Kvasnosky, Laura McGee 1951-
Kvasnosky, Laura McGee 1951-
Born January 27, 1951, in Sacramento, CA; daughter of Harvey C. (a newspaper publisher) and Helen (a comptroller) McGee; married John Kvasnosky (a public relations executive), December 16, 1972; children: Timothy John, Noelle Helen. Education: Occidental College, B.A., 1973, studied writing with Jane Yolen at Centrum (Port Townsend, WA), 1994; studied illustration with Keith Baker at School of Visual Concepts (Seattle, WA). Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, cross-country skiing, hiking.
Home and office—801 NW Culbertson Dr., Seattle, WA 98177. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and illustrator. University of Washington—Extension, Seattle, founding instructor in certificate program in writing for children, 2000-01; Vermont College MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young People, member of faculty, 2001—. Graphic designer and proprietor of one-person design shop, Seattle, WA, beginning 1980. Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, edited regional newsletter, 1992-94. Northwest Girlchoir, member of board of directors, 1992-96.
Best Books selection, Parents magazine, 1995, for See You Later, Alligator; Pick of the Lists selection, American Booksellers Association, 1996, for A Red Wagon Year by Kathi Appelt; Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite Honor, Oppenheim Best Book Gold Award, and Notable Book designation, American Library Association, all 1999, all for Zelda and Ivy; Oppenheim Best Book Gold Award, for Zelda and Ivy One Christmas; Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, 2007, for Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways.
Pink, Red, Blue, What Are You?, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.
One, Two, Three, Play with Me, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.
See You Later, Alligator, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1995.
Mr. Chips!, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1996.
Zelda and Ivy, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1998.
Zelda and Ivy and the Boy Next Door, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.
Zelda and Ivy One Christmas, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.
Frank and Izzy Set Sail, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.
Florence Page Jaques, There Once Was a Puffin, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.
Kathi Appelt, A Red Wagon Year, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1996.
Libby Hough, If Somebody Lived Next Door, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.
Contributor of illustrations to poetry collection This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort, edited by Georgia Heard.
What Shall I Dream?, illustrated by Judith Byron Schachner, Dutton (New York, NY), 1996.
One Lucky Summer (chapter book), Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.
Known for her gentle humor both in text and illustrations, Laura McGee Kvasnosky is the author and/or illustrator of picture books such as See You Later, Alligator and Frank and Izzy Set Sail, as well as beginning readers in the "Zelda and Ivy" series. Particularly popular, her "Zelda and Ivy" books follow the adventures of two "true-to-life little fox sisters," as Ilene Cooper described the fictional siblings in a Booklist review. While Kvasnosky's simple texts and vibrant gouache illustrations have won her numerous fans among the storybook set, she has also attracted older elementary-grade audiences with her children's novel One Lucky Summer, in which a pair of ten year olds are brought together by their interest in a flying squirrel.
"I come from a long line of California newspaper writers," Kvasnosky once told SATA. "Perhaps we feel a genetic urge to organize a story as a way to understand life. Being part of [a larger] family also affects what I choose to write about. I'm the middle of five kids. In many ways my childhood was like growing up in a summer camp. My mother even put name tags in our underwear.
"Three things happened in third grade that led me to become a writer and illustrator. First, we moved, so I was a new kid at school. As an outsider looking in, I developed observation skills. Second, I made up tremendous stories (lies) in hopes of attracting friends, thus developing a keen understanding of the blend of fact and fiction that a good, ‘believable’ story requires. Third, my reading improved to the point where I could really read. I became (and still am) a bookworm.
"I began my work career at the age of eight, sharpening pencils for my editor-father. Over the years, I contributed in the advertising and editorial departments of his newspaper, too. When my children were small, I created over 10,000 bakers clay Christmas ornaments in my kitchen. Then, in 1980, I started my own graphic design firm. I decided to go for a lifelong dream of publishing a children's book when I turned forty."
Kvasnosky's first published books for children were the self-illustrated board books One, Two, Three, Play with Me and Pink, Red, Blue, What Are You?, both published in 1994. Featuring short, rhyming phrases and bright pictures that introduce colors and numbers, these works also employ various groupings of children or animals to illustrate learning concepts; In Pink, Red, Blue, What Are You?, for example, animals define themselves by their color, temperament, and sometimes even their scent. A Publishers Weekly reviewer dubbed Kvasnosky's board books "simple, fun and effective," and in School Library Journal Linda Wicher wrote that the author/illustrator's "sketched figures are full of movement and wit."
In See You Later, Alligator a group of young reptiles begin the day deposited by their parents at River Bottom School. In a text filled with reptilian plays on words, Kvasnosky conveys the "upbeat" side of parent-child separation, according to School Library Journal contributor Nancy Seiner. In Booklist, April Judge concluded that, while "slight," See You Later, Alligator "will tickle the funny bones of young listeners."
