Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker 1967-
Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker 1967-
Home—Bristol, TN. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, 1993—. Worked as a research chemist, 1990-93.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
National Science Teachers Association/Children's Book Council Outstanding Trade Book for Children designation, for "Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science" series; Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year designation, 2000, for Weaver's Daughter; Top-Ten Historical Fiction for Youth listee, 2003, and Amelia Bloomer Project Feminist Books for Youth listee, 2004, both for For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy.
Ruthie's Gift, illustrated by Dave Kramer, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1998.
One-of-a-Kind Mallie, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Weaver's Daughter, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Halfway to the Sky, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2002.
For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2003.
The President's Daughter, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Leap of Faith, Dial (New York, NY), 2007.
The Lacemaker and the Princess, Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 2007.
Pop!: A Book about Bubbles, ("Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science" series), illustrated by Margaret Miller, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Energy Makes Things Happen, ("Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science" series), illustrated by Paul Meisel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Favorite Things, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith, Dial (New York, NY), 2003.
Forces Make Things Move, ("Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science" series), illustrated by Paul Meisel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Ballerino Nate, illustrated by R.W. Alley, Dial (New York, NY), 2006.
The Perfect Pony, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas, Dial (New York, NY) 2007.
Ghost writer of numerous middle-grade novels in a riding series for Bantam; contributor to horse magazines.
For Freedom was adapted as an audiobook, 2000.
The author of fiction for elementary-grade readers, as well as of picture books for younger children, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley demonstrates a remarkable breadth of theme and subject matter. Her first three titles, Ruthie's Gift, One-of-a-Kind Mallie, and Weaver's Daughter, are
geared for middle-grade readers, while Halfway to the Sky, For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy, and The Lacemaker feature young-adult themes. Each of Bradley's books are noted for their wealth of detail and the diverse characters that readers meet within their pages: from a lonely girl living in rural Indiana in the early years of the twentieth century to a brave French teen fighting for her country during World War II, to a young boy who dreams of being a dancer.
Born in 1967 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Bradley grew up in a reading family. "I have always loved to read, and my parents always read, too," she noted on the Book Nuts Reading Club Web site. Favorite books included the "Little House on the Prairie" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, as well as "any horse book I could find," the author added. In addition to books, Bradley was influenced by her grandmother's stories of growing up in the small Indiana town of Cedarville as the only daughter among her parents' seven children.
Bradley began writing while in college, contributing articles on horses to various magazines. However, writing took second place to her dreams of a medical career. While attending Smith College, she majored in chemistry, a subject she later explained to Publishers Weekly interviewer Elizabeth Devereaux "‘strikes me a lot like writing. You get a certain number of things you can control and a certain number you can't, and you combine them.’" In addition to her chemistry studies and horse articles, Bradley also began writing stories for children, reworking some of the tales her grandmother had told about life in Indiana during the first decades of the twentieth century. During her sophomore year, Bradley enrolled in a course on children's literature taught by Newbery medalist Patrician MacLachlan. When MacLachlan saw some of Bradley's writings, she was impressed and arranged for her student to attend a writing conference in a group led by Jane Yolen. This further encouraged Bradley, and she began sending out manuscripts to publishers even before graduating from college. Though none of these sold, a number of editors made helpful suggestions to the young writer.
After graduating from Smith College, Bradley married and both she and her husband enrolled in medical school. Soon, however, she discovered that medicine was not for her. Using her degree in another way, she worked as a research chemist for several years, continuing to write in her spare time. In a writing contest for middle-grade fiction, Bradley's work failed to win top honors, but the manuscript was passed on to an editor at Bantam who was looking for someone to ghost-write a series of novels on horses. Leaving chemistry behind, Bradley began turning out four such novels a year. "‘I don't consider them mine,’" she later told Devereaux. "‘They're not my characters and not my setting…. But it taught me discipline.’" Soon she was working on what would become her own debut novel, Ruthie's Gift.
Geared for preteen readers, Ruthie's Gift began as a picture book fictionalizing an incident involving Bradley's grandmother and her siblings. Editors suggested a longer approach, however, and Bradley turned the work into a novel-length tale of an eight-year-old tomboy who learns hard lessons about life. Ruthie lives in a small farming town in Indiana, where she is the only third-grader in her local school and the only girl in a family of six boys. Growing up in such a household, she has learned to be independent and strong; the other girls at school do not take to her because of this and accuse Ruthie of being unladlylike. Even when she makes friends, she usually ends up alienating them due to her uncompromising behavior. However, in one memorable year, Ruthie learns not only to be strong but also to be selfless: making best friends with twins Hallie and Mallie, she suffers a bout of pneumonia that almost kills her and loses her beloved brother Joe, a soldier, during World War I.
