Ferguson, Alane 1957-

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Ferguson, Alane 1957-

Personal

Born February 8, 1957, in Cumberland, MD; daughter of Edward (an aerospace engineer) and Gloria (a chil- dren's author) Skurzynski; married Ronald Ferguson (a sales and marketing professional), October 11, 1980; children: Kristin Ann, Daniel Edward, Katherine Alane. Education: Attended Westminster College and University of Utah. Politics: "Environmentalist." Religion: Lutheran.

Addresses

Home—1460 Conifer Trail, Elizabeth, CO 80107. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Writer.

Awards, Honors

Edgar Allan Poe Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1990, Belgium Children's Choice Award, and International Reading Association Young-Adult Choice citation, all for Show Me the Evidence; Children's Crown Classic citation, 1990, for Cricket and the Crackerbox Kid; New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age designation, and American Library Association Recommended Book for Reluctant Young-Adult Reader designation, both 1992, both for Overkill; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, 1994, for Poison, 1997, for Wolf Stalker, 2007, for The Christopher Killer; Indiana Hoozer Award, 2002, for Cliffhanger,

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

That New Pet!, illustrated by Catherine Stock, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1987.

Show Me the Evidence, Bradbury (New York, NY), 1989.

Cricket and the Crackerbox Kid, Bradbury (New York, NY), 1990.

The Practical Joke War, Bradbury (New York, NY), 1991.

Stardust, Bradbury (New York, NY), 1993.

Tumbleweed Christmas, illustrated by Tom Sully, Bradbury (New York, NY), 1995.

(With mother, Gloria Skurzynski) Mystery of the Spooky Shadow, illustrated by Jeffrey Lindberg, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1996.

Secrets, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

Contributor to anthologies, including See You in September, 1995, and Night Terrors, 1996.

YOUNG-ADULT NOVELS

Overkill, Bradbury (New York, NY), 1992.

Poison, Bradbury (New York, NY), 1994.

The Angel of Death: A Forensic Mystery, Sleuth (New York, NY), 2006.

The Christopher Killer: A Forensic Mystery, Sleuth (New York, NY), 2006.

The Circle of Blood: A Forensic Mystery, Sleuth (New York, NY), 2007.

"MYSTERIES IN OUR NATIONAL PARKS" SERIES; MIDDLE-GRADE NOVELS

(With Gloria Skurzynski) Wolf Stalker, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1997.

(With Gloria Skurzynski) Rage of Fire, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1998.

(With Gloria Skurzynski) Cliff Hanger, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1999.

(With Gloria Skurzynski) Deadly Waters, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1999.

(With Gloria Skurzynski) Ghost Horses, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2000.

(With Gloria Skurzynski) The Hunted, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2000.

(With Gloria Skurzynski) Valley of Death, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2002.

(With Gloria Skurzynski) Escape from Fear, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2002.

(With Gloria Skurzynski) Out of the Deep, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2002.

(With Gloria Skurzynski) Over the Edge, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2002.

(With Gloria Skurzynski) Running Scared, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2002.

(With Gloria Skurzynski) Buried Alive, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2003.

(With Gloria Skurzynski) Night of the Black Bear, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2007.

Sidelights

Alane Ferguson began her writing career in the mid-1980s with the picture book That New Pet! While she has written other picture books during her busy career as an author, she has become best known for her middle-grade novels and teen mysteries such as Overkill and The Christopher Killer: A Forensic Mystery. In addition, Ferguson collaborates with her writer mom Gloria Skurzynski on the "Mysteries in Our National Parks" series, which follow the adventures of the Landon family as Mrs. Landon's job as a wild-animal veterinarian and Mr. Landon's profession as a photographer draw ten-year-old Ashley Landon and older brother Jack into numerous page-turning adventures. In Cliff Hanger, in which the Landons track a killer cougar through Mesa Verde National Part, the coauthors "do a fine job of integrating lots of material into an exciting story," according to Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper. Fans of the "Mysteries in Our National Parks" series can also follow the Landons on a vacation to Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park in Rage of Fire. The holiday turns south when a stalker looms, and the "tense, exciting chase scene [that results] will keep readers on the edge of their seats," predicted Booklist contributor Lauren Peterson. Buried Alive, another book in the series,

"stands alone as a suspenseful survival story" about the family's adventures in Alaska's Denali National Park, according to School Library Journal critic Yapha Nussbaum Mason.

