Fagan, Cary 1957–
Fagan, Cary 1957–
Born 1957, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; children: two daughters.
Home and office—Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Writers of novels for adults and picture books for young readers.
City of Toronto Book Award; Jewish Book Committee Prize for Fiction, 1994, for The Animals' Waltz; Sydney Taylor Honor Book, Jewish Book Award, and World Storytelling Award, all 2000, all for The Market Wedding; Mr. Christie Silver Medal, 2001, for Daughter of the Great Zandini; Norma Fleck Award shortlist for children's nonfiction, 2002, for Beyond the Dance.
Gogol's Coat, illustrated by Regolo Ricci, Tundra (Plattsburgh, NY), 1998.
The Market Wedding, illustrated by Regolo Ricci, Tundra (Plattsburgh, NY), 2000.
Daughter of the Great Zandini, illustrated by Cybèle Young, Tundra (Plattsburgh, NY), 2001.
(With Chan Hon Goh) Beyond the Dance (biography), Tundra (Plattsburgh, NY), 2002.
The Fortress of Kaspar Snit, Tundra (Plattsburgh, NY), 2004.
Directed by Kaspar Snit, Tundra (Plattsburgh, NY), 2007.
Ten Old Men and a Mouse, illustrated by Gary Clement, Tundra (Plattsburgh, NY), 2007.
My New Shirt, illustrated by Dusân Petriĉiĉ, Tundra (Plattsburgh, NY), 2007.
Ten Lessons of Kaspar Snit, Tundra (Plattsburgh, NY), 2008.
History Lessons, Hounslow, 1990.
City Hall and Mrs. God, Mercury (Stratford, Ontario, Canada), 1990.
The Little Black Dress: Tales from France, Mercury (Stratford, Ontario, Canada), 1993.
A Walk by the Seine: Canadian Poets on Paris, Black Moss Press (Windsor, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
The Animals' Waltz, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
The Doctor's House, Paperplates (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996, published as The Doctor's House and Other Fiction, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
Sleeping Weather, Porcupine's Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 1997.
Felix Roth, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
The Mermaid of Paris, Key Porter (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
The Little Underworld of Edison Wiese, Hungry I Books (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including Toronto Globe and Mail, Montreal Gazette, and Books in Canada.
Cary Fagan's desire to write may have been partially inspired by sibling rivalry. "My two older brothers, my childhood companions, were always better than me in math, geography, history, and most other subjects," the Canadian author recalled on his home page. "The one thing I seemed better at was writing stories and poems." At first, Fagan wrote marionette shows to per- form with his cousin at birthday parties, and although he had not been an avid reader as a child, by his teens he was reading the work of Charles Dickens and other literary classics. During college, he won eight student writing awards, and these successes encouraged Fagan to submit stories and poems to small literary magazines. Now a writer for both children and adults, Fagan has published nearly twenty books, from picture books to novels to volumes of poetry. He has also continued to win awards for his work, among them the City of Toronto Book Award and the Jewish Book Committee Prize for Fiction.
Fagan's books for adults include The Animals' Waltz, which a Publishers Weekly critic considered an "engaging and haunting novel." His first book for younger readers, the picture book Gogol's Coat, is loosely based on the tale "The Overcoat" by Nikolai Gogol. Gogol is the youngest but most talented copier working at Office of Alphabet Copiers, where he does not make a lot of money. When cold weather arrives and his old coat is beyond repair, Gogol must buy a new one. This new coat fuels the jealousy of one of his coworkers, and the man steals it, but in the end the young copier discovers the thief. "Fagan's characteristic humor, subtle and keen, also shines," wrote a critic for Resource Links, adding that in Gogol's Coat "the writing is remarkably childlike and light" and "the story, optimistic." Carolyn Phelan, reviewing the same book in Booklist, considered Gogol's Coat to be "a distinctive Canadian picture book."
In The Market Wedding Fagan takes another popular tale, "A Ghetto Wedding" by Abraham Cahan, and adapts it for young readers. In his story, Morris and Minnie both work in the marketplace; they fall in love and decide to get married. Worried about not having enough money, Morris hatches a plan to make sure Minnie can have the ideal wedding, "which leads to enough complications for a Hollywood cliffhanger," according to Michael Cart in Booklist. A Resource Links contributor noted that not only would young readers appreciate the book, but The Market Wedding will "be a marvelous book for high school students to read and compare with other love stories." Stephanie Zvirin, reviewing the title for Booklist, complimented Fagan's "witty text," and in School Library Journal Susan Scheps concluded that Fagan's "ironic humor socks home one of life's basic lessons."
