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(Jane) Sally Grindley (1953-) - Sidelights

review books children stories

With over ninety books to her credit, British children's book author Sally Grindley finds inspiration for her many books, which include Wake Up, Dad!, Bible Stories for the Young, and The Sulky Vulture, in her family, the local newspaper, and observing the world around her. Primarily an author of picture books and beginning readers, her first novel, Feather Wars, about a family that breeds racing pigeons used by the Royal Air Force during World War II, was published in 2003.


Born in Kent, England, Grindley began writing when she was a child and became involved with children's books while working for a book club in the mid-1980s. She published her first children's book, Knock, Knock, Who's There?, in 1985, and decided then and there that penning books for young readers was what she wanted to do with her life. She worked as a part-time writer for the next ten years, before becoming a full-time freelancer in 1995.


Families of all sorts figure prominently in Grindley's books. Her 1989 book Wake Up, Dad!, which, like many of her books, has been published in both Great Britain and the United States, recounts a young child's efforts to rouse Mom and Dad from bed on the weekend. Noting the story's "wry humor"—the child offers to play a bedside recorder concert as the parents desperately cling to a few more minutes of sleep—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books contributor Zena Sutherland also praised the line drawings by Siobhan Dodds, while in Books for Your Children, D. Carline tested Wake Up, Dad! on a sampling of listeners and pronounced it "wonderful."


Children's lives are often jarred by disruptions, be they a move to a new town, the death of a grandparent, or divorce. Grindley deals with some of the emotions children go through in books like A New Room for William and the compelling Peter's Place. In the first, a young boy becomes more enthusiastic about his parents' decision to buy a new house when he is allowed to pick out dinosaur wallpaper for his space. A friendly boy living in his new neighborhood also presents positive possibilities in a book that presents "a very gentle look at a very difficult point in a child's life," according to Booklist contributor GraceAnne A. DeCandido. Mary Harris Russell, writing in Chicago's Tribune Books, also found Grindley's story valuable for adults, who sometimes forget how difficult it is to "make a new space our own comforting world." In Peter's Place, a young boy's world is touched by disaster, and the changes are long-term, when an oil tanker crashes against a nearby shore and the spill that results scars the land and harms the creatures he has come to love. In Booklist, Hazel Rochman praised Grindley's "quietly told disaster story," while Horn Book contributor Elizabeth S. Watson praised Peter's Place for "mak[ing] the plight of wild creatures faced with polluted habitats very real and touchingly personal." While by story's end, the seals, ducks, and other creatures have been restored to heath, "Grindley's affecting story proves its point," according to School Library Journal reviewer Ellen Fader: "that oil spills can have long-lasting effects, forever changing the places we hold dear."


Many of Grindley's original picture-book tales feature anthropomorphized animal characters, from chickens and ducks to polar bears and even an orangutan. She started out small—one of her first published books was the award-winning See Mouse Run, about a skittish farmyard rodent—but quickly moved to larger subjects, as in Polar Star. In this 1997 story, illustrated by John Butler and containing a factual appendix, a mother polar bear and her two cubs survive in the Arctic cold, finding danger but also painting "a loving depiction" of a family, according to School Library Journal's Mollie Bynum. Moving to warmer climes, Little Elephant Thunderfoot finds a young elephant learning to travel in the herd, which is led by his grandmother. When Little Thunderfoot's grandmother is killed by poachers, he must help the rest of his family flee to safety and then return to honor the fallen leader's memory. Sniffles turn to cheers by story's end, however, when the elephants find a new herd and a new home. Praising the realism of the story in her School Library Journal review, Augusta R. Malvagno cited Little Elephant Thunderfoot as Text and illustrations tell two different stories in Sally Grindley's tale of a doting grandpa bear who refuses to believe his cubs could be mischievous. (From No Trouble at All, illustrated by Eleanor Taylor.) a good way "to instill respect for the animal kingdom and conservation."