"All through my childhood I talked nonstop to my parents, my four sisters, and to my dolls," Ferguson once told SATA. "I always loved communicating but never wanted to commit my thoughts to the page. To me, ideas were fluid and needed to be unfettered by pen and paper. That conviction dogged me throughout my adolescence and well into adulthood. But when my oldest daughter was less than thrilled at the announcement of the upcoming birth of my second child, I decided to comfort her on paper. That New Pet!, a picture book, was born right along with my son. And so was my desire to write." That New Pet! tells the story of the disruptions that can occur to the lives of family pets when a new baby comes into a family's life. The book was praised by Horn Book contributor Ethel R. Twichell as a story full of "good nature and good humor." Another picture book, Tumbleweed Christmas, finds a boy and his mother driving across the desert on the way to a holiday get-together. When their car breaks down and they find themselves stranded at a run-down hotel, the boy makes the best of things and celebrates a desert Christmas with a tree crafted from a tumbleweed.

Ferguson turns to young teens in her second book, the novel Show Me the Evidence. Here Janaan, a teen from a conservative Arab family, is understandably shaken when her baby brother dies of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Within six months, two other babies with whom Janaan has had contact also die, and when the teen is accused of murder, she is joined by best friend Lauren in her effort to unravel the mystery and prove her innocence. Reviewing the novel, Roger Sutton wrote in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books that Ferguson's "story is convincing, the emotions intense, and the suspense exceptionally well maintained."

The joys and strains of growing friendships is one of the themes addressed in Ferguson's middle-grade novel Cricket and the Crackerbox Kid. In this story, only-child Cricket Winslow makes a much-needed friend in Dominic, a "crackerbox kid" from the wrong side of town. The two remain friends until they discover that Treasure, a dog Cricket has rescued from the pound, is actually Dominic's recently lost pet. A trial and a jury of fellow fifth graders must now decide the ownership of the dog while Cricket grapples with the question of whether something that is lawful is therefore morally right. Reviewing the novel, Carolyn K. Jenks wrote in Horn Book that the two main characters—who "interact in friendship, anger, and sorrow—are honest and believable, as is their love for one beautiful Springer spaniel."

Readers can enjoy a lighthearted look at sibling rivalry in The Practical Joke War, as middle child Taffy discovers that her friend Susan is actually interested in Taffy's older brother, Russell. As the two girls work out their complex relationship, Taffy, Russell, and younger brother Eddy engage in an all-out war of pranks and practical jokes, complete with shifting alliances, shaving cream, and precariously perched buckets of water. In School Library Journal, Todd Morning praised The Practical Joke War for "accurately portray[ing] … the rough-and-tumble of family life." Also geared for middle-grade readers, Stardust focuses on preteen actress Haley Loring who plays a character on a popular television sitcom. After growing out of the role, Haley and her family move to a small town where the girl adopts Samantha's tough-talking persona as a way to fit in with her new sixth-grade class. Ultimately, Haley learns that she can "dare to be herself, and find real friends," as Susan W. Hunter noted in a review of Stardust for School Library Journal.

Ferguson first turned the corner from straight fiction to mystery/thriller with Show Me the Evidence and followed

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it up with 1992's Overkill. In the award-winning Overkill high-school senior Lacey Brighton is preoccupied with the emotional ups and downs surrounding her parents' divorce and her rocky relationship with her older sister. The teen finally seeks the help of a therapist when she begins experiencing violent nightmares. In one dream Lacey stabs her best friend Celeste, and when Celeste is subsequently found dead Lacey is arrested for the crime. During her effort to prove her innocence, Lacey learns the ins and outs of the criminal justice system and also discovers the extent of her friends' loyalty. According to Patricia Gosda, in a review of Overkill for Voice of Youth Advocates, "the tension builds until the identity of the killer is revealed in a neat, satisfying conclusion."

Set in Silverton, Colorado, The Christopher Killer focuses on another high-school senior, in this case Cameryn Mahoney, whose work as a part-time assistant to her coroner father draws her into murder. During an autopsy of a friend, Cammie and her father realize that the murder is the work of a serial killer who leaves a St. Christopher medal on each of his—or her—victims. Determined to bring closure to her friend's death, the teen takes on the task of tracking down the killer, but in the process positions herself as a potential fifth victim. In Booklist Stephanie Zvirin commented on the novel's "vivid autopsy scenes," and added that "Cammie's energy and chutzpa … propel the story." While Heather M. Campbell wrote in her School Library Journal review of The Christopher Killer that Ferguson's "story line … is as engaging as it is implausible," the critic added that readers will remain transfixed by the fast-moving narrative due to the many "well-researched scientific tidbits sprinkled throughout the text."

