Carlson, Laurie 1952-

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Carlson, Laurie 1952-
(Laurie Winn Carlson)


Born January 27, 1952, in Sonora, CA; daughter of Ed (a mechanic and farmer) and Juanita (a library technician) Winn; married Terry Carlson, May 19, 1973; children: Ed, John. Education: University of Idaho, B.S., 1975; Arizona State University, M.Ed., 1991; Eastern Washington University, M.A., 1998; Washington State University, Ph.D. (U.S. history), 2004. Politics: "Independent." Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Drawing, gardening, history, fishing.


Home—16502 West Stoughton Rd., Cheney, WA 99004-9616. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer and farmer. High school home economics teacher in Deary, ID, 1976-77; artist and sculptor, with art work and sculptured dolls exhibited in galleries, 1977-86; elementary schoolteacher in Mesa, AZ, 1988-92; taught history at Eastern Washington University, Cheney, 1998-2001. Organic farmer; publisher of Field & Feast.


Authors Guild, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Idaho Writers League, Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, National Council of Independent Scholars, Western Association of Women Historians.



Home Study Opportunities: A Complete Guide to Going to School by Mail, Betterway (White Hall, VA), 1989.

Kids Create!, Williamson Publishing, 1990.

Eco Art! Earth-Friendly Art and Craft Experiences for Three-to-Nine-Year-Olds, Williamson Publishing, 1993.

More than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide to Traditional Native North American Indian Life, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 1994.

Huzzah Means Hooray: Activities from the Days of Damsels, Jesters, and Blackbirds in a Pie, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 1995.

(With Judith Dammel) Kids Camp!: Activities for the Backyard or Wilderness, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 1995.

Green Thumbs: A Kid's Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 1995.

Westward Ho!: An Activity Guide to the Wild West, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 1996.

Colonial Kids: An Activity Guide to Life in the New World, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 1997.

Boss of the Plains: The Hat That Won the West, illustrated by Holly Meade, DK Ink (New York, NY), 1998.

Classical Kids: An Activity Guide to Life in Ancient Greece and Rome, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 1998.

Days of Knights and Damsels: An Activity Guide, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 1998.

Queen of Inventions: How the Sewing Machine Changed the World, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2003.

Thomas Edison for Kids: His Life and Ideas, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 2006.


(As Laurie Winn Carlson) On Sidesaddles to Heaven: The Women of the Rocky Mountain Mission, Caxton Printers (Caldwell, ID), 1998.

(As Laurie Winn Carlson) A Fever in Salem: A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trials, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 1999.

(As Laurie Winn Carlson) Cattle: An Informal Social History, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 2001.

(As Laurie Winn Carlson; with Michael K. Green and Susan Allen Myers) Washington in the Pacific Northwest, Gibbs Smith (Salt Lake City, UT), 2002.

(As Laurie Winn Carlson) Seduced by the West: Jefferson's America and the Lure of the Land beyond the Mississippi, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 2003.

(As Laurie Winn Carlson) William J. Spillman and the Birth of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2005.


Contributor to periodicals, including Crafts Report, Doll Reader, Instructor, Learning 93, National Doll World, Successful Farming, and Columbia.


Laurie Carlson has authored more than a dozen books for children, several of which are guides for creative learning activities. She has also published works of nonfiction for young readers, such as Boss of the Plains: The Hat That Won the West and Queen of Inventions: How the Sewing Machine Changed the World. As Laurie Winn Carlson she has written books for adult readers, including On Sidesaddles to Heaven: The Women of the Rocky Mountain Mission and A Fever in Salem: A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trials.

In her picture book Boss of the Plains, Carlson looks at John Batterson Stetson, creator of the famous wide-brimmed felt hat that became a favorite of cattlemen and cowpunchers. Born in New Jersey, Stetson learned the hat-making trade from his father and headed west in the 1850s to seek his fortune as a gold miner. Though Stetson failed to strike it rich, he discovered that there was a need for a head covering that would protect its wearers from the harsh frontier weather. He returned east and set about designing his trademark hat, which he named "Boss of the Plains." According to Martha V. Parravano, writing in Horn Book, the author's "prose sets the scene and tells the tale concisely and enticingly (she even manages to explain the process of turning animal skins into felt without breaking the rhythm of the story)." Calling Boss of the Plains "a mix of storytelling and brand-name placement," a Publishers Weekly critic noted that "young cowhands with a hankering for the Wild West will tip their hats to this tale."

The history of sewing and the development of the sewing machine by Isaac Singer are the focus of Carlson's Queen of Inventions. In the work, she shows how the sewing machine helped transform the garment industry by relieving workers of the time-consuming task of hand stitching and paved the way for the mass production of coats, dresses, gloves, and other apparel. Singer is credited not only with designing a workable machine but also for his marketing savvy, which "helped to create a large demand for his product while making the invention affordable to the masses," according to Booklist contributor Kay Weisman. Queen of Inventions received generally positive reviews. Maureen F. Gallivan, writing in School Library Journal, called the work an "interesting and informative slice of Americana," and a critic in Kirkus Reviews stated that there are not many "technological fruits that can rival the sewing machine for worldwide ubiquity and staying power; Carlson gives it its due with this rousing tribute."

