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Charles, Veronika Martenova

Charles, Veronika Martenova

Personal

Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia; immigrated to Canada. Education: Ryerson University, B.A. (applied arts); Ontario College of Art and Design, degree; York University, M.A. (folklore), 2006.

Addresses

Home and office—Toronto, Ontario, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Author and illustrator of children's books. Former teen pop recording artist in eastern Europe; worked as an interior designer and art director; freelance author and illustrator, beginning 1991.

Member

Writers' Union of Canada.

Awards, Honors

Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrators Award finalist, 1993, and Bank Street College of Education Children's Book of the Year designation, 1994, both for The Crane Girl; Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC) Our Choice designation, 1995, for Hey! What's That Sound?, 1998, for Necklace of Stars, 2001, for Don't Open the Door!, and 2002, for Maiden of the Mist; Storytelling World Award Honor book, 2002, for Maiden of the Mist; Governor General's Award finalist, 2006, and ASPCCA Henry Bergh Children's Book Award finalist, CCBC Our Choice designation, KIND Children's Book Award Honor Book designation, and Sigurd F. Oloson Award for Nature Writing, all 2007, and Rocky Mountain Book Award finalist, 2008, all for The Birdman.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

(And illustrator) The Crane Girl, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1992.

(And illustrator) Hey! What's That Sound?, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994.

(And illustrator) Necklace of Stars, Stoddart Kids (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996.

(And illustrator) Stretch, Swallow, and Stare, Stoddart Kids (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.

(Reteller and illustrator) Maiden of the Mist: A Legend of Niagara Falls, Stoddart Kids (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.

The Birdman, illustrated by Annouchka Gravel Galouchko and Stéphan Daigel, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2006.

"EASY-TO-READ SPOOKY TALES" SERIES; FOR CHILDREN

Don't Open the Door!, illustrated by Leanne Franson, Stoddart Kids (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000, illustrated by David Parkins, Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2007.

Don't Go into the Forest!, illustrated by Leanne Franson, Stoddart Kids (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001, illustrated by David Parkins, Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2007.

Don't Go near the Water!, illustrated by Leanne Franson, Stoddart Kids (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002, illustrated by David Parkins, Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2007.

Don't Go in There!, illustrated by David Parkins, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2007.

Don't Walk Alone at Night!, illustrated by David Parkins, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2007.

Don't Talk to Strangers!, illustrated by David Parkins, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2008.

Don't Touch That!, illustrated by David Parkins, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2008.

Don't Forget!, illustrated by David Parkins, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2008.

Don't Eat That!, illustrated by David Parkins, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2008.

Don't Enter the House!, illustrated by David Parkins, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2008.

ILLUSTRATOR

Gail E. Gill, There's an Alligator under My Bed, Three Trees Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1984.

Maria R. Plant, Robin and the Rainbow, Three Trees Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1985.

Marion Mineau, The Flowers, Black Moss Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1988.

Laurel Dee Gugler, Casey's Carousel, Black Moss Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1989.

Sidelights

Veronika Martenova Charles creates stories for children that are inspired by her own travels around the world as well as by her fascination with the stories and folklore of many lands. In her books, which include Maiden of the Mist: A Legend of Niagara Falls, The Crane Girl, and The Birdman, as well as her her "Easy-to-Read Spooky Tales" series for beginning readers, Charles weaves multicultural details into both folktale retellings and original stories, all reflecting her positive outlook. Her first self-illustrated picture book, a retelling of a story set in Japan and titled The Crane Girl, was praised by a Publishers Weekly contributor who cited its "poignance and … timeless universality," as well as its "skillfully rendered setting." From Japan, Charles transports readers to the Andes mountains of Ecuador in Necklace of Stars, which finds a boy who has captured mythical golden ducks now confronting a difficult decision. In addition to praising Charles' artwork as "dreamlike and luminescent," a Resource Links contributor cited the author/illustrator for her ability to blend "history and tradition."

