Eric (Robert) Walters (1957-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1957, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Education: York University, B.A., 1979, B.S.W., 1983, M.S.W., 1985; University of Toronto, B.Ed., 1989. Politics: Liberal. Religion: United Church of Canada. Hobbies and other interests: Playing and coaching basketball and soccer, music, playing the saxophone.
office—c/o Author Mail, Orca Book Publishers, P.O. Box 468, Custer, WA 98240.
Writer and educator. Affiliated with Children's Aid Society, Simcoe County, Ontario, 1979-81, Region of Peel, 1981-85; Strothers Treatment Centre, social worker,
1986-89; Emergency Department, Credit Valley Hospital, Mississauga, Ontario, crisis social worker, 1989—; Peel Region Board of Education, teacher, beginning 1989; writer, 1991—.
Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers, Writers' Union of Canada, Ontario Public School Teachers' Federation.
Silver Birch Award, Ontario Library Association, 1997, Blue Heron Book Award, Blue Heron Books, 1997, and Children's Choice Award, Canadian Children's Book Centre (CBC), all for STARS; Silver Birch Award, CBC Choice Award, and Ruth Schwartz Award nomination, all 1997, all for Trapped in Ice; Ruth Schwartz Award, CBC Choice Award, New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age designation, and Canadian Library Book of the Year Honor selection, all 1998, all for War of the Eagles; CBC Choice Award, and Red Cedar Award nomination, both 1998, both for Diamonds in the Rough; Canadian Library Association (CLA) Honour Book designation, 1998, for The Hydrofoil Mystery; CLA Book of the Year shortlist, 2000, and UNESCO Honor Selection designation, 2003, both for Caged Eagles; Red Maple Award, and Snow Willow Award, both 2002, both for Rebound; CBC Choice Award, and Red Maple Award finalist, both 2002, both for The Bully Boys; Silver Birch Award, 2003, and Arthur Ellis Award shortlist, both 2003, both for Camp X; Torgi Award, 2003, for Run.
(With Norm Rippon) Improve Your Child's Spelling 1, Momentum Publishing, 1991.
(With Norm Rippon) Improve Your Child's Spelling 2, Momentum Publishing, 1993.
Stand Your Ground, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994.
STARS, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996.
Trapped in Ice, Viking, 1997.
Diamonds in the Rough, Stoddart (Buffalo, NY), 1998.
War of the Eagles, Orca (Custer, WA), 1998.
Stranded, HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
The Hydrofoil Mystery, Puffin (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
Tiger by the Tail, 1999.
The Money Pit Mystery, HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
Caged Eagles (sequel to War of the Eagles), Orca (Custer, WA), 2000.
The Bully Boys, Viking (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
Rebound, Stoddart (Buffalo, NY), 2001.
Northern Exposures, HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.
Tiger in Trouble, Beach Holme (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2001.
Camp X, Penguin Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
Ricky, HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
Tiger Town, Beach Holme (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2002.
Royal Ransom, Puffin Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Run, Puffin (Toronto Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Grind, Orca (Custer, WA), 2004.
Overdrive, Orca (Custer, WA), 2004.
I've Got an Idea, HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Camp 30 (sequel to Camp X), Penguin Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Death by Exposure, 2004.
(With daughter, Christina Walters) The True Story of Santa Claus, Chestnut Publishing (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Author's works have been translated into French, Dutch, Japanese, and Chinese.
Three on Three, Orca (Custer, WA), 1999.
Full Court Press, Orca (Custer, WA), 2000.
Hoop Crazy, Orca (Custer, WA), 2001.
Long Shot, Orca (Custer, WA), 2001.
Road Trip, Orca (Custer, WA), 2002.
Off Season, Orca (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2003.
Underdog, Orca (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2004.
(With Jerome "Junk Yard Dog" Williams) Triple Threat, Orca (Custer, WA), 2005.
Work in Progress
Tiger Trap, Elixir, Black and White, Sketches, Juice, The Falls, They All Fall Down, and Shattered, all novels for teen readers.
The novels of Canadian author Eric Walters have been compared by critics to the work of well-known YA writers Gary Paulsen and Will Hobbs. As Resource Links contributor Gillian Richardson noted of the author's 2003 novel Royal Ransom, Walters "excels at seizing the reader's attention with rapid-fire action scenes, often involving survival against nature." His first novel, Stand Your Ground, sold out instantly, while STARS, Walters' second novel, won both the Silver Birch Award and the Blue Heron Book Award. Books nominated for these awards are selected by juries of young adults, a testament to Walters's success at writing stories with which his audience can identify. His books have also proved popular because his teen protagonists invariably succeed despite the hurdles they face. This message—that obstacles can be overcome—is, in fact, what initially attracted Walters to writing for young adults. "I prefer writing children's novels because they are like morality plays," the prolific novelist once asserted. "There is much more right and wrong in them. In adult novels, it's almost as if you have to emphasize the bad or wrong, and I don't want the wrong people to win. I like happy endings."
