Whelan, Gloria 1923–
Whelan, Gloria 1923–
(Gloria Ann Whelan)
Born November 23, 1923, in Detroit, MI; daughter of William Joseph (a contractor) and Hildegarde Rewoldt; married Joseph L. Whelan (a physician), June 12, 1948; children: Joseph William, Jennifer Nolan. Education: University of Michigan, B.S., 1945, M.S.W., 1948.
Writer. Minneapolis Family and Children's Service, Minneapolis, MN, social worker, 1948-49; Children's Center of Wayne County, Detroit, MI, supervisor of group services and day-care program, 1963-68; Spring Arbor College, Spring Arbor, MI, instructor in American literature, beginning 1979. Writer-in-residence, Interlochen Academy for the Arts; instructor in writing workshops.
Juvenile Book Merit Award (older), Friends of American Writers, 1979, for A Clearing in the Forest; Juvenile Fiction Award, Society of Midland Authors, 1994; Great Lakes Book Award, 1996, for Once on This Is-
land; named Michigan Author of the Year, Michigan Library Association/Michigan Center for the Book, 1998; National Book Award, 2000, and New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age designation, 2001, both for Homeless Bird; Best Books of the Year citation, Bank Street College of Education; Edgar Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America; four Pushcart Prize nominations; Creative Artist Award, Michigan Council for the Arts; Master List finalist, Florida Sunshine State Young Readers Award; citations for Texas Lone Star Reading List and International Reading Association (IRA) Children's Choice List; nominations for Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, Georgia Children's Book Award, and Mark Twain Award.
A Clearing in the Forest, Putnam (New York, NY), 1978.
A Time to Keep Silent, Putnam (New York, NY), 1979, reprinted, 1993.
The Pathless Woods, illustrated by Walter Kessell, Lippincott (New York, NY), 1981, published as The Pathless Woods: Ernest Hemingway's Sixteenth Summer in Northern Michigan, illustrated by Glenn Wolff, Thunder Bay Press, 1999.
Next Spring an Oriole, illustrated by Pamela Johnson, Random House (New York, NY), 1987.
Silver, illustrated by Stephen Marchesi, Random House (New York, NY), 1988.
A Week of Raccoons, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.
The Secret Keeper, Knopf (New York, NY), 1990.
Hannah, illustrated by Leslie Bowman, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.
Bringing the Farmhouse Home, illustrated by Jada Rowland, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.
Goodbye, Vietnam, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.
Night of the Full Moon (sequel to Next Spring an Oriole), illustrated by Leslie Bowman, Knopf (New York, NY), 1993.
That Wild Berries Should Grow: The Diary of a Summer, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1994.
Once on This Island, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
The Indian School, illustrated by Gabriella Dellosso, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
The Shadow of the Wolf, illustrated by Tony Meers, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.
Forgive the River, Forgive the Sky, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1998.
Farewell to the Island (sequel to Once on This Island), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Miranda's Last Stand, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Homeless Bird, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Welcome to Starvation Lake (chapter book), illustrated by Lynne Cravath, Golden (New York, NY), 2000.
Return to the Island (sequel to Farewell to the Island), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Angel on the Square, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Rich and Famous in Starvation Lake, illustrated by Lynne Cravath, Golden (New York, NY), 2001.
The Wanigan: A Life on the River, illustrated by Emily Martindale, Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.
Are There Bears in Starvation Lake?, illustrated by Lynne Cravath, Golden (New York, NY), 2002.
Jam and Jelly by Holly and Nellie, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, Sleeping Bear Press (Chelsea, MI), 2002.
Fruitlands: Louisa May Alcott Made Perfect, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
A Haunted House in Starvation Lake, illustrated by Lynne Cravath, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.
The Impossible Journey (sequel to Angel on the Square), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Friend on Freedom River, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, Sleeping Bear Press (Chelsea, MI), 2004.
Chu Ju's House, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Burying the Sun, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Listening for Lions, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
The Turning, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
Summer of the War, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
Mackinac Bridge: The Five-Mile Poem, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, Sleeping Bear Press (Chelsea, MI), 2006.
