Appelt, Kathi 1954–
Appelt, Kathi 1954–
Born July 6, 1954, in Fayetteville, NC; daughter of William H. Cowgill and Patricia Walker Childress; married Kenneth L. Appelt (a teacher), January 6, 1979; children: Jacob, Cooper. Education: Texas A & M University, B.A., 1979; additional study at University of Iowa, 1980-82. Politics: Democrat ("yellow dog"). Religion: Unitarian.
Children's book author. Texas A & M University, College Station, instructor in continuing education, 1992; Jacques' Toys and Books, Bryan, TX, children's book buyer, 1992-94, consultant, 1994—. Secretary, Brazos Pre-Natal Clinic, 1985-87; affiliated with La Leche League, 1988-92; board member, Unitarian Fellowship of Brazos Valley, 1992-94; copresident, Parent Teacher Organization, Willow Branch Intermediate School, 1994-95.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (regional advisor for Brazos Valley Chapter, 1992—).
C.K. Esten Award, Texas A & M University, 1974, for outstanding student in theatre arts; American Booksellers Association Pick of the Lists citation, and International Reading Association (IRA) Teacher's Choice Award, both 1993, both for Elephants Aloft; Pick of the Lists designation, American Booksellers Association, 1996, for Red Wagon Year and Bat Jamboree; Sue German Award for Excellence in Teaching, New Jersey Writing Project in Texas, 1997; Best Books for Young Adults selection, American Library Association (ALA), and Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, both 1998, both for Just People and Paper—Pen—Poem; North Carolina Children's Book Award nomination, 1998, for Cowboy Dreams; Children's Choice Award, IRA/Children's Book Council, 2000, for Bats around the Clock; Best Books for Young Adults and Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers selections, ALA, Keystone State Young Adult Book Award nomination, and Writers League of Texas Honor designation, all 2000, all for Kissing Tennessee, and Other Stories from the Stardust Dance; Women Who Make a Difference award, Brazos Maternal and Child Health Clinic (College Station, TX), 2001; Pick of the Lists designation, American Booksellers Association, 2001, for Down Cut Shin Creek; Gold Award, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, 2001, for Bubbles, Bubbles; Irma and Simon Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature, Bank Street College of Education, 2002, for Bubba and Beau, Best Friends; Parents Choice Approved Award, and Choice Award, American Booksellers for Children, both 2002, both for Oh My Baby, Little One; Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Picture Book, 2002, for Where, Where Is Swamp Bear?; Borders Original New Voices designation, 2008, for The Underneath.
The Boy Who Loved to Dance, illustrated by Sioux N. Morales, Pecan Tree Press, 1986.
Elephants Aloft, illustrated by Keith Baker, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1993.
The Best Kind of Gift, illustrated by Paul Brett Johnson, Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
Bayou Lullaby, illustrated by Neil Waldman, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.
The Bat Jamboree, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.
The Thunderherd, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.
Watermelon Day, illustrated by Dale Gottlieb, Holt (New York, NY), 1996.
A Red Wagon Year, illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1996.
Just People and Paper—Pen—Poem: A Young Writer's Way to Begin, photographs by Kenneth Appelt, Absey & Co., 1996.
I See the Moon (poetry), illustrated by Debra Reid Jenkins, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1997.
Cowboy Dreams, illustrated by Barry Root, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Bats on Parade, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.
Someone's Come to Our House, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1999.
Swamp Bear, illustrated by Megan Halsey, Morrow (New York, NY, 1999.
Hushabye, Baby Blue, illustrated by Dale Gottlieb, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2000.
Toddler Two-Step, illustrated by Ward Schumaker, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2000.
Bats around the Clock, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.
Kissing Tennessee, and Other Stories from the Stardust Dance, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2000.
Oh My Baby, Little One, illustrated by Jane Dyer, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2000.
(With Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer) Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack-Horse Librarians of Kentucky, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Rain Dance, illustrated by Emilie Chollat, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2001.
Bubbles, Bubbles, illustrated by Fumi Kosaka, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2001.
The Alley Cat's Meow, illustrated by Jon Goodell, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2001.
Incredible Me!, illustrated by G. Brian Karas, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Where, Where Is Swamp Bear?, illustrated by Megan Halsey, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Red and Ginger, illustrated by Jon Goodell, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.
