Brisson, Pat 1951-
Brisson, Pat 1951-
Born February 23, 1951, in Rahway, NJ; daughter of Thomas Francis (a plumber and foreman) and Jane Margaret McDonough; married Emil Girard Brisson (an administrator), May 29, 1971; children: Gabriel, Noah, Benjamin, Zachary. Education: Rutgers University, B.A. 1973, M.L.S., 1990. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Butterfly gardening, baking, reading.
Teacher, librarian, and author. St. Anthony of Padua School, Camden, NJ, elementary school teacher, 1973-75; Phillipsburg Free Public Library, Phillipsburg, NJ, library clerk, 1978-81, reference librarian, 1990-2001; Easton Area Public Library, Easton, PA, library clerk, 1981-88.
American Library Association, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
American Booksellers Pick of the Lists selection, 1990, for Kate Heads West; American Booksellers Association Pick-of-the-Liest designation, 1994, for Wanda's Roses; New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing inclusion, and Parents' Choice Honor Book designation, both 1997, both for Hot Fudge Hero, and both 1999, both for Little Sister, Big Sister; Christopher Award, Paterson Prize for Children's Literature, Hodge Podger Award, American Booksellers Pick-of-the-Lists selection, International Reading Association/Children's Book Council Teachers' Choice Award, and National Parenting Publications Awards Honor Book designation, all 1998, all for The Summer My Father Was Ten; New York Public Library's 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, 1999.
Your Best Friend, Kate, illustrated by Rick Brown, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1989.
Kate Heads West, illustrated by Rick Brown, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1990.
Magic Carpet, illustrated by Amy Schwartz, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1991.
Kate on the Coast, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1992.
Benny's Pennies, illustrated by Bob Barner, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993.
Wanda's Roses, illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1994.
Hot Fudge Hero, illustrated by Diana Cain Bluthenthal, Holt (New York, NY), 1997.
The Summer My Father Was Ten, illustrated by Andrea Shine, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1998.
Little Sister, Big Sister, illustrated by Diana Cain Bluthenthal, Holt (New York, NY), 1999.
Sky Memories, illustrated by Wendell Minor, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Bertie's Picture Day, illustrated by Diana Cain Bluthenthal, Holt (New York, NY), 2000.
Star Blanket, illustrated by Erica Magnus, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2003.
Hobbledy-Clop, illustrated by Maxie Chambliss, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2003.
Mama Loves Me from Away, illustrated by Laurie Caple, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2004.
Beach Is to Fun: A Book of Relationships, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2004.
Tap-Dance Fever, illustrated by Nancy Coté, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2005.
Melissa Parkington's Beautiful, Beautiful Hair, illustrated by Suzanne Bloom, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2006.
I Remember Miss Perry, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch, Dial (New York, NY), 2006.
Fiction anthologized in books, including Don't Cramp My Style: Stories about That Time of the Month, edited by Lisa Rowe Fraustino, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
Through her experiences as an elementary-school teacher as well as a librarian, not to mention as the mother of four boys, Pat Brisson has finely honed her instinct for what goes into a successful children's book. Beginning her second career as a children's-book author by creating works that combine geography with a young protagonist curious about other places—from the exotic-sounding Orient to regions of the United States not yet visited—Brisson has since expanded her focus, gaining a loyal following in the process. In chapter books like Bertie's Picture Day and Hot Fudge Hero, as well as in the picture books Hobbledy-Clop, Beach Is to Fun: A Book of Relationships, Tap-Dance Fever, and I Remember Miss Perry, she introduces likeable protagonists who deal with everyday obstacles—and sometimes life's tragedies—with good humor, resilience, imagination, and a dash of chutzpa.
Brisson was born in Rahway, New Jersey, in 1951, the fourth of five children. Growing up to become a writer was not a childhood ambition, but when her father brought home a typewriter the year she entered the fifth grade, she created her first unsolicited manuscript: an essay on strawberries. During high school Brisson took a course that combined journalism with creative writing, and it was there that she first had the notion that fiction-writing might be in her future. Enrolling at Rutgers University, she took only one course in writing—a poetry class—late in her senior year. "My teacher, Frank McQuilkan, told me if he had known earlier I could write so well he would have nominated me for the writing prize at graduation," Brisson recalled. "This meant a great deal to me. Even though I didn't consider myself a writer, it was there for encouragement later on when I decided to write for publication."
