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Marcia (K.) Vaughan (1951-) Biography

Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights

Born 1951, in Tacoma, WA; daughter of Claude M. (an attorney and author), and Helen (Adams) Pearson; Education: Attended Washington State University, 1969-70; Central Washington State University, B.A., 1974, library science certification, 1975. Hobbies and other interests: Beachcombing, traveling, baking, swimming, reading.


Writer, 1981—. Captain Charles Wilkes Elementary School, Bainbridge Island, WA, school librarian, 1975-80; Natangiia Primary School, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, volunteer school librarian, 1981; Blessed Sacrament School, Mosman, New South Wales, Australia, school librarian, 1982-88. Member, Pacific Northwest Writers Conference.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Honors Awards

American Library Association Notable Children's Book designation, 1996, for Whistling Dixie; Washington State Children's Choice Picture Book award nominee, for Snap!



The Lucky Fun Book, Ashton Scholastic (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1984.

Who?, illustrated with photographs by Richard Vaughan, Ashton Scholastic (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1984.

Wombat Stew, illustrated by Pamela Lofts, Ashton Scholastic (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1985, Silver Burdett, 1986.

Pewzer and Bonsai, illustrated by Megan Gressor, Hodder & Stoughton (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1985.

Crosby Crocodile's Disguise, illustrated by Philip Webb, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1988.

Still Room for More, illustrated by Craig Smith, Australasian Publishing (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1989.

The Wombat Stew Cookbook, illustrated by P. Lofts, Ashton Scholastic (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1989.

(With Richard Vaughan) Adam's Apple, illustrated by Coral Tulloch, Five Mile Press (Rowville, Australia), 1989.

(With Richard Vaughan) Ships, Boats, and Things That Float, Harcourt (Port Melbourne, Australia), 1989.

As Fat as That, Harcourt (Port Melbourne, Australia), 1989.

There's a Bunyip under My Bed, Harcourt (Port Melbourne, Australia), 1989.

Milly Fitzwilly's Most Magnificent Mousecatcher, illustrated by Roland Harvey, Five Mile Press (Rowville, Australia), 1990.

The Sea Breeze Hotel, illustrated by Patricia Mullins, Margaret Hamilton Books (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1990, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

An Abundance of Animals, Lamont (Ringwood, Australia), 1990.

The Giants' Child, illustrated by Kellie Jobson, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.

A Skirt for Susan, Random House (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1991.

The Mystery of the Missing Map, Omnibus Books (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1992.

Sheep Shape, illustrated by Kilmeny Niland, Margaret Hamilton Books (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1993.

How to Cook a Gooseberry Fool: Unusual Recipes from around the World, ("Easy Menu Ethnic Cookbooks" series), Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.

Snap!, illustrated by Sascha Hutchinson, Omnibus Books (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1994, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

Skateboard Bill, ("Voyages" series), illustrated by Ian Forss, SRA/McGraw-Hill (North Ryde, Australia), 1994.

The Stick-around Cloud, ("Voyages" series), illustrated by Craig Smith, SRA/McGraw-Hill (North Ryde, Australia), 1994.

(With Richard Vaughan) Bon Voyage, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.

Hands, Hands, Hands, illustrated by Miriam Katin, Mondo Publishing (New York, NY), 1995.

Whistling Dixie, illustrated by Barry Moser, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Delilah DrinkWater and the Clever Cloud, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill (North Ryde, Australia), 1996.

The Dancing Dragon, illustrated by Stanley Woo Hoo Foon, Mondo Publishing (New York, NY), 1996.

Secret Friend, ("Let Me Read" series), Addison-Wesley (Boston, MA), 1996.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Boedecker, illustrated by Keiko Narahashi, Celebration Press (Glenview, IL), 1996.

Where Does the Wind Go?, illustrated by Karen Hopkins, Mondo Publishing (New York, NY), 1996.

Abbie against the Storm: The True Story of a Young Heroine and a Lighthouse, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth, Beyond Words (Portland, OR), 1999.