Other picture books by Kvasnosky include What Shall I Dream?, featuring illustrations by Judith Byron Schachner, as well as the self-illustrated Mr. Chips! and Frank and Izzy Set Sail. Described as "a lovely bedtime story" by School Library Journal contributor Judith Constantinides, What Shall I Dream? takes readers into the world of young Prince Alexander, who worries over what to dream. His royal family uses their power and influence to summon Dream Brewers, Dream Weavers, and Dream Sweepers to assist him, but when the dreams these masters concoct prove unsatisfying, it is the shrewd observation of the humble nursemaid that saves the day. Mr. Chips! focuses on the affectionate bond between a dog and a young girl named Ellie. In this instance, the dog, Mr. Chips, disappears for several days, just before his little companion moves with her family to a new house in another. Although the dog's disappearance might worry young animal lovers, all ends well for girl and pet. "Stories about lost pets who manage to find their families despite vast distances are always touching, and this one is no exception," asserted a Kirkus Reviews critic, and in School Library Journal Marianne Saccardi called Mr. Chips! "a heartwarming story" in which "Kvasnosky's cartoon art is bright and appropriately childlike." Lauren Peterson, reviewing the same title in Booklist, called Mr. Chips! "a heartwarming story."
Kvasnosky's colorful artwork brings to life her lighthearted story about appreciating differences in Frank and Izzy Set Sail. Frank, a brown bear, and Izzy, a rabbit, decide to go on a camping trip to a nearby island. For Frank, the trip will be quite a change, because he is
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a homebody at heart and likes nothing better than to be at home, playing his ukulele. Adventurous Izzy can't wait, however, and can't wait for the new adventures she is sure the two will encounter. To make Frank comfortable, Izzy brings the things from his home that she knows her friend would miss, and Frank's slow, methodical nature comes in handy when trouble arises. In Booklist Ilene Cooper noted that Kvasnosky's "underlying message … comes across subtly" in the simple story. Writing that the author/illustrator's gouache paintings give the tale "a quiet, non-threatening atmosphere," a Publishers Weekly reviewer added that the "easygoing, give-and-take friendship" between the two fictional friends "provides an example for any age." The illustrations in Frank and Izzy Set Sail capture the ways the characters' "budding relationship allows them to grow and learn from each other," wrote a Kirkus Reviews writer, and in School Library Journal Andrea Tarr praised Kvasnosky's "colorful" paintings as "full of charming details that are perfect for poring over."
Kvasnosky's "Zelda and Ivy" books include Zelda and Ivy, Zelda and Ivy and the Boy Next Door, Zelda and Ivy One Christmas, and Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways. In the series opener, Zelda and Ivy, older sister Zelda tries to boss around younger sister Ivy in three humorous stories. In Booklist, Ilene Cooper noted that Kvasnosky "not only has a way with words; her illustrations are delightful, too." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly praised the author's "insightful look at sisterhood," noting that Kvasnosky's story "reach[es] out to readers regardless of their birth order." In Horn Book Martha V. Parravano wrote that, as an artist, Kvasnosky has a "gift for communicating a wealth of emotion through the dot of an eye or the angle of a tail," and Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books contributor Janice M. Del Negro predicted that the text will likely "elicit groans and chuckles of recognition" from young listeners. In School Library Journal, Luann Toth concluded of Zelda and Ivy that young readers "will recognize and relate to these three stories that take a gentle humorous look at sibling dynamics."
In Zelda and Ivy and the Boy Next Door the sisters are happy when Eugene moves in next door, thinking they will have a new playmate. However, the triangular nature of the new friendship presents difficulties when two gang up on one, and loyalties shift and change. Drama ensues when the trio attempt to set up a lemonade stand and play a game of pirates. Cooper described the fox sisters' second outing as "delightfully droll and at the same time awfully sweet," and Toth enthused of Zelda and Ivy and the Boy Next Door: "Encore Zelda and Ivy!" In the three easy-reading segments in Zelda and Ivy, the Runaways the fox sisters flee from home to avoid a hated lunch of cucumber sandwiches, create a very unusual time capsule, and invent a love potion. The "sibling dynamics" between Zelda and Ivy "are nicely enhanced" by Kvasnosky's artwork, noted Engberg, while in School Library Journal Laura Scott concluded that "bright, expressive cartoon illustrations complement the [author/illustrator's] fine writing."
A holiday-themed tale, Zelda and Ivy One Christmas finds the sisters with high hopes and a wealth of wishes for gifts, Zelda hopes for a fancy gown and Ivy desires a Princess Mimi doll. Hearing their gift wishes, elderly neighbor Mrs. Brownlie describes how she once went to a ball with her now-dead husband. Hoping to cheer up the widow on Christmas, Ivy suggests making a special bracelet. Zelda agrees, acting as if it were her idea in the first place. When the big day comes, Santa disappoints the sisters with matching bathrobes, but packages from a mysterious "Christmas Elf" reveal the doll and the desired gown. "As always, humor pervades the situations and the dialogue," noted Martha V. Parravano in a Horn Book review of Zelda and Ivy One Christmas. Ellen Mandel praised the tale in Booklist, calling it an "engaging return" for the sisters, and one that depicts the joy of giving: "companionship, affection, and memories, priceless rewards for any season."
