Layne, Steven L.
Layne, Steven L.
Born in Crawfordsville, IN; married Deborah Dover, 1987; children: Grayson, Victoria, Jackson. Education: Judson College, B.A. (psychology), 1987; Northern Illinois University, M.S.Ed., 1992, Ed.D. (reading education), 1996. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, writing, old movies, singing, tennis, volleyball, playing with his kids.
Educator and writer. Former counselor at an impatient psychiatric unit; former fifth-grade teacher in Carpen-tersville, IL, then Oak Brook, IL; Judson College, Elgin, IL, associate professor of education and literature, 2004–. Member of board, Northern Illinois Reading Council, and Literacy Volunteers of America Fox Valley Affiliate. Member, DuPage Literacy Roundtable and Assembly on Literature for Adolescents.
International Reading Association, College Reading Association, National Council of Teachers of English, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Illinois Reading Council (member of committees; president, 2005–06), Northern Illinois Reading Council, Special Interest Group Network on Adolescent Literature, Children's Literature Assembly, Alpha Upsilon Alpha.
Winn Research Award, 1997; Illinois Reading Teacher of the Year, 1999; ICARE Reading Award, 2000; National Educator Award, Milken Family Foundation, 2001; Edwin A. Hoey Award for U.S. Outstanding Teacher, National Council of Teachers of English, 2001; Missouri Library Association Best of the Best designation, and Hal Clement Award for Best New Science-Fiction Novel for Young Adults, both 2001, and International Reading Association (IRA) Young-Adult Choice designation, and Texas Lone Star Top-20 listee, both 2003, all for This Side of Paradise; IRA/Chil-dren's Book Council Children's Choice Award designation, 2002, for The Teachers' Night before Christmas, and 2004, for My Brother Dan's Delicious; Learning magazine's Teachers' Choice Award designation, 2006, for T Is for Teachers.
Thomas's Sheep and the Great Geography Test, illustrated by Perry Board, Pelican Publishing (Gretna, LA), 1998.
Life's Literary Lessons: Poems for Teachers, International Reading (Newark, DE), 2001.
The Teacher's Night before Christmas, Pelican Publishing (Gretna, LA), 2001.
This Side of Paradise (young-adult novel), North Star Books (St. Charles, IL), 2001.
My Brother Dan's Delicious, Pelican Publishing (Gretna, LA), 2003.
Verses for Dad's Heart, illustrated by Gail Greaves Klinger, Pelican Publishing (Gretna, LA), 2004.
Thomas's Sheep and the Spectacular Science Project, illustrated by Perry Board, Pelican Publishing (Gretna, LA), 2004.
The Principal's Night before Christmas, illustrated by James Rice, Pelican Publishing (Gretna, LA), 2004.
Verses for Mom's Heart, illustrated by Gail Greaves Klinger, Pelican Publishing (Gretna, LA), 2005.
(With wife Deborah Dover Layne) T Is for Teachers: A School Alphabet, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger, Sleeping Bear Press (Chelsea, MI), 2005.
Over Land and Sea: A Story of International Adoption, illustrated by Jan Bower, Pelican Publishing (Gretna, LA), 2005.
Preacher's Night before Christmas, illustrated by James Rice, Pelican Publishing (Gretna, LA), 2006.
Mergers (young-adult novel), Pelican Publishing (Gretna, LA), 2006.
Contributor to books and to journals, including Illinois Reading Council Journal, Reading Teacher, Reading Horizons, and Contemporary Education.
An award-winning author and educator, Steven L. Layne was challenged to write his first novel for young adults by a group of the students in the eighth-grade class he was teaching in the late 1990s. Layne, who is noted for his work as a literacy consultant, is now an associate professor of literature and education at Judson College. His first novel, published in 2001 as This Side of Paradise, was the first of several books he has since published for young readers. In each of his books, as well as in his work as an educator, Layne's primary focus is on building lifetime readers. As he explained to a Reading Today interviewer, "Just as the writer in me is trying to reach lots of different kinds of readers, the teacher in me is trying to reach lots of different kids."
Praised as a "taut SF thriller" by a contributor to Kirkus Reviews, This Side of Paradise finds Jack Barrett struggling under the thumb of his perfectionist father. When a job change prompts his father to move the family to a seemingly perfect gated community run by his dad's new corporate employer, the high-school junior realizes that something is eerily wrong. When his mother and younger brother disappear after the move to Paradise, Jack is determined to discover the source of the hold someone—or some thing—has on his father, and he is aided in his quest by a new love interest and his motorcycle-riding grandmother. The Kirkus Reviews critic praised Jack as "a likeable teenager, with an appealing self-deprecating tone" and Jack's nemesis as "genuinely chilling," while in Booklist Hazel Rochman praised the teen narrator's "wry contemporary voice."
Layne's second young-adult novel, Mergers, again moves into science-fiction territory in its story about a world in which racial differences among humans have been obliterated through genetic engineering. Dirk and a small group of other teens have lived in hiding throughout their lives because they exhibit the racial features that are now forbidden. The teens each have a special power: African-born Nicci can move time, Hispanic Mateo is a shapeshifter, Asian Keiko can heal with her touch, and Caucasian Dirk can read the thoughts of others. When they use their powers to travel into the past in an effort to stop the technology that will culminate in this homogenous future society, the teens attract the attention of someone who has expected their arrival and who is now determined to stop them. In Voice of Youth Advocates, a reviewer described the book's storyline as "the Hardy Boys with a more serious twist."
In addition to his fiction for teen readers, Layne has authored several inspirational books for teachers, parents, and other adults, as well as the nonfiction title Over Land and Sea: A Story of International Adoption. For younger children, he has collaborated with wife Deborah Dover Layne on the picture book T Is for Teachers: A School Alphabet, a guidebook for young schoolgoers featuring engaging illustrations by Dorris Ettlinger. Geared for slightly older readers and featuring colorful cartoon-style illustrations by Perry Board, Thomas's Sheep and the Spectacular Science Project and Thomas's Sheep and the Great Geography Test find a young boy aided by a flock of fact-finding sheep while tackling taxing tests and creating well-done classroom presentations.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, February 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of This Side of Paradise, p. 934.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2001, review of This Side of Paradise, p. 1486.
Publishers Weekly, May 4, 1998, review of Thomas's Sheep and the Great Geography Test, p. 215; September 24, 2001, review of The Teacher's Night before Christmas, p. 57.
Reading Today, August, 2001, review of Life's Literary Lesson: Poems for Teachers, p. 32; December, 2005, "Teacher, Author, Leader," p. 29.
School Library Journal, September, 1998, Kathy Piehl, review of Thomas's Sheep and the Great Geography Test, p. 175; January, 2002, Joel Shoemaker, review of This Side of Paradise, p. 136; May, 2003, Kathleen Whalin, review of My Brother Dan's Delicious, p. 122; July, 2004, Sally R. Dow, review of Verses for Dad's Heart, p. 124; June, 2005, Deborah Vose, review of Over Land and Sea: A Story of International Adoption, p. 120; August, 2005, Corrina Austin, review of T Is for Teachers: A School Alphabet, p. 114.
Voice of Youth Advocates, February 1, 2002, review of This Side of Paradise, p. 447; May 1, 2006, review of Mergers.
Children's Book Council Web site, http://www.cbcboks.org/cbcmagazine/ (June 13, 2006), Steven L. Layne, "Looking Back…."
Steven L. Layne Home Page, http://www.stevelayne.com (June 13, 2006).
Judson College Web site, http://www.judsoncollege.edu/ (June 13, 2006), "Steve Layne."