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Patricia (L'Ann) C(arwell) (L'Ann Carwell) McKissack (1944–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

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Born 1944, in Nashville, TN; Education: Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State University (now Tennessee State University), B.A., 1964; Webster University, M.A., 1975. Politics: "Independent." Religion: Methodist. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening.

Addresses

Office—All-Writing Services, 225 South Meramec, No. 206, Clayton, MO 63115.

Career

Junior high school English teacher in Kirkwood, MO, 1968–75; Forest Park College, St. Louis, MO, part-time instructor in English, beginning 1975. Children's book editor at Concordia Publishing House, 1976–81, and Institute of Children's Literature, beginning 1984; University of Missouri—St. Louis, instructor, beginning 1978; co-owner with Fredrick L. McKissack of All-Writing Services. Educational consultant on minority literature.

Member

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Honors Awards

Helen Keating Ott Award, National Church and Synagogue Librarians Association, 1980, for editorial work at Concordia Publishing House; C. S. Lewis Silver Medal awards, Christian Educators Association, 1984, for It's the Truth, Christopher and 1985, for Abram, Abram, Where Are We Going?; Caldecott Honor Award, 1989, for Mirandy and Brother Wind; Parents' Choice Award, 1989, for Nettie Jo's Friends; Jane Addams Children's Book Award, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and Coretta Scott King Award, both 1990, both for A Long Hard Journey: The Story of the Pullman Porter; Woodson Merit award, 1991, for W. E. B. DuBois; Hungry Mind Award, 1993, for The World in 1492; Newbery Honor Award and Coretta Scott King Author Award, both 1993, both for The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural; Coretta Scott King Honor Award and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, both 1993, both for Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman?; Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Children, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1999, for Let My People Go; Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, Kent State University's Virginia Hamilton Conference, 2001.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

(Under name L'Ann Carwell) Good Shepherd Prayer, Concordia (St. Louis, MO), 1978.

(Under name L'Ann Carwell) God Gives New Life, Concordia (St. Louis, MO), 1979.

Ask the Kids, Concordia (St. Louis, MO), 1979.

Who Is Who?, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1983.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Man to Remember, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1984.

Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Poet to Remember, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1984.

Michael Jackson, Superstar, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1984.

Lights out, Christopher, illustrated by Bartholomew, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1984.

It's the Truth, Christopher, illustrated by Bartholomew, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1984.

The Apache, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1984.

Mary McLeod Bethune: A Great American Educator, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1985.

Aztec Indians, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1985.

The Inca, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1985.

The Maya, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1985.

Flossie and the Fox, illustrated by Rachel Isadora, Dial (New York, NY), 1986.

Our Martin Luther King Book, illustrated by Rachel Isadora, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1986.

Who Is Coming?, illustrated by Clovis Martin, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1986.

Give It with Love, Christopher: Christopher Learns about Gifts and Giving, illustrated by Bartholomew, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1988.

Speak up, Christopher: Christopher Learns the Difference between Right and Wrong, illustrated by Bartholomew, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1988.

A Troll in a Hole, Millikin (St. Louis, MO), 1988.

Nettie Jo's Friends, illustrated by Scott Cook, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.

Mirandy and Brother Wind, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.

Monkey-Monkey's Trick: Based on an African Folk-Tale, illustrated by Paul Meisel, Random House (New York, NY), 1989.

Jesse Jackson: A Biography, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.

(With Ruthilde Kronberg) A Piece of the Wind and Other Stories to Tell, Harper (New York, NY), 1990.

No Need for Alarm, Millikin (St. Louis, MO), 1990.

A Million Fish—More or Less, illustrated by Dena Schutzer, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.

The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.

History of Haiti, Holt (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Robert L. Duyff) All Our Fruits and Vegetables, Many Hands Media (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Robert L. Duyff) It's a Sandwich!, Many Hands Media (New York, NY), 1996.

A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Ma Dear's Aprons, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1997.

Run away Home, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Color Me Dark: The Diary of Nellie Lee Love, the Great Migration North, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Goin' Someplace Special, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.

The Honest-to-Goodness Truth, illustrated by Giselle Potter, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.

Goin' Someplace Special, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.

Tippy Lemmey, illustrated by Susan Keeter, Aladdin (New York, NY), 2003.

(With Onawumi Jean Moss) Precious and the Boo Hag, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2004.

Look to the Hills: The Diary of Lozette Moreau, a French Slave Girl, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

(With James Carville) Lu and the Swamp Ghost, illustrated by David Catrow, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2004.

(With Arlene Zarembka) To Establish Justice, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.

