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Joan Elizabeth Goodman (1950–) Biography

Personal, Career, Member, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1950, in Fairfield, CT; Education: Attended L'Accademia di Belle Arti, Rome, 1969–70; Pratt Institute, B.F.A. (painting; with honors), 1973. Hobbies and other interests: Tennis, bridge, medieval history.

Agent—Writers House, 21 West 26th St., New York, NY 10010.

Joan Elizabeth Goodman


Writer and illustrator. Village Voice, New York, NY type specker, 1968–69; Hallmark Cards, Kansas City, MO, greeting card artist, 1974–76. Member, Kids to Kids International advisory committee.


Author's Guild.



Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Grosset (New York, NY), 1979.

Time for Bed, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1980.

Bear and His Book, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1982.

Right's Animal Farm, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1983.

Amanda's First Day of School, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1985.

The Secret Life of Walter Kitty, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1986.

Good Night, Pippin, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1986.

Bernard's Bath, illustrated by Dominic Catalano, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1986.

The Bunnies' Get Well Soup, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1987.

Edward Hopper's Great Find, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1987.

Hillary Squeak's Dreadful Dragon, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1987.

The Bears' New Baby, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1988.

(Adaptor) Hush Little Darling: A Christmas Song, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.

Woodland Lullabies, Millbrook Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Beyond the Sea of Ice: The Voyages of Henry Hudson (nonfiction), illustrated by Fernando Rangel, Mikaya Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Bernard's Nap, illustrated by Dominic Catalano, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1999.

A Long and Uncertain Journey: The 27,000-Mile Voyage of Vasco de Gama (nonfiction), illustrated by Tom McNeely, Mikaya Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Despite All Obstacles: La Salle and the Conquest of the Mississippi (nonfiction), illustrated by Tom McNeely, Mikaya Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Bernard Goes to School, illustrated by Dominic Catalano, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2001.

Bernard Wants a Baby, illustrated by Dominic Catalano, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2004.

Also contributor of short fiction to anthologies, including Don't Cramp My Style, edited by Linda Rowe Fraustino, Simon & Schuster, 2004.


The Winter Hare, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1986.

Hope's Crossing, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1988.

(Self-illustrated) Songs from Home, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1994.

Peregrine, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2000.

Paradise: Based on a True Story of Survival, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.


David Cutts, reteller, The Gingerbread Boy, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1979.

Olive Blake, The Grape Jelly Mystery, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1979.

Ruben Tanner, The Teddy Bear's Picnic: A Counting Book, Dutton (New York, NY), 1979.

Carol Beach York, Johnny Appleseed, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1980.

Judith Grey, Yummy, Yummy, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1981.

Rose Greydanus, Hocus Pocus, Magic Show!, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1981.

Robyn Supraner, The Case of the Missing Rattles, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1982.

Eileen Curran, Easter Parade, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1985.

Robyn Supraner, The Cat Who Wanted to Fly, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1986.


Because Joan Elizabeth Goodman began her creative career as an illustrator and designer of greeting cards, the move to picture-book author and illustrator was a natural one. As her career has progressed, she has expanded her focus into historical fiction with such highly praised middle-grade novels as Songs from Home as well as The Winter Hare and its sequel, Peregrine. Combining her love of history with her talent for art, Goodman has entertained countless young people with her whimsical illustrations and her imaginative stories.

Goodman was born and raised in Fairfield, Connecticut, in a household full of artists. "My father was an architectural engineer," she once told Something about the Author (SATA). "My mother was a very talented painter, but she kept that hidden until her early seventies when she began doing beautiful impressionistic oils. My older brother is a very fine artist. His work appears regularly in Scientific American. My grandmother lived with us and she, too, was an artist. Being surrounded by artists it seemed inevitable that I should be drawn to art." From an early age Goodman knew the answer to that most important of questions: What do you want to be when you grow up? "I feel lucky that I found out very early on what I loved doing and I've just stuck with it," she noted.

Her grandmother introduced Goodman to the medium of oils "as soon as she could trust me not to eat them," the illustrator recalled. "They did look delicious but I traded off the need to taste them for the greater need to keep on painting." After graduating from high school, she enrolled at Pratt Institute, a prestigious art school in New York City, "because being an art major was not enough. I wanted to be surrounded by ART and to live in a community of ARTISTS." During her freshman year at Pratt, Goodman worked part-time for the Village Voice as a type specker, and she quickly advanced to doing advertising design and layout. During her sophomore year, she decided to go to Italy to tour the museums there and study art at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome; "It was fantastico!," she later recalled. Returning to New York City in 1971, she worked for designer, Leslie Tillett, on a number of design projects, which included film strips, jewelry designs, and craft kits. Although Goodman also tried her hand at designing patterns for woven textiles, she found that such work did not tap her particular strengths.

