Gauthier, Gail 1953-
GAUTHIER, Gail 1953-
Born September 28, 1953, in Middlebury, VT; daughter of Henry (a farmer) and Shirley (an institutional cook; maiden name, Adams) Gauthier; married E. Russell Johnston III (a civil engineer), July 23, 1977; children: William Russell Johnston, Robert Gauthier Johnston. Education: University of Vermont, B.S. (education). Hobbies and other interests: History, education.
University of Connecticut, Storrs, educational assistant, 1976-80, workshop instructor in Division of Extended and Continuing Education, 1980-81; Middlesex Community College, Middletown, CT, instructor in Community Services division, 1982-83. Community volunteer, PTO member, classroom volunteer, Sunday school teacher, CE Board member, Boy Scout volunteer, all beginning 1986; conducts school and library presentations related to writing; maintains a Web log on children's literature and writing.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Choice Book of 1996 selection, Cooperative Children's Book Center, 1996, and Children's Book of the Year selection, Bank Street College, both for My Life among the Aliens; A Year with Butch and Spike and Club Earth named Children's Books of the Year by Bank Street College; New York Public Library selection among 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, 2001, and American Library Association notable book designation, 2002, both for The Hero of Ticonderoga; New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, and Connecticut Book Award nomination, both 2004, both for Saving the Planet and Stuff.
My Life among the Aliens, illustrated by Santiago Cohen, Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.
A Year with Butch and Spike, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.
Club Earth (sequel to My Life among the Aliens ), Putnam (New York, NY), 1999.
The Hero of Ticonderoga, Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.
Saving the Planet and Stuff, Putnam (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including Cricket and English Journal.
Author's books have been translated into several languages.
Work in Progress
Happy Kid, forthcoming, 2006; Hannah's Stories, a chapter book.
Gail Gauthier spent many years thinking about becoming a writer before she actually became one. Trained as a teacher and active in her community's public schools while raising her own children, she finally found the time to actually finish the stories she started and published her first tale in Cricket. She now has several award-winning books to her credit, each containing examples of Gauthier's wry humor. Her children's experiences and her own experience as a mother provided much of the inspiration for her early work. Her first book, My Life among the Aliens, started out as a short story, as did Saving the Planet and Stuff. In each book, she weaves a story about young people making their way through childhood or that messy period called adolescence, but with an edge. As Horn Book reviewer Susan P. Bloom noted in a review of Saving the Planet and Stuff, "Count on Gauthier to poke fun at some of [America's] sacred cows," which includes such targets as the nuclear family, the education system, environmentalism, and popular culture.
According to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, My Life among the Aliens "is a droll and irreverent comedy, at the center of which beats a heart of gold." Narrator Will Denis and his younger brother, Robby, meet space aliens who land in their neighborhood at the beginning of summer vacation. Initially, only the boys and their friends realize the visitors are aliens, and each chapter of the book contains a separate story about their encounters and adventures. In one chapter, human mothers intimidate some of the aliens, while in another chapter, an alien shows the children how to play with real dinosaurs. The book also features an alien-influenced talking dog and Robby's tour of the galaxy. Discussing My Life among the Aliens in School Library Journal, Anne Connor called it "a delightful science-fiction romp in which the impossible is presented as if it were perfectly natural."
Club Earth is the sequel to My Life among the Aliens. In this book Will, Robby, and their parents turn their home into a vacation spot for aliens. Saliva, an alien, serves as the resort's manager, allowing only the best aliens to visit the Denis's home. When alien guest Alphonse decides to make the Denis household his permanent address, the family recognizes that their stint as hoteliers has a down side and now must look for ways to close the resort.
In A Year with Butch and Spike cousins Butch and Spike Couture—also known as the Cootches—are the bad boys of Theodore Ervin Memorial Elementary School. Model student Jasper Gordon finds himself seated between Butch and Spike in the sixth grade classroom of Mrs. McNulty, a teacher also known as Mrs. McNutt. Mrs. McNulty assigns Jasper and another student to work with Butch and Spike and two other less-than-stellar students and to serve as good examples for the boys, but Jasper begins to admire the independent and gutsy cousins. "Gauthier does not skimp on any chance for humor, deploying satire and slapstick in turn," wrote Susan P. Bloom in a Horn Book review of A Year with Butch and Spike. Jasper begins to see that Mrs. McNulty is more than a strict disciplinarian. She belittles and humiliates her students to make them conform, telling the children that they are not allowed to think, just obey. As School Library Journal contributor Coop Renner noted, McNulty "unwittingly creates the possibility for a kind of group solidarity that allows all six kids to mature." According to Booklist contributor Michael Cart, "Gauthier demonstrates a real talent here for humorous hyperbole and episodic classroom comedy."