Where Crocodiles Have Wings, illustrated by Bob Barner, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2005.

Amistad: The Story of a Slave Ship, illustrated by Sanna Stanley, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2005.

Abby Takes a Stand, illustrated by Gordon James, Viking (New York, NY), 2005.

FOR CHILDREN; WITH HUSBAND, FREDRICK L. MCKISSACK

Look What You've Done Now, Moses, illustrated by Joe Boddy, David Cook, 1984.

Abram, Abram, Where Are We Going?, illustrated by Joe Boddy, David Cook, 1984.

Cinderella, illustrated by Tom Dunnington, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1985.

Country Mouse and City Mouse, illustrated by Anne Sikorski, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1985.

The Little Red Hen, illustrated by Dennis Hockerman, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1985.

The Three Bears, illustrated by Virginia Bala, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1985.

The Ugly Little Duck, illustrated by Peggy Perry Anderson, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1986.

When Do You Talk to God? Prayers for Small Children, illustrated by Gary Gumble, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1986.

King Midas and His Gold, illustrated by Tom Dunnington, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1986.

Frederick Douglass: The Black Lion, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1987.

A Real Winner, illustrated by Quentin Thompson and Ken Jones, Millikin (St. Louis, MO), 1987.

The King's New Clothes, illustrated by Gwen Connelly, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1987.

Tall Phil and Small Bill, illustrated by Kathy Mitter, Millikin (St. Louis, MO), 1987.

Three Billy Goats Gruff, illustrated by Tom Dunnington, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1987.

My Bible ABC Book, illustrated by Reed Merrill, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1987.

The Civil Rights Movement in America from 1865 to the Present, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1987, second edition, 1991.

All Paths Lead to Bethlehem, illustrated by Kathryn E. Shoemaker, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1987.

Messy Bessey, illustrated by Richard Hackney, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1987.

The Big Bug Book of Counting, illustrated by Bartholomew, Millikin (St. Louis, MO), 1987.

The Big Bug Book of Opposites, illustrated by Bartholomew, Millikin (St. Louis, MO), 1987.

The Big Bug Book of Places to Go, illustrated by Bartholomew, Millikin (St. Louis, MO), 1987.

The Big Bug Book of the Alphabet, illustrated by Bartholomew, Millikin (St. Louis, MO), 1987.

The Big Bug Book of Things to Do, illustrated by Bartholomew, Millikin (St. Louis, MO), 1987.

Bugs!, illustrated by Martin, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1988.

The Children's ABC Christmas, illustrated by Kathy Rogers, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1988.

Constance Stumbles, illustrated by Tom Dunnington, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1988.

Oh, Happy, Happy Day! A Child's Easter in Story, Song, and Prayer, illustrated by Elizabeth Swisher, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1989.

God Made Something Wonderful, illustrated by Ching, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1989.

Messy Bessey's Closet, illustrated by Richard Hackney, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1989.

James Weldon Johnson: "Lift Every Voice and Sing," Children's ress (Chicago, IL), 1990.

A Long Hard Journey: The Story of the Pullman Porter, Walker (New York, NY), 1990.

Taking a Stand against Racism and Racial Discrimination, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1990.

W. E. B. DuBois, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1990.

The Story of Booker T. Washington, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1991.

Messy Bessey's Garden, illustrated by Martin, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1991.

From Heaven Above, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1992.

Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman?, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.

God Makes All Things New, illustrated by Ching, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.

African-American Inventors, Millbrook (Brookfield, CT), 1994.

African-American Scientists, Millbrook (Brookfield, CT), 1994.

African Americans, illustrated by Michael McBride, Millikin (St. Louis, MO), 1994.

Sports, Millikin (St. Louis, MO), 1994.

Black Diamond: The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa, Holt (New York, NY), 1994.

Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters, illustrated by John Thompson, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

Red-tail Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, Walker, 1995.

Rebels against Slavery: American Slave Revolts, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

Let My People Go: Bible Stories of Faith, Hope, and Love, as Told by Price Jefferies, a Free Man of Color, to His Daughter, Charlotte, in Charleston, South Carolina, 1806–1816, illustrated by James Ransome, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1998.

Young, Black, and Determined: A Biography of Lorraine Hansberry, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1998.

Messy Bessey and the Birthday Overnight, illustrated by Dana Regan, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1998.

Messy Bessey's School Desk, illustrated by Dana Regan, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1998.

Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Messy Bessey's Holidays, illustrated by Dana Regan, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1999.

Messy Bessey's Family Reunion, illustrated by Dana Regan, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 2000.

