Scamell, Ragnhild 1940-
Scamell, Ragnhild 1940-
Given name pronounced "Roundhill"; born March 20, 1940, in Copenhagen, Denmark; immigrated to Great Britain, c. 1960; daughter of Viggo (in business) and Karin Marie (a homemaker) Holdt; married Ernest Harold Scamell (an attorney), September 11, 1977; children: Cleere; (stepchildren) Grant, Adrian, Joanna, Amanda. Education: Attended commercial college; attended Institute of Linguists, London, 1985. Politics: Conservative. Religion: Church of England. Hobbies and other interests: Painting, reading, classical music.
Home and office—Woldingham, Surrey, England.
Freelance translator, 1985—; author of books for children.
Society of Authors, Institute of Linguists (London), Ashford Art Society.
Mother Goose Award runner up, 1993, for Three Bags Full.
Solo, illustrated by Elizabeth Martland, ABC (London, England), 1992, published as Solo Plus One, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1992.
Woof! Woof!, illustrated by Genevieve Webster, ABC (London, England), 1993, published as Buster's Echo, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Three Bags Full, illustrated by Sally Hobson, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1993.
The Dawn Chorus, illustrated by Judith Riches, ABC (London, England), 1994, published as Rooster Crows, Tambourine Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Who Likes Wolfie?, illustrated by Tim Warnes, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995.
The Big Prints, illustrated by Sally Hobson, ABC (London, England), 1996.
Toby's Doll House, illustrated by Adrian Reynolds, Levinson Books (London, England), 1998.
Fat Cats, illustrated by Doffy Weir, Anderson (London, England), 2000.
Jake and the Red Bird, illustrated by Valeria Petrone, Red Fox (London, England), 2001.
The Wish Cat, illustrated by Gaby Hansen, Little Tiger (London, England), 2001, published as The Wish Come True Cat, Barron's Educational (Hauppauge, NY), 2001.
Jed's Really Useful Poem, illustrated by Jane Gray, Heinemann (Oxford, England), 2003.
Ouch!, illustrated by Michael Terry, Good Books (Intercourse, PA), 2006.
Contributor of short fiction to periodicals.
Although she first worked as a translator, Ragnhild Scamell turned to writing in the early 1990s, and her first book for children was published in 1992. Scamell's stories for younger children, which feature illustrations from such artists as Sally Hobson, Doffy Weir, and Tim Warnes, often focus on animal characters and include Rooster Crows, Who Likes Wolfie?, and Ouch! "Although my first book was published only in 1992, I have, in fact, always been writing for children," Scamell once explained to SATA. "Short stories published in magazines and longer stories clutter every drawer in my study," she also admitted.
Scamell was born in Denmark, and grew up as the oldest of four sisters in a large, close-knit family. Relocating to England as a young woman, she worked for a shipping company before completing her education and finding work as a professional translator. For her first story, she drew on her love of animals in a tale about the relationship between a duckling and a barnyard cat. Solo—published in the United States as Solo Plus One—"was inspired by my own Siamese cat, whose ferocious behavior belies his need for unconditional tenderness and who takes cover under our Labrador dog when all else fails," the author later recalled. "The story was based on the findings of Konrad Lorenz, whose theory of imprinting states that a newly hatched gosling will follow the first object it sees, be it a cardboard box, a man, or a balloon—or a bad cat? I turned the gosling into a duckling, and the story began." In Scamell's book, after a duckling hatches, the first creature it sees is the cat who had been eyeing the hatching egg as a potential meal. After the duckling mistakes the cat for its mother and follows the feline everywhere, the perceptive kitty finds a way to introduce the baby duckling to its real mother. A Horn Book contributor noted of Solo that Elizabeth Martland's "bold illustrations of the substantial black cat and the little, misinformed duckling lend color to an amusing story."