Meanwhile, at Pratt, Goodman was inspired by a design course taught by Werner Pfeiffer. "We had to design, illustrate, print, and bind our own books," she remembered. "Well, that was it for me…. I decided then on a career as a children's book illustrator." However, she was quick to add: "Deciding on a career and having it are two separate things." While refocusing on a career in book illustration, Goodman took on many assignments, including designing greeting cards for Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Missouri, and even working in local bookstores. Despite the varied work, she remained committed to her goal. "It made great sense. I have always loved books: Babar by Jean de Brunhoff, first of all, Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers, the 'Narnia' books by C. S. Lewis, and many, many others. Books have enlightened me, comforted me, and taught me the value of humor."

Goodman's first published work as an illustrator was writer David Cutt's rendition of the classic story The Gingerbread Boy, which appeared in 1979. Many illustration projects have since followed, including artwork for Yummy, Yummy by Judith Grey and The Cat Who Wanted to Fly, a picture book by author Robyn Supraner. In addition to providing the artwork for others' stories, Goodman hoped for the opportunity to create her own picture-book texts. "I had early delusions about BEING A WRITER, but my initial attempts at fiction were too pitiful to pursue," she admitted. "However, I had a fine teacher in the ninth grade, Mrs. Demers, who got me started keeping a journal, which I'm still keeping. Even though I was writing drivel, at least I was in the habit of writing. And I read copiously and enthusiastically." "As soon as I began focusing on a future as an illustrator, I began trying to write my own
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children's books," she added. "Trying does not mean succeeding. But I did keep trying."

In the early 1980s Goodman started attending a long-running writers' workshop run by Margaret Gabel at New York City's New School for Social Research (now New School University). The writers who have gathered there—"some of the best writers of children's literature currently being published," in Goodman's estimation—were both helpful and inspiring. "By paying attention to what they do, and taking to heart their sensitive and sensible editorial direction, I have been learning to write," she maintained.

During the 1980s, in addition to continuing to illustrate the works of other writers, Goodman began composing stories of her own. In her book Good Night, Pippin a not-so-sleepy young bear and his mother share an adventurous tale of make-believe at bedtime. Pippin asks for a story about what things were like when he was a baby, and Mama weaves tales of pirates and wizards and aliens with freeze beams into an imaginative saga that finds the baby Pippin safe at home at the end. "Goodman's watercolor illustrations of the bear at home are warmly reassuring, as is the gentle dialogue," noted Genevieve Stuttaford in Publishers Weekly.

One of Goodman's most enduring picture-book characters is introduced in Bernard's Bath, a 1986 book that finds that an elephant's dislike of a good soaking will not get him into the bathtub, despite the lure of lots of bubbles and bath toys. Finally, Papa, Mama, and even Grandma climb into the tub, hoping to show Bernard how much fun getting clean can be. In Kirkus Reviews, a critic praised Goodman's technique of having parents practice what they preach, noting that Bernard's Bath is exemplary for omitting the "pandering found in some books targeted at balkers." And Patricia Pearl Dole added in School Library Journal that "The humorous, lively, yet simple text reads aloud well."

After a break of almost ten years, Bernard the elephant reemerged and has made several other appearances, each book featuring humorous illustrations by Dominic Catalano. In Bernard's Nap the elephant decides that he is not sleepy. In an effort to help things along, his mother sing a lullaby, his father tells a quite naptime story, and even Grandma helps out by rocking her chair in a steady, soothing rhythm. The tried and true techniques work, but not quite as anticipated: soon Bernard is the only one in the house who is awake! Other adventures that toddlers can relate to include nervousness over the first day of nursery school in Bernard Goes to School and ardent wishes that he had a sibling in Bernard Wants a New Baby. Booklist contributor Kathy Broderick praised Bernard Goes to School as a "comforting book" useful for reassuring school-bound toddlers, while Patricia Pearl Dole cited Goodman for creating a "lively, conversational text" with "humor, a simple plot, and a positive resolution."

In addition to tackling picture books, Goodman has also become increasingly interested in writing fiction for older readers. As she also explained to Something about the Author, (SATA) after her marriage in 1987, she had the opportunity to "pursue my interests in history and enjoy the more leisurely pace of writing a novel," she explained to SATA. Goodman's first full-length work of juvenile fiction, Songs from Home, was published in 1994, and has been followed by a number of other works of fiction, in addition to several nonfiction works in Miyaka's "Great Explorers" series. In School Library Journal Barbara Buckley praised Despite All Obstacles: La Salle and the Conquest of the Mississippi as a "smooth, well-written, and fact-filled" introduction to the travels of French-born explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who claimed much of the Ameri-In A Long and Uncertain Journey Goodman tells the tale of explorer Vasco de Gama and his arduous 27,000-mile voyage from Portugal to the Orient, during which he lost several ships and more than half his crew. (Illustration by Tom McNeely.)can plains for France. Praising the author's "clearsighted approach," Susan Dove Lempke wrote in Booklist that A Long and Uncertain Journey: The 27,000-Mile Voyage of Vasco de Gama is "intelligently written and exciting" while informing readers about the travels of the noted Portuguese explorer.