Bubba and Beau, Best Friends, illustrated by Arthur Howard, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.
The Best Kind of Gift, illustrated by Paul Brett Johnson, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Pigs in a Polka, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2003.
Bubba and Beau Go Night-Night, illustrated by Arthur Howard, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2003.
Bubba and Beau Meet the Relatives, illustrated by Arthur Howard (Harcourt, San Diego, CA), 2004.
Merry Christmas, Merry Cow, illustrated by Jon Goodell, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2005.
Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America, illustrated by Joy Fisher, HarperCollins Publishers (New York, NY), 2005.
My Father's House, illustrated by Raul Colon, Viking (New York, NY), 2007.
The Underneath (novel), illustrated by David Small, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2008.
Before and After Otis, illustrated by Cyndy Szekeres, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2009.
My Father's Summers: A Daughter's Memoir, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2004.
Guest columnist for Bryan College Station Eagle, 1982—, and Dallas Times Herald, 1990-92.
Kathi Appelt is the author of a number of illustrated storybooks for young readers, as well as of easy readers, nonfiction, and novels for older readers. Woven within her fanciful stories for children, she sometimes hides a lesson, as in Elephants Aloft, a tale of two young elephants traveling to India that is composed using prepositions, or Bat Jamboree, a counting book described by a Publishers Weekly contributor as "grinningly batty." Other books, such as Cowboy Dreams, the Cajun-inspired Bayou Lullaby, and Oh My Baby, Little One, present quiet, reassuring rhymes perfect for bedtimes, while picture books such as Watermelon Day reflect a young child's love of simple pleasures. Calling it "a tale that celebrates both summertime and the magic of anticipation," School Library Journal contributor Lisa S. Murphy praised Watermelon Day as "a love song to a simple pleasure," while a Kirkus Reviews critic noted that "Appelt has a way with similes" in this story about patience.
Born in 1954, Appelt "can hardly remember a time in my life when I wasn't writing," as she once told SATA. "In my childhood home, my mother allowed my two sisters and I—encouraged us really—to draw on the inside walls of our garage. It was funny. You could chart our progress in drawing and writing by moving your eyes up from the baseboards to eye-level. At the bottom were our early scribbles and at the top could be found our attempts at poetry."
A graduate of Texas A & M University in 1979, Appelt was married the same year and she and her husband went on to have two sons. "I attribute my desire to write for children to [them]," she explained. "I'm sure that without them, children's books would have remained a mystery, especially since the only children's books I remember from my childhood were horse books—Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka, and everything that was written by Will James and Marguerite Henry." While Appelt published her first book for children in 1986, it was not until the publication of Elephants Aloft in 1993 that her prolific writing career got into full swing. During the next seven years she published eighteen books for young people, among them a nonfiction work about the craft of writing that was illustrated with photographs by her husband, Kenneth Appelt.
Appelt's picture-book texts include A Red Wagon Year, Bats on Parade, Incredible Me!, Merry Christmas, Merry Crow, and a series of easy readers featuring downhome dogs Bubba and Beau and their truck-driving owner, Big Bubba. Praised by many critics, the books often pair an upbeat text with artwork by a roster of talented artists. Incredible Me!, for example, features multimedia art by G. Brian Karas with a rhyming "celebratory ode" to produce "an exuberant ego booster [that] is bound to make youngsters smile," according to a Publishers Weekly critic. Reviewing A Red Wagon Year, School Library Journal contributor Kathy Mitchell praised Appelt's "uncomplicated, rhyming text," while in Booklist, Julie Corsaro cited the "artful verse" used in the author's "buoyant take on a mainstay of the preschool curriculum." In Publishers Weekly a critic noted the "timely theme" and "classic delivery" of Appelt's Oh My Baby, Little One, adding: "As comforting as morning sun, this sweet … rhyming poem will reassure both preschoolers and their working parents that separation is only temporary."
Appelt goes a little batty with a series of picture books illustrated by Melissa Sweet. In Bats on Parade, a group of musically inclined bats march in formations that illustrate multiplication concepts. Fifty-five stagestruck bats strut their stuff in Bat Jamboree, which does the Radio-City Music Hall show one better by culminating in a startling bat pyramid. Calling Bat Jamboree a "witty combination of counting book and theatrical experience," School Library Journal contributor Lisa S. Murphy noted that the work would likely inspire readers to "cook … up their own backyard jamborees."