In One Lucky Summer Steven Bennett is forced to move away from his Santa Cruz, California, home and its breezy beach weather, his best friend, and his Little League team when his family moves to hot Sacramento. His parents offer him little consolation: his photographer father is on assignment in Peru and his mother is busy authoring a cook book. Steven's bad luck continues when he discovers that his new next-door neighbor is a girl, and not just any regular girl, but one with dreams of becoming a ballerina. Even worse, Lucinda, the ballerina, does not take kindly to Steven's pet lizard, Godzilla, and is particularly upset when the boy accidentally ruins her favorite tutu. When Godzilla escapes from its cage during a trip to a woodland cabin, the two children band together to track it down, and discover a baby flying squirrel in the process. Their shared determination to keep the squirrel—dubbed Lucky—alive brings Steven and Lucinda closer together, and soon Steven is faced with a difficult decision: to let his pet lizard go or to give up the squirrel. Writing in School Library Journal, Alison Grant noted that Kvasnosky's debut "novel should prove to be a lucky choice for girls and boys alike." In Booklist Kay Weisman praised the author's "strong, believable characters and … good ear for dialogue," while a reviewer for Publishers Weekly called One Lucky Summer a "tightly written, affecting tale about adjustment and friendship."
"The seeds that grow into future books are often planted in young children," Kvasnosky once told SATA. "I know that because it is my experience. It is one reason I enjoy working with young writers and artists. Creating children's books is my dream job. The experiences I value most—nurturing a family, writing, graphic design, reading—all meet in this one enterprise."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 15, 1995, April Judge, review of See You Later, Alligator, p. 175; July, 1996, Lauren Peterson, review of Mr. Chips!, p. 1830; October 1, 1996, Julie Corsaro, review of A Red Wagon Year, pp. 356-357; June 1, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of If Somebody Lived Next Door, p. 1719; April, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Zelda and Ivy, p. 1324; May 1, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of Zelda and Ivy and the Boy Next Door, p. 1599; November 15, 2000, Ellen Mandel, review of Zelda and Ivy One Christmas, p. 648; March 1, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of One Lucky Summer, p. 1137; May 15, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Frank and Izzy Set Sail, p. 1625; June 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways, p. 87.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 1996, review of Mr. Chips!, p. 105; January, 1997, Amy E. Brandt, review of What Shall I Dream?, pp. 177-178; April, 1998, Janice M. Del Negro, review of Zelda and Ivy, p. 285; June, 1999, review of Zelda and Ivy and the Boy Next Door, p. 357; December, 2000, review of Zelda and Ivy One Christmas, p. 151; May, 2002, review of One Lucky Summer, p. 329; April, 2004, Hope Morrison, review of Frank and Izzy Set Sail, p. 333.
Horn Book, July-August, 1998, Martha V. Parravano, review of Zelda and Ivy, pp. 475-476; November-December, 2000, Martha V. Parravano, review of Zelda and Ivy One Christmas, p. 747; July-August, 2006, Betty Carter, review of Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways, p. 444.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1996, review of Mr. Chips!, p. 970; March 15, 2004, review of Frank and Izzy Set Sail, p. 272; May 15, 2006, review of Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways, p. 519.
Publishers Weekly, May 2, 1994, review of Pink, Red, Blue, What Are You? and One, Two, Three, Play with Me!, p. 305; May 15, 1995, review of There Once Was a Puffin, p. 71; June 24, 1996, review of Mr. Chips!, p. 58; May 12, 1997, review of If Somebody Lived Next Door, p. 75; May 11, 1998, review of Zelda and Ivy, p. 67; April 8, 2002, review of One Lucky Summer, p. 228; May 10, 2004, review of Frank and Izzy Set Sail, p. 58.
School Library Journal, August, 1994, Linda Wicher, review of Pink, Red, Blue, What Are You? and One, Two, Three, Play with Me!, p. 139; November, 1995, Nancy Seiner, review of See You Later, Alligator!, p. 74; August, 1996, Marianne Saccardi, review of Mr. Chips!, p. 126; September, 1996, Judith Constantinides, review of What Shall I Dream?, p. 182; July, 1997, Christy Norris, review of If Somebody Lived Next Door, p. 69; June, 1998, Luann Toth, review of Zelda and Ivy, p. 113; May, 1999, Luann Toth, review of Zelda and Ivy and the Boy Next Door, p. 92; October, 2000, review of Zelda and Ivy One Christmas, p. 60; April, 2002, Alison Grant, review of One Lucky Summer, p. 114; June, 2004, Andrea Tarr, review of Frank and Izzy Set Sail, p. 112; June, 2006, Laura Scott, review of Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways, p. 81.
Laura McGee Kvasnosky Home Page,http://www.LMKBooks.com (August 27, 2007).