7 minute read

Joy N. Hulme (1922–) Biography

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

Born 1922 in Cottonwood, UT; Education: Graduated from Utah State University.


Writer. Has worked at a variety of jobs, including newspaper circulation manager and self-employed floral designer.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (corresponding secretary, 1989–92; board of directors, Nor-Cal chapter, 1991–2002).

Honors Awards

Writing award, Ensign (magazine), 1978; Outstanding Science Trade Book citation, 1991, and Children's Choice citation, 1992, both for Sea Squares; also recipient of California Writers' Contest award.


The Illustrated Story of President Lorenzo Snow, illustrated by B. Keith Christensen, Eagle Systems (Provo, UT), 1982.

The Illustrated Story of President George Albert Smith, illustrated by B. Keith Christensen, Eagle Systems (Provo, UT), 1982.

The Illustrated Story of President David O. McKay, illustrated by B. Keith Christensen, Eagle Systems (Provo, UT), 1982.

A Stable in Bethlehem, illustrated by J. Ellen Dolce, Western (Racine, WI), 1989.

The Other Side of the Door, Deseret Books (Salt Lake City, UT), 1990, revised edition published as Through the Open Door, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

Sea Squares, illustrated by Carol Schwartz, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1991.

Climbing the Rainbow (sequel to The Other Side of the Door), Deseret Books (Salt Lake City, UT), 1992, revised edition, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

What If?: Just Wondering Poems, illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev, Boyds Mills (Honesdale, PA), 1993.

Counting by Kangaroos, illustrated by Betsy Scheld, Scientific American Books (New York), 1995.

Sea Sums, illustrated by Carol Schwartz, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Donna W. Guthrie) How to Write, Recite, and Delight in All Kinds of Poetry, Millbrook (Brookfield, CT), 1996.

Eerie Feary Feeling: A Hairy Scary Pop-up Book, Orchard (New York, NY), 1998.

Bubble Trouble, illustrated by Mike Cressy, Children's Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Wild Fibonacci: Nature's Secret Code Revealed, illustrated by Carol Schwartz, Tricycle Press (Berkeley, CA), 2005.

The Lookout Brigage, Covenant Communications, Inc. (Orem, UT), 2005.

Also contributor to periodicals, including Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, and Sunset.


Joy N. Hulme draws on a wide variety of writing experience to create picture books that are both instructive and fun. Hulme began her career as a contributor to magazines, selling stories, poems, articles, and Christmas crafts to both adult and children's periodicals. For many years, however, the author's dreams of publishing a children's book were frustrated by repeated rejections. Eventually, Hulme became part of a San Francisco Bayarea writers' group that included Patricia Polacco and Elisa Klevin. "This was my biggest breakthrough," Hulme once told Something about the Author. "I was exposed to many opportunities to learn from and be encouraged by other writers and illustrators." Through this association, Hulme found her first agent, who gave the author "just what I needed to absorb the rejection and heartbreak and resubmit my books instead of stashing them away to mildew in a drawer."

Hulme's first major children's book was A Stable in Bethlehem. Since it first appeared in 1989, this counting book has become a Christmas favorite. Hulme followed that work with The Other Side of the Door and Climbing the Rainbow, about a young girl who rises above a disability. Set in 1910, The Other Side of the Door (later republished as Through the Open Door) concerns young Dora Cookson, a Mormon girl whose tongue never separated from the bottom of her mouth and who can only communicate through grunts and groans. Because of her speech impediment Dora does not attend school and is ostracized by nearly everyone around her, including some family members. Just before the Cookson family moves from Utah to New Mexico, Dora falls ill; while treating the girl, a physician discovers that she is "tongue-tied" and performs surgery on her. Once she heals, Dora learns to speak with the help of her kindly brother, Ed, "a relationship that Hulme develops convincingly and compellingly," noted a critic in Publishers Weekly. Reviewing The Other Side of the Door in School Library Journal, Shawn Brommer remarked, "The accessible text is straightforward, and the first-person narration is particularly apt for this appealing fictionalized memoir."

Dora's pursuit of an education is the focus of Climbing the Rainbow, the sequel to The Other Side of the Door. Initially placed with the first graders in her two-room schoolhouse, ten-year-old Dora works hard to prove to her teacher that she is intelligent and capable, and she makes rapid progress. Dora also experiences the hardships of life on the homestead when her best friend dies of appendicitis. "Episodes such as this share space with other incidents, leavened with the off-the-wall humor of family stories," remarked Booklist critic Carolyn Phelan, and School Library Journal contributor Susan Weitz similarly noted that Hulme "keeps up a steady flow of interesting, funny, and sometimes tragic events that keep the story moving."

