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Myers, Anna

MYERS, Anna

Personal

Born in White Face, TX; daughter of an oil field worker; married Paul Myers, 1969 (deceased, c. 1999); married John Calvin, 2002; children: (first marriage) Ginny, Ben, Anna-Maria. Education: Attended University of Central Oklahoma.

Addresses

Home Tulsa, OK. Agent c/o Author Mail, Walker Books, 104 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011. E-mail [email protected]

Career

Writer and educator. Taught high school and junior-high English in Tulsa and Norman, OK, and New York, NY; Chandler Junior High School, Chandler, OK, eighth-grade English teacher; currently full-time writer.

Member

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (regional advisor), Oklahoma Writers' Federation.

Awards, Honors

Oklahoma Book Award, 1993, for Red-Dirt Jessie; Oklahoma Book Award, 1996, and Gamma State Author's Award, 1997, both for Graveyard Girl; Parents' Choice Award, 1996, for Fire in the Hills; Children's Book of the Year Award, Bank Street College, 1998, for The Keeping Room; Honor Book Award, Society of School Librarians International, 1999-2000, and Gamma State Author's Award, 2000, both for Ethan between Us; Honor Book Award, Society of School Librarians International, 2001-02, for When the Bough Breaks; Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People citation, Children's Book Council/National Council for the Social Studies, 2003, Honor Book Award, Society of School Librarians International, and Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award, 2004-05, all for Tulsa Burning; Independent Publishers' Award.

Writings

HISTORICAL FICTION

Red-Dirt Jessie, Walker (New York, NY), 1992.

Rosie's Tiger, Walker (New York, NY), 1994.

Graveyard Girl, Walker (New York, NY), 1995.

Fire in the Hills, Walker (New York, NY), 1996.

Spotting the Leopard (sequel to Red-Dirt Jessie ), Walker (New York, NY), 1996.

The Keeping Room, Walker (New York, NY), 1997.

Ethan between Us, Walker (New York, NY), 1998.

Captain's Command, Walker (New York, NY), 1999.

When the Bough Breaks, Walker (New York, NY), 2000.

Stolen by the Sea, Walker (New York, NY), 2002.

Tulsa Burning, Walker (New York, NY), 2002.

Flying Blind, Walker (New York, NY), 2003.

Hoggee, Walker (New York, NY), 2004.

Sidelights

Anna Myers is the author of numerous works of historical fiction for middle-grade readers, many of which are set in her native Oklahoma. "Once, long ago when I was just a girl, I had a Sunday school teacher who used to say, 'If you don't know where you have been, you can't know where you are going,'" Myers explained on her Web site. "I like to think my books help kids know where we have been."

Myers' first novel, Red-Dirt Jessie, follows the titular character, Jessie's younger brother H. J., and the children's parents as they attempt to cope with the death of Jessie's younger sister, Patsy, during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Jessie's father is distraught to the point where he has difficulty keeping the family's farm running, and the household's already-bad financial situation goes from bad to worse. Jessie hopes that taming and training Ring, a hundred-pound wild dog, as a present for her father will help him overcome his grief and focus on the family he still has. Her plan works, although not exactly in the way she intended. "Myers writes with notable authority and understanding about the life of this financially and emotionally destitute farming family," wrote Horn Book reviewer Ellen Fader.

Jessie and H. J. return in Spotting the Leopard, which is set six years after Red-Dirt Jessie. Jessie, now a high school student, wants to go to college and become a veterinarian, but her family cannot afford it. At the same time, H. J. becomes captivated with the leopard in the Oklahoma City Zoo, and when that animal escapes and tries to hide on the family's farm he vows to prevent it from being caged up ever again. Although H. J. fails in his goal, Jessie succeeds in getting a job at the zoo that will allow her to pay for college.

Critics had praise for Spotting the Leopard, Fader writing that Myers' "straight-talking characters are likable and earn readers' sympathy." In Booklist Kay Weisman concluded that the "rich characters and a vivid setting are the highlights of a memorable family story."

