Del Negro, Janice M.
Del Negro, Janice M.
Married; children: two daughters. Education: Hunter College, B.A.; State University of New York, Geneseo, M.L.S.; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Ph.D.
Home—IL. Office—Crown 323, 7900 W. Division St., River Forest, IL 60305. E-mail—[email protected]
Librarian and storyteller. Dominican University, River Forest, IL, assistant professor of library and information science. Former director of Center for Children's Books; editor of Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.
Anne Izard Storytelling Award for Lucy Dove; Notable Children's Book designation, Association for Library Service to Children, American Library Association, Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice designation, and Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature Honor Book designation, Bank Street College of Education, all 2006, all for Willa and the Wind.
Lucy Dove, illustrated by Leonid Gore, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1998.
(Reteller) Romantic Wonders: Tales of Love and Magic (sound recording), 1999.
(Reteller) Willa and the Wind, illustrated by Heather Solomon, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2005.
(Reteller) Passion and Poison: Tales of Shape-Shifters, Ghosts, and Spirited Women, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2007.
An educator with a focus on youth services in public libraries as well as an accomplished storyteller, Janice M. Del Negro is actively involved with children's books as a reviewer as well as a writer. Her folktale retellings have been recorded for audio and have also been adapted into print, and she is also the author of picture books such as Lucy Dove and Willa and the Wind, as well as a collection of supernatural tales for young adults titled Passion and Poison: Tales of Shape-Shifters, Ghosts, and Spirited Women.
In Lucy Dove, Del Negro draws from several versions of a traditional Scottish folk story in which brave seamstress Lucy Dove sews a pair of trousers in a haunted graveyard in order to win a prize from a local lord. When the ghosts and monsters of the place try to frighten Lucy away, the young woman refuses to succumb to fear. "Del Negro adeptly balances the scariness of the bogle (or monster) with the big laughs," wrote Susan Dove Lempke in Booklist. Mary M. Burns, reviewing Lucy Dove in Horn Book, noted "how skillfully the teller has polished her story to a mirror-like reflection of her sources."
In Willa and the Wind Del Negro retells a Norwegian folk story featuring a strong young heroine who is determined to get back the cornmeal Old Windy has blown off of her family's table. Willa accepts a magic handkerchief that provides food in exchange for the stolen cornmeal, but when her reward is switched for a regular handkerchief, the girl angrily marches back to Old Windy. The process continues until a magic whistle reveals the actual thief: the local innkeeper who has been keeping Willa's magic items for himself. "Willa's sassy, outspoken, courageous nature shines through in her actions and in the folksy dialogue," wrote Shelle Rosenfeld in her Booklist review of Willa and the Wind, and in School Library Journal Kathy Weizner recommended Del Negro's tale as "great for telling or reading aloud."
Passion and Poison offers seven stories filled with strong and determined heroines and frightening spirits. Along with the stories, which are written to be read aloud, Del Negro included notes on the folklore motifs that appear in each Gothic tale. "The language is cadenced and carefully chosen," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor in reviewing Del Negro's collection, while in School Library Journal Shawn Brommer described the author's narrative voice as "perfectly pitched; her conversational tone initially sets readers at ease and then delightfully startles them with perfect, sometimes shocking, conclusions." The "mesmerizing storytelling begs to be shared aloud," concluded Joanna Rudge Long in her Horn Book review of Passion and Poison.
"I am passionate about retelling folk tales," Del Negro told SATA. "I am passionate about excavating old tales, tales that have already survived for centuries, for emotional truths that resonate with contemporary listeners. There is no definitive version of a folktale, no ‘original’; we can point to the earliest remembered, written, or preserved version, but not to an ‘original.’
Folk tales change over time in order to survive, and retelling folk tales for present-day listeners is a contemporary offshoot of what is popularly understood as the oral tradition.
"Tales come to us differently today than in the past. A handful of contemporary American storytellers can say they heard folk tales from family or friends, tales that were handed down orally, from mouth to ear, but many of us who retell folk tales first meet the tales on the page. Sometimes the tales work just as we find them; sometimes they resonate oddly, indicating currents beneath the surface. Those currents offer an opportunity to retell from where the teller stands now, instead of from where the story stood then.
"My stand includes my gender. I am a woman. I am fascinated by the women in folk tales, not just the women characters, but the women storytellers. Many of the tales we have were collected by men operating within the social mores of their times. The stories these good men chose to collect and the manner in which they collected them were filters through which the sto- ries traveled, affecting the tale's content and presentation. I look at a folktale so collected and I want to know: what isn't there? What would the stories be like if the women were telling them to each other in the kitchen, while the collector was making notes on the polite version in the parlor? Those are the stories I want to tell, and since no one collected them in quite that way, I make my own. Filtered through my own experiences, I try and make an old tale new.
"Stories may be static on the physical or virtual page, but for as long as the storyteller is telling, the story has blood and breath. Every retelling of a folktale, imbued with the individual blood and breath of the storyteller, is unique. The storytelling community recognizes this in a practical and concrete way: there are many popular conference and festival programs in which several tellers elect to retell the same folktale, just to show what is possible.
"I am enormously interested in the fact that many female storytellers choose to retell traditional tales from points of view not always represented in collected or anthologized versions of folk tales. Milbre Burch, Elizabeth Ellis, Susan Klein, Barbara Schutz-Gruber, Megan Wells, my own students (and too many others to name) approach folk tales through their own artistic processes. I cannot speak to the specifics of anyone's process but my own, and even my process is malleable; the process changes with every story, because every story speaks differently to every teller."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 1, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Lucy Dove, p. 120; September 1, 2005, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Willa and the Wind, p. 143; September 1, 2007, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Passion and Poison: Tales of Shape-Shifters, Ghosts, and Spirited Women, p. 114.
Horn Book, September-October, 1998, Mary M. Burns, review of Lucy Dove, p. 615; November-December, 2007, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Passion and Poison, p. 678.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2005, review of Willa and the Wind, p. 912; August 1, 2007, review of Passion and Poison.
Publishers Weekly, November 2, 1998, review of Lucy Dove, p. 50; November 7, 2005, review of Willa and the Wind, p. 73.
School Library Journal, December, 2005, Kathie Meizner, review of Willa and the Wind, p. 110; December, 2007, Shawn Brommer, review of Passion and Poison, p. 150.
Dominican University Web site,http://www.dom.edu/ (January 15, 2009), "Janice M. Del Negro."
Marshall Cavendish Web site,http://www.marshallcavendish.us/ (January 16, 2009), "Janice M. Del Negro."