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Eric Maddern (1950–) Biography - Personal, Career, Writings, Sidelights

children fire review death

Born 1950, in Whyalla, South Australia, Australia; father a bricklayer. Education: University of Sheffield, degree (social psychology).

Career

Singer, songwriter, storyteller, and writer. Commonwealth Institute, former exhibition educational coordinator; business communication facilitator and communications consultant. Tutor at storytelling retreats; performer at storytelling festivals throughout the world.

Writings

Earth Story, illustrated by Leo Duff, Barron's (Hauppauge, NY), 1988.

Life Story, illustrated by Leo Duff, Barron's (Hauppauge, NY), 1988.

Curious Clownfish, illustrated by Adrienne Kennaway, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1990.

Rainbow Bird: An Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia, illustrated by Adrienne Kennaway, Francis Lincoln (London, England), 1996.

The Fire Children: A West African Creation Tale, pictures by Frané Lessac, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1993.

(With Helen East) Spirit of the Forest: Tree Tales from around the World, illustrated by Alan Marks, Francis Lincoln (London, England), 2003.

The King with Horse's Ears, illustrated by Paul Hess, Francis Lincoln (London, England), 2003.

Death in a Nut, illustrated by Paul Hess, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2005.

The Cow on the Roof, illustrated by Paul Hess, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2006.

Author of song lyrics performed on Full of Life: Earth-Songs for All (CD), produced by Calum MacColl, 2003.

Sidelights

Author, storyteller, songwriter, and performing artist Eric Maddern has entertained and educated children throughout the world. Spending his early childhood in Whyalla, South Australia, where his father worked as a bricklayer, Maddern moved at age eleven to Great Britain following his mother's death. After graduating from college, he spent a decade traveling the world and studying dance, voice, theatre, massage, yoga, and meditation. Becoming involved in community arts while working with Aboriginal people in central Australia, he eventually returned to London, where his job for the Commonwealth Institute as an exhibition coordinator developed into a career as a storyteller, songwriter, and speaker. Through his storytelling, Maddern has also turned to writing, and has produced such children's books as The King with Horse's Ears, Rainbow Bird: An Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia, and The Fire Children: A West African Creation Tale.

The Fire Children tells the story of man's arrival upon the earth. Aso Yaa and Kwaku Ananse were living happily inside the sky god Nyame, until one day when the great god sneezed, sending the pair flying down to Earth by accident. To aid in combating their loneliness, Aso Yaa decides to build children using the clay around them, but the couple hide these children when Nyame comes down from above to visit. One of their hiding spots is a fire, where they place the statues until the jealous god has left. After Nyame returns to the sky, the couple breath life into the clay statues, populating the world with children with skin of a variety of shades, depending on how long they had been hidden in the fire. "Perfect for sharing with a group, this book is an exciting addition to the growing list of multicultural resources for children," commented reviewer Ellen Fader in Horn Book, while a Publishers Weekly critic praised The Fire Children as "elegantly told, gorgeously illustrated and conveying a timely but unforced message."

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Other books by Maddern include Death in a Nut, a retelling of a Scottish story that finds a young boy who, worried over the health of his sickly mother, meets up with Death during a walk on the beach near his home. When Death asks for directions to his home, the boy captures the raggedy creature in a nut, then throws Death out to sea. Although his mother soon seems cured, other things act oddly, and the boy realizes that getting rid of Death means ending life as well.

A porquois tale from Australia, Rainbow Bird explains how man gained the use of fire. As the story opens, greedy Crocodile Man keeps all the firesticks for himself. When the covetous creature begins to fall asleep, watchful Bird Woman swoops down from a nearby tree and carries off the firesticks, distributing them to the rest of mankind. "Maddern's gracefully honed text makes this one for storytellers to cherish," noted Julie Corsaro in her review for Booklist.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 1993, Julie Corsaro, review of Rainbow Bird: An Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia, p. 447; July, 1993, Janice Del Negro, review of The Fire Children: A West African Creation Tale, p. 1971.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 1993, review of The Fire Children, p. 322.

Horn Book, September-October, 1993, Ellen Fader, review of The Fire Children, p. 610.

Instructor, May, 1994, review of The Fire Children, p. 65; January, 1995, review of The Fire Children, p. 87.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2004, review of Death in a Nut, p. 1205.

Language Arts, December, 1993, review of The Fire Children, p. 678.

Magpies, March, 2005, Barbara James, review of Death in a Nut, p. 32.

Publishers Weekly, February 14, 2005, review of Death in a Nut, p. 76; June 7, 1993, review of The Fire Children, p. 69.

Reading Teacher, March, 1995, review of The Fire Children, p. 513.

School Library Journal, March, 1994, Linda Boyles, review of Rainbow Bird: An Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia, p. 217; August, 1993, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, review of The Fire Children, p. 160; July, 1990, Jane Marino, review of Curious Clownfish, p. 61.

Wilson Library Bulletin, September, 1993, Donnarae MacCann and Olga Richard, review of The Fire Children, p. 87.

ONLINE

Eric Maddern Home Page, http://www.ericmaddern.co.uk (November 6, 2005).

Northern Children's Book Festival Web site, http://www.ncbf.org.uk/ (November 6, 2005), "Eric Maddern."

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