Jefferson Bear and fox Figgy Twosocks are best friends in a trio of picture books that focus on the care and feeding of friendship. In What Are Friends For?, the pair get into their first fight and then make up, finding out that fighting does not mean that their friendship is over, while Figgy's sadness at separation is the focus of What Will I Do without You?, which finds Jefferson Bear headed to his den for a long winter's nap. Will You Forgive Me? follows what happens after Figgy is talked into playing a trick on her friend. Losing Jefferson's favorite tickling stick, the young fox is afraid to tell the bear, thinking he will no longer wish to be her friend. In a Booklist review of What Are Friends For?, Ilene Cooper cited the book for portraying "a timeless topic in a sweet and appealing way," while School Library Journal contributor Kathleen M. Kelly MacMillan noted that the worries of Grindley's characters in What Will I Do without You? "will be immediately recognizable to children."

Sometimes Grindley takes a favorite story and adapts it for younger readers. Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling, and the story of the sorcerer's apprentice have all been introduced to young pre-readers through Grindley's efforts. Reviewing her retelling of the The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a story about an overeager trainee that has its roots in ancient Greece, School Library Journal contributor Grace Oliff noted that Grindley's "prose is clear and flows logically and smoothly," although she does not attempt to make changes to the classic text. Pandora and the Mystery Box is treated more imaginatively, taking the story about a woman whose curiosity caused her great harm and placing it in a context young readers can comprehend while preserving "the complex ideas and feelings" of the original Greek myth, according to School Librarian reviewer Irene Babsky.


As an editor, Grindley has produced many anthologies, some focusing on animal stories and others collecting folk and fairy tales. In Animal Stories for the Very Young, she presents ten tales penned by such notable authors as Dick King-Smith and Jenny Koralek, which together present story-time readers "a brilliant collection" of upbeat stories, according to School Librarian critic Steve Hardman. The assorted tales also provide the opportunity for listeners to contribute their own rendition of animal sounds. More serious fare is collected in Bible Stories for the Young, as stories about Noah and the ark, Daniel in the lion's den, Jonah and the whale, David and Goliath, and the last supper of Jesus all are recounted with "a cozy friendliness that young children will find inviting," according to Janice M. Del Negro in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Through her informal approach, Grindley "succeeds in retelling the Old Testament tales in a direct, vivid, lively style," added Magpies reviewer Lyn Linning, noting that the bloodier parts of this ancient text are eliminated as a consideration to young listeners. Breaking the Spell: Tales of Enchantment delivers on its promise, presenting seven modern stories by popular children's authors. Young listeners can travel the world and visit with witches, dragons, princesses, and other magical manifestations, all from the safety of the story-time circle, in a unique collection School Library Journal reviewer Angela J. Reynolds found "fresh and satisfying."


When she takes a break from writing and editing, Grindley has many hobbies, including playing tennis and squash, and she also dabbles in watercolor painting in her spare time. She lives with her family—which includes her three children and assorted pets—in Gloucestershire, England.


Grindley once commented: "I was involved in children's theatre at Sussex University, writing, acting, and directing. My eight years with Books for Children as book buyer and brochure writer have provided me with much experience. I prefer reading about reality to reading about fantasy and my writing tends to reflect this preference. The children's books I have written so far, and those in the pipeline, are predominantly about children themselves in recognizable day-to-day situations, or in situations they might imagine themselves in."

Oliver and his friend Mucky Duck get progressively dirtier in Grindley's picture-book story of their playful activities. (From Mucky Duck, illustrated by Neal Layton.)

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS


Appraisal, autumn, 1999, review of Little Sibu: An Orangutan Tale, pp. 27-28.

Booklist, September 15, 1987, Denise M. Wilms, review of Four Little Puppies, p. 148; March 1, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of Peter's Place, January 1, 1998, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Breaking the Spell: Tales of Enchantment, p. 812; April 15, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of What Are Friends For?, p. 1451; September 1, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Christmas Stories for the Very Young, p. 132; October 1, 1998, Lauren Peterson, review of Bible Stories for the Very Young, p. 339, and John Peters, review of A Flag for Grandma, p. 334; December 1, 1999, Ellen Mandel, review of What Will I Do without You?, p. 710; January 1, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of A New Room for William, p. 967; August, 2002, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of No Trouble at All, p. 1971; May 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of The Life of Jesus, p. 1590; June 1, 2003, Traci Todd, review of Mucky Duck, p. 1785.

Books, December, 1998, Mary Cadogan, review of Wake Up, Dad!, p. 25; October, 1989, review of Sardines, p. 18.