Charles developed an interest in both art and music while growing up in Prague, Czechoslovakia. After her art studies were curtailed, the teenager focused on mu-

sic and, through her talent and determination, found success in a Western-style pop band formed with a friend. As an entertainer, Charles toured throughout Europe in addition to visits in the rest of the Soviet Union. Stopping in Newfoundland, Canada, on her way home from performing in Cuba—a Cold War ally of the then-USSR—Charles decided to defect. She decided to make English-speaking Canada her new home, and learned her new language by reading novels, and worked a variety of jobs while also earning several college degrees.

Charles' award-winning picture book The Birdman was inspired by a newspaper article the author read, and this article motivated her to take a trip to Calcutta to investigate the story for herself. In the story, a tailor named Noor Nobi is emotionally crushed by the accidental death of his three children. Wandering the streets of Calcutta, homeless and alone, the distraught man eventually finds himself in a bustling marketplace. There he sees a caged and frightened bird, which he purchase with the very last of his money. Caring for the bird helps Nobi focus on something other than his sadness, and by the time the bird is strong enough to fly away, the man has come to terms with his loss. Returning to his tailor shop, Nobi continues to dedicate himself to healing injured birds, and ultimately gains respect for his caring. In her Booklist review, Gillian Engberg praised The Birdman, noting Charles' "vivid, poetic text" and her "focus … on the uplifting message that acts of kindness can ease grief." Engberg also cited the "lavish" and award-winning illustrations by Annouchka Gravel Galouchko and Stéphan Daigle, while a Kirkus Reviews writer concluded that the book's richly toned paintings "combine with the theme of the story to lift the reader's spirit."

In her "Easy-to-Read Spooky Tales" chapter-book series, which include Don't Go in There!, Don't Go into the Forest!, Don't Go Near the Water!, and Don't Open the Door!, Charles' young characters engage in activities that allow them to share scary stories based on actual tales from around the world. In Don't Open the Door!, for example, the young narrator invites friends Leon and Marcos to his home for a sleep-over. Soon the supervising parent has to leave, and the boys are told not to open the door to strangers. While left alone, the friends take turns telling scary stories about the downfall of people who have ignored such sound advice. Ultimately, they successfully scare each other into staying away from the door. Don't Go Near the Water! takes a similar tack, as the imaginative boys conjure up new versions of three traditional tales about the downfall of walking too near the banks of a local, fast-moving creek. As an added feature of each book, Charles leaves the last story told open-ended and invites the reader to create his or her own ending. In her afterwords to each book in the series, Charles explains the origins of each story she has included, noting that they are drawn from diverse cultures. Reviewing Don't Go into the Forest!, which finds the boys staying at a woodland cottage, a Resource Links contributor praised the book's "captivating" text, and added that Charles' "skillful combination of comedy and horror might also be a draw for reluctant readers."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 15, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of Don't Open the Door!, p. 1568; October 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of The Birdman, p. 57.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2006, review of The Birdman, p. 837.

Publishers Weekly, March 29, 1993, review of The Crane Girl, p. 54.

School Library Journal, September, 2001, Karen Scott, review of Don't Open the Door!, p. 1568; January, 2002, Susan Weitz, review of Maiden of the Mist: A Legend of Niagara Falls, p. 116; December, 2006, Alexa Sandmann, review of The Birdman, p. 95.

Resource Links, February, 1997, review of Necklace of Stars, p. 110; October, 1999, review of Stretch, Swallow, and Stare, pp. 2-3; June, 2001, Evette Signarowski, review of Don't Go into the Forest!, p. 9; December, 2006, Denise Parrott, review of The Birdman, p. 2; April, 2007, Elaine Rospad, review of Don't Open the Door!, p. 13.

ONLINE

Canadian Review of Materials Online,http://www.umanitoba.ca/cm/ (October, 1992), Gillian Martin Noonan, review of The Crane Girl.

Tundra Books Web site,http://www.tundrabooks.com/ (August 27, 2007), "Veronika Martenova Charles."

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