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Carris, Joan 1938- (Joan Davenport Carris)

Carris, Joan 1938- (Joan Davenport Carris)

Personal

Born August 18, 1938, in Toledo, OH; daughter of Roy (a sales manager) and Elfrid (an artist) Davenport; married Barr Tupper Carris (in data processing), December 28, 1960; children: Mindy, Leigh Ann, Bradley. Education: Iowa State University, B.S. (English/speech, 1960; Hollins University, M.A. (children's literature); Duke University, teaching credentials. Religion: Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: Walking, playing tennis and bridge.

Addresses

Home and office—Box 231, 48 Princeton Ave., Rocky Hill, NJ 08553. Agent—Dorothy Markinko, McIntosh & Otis, Inc., 310 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Educator and author. High school English teacher in Nevada, IA, 1960-61; high school teacher of French, speech, and English in Des Moines, IA, 1963-65; private English tutor in Princeton, NJ, 1974—; author, 1977—. Duke University, instructor in graduate-level writing. Commentator for Public Radio East. Member, New Jersey Council for Children's Literature.

Member

National League of American Pen Women (president of Princeton, NJ, branch, 1980-84), Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Children's Book Guild of Washington, DC (former president), Rocky Hill Community Group (member of executive board, 1974-78).

Awards, Honors

Outstanding Science Book designation, Science and Children magazine, 1984, for Pets, Vets, and Marty Howard; Iowa Children' Choice Award, Iowa Educational Media Association, 1984, Tennessee Readers Award, 1985, and Young Hoosier Book Award, Indiana Media Educators, 1986, all for When the Boys Ran the House; New York Readers Award, Ethical Culture School, 1985, for Witch-Cat.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

The Revolt of 10-X, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1980.

When the Boys Ran the House, Harper (New York, NY), 1982.

Pets, Vets, and Marty Howard (sequel to When the Boys Ran the House), illustrated by Carol Newsom, Harper (New York, NY), 1984.

Witch-Cat (fantasy), illustrated by Beth Peck, Harper (New York, NY), 1984.

Rusty Timmons' First Million, illustrated by Kim Mulkey, Harper (New York, NY), 1985.

Hedgehogs in the Closet (sequel to Pets, Vets, and Marty Howard), Harper (New York, NY), 1988.

Aunt Morbelia and the Screaming Skulls, illustrated by Doug Cushman, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1990.

The Greatest Idea Ever, illustrated by Carol Newsom, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1990.

A Ghost of a Chance, illustrated by Paul Henry, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1992.

Howling for Home, illustrated by Judith Mitchell, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1992.

Stolen Bones, illustrated by Stephen Marchesi, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.

Beware the Ravens, Aunt Morbelia, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995.

Ghost of a Chance, Coastal Carolina Press (Wilmington, NC), 2003.

Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.

OTHER

(With Michael R. Crystal) SAT Success: Peterson's Guide to English and Math Skills for College Entrance Examinations (study guide), Peterson's Guides (Princeton, NJ), 1982, revised edition with William R. McQuade, 1987.

Peterson's Success with Words, Peterson's Guides (Princeton, NJ), 1987, fourth edition, 2004.

(With Michael R. Crystal and William R. McQuade) Peterson's Panic Plan for the SAT, Peterson's Guides (Princeton, NJ), 1990, sixth edition, Thomson/Peterson's (Laurenceville, NJ), 2002.

SAT Word Flash: The Quick Way to Build Verbal Power for the New SAT—and Beyond, Peterson's Guides (Princeton, NJ), 1993, fifth edition published as In-a-Flash Vocabulary, Thomson/Peterson's (Laurenceville, NJ), 2004.

Also author of "Tremendous Trifles" (humor column), in Princeton Spectrum and Trenton Times, 1977-81. Contributor to periodicals, including Better Homes and Gardens and Think.

Adaptations

Witch-Cat was adapted for film as part of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS-TV) Story Hour Special, 1985, and was adapted for audiocassette, read by Ruth Ann Phimister, Recorded Books, 2001.

Sidelights

Gearing her children's books for readers from age six through the mid-teens, writer and educator Joan Carris creates fast-moving stories that feature likeable characters and plots that often feature elements of fantasy. "We have a responsibility to be entertaining …," Carris explained to Jacksonville, North Carolina Daily News interviewer Joe Miller in discussing her work as a children's writer. "The reason I read and read and read is that I have fun. Kids deserve the same chance."

Carris's elementary-grade mystery A Ghost of a Chance finds a twelve year old searching for the lost treasure of Blackbeard the pirate during a family vacation in coastal North Carolina. Aunt Morbelia and the Screaming Skulls and Beware the Ravens, Aunt Morbelia combine mystery and comedy as they chronicle the adventures of a preteen, the boy's best friends, and his eccentric aunt. In Witch-Cat a magical feline finds that its assignment—to help a twelve-year-old girl recognize her abilities as a witch—presents a daunting challenge. Noting that the book features "nicely placed clues" and "daffy characters," Booklist contributor Chris Sherman wrote that Beware the Ravens, Aunt Morbelia also contains "enough chills to please middle-grade readers."

