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Angelica Shirley Carpenter (1945-) - Sidelights

children review books burnett

Angelica Shirley Carpenter told SATA: "My mother, Jean Shirley, was my inspiration and my co-author. She moved to Florida to be near me after I took the job as Palm Springs Library director. Mother had been writing all my life, and had published several biographies for children. She and I had a great time writing together, visiting schools, and organizing events for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (she was the first Florida regional advisor). I am writing alone now since Mother died in 1995, but she is always with me, and especially in our books. In my books I hope to explain the importance of famous children's authors, and to relate their lives to the time period in a manner that is interesting and relevant to today's young people. Since I still have a (wonderful) day job, I write in the evening and at least two hours each weekend day. Actually when I am deeply involved in a project I write much more than this; the problem is stopping, and sleeping, not writing.

"I love to travel to sites related to children's literature—children's literature takes me to the nicest places, and introduces me to the nicest people! I take lots of photographs on my travels and am beginning to have some published. I have prepared slide-illustrated lectures to go with all my books."

The three books Carpenter co-authored with her mother are Frances Hodgson Burnett: Beyond the Secret Garden, L. Frank Baum: Royal Historian of Oz, and Robert Louis Stevenson: Finding Treasure Island. All three books have been commended for their reader-friendly but accurate treatments of the authors in question. Frances Hodgson Burnett was better known in her own time for her popular romance stories for ladies's magazines, but her fame endures as the author of The Secret Garden. Carolyn Phelan in Booklist praised Frances Hodgson Burnett as a "highly readable biography," and Pamela K. Bomboy in School Library Journal went even further in her recommendation of the work, noting that Burnett's "garden continues to grow—she would have been pleased!"

L. Frank Baum was the creator of the "Wizard of Oz" series of books. Although meant for children, the books also contained veiled references to Baum's political In her juvenile biography of Lewis Carroll, Carpenter pays tribute to the nineteenth-century writer who revolutionized previously instructional children's literature when he published his famous adventures of Alice for the sole purpose of entertaining children. (From Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass; illustration by John Tenniel.) worldview. He was also determined to write stories that would not frighten young children. In her Booklist review of L. Frank Baum, Sally Estes noted: "Kids who have loved the Oz series will enjoy reading about its creator."

Robert Louis Stevenson forged an unconventional life for himself that included settling in Samoa, a decision that helped provide settings for his famous adventure novel, Treasure Island. Carpenter and her mother provide "an involving and well-documented account of the writer's life" in their biography, according to Carolyn Phelan in Booklist. In Children's Book and Play Review, Janet O. Francis commended Robert Louis Stevenson as "scholarly and readable, with attention to detail."

Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass presents the life of Oxford mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who wrote the adventures of Alice and her dream world companions to entertain the children of a close personal friend. Carpenter offers a child-friendly portrait of Dodgson while not side-stepping the speculation that has surrounded the nature of his interest in Alice Liddell. Kristen Oravec in School Library Journal described the book as "an accessible, well-documented portrait."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 15, 1991, Carolyn Phelan, review of Frances Hodgson Burnett: Beyond the Secret Garden; July, 1992, Sally Estes, review of L. Frank Baum: Royal Historian of Oz, p. 1934; November 15, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of Robert Louis Stevenson: Finding Treasure Island, p. 554.

Children's Book and Play Review, May/June, 1998, Janet O. Francis, review of Robert Louis Stevenson.

School Library Journal, March, 1991, Pamela K. Bomboy, review of Frances Hodgson Burnett, p. 200; December, 1997, Cheryl Cufari, review of Robert Louis Stevenson, p. 134; March, 2003, Kristen Oravec, review of Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass, p. 248.

ONLINE

Angelica Shirley Carpenter Home Page, http://www.angelicacarpenter.com/ (June 1, 2004).

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