Cammie returns in The Angel of Death: A Forensic Mystery. When popular English teacher Brad Oakes arrives in her father's morgue in a body bag, the victim of a horrific death, the teen attempts to track down the killer. Her efforts to follow the forensic clues to the murderer are balanced by issues arising in her personal life: her growing emotional bond with Kyle, the high-school classmate who discovered the body, as well as her mixed feelings with regard to an upcoming reunion with the mom she hardly knows. In The Angel of Death "the macabre and the melodramatic run neck and neck," observed Zvirin, the critic dubbing Ferguson's novel a "page-turner." In School Library Journal Lynn Evarts complimented the author for her competent research into forensic methods and predicted that even reluctant readers would "enjoy the [novel's] fast pace and … suspense."

Ferguson once told SATA: "A good bit of the energy I once flung around in spoken words is now committed to paper. As I travel to schools across the country, I see many students whose own communication stops exactly where mine used to: in talking to friends. I try to convert them. If there is a satisfaction beyond my own storytelling, it is the opportunity to stoke the writing fire in others. The pure fun of creating characters and worlds is catching, and the rewards are permanent."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 1, 1993, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Overkill, p. 801; May 15, 1993, Deborah Abbott, review of Stardust, p. 1692; April 15, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of Cliff-hanger, p. 1532; June 1, 2000, Anne O'Malley, review of The Hunted, p. 1898; December 1, 2000, Denise Wilms, review of Ghost Horses, p. 821; July 1, 2006, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Christopher Killer: A Forensic Mystery, p. 48; February 15, 2007, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Angel of Death: A Forensic Mystery, p. 73.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 1989, Roger Sutton, review of Show Me the Evidence, p. 193; July, 1991, review of The Practical Joke War, p. 261; April, 1993, review of Stardust, p. 246; November, 1996, review of Tumbleweed Christmas, p. 96; July, 1997, review of Secrets, p. 393.

Horn Book, December, 1986, Ethel R. Twichell, review of That New Pet!, p. 732; July-August, 1990, Carolyn K. Jenks, review of Cricket and the Crackerbox Kid, p. 453.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1993, p. 527.

New York Times Book Review, January 18, 1987, p. 28.

Publishers Weekly, December 12, 1986, review of That New Pet!, p. 51; February 24, 1989, review of Show Me the Evidence, p. 236; November 21, 1994, review of Poison, p. 78; September 30, 1996, review of Tumbleweed Christmas, p. 90; Nay 12, 1997, review of Secrets, p. 76.

School Library Journal, March, 1987, Dana Pinizzotto, review of That New Pet!, p. 143; March, 1989, David Thomson Gale, review of Show Me the Evidence, p. 198; March, 1990, Nancy P. Reeder, review of Cricket and the Crackerbox Kid, p. 217; June, 1991, Todd Morning, review of The Practical Joke War, p. 102; January, 1993, Alice Casey Smith, review of Overkill, p. 130; June, 1993, Susan W. Hunter, review of Stardust, p. 105; January, 1995, Lisa Dennis, review of Poison, p. 105; March, 1996, Susan W. Hunter, review of See You in September, p. 218; October, 1996, Jane Marino, review of Tumbleweed Christmas, p. 35; July, 1997, Nancy Schimmel, review of Secrets, p. 93; January, 1998, Marlene Gawron, review of Wolf Stalker, p. 114; July, 1998, Janet Gillen, review of Rage of Fire, p. 99; May, 1999, Jana R. Fine, review of Cliff-hanger, p. 130; October, 1999, Linda L. Plevak, review of Deadly Waters, p. 158; August, 2000, Janet Gillen, review of The Hunted, p. 190; November, 2000, Ann Cook, review of Ghost Horses, p. 162; December, 2003, Yapha Mussbaum Mason, review of Buried Alive, p. 151; August, 2006, Heather M. Campbell, review of The Christopher Killer, p. 118; September, 2006, Lynn Evarts, review of The Angel of Death, p. 204.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1993, Patricia Gosda, review of Overkill, p. 24.

ONLINE

Alane Ferguson Home Page,http://www.alaneferguson.com (August 27, 2007).

Childrenslit.com,http://www.childrenslit.com/ (August 27, 2007), "Alane Ferguson."