Parade of Shadows, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.
Playing with Shadows (short-story collection; for adults), University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1988.
The President's Mother (adult novel), Servant Publications, 1996.
The Ambassador's Wife (adult novel), Servant Publications, 1997.
Short fiction anthologized in O. Henry Prize Stories. Contributor of adult fiction to periodicals, including Michigan Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly, Story Quarterly, Missouri Review, Gettysburg Review, Detroit Monthly, and Ontario Review. Contributor of poetry to periodicals, including Ontario Review and Country Life.
Many of Whelan's novels have been adapted as audiobooks.
A National Book Award-winning writer for young people, Gloria Whelan is the author of a number of historical novels featuring young characters who weather challenging periods in history while holding fast to traditional values and family. In her mid-fifties when her first novel, A Clearing in the Forest, was published, Whelan has made up for lost time by producing a steady stream of historical and contemporary fiction for children and teens since the mid-1970s. In addition to novels such as Homeless Bird, The Pathless Woods, Goodbye, Vietnam, and The Turning, she has also authored humorous chapter books such as Are There Bears in Starvation Lake?, as well as short fiction and poetry for adults. Reviewing Whelan's work in the Chicago Tribune, Liz Rosenberg dubbed her "an accomplished, graceful, and intelligent writer," while Booklist contributor Kay Weisman cited Whelan's "reputation for [creating] insightful prose."
Born an only child in Detroit, Michigan, in 1923, Whelan has been writing stories "as long as I can remember," as she told Kathleen T. Isaacs in a School Library Journal interview. As she noted in her speech to the National Book Award committee (as posted on the National Book Foundation Web site), books served as both friends and solace when things were difficult or frightening. One of Whelan's role models while growing up was Jo March from Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women, and Fruitlands: Louisa May Alcott Made
Perfect draws on that affection in its story about the writer's unusual childhood as the daughter of a nineteenth-century utopianistic free spirit.
Whelan's love of books and writing continued through high school, and continued during her years as a student at the University of Michigan. While she focused on the novel form, she also dabbled in short stories and poetry, but life eventually put her writing ambitions on the back burner. Married to a physician and raising her two children, Whelan also served as a social worker and a supervisor of group services at a day-care program in Detroit. Finally, in 1977 she and her husband decided to leave the city life behind and moved to a house near a small lake in northern Michigan. "Our family had been coming up here for years in the summertime," Whelan explained of the move to Isaacs, adding that she has also visited the area during her own childhood due to her father's love of fishing.
The Whelans' idyllic rural retreat was soon disrupted, however, when the oil drilling company that owned their property's mineral rights announced their intent to drill for oil. Although the workers bulldozed three acres, erected a derrick, and began drilling, the Whelans were lucky: the well came in dry and the drilling was discontinued. Although the experience was upsetting, it jump-started Whelan's desire to write and resulted in A Clearing in the Forest. This young-adult novel, about a boy who works on an oil rig, was her first book to be set in northern Michigan.
Whelan's second novel, A Time to Keep Silent, also takes a contemporary setting, and focuses on thirteen-year-old Clair, who reacts to her mother's death by withdrawing into herself and refusing to speak to anyone. To make matters worse, Clair's widowed father, a minister in an affluent suburban community, now decides to uproot the family in order to build a mission church in a poor, rural area. After moving to their new home, Clair meets independent and adventurous Dorrie, who is trying to make it on her own while living in a ramshackle house in the woods. When Dorrie's abusive father comes looking for her after his release from prison, Clair must speak out in order to help her friend. Writing in Kliatt, Claire Rosser called A Time to Keep Silent "strong and life-affirming" and noted that "there is suspense amidst the story of emotional healing."
Whelan ventured further into the suspense genre with The Secret Keeper. This story is told from the perspective of Annie, a young teen who is hired to take care of ten-year-old Matt during a summer at the Beaches, a private Lake Michigan resort. Annie finds it odd that Matt's grandparents refuse to let him see his father, Bryce, and seem unwilling to discuss his mother's death. When Bryce kidnaps Matt, Annie discovers the terrible family secret that the entire resort community has conspired to conceal, thus putting herself in danger. In a School Library Journal review, Kathryn Havris commented that "the element of lurking evil is there, making this a book that will hold readers' interest and provoke discussions on vigilante justice and just who is above the law." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly also cited The Secret Keeper as a novel of merit. "Containing many elements of a modern-day Gothic, Whelan's thoroughly satisfying novel is sure to produce shivers," the critic maintained.
