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Donald Davis (1944–) Biography - Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

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(Donald D. Davis)

Personal

Born 1944, in Waynesville, NC; Ethnicity: "Caucasian" Education: Davidson College, B.A., 1966; Duke University, M.Div., 1969.

Career

Christ United Methodist Church, High Point, NC, minister, 1967–89; storyteller, lecturer, and writer, 1967–. Has appeared at numerous storytelling festivals, conferences, and teachers' workshops in United States and abroad, including National Storytelling Festival, Sierra Storytelling Festival, and Three Apples Storytelling Festival.

Member

National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling (member of board of directors, 1982–89; board chair, 1983–89).

Honors Awards

Anne Izard Storyteller's Choice Award, 1992, for Listening for the Crack of Dawn, and 1994, for Jack Always Seeks His Fortune; D.H.L., La Grange College, 1994; selected for "Circle of Excellence" by National Storytelling Association, 1996; South Carolina Middle-School Young Reader's Award, for Listening for the Crack of Dawn; Storytelling World awards, for Big-Screen Drive-In Theater, Father Was a Wise Old Man, and Grand Canyon.

Writings

RECORDED STORIES

Storytelling Festival, two volumes, National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling, 1983.

(With Pat Floyd) Old Testament Stories to Hear and Tell, Graded Press (Nashville, TN), 1983.

Live and Learn, Weston Woods (New York, NY), 1984.

Jack Tales: More than a Beanstalk, Weston Woods (New York, NY), 1985.

Listening for the Crack of Dawn, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1991.

Rainy Weather, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1992.

Jack's First Job, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1992.

Uncle Frank Invents the Electron Microphone, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1992.

Party People, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1993.

Miss Daisy, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1993.

Christmas at Grandma's, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1994.

The Southern Bells, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1994.

Jack's First Job, August House Audio (Little Rock, IL), 1994.

Walking through Sulphur Springs, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1995.

Jack and the Animals: An Appalachian Folktale, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1995.

Grandma's Lap Stories, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1995.

Mrs. Rosemary's Kindergarten, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1995.

See Rock City, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1996.

Big-Screen Drive-In Theater, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1996.

Stanley Easter, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1997.

Jack and Granny Ugly, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1997.

Dr. York, Miss Winnie, and the Typhoid Shot, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1997.

Grand Canyon, August House Audio (Little Rock, IL), 1998.

Braces, August House Audio (Little Rock, AR), 1999.

Grandma's Boy, August House Audio (Little Rock, IL), 1999.

Ride the Butterflies, August House Audio (Little Rock, IL), 2000.

Father Was a Wise Old Man, August House Audio (Little Rock, IL), 2001.

Room of My Own, August House Audio (Little Rock, IL), 2002.

Mama Learns to Drive, August House (Little Rock, AR), 2005.

FOR CHILDREN; BASED ON RECORDED STORIES

Listening for the Crack of Dawn, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1990.

Barking at a Fox-Fur Coat, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1991.

Jack Always Seeks His Fortune: Authentic Appalachian Jack Tales, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1992, published as Southern Jack Tales, 1997.

Jack and the Animals: An Appalachian Folktale, illustrated by Kitty Harvill, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1995.

The Pig Who Went Home on Sunday: An Appalachian Folktale, illustrated by Jennifer Mazzucco, August House (Little Rock, AR), 2001.

Mama Learns to Drive, and Other Stories: Stories of Love, Humor, and Wisdom, August House (Little Rock, AR), 2005.

Christmas at Grandma's, August House (Little Rock, AR), 2005.

OTHER

My Lucky Day: Stories of a Southern Appalachian Storyteller (memoir), Johnson Publishing (Chicago, IL), 1984.

Telling Your Own Stories: A Guide to Family, Classroom, and Personal Storytelling, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1993, revised as Telling Your Arkansas Stories, 2002.

Thirteen Miles from Suncrest (novel), August House (Little Rock, AR), 1994.

See Rock City: A Story Journey through Appalachia, August House (Little Rock, AR), 1996.

Writing as a Second Language, August House (Little Rock, AR), 2002.

Also author of My Uncle Frank Used to Say. Contributor to books, including Jack in Two Worlds, edited by William Bernard McCarthy, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1994. Contributor to periodicals, including Utne Reader, Teacher, Parenting, Time, and Mother Earth News.

Sidelights

Although he has published books for adults and children, Donald Davis considers himself foremost a storyteller. Born in the mountainous region of western North Carolina in 1944, Davis told Robert Jordan of the Winston-Salem Journal that storytelling was an element of his daily life while growing up, particularly as part of his relationship with his Grandma Walker. "My grandmother did lots of telling," Davis recalled. "I remember hearing those stories, and I remember by the time I was in the second grade telling other kids in school stories I'd heard my grandmother tell." Among those stories are those he retells in such works as The Pig Who Went Home on Sunday: An Appalachian Folktale, a home—grown version of "The Three Little Pigs" that School Library Journal contributor Linda M. Kenton praised as "a readable story with just the right amount of repetition for sharing aloud."