Walters originally pursued a career as a social worker, but went on to become a teacher while continuing to work part-time as a crisis social worker in an emergency department. In 1991, inspired by the books he read aloud to his fifth-grade students, he decided to try his hand at writing his own books for children. His creative writing classes now became a sharing process for both Walters and his students; they took turns reading one another's writing, and he expected the students to give his work the same critical appraisal he gave theirs. In fact, it was his students' enthusiasm after hearing the first draft of Stand Your Ground that convinced Walters to send the completed draft to a publisher.
"The underlying theme of many of my books is about a sense of belonging," Walters once commented, "and about how you sometimes have to work to get to that place." His protagonists are frequently gifted teens to whom life has dealt a severe blow. Their stories revolve around the challenges they experience when they are suddenly offered an opportunity they had previously lacked. Will they recognize and accept it—or turn their backs? In both Stand Your Ground and STARS, seizing an opportunity involves rejecting the thrill of living outside the law and recognizing the value of the ordinary. In Stand Your Ground, for example, the protagonist comes to realize that he prefers living with his old-fashioned Dutch grandparents to wheeling deals with his con-artist father. In STARS, a city boy spends his time planning his escape from a Northern Ontario camp for young offenders before he realizes how much he has come to love the wilderness.
Walters' street-smart but sensitive protagonists are based on children he remembers from growing up with in a troubled neighborhood in west-end Toronto. His mother died when he was four years old, and he and his older sister ended up raising themselves. For much of his youth, Walters ran wild, playing in neighboring stockyards, running through sewers, and fleeing the police. His world was populated by "smart people pushed in the wrong directions," as he once recalled, and these same people provide his stories with much of their drama. Like his protagonists, Walters managed to escape this world, a cultural move he once compared to immigrating to a new country: "You leave things behind and there's a sense of loss."
Walters' 2003 novel Run focuses on a true story: the 1980 effort of Canadian athlete Terry Fox to run across Canada following a leg amputation. The novel weaves Fox's story into the fictional story of Winston MacDonald, Jr., a student whose drinking and truancy have caused him to be sent to live with his journalist father. When Winston's father is sent to cover Fox's Marathon of Hope, the teen has the chance to travel in Fox's support van and even runs alongside Fox, learning a lesson about perseverance and character. "It is a testament to Walters' talents that he manages to depict Terry as both a hero and a human," noted Resource Links reviewer Nadine d'Entremont, praising Run as an "excellent novel" that "skillfully explores a range of themes, including family, friendship, determination, and heroism." In writing Run Walters had the support of Fox's family, and he donated all royalties from the sale of the book to the Terry Fox Foundation to fund cancer research.
Several of Walters' novels focus on the World War II period. In War of the Eagles Jed, a Native American teen of the Tsimshian nation, learns about prejudice first hand as he watches the attitudes of his fellow towns-people change toward their Japanese neighbors as the war progresses and tensions mount in Jed's small Canadian fishing village. In the sequel to War of the Eagles, Caged Eagles, Walters focuses on the experiences of Jed's friend, fourteen-year-old Tadashi Fukushima, who together with his Japanese-Canadian family and others of similar heritage from the village, is forced into an internment camp for the duration of the war. The boy does not understand his parents' fatalistic attitude in dealing with this humiliation; he grows angry as their
possessions are taken from them and he must live with the women in a makeshift hovel while his father lives elsewhere in the camp with the men. Together with a new friend, Tadashi finds a way to leave the camp undetected, and in an act of defiance he sinks the family's fishing boat—the source of their livelihood—to prevent it from being sold. Praising Caged Eagles, Booklist reviewer Chris Sherman noted that Walters "admirably succeeds" in helping readers understand the "humiliation, anger, and depression" of Tadashi's family, while also weaving an element of adventure into the boy's story. In a School Library Journal review, Kathleen Isaacs called the book "a disturbing and convincing story that needs to be told," while in Booklist John Peters hailed War of the Eagles as "a multifaceted, well-knit story" that is enhanced by Walters' "fluent storytelling."
