Henderson, Aileen Kilgore 1921–
Henderson, Aileen Kilgore 1921–
Born April 10, 1921, in Cedar Cove, AL; daughter of William O., Sr. (a railroad agent and telegrapher) and Gertrude (a school cook, teacher, and census taker) Kilgore; married Arthur A. Henderson (a forester and naturalist), December 24, 1954; children: Anne Weston. Education: Attended Judson College (Marion, AL); University of Alabama, B.A., M.A. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Lutheran.
Home and office—Brookwood, AL.
Author and educator. Elementary school teacher in Northport, AL, Panther Junction, TX, and Stillwater, MN. Also worked as an airplane engine mechanic, photo lab technician, theatre manager, store clerk, and office clerk. Former member of board of Tuscaloosa Friends of the Library and Alabama Writers' Forum; former vice president, Tuscaloosa Writers' Guild. Presenter at writer's conferences and retreats. Military service: Women's Army Corps, corporal stationed at Ellington Air Force Base, TX, 1944-45.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Guild of Professional Writers for Children, Alabama Writers Forum, Delta Kappa Gamma.
Prize for Children's Literature, Milkweed Editions, 1995, and Alabama Author Award, Alabama Library Association, 1997, both for The Summer of the Bone-pile Monster; New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age selection, 1996, and Skipping Stones Honor Award nomination, both for The Monkey Thief; New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age selection, 1998, Western Heritage Award nomination, and American Library Association Notable Children's Book Award nomination, all for Treasure of Panther Peak; Alabama Author Award, 2006, for Hard Times for Jake Smith.
The Summer of the Bonepile Monster, illustrated by Kim Cooper, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 1995.
The Monkey Thief, illustrated by Paul Mirocha, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
Treasure of Panther Peak, illustrated by Mark Coyle, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.
Hard Times for Jake Smith, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.
Stateside Soldier: Life in the Women's Army Corps, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 2001.
Tenderfoot Teacher: Letters from the Big Bend, 1952-1954, Texas Christian University Press (Forth Worth, TX), 2002.
Contributor of articles and short stories to periodicals, including Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune, Southern Review, Sierra, Children's Digest, Equus, and Odyssey.
Raised in Alabama, writer Aileen Kilgore Henderson has accomplished many things in addition to her writing. After serving in the Women's Army Corps during World War II, where she worked as an airplane engine mechanic and photo-lab technician, Henderson went on to obtain her B.S. and M.A. from the University of Alabama. Most of Henderson's career was spent working as an elementary school teacher, moving when her husband's job as a naturalist and ranger for the national parks system required. As a teacher, she has enjoyed the opportunity to work with children in a variety of areas outside of the classroom, including scouting activities, as part of church groups, and as a volunteer at homes for abused women and children. Although retired from teaching, Henderson continues to visit schools, where she shares her love of reading and talks about her experiences writing her books, which include Treasure of Panther Peak, The Summer of the Bonepile Monster, and Hard Times for Jake Smith.
Henderson introduces two siblings in her award-winning first novel, The Summer of the Bonepile Monster. Sent away from home while their parents attempt to fix their troubled marriage, Hollis and his sister Lou find themselves at the rural Alabama home of an elderly relative. They balance their daily list of chores by exploring a local oddity known as Bonepile Hollow. Hollis finds more than his share of excitement when he learns the legends surrounding the site, and through his curiosity a local mystery is finally solved. "Henderson's creepy descriptions and exquisite stinginess with information keep the mystery simmering," noted Booklist reviewer Julie Yates Walton, the critic calling The Summer of the Bonepile Monster "an affecting, unclichéd story of a family in crisis."
The Monkey Thief also presents a coming-of-age story about a young boy, as twelve-year-old Steve joins his uncle in building a backwoods nature study center, while in Treasure of Panther Peak preteen Page joins her mother in an escape to the Texas wilderness in an effort to avoid Page's abusive dad. Noting that the author's decision to avoid graphic scenes does little to detract from her story, Booklist contributor Lauren Peterson concluded that in Treasure of Panther Peak "Henderson take[s] … full advantage of the rich history and legends" of her setting in Texas's Big Bend National Park "to create an exciting adventure story."
Taking place during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Hard Times for Jake Smith focuses on twelve-year-old MaryJake Wildsmith. Abandoned by her impoverished family near the Alabama forest, she is left to fend for herself, due to her parents' inability to care for her during these hard times. Determined to make the best of things, MaryJake decides to change her name to Jake Smith, and finds a new home with an elderly widow named Mrs. Bennett. Disguised as a boy, she helps Mrs. Bennett take care of the woman's animals and land. MaryJake's experiences help her become a resourceful and self-assured young woman, while the eclectic cast of characters she meets along the way provide security and friendship, enriching her life as she deals with difficult times.
Reviewing Hard Times for Jake Smith, Maureen Griffin wrote in Kliatt that Henderson's novel is "beautifully written," and its third-person narration "is a splendid presentation of the challenged but often resilient human spirit" that caused many individuals to shine during the Depression era. School Library Journal reviewer Kimberly Monaghan also found Henderson's book a "quick and involving read," adding that young people "will find intrigue in the clever guise MaryJake manages to maintain throughout her summer of discovery."
In addition to her books for younger readers, Henderson has authored several books of adult nonfiction. Stateside Soldier: Life in the Women's Army Corps was published by the University of South Carolina Press as part of their women's diaries series and focuses on the author's experiences as a member of the U.S. military during wartime. Texas Christian University released her second work of nonfiction, Tenderfoot Teacher: Letters from the Big Bend, 1952-1954, which describes Henderson's early teaching career.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Henderson, Aileen Kilgore, Stateside Soldier: Life in the Women's Army Corps, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 2001.
Henderson, Aileen Kilgore, Tenderfoot Teacher: Letters from the Big Bend, 1952-1954, Texas Christian University Press (Forth Worth, TX), 2002.
Booklist, May 1, 1995, Julie Yates, review of The Summer of the Bonepile Monster, p. 1573; November 1, 1997, John Peters, review of The Monkey Thief, p. 470; April 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Hard Times for Jake Smith, p. 1437.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July, 1995, review of The Summer of the Bonepile Monster, p. 384; July-August, 2004, Karen Coats, review of Hard Times for Jake Smith, p. 469.
Choice, November, 2001, K. Winkle, review of Stateside Soldier: Life in the Women's Army Corps, p. 577.
Faces: People, Places, and Cultures, December, 1999, review of The Monkey Thief, p. 46.
Journal of Military History, Lance Janda, review of Stateside Soldier,, p. 1146.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1995, review of The Summer of the Bonepile Monster.
Kliatt, July, 2004, Maureen Griffin, review of Hard Times for Jake Smith, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, June 19, 1995, review of The Summer of the Bonepile Monster, p. 60.
School Library Journal, July, 1995, Elaine E. Knight, review of The Summer of the Bonepile Monster, p. 78; December, 1997, Kathy Piehl, review of The MonkeyThief, p. 124; September, 2004, Kimberly Monaghan, review of Hard Times for Jake Smith, p. 207.
Southern Living, October, 1995, review of The Summer of the Bonepile Monster, p. 110.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 2004, Jenny Ingram and Kristin Moreland, review of Hard Times for Jake Smith, p. 303.