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Barbara Knutson (1959–2005) Biography - Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

review guinea tale books

Born 1959, in South Africa; immigrated to United States, 1971; died of an autoimmune deficiency, May 7, 2005; Education: St. Olaf College, University of Minnesota, B.A. (art education and French). Hobbies and other interests: Travel.

Career

Author and illustrator. Teacher in Nigeria for two years.

Honors Awards

Minnesota Book Award, 1991, for How the Guinea Fowl Got Its Spots, and 1994, for Sungura and Leopard; Best of Issue designation, Highlights for Children magazine, 2002, for illustration; Notable Book designation, American Library Association, 2005, for Love and Roast Chicken.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED PICTURE BOOKS

Why the Crab Has No Head: An African Tale, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 1987.

How the Guinea Fowl Got Her Spots: A Swahili Tale of Friendship, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 1990.

Sungura and Leopard: A Swahili Trickster Tale, Little Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.

Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes, Lerner Pub. Group (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.

ILLUSTRATOR

James Haskins, Count Your Way through Africa, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 1989.

Pat McKissack, From Heaven Above: The Story of Christmas Proclaimed by the Angels, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1992.

Trish Marx, Hanna's Cold Winter, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.

April A. Brady, Kwanzaa Karamu: Cooking and Crafts for a Kwanzaa Feast, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 1995.

Bridget Mary Meehan, Heat Talks with Mother God, Liturgical Press (Collegeville, MN), 1995.

Holly Littlefield, Colors of Ghana, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.

Linda Lowery Keep, Day of the Dead, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.

Linda L. McDunn, The Color of Me, Liturgical Press (Collegeville, MN), 2004.

Linda Lowery Keep, Cinco de Mayo, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2005.

Contributor of illustrations to periodicals, including Cricket and Highlights for Children.

Sidelights

Born in South African, picture-book author and illustrator Barbara Knutson moved to the United States with her missionary parents at age twelve. Although the United States remained her home, she continued to feed her curiosity about the world through travels to South America and Europe, also teaching school in Nigeria for two years and living in Peru while her husband, Chris Jensen, taught biology in Lima. Trained in art education and French, Knutson eventually put her skills to use as an illustrator, and created artwork for books by Pat McKissack, Trish Marks, and several other authors. She also created four original stories—Why the Crab Has No Head: An African Tale, How the Guinea Fowl Got Its Spots: A Swahili Tale of Friendship, Sungura and Leopard: A Swahili Trickster Tale, and Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains—prior to her premature death at age forty-five in May of 2005. Praising the award-winning Sungura and Leopard, about a witty hare and sleek leopard who each build a home and discover that they have both been constructing the same building, Horn Book reviewer Margaret A. Bush wrote that the "vigorous humor" of Knutson's pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations "and the broad comedy of a familiar story scheme are both delightful."

Based on a Peruvian folktale, Love and Roast Chicken is a playful tale about a guinea pig named Cuy (pronounced "Kwee," the Quechuan word for guinea pig) who tricks a wily fox named Tio Antonio several times and thus avoids becoming the fox's dinner. To avoid Tio's attention, Cuy disguises himself as a small man by donning a poncho and a hat; when he is hired by a farmer to tend a small alfalfa field, Cuy feels doubly in luck: he can work during the day and hide from the fox, then sneak back into the field at night and have an alfalfa dinner. However, the farmer is clever too, and has set a trap to catch alfalfa-stealing rodents. Caught in the trap, Cuy must quickly find a way out, while also tricking the gullible fox into taking his place in the farmer's trap. Knutson's "robust prints, characterized by heavy black lines and subdued colors, are remarkably effective in conveying expressions and humor," commented Horn Book critic Kitty Flynn, while Lee Bock wrote in School Library Journal that "observant children will delight in the visual and cultural details and in the energy" of the author/illustrator's woodcut illustrations."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 1993, Quraysh Ali, review of Sungura and Leopard: A Swahili Trickster Tale, p. 1970; September 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains, p. 247.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July, 1990, review of How the Guinea Fowl Got Her Spots: A Swahili Tale of Friendship, p. 270; December, 1993, re-view of Sungura and Leopard, p. 126; October, 2004, Timnah Card, review of Love and Roast Chicken, p. 83.

Emergency Librarian, September, 1991, review of How the Guinea Fowl Got Her Spots, p. 50.

Five Owls, September, 1990, review of How the Guinea Fowl Got Her Spots, p. 9.

Horn Book, September-October, 1990, Ellen Fader, review of How the Guinea Fowl Got Her Spots, p. 611; September-October, 1993, Margaret A. Bush, review of Sungura and Leopard, p. 609; November-December, 2004, Kitty Flynn, review of Love and Roast Chicken, p. 720.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2004, review of Love and Roast Chicken, p. 743.

Publishers Weekly, November 1, 1993, review of Sungura and Leopard, p. 78.

Quill and Quire, November, 1993, review of Sungura and Leopard, p. 40.

Reading Teacher, April, 1991, review of How the Guinea Fowl Got Her Spots, p. 587.

School Library Journal, September, 1990, Regina Pauly, review of How the Guinea Fowl Got Her Spots, p. 216; October, 1993, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, review of Sungura and Leopard, p. 119; November, 1993, Sally R. Dow, review of Hanna's Cold Winter, p. 86; November, 2004, Lee Bock, review of Love and Roast Chicken, p. 126.

Social Education, April, 1991, review of How the Guinea Fowl Got Her Spots, p. 257.

ONLINE

Barbara Knutson Web site, http://www.barbaraknutson.com (November 6, 2005).

OBITUARIES:

PERIODICALS

Los Angeles Times, May 13, 2005, p. 6.

ONLINE

Children's Literature Network, http://www.childrensliteraturenetwork.org/ (November 6, 2005), "Barbara Knutson."

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