In Merry Christmas, Merry Crow Appelt focuses on the holiday season. As brought to life in Jon Goodell's acrylic paintings, the story finds a busy crow collecting gaudy cast-offs that are set off against the snow-covered streets of a busy city. As twilight falls, the bird's goal is revealed, as a giant tree of glittering objects capture the light of the setting sun. Based on John 14:2, My Father's House "pays tribute not to God's heavenly creation but to the wonders here on Earth," according to Booklist critic Abby Nolan. In rhyming quatrains, Appelt reflects on the natural world, her words reflected in colorful stylized paintings by Raul Colon. The author's verse "is spot-on in its meter," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic, concluding that in My Father's House "text and artwork combine to make a … spiritually resonant offering for environmentally conscious readers."
Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack-Horse Librarians of Kentucky, coauthored with Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer, is a nonfiction work for older readers that recounts the history of the Depression-era, government-sponsored project that organized a group of women equestrians and trained them to navigate the paths of the Appalachians to deliver books and other reading materials to poor families living in the mountains of Kentucky. Calling it an "evocative account that finally gives these librarians their due," Randy Meyer praised the book in his appraisal for Booklist, noting its extensive bibliography and archival photographs. Angela J. Reynolds cited favorably the "clear, thorough information" presented by the authors, and added in her School Library Journal review that Down Cut Shin Creek "paints a complete picture of one [New Deal Works Projects Administration] project."
Appelt turns to the novel format in The Underneath, in which Jennifer Mattson praised in Booklist as an "im-
pressive" story of "animals in crisis" that is set in the bayou country of eastern Texas. In the story, Ranger, an old bloodhound, is mistreated by his cruel owner, the trapper Gar Face. Chained and left hungry much of the time, Ranger eventually finds a friend in a stray cat and her two kittens. While the animals bond together as a family, Gar's abusive behavior widens to include the cat; meanwhile, in a parallel story Appelt mirrors the animals' close relationship with an ancient, supernatural tale. Enhanced by David Small's occasional art and told with the author's characteristic "ebbing, flowing lyricism," The Underneath stands as "a rare example of youth fantasy with strong American underpinnings," according to Mattson. In Horn Book Joanna Rudge Long wrote that Appelt's "circling narrative" is "Homeric in its cadenced repetitions," making the novel "distinguished by the originality of the story and the fresh beauty of its author's voice."
Breaking the author's memories into small, often-poignant chapters, My Father's Summers: A Daughter's Memoir evokes Texas during the 1960s and 1970s. Here a young Appelt strove to navigate a fractured family during and following her father's military duty overseas, her parents' subsequent divorce, and her father's eventual remarriage. Although a Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Appelt's vivid vignettes "do not add up to a complete portrait" of her childhood family, My Father's Summers "considers universal themes of growing up … in some thought-provoking moments." The author's focus on the everyday details of her growing-up years will resonate with readers raised in the same generation, Hazel Rochman predicted in Booklist, the critic adding that "the anguish and longing" the young narrator feels for an absent parent "are also universal." "Nostalgia and longing waft through this spare collection of poetic vignettes," agreed School Library Journal critic Alison Follos, the reviewer dubbing My Father's Summers "one of those YA treasures especially suited for adults."
While Appelt has also written articles for newspapers and magazines, children's books have remained her first love. "I feel particularly committed to children," she explained, "and the difficult odds facing them in this country. One of my own personal missions is to change what we call children—that is, I would like to see them called a ‘priority’ rather than a ‘resource.’ I don't feel we've done a very good job with our ‘resources’ and I don't like the connotation that children are something that can be mined or exploited. Rather, they should be something that gets our top attention, something that receives our most intensive care and love."
