Born in Albuquerque, NM; children: Kye (daughter).
Home and office—P.O. Box 2364, Homer, AK 99603. E-mail—[email protected]
Children's book writer. Worked variously as a stone mason, wrangler, and pizza cook. Alaska Woman magazine, former editor; former reporter, editor, and publisher for Frontiersman and Valley Sun newspapers.
Kiana's Iditarod, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, Paws IV (Wasilla, AK), 1984.
Mammoth Magic, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, Paws IV (Wasilla, AK), 1986.
The Alaska Mother Goose, and Other North Country Nursery Rhymes, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, Paws IV (Wasilla, AK), 1987.
Thunderfeet: Alaska's Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Critters, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, Paws IV (Homer, AK), 1988.
Alaska's Three Bears, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, Paws IV (Homer, AK), 1990.
(With Libby Riddles) Danger, the Dog Yard Cat, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, Paws IV (Homer, AK), 1992.
Iditarod, the Last Great Race to Nome: The Official Iditarod Curriculum Teaching Guide, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, Paws IV (Homer, AK), 1993.
Swimmer, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, Paws IV (Homer, AK), 1995.
Adventure at the Bottom of the World; Adventure at the Top of the World, photographs by Gordon Wiltsie, Paws IV (Homer, AK), 1996.
Count Alaska's Colors, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, Paws IV (Homer, AK), 1997.
The Last American Rainforest: Tongass, Paws IV (Homer, AK), 1997.
North Country Christmas, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, privately published, 1997.
The Egg, illustrated by Jo-Ellen Bosson, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 2001.
(With Deborah Tobola) The Big Buck Adventure, illustrated by Grace Lin, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 2001.
Big Blue, illustrated by Ann Barrow, Talewinds (Watertown, MA), 2003.
Sitka Rose, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 2005.
Up on Denali: Alaska's Wild Mountain, illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, Sasquatch (Seattle, WA), 2006.
Hawai'i, illustrated by Scott Goto, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 2006.
Alaska, photographs by Patrick Endres, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 2007.
Children's writer Shelley Gill is known for her many books about Alaska and Alaska-related topics for young readers. Although she grew up in Florida and considered herself a surfer girl while living in the Sunshine State, in 1972 Gill took a vacation north to Alaska and never came back. As an Alaska resident, she quickly realized how underrepresented the wonder of her region was in books for young people. Gill "went into the school's library and could not find any books that celebrated Alaskan children's heritage, … so she wrote one," Dawn Baumgartner explained in Virginia's Roanoke Times. Frustrated by the lack of interest she received from New York City publishers, Gill helped to start a local children's publishing company, Paws VI. This Alaska publisher released Gill's first book, Kiana's Iditarod, about her experiences as one of the first women to run in the famous dog sled race. "I write about the same stuff I liked to read about when I was a kid," the author explained on her home page. As Baumgartner reported, "Every story Gill writes, she experiences first."
The Last American Rainforest: Tongass is typical of many of Gill's efforts to introduce Alaskan topics to young readers. Telling the story of a Tlingit girl named Lily as she learns about Alaska's native rainforest from her grandmother, the book is "woven with lessons in natural history, native culture, and environmental conservation," wrote an E magazine critic. Discussing Gill's Up on Denali: Alaska's Wild Mountain, which explores the environment and history of the tallest mountain in North America, Mt. McKinley, Booklist contributor Todd Morning called the book "an amusing and informative introduction to Denali's climate zones and the varied wildlife of Alaska."
In titles like The Egg and Big Blue, Gills expands her scope beyond Alaskan wildlife and focuses on broader environmental concerns. The Egg combines myths, customs, and facts about eggs, moving beyond birds to also focus on seahorses and even endangered wildcats. "Gill grabs attention by highlighting the unusual and unbelievable," wrote Lauren Peterson in a Booklist review, while Tina Hudak noted in School Library Journal that "emergent readers and any child interested in animals will find something to appreciate here." Big Blue is based on an event that actually happened to Gill's daughter, Kye, when the girl had the opportunity to swim with a blue whale. "The possibility of an ordinary child living out such a grand dream makes for a nice adventure story," wrote School Library Journal contributor Margaret Bush. In Hawai'i, Gill gives an overview of the history and ecology of that tropical island state. The Alaskan writer "succeeds equally well in a new climate," wrote Amelia Jenkin in a review of the book for School Library Journal.
Along with writing books for children, Gill travels extensively, visiting schools to talk about her books and share her enthusiasm for Alaska's culture, heritage, and landscape. By 2004, in fact, she estimated that she had visited more than 3,700 schools around the world. "I have one simple goal," the author explained on her home page. "I want to produce something kids can relate to, a story that knocks their socks off, that fills them with that WOW! feeling. I want kids to say: ‘THIS is my FAVORITE book!’"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, November 1, 2001, Lauren Peterson, review of The Egg, p. 479; June 1, 2006, Todd Morning, review of Up on Denali: Alaska's Wild Mountain, p. 76.
E, January, 1999, review of The Last American Rainforest: Tongass, p. 54.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Sitka Rose, p. 120.
People, May 7, 1990, review of Danger, the Dog-Yard Cat, p. 45.
Publishers Weekly, January 31, 2000, review of The Big Buck Adventure, p. 106.
Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA), May 25, 2004, Dawn Baumgartner, "Author Teaches Alaskan Culture," p. NRV6.
School Library Journal, April, 2000, Lucinda Snyder, review of The Big Buck Adventure, p. 120; July, 2001, Tina Hudak, review of The Egg, p. 94; August, 2003, Margaret Bush, review of Big Blue, p. 128; July, 2005, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Sitka Rose, p. 73; August, 2006, Amelia Jenkin, review of Hawai'i, p. 137.
Skipping Stones, September-October, 2004, review of The Last American Rainforest, p. 32.
Teaching Children Mathematics, May, 2001, Mary Lou Damjanovich, review of The Big Buck Adventure, p. 548.
Charlesbridge Web site,http://www.charlesbridge.com/ (January 11, 2007), "Shelley Gill."
Shelley Gill Home Page,http://www.shelleygill.com (January 11, 2007).