Heinz, Brian J. 1946–
Heinz, Brian J. 1946–
(Brian James Heinz)
Born November 1, 1946, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Howard (a truck driver and dispatcher) and Kathleen (a homemaker) Heinz; married Judy Louise Candelora (a
kindergarten teacher), June 27, 1987. Education: Suffolk County Community College, A.A., 1966; State University of New York at Stony Brook, B.A., 1974, M.L.S., 1976. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, photography, softball, plank-on-frame ship modeling, cross-country skiing, reading, Native American art, restoring antique furniture, fishing.
Home—1 Sylvan Dr., Wading River, NY 11792. E-mail—[email protected]
Author and educator. Middle Country School District, elementary-grade teacher, 1974-78; William Floyd School District, elementary-grade science teacher, beginning 1978. State University of New York at Stony Brook, adjunct instructor at Center for Science, Math, and Technology Education, 1987-92; Hofstra University, adjunct instructor in English. New York State Department of Education, regional elementary science mentor for eastern Long Island, 1985-95. Presenter at professional conferences.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, World Wildlife Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Science Teachers Association of New York State, New York State Marine Education Association, New York State Outdoor Education Association, Suffolk County Science Teachers Association, East End Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (chairperson; past president).
Named Elementary Science Teacher of the Year, Suffolk County Science Teachers Association, 1990; Excellence in Science Teaching Award, Science Teachers Association of New York State, 1991; Booklist Editor's Choice designation, for The Wolves; Outstanding Children's Science Trade Book designation, National Science Teachers Association/Children's Book Council, for Butternut Hollow Pond; International Board on Books for Young People Silver Medal, 2007, for Cheyenne Medicine Hat; ForeWord Book of the Year honorable mention, 2007, for Red Fox at McCloskey's Farm.
(And illustrator) Beachcraft Bonanza, foreword by Lester J. Paldy, Ballyhoo Books (Shoreham, NY), 1986.
Beachcrafts, Too!, Ballyhoo Books (Shoreham, NY), 1988.
The Alley Cat, illustrated by David Christiana, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993.
Introduction to Space, Cobblestone (Peterborough, NH), 1994.
The Wolves, illustrated by Bernie Fuchs, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1996.
Kayuktuk: An Arctic Quest, illustrated by Jon van Zyle, Chronicle Books (New York, NY), 1996.
The Monsters' Test, illustrated by Sal Murdocca, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1996.
Nanuk, Lord of the Ice, illustrated by Gregory Manchess, Dial (New York, NY), 1998.
Butternut Hollow Pond, illustrated by Bob Marstall, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2000.
The Barnyard Cat, illustrated by June H. Blair, Ballyhoo BookWorks (Shoreham, NY), 2000.
The Alley Cat, illustrated by June H. Blair, Ballyhoo BookWorks (Shoreham, NY), 2002.
Cheyenne Medicine Hat, illustrated by Greg Manchess, Creative Editions (Mankato, MN), 2006.
Red Fox at McCloskey's Farm, illustrated by Chris Sheban, Creative Editions (Mankato, MN), 2006.
Nathan of Yesteryear and Michael of Today, illustrated by Joanne Frian, Millbrook Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2007.
Contributor to magazines, including Instructor, Science and Children, and Children's Writer.
A former science teacher, Brian J. Heinz focuses on the natural world in his many books for young readers. His picture books, which include The Wolves, Butternut Squash Farm, The Barnyard Cat, and Kayuktuk: An Arctic Quest, reflect the author's travels to unique habitats and his interest in the interactions and ecological roles played by the magnificent creatures, both large and small, that live there. In his writing, Heinz attempts to capture the essence of animals and their environment, hoping to inspire young readers with a growing appreciation for the natural world and their unique responsibility as human caretakers. Praising Butternut Hollow Pond in Booklist, Lauren Peterson wrote that Heinz's picture-book study of a pond ecosystem features "action and sensory-loaded language that pulls children in as no science textbook can."
Heinz is perhaps best known for his highly acclaimed book The Wolves. Illustrated in evocative paintings by Bernie Fuchs, the work provides historical information about wolves and follows a wolf pack as it hunts an elk herd. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called The Wolves "an exquisite story of the wild" and described Heinz's language as "poetic without being heavy-handed." Stephanie Zvirin, writing in Booklist, noted that the wolf "is powerfully and realistically presented in a picture book that rings with deep understanding and reverence for the natural world," and a Publishers Weekly critic cited Heinz's "action-filled, present-tense account and expressive language" for "quicken[ing] the pulse" in his "spellbinding" tale.