While like most authors Appelt writes her picture book texts and novels on a computer, poetry is another matter. "Whenever I write poetry, I still yearn for the actual feel of the pencil against the grain of the paper," she admitted. "I like being forced to slow my thoughts down, allowing me to catch the rhythm of the line. I
write every day for the most part, and I find that if I miss a day, I become somewhat grouchy. So my family encourages me to get my writing in."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, December 15, 1993, Elizabeth Bush, review of Elephants Aloft, p. 762; March 15, 1995, Julie Corsaro, review of Bayou Lullaby, p. 1333; May 15, 1996, Kay Weisman, review of The Thunderherd, p. 1590; October 1, 1996, Julie Corsaro, review of A Red Wagon Year, p. 356; March 15, 1997, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of I See the Moon, p. 1224; January 1, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of Cowboy Dreams, p. 885; April 1, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Bats on Parade, p. 1419; March 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Oh My Baby, Little One, p. 1249; May 1, 2000, John Peters, review of Bats around the Clock, p. 1675; June 1, 2000, Debbie Carton, review of Kissing Tennessee, p. 1879; April 1, 2001, John Peters, review of Rain Dance, p. 1476; July, 2001, Randy Meyer, review of Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack-Horse Librarians of Kentucky, p. 1994; October 1, 2001, Kathy Broderick, review of Bubbles, Bubbles, p. 322; October 15, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of Merry Christmas, Merry Crow, p. 53; May 15, 2007, Abby Nolan, review of My Father's House, p. 48; May 15, 2008, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Underneath, p. 54.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 1997, Deborah Stevenson, review of I See the Moon, pp. 311-312.
Horn Book, May, 2001, review of Down Cut Shin Creek, p. 345; May-June, 2008, Joanna Rudge Long, review of The Underneath, p. 303.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1996, review of Watermelon Day, p. 370; June 1, 1999, review of Someone's Come to Our House, p. 880; November 1, 2005, review of Merry Christmas, Merry Crow, p. 1190; April 15, 2007, review of My Father's House; April 1, 2008, review of The Underneath.
New York Times Book Review, August 13, 2000, review of Oh My Baby, Little One, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, February 13, 1995, review of Bayou Lullaby, p. 77; June 24, 1996, review of Bat Jamboree, p. 58; January 27, 1997, review of I See the Moon, p. 97; January 18, 1999, review of Cowboy Dreams, p. 338; May 31, 1999, review of Someone's Come to Our House, p. 86; February 14, 2000, review of Oh My Baby, Little One, p. 196; April 10, 2000, review of Kissing Tennessee, p. 100; November 26, 2001, review of Where, Where Is Swamp Bear?, p. 60; September 26, 2005, review of Merry Christmas, Merry Crow, p. 86; June 4, 2007, review of My Father's House, p. 49.
School Library Journal, January, 1994, Marianne Saccardi, review of Elephants Aloft, pp. 80-81; April, 1995, Judy Constantinides, review of Bayou Lullaby, p. 97; June, 1996, Lisa S. Murphy, review of Watermelon Day, p. 92; August, 1996, Carol Schene, review of The Thunderherd, p. 115; September, 1996, Lisa S. Murphy, review of Bat Jamboree, p. 170; December, 1996, Kathy Mitchell, review of A Red Wagon Year, p. 84; February, 1999, Steven Engelfried, review of Cowboy Dreams, p. 77; June, 1999, Adele Greenlee, review of Bats on Parade, p. 85; August, 1999, JoAnn Jonas, review of Someone's Come to Our House, p. 124; April, 2000, Martha Topol, review of Oh My Baby, Little One, p. 90; June, 2000, Wendy S. Carroll, review of Bats around the Clock, p. 100; July, 2000, Tana Elias, review of Toddler Two-Step, p. 68; September, 2000, Alison Follos, review of Kissing Tennessee, p. 225; May, 2001, Angela J. Reynolds, review of Down Cut Shin Creek, p. 161; December, 2001, Janet M. Bair, review of Bubbles, Bubbles, p. 88, and Olga R. Kuharets, review of Rain Dance, p. 88; January, 2002, Wanda Meyers-Hines, review of Where, Where Is Swamp Bear?, p. 89; August, 2007, Margaret Bush, review of My Father's House, p. 96; June, 2008, Kara Schaff Dean, review of The Underneath, p. 134.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2005, Kim Zach, review of My Father's Summers, p. 14.
Kathi Appelt Home Page,http://www.kathiappelt.com (July 8, 2008).