Lemonade Stand, illustrated by Thomas Payne, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1999.

The Secret to Freedom, illustrated by Larry Johnson, Lee & Low (New York, NY), 2001.

We're Going on a Ghost Hunt, illustrated by Ann Schweninger, Silver Whistle (San Diego, CA), 2001.

Kissing Coyotes, illustrated by Kenneth J. Spengler, Rising Moon (Flagstaff, AZ), 2002.

Night Dancer: Mythical Piper of the Native American Southwest, illustrated by Lisa Desimini, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Up the Learning Tree, illustrated by Derek Blanks, Lee & Low (New York, NY), 2003.

The Treasure of Ghostwood Gully: A Southwest Mystery, illustrated by Will Terry, Rising Moon (Flagstaff, AZ), 2004.

Also author of "Sticky Beak Mystery" series, twenty-six volumes, Bay Books, 1988. Contributor to Novel Ideas! An Interactive Computer Writing Program for Young Authors (add-on kit to Creative Writer!), Microsoft Corporation, 1995; and to Kwanzaa Karamu: Cooking and Crafts for a Kwanzaa Feast, Carolrhoda, 1995. Author of Scare Kid, Sly Old Lockjaw Croc, Tale of Veruschka Babuschka, Tongues Are for Tasting, Licking, and Flicking, Crosby Crocodile's Disguise, and Parachutes ("Literacy 2000" series), for Rigby Educational.


Hands, Hands, Hands, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.

Tails, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.

Whose Toes and Nose Are Those?, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.

A Cat's Eye Is One, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.

Hiccups, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.

Where Does the Wind Go?, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987, illustrated by Karen Hopkins, Mondo Publishing (New York, NY), 1996.


The Sandwich That Max Made, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.

Wake up, Wallaby, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.

At Night, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.

Clouds, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.

Numerals, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.

Sleeping, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.

T. J.'s Tree, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.

Sleepy Bear, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.

Monkey's Friends, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.

Moonlight, Shortland (Auckland, New Zealand), 1989.


Deadly and Dangerous Australian Spiders, Macmillan (Melbourne, Australia), 1990.

Deadly and Dangerous Australian Snakes, Macmillan (Melbourne, Australia), 1990.

Deadly and Dangerous Australian Crocodiles, Macmillan (Melbourne, Australia), 1990.

Deadly and Dangerous Australian Insects, Macmillan (Melbourne, Australia), 1990.

Deadly and Dangerous Australian Plants, Macmillan (Melbourne, Australia), 1990.

Deadly and Dangerous Australian Sea Life, Macmillan (Melbourne, Australia), 1990.


Hi-De-Hi, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1993.

Jungle Parade: A Signing Game, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1993.

Otto the Otter, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1993.

Something New, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1993.

The Old Oak Tree, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1993.

Animal Stretches, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1993.

My Friends, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), illustrated by Anni Matsick, 1993.

Zither, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1993.


Dorobo the Dangerous, illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone, Silver Burdett (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1994.

Kapoc the Killer Croc, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandez, Silver Burdett (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1994.

Riddle by the River, illustrated by Reynold Ruffins, Silver Burdett (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1995.

Tingo Tango Mango Tree, illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan, Silver Burdett (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1995.


Goldsworthy and Mort Valentines and Easter Eggs, illustrated by Linda Hendry, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Goldsworthy and Mort Spring Soup, illustrated by Linda Hendry, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Goldsworthy and Mort Summer Fun, illustrated by Linda Hendry, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Goldsworthy and Mort Holiday Hijinks, illustrated by Linda Hendry, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Goldsworthy and Mort Blast Off, illustrated by Linda Hendry, Celebration Press (Glenview, IL), 1996.


Wombat Stew was recorded on audiocassette, Louis Braille Books, 1988.


Children's book author Marcia Vaughan has been telling stories ever since she was a young child. She began her career as a librarian in 1975 because she wanted to tell stories to children, work in children's theater, and read books; within a few years, she was writing books herself. "Writing children's books was a natural spin-off of being a librarian," Vaughan once told Something about the Author (SATA). "I learned how to write books for children by reading books to my students. Every time I read a story aloud, I learned a little bit more about how a story goes together."