Davis's storytelling has led to several successful publishing outlets, including CDs, tapes, and videos. Among the dozens of recorded works Davis has created are several that feature the ubiquitous fairy-tale figure of Jack. Well-known from such stories and nursery rhymes as "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Jack and Jill," this teenaged hero stars in Jack's First Job and Jack and Granny Ugly. Retold as part of the Appalachian oral tradition, Davis's rich versions of various classic tales incorporating this Everyman figure, the "Jack" stories demonstrate the importance of humor and the endearing, universal qualities of an adolescent character.

Jack also appears in the stories Davis has collected in book form. In Jack and the Animals Davis sets his version of the Grimm Brothers' tale "The Bremen Town Musicians" in the Appalachian Mountains. Using simple, direct language, he recounts how the kind-hearted Jack adopts five animals, all of whom seem to have outgrown their usefulness. He happens upon an aging cow, for example, and learns that she can no longer produce milk. She and the other animals join Jack on his travels in search of fortune. When the group happens upon a band of robbers, Jack and these formerly valueless creatures foil the evildoer's lawless plot and save the day.

Several of Davis's writings are based on personal sources. In his novel Thirteen Miles from Suncrest, he presents a slice-of-life story set in the mountains of North Carolina early in the twentieth century. The story's narrator, Medford Henry McGee, was born in the year 1900, and in a journal given him on his tenth birthday, he chronicles his experiences between the years 1910 and 1913, recording the gradual encroachment of the "modern world" into the western regions of North Carolina. Judy Sokoll, writing in School Library Jour-nal, observed that "Medford is a captivating narrator—sensitive, trusting, loving, natural, and filled with wide-eyed curiosity about the world. All of the characters are wonderfully created and the sense of a simpler time is masterfully crafted." A Publishers Weekly critic likewise praised the work, noting that "the novel's themes—hardship and tragedy set against the strength and beauty of family love—prove affecting and timeless."

See Rock City: A Story Journey through Appalachia represents another of Davis's forays into the history of his native North Carolina. Transporting readers back to 1948, the year Davis entered kindergarten, the book follows the author's life and the tales of his family through his second year of college. Audiobooks such as Braces and Grandma's Boy also draw from the narrator's youth, telling coming-of-age stories that focus on a boy growing up in a close-knit, multigenerational family. Mama Learns to Drive—which like many of Davis's works was produced both in an audio and print version—returns readers to the 1950s, as Davis introduces his Appalachian-born mother and contrasts her willingness to embrace life's challenges as a young woman with his more recent recollections of her elder years. Discussing the eight vignettes recorded in the book version, published as Mama Learns to Drive, and Other Stories: Stories of Love, Humor, and Wisdom, Susan Hepler wrote in School Library Journal that readers will "envy" Davis's "freedom and the coziness of his family life, school and community," and a Publishers Weekly contributor praised Grandma's Boy, noting that "consummate story teller Davis" uses "plenty of down-home warmth and humor" to recount his visits, as a boy, to his grandmother's rural home in the hills of North Carolina.

As Davis mines the tales of his life, retells the classic stories of the past, and creates his own legends, his activities as a writer and traveling storyteller show no sign of slowing. In fact, he believes that both of these occupations are common aspects of life for everyone. As he told Jordan in the Winston-Salem Journal, "Any time you tell somebody about a place you've been that you wish they could go, you're telling a story. A lot of it is just realizing that it is a very natural process."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 15, 1994, p. 111; October 1, 1995, p. 322; April 15, 2000, Lolly Gepson, reviews of Grandma's Boy and Braces, p. 1560; August, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Mama Learns to Drive, and Other Stories: Stories of Love, Humor, and Wisdom, p. 2026.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1994, p. 864; April 15, 1999, Lolly Gepson, review of Braces and Grandma's Boy, p. 1560; July 1, 2004, review of The Pig Who Went Home on Sunday: An Appalachian Folk Tale, p. 626.

Publishers Weekly, August 8, 1994, review of Thirteen Miles from Suncrest, p. 380; October 11, 1999, review of Grandma's Boy, p. 30; July 12, 2004, review of The Pig Who Went Home on Sunday, p. 62.

School Library Journal, January, 1995, Judy Sokoll, review of Thirteen Miles from Suncrest, p. 183; January, 1996, p. 100; September, 1996, p. 240; August, 2004, Lina M. Kenton, review of The Pig Who Went Home on Sunday, p. 106.

Winston-Salem Journal, November 24, 1995, article by Robert Jordan, pp. C9-C10.

ONLINE

Call of Story Web site, http://www.callofstory.org/ (April 27, 2006), "Donald Davis."

Donald Davis Home Page, http://www.ddavisstoryteller.com (April 15, 2006).

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