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Janet Riehecky (1953-) Biography - Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

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Born 1953, in Waukegan, IL; Education: Illinois Wesleyan University, B.A., 1975; Illinois State University, M.A., 1978; Northwestern University, M.A., 1983. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Baptist. Hobbies and other interests: Dinosaur hunting.

Career

Blue Mound High School, Blue Mound, IL, English/speech instructor, 1977–80; West Chicago Community High School, West Chicago, IL, English instructor, 1984–86; The Child's World Publishing Co., Elgin, IL, editor and writer, 1987–90; speaker and freelance writer, 1990–.

Member

Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Society of American Magicians, Society of Midland Authors.

Honors Awards

Summit Award for Best Children's Nonfiction, 1989, for "Dinosaur" series.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

Polka-Dot Puppy's Visitor: A Book about Opposites, illustrated by Linda Hohag, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1988.

Janet Riehecky

Polka-dot Puppy's Walk: A Book about Sequences, illustrated by Linda Hohag and Lori Jacobson, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1988.

Haunted Houses ("Great Mysteries" series), illustrated by Lydia Halverson, cartoons by Dan Siculan, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1989.

UFOs ("Great Mysteries" series), illustrated by Dan Siculan, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1989.

Carolina Herrera: International Fashion Designer, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1991.

Jack and Jill's Adventure in Alphabet Town, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1992.

Little Lady's Adventure in Alphabet Town, illustrated by Jodie McCallum, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1992.

Walrus's Adventure in Alphabet Town, illustrated by Diana Magnuson, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1992.

The Mystery of the Missing Money, illustrated by Lydia Halverson, Forest House Publishing (Lake Forest, IL), 1996.

The Mystery of the UFO, illustrated by Lydia Halverson, Lake Forest Publishing (Lake Forest, IL), 1996.

Television ("Inventors and Inventions" series), Benchmark Books (Tarrytown, NY), 1996.

China ("Globe-Trotters Club" series), Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.

A Ticket to China ("Globe-Trotters Club" series), Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.

George Lucas; An Unauthorized Biography ("Profiles" series), Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2001.

The Emancipation Proclamation ("Turning Points" series), Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Benjamin Franklin, Raintree Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 2003.

The Cree Tribe ("Native Peoples" series), Bridgestone Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Daniel Boone, Raintree Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 2003.

The Osage ("Native Peoples" series), Bridgestone Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

The Wampanoag: The People of the First Light, Bridgestone Books (Mankato, MN), 2003.

Ulysses S. Grant: America's 18th President ("Encyclopedia of Presidents" series), Children's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

William McKinley: America's 25th President ("Encyclopedia of Presidents" series), Children's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

"VALUES TO LIVE BY" SERIES

Sharing, illustrated by Christina Rigo, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

(With Nancy Pemberton) Responsibility, illustrated by L. Hohag and L. Jacobson, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988, published as The Child's World of Responsibility, illustrated by Mechelle Ann, Child's World (Chanhassen, MN), 1998.

Carefulness, illustrated by Kathryn Hutton, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1990, published as The Child's World of Carefulness, illustrated by Mechelle Ann, Child's World (Plymouth, MN), 1998.

Cooperation, illustrated by Kathryn Hutton, Child's World (Chicago, IL), 1990.

Good Sportsmanship, illustrated by Cristina Rigo, Child's World (Chicago, IL), 1990.

Author's works have been translated into Spanish.

"DINOSAUR" SERIES

Stegosaurus, illustrated by Diana Magnuson, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

Triceratops, illustrated by Diana Magnuson, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

Tyrannosaurus, illustrated by Diana Magnuson, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

Allosaurus, illustrated by Llyn Hunter, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

Apatosaurus, illustrated by Lydia Halverson, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

Anatosaurus, illustrated by Diana Magnuson, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1989.

Brachiosaurus, illustrated by Jim Conaway, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1989.

Iguanodon, illustrated by Diana Magnuson, Child's World (Chicago, IL), 1989.

Maiasaura, illustrated by Diana Magnuson, Child's World (Chicago, IL), 1989.

Saltasaurus, illustrated by Betty Raskin, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1990.