According to Vaughan, the first two stories she wrote (which she worked on for one year) were "never published and for a good reason. They weren't very good. But I built up my writing muscles on those stories and the third story I wrote, Wombat Stew, was published and has been selling well for over 400,000 copies!" Since the publication of Wombat Stew, Vaughan has written and published several popular books for children. Many of these, like Whistling Dixie—which, according to Elizabeth Bush of the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, has a "text that is as much fun for the reader as for the audience"—are designed for reading aloud. Some of Vaughan's other books, published in series, have been developed for children just beginning to read on their own.

When Vaughan began to write and publish her books, she was living in Australia, and many of her books feature animals from the Australian outback. Wombat Stew, in the words of Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper, is a "delightful introduction to the animals of Australia." The story begins when a dingo catches a wombat. He decides to make a stew, and one by one other animals (including a platypus, emu, lizard, and echidna) offer their own suggestions for wombat stew ingredients. After the dingo follows their instructions and tastes his terrible stew, he runs away, thinking that he has been poisoned! The animals and the wombat they've rescued begin to sing the song, "Wombat Stew." Noting that the music for this song is provided in the book, Ilene Cooper concluded, "Story hour fun!"

According to a Kirkus Reviews critic, the "enthusiasm" of Vaughan's The Sea-Breeze Hotel is "contagious." Featuring the collage illustrations of Patricia Mullins, this book opens when the hotel where Sam's father works is vacant because potential guests are put off by the windy location. Instead of letting this problem bother him, Sam builds a kite to take advantage of the wind. The housekeeper and the owner also make kites, and it is not too long before people notice how much fun they are having. Soon, the hotel, now famous for its kite-flying winds, is full of guests! A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that the rhythms of Vaughan's prose "adroitly suggest the energy of a kite in flight."

Whistling Dixie, with its Southern-drawl narrative, tells the story of a young girl who brings home wild creatures—an alligator, snake, and owl—hoping to keep them for pets. Dixie Lee (a wonderful whistler) expects to ward the bogeyman and other otherworldly beings away from their house with her collection. In addition to doing so, she scares her unsuspecting "Grandpappy." "The ending" of this story, according to Mary M. Burns of Horn Book, "is eminently satisfying." A Kirkus Reviews critic pointed out that the "sing-song spirit of the wording, along with flurries of rhymes—sets the stage for an atmospheric read aloud." Elizabeth Bush wrote in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books that this book is especially appropriate "for a Halloween treat."

Although, by the early 1990s, Vaughan was living on Vashon Island, a place she enjoyed as a child growing up in Washington state, she had not forgotten the animals that charmed her in Australia. The protagonist of Snap! is a kangaroo looking for a friend. He finds a bush mouse, a snake, a platypus, an echidna, and a crocodile to play with. This latter animal wants to play "snap," a game in which the other animals are to creep between his wide open jaws. Once they do, and get trapped, the quick-thinking little kangaroo shows his friends how to play another game, "tickle-the-tonsils," and the crocodile's dinner plans are spoiled. "Vaughan's bouncy, sometimes rhyming text explodes with energy and enthusiasm," commented Joy Fleishhacker in a review for School Library Journal.

Two other stories told in verse are the picture books We're Going on a Ghost Hunt and Night Dancer: Mythical Piper of the Native American Southwest. In We're Going on a Ghost Hunt a pair of youngsters and their puppy search for goblins in their neighborhood. During the adventure their imaginations run wild; falling leaves become spooky bats and tree limbs become skeleton bones. When the children finally spy a creepy ghost (in reality, a sheet covering a chair), they run back to their mother's arms. Reviewing We're Going on a Ghost Hunt in Booklist, Helen Rosenburg stated that Vaughn's text "is filled with sound effects that invite children to chant along."

