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Luli Gray Biography (1945-) - Sidelights

falcon egg review writing

Luli Gray is the author of several fantasy novels for middle-grades readers, including the highly acclaimed Falcon's Egg. Born into a family of successful writers, who "write the way that other people eat french fries," as Gray mentioned to Sally Lodge of Publishers Weekly, Gray found that facing her family's criticism proved to be more difficult than writing the book itself. "They are very stern critics," the author explained to Lodge, "and love doesn't get in the way."

In Falcon's Egg, Gray contrasts the caring and love that eleven-year-old Falcon offers a mysterious egg found in Central Park with the lack of caring and love Falcon receives from her self-absorbed, divorced parents. After the egg eventually hatches and produces a dragon, Falcon names the creature "Egg" and tries to keep it as a pet. She soon realizes, however, that the dragon must live in its own world. Complimenting Gray's juxtaposition of two worlds, School Library Journal's Jody McCoy wrote, "The real world blends well with the fantasy elements as tidbits of lore and locale are woven seamlessly." A critic in Publishers Weekly also hailed the book, calling it "an imaginative and meaningful tale, told with flair."

Falcon and Egg's adventures continue in Falcon and the Charles Street Witch. Flying back to New York after visiting their father in Australia, Falcon and her little brother, Toody, fall out of the airplane and are rescued by Egg. But then Toody and Falcon are separated, and Falcon needs the help of an eccentric witch named Mrs. Cholmondely to find him again. Egg is also endangered by the curious who want to see him and the ruthless who want to exploit him, and it falls to Falcon's father to protect the dragon. Gray "leaven[s] a riotous imagination with a delightful practicality (flying dragonback still requires bathroom breaks)," a reviewer noted in Kirkus Reviews, leading to what School Library Journal contributor Eva Mitnick called "a fun and fast read for fantasy fanatics."

Gray's next book, Timespinners, is another "fast-paced, entertaining story," featuring children from New York going on fantastical adventures, noted Kay Weisman in Booklist. This time the protagonist is Allie Cadwallader-Newton, one-half of a pair of ten-year-old twins. She and her brother Fig accidentally step into a time-warp at the Museum of Natural History and find themselves in France in 1913. An attempt to return to the present only sends them further back in time, this time to 35,000 B.C. "Readers will empathize with the twins and their difficulties and triumphs, enjoy their first-hand look at Stone Age society, and share their surprise and delight at the final resolution," Susan L. Rogers concluded in School Library Journal.

Gray once commented: "I was born in Argentina and grew up in a bilingual family of readers, writers, and talkers. I have always written, mostly letters and comic verse, but I did not begin writing fiction until 1987. After leaving my husband in 1971, I wandered all over Europe and Latin America, working as a barmaid, housemaid, short order cook, actress/singer, waitress, restaurant chef, and caterer before falling into food writing, more or less by accident. I worked as a researcher/tester for the great food writer Richard Sax from 1988 to 1993, and he taught me most of what I know about recipe writing. I have since written hundreds of recipes and a number of articles.

"I have always preferred children's books to adult books, re-reading Lewis Carroll, E. Nesbit, T. H. White, Frances Hodgson Burnett, C. S. Lewis, Frank Baum, and P. L. Travers again and again. I love the mixture of magic and mundane that I find in my favorite children's books: the wardrobe that leads into Narnia, the fairy in a sandpit, the refugee Lilliputians in an English manor house. In a way that is my reality, the possibility of wonder just around the next corner.

"Since 1987, I have written every morning, six days a week with few exceptions. I write a lot of rubbish, but I know this discipline has taught me to write. I have never taken a class or workshop on writing; I strongly believe that, for me at least, talking about what I am writing prevents me from writing it, withers it, kills it.

With the help of a secret society formed with her neighbor, her great-great aunt, and an ornithologist, eleven-year-old Falcon cares for a dragon hatchling until she realizes the dragon must be set free to find others of its kind. (Cover illustration by Josh Gosfield.)

"Falcon's Egg, my first book, is in part a love letter to New York City, where I lived from 1978 to 1995. I live in North Carolina now, and am very content here, but I still love New York City as one still loves a lover who has become impossible to live with. I have always found magic there, in the secret, small corners, and my new book begins in the American Museum of Natural History, a place full of wonders.

"I write because it makes me happy, and I cannot think of a better way to make a living than by doing something I so dearly love."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 15, 1995, Lauren Peterson, review of Falcon's Egg, p. 162; March 1, 2003, Kay Weisman, review of Timespinners, p. 1197.

Horn Book, May-June, 1996, Sarah Guille, review of Falcon's Egg, p. 336.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2002, review of Falcon and the Charles Street Witch, p. 256; March 1, 2003, review of Timespinners, p. 384.

Publishers Weekly, July 24, 1995, review of Falcon's Egg, p. 65; December 18, 1995, Sally Lodge, "Flying Starts," interview with Gray, pp. 29-30; May 12, 2003, review of Timespinners, p. 69.

School Library Journal, September, 1995, Jody McCoy, review of Falcon's Egg, pp. 199-200; April, 2002, Eva Mitnick, review of Falcon and the Charles Street Witch, p. 150; April, 2003, Susan L. Rogers, review of Timespinners, p. 162.*

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