Ethan between Us is "a highly atmospheric teen romance with appealing characters and a hint of the supernatural," Jean Franklin explained in Booklist. This title is also set in Oklahoma, this time in 1963. The story focuses on two high school students, Clare and Liz. The two have been friends almost their entire lives, but their relationship is threatened when Clare becomes involved with the new boy in town, Ethan Bennington, who turns out to have a dark secret. In an online interview for the Cynthia Leitich Smith Web site, Myers named Clare as the character from her books with whom she most identifies. "Clair grew up where and when I grew up, in the oil field community west of Edmond, Oklahoma," the novelist explained to Smith. "Her father is an oil field worker as was mine. Many of her emotions are like those I had, and her first love is in many ways like mine was."

Tulsa Burning is set against the background of the Tulsa race riot of 1921. The main character is Noble Chase, a fifteen year old whose father has just died. Although Noble's father was abusive and the boy is not necessarily sorry to see him gone, Noble and his mother can't keep up their farm without financial help. The two move in with the sheriff (another abusive man, who shoots Noble's dog in front of him), while Noble's mom is hired to care for the sheriff's ill wife.

Noble gets a job washing dishes at the town's cafe, where he becomes acquainted with both branches of an estranged African-American family from the area. Isaac, whom Noble quickly befriends, and Isaac's mother find themselves on one side of a confrontation, while on the other is Isaac's father, Lester, a cook at the cafe. Lester hates whites, but he and Noble are forced to cooperate to save Isaac when the young man is caught up and injured in the Tulsa race riot. School Library Journal contributor Jody McCoy commented that the novel's "lively, captivating pace is sure to engage all but the most reluctant readers," while Booklist contributor Karin Snelson dubbed the work an "emotional page-turner" and a "powerful novel." "Descriptions are poetic and vivid," concluded a Kirkus Reviews critic, adding that in Tulsa Burning "the narrative voice is deep and soulful."

Hoggee is one of Myers' few books to be set outside of Oklahoma. The story is about Howard, a fourteen-year-old hoggee (mule driver) on the Erie Canal in the 1830s. His winter job has fallen through, and with no mule-driving work until spring thaw, Howard is afraid he might starve to death. He is eventually taken in by another canal worker, which leads to his befriending the man's deaf-mute daughter Sarah. Wanting to help her, Howard learns sign language and then teaches the girl to communicate. "Howard and Sarah are well drawn and winsome," Cindy Darling Codell commented in School Library Journal, and a Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded that Hoggee is "fine, simply told historical fiction."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 15, 1994, Frances Bradburn, review of Rosie's Tiger, p. 136; April 15, 1996, Anne O'Malley, review of Fire in the Hills, p. 1441; November 1, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Keeping Room, p. 473; August, 1998, Jean Franklin, review of Ethan between Us, p. 1990; December 15, 1999, Kay Weisman, review of Captain's Command, p. 784; November 15, 2000, John Peters, review of When the Bough Breaks, p. 634; October 1, 2002, Karin Snelson, review of Tulsa Burning, p. 323; September 15, 2003, Anne O'Malley, review of Flying Blind, p. 240.

Horn Book, January-February, 1993, Ellen Fader, review of Red-Dirt Jessie, p. 86; March-April, 1995, Ellen Fader, review of Rosie's Tiger, p. 194; January-February, 1996, Ellen Fader, review of Graveyard Girl, p. 75. January-February, 1997, Ellen Fader, review of Spotting the Leopard, p. 63.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2001, review of Stolen by the Sea, p. 1429; August 15, 2002, review of Tulsa Burning, p. 1230; August 15, 2003, review of Flying Blind, p. 1076; September 1, 2004, review of Hoggee, p. 871.

Publishers Weekly, August 22, 1994, review of Rosie's Tiger, p. 56.

School Library Journal, December, 2000, Lauralyn Persson, review of When the Bough Breaks, p. 146; November, 2001, Farida S. Dowler, review of Stolen by the Sea, p. 162; September, 2002, Jody McCoy, review of Tulsa Burning, p. 230; November, 2003, Susan Oliver, review of Flying Blind, p. 143; November, 2004, Cindy Darling Codell, review of Hoggee, p. 150.

ONLINE

Anna Myers Home Page, http://www.annamyers.info (April 26, 2005).

Balkin Buddies Web site, http://www.balkinbuddies.com/ (April 3, 2005), "Anna Myers."

Cynthia Leitich Smith Web site, http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/ (March 7, 2005), interview with Myers.

Oklahoma Title III Web site, http://title3.sde.state.ok.us/ (April 3, 2005), "Anna Myers Activity Sheet."*

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