.
Anderson once told SATA, "Despite evidence to the contrary, I believe the world has an abundance of goodness. Not all children get to see this, sadly. I would like to think my books serve up some goodness—with hot fudge, whipped cream, and a cherry on top. Becoming a children's author has been an incredible privilege. The thought that some kid is reading a book of mine in the library makes me feel like I can fly. I have the coolest job in the world."
Biographical and Critical Sources
American Libraries, April, 2006, "Jambotastic," p. 16.
Booklinks, January, 2007, Chris Liska Carger, review of Speak, p. 38.
Booklist, March 15, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of Ndito Runs, p. 1268; September 1, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of Turkey Pox, p. 35; February 15, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of No Time for Mother's Day, p. 1073; November 15, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Speak, p. 18; May 1, 2000, Lauren Peterson, review of Fight for Life, p. 1665; October 1, 2000, Frances Bradburn, review of Fever 1793, p. 332; November 15, 2000, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Speak, p. 632; January 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, "The Printz Award Revisited," p. 932; March 15, 2001, Jean Hatfield, review of Speak, p. 1412; April 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Fever 1793, pp. 1486, 1494; December 1, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of The Big Cheese of Third Street, p. 644; September 15, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Catalyst, p. 222; December 15, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, p. 764; January 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Prom, p. 852; January 1, 2007, Gillian Engberg, review of Twisted, p. 78; September 15, 2007, Heather Booth, review of Twisted, p. 82.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 1996, Janice Del Negro, review of Turkey Pox, pp. 89-90; December, 2002, review of Catalyst, p. 141; February, 2003, review of Thank You, Sarah, p. 225; February, 2005, Deborah Stevenson, review of Prom, p. 242; April, 2007, Karen Coats, review of Twisted, p. 323.
Horn Book, September, 1999, review of Speak, p. 605; September, 2000, Anita L. Burkam, review of Fever 1793, p. 562; November-December, 2002, Lauren Adams, review of Catalyst, p. 746; March-April, 2005, Lauren Adams, review of Prom, p. 196; March-April, 2007, Lauren Adams, review of Twisted, p. 191; November-December, 2007, Philip Charles Crawford, review of Twisted, p. 704.
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, March, 2000, Sally Smith, review of Speak, p. 585; September, 2005, James Blasingame, review of Prom, p. 71.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of Catalyst, p. 1300; October 1, 2002, review of Thank You, Sarah, p. 1462; January 15, 2005, review of Prom, p. 115; February 15, 2007, review of Twisted.
Kliatt, September, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of Catalyst, p. 6; May, 2003, Sunnie Grant, review of Catalyst, p. 43; March, 2005, Paula Rohrlick, review of Prom, p. 6; January, 2006, Sally Tibbetts, review of Prom, p. 49; March, 2007, Myrna Marler, review of Twisted, p. 6.
New York Times Book Review, November 19, 2000, Constance Decker Thompson, review of Fever 1793, p. 45; June 3, 2007, John Green, review of Twisted, p. 35.
Publishers Weekly, March 18, 1996, review of Ndito Runs, pp. 68-69. September 13, 1999, review of Speak, p. 85; December 20, 1999, Jennifer M. Brown, "In Dreams Begin Possibilities," p. 24; July 31, 2000, review of Fever 1793, p. 96; July 16, 2001, John F. Baker, "Laurie Halse Anderson," p. 70; November 19, 2001, review of The Big Cheese of Third Street, p. 67; July 22, 2002, review of Catalyst, p. 180; January 24, 2005, review of Prom, p. 245; January 15, 2007, review of Twisted, p. 52.
Register-Guard (Eugene, OR), November 12, 2007, "Book Picks," p. C18.
School Librarian, winter, 2005, Angela Lepper, review of Prom, p. 209.
School Library Journal, May, 1996, Tom S. Hurlburt, review of Ndito Runs, p. 84; October, 1996, p. 84; April, 1999, Roxanne Burg, review of No Time for Mother's Day, p. 85; October, 1999, Dina Sherman, review of Speak, p. 144; January, 2000, Claudia Moore, review of Speak, p. 76; March, 2000, "Author Turns Loss into Gain," p. 109; July, 2000, Janie Schomberg, review of Fight for Life: Maggie, p. 100; August, 2000, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Fever 1793, p. 177; December, 2000, Ronni Krasnow, review of Homeless: Sunita, p. 138; January, 2001, Carol Johnson Shedd, review of Saudi Arabia, p. 112; March, 2001, Tina Hudak, review of Fever 1793, p. 84; July, 2001, Jennifer Ralston, review of Say Good-Bye, p. 102; February, 2002, Genevieve Gallagher, review of The Big Cheese of Third Street, p. 96; October, 2002, Lynn Bryant, review of Catalyst, p. 154; December, 2002, Louise L. Sherman, review of Thank You, Sarah, p. 116; February, 2003, Jane P. Fenn, review of Catalyst, p. 77; February, 2005, Karyn N. Silverman, review of Prom, p. 132; January, 2006, Claudia Moore, review of Prom, p. 83; May, 2007, Erin Schirota, review of Twisted, p. 128.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2005, Anita Beaman, review of Prom, p. 35; April, 2007, Heather Pittman, review of Twisted, p. 42; August, 2007, Teri S. Lesesne, review of Twisted, p. 223.
Cynsations,http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/ (January 31, 2005), Cynthia Leitich Smith, review of Prom.
Laurie Halse Anderson Blog site,http://halseanderson.livejournal.com/ (December 18, 2007).
Laurie Halse Anderson Home Page,http://www.writerlady.com (December 18, 2007).
TeenReads Web site,http://www.teenreads.com/ (December 18, 2007), interview with Anderson.