Another tale of northern Michigan is served up in That Wild Berries Should Grow: The Diary of a Summer. It is the fictional diary of Elsa, a young girl who is sent away from her home in Detroit to live with her Germanborn grandparents at their lake house. Set in 1933, the story includes references to the Depression and the mounting concern about Adolf Hitler's activities in Germany leading up to World War II. In her School Library Journal article, Sally Bates Goodroe wrote that Elsa gains an understanding of herself and others in this "gentle, authentic slice of childhood with the timeless feel of summer." Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan noted that Elsa's transformation "is gradual enough to be convincing," and that Whelan's novel was "a good portrayal of a child growing up during the Depression."
Once on This Island, Farewell to the Island, and Return to the Island comprise Whelan's trilogy focusing on a young woman living on Mackinac Island during the early 1800s. When readers meet Mary in Once on This Island, she is twelve years old and living on her family's small island farm between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The year is 1812, and when the invading British capture the island, Mary's widowed father leaves home to fight for the Americans. Left behind, Mary and her two siblings must survive the vicissitudes of the next three years on their own. The local fort is taken by the British, Mary's sister Angelique flirts with a British lieutenant, and her brother Jacques must escape from British troops. Through it all, Mary worries that her father will never return from the war. "Through Mary's narration, the everyday details of life in 1812 intertwine with larger events," commented Booklist contributor Susan Dove Lempke, the critic also praising "Whelan's smooth writing, vivid characters, and strong sense of place."
Farewell to the Island finds Mary leaving her island home to visit Angelique, who is now married and living in London. Hotheaded Jacques is left behind with his new wife, Little Cloud, as is White Hawk, a Native American with whom Mary has grown close. Mary's father has given the farm to his son, rather than to oldest child Mary, despite the fact that she worked so hard to keep it during the war. On the voyage to England, Mary meets a handsome young sailor who turns out to be the son of a duke, Lord Lindsay. England, however, is a disappointment, as the plucky young woman is a bit too outspoken for the locals. Although Lempke viewed Farewell to the Island as less historically grounded than Once on This Island, she predicted that "it will satisfy young readers with a taste for romance." Mary is back on her beloved farm in Return to the Island, working with Jacques and the gentle White Hawk when James, an English painter she met in England, arrives with his canvasses, intending to paint on the island and also to woo Mary. "Readers of the first two books will want this one," wrote Booklist critic GraceAnne A. DeCandido, while Carrie Lynn Cooper commented in School Library Journal that Whelan's "convincing third novel … deftly integrates history into" an engaging story.
Like she does in her "Mackinac Island" trilogy, Whelan frequently spins a story around a fascinating historical incident or era, weaving fact with fiction. In the middlegrade novel Miranda's Last Stand, for example, a girl learns what it means to be a Native American when her mother takes a job with William Cody's Wild West Show. Miranda, whose father was killed at Custer's Last Stand, has always been taught that Indians are bad, but when she comes into contact with a group of Lakota Sioux children firsthand, and with Sitting Bull when the famed Lakota chief joins the show, she is forced to reassess her attitudes. Whelan's novel was described by School Library Journal contributor Carol A. Edwards as a compelling account of "one young girl's gradual coming to terms with the loss of her father and understanding the plight of the Sioux." "Miranda's story, filled with characters from the American West, will fascinate middle readers," predicted Karen Hutt in Booklist, while a contributor for Publishers Weekly wrote that in Miranda's Last Stand Whelan "uses an accessible first-person narrative and polished, easy prose filled with behind-the-scenes detail."
