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Matthews, L.S. (Laura Dron, Laura S. Matthews)

Matthews, L.S. (Laura Dron, Laura S. Matthews)

Personal

Married; children: two. Hobbies and other interests: Animals.

Addresses

Home—Bridport, Dorset, England. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Writer, artist, and educator. Fine-art painter and sculptor.

Awards, Honors

Fidler Award for first novel for children, Branford Boase Highly Commended designation, Carnegie Medal nomination, and Lamplighter Award nomination, all 2003, and American Library Association Notable Book designation, 2004, all for Fish; National Association of Special Education Needs Award/Times Educational Supplement Children's Book Award shortlist, 2006, for The Outcasts; Betty Bookmark Children's Book of the Year Award, and Bad Iburg Castle Award (Germany), both 2006, both for A Dog for Life.

Writings

CHILDREN'S FICTION

Fish (children's novel), Hodder Children's (London, England), 2003, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2004.

The Outcasts, Hodder Children's (London, England), 2004, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2007.

A Dog for Life, Hodder Children's (London, England), 2005, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Deadly Night ("Livewire Chillers" series; for readers with special needs), Hodder Arnold (London, England), 2006.

The Game ("Livewire Fiction" series; for readers with special needs), Hodder Arnold (London, England), 2006.

Lexi, Hodder Children's (London, England), 2007.

Author's work has been translated into Dutch, French, Persian, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, Italian, Korean, and German.

Adaptations

A Dog for Life was adapted for audiobook by BBC Audio and adapted for radio in Germany.

Sidelights

Writer and artist L.S. Matthews, who lives and writes in England, made her fiction debut with Fish. An award-winning novel, Fish was praised by a New York Times Book Review contributor as unique and "thought-provoking." Matthews has followed her successful debut with several other highly lauded novels for preteen readers. As with Fish, her book A Dog for Life relates a "remarkable" story that "focuses on the lengths to which a child will go to save a beloved pet," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. In contrast, fantasy and mystery feature in her books for older children, which include two short stories for readers with special needs and a novel featuring characters with special needs. The

Outcasts, which Matthews gears for teens, follows the experiences of Chris, a confident, cocky grade-A student from a "nice" family, and Joe, Iz, Helen, and Mia, whose difficult private lives, or learning difficulties, have made them social misfits and lackluster students at school. When the five are thrown together on a field trip to a supposedly haunted house in rural England, they find themselves in a parallel dimension and must draw on their unique strengths and instincts in order to return to their own world.

Matthews based Fish on a dream she had during a stressful period in her life. "I woke up and thought (as you would, if you had a dream like Fish), what was all that about?," she recalled in an interview for the Random House Web site. As the story took shape, Matthews was also juggling several stressful situations: finishing her teacher training, selling her house and moving, caring for two children, and—reminiscent of the central problem faced by her story's hero—figuring out how to move three Koi carp to a new location. In the novel, Tiger is the child of humanitarian aid workers living in an unnamed country devastated by war, crippled by famine, and parched by drought. When the precarious political situation worsens and war becomes a real threat, Tiger's parents decide that it is time to leave. Unfortunately, the borders are closed because of the masses of refugees. Joined by Guide, Tiger and Tiger's parents set out to cross treacherous mountains and an inhospitable desert to find safety in the neighboring country. During their journey, Tiger discovers a small fish trapped in a small and shrinking puddle and vows to help the creature survive during the arduous trek to safety. As precious water reserves dwindle, Fish is transferred to whatever container holds enough water to keep it alive, at one point even traveling in Tiger's mouth. The fish becomes symbolic of the family's survival, and Tiger's tenacity mirrors the determination the family must show to reach safety unharmed.

Because Tiger is never assigned a gender—the young narrator could be either a boy or a girl—Matthews' story resonates equally with both male and female readers. Fish "has multiple dimensions that balance hardship with unwavering faith and gives hope within the darkness," Allison Follos commented in her School Library Journal review, while a Publishers Weekly critic observed that readers can "bring their own interpretation and experience to the symbolism embedded" in Matthews' story. Hazel Rochman, writing in Booklist, noted that "the realistic details of the fragile creature's miraculous rescue make a powerful metaphor," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Matthews "allows just enough detail—and heart—to make miracles feel possible."

A ten-year-old boy who is able to communicate with animals is the hero of A Dog for Life. John Hawkins is devastated when he learns that the family dog, Mouse, must be sent to the pound because John's mother has decided that his brother Tom's medical condition cannot

tolerate an animal in the home. Knowing how much Mouse means to Tom, John runs away with the pet, hoping to leave the animal with an uncle living in southern England until Tom recovers. During his picaresque journey, John rescues some stolen animals, befriends a Gypsy family, and encounters other challenges. His story highlights "the importance of holding onto the things that matter in troubled times," according to School Library Journal reviewer Kathleen E. Gruver. John is an "engaging" narrator, noted the Kirkus Reviews writer; according to a Publishers Weekly critic the boy's "courage and compassion drive much of the plot" of Matthews' sensitive novel. Deemed "a little gem" by Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper, A Dog for Life is "part adventure and part heartfelt family story, [a tale] dusted with magic realism."

In a Random House online interview, Matthews noted: "I wouldn't write a book which didn't challenge the reader with questions which maybe aren't easily answered. I have to write books which at least have the potential to effect changes." Regarding her writing method, she explained on her home page: "I think up plots in my head, keep adding to them, changing bits which aren't so good in hindsight, and usually only think of one of the most important parts of the story when I've thought it's almost finished. I don't generally write anything down…. My method is called daydreaming, and it is generally held to be very wicked and wrong, especially if you are a child or not paid to do it for a living (like a grown-up artist, advertising executive, author, poet, etc.) so I shouldn't really go around recommending it. But if you already find you do it naturally, you can't really help it."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Asia-Africa Intelligence Wire, March 24, 2004, Caroline Yap, review of Fish.

Booklist, July, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Fish, p. 1844; December 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of A Dog for Life, p. 45.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of A Dog for Life, p. 181.

Instructor, January-February, 2005, Lynne T. Burke, review of Fish, p. 73.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2004, review of Fish, p. 495; October 1, 2006, review of A Dog for Life, p. 1019.

New York Times Book Review, July 11, 2004, review of Fish, p. 18.

Publishers Weekly, May 31, 2004, review of Fish, p. 75; October 2, 2006, review of A Dog for Life, p. 63.

School Librarian, spring, 2005, Rachel Bowler, review of The Outcasts, p. 48.

School Library Journal, July, 2004, Alison Follos, review of Fish, p. 109; October, 2006, Kathleen E. Gruver, review of A Dog for Life, p. 163.

ONLINE

Kidsreads.com,http://www.kidsreads.com/ (April 12, 2005), Sarah A. Wood, review of Fish.

L.S. Matthews Home Page,http://www.lsmatthewsonline.co.uk (October 27, 2007).

Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (April 12, 2005), interview with Matthews.

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