Miami Gets It Straight, illustrated by Michael Chesworth, Golden Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Bugs!, illustrated by Michael Cressy, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Messy Bessey's Closet, illustrated by Dana Regan, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Miami Makes the Play, illustrated by Michael Chesworth, Golden Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Miami Sees It Through, illustrated by Michael Chesworth, Golden Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Messy Bessey's Garden, illustrated by Dana Regan, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

(Adaptors) Itching and Twitching: A Nigerian Folktale, illustrated by Laura Freeman, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

Hard Labor: The First African Americans, 1619, illustrated by Joseph Daniel Fiedler, Aladdin (New York, NY), 2004.

FOR CHILDREN; "GREAT AFRICAN AMERICANS" SERIES; WITH HUSBAND, FREDRICK L. MCKISSACK

Carter G. Woodson: The Father of Black History, illustrated by Ned Ostendorf, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1991, revised edition, 2002.

Frederick Douglass: Leader against Slavery, illustrated by Ned Ostendorf, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1991, revised edition, 2002.

George Washington Carver: The Peanut Scientist, illustrated by Ned Ostendorf, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1991, revised edition, 2002.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett: A Voice against Violence, illustrated by Ned Ostendorf, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1991, revised edition, 2001.

Louis Armstrong: Jazz Musician, illustrated by Ned Ostendorf, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1991, revised edition, 2001.

Marian Anderson: A Great Singer, illustrated by Ned Ostendorf, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1991, revised edition, 2001.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace, illustrated by Ned Ostendorf, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1991, revised edition, 2001.

Mary Church Terrell: Leader for Equality, illustrated by Ned Ostendorf, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1991, revised edition, 2002.

Mary McLeod Bethune: A Great Teacher, illustrated by Ned Ostendorf, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1991, revised edition, 2001.

Ralph J. Bunche: Peacemaker, illustrated by Ned Ostendorf, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1991, revised edition, 2002.

Jesse Owens: Olympic Star, illustrated by Michael David Biegel, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1992, revised edition, 2001.

Langston Hughes: Great American Poet, illustrated by Michael David Biegel, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1992, revised edition, 2002.

Zora Neale Hurston: Writer and Storyteller, illustrated by Michael Bryant, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1992, revised edition, 2002.

Satchel Paige: The Best Arm in Baseball, illustrated by Michael David Biegel, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1992, revised edition, 2002.

Sojourner Truth: Voice for Freedom, illustrated by Michael Bryant, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1992, revised edition, 2002.

Madam C. J. Walker: Self-made Millionaire, illustrated by Michael Bryant, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1992, revised edition, 2001.

Paul Robeson: A Voice to Remember, illustrated by Michael David Biegel, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1992, revised edition, 2001.

Booker T. Washington: Leader and Educator, illustrated by Michael Bryant, Enslow (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 1992, revised edition, 2001.

Also contributor, with Fredrick L. McKissack, to The World of 1492, edited by Jean Fritz, Holt (New York, NY), 1992; coauthor, with F. L. McKissack, of "Start Up" series for beginning readers, four volumes, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1985; co-editor, with F. L. McKissack, of "Reading Well" series and "Big Bug Books" series, both for Milliken. Writer for preschool series "L Is for Listening," broadcast by KWMU-Radio, 1975–77. Author of radio and television scripts. Contributor of articles and short stories to magazines, including Friend, Happy Times, and Evangelizing Today's Child. Coauthor, with Mavis Jukes, of short-subject film script Who Owns the Sun?, Disney Educational Productions, 1991.

Sidelights

Patricia C. McKissack has written well over one hundred titles under her own name, as well as in collaboration with her husband, Fredrick L. McKissack. The author of historical fiction and biographies for children, McKissack focuses on religious as well as African-American themes, and her love of writing is in part inspired by the fact that she has been for many years an
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English instructor at both the middle-school and college levels. The recipient of a 1993 Newbery Honor award for the short stories gathered in The Dark Thirty, McKissack has also won several Coretta Scott King awards, as well as a Caldecott honor for her picture book Mirandy and Brother Wind. Teaming up with her husband, she has contributed numerous titles to Enslow's "Great African Americans" series, as well as many non-series books on little-known aspects of African-American history, including Red-Tail Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, Black Diamonds: The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues, and Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers.

The McKissacks' lives were shaped by one of the most optimistic eras in American history: the 1960s. "We're Kennedy products, and we were very idealistic," McKissack once told Something about the Author (SATA). "That was the period in which African Americans were really looking up, coming out of darkness, segregation, and discrimination, and doors were beginning to open—ever so slightly, but still opening." The optimism of those days can be seen in such books as the Civil Rights Movement in America from 1865 to the Present and Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace.

