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Monica Olwen Gunning (1930–) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1930, in Jamaica, West Indies; Education: City College (now of the City University of New York), B.A., 1957; University of Guadalajara, graduate study, 1971; Mount St. Mary's College, Los Angeles, CA, M.S.Ed., 1971. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Methodist. Hobbies and other interests: Interior decorating ("especially refinishing inexpensive items from thrift shops"), cooking native West Indian foods, playing the guitar, singing calypsos.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Boyds Mills Press, 815 Church St., Honesdale, PA 18431.


Bilingual elementary teacher in Los Angeles, CA, 1959–72; Union Avenue Elementary School, Los Angeles, teacher of English as a second language, 1973–. Training teacher for University of California, Los Angeles, and University of Southern California. Chairperson of parent volunteer program, Union Avenue School, 1975–76; writer,—.


International Students Association, Society of Children's Book Writers, Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People, Association of Friends of the Library (Los Angeles).

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Los dos Jorges (title means "The Two Georges"), Blaine-Ethridge, 1975.

Perico bonito (title means "Pretty Parrot"), Blaine-Ethridge, 1976.

Not a Copper Penny in Me House: Poems from the Caribbean, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Under the Breadfruit Tree: Island Poems, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1998.

A Shelter in Our Car, Children's Book Press (San Francisco, CA), 2004.

America, My New Home: Poems, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2004.


Children's book author Monica Olwen Gunning was born in Jamaica, West Indies, but immigrated to the United States to further her education. In addition to a long career as a teacher and educator, Gunning is also the author of several books for young readers, among them A Shelter in Our Car, America, My New Home, and several bilingual titles.

A Shelter in Our Car describes the difficult day-to-day life of eight-year-old Zettie. After leaving Jamaica with her mother in search of a better life, the pair found themselves living out of a car, hungry and struggling. "This picture-book brings close the harsh realities of being homeless, scavenging for food, washing in the park rest room, [and] being harassed by police," commented Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman.

America, My New Home also explores the topic of immigration, this time through the vehicle of verse. A girl describes her displacement in her new life, along with her feelings of loneliness and longing for her Jamaican home. "The honesty about what she has lost reinforces the strongly upbeat story of the newcomer finding the riches of the library, the symphony, and the circus—and the wonder of snow," stated Hazel Rochman in a Booklist review of Gunning's book. Lee Bock wrote in School Library Journal that "Gunning also expresses appreciation for America and its resources in a direct and genuine manner."

Gunning once told Something about the Author: "Mexico is one of my favorite countries. I am affiliated with an inter-cultural exchange program for elementary students between Mexico and the United States. In 1973 I chaperoned a group of students into Mexico and spent Christmas there. I am also a member of the International Students Association. The purpose of this organization is to entertain foreign students in American homes for better understanding among peoples. Through After moving to the United States from Jamaica, Zettie's mother remains optimistic and makes the best of things while searching for a job and a permanent home. (From A Shelter in Our Car, written by Monica Olwen Gunning and illustrated by Elaine Pedlar.)this organization I have had the opportunity to be the hostess for students from all over the world, and establish friendships among many races."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, February 15, 1998, Karen Morgan, review of Under the Breadfruit Tree, p. 1002; April 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of A Shelter In Our Car, p. 1368; November 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of America, My New Home, p. 575.

Publishers Weekly, February 23, 2004, review of A Shelter In Our Car, p. 76.

School Library Journal, May, 2004, Wendy Lukehart, review of A Shelter In Our Car, p. 112; December, 2004, Lee Bock, review of America, My New Home, p. 130.


Feria del Libro Web site, http://www.feriadellibro.net/ (May 3, 2005).

NewPages.com, http://www.newpages.com/ (May 3, 2005), review of A Shelter in Our Car.

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