Prior to Goodbye, Vietnam Whelan was known primarily as a regional author; her books A Clearing in the Forest, Hannah, The Wanigan: A Life on the River, and Summer of the War, as well as Once on This Island and its sequels, all take place in northern Michigan, where Whelan herself grew up. In Goodbye, Vietnam, however, Whelan moves to Southeast Asia in telling the story of thirteen-year-old Mai, whose family is forced to leave its village because her grandmother was accused of practicing folk medicine and following the old religion. The family endures a dangerous journey on a small, crowded boat to seek freedom in Hong Kong and eventually in the United States. Diane S. Marton noted in School Library Journal that the book "describes well the hardships many of America's newest refugees have endured," while Roger Sutton, in a Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books review, stated that Goodbye, Vietnam has "a rare simplicity and sharp focus." Reviewing the same title in Horn Book, Carolyn K. Jenks noted that "Mai's stark, straightforward narration" lets the reader bring his or her own feelings into the plight of the Vietnamese boat people. Jenks also felt that while the conclusion of the book "ties together a few too many loose ends to be completely realistic, … the people and the journey are compelling." "Mai is the perfect narrator through whom to introduce a large cast of unusual, sympathetic characters," commented a contributor for Publishers Weekly, the critic further observing that the teen's "emotional control and keen observations prove to be a source of calm in the storm that swirls around her."
Beginning with Goodbye, Vietnam, Whelan expanded her focus, and since receiving the National Book Award for her 2000 novel Homeless Bird, she has increasingly alternating her settings between the American Midwest and interesting historical epochs throughout the rest of the world. As the author explained to Elizabeth Farnsworth in an interview for the Public Broadcasting Service's News Hour: the prestigious award "pushes me to try and do better. It's a kind of responsibility, and it's also a kind of affirmation. It makes me feel that somehow the stories that I'm writing are stories that are being received by somebody."
Inspired by a newspaper article about an Indian city where widows as young as age thirteen are abandoned by their in-laws, Homeless Bird tells the story of young Koly. The girl is considered simply an extra mouth to feed in her own family, and thus, like many young women in contemporary India, she is married off as early as possible. However, Koly's arranged marriage
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with Hari does not go as planned; it is discovered that the groom is younger than promised, and also sickly. In fact, Koly is desired mainly for her dowry, which Hari's family uses in a vain attempt to procure medical treatment for the dying young man. Soon widowed, Koly finds herself penniless and homeless, abandoned by her in-laws as well as by her own family. Forced to survive on her own in the city, she does so, partly through the intercession of a mysterious and handsome young man, but mainly through her own will and drive.
Alice Stern, reviewing Homeless Bird for Voice of Youth Advocates, called Whelan's novel "beautifully written" and containing all the elements of a great read: "a strong, empathic heroine, a fascinating culture, triumph over adversity … romance, and hope for the future." Other reviewers agreed, Shelle Rosenfeld writing in Booklist that the novel is a "beautifully told, inspiring story" that takes readers on "a fascinating journey through modern India." Rosenfeld also commended Whelan's "lyrical, poetic prose, interwoven with Hindi words and terms," and noted that the book's accompanying glossary is another sign of the prodigious amount of research Whelan did for the book. "Whelan has en- hanced a simple but satisfying story with loving detail," noted Isaacs in her School Library Journal review of the novel. "Readers with a curiosity about other worlds and other ways will find Koly's story fascinating," the critic concluded.
Leaving India, Whelan turns her attention to Russia during the Communist revolution in Angel on the Square. The novel opens in 1914, as the Russian aristocracy under Tsar Nicholas II is still in power and enjoying a lavish life despite the rumblings of World War I. Katya Ivanova, the twelve-year-old daughter of a Russian countess, lives in the palace at St. Petersburg, where she shares this lavish life and is friends with the four tsarinas. As Russia is pulled relentlessly into war with Germany, the country's vast poor begin to revolt. Katya now begins to understand the concerns of her political-minded friend Misha, and ultimately she is forced to confront an uncertain future in a world where all traditions are threatened in the face of a brutal communist regime.