Born in 1944 in Nashville, Tennessee, McKissack experienced firsthand many of the injustices about which she and her husband write. These were the days of segregation, in which a black person was not allowed to drink from the same public water fountain as a white, nor allowed into the same restaurants as whites. But at home, McKissack's life was rich and filled with the tales that her storytelling grandfather shared. She grew up with a love of narrative and a love of reading.

She also grew up with her future husband, Fred McKissack, "in the same town, where every family knew every other family," McKissack once told SATA, "but he was five years older and you just didn't date boys who were five years older than you. When I was fifteen and he was twenty that just would have been forbidden." But then Fred went away to the Marines for several years; later, they both attended college together, graduating in 1964 from Tennessee State University in Nashville, and suddenly the two seemed not so far removed in age. They were married after graduation. "All of our friends said it wouldn't last six months. They said it was ridiculous, and our families were a bit concerned," McKissack recalled for SATA. "But we just knew. We talked all the time and we still do. We have always had a very, very close relationship from the first date we had. We just had so much fun together that we knew."

One thing the McKissacks discovered they had in common was a love of literature. Both enjoyed reading Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and Anthem, as well as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and other novels containing futuristic themes. "We were talking about the future," McKissack noted. Other influences included Julius Lester, an author known for his historically accurate, heroic depictions of black characters. Lester had graduated in 1960 from Fisk University, also in Nashville.

While the era was filled with hope and opportunities, it was also a time of violent change. Sit-ins and demonstrations by Southern blacks were finally shaking the segregationist foundations of the region. Schools became desegregated; integration was in the works. "Our generation was the first to do it," McKissack recalled to SATA. "I remember when Fred took me to dinner at Morrison's[, a local restaurant]. I was nervous as a flea because a sit-in had occurred [there] only a few years earlier, and there had been people putting shotguns at young people's heads and saying, 'If you sit here we will blow you away.' And that happened to Fred" when he joined a sit-in at a Woolworth department store. The visit to Morrison's was among many firsts for the McKissacks; after years of seeing them only from the outside, the two finally entered a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, a Shoney's, a McDonald's, and a Hardee's. When her younger brother got a job at Shoney's, McKissack realized that "things were opening up. And we were very proud that we were the first generation to come through that."

Then came the Vietnam War and the "white backlash" to the civil rights movement. McKissack found the television footage at that time, the first ever shown of American soldiers in combat, profoundly disturbing. "That was horrible for us to watch—the body bags coming back in," she related. "I was a young mother—I had three little boys—and I said, 'My God, I hope we never have to go through anything this nonsensical again.'" The assassinations of U.S. President John F. Kennedy as well as of Kennedy's brother Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X, along with church bombings and innumerable other violent incidents, all served to temper the McKissacks' positive attitude. "Just as blacks experienced white resistance to equality during Reconstruction, there was another backlash to the civil rights movement of the 1960s," McKissack commented. "By 1980 blacks were once again on the defense, trying to safeguard their and their children's rights."

These experiences have all combined to produce the variety and depth of writing McKissack has produced. One of her goals is to write in such a way that the past comes alive for her young readers. One of her first writing projects was a biography of Paul Laurence Dunbar, written for her class of eighth-grade English students in Kirkwood, Missouri. "The school was twenty-five-percent black and I wanted to teach about an African-American writer who I had come to know and appreciate when I was growing up," McKissack recalled. When she began researching Dunbar, "I couldn't find a biography, so I wrote his biography myself for my students." She also sought information on Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson, both of whom she and her husband have since written. Many more biographies have followed.

James Weldon Johnson: "Lift Every Voice and Sing," coauthored with her husband, "makes Johnson come alive for young readers," Jeanette Lambert commented in School Library Journal. Readers learn that Johnson was the author of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the song recognized as the African-American national anthem, and also was the first black to pass the bar in Florida, was principal of the first black high school in Jacksonville, Florida, and served as executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Together, the McKissacks have penned several biographies in Enslow's "Great African Americans" series, short nonfiction titles intended for the primary grades. These books describe the lives of important black leaders, both cultural and political, in brief chapters using a basic, concise style accompanied by photographs and other illustrations. In a review of the McKissacks' Ida B. Wells-Barnett: A Voice against Violence, Marian Anderson: A Great Singer, Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace, and Ralph J. Bunche: Peacemaker, Phyllis Stephens noted that the authors present each of their subjects as people with convictions so strong that "not even a racially biased society could provide effective obstacles to deter them" from achieving their dreams. Writing about Paul Robeson: A Voice to Remember and Booker T. Washington: Leader and Educator, Laura Culberg noted in School Library Journal that these brief biographies "fill a need for materials on noted African-Americans for primary-grade readers." Culberg went on to conclude that "the books will find an eager audience among beginning readers." Reviewing the biographies on notables including black historian Carter G. Woodson, anti-slavery leader Frederick Douglass, scientist George Washington Carver, jazz musician Louis Armstrong, and equal-rights proponent Mary Church Terrell, Anna DeWind noted in School Library Journal that all five books "have simplified vocabularies, large print, and plenty of black-and-white photographs and illustrations." DeWind further commented that in spite some "flaws … these [biographies] are a step in the right direction."