Ten Old Men and a Mouse is an original tale of ten lonely men who are the only people left attending their synagogue. When a mouse arrives, they plot to get rid of her, but soon, they begin to identify with her. One notes that he gets an itch in a similar place, while another identifies with the mouse's elaborate yawns. When the mouse has a litter, however, they take them out to the countryside. A year later the mouse returns; like the old men, his children have grown up and moved away. "The witty dialogue and comedic pacing make this book
a fun read aloud choice," wrote Linda Ludke in her review of Ten Old Men and a Mouse for Resource Links.
Fagan's first novel for young readers, Daughter of the Great Zandini, recounts the story of Fanny, who is gifted at magic but, because she is a girl, is not expected to follow her father's profession. Instead Fanny's brother, Theodore, who is completely uninterested in magic, is being trained as the Great Zandini's apprentice. Set in Quebec and burnished with a slight French lilt due to Fanny's narration, the story escalates to a confrontation: a challenge to the Great Zandini from a mysterious boy who turns out to be Fanny herself, in disguise. "Fagan's prose is engaging and appears well researched, from the exotic magic tricks to the portrayal of the place of girls" in the early 1800s, wrote Linda Ludke in School Library Journal. Connie Frost, reviewing the book for Resource Links, deemed Daughter of the Great Zandini "a wonderful tale of magic and mystery wrapped into one."
Kaspar Snit, the star of three novels Fagan has written for young readers, is desperate to become the most evil person in the world. In The Fortress of Kaspar Snit the Blande family is called in to help solve the mystery of disappearing fountains, a mystery that has Snit at its core. Because Mr. Blande is an expert, the police think he may be able to help solve the crimes, but soon, the Blandes also become a target. Lucky for them, they also moonlight as superheroes. "Fagan's comic novel
has many enjoyable moments in its highly implausible plot," wrote Jill McClay in Resource Links, the critic adding that some "passages are evocative and beautifully written." Snit's diabolical plans continue in Directed by Kaspar Snit, as the villain takes over the Blandes' favorite television show. Eva Wilson, reviewing the book for Resource Links, considered the tale "an excellent launching pad for discussions on morality, good and evil and the artificial world of television."
Along with his fiction, Fagan has also coauthored Chan Hon Goh's autobiography, Beyond the Dance: A Ballerina's Life. The book follows Goh's life, from her immigration from Beijing, China to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to her parents' work establishing the Goh Ballet Company. Fagan and Goh discuss both the hardships of Goh's early life and her successes as a member of the National Ballet of Canada. Cheri Estes, writing in School Library Journal, considered the book "highly readable."
Discussing his books on his home page, Fagan wrote that "I write for children as much as I write for adults. In fact, I'm usually working on both a kids' book and an adult book, and I think each one influences the other."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, February 1, 1999, review of Gogol's Coat, p. 979; December 1, 2000, Michael Cart, review of The Market Wedding, p. 706; September 15, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Market Wedding, p. 225.
Christian Science Monitor, May 8, 1996, Merle Rubin, review of The Animals' Waltz, p. 15.
Publishers Weekly, December 18, 1995, review of The Animals' Waltz, p. 42.
Resource Links, December, 1998, review of Gogol's Coat, p. 3; October, 2000, review of The Market Wedding, pp. 1-2; December, 2001, Connie Forst, review of Daughter of the Great Zandini, p. 13; April, 2004, Eva Wilson, review of Directed by Kaspar Snit, p. 14; June, 2004, Jill McClay, review of The Fortress of Kaspar Snit, p. 6; April, 2007, Linda Ludke, review of Ten Old Men and a Mouse, p. 2.
School Library Journal, March, 2001, Susan Scheps, review of The Market Wedding, p. 208; April, 2002, Linda Ludke, review of Daughter of the Great Zandini, p. 109; April, 2003, Cheri Estes, review of Beyond the Dance, p. 182; August, 2004, Tim Wadham, review of The Fortress of Kaspar Snit, p. 121; March, 2007, Heidi Estrin, review of Ten Old Men and a Mouse, p. 160; June, 2007, Elaine E. Knight, review of Directed by Kaspar Snit, p. 144.
Canadian Children's Book Centre Web site,http://www.bookcentre.ca/ (December 18, 2007), "Cary Fagan."
Cary Fagan Home Page,http://www.caryfagan.com (December 18, 2007).
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (December 18, 2007), profile of Fagan.
Transatlantic Literary Agency Web site,http://www.tla1.com/ (December 18, 2007), "Cary Fagan."