The year is 1934 and Josef Stalin has taken the reigns of power in Russia when Whelan resumes Katya's story in The Impossible Journey. Now married to Misha and the mother of Marya and Georgi, Katya bravely speaks out against Stalin's decrees. Because she is considered an enemy of the Soviet government due to her aristocratic heritage, she and her husband are arrested by the Soviet police. With their father confined to a Stalinist gulag, or labor camp, thirteen-year-old Marya decides to locate her mother, who she has been told is living in exile in northern Siberia. Together with seven-year-old Georgi, the resilient young teen undertakes the thousand-mile journey to the Russian wilderness, where the true danger may come when and if she locates Katya. While noting that the children's "lucky breaks may be hard to believe," Horn Book contributor Lauren Adams added that "the desperate plight of Russians under Stalin is only too real" and praised The Impossible Journey as "a bold adventure in exotic territory." Calling the novel an "evocative sequel" to Angel in the Square, a Publishers Weekly critic concluded that "Whelan once again brings to life the beauty, sadness and rich culture of Russia's past."
The family's saga continues in Burying the Sun as Georgi takes over the narrative. Now fifteen, the boy is living in Leningrad and poised to join the Soviet Army. The year is 1941, and German bombs are falling on the city while a blockade causes other hardships. Marya, with her love of art, is helping to relocate the treasures of the Hermitage to safety, while Katya nurses Russian soldiers at the front. The saga moves half a century into the future in The Turning, which finds Georgi's seventeen-year-old granddaughter, Tanya, dancing with the Kirov ballet as the USSR faces its final days. Despite her reserved tone, in Burying the Sun "Whelan creates a memorable, perhaps indelible, picture of a particular time and place," according to Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan, the critic noting the continued references to the symphony written by Dimitri Shostakovich in honor of "his imperiled city." In School Library Journal Kristen Oravec commended Burying the Sun for its "haunting images and elegant prose," while Kliatt contributor Claire Rosser maintained that Katya, Marya, and Georgi "once again show … their ability to cope in impossible circumstances with grace and courage." Commending the young protagonist in The Turning for similar characteristics, School Library Journal critic Carol Shene wrote that "Tanya is an appealing, thoughtful heroine whose political awareness and integrity will encourage readers to" consider the events underlying their own decisions.
Life under communism as it was enacted during China's Cultural Revolution is the focus of Chu Ju's House, a novel that a Kirkus Reviews writer dubbed "well-done and convincing." Here Whelan introduces fourteen-year-old narrator Chu Ju as she faces a terrible choice. Due to the government's decree that no family can have more than two children and the prevailing social view that girl children are an economic detriment to a family, Chu Ju's pregnant mother prays that her next child will be a boy. When a daughter is born, Chu Ju's grandmother makes plans to sell the infant, thereby giving the parents another chance at a boy before the two-child quota is reached. Seeing her mother's sadness at this plan, the compassionate teen runs away from home. While her action allows her sister to remain part of the family, it also results in hardships as the wandering Chu Ju must perform difficult manual labor in order to stay alive. Writing that the author "skillfully shows the perspectives of both sides" of Mao's Cultural Revolution, a Publishers Weekly contributor added that the novel's protagonist "emerges as a heroine worthy of the rare and coveted rewards she ultimately receives."
Whelan spins what Horn Book contributor Robin Smith dubbed "a satisfying, old-fashioned tale" in Listening for Lions. Set in British East Africa in 1919, immediately following World War I, the novel finds thirteen-year-old Rachel Sheridan living among the Kikuyu tribe with her missionary parents. After her parents perish in an influenza outbreak, the girl escapes life in a local orphanage but winds up in an even more unbearable situation: she is taken in by British neighbors and shipped to their elderly relative in England, the intent be to use Rachel to unfairly gain control of an inheritance intended for their own recently deceased daughter. In addition to an intriguing and unusual heroine, Listening for Lions rewards readers with "rich details of the natural world on two continents" as well as "melodramatic twists and turns of plot," according to Smith. Booklist reviewer Gillian Engberg praised the young narrator's "straightforward, sympathetic voice," while in Publishers Weekly a critic explained that the homesick "Rachel's lack of choices and her sensitive nature make her complicity [in the unscrupulous scheme] wholly believable."