Many books in the series have been revised for 2001 and 2002 editions that feature original black-and-white photographs. In a review of the revision of Marian Anderson: A Great Singer, Kristen Oravec in School Library Journal called it a "fresh and appealing new edition." Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg noted in a review of Booker T. Washington: Leader and Educator that "the visuals and formats have been much improved." Commenting on the revised series, Dorothy N. Bowen of School Library Journal considered the books to be "attractive replacements" for the old series.

The McKissacks also have several non-series biographies to their credit. "A revealing book," W. E. B. DuBois "should entice readers to seek more information about this complex man," Lydia Champlin remarked in School Library Journal. Voice of Youth Advocates reviewer Bruce Lee Siebers recommended W. E. B. DuBois as "a good addition to African American history and biography collections." With Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman, a Coretta Scott King honor book, they tell the story of the nineteenth-century preacher, abolitionist, and activist for the rights of both African Americans and women. Born Isabella van Wagener, a slave, she was later freed and at age forty-six felt the calling to "walk in the light of His truth"; thereafter she adopted the name of Sojourner Truth and fought for the rights of slaves and women. This tall woman (she was over six feet by some accounts) was able to popularize such ideas throughout the Midwest and New England despite the climate of the times. "With compassion and historical detail, the McKissacks offer a rich profile," remarked Gerry Larson in a School Library Journal review. "Middle grade readers and researchers will enjoy the readability, quotes, and documentary photos, all of which breathe life into the personality and times of Sojourner Truth."

The McKissacks tell the story of brilliant black writer Lorraine Hansberry in Young, Black, and Determined. The author of the acclaimed play, A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry fought prejudice throughout her brief career. "The McKissacks' biography sparkles with the energy and passion that characterize her subject," observed Booklist contributor Anne O'Malley. Marilyn Heath, reviewing the same book in School Library Journal, called it a "well-written biography" that is "lively and engaging" and that "brings its subject to life by successfully capturing that unique spark that makes Hansberry noteworthy and interesting."

Other history books of note include Black Diamond, Red-Tail Angels, and Black Hands, White Sails, all collaborative efforts. Racism in sports is brought into focus in the first of these, "a lucid, comprehensive study of a vital chapter of baseball history," according to Randy M. Brough in a review of Black Diamond in Kliatt. In Red-Tail Angels, the authors tell the little-known story of black pilots who fought in World War II in a special squadron because the regular Air Force was still segregated. Mary M. Burns enthusiastically praised this history in a Horn Book review: "Impeccably documented, handsomely designed, thoughtfully executed, this book by two of our most committed and talented writers gives these pioneers' accomplishments meaning for a new generation." David A. Lindsey, reviewing Red-Tail Angels in School Library Journal, commented, "The prolific McKissacks have collaborated once again to produce yet another well-crafted, thoroughly researched account of a little-known facet of African American history." Of Black Hands, White Sails, a reviewer for Booklist called it a "fascinating look at the convergent histories of whaling and the abolitionist movement" that "weaves seemingly disparate threads into a detailed tapestry."

Patricia McKissack also has numerous solo books in history and fiction to her credit. Her books for very young readers, such as Flossie and the Fox and the Caldecott honor book Mirandy and Brother Wind, have won critical praise and a wide readership. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews called Flossie and the Fox, based on a tale McKissack's grandfather once told her, "a perfect picture book." Mirandy and Brother Wind was also inspired by McKissack's grandfather, more specifically from a photograph of both her grandfather and grandmother as teenagers after they had won a cakewalk contest in 1906. In the book, Mirandy enlists Brother Wind as her partner in a cakewalk contest in a "delightful book," according to Valerie Wilson Wesley, writing in the New York Times Book Review. Wesley concluded, "each page of Mirandy and Brother Wind sparkles with life," while Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper called the book "a graceful fantasy." Remembrances of her great-grandmother and her eternal apron inspired McKissack's 1997 work Ma Dear's Aprons, a book that a contributor to the New York Times Book Review called "[a]ffectionate, appealing and full of information about the routines of domestic life."