Married in 1971, Brisson soon could be seen frequenting the children's section of her local library in search of picture books for her growing children. In 1982 she decided to try her hand at writing a book of her own. Scouring writers' magazines and books on the craft, she began to learn the ropes, and her newly minted articles soon began appearing in magazines. After five years of work, Brisson's first book for children, Your Best Friend, Kate, was accepted by Bradbury Press, setting her on a new career path.
Focusing on stories that help introduce young children to geography, Brisson's "Kate" books begin with Your Best Friend, Kate. Documenting a girl's vacation trip along the East Coast of the United States in the form of postcards addressed to best friend Lucy, Kate expresses her excitement about her family's four-week round excursion from New Jersey to Florida, a trip peppered with the hijinks of her annoying little brother Brian. Praising the letters as "convincingly childlike," School Library Journal contributor Louise L. Sherman added that Brisson includes in her book "those things that would impress" children of the same age as the reader.
Kate Heads West takes readers on a trip through Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, this time in the company of Lucy and Lucy's family. Kate's notes home to family, friends, and even her teacher are "entertaining and educational," according to Lois Ringquist in Five Owls. Noting the book's value in social studies classes, School Library Journal contributor Jeanette Larson added that Kate Heads West "will be enjoyed by armchair travelers and families planning a similar trip" of their own. In Kate on the Coast the young traveler and her family have moved across the country and now make their home in Seattle, Washington. During their first year on the West Coast, they take numerous vacations, each one chronicled by Kate in correspondence with Lucy. Trips to Hollywood, Alaska, and even as far west as Hawaii inspire letters that "effortlessly impart information" and even serve as what School Library Journal reviewer Carla Kozak deemed "an exercise in the art of letter writing."
Many of Brisson's books are geared for beginning readers, and their engaging storylines capture and hold the interest of even those children whose idea of fun is normally
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anything but curling up with a good book. In the three short chapters of Hot Fudge Hero, a young boy named Bertie manages to get a mis-hit baseball back from his grouchy old neighbor Mr. Muckleberg (and gets a hot fudge sundae); becomes amazed when his feeble efforts at learning to play the saxophone are rewarded by the appearance of his fairy godfather (and a hot fudge sundae); and overcomes the clumsiness of using a new bowling ball (and winds up with a strike and yet another hot fudge sundae). Praising the book's large typeface and Brisson's use of short sentences, Christina Dorr noted in School Library Journal that Hot Fudge Hero captures "Bertie's determination and good nature." Booklist contributor Lauren Peterson added her praise, citing Brisson's "clever tales" as "excellent for beginning readers," while in Horn Book Martha A. Parravano noted the story's "nice messages" about "not making assumptions" and "the power of perseverance."
The equally humorous Bertie's Picture Day also focuses on second-grader Bertie, revealing his dismay at losing a front tooth just before school pictures are taken in one of its four chapters. "The funny situations" combine with the "short, pithy text" to "make this a very readable story," Carolyn Phelan wrote in Booklist, and School Library Journal contributor Kay Bowes had special praise for Brisson's young hero and his "unique irrepressible personality." Bertie's Picture Day, Bowes concluded, "is a surefire hit."
Another easy-to-read chapter book, Little Sister, Big Sister, describes the relationship between young Edna and her older sister Hester. While Hester uses her age and experience to trick Edna into undertaking horrible tasks like cleaning her room, she also serves as a friend, particularly during thunder storms and when she has a candy bar that needs sharing. According to a Kirkus Reviews critic, "Brisson deftly captures the nuances of the relationship between siblings," while in School Library Journal Amy Lilien praised the characters as "real" and "the language … accessible." Brisson's "clear sentences … will draw beginning readers to daily dramas they will recognize," added Hazel Rochman in a Booklist review of Little Sister, Big Sister.
Expanding her range beyond chapter books, Brisson moved into picture books with Magic Carpet and Benny's Pennies, both of which combine an introduction to useful skills with an entertaining story. In Benny's Pennies a boy is introduced to the role of money as a means of exchange, while Magic Carpet finds an imaginative girl named Elizabeth going on a trip as an armchair traveler. While visiting with her aunt, Elizabeth learns to view the things around her with new eyes after she imagines the trip taken by several exotic objects that now have a place in her parents' home. Magic Carpet was praised for its ability to encourage creativity while also helping young children become "acquainted with an atlas," in the opinion of School Library Journal contributor Jane Saliers.