Books for Keeps, November, 1987, Liz Waterland, review of See Mouse Run, p. 17; November, 1991, Moira Small, review of Sardines, p. 6; September, 1994, Liz Waterland, review of Toot! Toot! I'm Going Shopping, p. 7; November, 1994, Liz Waterland, review of I Don't Want To!, p. 10; November, 1996, review of Christmas Stories for the Very Young, p. 19; March, 1997, Liz Waterland, review of Little Elephant Thunderfoot, p. 19; January, 1999, Judith Sharman, review of Just Grandpa and Me, p. 10; May, 1999, Andrew Kidd, review of There's a Monster Who Eats Books in Our House, p. 22; July, 1999, Valerie Coghlan, review of Where Are My Chicks?, p. 20; May, 2000, George Hunt, review of Who's Next?, p. 18; November, 2001, Clive Barnes, review of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, p. 24; January, 2002, Annabel Gibb, review of Silly Goose and Daft Duck Try to Catch a Rainbow, p. 19.

Books for Your Children, autumn, 1987, Thelma Griffiths, review of See Mouse Run, p. 19; spring, 1989, D. Carline, review of Wake Up, Dad!, p. 13; spring, 1992, Thelma Griffiths, review of Bedtime Stories for the Very Young, p. 7; summer, 1992, Margaret Carter, "Words and Pictures," p. 19; autumn, 1993, review of Teddy Tales, p. 2.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 1989, Zena Sutherland, review of Wake Up, Dad!, p. 250; June, 1997, Pat Matthews, review of Why Is the Sky Blue?, p. 350; February, 1999, Janice M. Del Negro, review of Bible Stories for the Young, p. 203; October, 2000, Deborah Stevenson, review of Who Is It?, p. 64; December, 2000, Deborah Stevenson, review of A New Room for William, p. 145.

Christian Science Monitor, December, 1986, Diane Manuel, review of Knock, Knock! Who's There?, p. B6.

Growing Point, November, 1985, review of See Mouse Run, p. 4531; September, 1987, review of Four Black Puppies, p. 4847.

Horn Book, November-December, 1986, Hanna B. Zeigler, review of Knock, Knock, Who's There?, p. 733; May, 1990, Nancy Vasilakis, review of I Don't Want To!, p. 323; May, 1996, review of Peter's Place, p. 323.

Junior Bookshelf, August, 1989, review of Dirty Denis, p. 161; February, 1990, review of Stories for the Very Young, p. 26; June, 1990, review of Sardines, p. 128; February, 1991, review of Meet the Family, p. 23; April, 1993, review of The Cloth of Dreams: Fairy Tales for Young Children, p. 67.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1990, review of I Don't Want To!, p. 659; July 1, 1993, review of The Big Crocodile Book, p. 860; May 1, 1997, review of Why Is the Sky Blue?, p. 721; April 1, 1998, review of What Are Friends For?, p. 495; August 1, 2000, review of Who Is It?, p. 1117; September 15, 2000, review of A New Room for William, p. 1356; December 1, 2001, review of Where Are My Chicks?, p. 1685; May 1, 2002, review of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, p. 655; June 15, 2002, review of No Trouble at All, p. 882; November 15, 2002, review of The Sulky Vulture, p. 1693; June 1, 2003, review of Mucky Duck, p. 804.

Language Arts, September, 1993, review of Shhh!, p. 418.

Magpies, November, 1992, review of Shhh!, p. 26; July, 1998, Lyn Linning, review of Bible Stories for the Young, p. 41.

Publishers Weekly, March 24, 1989, review of Dirty Denis, p. 67; July 27, 1990, review of The Read-to-Me Treasury, p. 233; March 2, 1992, review of Shhh!, p. 64; October 12, 1992, review of The Reader's Digest Children's Book of Animals, p. 77; April 12, 1993, review of A Day with Alice and Sam: Ten Stories and a Picture Dictionary, p. 60; August 4, 1997, review of Breaking the Spell, p. 76; April 6, 1998, review of What Are Friends For? p. 77; August 3, 1998, review of Polar Star, p. 87; October 12, 1998, review of A Flag for Grandma, p. 76; January 18, 1999, review of Little Sibu, p. 338; September 3, 2001, review of Will You Forgive Me?, p. 89; November 19, 2001, review of Where Are My Chicks?, p. 66; April 1, 2002, review of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, p. 82; May 13, 2002, review of No Trouble at All, p. 69; November 18, 2002, review of The Sulky Vulture, p. 59.