Sea Squares combines three of the author's loves—"math, biology, and wonderful words." In this picture book, the author introduces young children to the concepts of multiplication and square numbers through rhyming scenarios featuring creatures from the ocean. Hulme relies upon a similar format in Sea Sums, in which the concepts of addition and subtraction are introduced in rhymes detailing the antics of several sea animals. Critics noted that both of these books help fill a striking need for math-concept books for early readers. Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan praised the abundance of information about coral reefs and their inhabitants, along with the visual and verbal reinforcement of the numerical concepts introduced, all of which make Sea Sums "a useful supplement to science and math units."

In Counting by Kangaroos Hulme once again uses nature to teach math. She encourages children to count by twos, threes, and so forth, by picturing groups of Australian marsupials as they fly out of the pouches of three kangaroos. The text is composed of "verse lively as a jump rope rhyme," according to Suzy Schmidt in Horn Book. Hulme's poetry collection What If?: Just Wondering Poems was described by a reviewer for Publishers Weekly as a "cheery collection of twenty-nine poems about animals." In this book, Hulme begins with "childlike questions" about nature, and proceeds with "wry speculations about animals," in language that is "simple and conversational," explained Lee Bock in School Library Journal. The result is a book that is "thoughtful and quietly humorous," Bock contended, also noting its appeal for both pre-readers and those more advanced.

For middle-graders who want to write their own poetry, Hulme prepared How to Write, Recite, and Delight in All Kinds of Poetry with coauthor Donna W. Guthrie.
[Image Not Available]
Using examples written by children, the authors introduce the basic concepts of rhyme, rhythm, and repetition, and then proceed to the various forms of poetry, including free verse and haiku. School Library Journal critic Jean Pollock praised the "open, appealing, and approachable format" used in this work, and the applicability of the examples to a variety of age groups.

Hulme's Wild Fibonacci: Nature's Secret Code Revealed is a picture book about the Fibonacci sequence, a series of numbers wherein each term after the first two is the sum of the two terms immediately preceding it, namely 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, and so on. The sequence has many significant applications in the world of nature; for instance, spirals formed by the centers of daisies, pinecone scales, and leaves, generally have two sets of spirals—one clockwise, one counterclockwise. The number of spirals are adjacent terms in the Fibonacci sequence. Wild Fibonacci focuses on the life-saving features of animals that are shaped to fit the curve.

In describing her career, Hulme observed: "Life as an author is much different from life as a writer! At last my efforts have been validated…. At an age when most people have retired, my career is just beginning. My part-time-everything life, resulting from a wide range of interests and knowledge, and my child-like fascination with the ingenious intricacy and beauty of nature, is proving very valuable to me as an author of children's books. It is always my goal to encourage the creative awareness that is inborn in youngsters and to keep it alive in them forever.

"No life is long enough to run out of fresh surprises if we watch out for them…. I like to be accurate about facts, fanciful about fiction, and to combine truth and imagination—to make learning as much fun for others as it is for me by creating in a light-hearted manner…. It is my aim that a child of any age can become a little better in some way as a result of reading what I have written."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, December 1, 1991, p. 701; December 1, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of Sea Sums, p. 662; January 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Climbing the Rainbow, p. 856.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 2000, review of Through the Open Door, p. 358; April, 2004, Karen Coats, review of Climbing the Rainbow, pp. 331-332.

Horn Book, July-December, 1995, Suzy Schmidt, review of Counting by Kangaroos, p. 31; July-December, 1996, p. 148.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2004, review of Climbing the Rainbow, p. 134.

Publishers Weekly, June 21, 1993, review of What If?: Just Wondering Poems, p. 104; July 17, 2000, review of Through the Open Door, p. 195.

School Library Journal, January, 1992, p. 103; August, 1993, Lee Bock, review of What If?: Just Wondering Poems, p. 158; February, 1996, p. 85; December, 1996, Jean Pollock, review of How to Write, Recite, and Delight in All Kinds of Poetry, p. 130; February, 2004, Susan Weitz, review of Climbing the Rainbow, p. 148.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Web site, http:www.scbwinorca.org/ (June 5, 2005), "Joy N. Hulme."

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: James Heneghan (1930-) Biography - Personal to Rick Jacobson Biography - Personal