Set in the American Southwest, Night Dancer introduces Kokopelli, the humpbacked flute player. He invites the animals of the desert, including a rattlesnake, a javelina, and a coyote, to enjoy his music, and they are eventually joined by the children of the pueblo. In Night Dancer, Vaughn "takes readers on an exhilarating moonlit dance," remarked a critic in Publishers Weekly.

Vaughan has collaborated with her husband, Richard Vaughan, on a number of books. Bon Voyage! is the story of an imaginary trip around the world. When the Turner twins need money to buy a used red wagon, they open a business, the "Thrill Seekers Travel Agency." For just fifty cents each, they offer their friends adventures around the globe. They take one friend to ride a camel in Egypt—which is really the sandbox—and another to Spain to watch a bullfight—the bull is actually a dog. Another child skis down a slide—a mountain in the Swiss Alps—and still another wades in a pool—a Hawaiian beach. Only one of the children, a bully, is sent away without a return ticket. "Each energetic fantasy bears a strong relationship to the imaginative worlds that kids really create," wrote Sarah Ellis of Quill & Quire. Diane Schoemperlen, writing in Books in Canada, appreciated the book's "exuberant good humour."

Vaughan's "Goldsworthy and Mort" books, each of which feature two stories for beginning readers, follow the adventures of a badger and a possum. In Goldsworthy and Mort Summer Fun, the two friends attempt to sell lemonade—which they end up drinking themselves!—and enjoy ice cream on the beach. In one of the stories in Goldsworthy and Mort Holiday Hijinks, the friends make crazy Christmas presents for one another; in the second story in the book they take a trip around the world, and return home with appreciation for its comfort and familiarity. The stories are "light, pleasant early reads for children," asserted Quill & Quire contributor Phyllis Simon, while Anne Denoon noted in Books in Canada that the pair of tales features "lots of gentle comedy and amusing wordplay."

Vaughn recounts the tale of a courageous nineteenth-century girl in Abbie against the Storm: The True Story of a Young Heroine and a Lighthouse. A picture book for older readers, Abbie against the Storm concerns seventeen-year-old Abigail Burgess, the daughter of a lighthouse keeper who lived with her family on a small island off the coast of Maine in 1856. When her father must leave the island to pick up supplies, he puts Abbie in charge of the twin light towers. A fierce, unexpected winter storm blows in, stranding Abbie's father on the mainland for a month. During that time, the teen keeps the lanterns burning, cares for her mother and younger sisters, and rescues some hens that provide food for her family. "Vaughn's straightforward narrative conveys the danger of the storm as well as the heroine's bravery and stamina," observed a critic in Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal contributor Margaret A. Chang noted that the author's "fictionalized biography brings the young heroine to life."

Vaughn also addresses historical topics in The Secret to Freedom and Up the Learning Tree. In The Secret to Freedom a young girl learns about her family's involvement in the Underground Railroad from her Great Aunt Lucy, a former slave. Lucy tells her great niece about the methods that her brother, Albert, and she used to help runaway slaves, including secret messages embedded in the patterns of patchwork quilts. Lucy has not heard from her brother in many years, though, ever since he fled from his owners after they become suspicious of his activities. When a small piece of quilted fabric arrives in the mail, Lucy realizes that Albert is still alive. According to Booklist critic Ilene Cooper, "the quilts-as-signals element is a fascinating sidelight to the history of the Underground Railroad."

Up the Learning Tree follows Henry Bell, a slave child who desperately wants to read and write. Though he An elderly woman describes life as a slave and the quilted code she taught her brother to guide him north on the underground railroad. (From The Secret to Freedom, illustration by Larry Johnson.) knows he will be punished if he is caught with a book, Henry seeks help from a sympathetic teacher who risks her job to help the boy. After the teacher's efforts are discovered by the plantation owners and she is run out of town, Henry vows to continue his own education. Reviewing Up the Learning Tree in School Library Journal, Catherine Threadgill remarked that "Vaughan's text relates the child's bold, determined struggle to learn in spare but descriptive language."

