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Clements, Bruce 1931–

Clements, Bruce 1931–

Personal

Born November 25, 1931, in New York, NY; son of Paul Eugene (a salesman) and Ruth (an editor) Clements; married Hanna Charlotte Margarete Kiep (a community worker), January 30, 1954; children: Mark, Ruth, Martha, Hanna. Education: Columbia University, A.B., 1954; Union Theological Seminary, B.D., 1956; State University of New York at Albany, M.A., 1962. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Protestant.

Addresses

Home—CT.

Career

Ordained minister of United Church of Christ; pastor in Schenectady, NY, 1957-64; Union College, Schenectady, instructor, 1964-67; Eastern Connecticut State College, Willimantic, CT, professor of English and department chair, 1967—.

Awards, Honors

National Book Award finalist, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1975, and Best of the Best, 1966-1978 designation, School Library Journal, 1979, both for I Tell a Lie Every So Often.

Writings

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Two against the Tide, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1967.

The Face of Abraham Candle, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1969.

I Tell a Lie Every So Often, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1974.

Prison Window, Jerusalem Blue, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1977.

Anywhere Else but Here, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1980.

Coming About, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1984.

The Treasure of Plunderell Manor, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1987.

Tom Loves Anna Loves Tom, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1990.

A Chapel of Thieves (sequel to I Tell a Lie Every So Often), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.

What Erika Wants, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2005.

YOUNG-ADULT NONFICTION

From Ice Set Free: The Story of Otto Kiep, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1972.

(With wife, Hanna Clements) Coming Home to a Place You've Never Been Before, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1975.

Author of plays for radio and theater.

Sidelights

The author of many well-received books for young people, Bruce Clements began writing in the late 1960s. A number of his novels focus on the importance of caring for one's fellow man and, by extension, society's need to be tolerant and supportive of other cultures.

Clements was born in New York City in 1931, and was writing plays with a boyhood friend even before he entered high school. While he dreamed of becoming a writer—as a way to become rich and famous, he admits—he later realized that "that ‘heaven of successful artists’ doesn't exist." As an adult, he studied theology and became a pastor instead. However, the writing bug never quite let go, and "after many years of writing plays, in 1965 I wrote a novel," he once explained. "It was so awful that I still blush when I think about it. Writing it, however, taught me a lot about how to do something that long, and in 1966, I tried a second novel, Two against the Tide."

Two against the Tide is set on an island off the rocky coast of Maine. The story concerns a community of nearly fifty residents who have been able to stop the aging process through the use of a drug discovered by a local doctor and nurse more than a century earlier. When a young brother and sister are gently "kidnapped" by their aunt in order to rejuvenate this island utopia, they are faced with the choice of arresting their development and remaining children forever or returning to society and confronting the attendant joys and sorrows of growing up and growing older. A Booklist reviewer called the debut novel "a thought-provoking, sometimes frightening and suspenseful story," while Horn Book reviewer Mary Silva Cosgrave praised Two against the Tide as a "highly original first book for children."

One of Clements's most highly praised novels for young adults is I Tell a Lie Every So Often. A finalist for the National Book Award, the story is based on the 1850 diary of one Thaddeus Culbertson, who Clements fictionalizes as a fourteen-year-old cooper's apprentice named Henry Desant. Almost a decade after his young cousin has mysteriously disappeared, Henry claims to have heard of a young woman resembling her living with a tribe of Native Americans in the Dakota Territory. This fib fuels older brother Clayton's desire to find his cousin, and the two boys set out on a thousand-mile trek into the North American wilderness, traveling by steamboat, wagon, and horseback. Noting that Clayton's pomposity provides most of the book's humor, Zena Sutherland asserted in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books that "there's considerable humor and wit in other characters and they are all involved in dashing action."

A Chapel of Thieves is a sequel to I Tell a Lie Every So Often. Clayton is a preacher in France, but his letters lead fifteen-year-old Henry to believe he is being swindled by a gang of thieves, and so he leaves St. Louis for Paris. He begins his trip heading down the Mississippi River before crossing the Atlantic but arrives in time to rescue his brother. School Library Journal reviewer Steven Engelfried, whiel noting that a knowledge of the earlier story is not necessary in order for readers to enjoy the sequel, wrote that "observing mid-19th-century France and America through Henry's wry point of view is a treat." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the plot—which includes "autopsies and amputations, riots in the Paris barricades and incendiary appearances by Victor Hugo—feeds gleefully off the author's dry wit."