In Buster's Echo—published in England under the title Woof! Woof!—Scamell presents young readers with what Horn Book contributor Lolly Robinson praised as a "spirited story ideal for reading aloud." In this tale, Buster the dog joins a cow, rooster, and mouse in mistaking the echo of his own bark for the aggressive response of a larger and fiercer counterpart. Banding together, the animals bravely cross the valley to face their foes, and their pride builds when they find that their (nonexistent) enemies have fled. In Three Bags Full, one of Scamell's own favorites, a generous sheep named Millie gives away her heavy coat of wool during the warm summer months, forgetting that it will be useful when the seasons change and cooler weather arrives. A feathered fowl takes center stage in Rooster Crows, as foolish Rooster is confused by his place in dawn's cause-and-effect sequence. Believing that he alone initiates the sun's rise through his crowing, the bird boasts to Bluebird that his powerful song can perform the same feat in the dark of night. In Publishers Weekly a writer noted that the text of Rooster Crows "has a slightly biting tone which keeps pace with her haughty, bickering characters."
An animal suffering from a bad reputation tries to win over new friends in Scamell's Who Likes Wolfie? A young wolf finds it hard to gain the trust of his fellow forest residents because most fear his sharp teeth and keen glance. The advice of a friendly bird—that Wolfie try singing—only results in an ear-splitting howl. Although Wolfie's song does not endear him to rabbits, chipmunks, or squirrels, it does attract a companion—a white-coated she-wolf—in a story Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper described as perfect "for anyone who has been left out in the cold and then warmed by love." In Ouch! Scamell introduces prickly brown Hedgehog, who is aided by a friendly goat while trying to dislodge an apple from her spiny coat so that she can curl up in her cozy den. Praising the story as "animal problem-solving at its best," a Kirkus Reviews critic described Michael Terry's humorous illustrations as "perfectly suited" to Scamell's story extolling the benefits of cooperation.
Human characters are featured in several of Scamell's picture books, among them The Wish Come True Cat and Toby's Doll's House. Described by a Publishers Weekly reviewer as a "simple tale" containing several "droll observations" about "the tendency of gift givers to give what they want," Toby's Doll's House finds a resourceful birthday boy constructing the doll house he had hoped for from the boxes containing his birthday presents. Another young child—this time a girl named Holly—hopes for a new friend in The Wish Come True Cat, but when her wish on a star generates a scruffy stray rather than a cuddly kitten, Holly learns a lesson about compassion as well.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, July, 1993, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Three Bags Full, p. 1777; October 15, 1993, Janice Del Negro, review of Buster's Echo, p. 454; April 15, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of Who Likes Wolfie?, p. 1447.
Horn Book, May, 1992, review of Solo Plus One, p. 334; September-October, 1993, Mary M. Burns, review of Three Bags Full, p. 5901; March-April, 1994, Lolly Robinson, review of Buster's Echo, p. 192.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1992, review of Solo Plus One, p. 398; May 1, 2006, review of Ouch!, p. 466.
New York Times Book Review, July 11, 1993, review of Three Bags Full, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, May 11, 1992, review of Solo Plus One, p. 71; August 30, 1993, review of Buster's Echo, p. 95; September 19, 1994, review of Rooster Crows, p. 69; April 8, 1996, review of Who Likes Wolfie?, p. 68; June 14, 1999, review of Toby's Doll's House, p. 69.
School Library Journal, October, 1993, Trev Jones, review of Three Bags Full, p. 112; September, 1994, Christine A. Moesch, review of Rooster Crows, p. 192; January, 2002, Anne Knickerbocker, review of The Wish Come True Cat, p. 109; July, 2006, Maryann H. Owen, review of Ouch!, p. 87.
School Librarian, winter, 2006, Lynda Jones, review of Ouch!, p. 184.
Smithsonian, November, 1993, review of Three Bags Full, p. 190; February, 1994, Lesley McKinstry, review of Buster's Echo, p. 91.
Word Pool Online,http://www.wordpool.co.uk/ (May 15, 2007), interview with Scamell.