A critic reviewing Ruthie's Gift for Publishers Weekly cited the book's "brisk pacing, affectionate humor and … unforgettable heroine," adding that Bradley's "funny … poignant and accessible" writing contrib- utes to an "excellent novel." Similar praise came from Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman, who called the book a "real tearjerker," not because "it wallows in sentiment but because it is honest about jealousy, disappointment, and mess in family life." Rochman also commended Bradley's characters, which the critic described as "drawn with affectionate realism." For Devereaux, Ruthie's Gift stands as a "robust middle-grade novel," and Marilyn Payne Philips, writing in School Library Journal, deemed the book to be "just the ticket for readers crossing the bridge to chapter books."
Returning readers to Cedarville, Indiana in One-of-a-Kind Mallie, Bradley casts twins Hallie and Mallie from Ruthie's Gift in the lead. Set once again during World War I, the novel explores the idea of being unique as a human. Mallie dislikes being a twin because she is forever compared to or mistaken for her sister Hallie. Determining that she needs to prove how different she is from her sister, Mallie goes to a Gypsy encampment and trades her look-alike dress for a red blouse that will set her apart from her sister. She also picks cherries to earn the money that will allow her to take piano lessons from Mr. Jenkins's new mail-order bride. Through it all, Mallie also learns to appreciate her sister more and accept Hallie as a separate person. Bradley manages to sprinkle her tale with historical details, mentioning Red Cross knitting circles, food rationing, victory gardens, and the world of horse-drawn carts and home-baked bread.
Although Rochman found One-of-a-Kind Mallie less compelling than Ruthie's Gift, she dubbed "satisfying" the ending in which the young girls recognize that they "like each other and have a lot in common, but that they are also very different." A contributor to Publishers Weekly also noted that Bradley's follow-up "lacks the dramatic tension and depth" of her debut, although "the characterizations are just as sharp and engaging." Calling Ruthie's Gift a "well-written, deliberately paced story," Susan Hepler wrote in School Library Journal that the sequel "stands well on its own with a good plot and strong characterization." Reviewing the same book for the Christian Science Monitor, Enicia Fisher deemed One-of-a-Kind Mallie "poignant and charming," adding that Bradley "brings to life a likeably real heroine and a town that would seem commonplace but, as we learn, is actually one of a kind."
Bradley transports readers further back in time in both Weaver's Daughter and The Lacemaker and the Princess. A tale set in 1791 in what was called the Southwest Territory and is now the state of Tennessee, Weaver's Daughter introduces Lizzy Baker, who is part of a pioneer family. Every day Lizzy's farmer father works in the fields while her mother, a weaver, spends hours at the family loom. Lizzy dreams of becoming a weaver just like her mother, but illness plagues her. Every autumn she becomes sick, and now, at age ten, her spells of sickness are noticeably worse. As winter approaches, Lizzie worries that such bouts will take their final toll in the coming cold. No doctor or midwife is able to cure her (she would now be diagnosed with asthma and allergies), but she hopes for the best and decides to focus her attention on the present rather than the unknowable future. Her mind is also kept off melancholy thoughts by the arrival of visitors from Charleston. Miss Sarah Beaumont and her young, good-looking stepson have views very different from those of Lizzy and her family. When the Beaumonts offer to take Lizzie to their home in Charleston, where the sea air may help her, Lizzie must make a choice: whether to lose her family to save herself. A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that in Weaver's Daughter Bradley "conveys a comforting message through Lizzy's bittersweet experiences," while Rochman cited the plot's "aching sadness," as well as characters who are "drawn with some complexity." Rochman further commented that Bradley "is careful neither to sentimentalize nor exploit the illness." Writing in School Library Journal, Miriam Lang Budin also found much to like in what she dubbed a "surprisingly rich book." For Budin, Bradley's tale is "compelling" and her characters "are rounded enough to display conflicted sentiments."
The beauty of the French palace of Versailles and the wealth of the eighteenth-century court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are the subject of The Lacemaker and the Princess, which finds eleven-year-old lace maker Isabelle chosen to be the playmate of the queen's daughter. With approval of the queen, Isabelle plays with Princess Marie-Therese in the afternoons, but spends the early part of the day working at her loom. As a member of the working class, the girl senses the growing resentment felt by many toward royalty, but her knowledge of the people living in Versailles give her a more compassionate view of the hated and ill-fated aristocratic family, all of whom will ultimately lose their lives. Noting that Bradley has "skillfully integrated historical facts" into her tale, Booklist reviewer Gillian Engberg dubbed The Lacemaker and the Princess an "engrossing, believable story" about a friendship "that crosses class boundaries." The author's endnotes add factual depth to the tale, a Kirkus Reviews writer added, citing in particular Bradley's "first-person narrative," which is "full of description and intriguing insight into the period."
