Kristina Rodanas (1952-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1952, in Manchester, NH. Education: Boston University, B.F.A., 1974.
office—c/o Author Mail, Marshall Cavendish, 99 White Plains Rd., Tarrytown, NY 10591-9001.
Author and illustrator of children's books. Art teacher at elementary schools, 1974-99; freelance writer, 1980—. Speaker and artist-in-residence at elementary schools. Exhibitions: Artwork exhibited in New York, NY, 1989; and Concord Museum, Concord, MA, 2002.
National Center for the Social Studies/Children's Book Council Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, 1988, for The Story of Wali Dâd, 1994, for Dance of the Sacred Circle: A Native American Tale, 1996, and The Eagle's Song: A Tale from the Pacific Northwest, 1998, for Follow the Stars: A Native American Woodlands Tale, and 2002, for Yonder Mountain: A Cherokee Legend by Kay Thorpe Bannon and Robert H. Bushyhead; American Bookseller's Association (ABA) Pick-of-the-List designation, Scientific American Young Reader Award, and Southwest Book Award, all 1992, and International Reading Association (IRA) Teacher's Choice designation, 1993, all for The Dragonfly's Tale; IRA Children's Choice and Teacher's Choice designations, 1995, Dance of the Sacred Circle; ABA Pick-of-the-Lists, 1994, for Dance of the Sacred Circle; Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year designation, 2002, for Yonder Mountain.
(Reteller) The Story of Wali Dâd, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1988.
The Dragonfly's Tale, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1992.
(Reteller) Dance of the Sacred Circle: A Native American Tale, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1994.
The Eagle's Song: A Tale from the Pacific Northwest, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995.
(Reteller) Follow the Stars: A Native American Woodlands Tale, Cavendish Children's Books (Tarrytown, NY), 1998.
The Blind Hunter, Cavendish Children's Books (Tarry-town, NY), 2003.
Laurence Housman, Rocking-Horse Land, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1990.
Alex W. Bealer, Only the Names Remain: The Cherokee and the Trail of Tears, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995, 2nd edition, 1996.
Gerald Hausman, The Story of Blue Elk, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati, and Harry Simeone, The Little Drummer Boy, revised edition, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Kay Thorpe Bannon and Robert H. Bushyhead, retellers, Yonder Mountain: A Cherokee Legend, Cavendish Children's Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Work in Progress
Vinnie Ream, a story about the girl who sculpted a very famous statue of Abe Lincoln.
Author and illustrator Kristina Rodanas has traveled across the entire United States to research the Native American cultures and folktales that have inspired her writing and artwork for young people. Award-winning titles such as Dance of the Sacred Circle and The Eagle's Song are inspired by tribal history, in the case of the second by the native cultures of the Pacific Northwest. Admitting that, as a child, she wished she would grow up to be an Indian, Rodanas added that while that dream did not become reality, "I managed to weave my childhood fantasies into a career that allows me to live vicariously through the stories I tell and illustrate."
Born in New England in 1952, Rodanas harnessed her natural artistic gifts at Boston University, where she graduated and in 1974 began a career as a primary-school art teacher. Working with young people caused her to recall the stories and images that had captured her imagination as a child, and she also began to learn what sort of pictures and phrases children would enjoy. In 1988 she wrote and illustrated her first book, The Story of Wali Dâd. In more recent years Rodanas has continued to create illustrated stories, and has also contributed paintings to the stories of other writers. Her 1992 book, The Dragonfly's Tale, is based on the 1884 transcription of an ancient Zuni legend that focuses on honoring Nature's bounty and finds a lone boy and girl renewing their village's relationship with the Corn Maiden who had caused a great famine. In The Eagle's Song, Rodanas retells the story of two brothers who are transformed into rivers by an angry bird spirit. In a review of The Eagle's Song for Booklist, Chris Sherman praised the author/illustrator's "vibrant, boldly hued illustrations" and her "faithful retelling" of this ancient tale, while a Kirkus Reviews critic cited The Dragonfly's Tale as a "blend of cautionary tale and why story" that features a "narration [that] is clear and straightforward."