The engaging Wanda's Roses finds a young optimist determined to brighten up the vacant lot next to her innercity home. The discovery of a scrubby bush with thorns causes Wanda to believe that, with enough care, the empty property can become full of roses. Although her more horticulturally astute neighbors are at first skeptical, they are soon won over by Wanda's enthusiasm and work together to make the girl's vision come true. Praising Brisson's protagonist as "loveable," a Publishers Weekly contributor dubbed Wanda's Roses an "upbeat urban tale" enhanced by watercolors that "genially depict … the city's great variety." In School Library Journal reviewer Carolyn Jenks hailed the book for its "story of one person's faith against all odds and a caring community," while also praising Brisson for telling the story "simply and with good humor."
Another upbeat young protagonist stars in Tap-Dance Fever, a "deliciously tall tale" in Phelan's opinion. In Brisson's entertaining story, Annabelle Applegate is tap-happy, and her love of tap dancing outlasts tap shoes, her mother's kitchen floor, and even the road she walks to school on, even as it wears away the patience of family, friends, and neighbors. Ultimately, the resourceful girl finds a way to keep tapping, and when she attracts an unusual dance partner her love of dance bring good luck to her neighbors. Phelan praised Tap-
Dance Fever for inspiring "children who feel driven to do what they love," and in School Library Journal Be Astengo wrote that the "appealing watercolor-and-gouache cartoon illustrations" by Nancy Coté "are lively and expressive" and people Brisson's story with a multicultural cast. "This silly fun will have kids dancing in the aisles," predicted a Kirkus Reviews writer.
Designed for younger readers, Beach Is to Fun helps young children understand the concept of analogies, the rhyming comparisons brought to life in brightly colored illustrations by Sachiko Yoshikawa. According to Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan, Brisson's "playful picture book … makes a game of connecting words in meaningful ways" and introduces beginning wordsmiths with "a different way of thinking." Dubbing most of Brisson's rhyming analogies "clever," Linda L. Walkins praised Beach Is to Fun as a "cheery lesson on word relationships." Rhythm is used in a more musical sense in Hobbledy-Clop, as Brisson tells a folktale-like story about a boy is joined by a succession of critters on his way to surprise his Granny with a spot of tea. Brisson's humorous, repetitive text is enhanced by Maxie Chambliss's "clear, watercolor cartoons," resulting in a book School Library Journal reviewer Marlene Gawron deemed "good for storytime."
The Summer My Father Was Ten takes a different approach, as Brisson pens "a profoundly moving cross-generational story," according to Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman. Illustrated with vivid watercolor renderings by Andrea Shine, the story focuses on a ten-year-old boy whose act of inadvertent vandalism results in the destruction of elderly Mr. Bellavista's vegetable garden. When the boy realizes what he has done, he apologizes; the following year he helps till the soil and plant the next crop of vegetables, and remains a friend of Mr. Bellavista until his death. Calling the work "a fine story of intergenerational friendship," a Kirkus Reviews contributor praised Brisson for imbuing her characters with "plainspoken, unsentimental, distinct voices."
Also focusing on a serious topic, I Remember Miss Perry finds a class of young children confronted with death when a favorite teacher is killed in a traffic accident. By detailing one boy's loving memories of Miss Perry's many kindnesses and her joy in life, and the efforts of grief counselors to help students deal with the tragedy, Brisson "clearly makes the point that memory is an antidote for sadness," noted Ilene Cooper in Booklist. School Library Journal reviewer Mary Elam maintained that I Remember Miss Perry "fills a need for books that encourage healthy emotional expression." Elam also praised Stepháne Jorisch's illustrations, which "reflect the varied emotions" created through both Miss Perry's optimistic spirit and the void left by her absence. Brisson tackles another serious subject in Mama Loves Me from Away, although in this case the absence of a loved one is less final than death: Sugar is sepa-
rated from her mother due to Mama's stay in prison. Again, memory plays a healing role, as Mama creates a homemade book for Sugar that contains the bedtime stories her daughter has missed so much in a story a Kirkus Reviews writer deemed "a non-judgmental look at life rocked by unfortunate events."
