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Linda (Linda Lowery Keep) Lowery (1949-) - Sidelights

review day wrote children

Linda Lowery has written a variety of books for children and young adults, many of them educational in one form or another. Some of her earlier works, including Laurie Tells and Somebody Somewhere Knows My Name, help children to deal with abusive or neglectful family situations. Lowery also wrote four "Earthwise" books to teach children how to care for the environment.

In another educational book, the best-selling Trick or Treat, It's Halloween!, Lowery and her husband, Richard Keep, teamed up to create an amusing picture book with a hidden opportunity for learning: each page features a letter of the alphabet. Each page also contains two lines of verse written by Lowery and cut-paper illustrations by Keep. The author's "meter and rhyme" are "flawless," a reviewer wrote in the Tampa Tribune, and because of this, another reviewer noted in Publishers Weekly, "the A-Z progression seems effortless."

Lowery has also written several biographies, including two (one for elementary and one for middle-school children) of Clara Brown, a freed slave who became a successful businesswoman and the only African-American female member of the Denver Pioneer Association. After buying her freedom in 1856, when she was in her fifties, Brown moved West, opened a laundry, and then started to speculate in real estate. After the Civil War, she returned to Kentucky to look for her daughter Eliza, who had been sold when the girl was ten. Brown did not succeed in finding her daughter until many years later, but on this trip she found another "family" of sorts: twenty-six former slaves who went back to Colorado with Brown. These two books, Aunt Clara Brown: Official Pioneer and One More Valley, One More Hill: The Story of Aunt Clara Brown, were commended by reviewers for bringing American history alive for children. "Lowery has not only told Aunt Clara Brown's compelling story; in [One More Valley, One More Hill] she has also told part of the American story," Jane Halsall wrote in School Library Journal. In another review of the same book, a Kirkus Reviews contributor praised it as "lively, well written, and full of historical detail."

Lowery once told SATA: "Ever since I was in second grade, I wrote my thoughts and feelings in diaries, and I wrote poems. A lot of these writings were about treatment of children. I wanted life to be fair, and I saw very early that life is often unfair, especially for kids. Even when I was growing up, I was extremely aware of kids who were left out because they were a different color from most of us, or because their English wasn't very good, or because they had ideas that were considered weird. I also wrote about beautiful things I saw in nature. I had a favorite tree in a prairie near my house, and I sat in that tree and made up poems about the seasons and the wildflowers and the snowflakes, and later I'd go home and write them down. I was very secretive about the things I wrote because it seemed sometimes that my view of life was very different from everybody else's and I didn't want to be criticized. I wrote in my bedroom closet, I wrote under the dining room table, I wrote in corner chairs of the library.

"Once when I was in fourth grade, I had a poem called 'Seasons' published in Hi magazine for kids. It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. They paid me a dollar for the poem. Still, I thought you had to be a special kind of person to be an author, very talented and artsy and certainly not like me. I didn't think I was creative at all, so I never even considered trying to work as a writer when I graduated from college. Instead, I had a lot of different jobs. All the time I was working these other jobs, I kept writing down poems or thoughts or stories I'd make up. In 1982, after I filled so many notebooks I didn't know what to do with them anymore, I sent some writing to a magazine. It was published. I was as excited as I'd been when my poem was published in fourth grade, so I decided to keep it up. I began painting in 1991, and now I make my living as a writer/illustrator.

"If there is anything I want to give children through my books, it is hope. There are so many wonderful, powerful people who have worked hard to make this planet a better place. They see prejudice and pain and injustice, and they decide to take steps to make a difference. Change didn't come easily for Martin Luther King, Jr., or for any of those people who have made a difference. It doesn't come easily for any of us, but there is always hope that we will find a way to make it better.

"I believe that children are very powerful. Just look at what kids have done to turn around environmental problems. When I was researching the 'Earthwise' books, the monumental changes I learned that children worldwide have made absolutely staggered me. My coauthor and I would call each other and say: 'Listen to this story about kids who convinced the chairman of the tuna company to stop killing dolphins' or 'You won't believe this group of fourth graders who actually saved an entire species of wildflower.' We were constantly coming up with stories of amazing and powerful kids.

"I always have several projects going at once—I keep more balanced that way. And I write in my journal every day. I don't write exactly what's going on that particular day. Instead, I try to dig down into my soul and see what's there. It's kind of like taking a flashlight into the deepest place I can find and illuminating it. Doing this makes me see more clearly what I'm feeling inside and often gives me the idea for my next book. I was writing in my notebook in the fall of 1991 when suddenly I started a rhyme: 'Dance with your neighbors, uncles and aunts. Rhumba—if you wanna—in your underpants.' I was tired of being so serious, I realized, and I just wanted to write about something fun—dancing. I kept with it, and after a few weeks I'd written my first picture book: Twist with a Burger, Jitter with a Bug.

