Kerley, Barbara 1960–
Kerley, Barbara 1960–
Born June 26, 1960, in Washington, DC; daughter of Ernest (an attorney) and Betty (a librarian) Kerley; married Scott Kelly (an engineer); children: Anna. Education: University of Chicago, B.A. (English), 1981; University of Washington, M.A., 1987, M.A. (teaching English as a second language), 1988. Hobbies and other interests: "Hiking, biking, yoga, cooking, reading, waking up the cat, visiting art museums and bookstores, sweetening tea, asking directions, napping."
Home and office—McKinleyville, CA. E-mail—[email protected]
Author. English teacher at various institutions, including U.S. Peace Corps, Nepal, 1981-83, University of Guam, 1988-90, and College of the Redwoods, Eureka, CA, 1993-95; special education aide in McKinleyville, CA, 1998-2002. Recycling Association of Guam, cofounder with Scott Kelly, 1988-90. Dow's Prairie Elementary School site council, member, 1997-2001; Friends of McKinleyville Library, president, 2001—; McKinleyville Elementary School Board, trustee, 2006—.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Notable Book citation, American Library Association (ALA), and 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing listee, New York Public Library, both 1995, both for Songs of Papa's Island; Notable Book citation, ALA, Outstanding Science Trade Book designation, National Science Teachers Association/Children's Book Council, and Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List inclusion, all 2001, all for The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins; National Parenting Publications Silver Award, Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon designation, and Indiana Young Hoosiers Award master list inclusion, all 2002, all for A Cool Drink of Water; Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Honor Book designation, 2005, for Walt Whitman; Children's Book Sense Pick, 2005, and Notable Book citation, ALA, 2006, both for You and Me Together; Chicago Public Library Best-of-the-Best designation, and Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, both 2008, both for A Little Peace; Librarians Choices designation, 2007, for Greetings from Planet Earth; Parents' Choice Approval Award, and Boston Globe/Honor Book Honor Book designation, both 2008, both for What to Do about Alice?
Songs of Papa's Island, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins: An Illuminating History of Mr. Waterhouse Hawkins, Artist and Lecturer, illustrated by Brian Selznick, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.
A Cool Drink of Water, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2002.
Walt Whitman: Words for America, illustrated by Brian Selznick, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, and Kids around the World, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2005.
Greetings from Planet Earth, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2007.
A Little Peace, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2007.
What to Do about Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2008.
The author of both fiction and nonfiction books for young readers, Barbara Kerley began winning praise from critics in 2001, with her picture-book biography The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins: An Illuminating History of Mr. Waterhouse Hawkins, Artist and Lecturer. In other nonfiction works, such as A Cool Drink of Water, You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, and Kids around the World, and A Little Peace, Kerley's focus ranges over the globe, while the lives of a single contemporary American family is the focus of her middle-grade novel Greetings from Planet Earth.
The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins details the life of nineteenth-century British artist Waterhouse Hawkins, who spent much of his career attempting to determine, for the first time in history, the physical characteristics of dinosaurs. Although much of Hawkins' work on dinosaurs has since proven to be inaccurate, Kerley tells a thrilling tale, noted Booklist critic GraceAnne A. DeCandido, the critic predicting that the book will rank as many readers' "favorite dinosaur book for years to come." Commenting on the biographical focus of the work, School Library Journal contributor Patricia Manning was appreciative of Kerley's painstaking research and writing, as well as the detailed illustrations by Caldecott Medal Honor Book-winning artist Brian Selznick, all of which combine to create a "distinguished book in every way." Also praising The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, a Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that "extensive author and illustrator notes denote the extensive (and fun) research both undertook for this extraordinary volume."
Kerley and Selznick team up again to bring to life another nineteenth-century celebrity in Walt Whitman: Words for America. Although Whitman is best known as a poet, he was also a printer's apprentice and nursed wounded soldiers near the front lines during the U.S. Civil War. "In well-crafted prose, Kerley stresses the poet's love of words and his compassion for the common people," explained Horn Book contributor Kathleen Isaacs. Isaacs dubbed Walt Whitman a "splendid" volume, and in School Library Journal Marilyn Taniguchi praised the book as "an exuberant" and "delightfully old-fashioned" picture book that pairs "brilliantly inventive paintings" with Kerley's "vibrant text" to produce an "unabashedly glowing tribute" to the great American poet.
