Married; husband's name David; children: three.
Home and office—Tigard, OR. E-mail—[email protected]
Super Sam!, illustrated by Sue Ramá, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 2004.
Mrs. Fickle's Pickles, illustrated by Nancy Cote, Boyds Mills (Honesdale, PA), 2006.
Aggie and Ben: Three Stories, illustrated by Frank W. Dormer, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 2006.
Fix It, Sam, illustrated by Sue Ramá, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 2007.
Punk Wig, illustrated by Erin Eitter-Kono, Boyds Mills (Honesdale, PA), 2008.
While growing up, children's author and literacy advocate Lori Ries loved to read. She wrote her first tale, "Jo-Jo the Raccoon," at the age of ten, and continued making up stories with her mother's encouragement. In high school, after a short-story writing assignment, Ries was taken aside by her English teacher and told: "Lori, this isn't a short story, this is a preface to a novel, and if you work hard enough you could become a great writer." Ries always enjoyed keeping a personal journal, but it was not until she had children of her own that she began to consider writing as a career. She enrolled with the Institute of Children's Literature, and started attending workshops provided by the Highlights Foundation. "I think that having kids, being around kids, being a stay-at-home mom let me know kids," she explained in an interview in Oregon's Tigard Times.
It was being around children that sparked the idea for Ries's first book, Super Sam! While attending the Highlights Chautauqua Writer's Workshop, she spotted a little boy playing very earnestly, and she watched him
for awhile, appreciating how he was in his own world. When she identified his mother, the two women chatted, and soon Ries met Sam, who, his mother told her, posed as a super hero at home. That tale turned into a picture book, introducing young readers to Super Sam!
Home from preschool, the fictional Sam borrows baby brother Petey's blanket for use as the cape that transforms him into a super hero. The boy piles up pillows to prepare for leaping over tall buildings, hefts toys over his head to show his strength, and performs other feats of daring. When Sam accidentally steps on Petey's finger, however, he realizes that his super powers cannot solve the problem—but his cape can. Given back the baby blanket, Petey's tears soon end. "Ries tells the story in short sentences, using only fifty-three words," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor, and a Publishers Weekly critic maintained that in this brief text "Ries expresses everything there is to say" about the relationship between young siblings. Gay Lynn Van Vleck, writing in School Library Journal, dubbed Super Sam! "a cozy tale of brotherly affection."
Sam and Petey return in Fix It, Sam. When the siblings attempt to build a tent from a blanket and chairs, it keeps sagging in the middle. Although Petey has absolute faith that Sam will come up with a solution, it is Petey who solves the problem: when he sits in the middle of the tent, his head holds up the blanket. "Little sibs will easily grasp the story," wrote Shelle Rosenfeld in Booklist.
In Aggie and Ben: Three Stories, Ries introduces readers to narrator Ben and his new puppy, Aggie. In the first story, Ben brings Aggie home from the pet shop. The second tale shows Ben trying to act like a puppy, but his experiment stops short of drinking from the toilet bowl. In the third tale, Ben and Aggie keep each other safe from fears in the dark. "This unassuming tale will prove a welcome addition to any collection for emerging readers," wrote Jill Heritage Maza in School Library Journal, and a Publishers Weekly critic called Aggie and Ben "an impressive and original effort" that "bodes well for a sequel." Betty Carter, writing in Horn Book, explained that, while "kids can't be dogs,… Ben and Aggie let them know they can be readers."
Mrs. Fickle's Pickles is a simple verse story that shows Mrs. Fickle making pickles by growing them from seed to cucumber and then pickling them in jars where they eventually win the blue ribbon at the county fair. "The simplicity of this breezy rural story will invite repeat readings," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor of Ries' picture book.
Ries wrote Punk Wig in response to her concern over a friend's journey with bone cancer. The woman's worries over how to tell her child that she will lose all her hair was heart-wrenching, Ries explained to SATA. "Punk Wig is a humorous story with serious undertones that opens communications for kids whose lives are turned upside down by cancer," explained the author. "In the story, a boy is a support to his mother throughout her chemo treatments. When she loses her hair, they both go to Harriet's hair for some serious wig play. In the book, the seasons pass, and the ending holds a celebration when all the ‘alien blobs’ (cancer) have gone away."
"I don't know why a lot of people write, but I write because I really love it," Ries told the Tigard Times interviewer. "Books embrace children," she added, "and I like that."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, January 1, 2007, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Fix It, Sam, p. 116.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 2007, Karen Coats, review of Fix It, Sam, p. 382.
Horn Book, September-October, 2006, Betty Carter, review of Aggie and Ben: Three Stories, p. 595; January-February, 2007, review of Aggie and Ben, p. 13.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2004, review of Super Sam!, p. 540; October 15, 2006, review of Mrs. Fickle's Pickles, p. 1078.
Publishers Weekly, July 5, 2004, review of Super Sam!, p. 54; July 31, 2006, review of Aggie and Ben, p. 74.
School Library Journal, September, 2004, Gay Lynn Van Vleck, review of Super Sam!, p. 177; July, 2006, Jill Heritage Maza, review of Aggie and Ben, p. 86; February, 2007, Catherine Callegari, review of Fix It, Sam, p. 94.
Lori Ries Home Page,http://loriries.net (November 16, 2007).
Tigard Times Online,http://www.tigardtimes.com/ (January 18, 2007), interview with Ries.