Moving from North America to southern Africa, Rodanas transforms a traditional tale told by the Shona people into the picture book The Blind Hunter. In this story, which School Library Journal contributor Tali
Balas dubbed "thoughtful and satisfying," a blind storyteller named Chirobo convinces a traveling hunter named Muteye to allow him to join the younger man's hunting party. Although sightless, Chirobo is able to save the group party from an attacking leopard, a herd of aggressive warthogs, and rampaging rhinos through his other senses. Rather than being appreciative, Muteye tries to trick the old storyteller out of a game bird he has trapped, until the hunter is helped to realize the wrongness of his actions by learning to see with his heart. Balas had special praise for Rodanas's "lush, detailed" pastel and watercolor illustrations, as did Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman; the book's "clear, glowing artwork" energizes the tale of "the triumph of the underdog on a wilderness adventure," according to the critic.
Rodanas told Something about the Author (SATA): "All of the books I've chosen to write and/or illustrate speak of ways we can give of ourselves. There are messages in my books about being kind to and honest with each other, being brave, conquering fear, honoring ourselves, honoring others (two-legged and four-legged, furred, winged, and finned), respecting Mother Earth.…"
In addition to illustrating her own stories, Rodanas has also drawn critical praise for the artwork she contributes to stories by others. Describing her work for author Kay Thorpe Bannon and the Reverend Robert H. Bushyhead's story Yonder Mountain: A Cherokee Legend, Booklist critic Karen Hutt described the book as "beautifully illustrated with rich watercolors that fill most of the pages," while in School Library Journal Grace Oliff noted that Rodanas's watercolor and colored pencil renderings "effectively capture the Smoky Mountains in all their autumnal glory." The use of strong earth tones and confident lines are characteristic of much of Rodanas's artistic output. Readers who follow her works should also know to be on the lookout for a special illustration in each volume: the author/ illustrator works a portrait of one of her beloved dogs into the artwork of each book she illustrates.
"As an artist, I choose colors and color combinations carefully," Rodanas also told SATA. "They are meant to produce a feeling in the viewer, something beautiful and lasting. Recently a young reader sent me a letter that said, 'I can still see the pictures in my mind long after I closed the book.'"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 1, 1992, Karen Hutt, review of The Dragonfly's Tale, p. 1454; October 1, 1994, Karen Hutt, review of Dance of the Sacred Circle: A Native American Tale, p. 331; December 15, 1995, Chris Sherman, review The Eagle's Song, p. 701; May 15, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of The Story of Blue Elk, p. 1628; February 15, 2003, Karen Hutt, review of Yonder Mountain, p. 1071; October 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of The Blind Hunter, p. 329.
Childhood Education, fall, 2003, Emily Pelc, review of The Blind Hunter, p. 40.
Horn Book, September-October, 1988, Margaret A. Burns, review of The Story of Wali Dâd, p. 617.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1992, review of The Dragonfly's Tale; September 1, 2001, review of The Little Drummer Boy; August 15, 2002, review of Yonder Mountains, p. 1215; October 1, 2003, review of The Blind Hunter, p. 1229.
Publishers Weekly, July 29, 1988, review of The Story of Wali Dâd, p. 232; March 16, 1992, review of The Dragonfly's Tale, p. 79.
School Library Journal, December, 1988, Starr LaTronica, review of The Story of Wali Dâd, p. 100; June, 1990, Cherlene Strickland, review of Rocking-Horse Land, p. 101; July, 1992, Yvonne Frey, review of The Dragonfly's Tale, p. 71; January, 1995, Carolyn Polese, review of Dance of the Sacred Circle, p. 105; January, 1996, Patricia Lothrop Green, review of The Eagle's Song, p. 105; August, 1998, Judith Gloyer, review of Follow the Stars and The Story of Blue Elk, p. 155; December, 2002, Grace Oliff, review of Yonder Mountain, p. 118; January, 2004, Tali Balas, review of The Blind Hunter, p. 104.
Marshall Cavendish Web site, http://www.marshallcavendish.us/ (October 26, 2004).*
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