In Songs from Home eleven-year-old Anna Hopkins has lived in Europe with her widower father for most of her life, traveling from place to place. Tired of living such a Bohemian existence, she gradually comes to understand the reason for her father's refusal to return to the United States and tries to help him to come to terms with their future, the family left behind in the States, and his wife's tragic death. While several critics noted that the characters are not quite believable, they praised Goodman's vivid descriptions of life in Italy. "Young readers will enjoy the local color of [the novel's] Roman setting and Anna's exotic and glamorously shabby existence," maintained Deborah Stevenson in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. And Beth E. Anderson called Songs from Home "a sweet tale gently told of the child-as-parent" in her review of the book for Voice of Youth Advocates.

The Winter Hare takes place in twelfth-century Britain, and introduces twelve-year-old Will Belet, who aspires to become a knight worthy of the legendary round table of King Arthur. Dubbed "little rabbit" due to his short stature, Will eventually finds himself involved in court intrigue and several battles between rival factions supporting King Stephen and Stephen's rival, Empress
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Matilda. Praising the novel, a contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that Goodman has created a "riveting plot that culminates in an escape scene worthy of translation into film."

The story of The Winter Hare is continued in Peregrine, which follows fifteen-year-old Lady Edith as she avoids an unappealing admirer by embarking on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Jerusalem. As Edith travels she also comes to terms with the death of her infant child, while her traveling companions—the mysterious Welsh girl Rhiannon, noble bodyguard Sir Raymond, and a brother who has taken holy orders—are also served by the trip through southern Europe and interaction with a host of fascinating fellow travelers. In Booklist Ilene Cooper wrote that while some of the character interactions "seem … unlikely," Goodman's story presents readers with "its own tapestry of medieval life," and Cheri Estes noted in a School Library Journal review that "Historical figures and places are smoothly woven" into the medieval tale.

Dubbed by Booklist reviewer Frances Bradburn an "unromanticized, feminist version" of classic adventure yarns, Paradise is based on a true story about a young teen who travels to the heart of the Canadian wilderness with her uncle, a French explorer. Furious to discover that Marguerite has smuggled her boyfriend, Pierre, on board ship, the uncle throws the young stowaway overboard, and strands Marguerite and her maid on an isolated island. When Pierre manages to swim to the same island all is not resolved; much of Goodman's story focuses on the fight for survival that will test all three young people. In School Library Journal Janet Hilbun praised Goodman's "superb characterization," adding that "the intensity and honesty of the survival story makes [Paradise] … a real page-turner." Also enthusiastic about the novel, Kliatt contributor Claire Rosser noted: "Goodman has written powerful historical fiction before and this novel is no exception."

Goodman believes that writers who successfully create books for children have a special way of looking at the world and remembering. "I don't particularly remember details about the past," she once commented. "Neither do I always remember the sense of a past situation. My past, my childhood, is a jumble of oddly assorted sounds, scents, and images, sometimes vague and sometimes crystal clear. What I do remember with extreme clarity are the feelings of childhood.

"When I write a picture book text or a 'young' novel," Goodman added, "I reach back to that emotional grab bag for my material. My aim is to convey that emotional truth, whether I'm writing about bunnies or marooned heroines."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, September 1, 1994, p. 41; February 1, 1996, p. 938; March 15, 1999, John Peters, review of Bernard's Nap, p. 1333; November 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Beyond the Sea of Ice, p. 519; April 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Peregrine, p. 1478; September 1, 2001, Susan Dove Lempke, review of A Long and Uncertain Journey, p. 108; October 1, 2001, Kathy Broderick, review of Bernard Goes to School, p. 325; January 1, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of Despite All Obstacles, p. 852; November 15, 2002, Francis Bradburn, review of Paradise, p. 588.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December 1994, Deborah Stevenson, review of Songs from Home, p. 128.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1994, p. 1529; December 15, 1995, review of Bernard's Bath, p. 1770; October 1, 1996, review of The Winter Hare, p. 1466; August 1, 2001, review of Bernard Goes to School, p. 1122; November 1, 2001, review of Despite All Obstacles, p. 1548; March 1, 2004, review of Bernard Wants a Baby, p. 222.

Kliatt, September, 2002, Claire Rosser, review of Paradise, p. 9.

Publishers Weekly, August 22, 1986, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Good Night, Pippin, p. 94; September 7, 1992, p. 70; January 15, 1996, p. 461; June 4, 2001, review of A Long and Uncertain Journey, p. 81.

Resource Links, June, 2001, Connie Forst, review of A Long and Uncertain Journey, p. 16.

School Library Journal, March 1996, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of Bernard's Bath, p. 174; March, 2000, Mollie Bynum, review of Beyond the Sea of Ice, p. 252; May, 2000, Cheri Estes, review of Peregrine, p. 172; June, 2001, Ann Welton, review of A Long and Uncertain Journey, p. 171; August, 2001, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of Bernard Goes to School, p. 147; April, 2002, Barbara Buckley, review of Despite All Obstacles, p. 132; December, 2002, Janet Hilbun, review of Paradise, p. 138; July, 2004, Liza Graybill, review of Bernard Wants a Baby, p. 76.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December 1994, Beth E. Anderson, review of Songs from Home, p. 273.


Boyds Mills Press Web site, http://www.boysmillspress.com/ (July 10, 2005), "Joan Elizabeth Goodman."

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