Born in Alexandria, VA; married; children: one son. Education: Hampton University, B.A. (sociology).
Author of children's books. Worked as a reporter for Providence Journal, Providence, RI, and Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY, and Courier Journal, Louisville, KY; staff writer for National Geographic, Washington, DC.
American Library Association notable book citation, and International Reading Association Book Award, both 1996, both for More than Anything Else ; Golden Kite Honor Award, for Momma, Where Are You From?; Los Angeles Times Best Book citation, 2002, for Once upon a Farm.
More than Anything Else, illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Momma, Where Are You From?, illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2000.
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Once upon a Farm, illustrated by Ted Rand, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Some Friend (novel), Atheneum (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to A Kentucky Christmas, edited by George Ella Lyon.
Marie Bradby is the author of a number of well-received children's books, including Momma, Where Are You From? and Once upon a Farm. Bradby, a former journalist, served as a reporter for newspapers in Rhode Island and Kentucky, and has also written for National Geographic magazine. She began writing for children after the birth of her son, making her debut with the 1995 picture book More than Anything Else. In 2004 she published her first novel for middle-grade readers, Some Friend.
More than Anything Else concerns the childhood of African-American educator, activist, and writer Booker T. Washington. In the work, nine-year-old Booker spends his day laboring at the saltworks, though he longs for something better. With the help of his mother and a kindly stranger, he learns to read and write. Horn Book critic Maria B. Salvadore praised the "evocative text," and Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman observed, "The story will hold kids and make them want to find out more about the person and the history."
In The Longest Wait, a young boy named Thomas watches as his father, a mailman, ventures out in a driving blizzard. Though Thomas cannot wait to play in the snow, his mood changes after his father returns from his perilous journey and falls ill. Fortunately, Thomas's father recovers, leaving the youngster free to enjoy the winter scenery. According to Linda Perkins in Booklist, "the spare narrative convincingly portrays the boy's shift from excitement to anxiety to relief." Bradby's "first-person narration through Thomas's eyes is sprinkled with poetic images," noted a reviewer in Publishers Weekly.
A child's question to her parent evokes a flood of memories in Momma, Where Are You From? Bradby offers scenes from the woman's childhood, including visits from the ice man, picking beans in the field, segregated schools, cleaning clothes in a wringer washer, and the music of Duke Ellington. "As nostalgic and sentimental as an old radio show, this lyrical picture book is chock full of family reminiscences," observed a critic in Publishers Weekly. Reviewing Momma, Where Are You From? in Booklist, Gillian Engberg stated, "Children will be inspired by the mother's eloquent, proud answer to her daughter's essential question."
A boy recounts the pleasures of working the land in Once upon a Farm, "a beautiful story about a vanishing way of life," wrote Carolyn Janssen in School Library Journal. In simple verse, Bradby describes the family's efforts to plow the soil, harvest the crops, and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Bradby also notes how suburban
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sprawl has changed the rural landscape; according to a Publishers Weekly critic, the final spread showing "a lone bulldozer razing tall trees brings home Brady's message in a quietly dramatic style."
A coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s, Some Friend focuses on eleven-year-old Pearl and her complicated relationships with Lenore, a haughty troublemaker, and Artemesia, the daughter of a migrant worker. Though Pearl develops a close bond with Artemesia, she fails to step in when Artemesia is targeted for harassment by Lenore. "Bradby writes with real understanding of the conflicting feelings of a preteen who tries to keep up with the wrong kind of friend," remarked Susan Dove Lempke in Horn Book, and a critic in Kirkus Reviews called the work "a sensitive, realistic portrayal told in first person of a girl's tough lesson about the meaning of friendship."
Bradby told SATA: "People often ask me if my characters are me. I tend to write in first person and in present tense, and I have given my characters bits and pieces of things that I know—all in an effort to make them seem real. But they aren't me.
"I spend a lot of time researching details to make my settings seem realistic and convincing, and to make my characters seem like someone that is very believable and that you might already know. For instance, I have taken a weaving class, hiked in the Appalachians, picked vegetables, studied stars in the night sky during a certain time of year, and [learned] how to trap muskrats in order to learn things that involve my characters. Sometimes I have to remind myself to quit researching and write the story!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, July, 1995, Hazel Rochman, review of More than Anything Else, p. 1882; December 1, 1998, Linda Perkins, review of The Longest Wait, p. 669; February 15, 2000, Gillian Engberg, review of Momma, Where Are You From?, p. 117; February 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Some Friend, p. 1073.
Horn Book, September-October, 1995, Maria B. Salvadore, review of More than Anything Else, pp. 586-587; March-April, 2004, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Some Friend, pp. 178-179.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2002, review of Once upon a Farm, p. 42; December 15, 2003, review of Some Friend, p. 1447.
Publishers Weekly, September 21, 1998, review of The Longest Wait, p. 83; April 3, 2000, review of Momma, Where Are You From?, p. 79; February 11, 2002, review of Once upon a Farm, p. 185; January 19, 2004, review of Some Friend, p. 77.
School Library Journal, April, 2000, Susan Hepler, review of Momma, Where Are You From?, p. 92; March, 2002, Carolyn Janssen, review of Once upon a Farm, p. 172; March, 2004, Ronni Krasnow, review of Some Friend, p. 203.
Marie Bradby Home Page, http://www.mariebradby.com (June 1, 2005).