Coombs, Kate

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Coombs, Kate

Personal

Born in Spokane, WA; father a university professor. Education: Earned B.A. and M.A. (English).

Addresses

Home and office—Los Angeles, CA. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Educator and writer. Writing instructor on the college level; former grade-school teacher; currently works as a curriculum specialist. Freelance writer, editor, and educational consultant.

Member

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, National Council of Teachers of English, National Writing Project.

Awards, Honors

Parents' Choice Recommended designation, 2006, and Storytelling World Honor Book designation, 2007, and Vermont Red Clover Book Award nomination, 2007-08, all for The Secret-Keeper; American Library Association Notable Book designation, and Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year listee, both 2007, and Georgia Children's Book Award nomination, 2008, all for The Runaway Princess.

Writings

The Runaway Princess, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2006.

The Secret-Keeper, illustrated by Heather M. Solomon, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2006.

Sidelights

California author and educator Kate Coombs features strong female heroines in her magical stories. Featuring illustrations by Heather M. Solomon, her picture book The Secret-Keeper was praised by Booklist contributor Abby Nolan for its "often-lovely language" and "enchanted" setting. In the story, Kalli is the secret-keeper of the village of Maldinga. When villagers come to her and reveal the negative feelings or other secrets that weigh down their hearts, she transforms these secrets into objects and stores them in her home. However, hearing only bad secrets soon begins to wear Kalli's spirit down. Ultimately, a villager comes up with a solution that allows Kalli to enjoy the good in people's lives as well as take on the burden of life's ills, and she also learns how much she is appreciated. In her School Library Journal review, Kirsten Cutler dubbed The Secret-Keeper "an uplifting modern fairy tale," and a Kirkus Reviewer described the book as a "gentle jewel of a tale that will prompt discussion on the sharing of secrets, good and bad."

Geared for older readers, The Runaway Princess finds fifteen-year-old Princess Margaret—or Meg as she prefers to be called—determined to break from the traditions that would bind her to a chosen suitor rather than a life of adventure. However, Meg's father, King Stromgard of Greeve, has her trapped in a tower and her hand promised in marriage to the prince able to save Greeve from current nuisances such as dragons, witches, and rogue highwaymen. Meg finds a way to take her destiny into her own hands, however, in a "witty, humorous tale [that] will be popular with fantasy buffs," according to Booklist critic Kay Weisman, the reviewer comparing The Runaway Princess to the fantasy fiction of M.M. Kaye and Jean Ferris. "Coombs's good-natured tale is as comfortable poking fun at established fairytale tropes as it is honoring them," added Elizabeth Bird in her School Library Journal appraisal, while a Kirkus Reviews writer noted that the author's "language is witty, tart and funny, the [story's] pace is quick." In Horn Book Claire E. Gross cited Coombs' use of a "wry humor that embraces modern sensibilities," concluding that the author's "delightfully devious … fantasy" is "never predictable and frequently hilarious."

Passionate about her work as a writer, Coombs continues to find story ideas in everyday life, and has several more books scheduled for publication. "I am inspired by all kinds of things," she explained in a California Readers online interview regarding her writing life. "For example, I'm very visual, and I find small snatches of daily life to be astonishing and eye catching—the way a flock of birds turns against the sky, the way teenagers huddle together and giggle, the color of new leaves in amongst the duller, older leaves on a bush I'm passing…. The truth is that just about any fragment of reality can make my heart sing, and all of that adds up to inspiration."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 2006, Abby Nolan, review of The Secret-Keeper, p. 80; September 1, 2006, Kay Weisman, review of The Runaway Princess, p. 125.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 2006, April Spisak, review of The Secret-Keeper, p. 10; October, 2006, April Spisak, review of The Runaway Princess, p. 63.

Horn Book, September-October, 2006, Claire E. Gross, review of The Runaway Princess, p. 577.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2006, review of The Secret-Keeper, p. 570; July 1, 2006, review of The Runaway Princess, p. 675.

Publishers Weekly, July 10, 2006, review of The Secret-Keeper, p. 81; September 11, 2006, review of The Runaway Princess, p. 125.

School Library Journal, July, 2006, Kirsten Cutler, review of The Secret-Keeper, p. 70; September, 2006, Elizabeth Bird, review of The Runaway Princess, p. 204.

ONLINE

California Readers Web site,http://www.californiareaders.org/ (June 15, 2008), interview with Coombs.

Kate Coombs Home Page,http://www.katecoombs.com (May 30, 2008).