Beckhorn, Susan Williams 1953- (Susan Williams)
Beckhorn, Susan Williams 1953- (Susan Williams)
Born 1953, in Winchester, MA; married; husband's name Fred; children: Fern, Spring. Education: Alfred University, B.F.A., M.A. (English education). Hobbies and other interests: Animal rescue, bird watching, horseback riding, hiking, fishing, folk music.
Home—Rexville, NY. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and illustrator. Teacher of writing in mentoring programs; presenter at schools and conferences.
International Reading Association Honor Book designation, 2002, for The Kingfisher's Gift; Book Sense Children's Pick, and American Library Association Amelia Bloomer listee, both 2006, and Andrew Eisman Writers Award in Young Readers Category, Univerist of Rochester, 2008, all for Wind Rider.
(Self-illustrated) In the Morning of the World: Six Woodland Why Stories, Down East Books (Camden, ME), 2000.
The Kingfisher's Gift, Philomel (New York, NY), 2002.
(Self-illustrated) Sarey by Lantern Light, Down East Books (Camden, ME), 2003.
Moose Eggs; or, Why Moose Have Flat Antlers, illustrated by Helen Stevens, Down East Books (Camden, ME), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including Highlights for Children.
FOR YOUNG ADULTS; UNDER NAME SUSAN WILLIAMS
Wind Rider, Laura Geringer Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Susan Williams Beckhorn is a writer and artist whose work reflects her love of animals and the mysteries to be found in the natural world. Her works range from the self-illustrated picture book In the Morning of the World: Six Woodland Why Stories to middle-grade novels such as The Kingfisher's Gift and the unusual coming-of-age saga she shares in Wind Rider and its sequel. Other books by Beckhorn that share her affinity for nature with children include Sarey by Lantern Light, in which a dyslexic girl learns to read as she also learns to love a new home in northern Maine, and Moose Eggs; or, Why Moose Have Flat Antlers, a porquois tale in which Moose and Grouse, two good-hearted but misguided friends, attempt to find and incubate moose eggs so that Moose can have babies.
In The Kingfisher's Gift readers are taken back to the early twentieth century to meet twelve-year-old Franny Morrow. The girl has recently suffered the death of her father, a writer, and is in denial. While her distraught widowed mother leaves for Europe in an effort to deal with her own loss, Franny is sent to rural Massachusetts to stay with her aloof Grandmother Morrow. Along with her luggage, Franny is accompanied by a group of fairies only she can see. The characters in the stories once told to her by her father, King Tamarack, Queen Iris, and a changeling sprite named Meadowsweet keep Franny's father alive for the girl. Although Franny withdraws into her fantasy world by joining the fairies in the search for a magical feather that will give Meadowsweet the ability to fly, her search ultimately uncov- ers an unexpected secret that helps her deal with her own loss and refocus her life on the human world. Noting that The Kingfisher's Gift "gives the heartstrings a real workout," a Kirkus Reviews writer cited Beckhorn's ability to sustain the story's fantasy element while also shifting the main plot into reality. In her School Library Journal review, Beth L. Meister deemed the novel "well-plotted" and "moving," concluding that The Kingfisher's Gift "will appeal to young readers looking to find magic in their own lives."
Writing under the name Susan Williams, Beckhorn takes readers further back in time to 4000 B.C. in Wind Rider. Here Fern, a teen living in prehistoric Asia, has a special ability: she can understand and tame the wild horses that, up until this time, have been viewed only as a food supply. She befriends and makes a pet of a young mare, Thunder, after saving the animal from a peat bog, and masters the skill of riding horseback. Unfortunately, only some in her family and tribe are ready to accept her teaching, and it is whispered by others that Fern is a witch. A spurned suitor who tries to take the tame horse wounds Fern with a spear. She is then captured by the terrifying Night People, who sacrifice horses, but with the help of the "Nameless One," the courageous young woman manages to escape and finds love as well. Her journey is recounted in a "poetic" narrative voice that Gillian Engberg cited in Booklist for "transform-[ing] Williams' impressively researched details into a vividly imagined, wholly captivating world." Noting that the author's depiction of Fern's taming of Thunder features "details [that] are marvelously developed," Claire Rosser concluded in her Kliatt review that in Wind Rider Beckhorn "succeed[s] … in telling a riveting story about a basic relationship between human and animal."
As Beckhorn told SATA, she feels "incredibly lucky to be able to do what I love most: writing and illustrating for children. Children's books are the mother's milk of literature," she added. "They should nourish and inspire—and it wouldn't hurt if they protected kids from infections and allergies too! No one should think that writing for children is easy or trivial. Our children deserve the very best we can give them."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 15, 2002, Catherine Andronik, review of The Kingfisher's Gift, p. 1418; October 15, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Wind Rider, p. 47.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of The Kingfisher's Gift, p. 562; September 15, 2006, review of Wind Rider, p. 970.
Kliatt, November, 206, Claire Rosser, review of Wind Rider, p. 16.
School Library Journal, May, 2001, Susan Marie Pitard, review of In the Morning of the World: Six Woodland Why Stories, p. 109; July, 2002, Beth L. Meister, review of The Kingfisher's Gift, p. 113; November, 2006, Carol Schene, review of Wind Rider, p. 156.