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Mary Dodson Wade (1930-) - Sidelights

review school writing book

Mary Dodson Wade is the author of a multitude of historical and biographical books for students of many ages, from kindergarten through high school. Her books have often been praised by critics as solid, well-researched, student-friendly introductions to their subjects, which range from the people and culture of Wade's home state of Texas to scientific topics such as tsunamis.

Written for high school students, ALS—Lou Gehrig's Disease contains both scientific information about the disease and the human stories of some of the men and women who suffer from it, including Nobel-prize-winning scientist Stephen Hawking, star baseball player Lou Gehrig, and gymnast Marcie Gibson. The book "will leave readers moved yet heartened by the heroism demonstrated by so many of those affected," Mary R. Hofmann commented in School Library Journal. To Booklist reviewer Roger Leslie, a strong point of the book was its clear definitions of terms and explanations of scientific concepts, which "are generously supported with simple diagrams."

Condoleeza Rice: Being the Best is a biography of President George W. Bush's National Security Advisor written for late-elementary to early-middle-school students. The book has several features that make it accessible to its target audience, claim reviewers. School Library Journal contributor Marlene Gawron noted that "the facts are presented in short sentences in large print," making it easy to read, and the book was praised by both Gawron and Booklist's Ilene Cooper for its many photographs, including some of Rice's childhood. "This is an attractive addition to the Gateway Biography series," Cooper concluded.

"The sound of words has always fascinated me," Wade once told SATA. "I love to roll them around in my head, and I love to create moods by moving them around on paper.

"My first efforts at writing were some poems when I was ten or twelve. As poetry, they were awful! But my mother kept them because she knew they were important to me. They serve to remind me that writing is like any skill—if you practice, you get better at it.

"Most of my writing is based on history. I love to know how things used to be and to make connections with what is today. What I have discovered is that people react much the same way to circumstances, regardless of the physical surroundings of the time. When writing biographies, I try to understand that this was a living, breathing individual, who reacted to something that was going on. In trying to capture that real person, I use autobiographies, if they are available. And I try to find what someone who knew the individual wrote. A biographical subject with a strong personality can provoke intense like or dislike, however, and that forces me to seek the motivation behind what was said.

"Even my fiction has some basis in reality. I find writing pure fiction is hard work. As an author, I must come up with a believable character who has a real problem, to which the character finds a reasonable solution. Research, especially eyewitness accounts, can provide wonderful details that bring a story to life."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 15, 1993, Kay Weisman, review of IAm Houston, pp. 1510-1511; March 1, 1995, Kay Weisman, review of Benedict Arnold, p. 1242; May 1, 1995, Kay Weisman, review of Ada Byron Lovelace: The Lady and the Computer, p. 1571; March 1, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Guadalupe Quintanilla: Leader of the Hispanic Community, pp. 1176-1177; January 1, 2002, Roger Leslie, review of ALS: Lou Gehrig's Disease, p. 840; March 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Condoleeza Rice: Being the Best, pp. 1207-1208; May 1, 2003, review of Cinco de Mayo, pp. 1602-1603.

Book Report, May-June, 1995, Phyllis Press, review of Ada Byron Lovelace, p. 46.

Review of Texas Books, fall, 1992, p. 3; winter, 1993, p. 6.

School Library Journal, November, 1992, Rita Soltan, review of Amelia Earhart: Flying for Adventure, p. 106; May, 1995, Margaret B. Rafferty, review of Benedict Arnold, p. 117; February, 1996, Linda Greengrass, review of Guadalupe Quintanilla, p. 106; July, 1997, Denise E. Agosto, review of I'm Going to California = Yo voy a California, pp. 77-78; February, 2002, Mary R. Hofmann, review of ALS, pp. 150-151; October, 2002, Eva Elizabeth, review of Tsunami: Monster Waves, p. 195; December, 2002, Ann Welton, review of El Dia de los Muertos, pp. 127-128; April, 2003, Marlene Gawron, review of Condoleeza Rice, p. 194; January, 2004, Christine E. Carr, review of Christopher Columbus, p. 123.

Texas Books in Review, spring, 1993, p. 18.*

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