Pachycephalosaurus, illustrated by Llyn Hunter, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Parasaurolophus, illustrated by Andre LeBlanc, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Protoceratops, illustrated by Diana Magnuson, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Troodon, illustrated by Jim Conaway, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Megalosaurus, illustrated by Diana Magnuson, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Ornithomimus, illustrated by Ching, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Ankylosaurus, illustrated by Diana Magnuson, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Baryonyx, illustrated by Jim Conaway, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Coelophysis, illustrated by Lydia Halverson, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Compsognathus, illustrated by Susan Lexa-Senning, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Deinonychus, illustrated by Llyn Hunter, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1991.

Dinosaur Relatives, illustrated by Diana Magnuson, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Diplodocus, illustrated by Jim Conaway, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Discovering Dinosaurs, illustrated by Helen Endres, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Hypsilophodon, illustrated by Ching, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

Oviraptor, illustrated by Diana Magnuson, Child's World (Mankato, MN), 1991.

"CLASSIC TALES" SERIES; RETELLER

Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, illustrated by Francesc Rovira, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, illustrated by Francesc Rovira, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, illustrated by Francesc Rovira, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

Hansel and Gretel, illustrated by Agustí Asensio, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

The Old Sandman, illustrated by Agustí Asensio, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan, illustrated by Francesc Rovira, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

The Princess and the Pea, illustrated by Francesc Rovira, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

Sinbad the Sailor, illustrated by Francesc Rovira, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

Thumbelina, illustration by Francesc Rovira, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

Tom Thumb, illustration by Francesce Rovira, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

The Vain Little Mouse, illustration by Agustí Asensio, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1988.

"MANNERS MATTER" SERIES

"After You," illustrated by Gwen Connelly, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1989.

"Excuse Me," illustrated by Gwen Connelly, Child's World (Elgin, IL), 1989.

"I'm Sorry," illustrated by Gwen Connelly (Chicago, IL), 1989.

"May I?," illustrated by Gwen Connelly, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1989.

"Please," illustrated by Gwen Connelly, Child's Press (Chicago, IL), 1989.

"Thank You," Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1989.

"DISCOVERY WORLD" SERIES

Robots: Here They Come!, illustrated by Linda Hohag, Child's World (Chicago, IL), 1990.

Saving the Forests: A Rabbit's Story, Child's World (Chicago, IL), 1990.

Snow: When Will It Fall?, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1990.

What Plants Give Us: The Gift of Life, Child's World (Chicago, IL), 1990.

"CIRCLE THE YEAR WITH HOLIDAYS" SERIES

Cinco de Mayo, illustrated by Krystyna Stasiak, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1993.

Kwanzaa, illustrated by Lydia Halverson, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1993.

Japanese Boys' Festival, illustrated by Krystyna Stasiak, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1994.

St. Patrick's Day, illustrated by Helen Endres, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1994.

"DINOSAUR DAYS" SERIES

Stegosaurus: The Plated Dinosaur, illustrated by Susan Tolonen, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Triceratops: The Horned Dinosaur, illustrated by Susan Tolonen, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Tyrannosaurus: The Tyrant Lizard, illustrated by Susan Tolonen, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Velociraptor: The Swift Hunter, illustrated by Susan Tolonen, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

"COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD" SERIES

Greece, Bridgestone Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Sweden, Bridgestone Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.

Indonesia, Bridgestone Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Nicaragua, Bridgestone Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.

"EVENTS THAT SHAPED AMERICA" SERIES

The Settling of Jamestown, Gareth Stevens Publishing (Milwaukee, WI), 2002.

The Plymouth Colony, World Almanac Library (Milwaukee, WI), 2002.

The Siege of the Alamo, World Almanac Library (Milwaukee, WI), 2002.

The Settling of St. Augustine, Gareth Stevens Publishing (Milwaukee, WI), 2003.

"EVERYDAY CHARACTER VALUES" SERIES

Citizenship, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2005.

Cooperation, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2005.

Respect, Capstone Press (Mankato, MN), 2005.

Sidelights

Janet Riehecky told SATA: "I decided to become a writer when I was ten years old. I loved to read and naively worried that other children might someday run out of things to read, so I thought I'd try to do something to prevent that. My first story, which I didn't write until a year after this decision, concerned a group of children and adults who discover dinosaurs still living on a plateau in South America. Other stories I wrote in the next few years also borrowed heavily from whatever I was currently reading. But, by the time I reached high school, I stopped stealing plots from Arthur Conan Doyle, or anyone else, and began writing more original pieces. The school literary magazine rejected my writing, but a fractured fairy tale I wrote was produced as a one-act play by my high school drama class.