In The Honest-to-Goodness Truth McKissack tells the story of young Libby, who learns that truth-telling is not always as straightforward as it seems. "The story is very much a lesson," Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman noted, "but it's a subtle one."

The story of a vicious dog who becomes a valuable friend is the focus of Tippy Lemmey, a chapter book for middle readers. "The book's short chapters, straightforward prose, and suspense will keep the pages turning," wrote Shelle Rosenfeld in her Booklist review. B. Allison Gray, in School Library Journal, considered the title "perfect for readers just venturing into chapter-book territory," while Roger Sutton, writing for Horn Book, noted that "McKissack's storytelling chops go on display right from the beginning."

McKissack teamed up with Southern-born political commentator James Carville to tell a folktale from Carville's childhood with Lu and the Swamp Ghost. Lu finds a mud-covered monster in the swamps near her Louisiana home; after escaping from it, she decides maybe the monster just needs a friend. When she attempts to tame the ghost, she discovers it isn't a monster after all, but someone who needs her help. "Lu's innocent selflessness and genuine, sweet nature set this story apart," commended a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Judith Constantinides considered Lu and the Swamp Ghost "a fun selection for home and storytime enjoyment."

In another collaboration, McKissack joined Onawumi Jean Moss in the retelling of another folk story: Precious and the Boo Hag. Precious is left home alone, and warned not to let the Boo Hag in. Her brother warns her that the Boo Hag can change her appearance, so when the Boo Hag tries to come in by disguising herself as a shiny penny, Precious knows better than to bring her inside. A critic for Kirkus Reviews considered the tale to be "Fine fare for Halloween, or general under-the-covers reading." Susan Dove Lempke, writing in Horn Book, praised the story as "lively, funny, and … a great choice for storytelling," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer commented on the "lively language, pleasing cadence, and effective repetition" that would make this book "a buoyant read-aloud."

McKissack became the recipient of a Newbery honor award for the stories collected in The Dark Thirty. The title comes from that half-hour before dark in which kids were still allowed to play outside when McKissack herself was growing up. The ten original stories in the collection reflect African-American history and culture. "Some are straight ghost stories," commented Kay McPherson in a School Library Journal review, "many of which are wonderfully spooky and all of which have well-woven narratives." McPherson concluded, "This is a stellar collection." Other works for older readers include the fictionalized diaries of African-American girls for Scholastic, including A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl and Color Me Dark: The Diary of Nellie Lee Love, the Great Migration North. The first title is set on a Virginia plantation in 1859, and the second title follows the fortunes of a young girl who migrates to Chicago after World War I. Reviewing A Picture of Freedom for School Library Journal, Melissa Hudek called the book "an inspiring look at a young girl coming of age in terrible circumstances who manages to live life to the fullest." Booklist critic Carolyn Phelan, reviewing Color Me Dark, felt "the strong narrative will keep children involved and give them a great deal of social history to absorb along the way." Jennifer Ralston in School Library Journal noted that in Color Me Dark, "The time period is well developed, and serves as a compelling backdrop to the Love family's struggle."

In Run away Home McKissack tells the story of a young Apache who escapes federal custody and is aided by an African-American family. Reviewing this historical novel in Horn Book, Burns noted, "McKissack knows how to pace a story, create suspense, and interweave period details of the late nineteenth century into a coherent narrative" to produce a book "sophisticated in content yet tuned to the understanding of a middle-school audience—no small accomplishment."

With Goin' Somewhere Special, McKissack revisited scenes from her childhood in a segregated Nashville. Young 'Tricia Ann goes off on a journey by herself to a special place, but on the way, she is faced with cruelty and people who want to bring her down and make her less of a person. Gathering strength from the words of her grandmother, 'Tricia Ann makes it to her special
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place—the library, a place that is not segregated, where knowledge is available to everyone equally. McKissack explained how she began writing the book to Heather Vogel Frederick of Publishers Weekly: "I did not want this to be an angry book and I did not want it to be a mean-spirited book. I wanted it to be a book of personal triumph, so that a young person reading it would not just see me as a black child in the South dealing with segregation, but as any child dealing with a challenge … I wanted them to be able to read this book and say, 'I can triumph over this outside adversity, too.' I hope I've achieved that." Denise Wilms noted in Booklist that Goin' Somewhere Special "carries a strong message of pride and self-confidence," while School Library Journal reviewer Mary Elam considered it "a thought-provoking story." Noting how the topics lead easily into discussion, a Kirkus Reviews contributor called Goin' Someplace Special "a natural for group sharing," while Robin Smith of Horn Book praised the title for being "informative without being preachy; hopeful without being sentimental." McKissack related to Vogel Frederick that her story has come full circle: she became old enough to visit the library just as the library became integrated, and now her son Robert is a public librarian. "To me," she said, "that's like the cherry on top of the ice cream soda!"