Vaughan once explained to SATA that, for her, "writing is not work, it is fun. Even when my stories don't come out right to begin with, I keep playing with them until I'm satisfied." She also described her writing process: "When I sit down to write a story, I listen to the characters talking in my imagination. I write down their conversations and fill in the descriptive parts later. I sometimes start right in the middle of the story and work my way back to the beginning, then to the end. Other times I begin with the problem the characters must overcome. I make the problem really big so the character must work very hard, or be very clever to solve it.

"Some stories, like Wombat Stew, jump right out of my pencil, while others take many drafts to get just right. One trick I always use is reading the story onto a cassette tape. Then I listen back to it. If [it] sounds good, I know it is finished. If not, I know I need to keep playing with different ideas." Vaughan advises young writers: "Have fun with your writing. Be wild and adventurous and feel free to make lots of changes. Sometimes a story will just take off on its own. When it does, go ahead and let it lead you. You may be surprised where that story goes!"

Biographical and Critical Sources


Story Makers: A Collection of Interviews with Australian and New Zealand Authors and Illustrators for Young People, Oxford University Press (Melbourne, Australia), 1989.


Booklist, July, 1986, Ilene Cooper, review of Wombat Stew, p. 1617; July, 1992, p. 1946; July, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Snap!, p. 1831; July, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Snap!, p. 1831; October 1, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of Lemonade Stand, p. 367; April 1, 2000, Kay Weisman, review of Abbie against the Storm: The True Story of a Young Heroine and a Lighthouse, p. 1478; June 1, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of The Secret to Freedom, p. 1897; September 15, 2001, Helen Rosenberg, review of We're Going on a Ghost Hunt, p. 237; November 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Up the Learning Tree, p. 507.

Books in Canada, April, 1994, Anne Denoon, review of Goldsworthy and Mort Holiday Hijinks, p. 50; November, 1994, Diane Schoemperlen, review of Bon Voyage!, p. 58.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 1995, Elizabeth Bush, review of Whistling Dixie, p. 324.

Canadian Materials, October, 1991, p. 307.

Children's Bookwatch, January, 2005, review of Treasure of Ghostwood Gully.

Horn Book, September-October, 1995, Mary M. Burns, review of Whistling Dixie, p. 593.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1992, review of The Sea-Breeze Hotel, p. 728; April 1, 1995, review of Whistling Dixie, p. 476; April 1, 1996, review of Snap!, p. 538.

New York Times Book Review, April 20, 1986, p. 29.

Publishers Weekly, May 25, 1992, Review of The Sea-Breeze Hotel, pp. 53-54; June 6, 1994, p. 64; February 13, 1995, p. 78; May 13, 1996, review of Snap!, p. 74; February 7, 2000, review of Abbie against the Story, p. 85; September 24, 2001, review of We're Going on a Ghost Hunt, p. 42; October 14, 2002, review of Night Dancer: Mythical Piper of the Native American Southwest, p. 82.

Quill & Quire, March, 1991, p. 20; February, 1994, Phyllis Simon, review of Goldsworthy & Mort Holiday Hijinks, p. 37; September, 1994, Sarah Ellis, review of Bon Voyage!, p. 69.

Reading Teacher, November, 2002, review of The Secret to Freedom, p. 260.

School Library Journal, January, 1987, p. 68; January, 1995, pp. 94-95; April, 1995, p. 118; April, 1996, Joy Fleishhacker, review of Snap!, p. 119; December, 1996, p. 108; July, 2000, Margaret A. Chang, review of Abbie against the Storm, p. 89; June, 2001, Eunice Weech, review of The Secret to Freedom, p. 131; September, 2001, Sally R. Dow, review of We're Going on a Ghost Hunt, p. 207; October, 2002, Sally Bates Goodroe, review of Night Dancer, p. 133; February, 2003, Susan Marie Pitard, review of Kissing Coyotes, p. 124; November, 2003, Catherine Threadgill, review of Up the Learning Tree, p. 117.


Lee & Low Web site, http://www.leeandlow.com/ (April 5, 2005), "Booktalk with Marcia Vaughn."*

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