The Treasure of Plunderell Manor is the adventure story Clements always wanted to write. Taking place in Victorian England, it features a fourteen-year-old serving girl named Laurel Bybank. Orphaned, she finds work with Lord and Lady Stayne, who, motivated by greed, have confined their wealthy teenage niece, Alice Plunderell, to the tower room of their large home. Ordered by the couple to convince Alice to reveal the whereabouts of the treasure hidden by her deceased parents, Laurel befriends the young woman instead, thwarting the couple's evil plans. Ilene Cooper praised the novel in Booklist, dubbing it a "Dickensian romp [that] is loads of fun, though Clements walks a thin line as he slyly parodies a familiar genre." School Library Journal contributor Michael Cart called Clements "a talented and convincing storyteller with a rich gift for characterization."

Tom Loves Anna Loves Tom, narrated by Tom, relates the two emotionally intense weeks that teens Tom and Anna share while Anna comes from out of town to visit her dying Aunt Barbara. "The question is not whether Tom and Anna will fall in love," noted Betsy Hearne of the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. "The question is how they will sustain each other through self-disclosures and mutual experiences." Commenting on the author's skillful pacing, Ilene Cooper noted in Booklist that "so much is embraced in that [two weeks]

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time—love, fear, regret, longing, death—that in many ways it does seem as if a lifetime has passed."

Susan Riley commented in a School Library Journal review that What Erika Wants is a "deceptively simple book with many layers." Fourteen-year-old Erika is the focus of a custody battle, and she wants to please both her parents. She is also distracted by a crush on a boy, schoolwork, a play in which she has been cast in the lead, and a friend who is heading for trouble. It is Jean Rostow-Kaplan, her court-appointed lawyer, who asks what it is that Erika wants, giving the teen a journal in which she can sort out her feelings. Kliatt critic Michele Winship wrote that "Jean is the voice of reason in a situation to which many adolescents will be able to relate." Clements donated his earnings from this book to a children's law center in his home state of Connecticut.

In addition to fiction, Clements has also written several works of nonfiction for younger readers. From Ice Set Free: The Story of Otto Kiep is the biographical account of Clements's father-in-law, a German-born Scot who returned to the country of his birth to serve in the German Army during World War I. A successful lawyer and diplomat by the dawn of World War II, Kiep courageously spoke out against German Chancellor Adolf Hitler until his execution at the hands of the Nazis in 1944. Coming Home to a Place You've Never Been Before, coauthored by Clements' wife, Hanna Clements, is a documentary account of a twenty-four-hour period in Perception House, a local half-way house for troubled young people where both authors have worked. "Essentially, it is a book about change," Clements once noted, "and the slow attempts of change through interaction with others who have been in trouble."

"I write because I want to say to young people that life can be put together," Clements once explained, "that you can make sense out of yourself and the world around you, that you don't have to be a victim. The characters I write about are sometimes frightened and uncertain, but they don't give up. They make decisions and stick to them and survive."

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[Image not available for copyright reasons]

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 1, 1968, review of Two against the Tide, p. 542; January 15, 1988, Ilene Cooper, review of The Treasure of Plunderell Manor, p. 861; October 1, 1990, Ilene Cooper, review of Tom Loves Anna Loves Tom, p. 330; March 15, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of A Chapel of Thieves, p. 1255; October 15, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of What Erika Wants, p. 40.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 1974, Zena Sutherland, review of I Tell a Lie Every So Often, p. 39; December, 1990, Betsy Hearne, review of Tom Loves Anna Loves Tom, p. 81.

Horn Book, October, 1967, Mary Silva Cosgrave, review of Two against the Tide, pp. 587-588.

Kliatt, September, 2005, Michele Winship, review of What Erika Wants, p. 6.

Publishers Weekly, April 8, 2002, review of A Chapel of Thieves, p. 228.

School Library Journal, March, 1988, Michael Cart, review of The Treasure of Plunderell Manor, p. 212; May, 2002, Steven Engelfried, review of A Chapel of Thieves, p. 147; September, 2005, Susan Riley, review of What Erika Wants, p. 202.

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