Supplementing her continued success as a children's book author, Brisson went back to college and earned her master's degree in library science, then worked as a reference librarian in her hometown of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, for ten years. One of her ongoing writing projects, a novel in poems for teens, Brisson described as "a challenge in both audience and format." She continues to find great satisfaction writing stories that help fuel the interest and excitement of children just beginning a lifetime of reading. "I hope to continue writing for a long, long time," Brisson once stated.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, March 15, 1992, Carolyn Phelan, review of Kate on the Coast, p. 1386; December 15, 1993, Ellen Mandel, review of Benny's Pennies, p. 762; April 1, 1997, Lauren Peterson, review of Hot Fudge Hero, p. 1333; February 1, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of The Summer My Father Was Ten, p. 913; April 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Little Sister, Big Sister, p. 1528; May 15, 1999, Karen Hutt, review of Sky Memories, p. 1695; December 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of Bertie's Picture Day, p. 703; August, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Beach Is to Fun: A Book of Relationships, p. 1940; December 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Mama Loves Me from Away, p. 746; March 1, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of Tap-Dance Fever, p. 1201; February 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of I Remember Miss Perry, p. 53.
Bulletin of the Center of Children's Books, July-August, 2006, Karen Coats, review of I Remember Miss Perry, p. 489.
Five Owls, March, 1991, Mary Ann Saurino, review of Your Best Friend, Kate, p. 69; September, 1994, Lois Ringquist, "Reading across America," pp. 1-3.
Horn Book, November-December, 1991, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of Magic Carpet, p. 733; July-August, 1997, Martha A. Parravano, review of Hot Fudge Hero, p. 450.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1994, review of Wanda's Roses, p. 696; February 1, 1998, review of The Summer My Father Was Ten, p. 193; April 15, 1999, review of Little Sister, Big Sister, p. 628; March 15, 2003, review of Hobbledy-Clop, p. 459; October 1, 2003, review of Star Blanket, p. 1221; May 15, 2004, review of Beach Is to Fun, p. 488; October 15, 2004, review of Mama Loves Me from Away, p. 1002; February 1, 2005, review of Tap-Dance Fever, p. 174; March 1, 2006, review of I Remember Miss Perry, p. 226; September 15, 2006, review of Melissa Parkington's Beautiful, Beautiful Hair, p. 947.
New York Times Book Review, October 17, 1999, Perry Nodelman, review of Sky Memories, p. 31.
Publishers Weekly, June 21, 1991, review of Magic Carpet, p. 62; February 17, 1992, review of Your Best Friend, Kate, p. 64; July 19, 1993, review of Benny's Pennies, p. 251; May 16, 1994, review of Wanda's Roses, p. 64; June 14, 1999, review of Sky Memories, p. 71; December 15, 2003, review of The Star Blanket, p. 72; December 6, 2004, review of Mama Loves Me from Away, p. 60; June 19, 2006, review of I Remember Miss Perry, p. 62.
School Library Journal, July, 1989, p. 61, Louise L. Sherman, review of Your Best Friend, Kate, pp. 61-62; November, 1990, Jeanette Larson, review of Kate Heads West, p. 86; January, 1992, Jane Saliers, review of Magic Carpet, p. 88; July, 1992, Carla Kozak, review of Kate on the Coast, p. 56; January, 1994, Linda Wicher, review of Benny's Pennies, pp. 82-83; December, 1994, Carolyn Jenks, review of Wanda's Roses, p. 71; July, 1997, Christina Dorr, review of Hot Fudge Hero, p. 60; April, 1998, Susan Pine, review of The Summer My Father Was Ten, p. 91; July, 1999, Amy Lilien, review of Little Sister, Big Sister, p. 61; August, 1999, Marilyn Payne Phillips, review of Sky Memories, p. 125; September, 2000, Kay Bowes, review of Bertie's Picture Day, p. 184; February, 2003, Marlene Gawron, review of Hobbledy-Clop, p. 102; December, 2003, Sally R. Dow, review of Star Blanket, p. 104; July, 2004, Linda L. Walkins, review of Beach Is to Fun, p. 68; February, 2005, Holly T. Sneeringer, review of Mama Loves Me from Away, p. 94; March, 2005, Be Astengo, review of Tap-Dance Fever, p. 168; March, 2006, Mary Elam, review of I Remember Miss Perry, p. 175; November, 2006, Rebecca Sheridan, review of Melissa Parkington's Beautiful, Beautiful Hair, p. 84.
Pat Brisson Web site,http://www.patbrisson.com (March 15, 2007).