Phelan returns to the islands of Michigan's upper peninsula in Summer of the War, which takes place in 1942, following the Japanese bombardment of Pearl Harbor. In the story, fourteen-year-old Belle and her siblings are on vacation at their grandparents' cottage on Turtle Island when they are joined by their Paris-born-and-bred cousin Caroline. The daughter of an overseas diplomat, Caroline has been sent to safety in the United States, and her spoiled nature and distain for rural life causes upheaval in the formerly placid family dynamic, especially when tragedy strikes. "While the family is deeply affected by Carrie, … the island's flora and fauna, its storms and calm, mitigate and soothe everyone's distress," wrote a Publishers Weekly. reviewer, while Engberg deemed Summer of the War "a moving story" about a young girl's coming of age. In Kirkus Reviews, a reviewer praised the novel as "an exceptional portrayal of how war becomes personal."
Many of Whelan's books are geared for younger readers, among them Next Spring an Oriole, Silver, Friend on Freedom River, and a series of humorous chapter books following the antics of students at Starvation Lake Elementary School. Set in 1837, Next Spring an Oriole is narrated by ten-year-old Libby, who describes her family's difficult move from Virginia to Michigan on a wagon train. After Libby's parents help Fawn, a Potawatomi Indian girl, survive the measles, Fawn's family returns the favor by providing food during a long winter. Betsy Hearne, reviewing the book in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, described Next Spring an Oriole as "smoothly written and appealing," and a Kirkus Reviews writer remarked that it seems "historically authentic." In a sequel, Night of the Full Moon, Libby is disappointed that her father cannot take her to visit Fawn's village and she sneaks away by herself. While she is there, however, the U.S. Army arrives to forcibly relocate the Potawatomi, and Libby is included in the forced march by mistake. Noting that "Whelan packs quite a story into this brief sequel," a Publishers Weekly critic added that the story, told in "simple, well-chosen language," is as "captivating" as any of the "Little House" series, but "far more insightful and thought-provoking" with regard to historical events and the history of the tribes that once flourished in northern Michigan.
In Silver Whelan introduces nine-year-old Rachel, who lives in rural Alaska. Rachel's father, an avid dogsled racer, allows her to raise the runt of the litter produced by his best lead dog. Rescuing the pup from wolves, Rachel names the pup Silver and raises him to be a champion. A Kirkus Reviews contributor praised the book as "a charming, unassuming narrative that authentically conveys its setting." Likewise, School Library Journal reviewer Hayden E. Atwood called Silver "a lively, thoroughly credible story emphasizing the loneliness and excitement of Alaskan living for a young girl."
In the nostalgic Bringing the Farmhouse Home, a family of five adult siblings and their children gathers to divide up the treasured belongings of a deceased grandmother. They share their memories of the grandmother and the farm, and then devise a fair method of allocating the contents of the farmhouse. In the end, seven-year-old Sarah's mother trades a beautiful platter for the quilt that Sarah hoped to keep. A Kirkus Reviews contributor claimed that people dividing up possessions "are faced with an experience that's in some ways like preschoolers' first bouts with sharing," and Whelan's successful conclusion provides a positive example for children. A writer for Publishers Weekly called the picture book "unusually atmospheric," and one that "celebrates the passage of traditions from one generation to the next."
Returning to northern Michigan history in The Indian School, Whelan depicts, with "eloquent if predictable precision, … the tensions of early 19th-century Michigan," according to a writer for Publishers Weekly. When both her parents are killed in a wagon accident, eleven-year-old Lucy is sent north from Detroit to live with her aunt and uncle at a mission school for Indian children. While Lucy works hard to earn her keep, she also learns about Native American culture from the students who have not yet been Americanized by her diligent Aunt Emma. One of the children, Raven, refuses to adapt to Western ways and runs away, leaving Lucy with a secret. Whelan is able to "transport the reader into a believable and complex past" despite a climax that is "frustrating in its patness," according to the Publishers Weekly reviewer, while Lauren Peterson wrote in Booklist that teachers "in search of fiction tie-ins to Native American units will welcome" The Indian School.