In Camp X twelve-year-old George and his older brother Jack are left alone when their father leaves to fight in World War II and their mother gets a job in a munitions factory. Exploring their new town of Whitby, Ontario, the boys stumble upon a secret military installation: a British-run camp to train Allied spies. As they learn more about the camp, they gain the confidence of the presiding director, and are ultimately asked to assist camp command in making deliveries to the munitions factory nearby. During their delivery run, George and Jack discover a plot to undermine the camp, and realize that not everyone they know can be trusted. Noting that Camp X is based on an actual military installation, Resource Links contributor Victoria Pennell praised the novel for containing "fast-moving action" that will appeal to upper-elementary-aged readers who enjoy military history. Fans of the novel will also appreciate Camp 30, a sequel in which George and Jack move to another town and discover a different type of camp: a prisoner of war camp that houses German soldiers. Like Camp X, Camp 30 is also based on Canadian history; the actual camp was located in Bowmanville, Ontario, and served as a temporary home for some of the highest-ranking German officers to be captured by Allied troops during the war.
In addition to problem novels featuring older teens, Walters is the author of a popular series of books for young basketball fans. Beginning with Three on Three, the series includes the chapter books Full Court Press, Long Shot, Hoop Crazy, Off Season, and Road Trip among its titles. Off Season focuses on third-grade friends and basketball team members Nick and Kia, who travel to British Columbia to visit Nick's cousin Ned during summer vacation. Although the three spend some time shooting hoops on a rustic basketball court Ned's father has built, the city pair also learn to appreciate learning about the ways of the wild when they become trapped, ringed in by forest fires. In Road Trip, the boys hit the road, traveling to compete in a high-pressure tournament where the stakes are even higher for their coach. Praising the series' writing style as "easy and fast paced," Resource Links reviewer Stephanie Olson added that "basketball fans will love the excitement" generated by the young team's competitive spirit. The eighth book in the series, Triple Threat, was co-written by NBA star Jerome "Junk Yard Dog" Williams. Williams is also a character in the book and helps Nick and Kia overcome bullies.
Walters credits the popularity of his fiction to his realistic plots and vivid details. As he explained to Something about the Author, "I do a lot of personal research. I've hung out at a tough biker bar, white water rafted, rock climbed, played with people's pet lions and tigers and bears, spent days in a wheelchair, and stood outside in a blizzard in a T-shirt and shorts to find out what it was like to freeze to death."
Walters's own experiences as a youth, combined with things he has seen while working as a social worker, family therapist, and teacher, have convinced him that many good people caught in a dead end "don't get out alive." As a result, he has found writing about characters who do manage to escape to be a form of catharsis. He identifies so closely with his characters that he worries
about them even after a book is finished. Recalling what people said of him when he was a youth, he acknowledges, "A lot of my life has been dedicated to proving people wrong."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, December 15, 1998, John Peters, review of War of the Eagles, p. 752; June 1, 2000, Tim Arnold, review of Three on Three, p. 1898; December 1, 2000, Chris Sherman, review of Caged Eagles, p. 702; April 1, 2001, Roger Leslie, review of Full Court Press, p. 1473.
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, October, 1996, p. 158.
Quill & Quire, February, 1995, p. 39; May, 1996, p. 35.
Resource Links, February, 1998, review of Trapped in Ice, p. 113; October, 1998, review of War of the Eagles, p. 21; February, 2000, review of Three on Three, pp. 11-12, and review of Stranded, pp. 29-30; April, 2000, review of The Bully Boys, p. 12; October, 2000, review of Caged Eagles, p. 31; February, 2001, review of Rebound, p. 20; October, 2001, Shannon Danylko, review of Hoop Crazy!, and Johal Jinder, review of Tiger in Trouble, p. 20; December, 2001, Shannon Danylko, review of Long Shot, p. 23; April, 2002, Victoria Pennell, review of Camp X, p. 42; October, 2002, Stephanie Olson, review of Road Trip, p. 18; February, 2003, Gillian Richardson, review of Royal Ransom, p. 19; April, 2003, review of Tiger Town, p. 54; June, 2003, Teresa Hughes, review of Ricky, p. 36, and Elaine Rosepad, review of Off Season, p. 47; October, 2003, Nadine d'Entremont, review of Run, p. 37.
School Library Journal, November, 2000, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Caged Eagles, p. 164; October, 2001, Janice C. Hayes, review of Rebound, p. 174; July, 2002, Kate Kohlbeck, review of Long Shot, p. 127.
Teacher Librarian, March-April, 1999, review of War of the Eagles, p. 22.
Canadian Materials Online, http://www.umanitoba.ca/cm/ (September 26, 1998), Dave Jenkinson, interview with Walters.
Eric Walters Web site, http://www.interlog.com/~ewalters/ (December 24, 2004).
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