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Martine Leavitt (1953–) Biography - Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights

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(Martine Bates)

Personal

Born 1953, in Taber, Alberta, Canada; (second marriage) Dallas. Education: University of Calgary, graduated (first-class honors), 1996; Vermont College, M.F.A., 2003.

Career

Copy editor for SMART Technologies, Inc.; freelance writer.

Member

Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers, Writer's Union of Canada.

Honors Awards

American Association of Mormon Letters Award, for Dragon's Tapestry, The Prism Moon, and The Taker's Key; Our Choice Award, Canadian Children's Book Centre, for The Prism Moon and The Taker's Key; finalist, American Association of Mormon Letters Award, and Best Books for Young Adults designation, American Library Association, 2002, both for The Dollmage; Mr. Christie Award for Young-Adult Literature, Benjamin Franklin Award, and Top Fifty International Best Books for Young Adults designation, all 2004, all for Tom Finder; named laureate, Governor General's award (Canada), 2004, for Heck Superhero.

Writings

FANTASY NOVELS

The Dollmage, Red Deer Press (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), 2001.

Tom Finder, Red Deer Press (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), 2003.

Heck Superhero, Front Street Books (Asheville, NC), 2004.

Keturah and Lord Death, Front Street Books (Asheville, NC), 2006.

"MARMAWELL" FANTASY TRILOGY; UNDER NAME MARTINE BATES

The Dragon's Tapestry, Red Deer Press (Red Deer, Alberta, Canada), 1992.

The Prism Moon, Red Deer Press (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), 1993.

The Taker's Key, Red Deer Press (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), 1998.

Author's books have been translated into Danish.

Adaptations

The Prism Moon and The Dragon's Tapestry were adapted as audiobooks by Alberta Education, 1994.

Sidelights

Canadian young-adult novelist Martine Leavitt wrote her first three books, which comprise the award-winning "Marmawell" fantasy trilogy featuring Marwen the Old-wife's apprentice, while she was studying writing at the University of Calgary. Published under her then-name Martine Bates, the trilogy follows Marwen's adventures as she progresses to her destiny as a wizard, on the way falling in love with a prince. The third novel in the series, The Taker's Key, is written as part of Leavitt's honor's thesis. Reviewing the book, a Quill & Quire contributor noted that the author's "magic is in the Cover of Martine Leavitt's The Taker's Key, published under Leavitt's pen name, Martine Bates. (Copyright © 1998 by Martine Bates. Illustrations by Limner Imagery, Ltd. Published by Red Deer Press, a Fitzhenry & Whiteside Company. Reproduced by permission.)words, both literally in her plot and stylistically in her writing." The quest of Marwen "is one that will absorb readers completely," the critic added.

At the conclusion of Leavitt's "Marmawell" trilogy, the wizard Marwen must come to terms with the wanning of her power. A similar predicament confronts the title character of The Dollmage, a wise woman who protects the people of Seekvalley with her magic and her secret ability to make story dolls. When Dollmage realizes that her power is weakening, she sets out to choose a successor. She knows her successor will be born on a certain date, and on the prescribed day a woman in the village gives birth to twin girls. After the sisters come of appropriate age, Dollmage chooses Reenoa as her successor, but sister Annakey also has magical powers. When catastrophe threatens to strike the village, Annakey must convince Dollmage that she can help, despite the fact that few have faith in her power to so. Writing in Resource Links, Ingrid Johnston called The Dollmage a "compelling fantasy" and went on to comment that Leavitt "creates a world of magic that is easy to believe in with characters that we come to care about." School Library Journal contributor Patricia A. Dollisch described the novel as "a tightly plotted story of pride, jealousy, magic, passion, and regret," and deemed The Dollmage "extraordinary for its characterizations and plot."

In Tom Finder Leavitt tells the story of a fifteen year old who is living on the streets and knows nothing about himself except his first name. As he tries to figure out who he is, a First Nations medicine man tells the teen he is a "Finder." The man agrees to help Tom discover his true identity, but only after the teen helps find the medicine man's missing son, Daniel. During his quest to find Daniel, Tom has the feeling that Mozart's The Magic Flute has played a crucial role in his life; ultimately answers to his many questions are answered during a performance of the noted opera.

Praising Leavitt's "depth and insight," Erin Lukens Darr wrote in Kliatt that Tom Finder "provides an eye-opening view of the hardships of those less fortunate whom we often ignore." In Resource Links Donna K. Johnson Alden also commended the book as "rich in character development," with "a compelling plot, a realistic male protagonist who easily engages a reader's sympathies," and a plot that is "valuable for its social message of homelessness in a modern Canadian city."

A change of pace for Leavitt, Heck Superhero focuses on a thirteen year old who has artistic talents, especially as a cartoonist. Life has been hard for Heck's mother, a woman suffering from depression, and the family now live day-to-day, surviving on little money. Heck turns to drawing cartoon superheroes as a way to cope with this harsh reality, but after his mom disappears, he finds himself in a situation his art cannot save him from. On the streets, with no home and no money, he searches for his mother and ultimately encounters a tragic situation. A confrontation with drug abuse and the suicide of a new but troubled teen friend lead Heck to realize that he must ask for help in order to locate his mother and get his life together. Betty Carter, writing in Horn Book, noted that Leavitt's young protagonist "emerges as a true hero, a complex boy armed with optimism, wit, heart, and commitment." Booklist contributor Shelle Rosenfeld felt that while some parts of Heck Superhero are "more appropriate for mature readers," "Heck is a well-drawn, sympathetic protagonist who learns that compassion is a superpower, and that asking for help can be the most heroic act of all."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 1, 2004, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Heck Superhero, p. 323.

Books in Canada, October, 1993, review of The Prism Moon, p. 57.

Canadian Children's Literature, winter, 2002, M. Sean Saunders, "Weaving the Self: The Struggle for Identity in Martine Bates's 'Marmawell Trilogy,'" p. 39.

Canadian Review of Materials, September, 1992, review of The Dragon's Tapestry, p. 219; January-February, 1994, review of The Prism Moon, pp. 24-25; October 29, 1999, review of The Taker's Key.

Horn Book, January-February, 2005, Betty Carter, review of Heck Superhero, p. 96.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2004, review of Heck Superhero, p. 869.

Kliatt, November, 2003, Erin Lukens Darr, review of Tom Finder, p. 16.

Quill & Quire, May, 1992, review of The Dragon's Tapestry, p. 32; April, 1993, review of The Prism Moon, p. 32; January, 1999, review of The Taker's Key, p. 46.

Resource Links, February, 1999, review of The Taker's Key, p. 23; June, 2002, Ingrid Johnston, review of The Dollmage, p. 26; October, 2003, Donna K. Johnson Alden, review of Tom Finder, p. 36.

School Library Journal, August, 2002, Patricia A. Dollisch, review of The Dollmage, p. 192; October, 2004, Maria B. Salvadore, review of Heck Superhero, p. 171.

ONLINE

Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers Web site, http://www.canscaip.org/ (May 10, 2006), "Martine Leavitt."

Martine Leavitt Home Page, http://www.martineleavitt.com (May 10, 2006).

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