In Friend on Freedom River Whelan once again sets her novel in the mid-1800s, this time introducing a young boy who must help his mother survive the long winter while his father leaves to work in a Michigan logging camp. Louis gains a first-hand appreciation for the abolitionist battles coming to a head in the southern states when he comes upon a family of runaway slaves in need of help crossing the frozen Detroit River into Canada. In School Library Journal, Wanda Meyers-Hines praised the illustrations by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, noting that they enhance Whelan's "compelling text," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor praised Whelan's "complex, believable characters."
A prolific writer, Whelan sums up her ambition in the Latin phrase "nulla dies sine linea"—"no day without a line." "The Greek Pythagoras could draw a perfect line," she explained to Isaacs, "but he said if he didn't draw it every day, he would lose the skill. So on my computer I have ‘no day without a line,’ and I really make myself write every day. It's what I like best to do, and it's what I do."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, December 1, 1988, p. 656; October 15, 1992, review of Goodbye, Vietnam, p. 443; May 1, 1994, Caro- lyn Phelan, review of That Wild Berries Should Grow: The Diary of a Summer, p. 1602; October 1, 1995, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Once on This Island, p. 321; December 1, 1995, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Farewell to the Island, p. 667; October 15, 1996, Lauren Peterson, review of The Indian School, p. 425; November 1, 1997, p. 485; November 1, 1999, Karen Hutt, review of Miranda's Last Stand, p. 531; March 1, 2000, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Homeless Bird, p. 1243; December 1, 2000, p. 713; January 1, 2001, Renee Olson, "Of Satin and Surprises: The 2000 National Book Awards," p. 874, and GraceAnne A. De-Candido, review of Return to the Island, p. 961; August, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Rich and Famous in Starvation Lake, p. 2123; September 15, 2001, Gillian Engberg, review of Angel on the Square, p. 215; November 1, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of Fruitlands: Louisa May Alcott Made Perfect, p. 500; December 15, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of The Impossible Journey, p. 761; March 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Are There Bears in Starvation Lake?, p. 1328; March 15, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of Chu Ju's House, p. 1301; October 15, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Burying the Sun, p. 405; May 15, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Listening for Lions, p. 1672; February 1, 2006, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Turning, p. 51; April 15, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Summer of the War, p. 57.
Book Report, January-February, 1993, review of Goodbye, Vietnam, pp. 49-50; March-April, 1996, p. 39; November-December, 2000, p. 64.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1987, Betsy Hearne, review of Next Spring an Oriole, p. 39; June, 1991, p. 252; October, 1992, Roger Sutton, review of Goodbye, Vietnam, p. 57; September, 2005, Timnah Card, review of Listening for Lions, p. 52; February, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of The Turning, p. 291; July-August, 2006, Cindy Welch, review of Summer of the War, p. 523.
Chicago Tribune, January 15, 1989, Liz Rosenberg, "Consistent Strength: Four New Volumes in the University of Illinois' Short Fiction Series," sec. 14, p. 3.
Christian Science Monitor, December 14, 2000, p. 21.
Five Owls, September-October, 1994, p. 5.
Horn Book, January-February, 1993, Carolyn K. Jenks, review of Goodbye, Vietnam, p. 87; September-October, 2002, Christine M. Heppermann, review of Fruitlands, p. 585; March-April, 2003, Lauren Adams, review of The Impossible Journey, p. 218; September-October, 2005, Robin Smith, review of Listening for Lions, p. 590.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1987, review of Next Spring an Oriole, p. 1682; April 15, 1988, p. 570; May 15, 1988, review of Silver, p. 768; July 1, 1992, review of Bringing the Farmhouse Home, p. 856; March 15, 2002, review of The Wanigan: A Life on the River, p. 429; November 15, 2002, reviews of The Impossible Journey and Fruitlands, p. 1703; April 1, 2004, review of Chu Ju's House, p. 339; September 15, 2004, review of Burying the Sun, p. 923; February 1, 2005, review of Friends on Freedom River, p. 183; June 15, 2005, review of Listening for Lions, p. 692; February 1, 2006, review of The Turning, p. 138; June 1, 2006, review of Summer of the War, p. 583.
