Hughes, Pat

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Hughes, Pat


Born in Hamden, CT; daughter of Pat and Gloria Raccio; married Sam Hughes; children: two sons. Education: University of Connecticut, B.A. (psychology), M.A. (American literature).


Home—Philadelphia, PA. Agent—Scott Treimel, 434 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10003. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer. Has also worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Hartford Courant.

Awards, Honors

Best Children's Book designation, Bank Street College of Education, 2004, for Guerrilla Season; Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, National Council on Social Studies (NCSS)/Children's Book Council (CBC), 2005, for The Breaker Boys; Best Children's Book designation, Bank Street College of Education, and Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, NCSS/CBC, both 2008, both for Seeing the Elephant.


Guerrilla Season, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.

The Breaker Boys, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.

Open Ice, Wendy Lamb Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Seeing the Elephant: A Story of the Civil War, illustrated by Ken Stark, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.


In her works of historical fiction, such as Guerrilla Season and The Breaker Boys, Pat Hughes focuses on young men who are forced to enter an often harsh adult world due to circumstances beyond their control. Hughes, who began writing on her own when she was in the third grade, earned a master's degree in American literature from the University of Connecticut. "My favorite person in that place was Professor J.D. O'Hara, who taught me all the important things about being a writer," she stated on her home page. "Most important, for me, was that writing is easy; rewriting is hard."

[Image not available for copyright reasons]

[Image not available for copyright reasons]

Set in Northwest Missouri during the U.S. Civil War, Guerrilla Season concerns Matt Howard, a fifteen year old who runs his family's farm after the death of his father. Matt wishes to remain neutral in the conflict raging around him, but both Federal and Confederate soldiers threaten his community and question Matt's loyalties. Delivering lifelike characters and a stimulating plot, Guerrilla Season presents a good history of the turmoil surrounding war-torn Missouri," observed Kimberly Monaghan in her review for School Library Journal. In Publishers Weekly a contributor remarked that Hughes "gives readers an unbiased, unromanticized glimpse of war as she slowly but surely relays a compelling story about courage and sacrifice."

Seeing the Elephant: A Story of the Civil War, Hughes' debut picture book, is loosely based on an historical metaphor. Ten-year-old Israel longs to join his two older brothers, who have enlisted in the Union Army to "see the elephant," a phrase used to describe combat. After one of his brothers returns home, angry because he has missed battle due to two bouts of typhoid, Israel begins to learn more about what war is really like. The boy has a total change of heart when his aunt Bell, a nurse, takes him to visit a dying Confederate soldier in Washington, DC. According to a contributor in Kirkus Reviews, Hughes' story "will leave readers with the insight that no side in a conflict has a lock on right or wrong." Grace Oliff stated in a School Library Journal review that in Seeing the Elephant the author "keeps her focus not on action, but on the impact of historical events on the personal lives and relationships of her characters."

The Breaker Boys, set in the late nineteenth century, examines the coal-mining industry. After he is expelled from school, twelve-year-old Nate Tanner returns to his family's Pennsylvania estate. There he makes friends with Johnny, an immigrant "breaker boy" who sorts coal in the mines owned by Nate's father. When the miners protest their conditions and a strike turns violent, however, Nate must choose sides. School Library Journal critic Elizabeth M. Reardon praised the novel, stating that in The Breaker Boys "Hughes has created a complex protagonist who's likable even when acting ‘ugly’" A Kirkus Reviews contributor deemed the work "a strong story of family and friendship" that is "rooted in a fascinating period of American history."

With Open Ice, Hughes turns her focus to modern times. This young-adult novel focuses on hockey star Nick Taglio, an aggressive, hard-hitting sixteen year old who is advised to give up the sport after suffering yet another in a series of concussions. A frustrated Nick, whose life revolved around hockey, has difficulty coping with his situation, and he begins acting out in school and with his parents. In School Library Journal, Jeffrey Hastings complimented the novel, noting the author's "attention to detail in terms of both head injuries and the sport." Booklist contributor Bill Ott observed that, while Nick's many problems threaten to overwhelm the narrative, in Open Ice "Hughes feints left and skates right, confounding our expectations with a subtle twist of character that draws us deeper into the story."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, August, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Guerrilla Season, p. 1971; September 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of The Breaker Boys, p. 233; November 1, 2005, Bill Ott, review of Open Ice, p. 40.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2003, review of Guerrilla Season, p. 964; August 1, 2004, review of The Breaker Boys, p. 743; October 15, 2005, review of Open Ice, p. 1139; September 1, 2007, review of Seeing the Elephant: A Story of the Civil War.

Kliatt, November, 2005, Paula Rohrlick, review of Open Ice, p. 6.

Publishers Weekly, August 11, 2003, review of Guerrilla Season, p. 281.

School Library Journal, November, 2003, Kimberly Monaghan, review of Guerrilla Season, p. 140; November, 2004, Elizabeth M. Reardon, review of The Breaker Boys, p. 145; December, 2005, Jeffrey Hastings, review of Open Ice, p. 148; November, 2007, Grace Oliff, review of Seeing the Elephant, p. 93.

USA Today, November 14, 2006, Ashley Bleimes, "Blogging Now Begins Young."


Pat Hughes Home Page, (January 20, 2009).

Guerilla Season Web log, (January 20, 2009).

School Library Journal Web site, (December 1, 2006), Eric Langhorst, "The Dixie Clicks: How a Blog about the Civil War Turned into a Runaway Hit."