Although The Hero of Ticonderoga started out as an historical novel about Ethan Allen, Gauthier soon found herself pulled back to the present and writing about twentieth-century kids. In the story, which takes place in the mid-1960s, narrator Tessy LeClerc wishes she could trade her middle-class, farm-family heritage for the more upper-crusty family tree of one of her sixth-grade classmates. An assignment to do a report on Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen makes Tessy appreciate the value of her own heritage, and gain in self-confidence as well. The book's "spirited … narrative … is both entertaining and insightful," noted Booklist contributor Shelle Rosenfeld, the contributor also remarking on Gauthier's interweaving of Tessy's report and the teen's sometimes "irreverent commentary" regarding friends, family, and life in general. The book was Gauthier's first using a female protagonist and draws heavily on her own experiences growing up in Vermont.
In Saving the Planet and Stuff sixteen-year-old Michael Racine may not encounter aliens, but he begins to feel like one when a summer intern position at a Vermont-based environmental magazine brings him into contact with characters the likes of which he has never encountered before. Staying for the summer with Walt and Nora, two former hippies who are friends of Michael's grandparents, Michael shows his slacker tendencies by not enthusiastically getting with the couple's save-the-Earth program of recycling, vegetarianism, bicycling, and counter-consumerism. However, as he is drawn into the magazine's office politics, the hipocricy of some employees soon becomes apparent, and Michael is drawn into the fray when the managing editor plots to undermine an important story. A Publishers Weekly contributor praised Gauthier's text for its "spirited dialogue, wry asides from Michael and droll scenarios" that poke fun at environmental zealotry, and particularly noted the novel's "tart, comic tone." Dubbing the novel a "sidesplitter," a Kirkus reviewer praised the storyline as "memorable, hilarious, and featuring a likeable, unlikely hero," while in Booklist Carolyn Phelan described Saving the Planet and Stuff as taking "a new slant on ecological fiction."
Gauthier once commented: "I fell into writing for children. I had been writing other types of fiction, with little success. I thought my first book, My Life among the Aliens, was a fluke—something that just happened. A lot of my family's experience went into the book, and I considered it a gift for my children and their friends. It was only later that I realized I had found my material.
"Writing for children gives me an opportunity to explore interests that I seem to share with them. Children are definite outsiders in a world controlled by adults, and the outsider theme is one I find myself attracted to. Using humor to attack the status quo is something I find children enjoy (I certainly did when I was in grade school), and it fits in with my outsider stories about aliens, bad boys, and girls who don't understand getting together to play with Barbie dolls.
"Children rarely write books. They don't publish them, edit them, or review them. They don't decide which books end up on bookstore or library shelves or school reading lists. Grown-ups do all that. Kids have no control over an aspect of their lives that can either bring them so much in the way of pleasure and meaning or just be another method of indoctrinating them into the adult world. My hope is that I can try to be a voice for them."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, June 1, 1998, Michael Cart, review of A Year with Butch and Spike, p. 1765; April 1, 2001, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of The Hero of Ticonderoga, p. 1481; May 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Saving the Planet and Stuff, p. 1656.
Children's Book Review Service, July, 1996, p. 155.
Horn Book, May-June, 1998, Susan P. Bloom, review of A Year with Butch and Spike, p. 342; July-August, 2003, Susan P. Bloom, review of Saving the Planet and Stuff, p. 456.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1996, review of My Life among the Aliens, p. 529; March 1, 1998, p. 338; June 1, 2003, review of Saving the Planet and Stuff, p. 803.
Kliatt, July, 2003, Paula Rohrlick, review of Saving the Planet and Stuff, p. 10.
Publishers Weekly, March 9, 1998, pp. 68-69; June 16, 2003, review of Saving the Planet and Stuff, p. 72.
School Library Journal, June, 1996, Anne Conner, review of My Life among the Aliens, p. 122; June, 1998, Coop Renner, review of A Year with Butch and Spike, p. 145.
Gail Gauthier Web site, http://www.gailgauthier.com (May 3, 2005).