Thomson, Sarah L.

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Thomson, Sarah L.

Personal

Born in Ames, IA. Education: Oberlin College, B.A. (English); attended Oxford University.

Addresses

Home—Portland, ME. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Writer and editor. HarperCollins Children's Books, New York, NY, former senior editor; Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, former editor; freelance writer, beginning c. 2001.

Awards, Honors

Bank Street College Best Children's Books of the Year designation, and Cooperative Children's Book Council Choice designation, both 2001, both for The Dragon's Son; Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year designation, 2003, for Imagine a Night, and 2005, for Amazing Gorillas; Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award, 2005, for Tigers.

Writings

FICTION

The Dragon's Son (stories; based on the Mabinogion), Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Imagine a Night, illustrated by Rob Gonsalves, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.

(Adaptor) The Nutcracker (based on the play by E.T.A. Hoffmann), Seastar Books (New York, NY), 2003.

(Adaptor) Fritz Lieber, Gonna Roll the Bones, illustrated by David Wiesner, Milk & Cookies, 2004.

(Translator and adaptor) Jimmy Liao, The Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.

Imagine a Day, illustrated by Rob Gonsalves, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2005.

The Manny, Dutton (New York, NY), 2005.

The Secret of the Rose, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 2006.

NONFICTION

Robert Cormier (biography), Rosen (New York, NY), 2003.

Gary Paulsen (biography), Rosen (New York, NY), 2003.

Stars and Stripes: The Story of the American Flag, illustrated by Bob Dacey and Debra Bandelin, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Tigers, photographs by Wildlife Conservation Society, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Amazing Gorillas!, photographs by Wildlife Conservation Society, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Amazing Whales!, photographs by Wildlife Conservation Society, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Amazing Sharks!, photographs by Wildlife Conservation Society, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Amazing Dolphins!, photographs by Wildlife Conservation Society, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

Amazing Snakes!, photographs by Wildlife Conservation Society, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

Extreme Stars Q & A, Smithsonian/Collins (New York, NY), 2007.

Extreme Dinosaurs Q & A, Smithsonian/Collins (New York, NY), 2007.

My Flag Book, Smithsonian/Collins (New York, NY), 2007.

Sidelights

After working for several years as an editor at two New York City publishers, Sarah L. Thomson decided to share one of her most passionate interests with younger readers. In 2001 Thomson published the young-adult novel The Dragon's Son, following this work with nonfiction, picture-book texts, fictional adaptations, and more novels for teen readers. In The Dragon's Son Thomson draws from the medieval Welsh story collection known as the Mabinogion as well as from Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Featuring characters such as King Arthur, Morgan le Fay, Mordred, and Nimue, Thomson's "affecting" fiction debut sheds a light of realism on Arthurian Briton, according to Booklist contributor Sally Estes. "Fantasy and historical-fiction readers alike will enjoy the new perspective offered by this gritty, substantial novel," Cheri Estes added in her review of The Dragon's Son for School Library Journal.

In The Manny Thomson introduces sixteen-year-old New Yorker Justin Blakewell, as he casts about for a summer job that will allow him to get out of the city and mingle with interesting—and wealthy—people. And find a girlfriend. A job in the swanky Hamptons as a male nanny, or "manny," taking care of the four-year-old daughter of a wealthy couple seems to be perfect, but when he makes a disaster of juggling friendships with the beautiful but condescending Serafina and the down-to-earth Liz, Justin realizes that he needs to re-think his priorities. Noting that the novel's humor will appeal to teens, a Kirkus Reviews writer added that "Thomson's flowing writing style keeps her reader interested" in the novel's "well-developed characters" and "insightful" story. Dubbing the book a "breezy read" that contains "moments of social commentary" about class distinctions, Karyn N. Silverman wrote in School Library Journal that The Manny will find fans among "girls who wish there were more guys like Justin."

Once again drawing on her interest in historic England, Thomson returns readers to the court of Queen Elizabeth I in the young-adult novel The Secret of the Rose. Thomson's story focuses on fourteen-year-old Rosalind Archer. A Roman Catholic, Rosalind and her younger brother find themselves homeless and alone following her father's imprisonment and ultimate death in prison as a result of his faith. Disguising herself as a boy, she finds a way to support herself and her brother by entering the service of Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe. Through Marlowe, Rosalind is quickly drawn into the exciting world of the London stage, but she also realizes that her secretive and mercurial employer must never be trusted with her true identity. In Kirkus Reviews a contributor dubbed The Secret of the Rose "fast-paced and accessible." Kliatt reviewer Claire Rosser praised Thomson for including "detail[s] of life in the Elizabethan theatre," concluding that the novel's "action and suspense … grips the reader from the first pages."

In addition to her fiction for older readers, Thomson has also created poetic texts that pair with intriguing oil paintings by Rob Gonsalves in the picture books Imagine a Day and Imagine a Night. Gonsalves's Dali-esque images envision a world in which imagination can transform reality; as Carolyn Phelan wrote in Booklist, Imagine a Day provides young readers with "an intriguing introduction to the surreal in art" through Thomson's "lyrical text" and the artist's "remarkable paintings." In School Library Journal Marianne Saccardi called Imagine a Night "a fascinating foray into the imagination and a fine discussion starter for older children."

