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Marty Rhodes Figley (1948-) - Sidelights

blizzard writing children book

Marty Rhodes Figley was inspired to write her book The Schoolchildren's Blizzard, after returning to college to complete her degree from 2000 to 2003. The School-children's Blizzard, "a fluent easy-reader text" according to Horn Book reviewer Roger Sutton. Figley's book follows the story of nineteenth-century Nebraska heroine Minnie Freeman. During a deadly blizzard on January 12, 1888, Freeman, a school teacher, saved her students after the school house roof was ripped off the building. Tying the students to a long rope—among them the story's lead characters Sarah and her little sister, Annie—the heroic teacher leads the children half a mile through the treacherous blizzard to safety. "Well-painted, realistic watercolors depict their struggle to find a safe haven . . . and blend well with the exciting text," commented Karen Land in School Library Journal, praising the artwork by Shelly O. Hass. Carolyn Phelan, reviewing the book for Booklist, also enjoyed The Schoolchildren's Blizzard, stating that the "realistic interplay between Sarah and Annie will draw young readers into this simple, vivid story of natural catastrophe and native courage."

Figley once commented: "As a child I had a hard time trying to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up. Half of me wanted to be Florence Nightingale, 'angel of mercy' to the sick. The other half fantasized about being Superman's girlfriend, Lois Lane—ace newspaper reporter for The Daily Planet. I wanted to help people, but I also loved writing stories (preferably about a girl and her horse, with an always happy ending).

"It turned out that I was able to be both halves. For many years I took X-rays of sick people. I enjoyed that because I knew I was doing an important job. But I still had my Lois Lane fantasy and the urge to create with words. It was like an itch that couldn't be scratched. When my children were growing up I tried making dolls, quilting, painting with acrylics, and even taking photographs. But the itch was still there. Only when I started writing for children did I find my creative home.

"Humor is an important component in my life. There was always lots of it around the house when I was growing up. I'm convinced that a sense of humor can take you through most of life's difficulties. It certainly makes you a more appealing person. There's nothing more boring than someone who takes himself too seriously. I enjoy using humor as a vehicle in my writing.

"I also have a keen interest in our country's history. I enjoy writing about the children from our past and the stories they have to tell. If I can make my reader say, 'I know just what she means,' then my writing is worthwhile. I'm looking forward to many more years of writing both humor and history. I have more stories to tell."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Schoolchildren's Blizzard, p. 1193.

Horn Book, May-June, 2004, Roger Sutton, review of The Schoolchildren's Blizzard, p. 327.

School Library Journal, May, 2004, Karen Land, review of The Schoolchildren's Blizzard, p. 110; February, 2005, Laura Scott, review of Saving the Liberty Bell, p. 118.

ONLINE

Children's Book Guild of Washington, D.C., Web site http://www.childrensbookguild.org/ (January 16, 2005), "Marty Rhodes Figley."

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