Gilliland, Judith Heide
Gilliland, Judith Heide
Daughter of Florence Parry Heide (a writer); married; husband's name Kim; children: Win, Donny. Education: University of Wisconsin, B.A. (Russian and Arabic languages), 1970; University of Washington, M.A. (Near-Eastern languages), 1973.
Home and office—Amherst, NH.
Children's book author.
Children's Picture Book Award, Council of Wisconsin Writers, 1995, for The Day of Ahmed's Secret; Outstanding Children's Book Award, New Hampshire Writers and Publishers Project, 1995, for Sami and the Time of Troubles; Middle East Book Award, 2000, for The House of Wisdom.
(With mother, Florence Parry Heide) The Day of Ahmed's Secret, illustrated by Ted Lewin, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1990.
(With Florence Parry Heide) Sami and the Time of the Troubles, illustrated by Ted Lewin, Clarion (New York, NY), 1992.
River, illustrated by Joyce Powzyk, Clarion (New York, NY), 1993.
Not in the House, Newton!, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles, Clarion (New York, NY), 1995.
(With Florence Parry Heide) The House of Wisdom, illustrated by Mary GrandPré, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Florence Parry Heide and Roxanne Heide Pierce) It's about Time!: Poems, illustrated by Cathryn Falwell, Clarion (New York, NY), 1999.
Steamboat: The Story of Captain Blanche Leathers, illustrated by Holly Meade, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2000.
Strange Birds (novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2006.
Judith Heide Gilliland had a good role model when she decided to become a children's book writer: her mother, Florence Parry Heide, has written more than one hundred books for children. Collaborating with Heide, Gilliland's first book put her master's degree in Near-Eastern languages and her experiences living in the Middle East to good use. The book, titled The Day of Ahmed's Secret, was one of two books to be ranked as a notable title about Arabs by the American Library Association. Other books by Gilliland include the story-hour favorite Not in the House, Newton! as well as House of Wisdom, the novel Strange Birds, and the picture-book biography Steamboat: The Story of Captain Blanche Leathers.
The Day of Ahmed's Secret follows a young Egyptian as he completes his delivery work in the streets of Cairo. The story hints at a secret readers eventually discover: the young boy has learned how to write his name in Arabic. The text and pictures create "a sense of place so vivid that readers can almost hear the cry of vendors," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. Another collaboration between mother and daughter, The House of Wisdom, is a picture book set in ninth-century Baghdad about Ishaq, a young would-be scholar who lives in the library—called the House of Wisdom. Although he aspires to become a respected scholar like his father, Ishaq also longs for adventure, a desire the Caliph channels by sending the young man across the known world on a mission to gather knowledge. The trip so inspires him that he eventually becomes one of the world's greatest translators of Aristotle. The House of Wisdom "is historically informative, [and] written in lyrical prose," according to Judith Gabriel in her review for Al Jadid online. According to Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper, the coauthors "breathe new life into an event from an often neglected time and place." A note at the back of the book distinguishes the story's fiction from the facts about the real-life Ishaq.
Gilliland once again travels to the Middle East in her coauthored work Sami and the Time of the Troubles, a book about war in Lebanon, and spins an environmental tale about the Amazon in River. A Publishers Weekly contributor deemed Sami and the Time of the Troubles "valuable for its portrait of children caught in modern-day conflicts," while another reviewer in the same periodical noted that River "exemplifies the best sort of educational writing." The book's "narrative only implies its lessons," the critic added, explaining that in River the coauthors focus instead on giving readers a sensory experience of the Amazon basin region.
A solo book, Gilliland's Steamboat!: The Story of Captain Blanche Leathers is a picture-book biography about the Mississippi's first female steamboat captain. Starting her story in the late 1860s, Gilliland details Leathers' growing-up years and her dream of becoming a captain. "This beautifully written picture-book biography is filled with drama," wrote Michael Cart in his Booklist review of the work. Citing the illustrations by Holly Meade, a Publishers Weekly critic noted that author and illustrator "convincingly expose the mysteries of the Mississippi," while a Horn Book writer concluded of Steamboat! that "this lively book offers a ship-shape model of the best in picture-book biography."
Along with her picture books, Gilliland has also written the middle-grade novel, Strange Birds. In this story, eleven-year-old Anna, whose parents have disappeared at sea and whose guardian aunt is neglectful, discovers a nest of miniature, winged horses in the branches of a large tree. After discovering a diary, Anna is able to link the existence of the horses to her parents' mysterious disappearance. "Readers will be easily captured by the family secrets, whimsical magic, warm friendship, and brave, intrepid Anna," wrote Gillian Engberg in her Booklist review of the novel. Deirdre Root, writing in Kliatt, praised Strange Birds as "charming and timeless, inspiring without being overly moralistic."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 1, 1992, Hazel Rochman, review of Sami and the Time of the Troubles, p. 1449; November 1, 1993, Julie Corsaro, review of River, p. 525; December 15, 1995, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Not in the House, Newton!, p. 708; September 15, 1999, review of The House of Wisdom, p. 261; March 15, 2000, Michael Cart, review of Steamboat!: The Story of Captain Blanche Leathers, p. 1374; March 1, 2001, Stephanie Avirin, review of Steamboat!, p. 1280; March 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Steamboat!, p. 1147; May 15, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Strange Birds, p. 58.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 2000, review of Steamboat!, p. 243; September, 2006, Karen Coats, review of Strange Birds, p. 14.
Horn Book, November-December, 1990, Ethel R. Twichell, review of The Day of Ahmed's Secret, p. 739; July-August, 1992, Ellen Fader, review of Sami and the Time of the Troubles, p. 445; March, 2000, review of Steamboat!, p. 211.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2006, review of Strange Birds, p. 458.
Kliatt, May, 2006, Deirdre Root, review of Strange Birds, p. 9.
Publishers Weekly, August 10, 1990, review of The Day of Ahmed's Secret, p. 444; May 4, 1992, review of Sami and the Time of the Troubles, p. 56; October 4, 1993, review of River, p. 79; August 23, 1999, review of The House of Wisdom, p. 58; April 3, 2000, review of Steamboat!, p. 80.
School Library Journal, August, 1990, Luann Toth, review of The Day of Ahmed's Secret, p. 130; December, 1990, Trevelyn Jones and Luann Toth, review of The Day of Ahmed's Secret, p. 22; May, 1992, Ellen D. Warwick, review of Sami and the Time of the Troubles, p. 112; December, 1993, Ruth S. Vose, review of River, p. 104; January, 1996, review of Not in the House, Newton!, p. 83; January, 2000, Miriam Lang Budin, review of The House of Wisdom, p. 132; March, 2000, Susan Hepler, review of Steamboat!, p. 224; January, 2003, Alicia Eames, review of The House of Wisdom, p. 83; May, 2006, Carol Schene, review of Strange Birds, p. 124.
Al Jadid Online, http://leb.net/˜aljadid/ (April 28, 2007), "Judith Heide Gilliland."