McKissack is also the coauthor, with Arlene Zarembka of a reference book on citizenship titled To Establish Justice: Citizenship and the Constitution. The authors cover U.S. Supreme Court decisions that affected civil and human rights from the early 1800s through to the present, and "present a compelling mix of analyses and quoted passages from judicial opinions," noted a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. Jane G. Connor, in her School Library Journal review, noted that McKissack and Zarembka "do a fine job of providing the history, background, and events surrounding each Supreme Court decision." Carolyn Phelan, writing for Booklist called the book an "excellent resource [that] pulls together a great deal of information," while a reviewer for Children's Bookwatch considered it "a fine guide in any year."

McKissack sees her work as something that can possibly unite disparate communities in this country. "It's a kind of freedom," she once told SATA. "Writing has allowed us to do something positive with our experiences, although some of our experiences have been very negative. We try to enlighten, to change attitudes, to form new attitudes—to build bridges with books." And for her, reaching the young with her books is vital. "It's quite interesting how your youth shapes how you think in the future," McKissack remarked to SATA. "The things that are happening to you now will affect how you parent, how you will function in your work, and how you will treat your neighbors." She stresses that intervention at this crucial time in a young person's development must help to provide a strong foundation for his or her future. "When I do a workshop with teachers, I always say, 'Someone in your class might be the person who has the cure for cancer. The cure for AIDS is sitting in someone's classroom right now. The solution for world hunger can be found by someone sitting in a classroom. You do not know whether you will be the person to touch that person. So, therefore, you have to respect and treat all of these students with an equal measure of concern.'"

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Book, November-December, 2001, review of Goin' Someplace Special, p. 75.

Booklist, January 1, 1992, Hazel Rochman, review of Frederick Douglass: Leader against Slavery, p. 832; February 1, 1992, Ilene Cooper, review of Mirandy and Brother Wind, p. 1037; March 1, 1992, p. 1270; April 15, 1992, p. 1525; June 19, 1994; February 15, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of Rebels against Slavery; February 15, 1997, p. 1027; June 1, 1997, p. 1696; October 1, 1997, p. 329; February 15, 1998, Anne O'Malley, review of Young, Black, and Determined: A Biography of Lorraine Hansberry, p. 995; October 1, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Let My People Go, p. 339; February 15, 1999, p. 1068; September 1, 1999, review of Black Hands, White Sails, p. 77; December 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of The Honest-to-Goodness Truth, p. 791; February 15, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of Color Me Dark: The Diary of Nellie Lee Love, the Great Migration North, p. 1113; December 1, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Messy Bessey's Family Reunion, p. 726; February 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Color Me Dark, p. 1149, Henrietta M. Smith, review of Ma Dear's Aprons, p. 1161; May 1, 2001, Gillian Engberg, review of Miami Makes the Play, p. 1683; August, 2001, Denise Wilms, review of Goin' Someplace Special, p. 2117; January 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Booker T. Washington: Leader and Educator and Marian Anderson: A Great Singer, p. 853; January 1, 2003, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Tippy Lemmey, p. 892; February 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States, p. 1082; March 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Look to the Hills: The Diary of Lozette Moreau, a French Slave Girl, pp. 1201-1202; October 15, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of To Establish Justice: Citizenship and the Constitution, p. 397.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 1991, Elizabeth Bush, review of Rebels against Slavery, pp. 345-346; June, 1997, p. 367; February, 1994, Betsy Hearne, review of The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay, p. 194; February, 1998, p. 213; December, 1998, Janice M. DelNegro, review of Let My People Go, p. 137.

Childhood Education, spring, 2000, Nicole Donovan, review of Black Hands, White Sails, p. 172; winter, 2000, Terry Stahler, review of Color Me Dark, p. 108.

Children's Bookwatch, November, 2004, review of To Establish Justice.

Horn Book, January-February, 1995, Lois F. Anderson, review of Christmas in the Big House, p. 68; March-April, 1996, Mary M. Burns, review of Red-Tail Angels, p. 226; May-June, 1997, p. 310; November-December, 1997, Mary M. Burns, review of Run Away Home, p. 681; November, 1999, Mary M. Burns, review of Black Hands, White Sails, p. 758; November-December, 2001, Robin Smith, review of Goin' Someplace Special, pp. 736-737; March-April, 2003, Roger Sutton, review of Tippy Lemmey, pp. 213-216; January-February, 2005, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Precious and the Boo Hag, p. 82.

Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, number 8, 1985, p. 5.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1988, review of Flossie and the Fox, p. 1067; December 15, 1991; February 15, 1998, p. 271; September 15, 2001, review of Goin' Someplace Special, p. 1362; December 15, 2003, review of Hard Labor: The First African Americans, p. 239; August 15, 2004, review of Lu and the Swamp Ghost, p. 803, review of To Establish Justice, p. 810; December 15, 2004, review of Precious and the Boo Hag, p. 1205.

Kliatt, November, 1998, Randy M. Brough, review of Black Diamons, p. 40; May, 1999, p. 27.

New York Times Book Review, November 20, 1988, Valerie Wilson Wesley, review of Mirandy and Brother Wind, p. 48; November 29, 1992, p. 34; August 3, 1997, review of Ma Dear's Aprons, p. 14; June 21, 1998, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, February 9, 1998, p. 98; October 26, 1998, review of Let My People Go, p. 62; August 6, 2001, review of Goin' Someplace Special, p. 89, interview with McKissack, p. 90; January 20, 2003, review of Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States, p. 83; August 23, 2004, review of Lu and the Swamp Ghost, p. 53; January 3, 2005, review of Precious and the Boo Hag, p. 54.

School Library Journal, January, 1991, Lydia Champlin, review of W. E. B. DuBois, p. 103; February, 1991, Jeanette Lambert, review of James Weldon Johnson: "Lift Every Voice and Sing," p. 79; November, 1991, Phyllis Stephens, review of Ida B. Wells-Barnett: A Voice against Violence, Marian Anderson: A Great Singer, Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace, and Ralph J. Bunche: Peacemaker, p. 111; February, 1992, Anna DeWind, review of Carter G. Woodson: The Father of Black History, p. 83; October, 1992, Laura Culberg, review of Paul Robeson: A Voice to Remember, pp. 105-106; December, 1992, Kay McPherson, review of The Dark Thirty, p. 113, Ann Welton, review of Madam C. J. Walker: Self-made Millionaire, p. 124; January, 1993, Susan Knorr, review of Langston Hughes: Great American Poet, pp. 116, 118; February, 1993, Gerry Larson, review of Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman? p. 100; June, 1994, Susan Gifford, review of The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay, pp. 140-141; September, 1994, pp. 251-252; November, 1994, Margaret M. Hagel, review of African-American Inventors, p. 115; February, 1996, David A. Lindsey, review of Red-Tail Angels, p. 119; September, 1997, Melissa Hudek, review of A Picture of Freedom, pp. 199, 220; August, 1998, Sharon R. Pearce, review of Messy Bessey's School Desk, p. 144, Marilyn Heath, review of Young, Black, and Determined, pp. 148-149; July, 2000, Jennifer Ralston, review of Color Me Dark p. 107; August, 2001, Eunice Weech, review of Jesse Owens: Olympic Star, p. 170; September, 2001, Mary Elam, review of Goin' Someplace Special, p. 199; January, 2002, Kristen Oravec, review of Marion Anderson: A Great Singer, p. 121; May, 2002, Pamela K. Bomboy, review of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace, Dorothy N. Bowen, review of Frederick Douglas: Leader against Slavery and Mary Church Terrell: Leader for Equality, p. 140; January, 2003, B. Allison Gray, review of Tippy Lemmey, p. 106; March, 2004, Tracy Bell, review of Hard Labor: The First African Americans, p. 329; May, 2004, Nancy P. Reeder, review of Look to the Hills, p. 152; October, 2004, Mary N. Oluonye, review of Goin' Someplace Special, p. 65, Mary N. Oluonye, review of Color Me Dark, p. 66, Mary N. Oluonye, review of The Civil Rights Movement in America from 1865 to the Present, p. 68, Judith Constantinides, review of Lu and the Swamp Ghost, p. 110, Jane G. Connor, review of To Establish Justice, p. 192.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December 4, 1994, Mary Harris Veeder, "Up Pops Christmas," p. 9.

Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1990, Bruce Lee Siebers, review of W. E. B. DuBois, p. 248; August, 1998, p. 224.

ONLINE

Children's Literature Web site, http://www.childernslit.com/ (July 14, 2005).

Virginia Hamilton Literary Award Web site, http://dept.kent.edu/virginiahamiltonconf/ (July 14, 2005), "Patricia McKissack."

Clemence McLaren (1938-) Biography - Writings, Sidelights - Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards [next] [back] Fredrick L(emuel) McKissack (1939–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

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