Mathews, Ellie 1946(?)–

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Mathews, Ellie 1946(?)–


Born c. 1946; married Carl Youngmann (a medical devices consultant). Education: Graduated from University of Washington. Religion: Society of Friends (Quaker).


Home and office—Seattle, WA; and Port Townsend, WA. E-mail—[email protected].


Author, illustrator, software designer, and cartographer. Organizer of writers' retreats.

Awards, Honors

Fishtrap Writer's Conference fellowship (Enterprise, OR), 1997; grand prize, Pillsbury Bake-Off, 1998; Seattle Artists Program for Literary Artists grant, 1998; Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature, 2007, for The Linden Tree.


Ambassador to the Penguins: A Naturalist's Year aboard a Yankee Whaleship, Godine (Boston, MA), 2003.

The Linden Tree, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2007.

The Ungarnished Truth: A Cooking Contest Memoir, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2008.

Also author of The Presentation Design Book, Ventura Press. Contributor of short fiction and poetry to anthologies, including Friends Bulletin, FlipSide, Fishtrap Anthology, 1998; Cicada, Cricket, and Tidepools.


Previous to starting her career in children's books, Ellie Mathews spent many years in the field of graphic illustration working in a wide variety of areas, from developing computer software to creating maps for government and private agencies. In 2003, she refocused her creative talents on writing and published her first children's book, Ambassador to the Penguins: A Naturalist's Year aboard a Yankee Whaleship. A biographical title, the book chronicles the exploits of ornithologist Robert Cushman Murphy after he joined a whaling expedition to the Antarctic.

Mathews addresses a young-adult audience in her novel The Linden Tree. Set on a farm in Iowa in the late 1940s, The Linden Tree offers "a timeless, heartfelt story of family, loss, and love," according to Booklist reviewer Heather Booth. The story portrays the events that unfold after nine-year-old Katie Sue Hanson unexpectedly loses her mother to meningitis. With her older sister and brother, Katie Sue struggles emotionally, leading her father to ask his late wife's sister for help. Initially, Aunt Katherine's presence is welcoming for the grieving children, but as time progresses, Katie Sue begins to have mixed feelings for the woman taking her mother's place. Recommending The Linden Tree for teens who have also suffered the loss of a loved one, School Library Journal critic Christi Voth concluded that Mathews' "honest account of a family's journey of grieving and healing is well portrayed." Several critics favorably noted the book's well-drawn characters, Kliatt contributor Marissa Elliott finding Katie Sue "believable and honest, lovable even in her anger."

In addition to her efforts in literature and illustration, Mathews has also demonstrated her creative ability in the kitchen, winning the top prize in the 1998 Pillsbury Bake-Off and taking home one million dollars for her recipe. Although she had entered cooking contests before, the author admitted to Minneapolis Star Tribune contributor Lee Svitak Dean that she entered her recipe for Salsa Couscous Chicken on a whim, having prepared the dish only twice before. Ten years after the contest, Mathews reflected on this competitive cooking experience with The Ungarnished Truth: A Cooking Contest Memoir. In the book, the author recounts her brief appearances on national televisions shows along with her feelings about becoming a grandmother just days after her victory. Mathews also reflects on her life after winning such a notable prize, telling Kristen

Browning-Blas in the Denver Post, "We all see plenty of media moments where people win huge money prizes like mine, people struck with extraordinary good luck the way I was." However, the author observed, the media offers little information about what happens to those individuals after their brief moment of fame. By publishing The Ungarnished Truth, Mathews told Browning-Blas she attempted to put her win into the "context" of her life. "Over the years, people have been as interested—if not more interested—in what it all meant to me, whether the experience changed me, than in how I dreamed up a chicken recipe." Writing in Kirkus Reviews, a critic suggested that fans of television cooking shows "will eat up Mathews's pleasantly fluffy tale of culinary triumph."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, May 1, 2007, Heather Booth, review of The Linden Tree, p. 92.

Denver Post, April 16, 2008, Kristen Browning-Blas, "Her Award Was Just the First Chapter," p. D1.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2007, review of The Linden Tree; December 15, 2007, review of The Ungarnished Truth: A Cooking Contest Memoir.

Kliatt, May, 2007, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of The Linden Tree, p. 16; November, 2007, Marissa Elliott, review of The Linden Tree, p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, January 14, 2008, review of The Ungarnished Truth, p. 50.

School Library Journal, September, 2007, Christi Voth, review of The Linden Tree, p. 204.

Seattle Times, April 9, 2008, Karen Gaudette, "A Memoir in Getting Lucky with Holy Grail of Cook-Offs" (interview with Mathews), p. C1.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), April 10, 2008, Lee Svitak Dean, "Go behind the Bake-off Scene," p. 8T.


Ellie Mathews Home Page, (September 23, 2008).

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Mathews, Ellie 1946(?)–

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