The natural world is again the focus of Nanuk, Lord of the Ice, which takes readers to the high Arctic, and Kayuktuk, which is set in Alaska. Brought to life in oil paintings by Gregory Manchess that a Publishers Weekly contributor described as "sculpted as if from ice and light," Nanuk, Lord of the Ice finds a giant polar bear hunting for seals and walrus in the frozen north. As Nanuk the bear pursues his quarry in order to stay alive, an Inuit boy and his sled dogs are on the track of the giant creature, moving the story toward a battle between man and nature. Kayuktuk is a coming-of-age story about an Inuit boy named Aknik who must discover what or who is robbing his traps in order to prove his worthiness to the older hunters in his village. Calling Nanuk, Lord of the Ice "a gripping, edge-of-the-seat" tale, the Publishers Weekly critic added that the author's "keen appreciation for the wild lights up his highly descriptive prose," and Booklist critic Carolyn Phelan dubbed Heinz's text "vivid and dignified."
Moving to the prairies of the American west, Cheyenne Medicine Hat finds a wild mare working to protect her band of wild Medicine Hat mustangs from a predatory cougar and the efforts of Wyoming cowboys to capture and restrain them. In The Barnyard Cat and The Alley Cat Heinz collaborates with illustrator June H. Blair to introduce more familiar creatures which encounter challenges while living on the fringes of human habitation. In her School Library Journal review, Susan E. Murray noted that Heinz's text "enriche[s] … the narrative [of Cheyenne Medicine Hat] with the vocabulary of the prairie, making readers truly a part of the animal's survival."
Heinz once told SATA: "A love of language was fostered in me at an early age by my parents. When I was a child, my mom, who was born in Ireland, would sing to me or recite prayers in Gaelic before I went to bed. Although I didn't understand a word, the music of this ancient language tickled my ear. Other times, she might read to me or tell me stories. On long car trips, my dad would point to signs and ask me, ‘What does that say?’ or ‘Can you read those words?’ As a result, I was reading before I started school.
"I was a voracious reader as a child, reading every dog and horse novel written, and devouring biographies of historical figures like Davy Crockett and Crazy Horse. Sometimes my appetite for the printed word caused me trouble. On school nights, after being sent to bed, I'd get under the covers with a flashlight to read. Mom always came to check on me and would see the glow under the blanket. Then she'd yell at me, but I'm sure she was secretly pleased by such a positive late-night activity.
"Through high school and into college, I continued to read and expose myself to new ideas. I loved learning in general, and I loved new experiences. I worked at many jobs before going into the education field as an elementary school teacher. I worked in a supermarket dairy department and in construction; I worked as a truck driver and a road laborer; I worked as a surveyor, shipping clerk, and a guitarist in a rock band. I was always learning something new.
"My travels have taken me camping across Canada and the northern United States. I've been to the Deep South, the California coast, the deserts of the southwest, and the Rockies. I've been to Ireland. I am fascinated by the cultural differences, the wildlife, and the environments.
"As a science teacher, these experiences enrich me and, I hope, motivate my students. I've always loved wild things and wild places. Each year I take my sixth-grade classes on a six-hour canoe trip down the Peconic River on eastern Long Island."
"I am not one of those writers who writes every day, but I think about writing every day," Heinz more recently explained to SATA. "I'm forever churning up characters (usually animals), events, and settings in my mind's eye, and letting them play out life on my mental stage. When the idea can no longer be carried in my head, it pours out onto paper. I often use poetic devices in my prose and select sensory details that will allow my readers to connect with, and experience, the story first-hand in a sort of ‘you are there’ way." "I work for carefully selected words, rich use of language, and passion in my writing," he added on his home page. "The revision process is sometimes painstakingly slow, but vital to a final piece that sparkles on the page and echoes in the mind's ear long after it has been read."
Describing his surroundings, Heinz explained that his family's home "is secluded, a sanctuary where we enjoy gardening, watching and feeding our many different wild birds, and sharing companionship with our dogs. I am a native Long Islander and a builder of museum-quality, wooden ship models. I also studied Scottish highland dancing for several years during the 1980s and became a competitive dancer at regional games from Canada to Virginia, winning more than sixty medals and trophies."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 15, 1996, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Wolves; January 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Nanuk, Lord of the Ice, p. 86; January 1, 2001, Lauren Peterson, review of Butternut Hollow Pond, p. 951; October 15, 2006, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Nathan of Yesteryear and Michael of Today, p. 42.
Canadian Review of Materials, November 12, 1000, review of Nanuk, Lord of the Ice.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1996, review of The Wolves, p. 1235; September 15, 1996, p. 1401; August 15, 2006, review of Red Fox at McCloskey's Farm, p. 842.
Publishers Weekly, October 28, 1996, review of The Wolves, p. 81; November 15, 1998, review of Nanuk, Lord of the Ice, p. 74.
School Library Journal, August, 1993, p. 140; October, 1996, Elisabeth Palmer Abarbanel, review of The Monsters' Test, p. 96; March, 2001, JoAnn Jonas, review of Butternut Hollow Pond, p. 236; November, 2006, Carolyn Janssen, review of Red Fox at McCloskey's Farm, p. 96, and Susan E. Murray, review of Cheyenne Medicine Hat, p. 161.
Brian J. Heinz Home Page,http://www.brianheinz.com (August 1, 2007).