Dubbed a "sweetly satisfying" and "reassuring tale of family life" by a School Library Journal critic, Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit takes place in an animal shelter, where a kindly elderly veterinarian named Grampa Bender cares for an assortment of creatures, including Gabby the mynah bird, Ernest the mini-pig, and Milly the orange cat. When a Scottie puppy that has barely survived a house fire arrives at the shelter and requires a lot of the veterinarian's time, Milly feels jealous and neglected. When the cat disappears without warning, Gabby and Ernest must track down their missing friend and convince her that she is still important to Grampa. Praising the pencil-and-watercolor illustrations by Noah Z. Jones, a Kirkus Reviews writer predicted that Carris's "easy" chapter-book text will appeal to young animal lovers, and in School Library Journal Elizabeth Bird described Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit as a "remarkably sweet beginning chapter book" with "gentle humor."

Carris once noted: "I discovered the vast number of things I couldn't do pretty early in life. I couldn't do a handstand, jump rope past ‘pepper,’ skate without bloodying my entire body, or dance. I thought I might have to take my mother to college with me so that she could continue doing my hair—a feat I'd never managed alone.

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"Just as I was about to declare myself a washout, I discovered that I could understand literature, really understand it. I could diagram sentences and spell—of all things. Moreover, I could write an analytical essay in English class, and some God-sent professor would read it aloud, or even publish it in a literary magazine. What a relief. Even my French was passable, and in a feeble way I can still communicate and read that sonorous language descended from Latin, my all-time favorite.

"Now that I am older, I am still involved with language, and my love for it grows, even though it is tricky to work those old spelling medals into a cocktail-party conversation.

"My impetus for writing was the glut of English teachers in the field at the time I wanted to return to teaching. There was no place for me—I'd been gone ten long years (whomping up three children) and it was too long. In a snit, I plunked my typewriter on the dining room table and said I'd try my hand at the only other possibility: education through writing for young people. But I didn't want to lure people to reading in the traditional way. I wanted to do it through humor, with as much warmth as I could transfer to paper, with that always-difficult goal of making readers laugh and say ‘ah, yes’ at the same time.

"Trying to teach young people to love and emulate good English is behind everything I do. For that reason I began teaching Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) preparation classes. In class we discuss old myths, the fascinating stories behind words, the power words have to take us anywhere we want to go. Out of this class has grown a book. I have a hunch it will be much like a house I would build—full of faults that get discovered only after I take possession.

"Writing children's books is my delight. If I can create even one character who truly comes to life, I'll feel immense satisfaction. And there will never be enough time for all the stories I want to tell about the kids who are like my kids, like the ones next door, like me when I was a kid. It is the hardest work I have ever done, the loneliest, the least rewarding financially, and the most frustrating.

"I wouldn't change it for anything."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 1992, Randy Meyer, review of A Ghost of a Chance, p. p. 1357; May 1, 1993, Carolyn Phelan, review of Stolen Bones, p. 1588; February 1, 1994, review of Hedgehogs in the Closet, p. 1010; December 15, 1994, Chris Sherman, review of Beware the Ravens, Aunt Morbelia, p. 752; October 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit, p. 56.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1981, review of The Revolt of 10-X, p. 128; November, 1984, review of Pets, Vets, and Marty Howard, p. 42; March, 1986, review of Rusty Timmons' First Million, p. 123; November, 1989, review of Just a Little Ham, p. 88; June, 1992, review of A Ghost of a Chance, p. 256.

Daily News (Jacksonville, NC), November 15, 2006, Joe Miller "Writer Meeting a Responsibility."

Horn Book, December, 1980, Anna A. Flowers, review of The Revolt of 10-X, p. 640.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2006, review of Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit, p. 948.

Publishers Weekly, August 18, 1987, review of Rusty Timmons' First Million, p. 82; December 11, 1987, review of Hedgehogs in the Closet, p. 65; May 25, 1992, review of A Ghost of a Chance, p. 55.

School Library Journal, February, 1983, Virginia Marr, review of When the Boys Ran the House, p. 74; September, 1984, Mavis D. Arizzi, review of Witch-Cat, p. 114; November, 1984, Kathleen Brachmann, review of Pets, Vets, and Marty Howard, p. 122; February, 1986, Richard Luzer, review of Rusty Timmons' First Million, p. 81; March, 1988, Bonnie L. Raasch, review of Hegehogs in the Closet, p. 186; February, 1990, Martha Rosen, review of Just a Little Ham, p. 88; June, 1990, Bonnie L. Raasch, review of The Greatest Idea Ever, p. 117; April, 1992, review of A Ghost of a Chance, p. 112; March, 1993, Lynnea McBurney, review of Howling for Home, p. 171; April, 1993, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of Stolen Bones, p. 117; October, 2006, Elizabeth Bird, review of Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit, p. 103.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1981, review of The Revolt of 10-X, p. 28; February, 1985, review of Pets, Vets, and Marty Howard, p. 323; December, 1985, review of Rusty Timmons' First Million, p. 318; October, 1992, review of A Ghost of a Chance, p. 221.

ONLINE

Joan Carris Home Page,http://www.joancarrisbooks.com (August 17, 2007).

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