In Thomas Edison for Kids: His Life and Ideas, Carlson combines a biography of the inventor of the phonograph and the light bulb with hands-on activities that readers can use to gain insight into his scientific explorations. The events of Edison's life are presented chronologically, and, according to Carol S. Surges in School Library Journal, "Enough detail is given about his childhood that one senses the single-mindedness that drove his genius." The activities included range from making a simple electromagnet and to heat-testing a rubber band. Through Carlson's text, observed Kliatt reviewer Mary Ellen Snodgrass, "children acquire an understanding of the creation of practical devices from random thoughts and lab experiments."

Written for general readers, Carlson's On Sidesaddles to Heaven is an analysis of the lives of the first six Caucasian women to cross the Rocky Mountains—all of them

missionary wives. Of the six, four married men who they had known but a very short time and who could offer no financial security. Carlson provides many little-known personal details of these pioneer women's lives, including feminine hygiene and sanitary and childbearing practices: the type of diurnal minutiae overlooked by most, if not all, previous historical accounts.

The Salem witch trials of 1692, in which twenty accused witches were legally tried, condemned, and executed while some one hundred others were imprisoned, remains a low point in American history and a source of national shame. Numerous books have recounted and analyzed this tragic phenomenon, most focusing upon the accused. In A Fever in Salem Carlson deals with the afflicted—the accusers—by considering various natural causes that would explain the symptoms typical of the accused: psychosis, hallucinations, marks on the skin that resemble human bites, convulsions, and, in some cases, an unexplained death. She argues that the New England witch hunts were a "response to unexplained physical and neurological behaviors resulting from an epidemic of encephalitis." Encephalitis lethargica is a viral, insect-transmitted disease, the same malady that was labeled "sleeping sickness" during a 1920s epidemic. Based upon her theory, the reported outbreaks of "bewitched" livestock during the same period, could have been caused by a similar, animal version of the virus. Carlson discusses the more familiar explanations, such as community-based sociological and socioeconomic factors—including bias against the old, the outsiders, and the foreigners—as well as Freudian female neuroses. After exploring the frenzy of witch hysteria that took place in New England in the sixteenth century, she then proceeds, in a methodical and academically rigorous manner, to investigate the symptoms and potential causes. Choice critic I.L. Child observed that while "Carlson perhaps exaggerates the extent to which her interpretation replaces accusation-based interpretations, she convincingly demonstrates at least a major supplement to them." Kathy Arsenault, writing in Library Journal, found Carlson's theory "fascinating," and concluded that the author's "compelling narrative begs for assessment by medical experts."

Besides being an accomplished writer, Carlson is also an organic farmer who raises chickens, pigs, and cattle on her family's small farm in Cheney, Washington. She also serves as the publisher of Field & Feast, a magazine she hopes "will give people information and thoughtful analysis of the changing world of food and its emerging trends, and help connect farmers with the people who will eat their food," according to Lorie Hutson in the Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review. "People want real information," Carlson told Suzanne Schreiner in the Pacific Northwest Inlander. "Our health makes us realize how important it is."

Biographical and Critical Sources



Atlantic Monthly, December, 1999, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of A Fever in Salem: A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trials, p. 129.

Booklist, February 15, 2003, Kay Weisman, review of Queen of Inventions: How the Sewing Machine Changed the World, p. 1066; February 15, 2006, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Thomas Edison for Kids: His Life and Ideas, p. 94.

Choice, December, 2000, review of A Fever in Salem, p. 1016.

Horn Book, May-June, 1998, Martha V. Parravano, review of Boss of the Plains: The Hat That Won the West, pp. 356-357.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2003, review of Queen of Inventions, p. 58; December 15, 2005, review of Thomas Edison for Kids, p. 1319.

Kliatt, May, 2006, May Ellen Snodgrass, review of Thomas Edison for Kids, p. 36.

Library Journal, July, 1999, Kathy Arsenault, review of A Fever in Salem, p. 110.

New York Times Book Review, May 17, 1998, Anne Scott MacLeod, review of Boss of the Plains, p. 23.

Publishers Weekly, May 4, 1998, review of Boss of the Plains, p. 213.

School Library Journal, April, 2003, Marion F. Gallivan, review of Queen of Inventions, p. 148; June, 2006, Carol S. Surges, review of Thomas Edison for Kids, p. 172.

Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), November 2, 2005, Lorie Hutson, "Laying the Foundation."


Houghton Mifflin Education Place, (September 1, 2006), "Meet the Author: Laurie Carlson."

Laurie Winn Carlson Home Page, (September 1, 2006).

Pacific Northwest Inlander Online, (March 8, 2006), Suzanne Schreiner, "Feasts of the Field."