School Librarian, May, 1989, Ann Wright, review of Dirty Denis, p. 55; February, 1990, Mary Vyvyan-Jones, review of Stories for the Very Young, p. 14; February, 1991, Chris Brown, review of Meet the Family, p. 27; February, 1993, Derek Lomas, review of The Big Crocodile Book, p. 15; August, 1993, Elizabeth J. King, review of A Day with Alice and Sam, p. 102; May, 1995, Steve Hardman, review of Animal Stories for the Very Young, p. 58; February, 1997, Carolyn Boyd, review of The Ugly Duckling: Classic Fairy Tales, p. 20, and Julia Marriage, review of Toybox Tales, p. 19; August, 1997, Beverley Mathias, review of There's A Monster Who Eats Books in Our House, p. 131; November, 1997, Sybil Hannavy, review of Kitten Tales, p. 186; spring, 1998, Beverley Mathias, review of Polar Star, p. 19; winter, 1999, Berry McSourley, review of The Hare and the Tortoise: Aesop's Fables for the Very Young, p. 186; spring, 1999, Lucinda Fox, review of You're a Little Monster, p. 18, and Wendy Timothy, review of Mulberry Home Alone, p. 23; spring, 2000, Cliff Moon, review of Mulberry Alone on the Farm, p. 18; summer, 2000, Irene Babsky, review of Pandora and the Mystery Box, p. 80; autumn, 2000, Carolyn Boyd, review of Who's Next?, p. 131; winter, 2002, Carol Woolley, review of Captain Pepper's Pets, p. 187.

School Library Journal, December, 1987, Virginia Opocensky, review of Four Black Puppies, p. 74; August, 1989, Joanna G. Jones, review of Wake Up, Dad!, p. 120; June, 1990, Phyllis K. Kennemer, review of I Don't Want To!, p. 100; September, 1990, Jean H. Zimmerman, review of The Read-to-Me Treasury, pp. 203-304; March, 1993, Susan Scheps, review of Reader's Digest Children's Book of Animals, p. 190; April, 1995, Kathy Piehl, review of Animal Stories for the Very Young, p. 102; May, 1996, Ellen Fader, review of Peter's Place, p. 92; December, 1997, Angela J. Reynolds, review of Breaking the Spell, p. 90; August, 1998, Jackie Hechtkopf, review of What Are Friends For?, pp. 139-140; October, 1998, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of Bible Stories for the Young, p. 123; December, 1998, Mollie Bynum, review of Polar Star, p. 83; February, 1999, Sally R. Dow, review of A Flag for Grandma, p. 84; May, 1999, Kathy Piehl, review of Little Sibu, p. 90; August, 1999, Lisa Smith, review of The Little Ballerina, p. 146; December, 1999, Janet M. Bair, review of Silly Goose and Dizzy Duck Play Hide and Seek, p. 88, and Kathleen M. Kelly MacMillan, review of What Will I Do without You?, pp. 96, 98; February, 2000, Augusta R. Malvagno, review of Little Elephant Thunderfoot, p. 94; November, 2000, Doris Gebel, review of A New Room for William, p. 120; February, 2001, Maura Bresnahan, review of The Giant Postman, p. 100; January, 2002, Gay Lynn van Vleck, review of Where Are My Chicks?, p. 100; July, 2002, Grace Oliff, review of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Judith Constantinides, review of No Trouble at All, p. 92; July, 2003, Lisa Dennis, review of Mucky Duck, p. 96.

Times Educational Supplement, January 30, 1998, Geoff Fox, review of Breaking the Spell, p. 15.

Times Literary Supplement, February 14, 1986, Blake Morrison, review of Knock, Knock, Who's There?, p. 174.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), January 14, 2001, Mary Harris Russell, review of A New Room for William, p. 4.


ONLINE


Sally Grindley Home Page, http://www.sallygrindley.co.uk/ (March 18, 2004).*

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