"I also use my dreams for direction and inspiration. I remember in 1989 when I wanted to write something about caring for the earth. For several weeks I struggled with poems and notes and ideas. I wasn't sure what kind of book would best fit what I wanted to express. Then one morning I woke up and immediately wrote down the first two pages of Earth Day. The words had appeared in my dream, spelled out perfectly, just as if they were already in a book. That was it! I wanted to write about how Earth Day got started. Who made it happen? How did it become so successful? Has it made a difference worldwide? So from the seed that started in my dream I began my research and wrote the book.

"In 2001, my husband and I moved to San Miguel de Allende, a colorful colonial town right in the middle of Mexico. We live in a round casita, made of big rocks like a fairy-tale tower, with our writing and art studio on the top floor that gives us a panoramic view of the town. Living in Mexico has given me so many gifts: vibrant color, generous and loving people, lush gardens, and soulful, indigenous artwork.

"I've been inspired to share the joys and fiestas of the Mexican culture in three new books I've written since I arrived: Day of the Dead, Cinco de Mayo, and a novel about a girl who moves to a round, stone house in Mexico. (Sound familiar?) Its working title is Butterfly Whispers."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Arts & Activities, October, 2002, Jerome J. Hausman, review of Pablo Picasso, pp. 17-18.

Booklist, September 15, 1993, Donna Pool Miller, review of Earth Day, pp. 169-170; June 1, 1994, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Laurie Tells, p. 1822; September 1, Lowery's informative book chronicles the institution of April 22nd as Earth Day in 1970 to promote worldwide environmentalism. (From Earth Day, illustrated by Mary Bergherr.) 1995, Hazel Rochman, review of Twist with a Burger, Jitter with a Bug, p. 88; December 1, 1995, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Somebody Somewhere Knows My Name, p. 636; September 1, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of Wilma Mankiller and Georgia O'Keeffe, p. 139; July, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Mission Down Under, pp. 1881-1882; February 1, 2000, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of Pablo Picasso, p. 1026; February 15, 2003, Linda Perkins, review of One More Valley, One More Hill: The Story of Aunt Clara Brown, pp. 1080-1081.

Christian Science Monitor, December 8, 1995, Karen Williams, review of Twist with a Burger, Jitter with a Bug, p. 10.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of One More Valley, One More Hill, p. 1697.

New York Times Book Review, April 21, 1996, Amy Edith Johnson, review of Twist with a Burger, Jitter with a Bug, p. 37.

Publishers Weekly, January 16, 1987, review of Martin Luther King Day, p. 76; July 10, 1995, review of Twist with a Burger, Jitter with a Bug, p. 57; September 25, 2000, review of Trick or Treat, It's Halloween!, p. 64.

School Library Journal, June-July, 1987, JoAnn Butler Henry, review of Martin Luther King Day, p. 86; November, 1988, Marian Trainor, review of Martin Luther King Day, p. 81; August, 1991, Eowana Bradley Jordan, review of Earth Day, p. 161; July, 1993, Eva Elisabeth Von Ancken, review of Earthwise at Home and Earthwise at Play, p. 93; July, 1994, Carolyn Polese, review of Laurie Tells, pp. 102-103; September, 1995, Louise L. Sherman, review of Twist with a Burger, Jitter with a Bug, p. 182; November, 1995, Connie Parker, review of Somebody Somewhere Knows My Name, p. 104; August, 1996, Melissa Hudak, review of Georgia O'Keeffe, p. 139; September, 1996, Jacqueline Elsner, review of Wilma Man-killer, p. 198; November 1, 1998, Kristen Oravec, review of Mission Down Under, p. 122; February, 2000, Anne Chapman Callaghan, review of Pablo Picasso, p. 113; February, 2003, Jane Halsall, review of One More Valley, One More Hill, p. 164; October, 2003, review of One More Valley, One More Hill, p. S39; November, 2003, Coop Renner, review of Day of the Dead, p. 127.

Tampa Tribune (Tampa, FL), October 22, 2000, review of Trick or Treat, It's Halloween!, p. 5.

ONLINE

Boulder Magazine Online, http://www.bouldermag.com/ (January 13, 2003), Brenda Niemand, "Linda Lowery Books Time for Children."

Linda Lowery Web Site, http://www.lindalowery.com/ (January 13, 2004).

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