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The oldest daughter of U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt comes to life in the pages of What to Do about Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!, which features digital illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham. Dubbed "an appropriately vivacious appreciation" of Alice Roosevelt Longworth by a Kirkus Reviews writer, What to Do about Alice? follows the teenager throughout the eight years she lived at the White House, from 1901 to 1909. An energetic and strong-willed girl, Alice never took "No" for an answer, and her beauty, strong opinions, and high spirits made her the darling of a nation which called her "Princess Alice" during her father's administration "Kerley's text has the same rambunctious spirit as its subject," wrote Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper, the critic noting the author's judicious use of quotes and her inclusion of an afterword detailing the historical backdrop to her subject's life story.
A simple truth is the focus of A Cool Drink of Water, a picture book that reminds readers that water is a basic need of all living things the world over. Kerley's "poetic" text is paired with what School Library Journal contributor Pamela K. Bomboy identified as the "gorgeous full-page" photographs characteristic of publisher National Geographic, and Gillian Engberg recommended A Cool Drink of Water as "excellent for [inspiring] cross-cultural discussions." Kerley also teamed with National Geographic to produce You and Me Together and A Little Peace, the latter described by School Library Journal contributor Margaret R. Tassia as a "simple, beautiful photo-essay" promoting the power of the individual in stopping the spread of violence. Ranging from Iceland to China, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia, You and Me Together "captures the essence of childhood's special moments" in Kerley's rhythmic text, according to School Library Journal critic Augusta R. Malvagno.
Turning from fact to fiction, Kerley's middle-grade novel Greetings from Planet Earth takes place in 1977 and introduces twelve-year-old Theo. NASA's Voyager II space probe is about to be launched carrying a "Golden Record" of sights, sounds, and music introducing Earth to other life forms in space. At school, Theo's teacher asks the class to create their own version of the Golden Record. As Theo works on his contribution to this project, the preteen begins to reflect on his own family and his feelings regarding his father, who has been missing since the Vietnam War. Praising Kerley's narrative, a Kirkus Reviews writer noted that Theo's growing insights reveal "a depth and universality to what is essentially one family's struggle with the past," and in Booklist Carolyn Phelan deemed Greetings from Planet Earth "intellectually satisfying."
Kerley once shared her advice for beginning writers with SATA: "Read. A lot. Experiment with different kinds of writing. Creepy alien stories. Funny food poems. High sea adventure. Cosy bedtime tales. Try them all and see what suits you. Stay open to trying new things. I never expected to SCUBA dive—until I moved to Guam and it soon became a favorite hobby. I never tried tofu when I was a kid, and now it's a favorite food. And how could I have known I'd love cross-country skiing until I tried it? New experiences will enrich your life and make you a better writer.
"Hang in there. Writing is not always easy, but it's rewarding, even if you never get published. Pay attention … to the things you see, the things you read about, the things you hear and the things you hear mentioned. Most importantly, pay attention to the things that move you. That's where the best stories are."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 1, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins: An Illuminating History of Mr. Waterhouse Hawkins, Art-ist and Lecturer, p. 109; March 15, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of A Cool Drink of Water, p. 1260; November 15, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Walt Whitman: Words for America, p. 575; April 15, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, and Kids around the World, p. 1458; April 15, 2007, Carolyn Phelan, review of Greetings from Planet Earth, p. 42; January 1, 2008, Ilene Cooper, review of What to Do about Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!, p. 79.
Horn Book, November-December, 2004, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Walt Whitman, p. 729.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2004, review of Walt Whitman, p. 915; April 1, 2005, review of You and Me Together, p. 419; March 15, 2007, review of Greetings from Planet Earth; April 15, 2007, review of A Little Peace; February 1, 2008, review of What to Do about Alice?
New York Times Book Review, November 18, 2001, Lawrence Downs, "Fossil Fueled," p. 40.
Publishers Weekly, September 10, 2001, review of The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, p. 92.
School Library Journal, October, 1995, Maggie McEwan, review of Songs of Papa's Island, pp. 104-105; October, 2001, Patricia Manning, review of The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, p. 142; April, 2002, Pamela K. Bombay, review of A Cool Drink of Water, p. 134; November, 2004, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Walt
Whitman, p. 116; April, 2005, Augusta R. Malvagno, review of You and Me Together, p. 123; September, 2005, Barbara Auerbach, review of You and Me Together, p. 59; May, 2007, Margaret R. Tassia, review of A Little Peace, p. 119.
Barbara Kerley Home Page,http://www.barbarakerley.com (July 4, 2008).