Harrington, Janice N. 1956–
Harrington, Janice N. 1956–
Born September 9, 1956, in Vernon, AL. Education: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, B.S. (education), 1978; University of Iowa, M.A. (library science).
Home—Champaign, IL. Office—208 English Building, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801. E-mail—[email protected]
Author, poet, storyteller, and educator. Public school teacher in Omaha, NE, 1979-80; worked as a librarian in Iowa, Illinois, and Louisiana, c. 1980s; Champaign Public Library, Champaign, IL, coordinator of youth services, 1990-2007; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, assistant professor of English, 2007—. Professional storyteller, 1984-2002; judge for Jo-Anne Hirshfield Memorial Poetry Awards, 2008.
Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies selection, National Council for the Social Studies/Children's Book Council, Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts selection, National Council of Teachers of English, Nebraska Book Award, Nebraska Center for the Book, and Ezra Jack Keats Award for Best New Writer of Children's Books, New York Public Library/Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, all 2005, all for Going North; A. Poulin, Jr., Poetry Prize, BOA Editions, for Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone; 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing selection, New York Public Library, for The Chicken-chasing Queen of Lamar County; National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship for poetry, 2007.
Going North, illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue, Melanie Kroupa Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Chicken-chasing Queen of Lamar County, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.
Multiculturalism in Library Programming for Children, American Library Association (Chicago, IL), 1994.
Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone (poems), foreword by Elizabeth Spires, BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 2007.
Contributor of poems to periodicals, including African American Review, Harvard Review, Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, and Southern Review.
Janice N. Harrington, a former librarian and storyteller, is the author of the well-received picture books Going North and The Chicken-chasing Queen of Lamar County. Born in Vernon, Alabama, Harrington moved to Nebraska with her family at the age of eight. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in education and taught public school in Omaha, Nebraska, for one year. After earning a master's degree from the University of Iowa in 1980, Harrington worked as a librarian in Iowa, Illinois, and Louisiana. She also worked as a professional storyteller from 1984 to 2002, performing at festivals around the country. Harrington served as the director of youth services at the Champaign Public Library in Illinois for seventeen years before leaving to teach at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Going North, an autobiographical tale told in verse, appeared in 2004. Set in 1964, the story follows the members of an African-American family as they leave their
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home in Alabama for the promise of better opportunities in Nebraska. The narrator, a young girl named Jessie, describes her family's often-difficult journey through the segregated South. Catherine Threadgill, writing in School Library Journal, noted the author's "somber, poetic narrative voice," and Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg described Going North as a "quiet, powerful portrait of an African American child's view of family migration." Several reviewers praised the combination of Harrington's narrative and Jerome Lagarrigue's artwork; a Booklist critic stated that "the lyrical text and exquisite paintings show the pain of leaving as well as the excitement and hope of the journey."
In The Chicken-chasing Queen of Lamar County a young girl cannot resist the temptation to scurry after the chickens on her family farm, despite the objections of Big Mama. After the youngster's nemesis, the elusive Miss Hen, disappears in the grass, the girl is determined to find her. When the child finally locates Miss Hen's hiding spot, however, she discovers something unexpected and makes an effort to change her mischievous ways. "It's unusual (and refreshing) to see a picture book with a female main character so gleefully and unrepentantly naughty," wrote Horn Book contributor Susan Dove Lempke, and Engberg similarly noted that young readers "will easily feel the irresistible allure of a subversive game as well as the deep bond with an animal friend." Other reviewers praised the author's exuberant narrative. "Harrington uses exceptionally colorful and descriptive language throughout the tale," noted School Library Journal critic Blair Christolon. According to a contributor in Kirkus Reviews, "Harrington's soothingly rhythmic first-person storytelling is just right for reading aloud."
Harrington has also published an award-winning poetry collection for adults titled Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone. A critic in the New Yorker praised the collection's "rich, colloquial poems," and Bruce Alford, a contributor on This Goodly Land Web site, stated that
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the volume "acts as one long, exquisite poem with its depth of layering and colloquialisms that are (especially for southerners) nostalgic and musically fresh." "Like a hammer to gold, Harrington's richly lyric voice shapes her poetic material into unforgettable ‘sung stories,’" remarked Ploughshares reviewer Elizabeth Spires.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Storytellers: A Biographical Directory of 120 English-speaking Performers Worldwide, McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 1998.
Booklist, September 15, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of Going North, p. 240; February 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of Going North, p. 971; February 1, 2007, Gillian Engberg, review of The Chicken-chasing Queen of Lamar County, p. 59.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2004, Karen Coats, review of Going North, p. 124; June, 2007, Karen Coats, review of The Chicken-chasing Queen of Lamar County, p. 418.
Horn Book, May-June, 1007, Susan Dove Lempke, review of The Chicken-chasing Queen of Lamar County, p. 265.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2004, review of Going North, p. 742; March 15, 2007, review of The Chicken-chasing Queen of Lamar County.
Multicultural Education, fall, 2006, Connie Wilson Anderson, "Examining Historical Events through Children's Literature," review of Going North, p. 36.
New Yorker, April 23, 2007, review of Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone, p. 83.
New York Times Book Review, March 13, 2005, review of Going North, p. 21.
Ploughshares, spring, 2007, Elizabeth Spires, review of Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone, p. 221.
Publishers Weekly, April 16, 2007, review of The Chicken-chasing Queen of Lamar County, p. 50.
School Library Journal, October, 2004, Catherine Threadgill, review of Going North, p. 115; April, 2007, Blair Christolon, review of The Chicken-chasing Queen of Lamar County, p. 106.
Alabama Writers' Forum Web site,http://www.writersforum.org/ (February 1, 2008), Bruce Alford, review of Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone.
Champaign Public Library Web site,http://www.champaign.org/ (May 30, 2007), "Janice Harrington Takes Teaching Position."
This Goodly Land Web site,http://www.alabamaliterarymap.org/ (October 22, 2007), "Janice N. Harrington."