"In high school I was greatly influenced by my senior English teacher. Mr. Corrigan taught me how to take the mishmash of ideas in my head and put them into a logical, organized framework. Most of my style for writing nonfiction was developed then. This teacher inspired me so much that I decided to become an English teacher. I hadn't given up my dream of writing, but I didn't believe an ordinary person could be a real writer.

"In college I majored in English education and met and fell in love with my future husband (to whom I have been married thirty years). I wrote paper after paper for classes, but, except for a diary, I didn't write anything on my own. After graduation, I married, took a semester off, and then entered graduate school, working on a degree in speech communication.

"After finishing a master's degree, I took my first teaching job. During the school year, I was too busy to write, but during vacations I wrote and wrote and wrote, mostly science fiction fantasy which is my favorite reading material. However, I was too afraid ever to send anything off to a publisher. During the next ten years we moved six times. I returned to graduate school for a master's degree in English, had a baby, and took another teaching job. The writing bug had bitten me thoroughly now, and wherever we went I found time to write. I finally gained the courage to send some short stories to magazines and jokes to Reader's Digest, but everything was rejected.

"In 1987 I took a job as an editor for the Child's World Publishing Company. After I had been there only a few weeks, the publisher asked me to work on a series she wanted to do on dinosaurs. I leaped at the chance, having been fascinated by dinosaurs since I was little. I prepared a manuscript, and the publisher liked it so much she decided I should write the whole series. The first book was Allosaurus. It was followed by Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Apatosaurus. When the books came out in 1988, the Society of Midland Authors awarded them its Summit Award for Best Children's Nonfiction. My publisher had me write additional books until the series numbered twenty-four books. They were home-marketed and translated into Spanish.

"In 1990 I left Child's World and became a full-time freelance writer. In the years since then I've published books with many publishers, including Benchmark Books, Capstone Press, Children's Press, Discovery Books, Forest House, Heinemann Library, Lerner, Marshall Cavendish, McClanahan, Macmillan, Steck-Vaughan, Scholastic, and Wing Park Publishers. Most of the time I write nonfiction, but I do have a mystery series for middle graders called the 'Red Door Detective Club.'

"I have now published more than one hundred books for children. I love writing for younger children, though I have written a young-adult fantasy novel which I hope to publish someday. I like to have more than one project going at a time, keeping a balance between fiction and nonfiction…. I also do many school assemblies. I present several programs, including 'The Magic of Writing,' in which I pair tips on creative writing with magic tricks to teach the writing process; 'Learning about Dinosaurs,' in which I share my extensive collection of dinosaur fossils and museum-quality replicas with students, teaching them how scientists use these bits and pieces to learn about dinosaurs; and 'Where's Bookworm?' another program in which I combine magic tricks and teaching, this time to encourage reading.

"As a nonfiction writer I have had the wonderful opportunity to travel all over the country doing research. My trips have included a dinosaur expedition in Colorado where I actually dug up three real dinosaur bones, one of which turned out to be from a brand new species of dinosaur. While researching a book on the Osage Indian nation, I spent three days on their reservation in Oklahoma, meeting some of the most warm-hearted and hospitable people I've ever known. I traveled to New Jersey to read the unpublished papers of Thomas Edison while doing a book about his life. I visited Splendid China in Florida to do a book on China, and St. Louis and Galena doing a book on Ulysses S. Grant. I even got to attend the Edgar Awards in New York City.

"From 1998 to 2004 I served as the national director of Mystery Writers of America's literacy program, Kids Love a Mystery. Under my direction, the program expanded from less than a dozen programs to 120 programs in thirty-one states, involving 10,000 children. I now serve as the Midwest representative for Kids Love a Mystery.

"I never take for granted how lucky I am. I am a deeply committed Christian and feel God has blessed me greatly in giving me the opportunity to work full-time at a career I love. I try to give something back by working with unpublished writers. I think I have the best job in the whole world, and my hope is to continue writing for the next fifty years."

Biographical and Critical Sources

ONLINE

Janet Riehecky Home Page, http://www.janetriehecky.com (August 10, 2005).

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators—Illinois Web site, http://www.scbwi-illinois.org/ (August 10, 2005), "Janet Riehecky."

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