American history and the animal kingdom have also provided Thomson with subjects for her work, in this case the nonfiction titles Stars and Stripes: The Story of the American Flag, and a series of books on animal species that feature photographs from the Wildlife Conservation Society. A history of the flag of the United States of America, Stars and Stripes spans historic moments that have inspired the flag's prominent display, from its use as a symbol of revolution in colonial America and the honoring of Olympic athletes that represent the nation to the weeks and months following the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, DC. In addition to praising the "vivid" illustrations by Bob Dacey and Debra Bandelin, Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan wrote in School Library Journal that Stars and Stripes serves as a "solid choice for introducing the history of both our flag and our country."

Presenting simple introductions to budding naturalists who are still mastering reading skills, Thomson's contributions to the "Amazing" series include Amazing Snakes!, Amazing Whales!, and Amazing Dolphins!, among others. Featuring full-color photographs from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the books cover the habitat, characteristics, and behaviors of several fascinating species. Kathleen Meulen discussed Amazing Sharks! for School Library Journal, writing that Thomson's "highly readable title explains basic facts of shark

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life and elaborates on the diversity of different species," while Hazel Rochman noted in Booklist that the book's "short sentences are clear and informative." Also praising Thomson's contribution to the "Amazing" nonfic- tion series, Phelan described the text of Amazing Dolphins! as "short, clear, and precise," and deemed Amazing Gorillas! "simply written but informative." In Kirkus Reviews, a critic called Amazing Snakes! "an engrossing introduction to a perennially fascinating subject."

Reflecting on her move from editor to writer, Thomson told SATA: "When I'm asked why I decided to leave my editing job and write books for a living, I often answer that it's quite simple: I like being in charge. I've always been a passionate reader, but even when I'm immersed in a novel, I can't stop my mind from taking its own path. Pretty soon I'm thinking ‘Hey, what about this character? Why aren't we hearing more about her? Wait, would the hero really do that? No, I don't like that ending; why not end it this way?’ In the end, I think that's why I write my own books: I want to decide what happens. Being a reader is wonderful, but being a writer is even better because I get to be the one making the choices.

"All my life I've spent at least as much time in books as in the real world—indeed, I'd be hard pressed to define one of those worlds as more real than the other. But today some of the imaginary worlds I get to spend time in are my own."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 2001, Sally Estes, review of The Dragon's Son, p. 1675; September 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Stars and Stripes: The Story of the American Flag, p. 243; January 1, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of Imagine a Day, p. 862; May 1, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of Amazing Gorillas!, p. 1588; May 15, 2005, Kay Weisman, review of Amazing Whales!, p. 1662; October, 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of Amazing Sharks!, p. 60; December 15, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of Amazing Snakes!, p. 49; May 1, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Secret of the Rose, p. 47; July, 2006, Lynda Ritterman, review of Amazing Dolphins!, p. 95.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July, 2001, review of The Dragon's Son, p. 425; September, 2005, Karen Coats, review of The Manny, p. 49; September, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of The Secret of the Rose, p. 38.

Canadian Review of Materials, November 14, 2003, review of Imagine a Night.

Horn Book, July-August, 2006, Jeannine M. Chapman, review of The Secret of the Rose, p. 452.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2004, review of Tigers, p. 694; January 1, 2005, review of Imagine a Day, p. 58; May 1, 2005, review of The Manny, p. 547; May 15, 2005, review of Amazing Gorillas!, p. 597; January 1, 2006, review of Amazing Snakes!, p. 45; May 1, 2006, review of Amazing Dolphins!, p. 469; June 15, 2006, review of The Secret of the Rose, p. 638.

Kliatt, May, 2005, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of The Manny, p. 18; July, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of The Secret of the Rose, p. 15.

Publishers Weekly, May 26, 2003, review of Stars and Stripes, p. 70; June 9, 2003, review of Imagine a Night, p. 50; February 27, 2006, review of The Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination, p. 60.

School Library Journal, July, 2001, Cheri Estes, review of The Dragon's Son, p. 114; July, 2003, Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, review of Stars and Stripes, p. 119; August, 2003, Beth Jones, review of Gary Paulsen, p. 186; October, 2003, Marianne Saccardi, review of Imagine a Day, p. 205; September, 2004, Lynda Ritterman, review of Tigers, p. 194; January, 2005, Mary Hazelton, review of Amazing Whales!, p. 116; April, 2005, Catherine Threadgill, review of Imagine a Day, p. 114; June, 2005, Karyn N. Silverman, review of The Manny, p. 170; August, 2005, Susan Lissim, review of Amazing Gorillas!, p. 118; January, 2006, Kathleen Meulen, review of Amazing Sharks!, p. 124; July, 2006, Lynda Ritterman, review of Amazing Dolphins!, p. 95.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 2001, review of The Dragon's Son, p. 136; August, 2005, Rollie Welch, review of The Manny, p. 227; December, 2006, Jane G. Van Wiemoldy, review of The Secret of the Rose, p. 435.

ONLINE

Sarah L. Thomson Home Page, http://home.earthlink.net/~slthomson (April 15, 2007).