Halfway to the Sky follows twelve-year-old runaway Dani on a journey of self-discovery as she sets out on her own to hike the more-than-2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Sadness has spurred this journey: Dani's thirteen-year-old brother, Springer, died just months before from muscular dystrophy. Her family has fallen apart as a result of the tragedy: her parents are divorced and her father has remarried and already has a new child on the way. With only sadness at home, Dani needs to do something monumental as a start to turning her own life around. Running away from home, she begins her hike along the well-traveled trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. After Dani's mom realizes where her daughter has gone, she tracks the girl down, and soon joins the preteen on her life-changing trek. Reviewing Halfway to the Sky for School Library Journal, Ellen Fader noted that Bradley's novel is "fairly standard coming-of-age" fare "with the added benefit of Dani's mother also growing and healing during their time together on the trail." A Kirkus Reviews critic had higher praise for the novel, calling it an "emotionally taut story" and predicting that "teenagers will readily relate to the angst and anger and be intrigued by the details about the Trail itself."
Bradley moves the action from the United States to Europe in For Freedom. Based on a true story related in a series of interviews with fellow Tennessean Suzanne David Hall, the novel tells the story of a young French woman during the Nazi occupation of France and of her thrilling and sometimes chilling experiences as a member of the French Resistance. Married to an American G.I. in 1945, Suzanne David Hall moved to Tennessee where she raised her family. Bradley, in telling Hall's
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story, employs a fictional format. In 1940, when the Germans begin bombing Suzanne's native Cherbourg, she is a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl devoted to music. Then a pregnant neighbor is killed in front of her during a bombing raid, and suddenly the war that has seemed so distant to her now seems very real. Soon after, the Germans march in and the Davids are asked to leave their house so that it can be used as barracks. When given the chance, Suzanne joins the Resistance as a courier. As a voice student, she has the perfect excuse to be walking around, for she legitimately has lessons to attend as well as recitals and costume fittings. Although the secret messages she now carries are well hidden, capture would mean death at the hands of the Germans, and in a climate of suspicion there are many who would gain much by turning her in to the Nazi authorities.
Reviewing For Freedom in School Library Journal, Kimberly Monaghan described Bradley's book as a "suspenseful novel … [that] moves swiftly into action," and one that will "appeal to readers who enjoy history and espionage." Similarly, Booklist contributor Roger Leslie called the book a "taut, engrossing World War II novel [that] instantly immerses readers." While Leslie noted that For Freedom "resonates with authenticity, excitement, and heart," Kliatt critic Claire Rosser deemed the work a "powerful story" that "fill[s readers] … with admiration for Suzanne's strength and commitment." In the same vein, a Kirkus Reviews critic applauded For Freedom as an "exciting account of a girl's coming of age in a scary time," and a contributor to Publishers Weekly called Bradley's novel a "gripping, high-stakes adventure" and a "compelling look at the covert battle for freedom."
Sustaining her focus on the early twentieth century, Bradley returns to her own country in The President's Daughter. The book is a fictionalized portrayal of the experiences of President Theodore Roosevelt's ten-year-old daughter, Ethel, after her family's move into the White House in 1901, The President's Daughter features the author's characteristic pattern: a young, female protagonist meets life head on in a dramatic situation. Life in the White House was exciting due to Ethel's parents' varied interests and relaxed rules, and tomboy play and pets were both allowed. However, Ethel only lived at her new home on weekends; week days she was a boarder at Washington, DC's prestigious National Cathedral School. In her book Bradley brings to life the joys and stresses that must have been experienced by this young daughter of a U.S. president; as a Kirkus Reviews writer noted, "she makes Ethel a vivid and engaging presence and her struggles for acceptance at school ring true." Reviewing The President's Daughter for Booklist, Kay Weisman called the novel "fascinating," and Kristen Oravec wrote in School Library Journal that Bradley's story "rings true" due to its wealth of "historical details."