Kliatt, November, 1993, Claire Rosser, review of A Time to Keep Silent, p. 12; July, 2002, Claire Rosser, review of Return to the Island, p. 25; March, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of Angel on the Square, p. 238; March, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of Chu Ju's House, p. 17; May, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of The Impossible Journey, p. 24; September, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of Burying the Sun, p. 17; July, 2005, Claire Rosser, review of Listening for Lions, p. 17; July, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of Summer of the War, p. 15; January, 2007, Claire Rosser, review of Listening for Lions, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, June 24, 1988, p. 95; October 28, 1988, p. 77; February 9, 1990, review of The Secret Keeper, p. 64; July 10, 1992, review of Bringing the Farmhouse Home, p. 247; July 27, 1992, review of Goodbye, Vietnam, p. 63; November 8, 1993, review of Night of the Full Moon, p. 77; March 24, 1994, p. 73; September 23, 1996, review of The Indian School, p. 77; October 6, 1997, p. 56; October 11, 1999, review of Miranda's Last Stand, p. 76; January 31, 2000, p. 107; July 16, 2001, review of Angel on the Square, p. 182; December 2, 2002, review of Fruitlands, p. 52; December 16, 2002, review of The Impossible Journey, p. 68; December 15, 2003, review of The Wanigan, p. 76; March 1, 2004, review of Chu Ju's House, p. 70; August 22, 2005, review of Listening for Lions, p. 65; August 28, 2006, review of Summer of the War, p. 55.
Reading Teacher, January, 1998, pp. 333-334.
School Library Journal, February, 1988, p. 65; October, 1988, Hayden E. Atwood, review of Silver, p. 129; December, 1988, Margaret Bush, review of A Week of Raccoons, p. 95; May, 1990, Kathryn Havris, review of The Secret Keeper, pp. 128-129; June, 1991, Margaret C. Howell, review of Hannah, p. 113; September, 1992, Diane S. Marton, review of Goodbye, Vietnam, p. 262; January, 1993, p. 88; March, 1994, p. 239; July, 1994, Sally Bates Goodroe, review of That Wild Berries Should Grow, pp. 104-105; September, 1998, p. 212; November, 1999, Carol A. Edwards, review of Miranda's Last Stand, p. 166; February, 2000, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Homeless Bird, p. 127; December, 2000, Carrie Lynn Cooper, review of Return to the Island, p. 150; January, 2001, Rick Margolis, "The Bird Is the Word," p. 17; March, 2001, Kathleen T. Isaacs, "Flying High," pp. 52-56; October, 2001, Lisa Prolman, review of Angel on the Square, p. 175; November, 2001, Blair Christolon, review of Rich and Famous in Starvation Lake, p. 123; January, 2003, Susan Marie Pitard, review of Jam and Jelly by Holly and Nellie, p. 115, and Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of The Impossible Journey, p. 146; May, 2004, Barbara Scotto, review of Chu Ju's House, p. 159; November, 2004, Kristen Oravec, review of Burying the Sun, p. 156; June, 2005, Wanda Meyers-Hines, review of Friend on Freedom River, p. 131; August, 2005, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Listening for Lions, p. 138; February, 2006, Carol Schene, review of The Turning, p. 139; August, 2006, Rita Soltan, review of Summer of the War, p. 132.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1990, p. 164; February, 2001, Alice Stern, review of Homeless Bird, pp. 428-429; April, 2001, Leslie Carter, review of Return to the Island, p. 47; October, 2004, Angela Carstensen, review of Goodbye, Vietnam and Chu Ju's House, p. 310; February, 2006, Elaine J. O'Quinn, review of The Turning, p. 494; February, 2007, Lucy Schall, review of Summer of the War, p. 536.
Gloria Whelan Home Page,http://www.gloriawhelan.com (May 10, 1997).
National Book Foundation Web site,http://www.nationalbook.org/ (May 25, 2007), transcript of Whelan's acceptance speech.
News Hour Online,http://www.pbs.org/newshour/ (November 23, 2000), transcript of interview with Whelan.