Shifting her focus to younger readers, Bradley has contributed several titles to the "Let's Read-and-Find-out Science" series. These books, which include Pop!: A Book about Bubbles, Energy Makes Things Happen, and Forces Make Things Move, have won awards as well as critical praise. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews, writing about Pop!, concluded that "young readers (and their parents) will have a good time learning new science thanks to this playful offering." School Library Journal contributor Pamela K. Bomboy called the book an example of "science learning at its best." Similarly, in a critical analysis of Energy Makes Things Happen, a writer for Kirkus Reviews noted that it takes a "rare talent" to explain scientific concepts in a way that is at once "interesting and understandable." For this reviewer, "Bradley successfully leaps over that bar in this lively exploration." Featuring what another Kirkus Reviews contributor described as "simple language and appealing illustrations," Force Makes Things Move combines a readable text and "happily multicultural cartoon" illustrations by Paul Meisel "to elucidate [a] … tricky concept."
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Moving from fact to fancy, in Favorite Things Bradley serves up a "creative bedtime tale," as a Kirkus Reviews critic characterized the book. Also written for younger children, The Perfect Pony highlights the passion of a young horse-lover in what another Kirkus Reviews writer deemed an "accessible tale" writtaen in "a simple, direct style." Another book for the storytime set, Ballerino Nate "tackles gender stereotypes head-on with a plucky hero who prefers plies and pirouettes to Little League and Nintendo," in the opinion of a Publishers Weekly contributor. While noting that Bradley's story has some slow moments, Booklist contributor Jennifer Mattson praised Ballerino Nate, commenting that the author "writes smoothly and insightfully about Nate's experiences" as a boy dancer. Praising Bradley's persistent puppy-dog protagonist, School Library Journal contributor Rachel G. Payne added that R.W. Alley's
watercolor and ink drawings of Nate and his efforts to join an all-girl ballet class "have a playful energy that moves the story forward."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, January 1, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Ruthie's Gift, p. 809; August, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of One-of-a-Kind Mallie, p. 2005; August, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Weaver's Daughter p. 2138; August, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of Pop!: A Book about Bubbles, p. 2124; February 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Energy Makes Things Happen, p. 996; April 1, 2003, Roger Leslie, review of For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy, p. 1396; February 15, 2005, Kay Weisman, review of The President's Daughter, p. 1080; September 15, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of Forces Make Things Move, p. 67; February 1, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Ballerino Nate, p. 53; April 15, 2007, Gillian Engberg, review of The Lacemaker and the Princess, p. 50.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 2005, Karen Coats, review of The President's Daughter, p. 245; April, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of Ballerino Nate, p. 343.
Christian Science Monitor, September 2, 1999, Enicia Fisher, review of One-of-a-Kind Mallie, p. 20.
Horn Book, July-August, 2003, Roger Sutton, review of For Freedom, pp. 450-451.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2001, review of Pop!, p. 1117; January 15, 2002, review of Halfway to the Sky, pp. 100-101; November 15, 2002, review of Energy Makes Things Happen, p. 1688; May 1, 2003, review of For Freedom, p. 674; June 1, 2003, review of Favorite Things, p. 800; November 1, 2004, review of The President's Daughter, p. 1043; July 1, 2005, review of Forces Make Things Move, p. 731; February 15, 2006, review of Ballerino Nate, p. 178; March 15, 2007, review of The Perfect Pony; May 1, 2007, review of The Lacemaker and the Princess.
Kliatt, May, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of For Freedom, p. 6.
Publishers Weekly, December 22, 1997, review of Ruthie's Gift, p. 59; June 29, 1998, Elizabeth Devereaux, "Kimberly Brubaker Bradley," p. 30; August 2, 1999, review of One-of-a-Kind Mallie, p. 85; October 11, 1999, review of Ruthie's Gift, p. 78; October 23, 2000, review of Weaver's Daughter, p. 75; May 19, 2003, review of Favorite Things, p. 73; June 2, 2003, review of For Freedom, p. 51; March 13, 2006, review of Ballerino Nate, p. 65.
School Library Journal, February, 1998, Marilyn Payne Phillips, review of Ruthie's Gift, pp. 78-79; September, 1999, Susan Hepler, review of One-of-a-Kind Mallie, p. 176; October, 2000, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Weaver's Daughter, p. 155; October, 2001, Emily Herman, review of Weaver's Daughter, p. 93, and Pamela K. Bomboy, review of Pop!, p. 136; April, 2002, Ellen Fader, review of Halfway to the Sky, p. 142; June, 2003, Kimberly Monaghan, review of For Freedom, p. 136; August, 2003, Marianne Saccardi, review of Favorite Things, pp. 122-123; November, 2004, Kristen Oravec, review of The President's Daughter, p. 134; March, 2006, Rachel G. Payne, review of Ballerino Nate, p. 175; May, 2007, Carol Schene, review of The Perfect Pony, p. 85.
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley Home Page,http://www.kimberlybrubakerbradley.com (May 15, 2007).