Lisa Wheeler (1963–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1963; children: two daughters, one son.
Agent—c/o Author Mail,
Mitten Award, Michigan Library Association, 2003, for Old Cricket; Froggy Award for Best Children's Book, 2003, for Turk and Runt; Please Touch Museum Book Award, 2004, for One Dark Night.
Wool Gathering: A Sheep Family Reunion, illustrated by Frank Ansley, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.
Turk and Runt, illustration by Frank Ansley, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2002.
Sixteen Cows, illustration by Kurt Cyrus, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.
Sailor Moo: Cow at Sea, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2002.
Porcupining: A Prickly Love Story, illustrated by Janie Bynum, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
Old Cricket, illustrated by Ponder Goembel, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.
Avalanche Annie: A Not-so Tall Tale, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2003.
One Dark Night, illustrated by Ivan Bates, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2003.
Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta, illustrations by Mark Siegel, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2004.
Farmer Dale's Red Pickup Truck, illustrated by Ivan Bates, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.
Te Amo, Bebé, Little One, illustrated by Mariel Suárez, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2004.
Uncles and Antlers, illustrated by Brian Floca, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2004.
Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2004.
Mammoths on the Move, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.
Hokey Pokey: Another Prickly Love Story, illustrated by Janie Bynum, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.
Castaway Cats, illustrated by Ponder Goembel, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2006.
Also contributor to periodicals, including Humpty Dumpty, Children's Playmate, and U.S. Kids.
"FITCH AND CHIP" SERIES; EASY READERS
When Pigs Fly, illustrated by Frank Ansley, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.
New Pig in Town, illustrated by Frank Ansley, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.
Who's Afraid of Granny Wolf?, illustrated by Frank Ansley, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2004.
Invasion of the Pig Sisters, illustrated by Frank Ansley, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2005.
Dubbed a "rollicking rhymer" by Booklist reviewer Karin Snelson, Michigan-based author Lisa Wheeler began her career as a picture book author in her early thirties and quickly made up for lost time. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she was a bookish child, and when she moved to Michigan during her early teens, the shy new student relied on reading to compensate for loneliness. After dedicating many years to raising her three children, Wheeler made the decision to become a children's book author in the mid-1990s; beginning with Wool Gathering: A Sheep Family Reunion, she has since gone on to publish a host of humorous stories for young children, many of which feature puns and other wordplay.
Animal characters, a favorite of smaller children, often take top billing in Wheeler's stories. Designed as a Thanksgiving storybook, Turk and Runt focuses on a young turkey named Turk, whose proud parents see their strong young son's potential as a dancer or athlete. Turk's less-burly brother, Runt, agrees that Turk's good looks will make him the first to be picked; not for a sports team, however, but for the main course on a Thanksgiving dinner table. When Turk gets marked for the kill, Runt saves his comely but clueless brother in a book that Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper dubbed "funny from beginning to end."
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Wheeler again turns to farmyard favorites in Sailor Moo: Cow at Sea, telling the story of a delusional bovine in rhyming verse. Standing near a sea of wheat, Moo dreams of the salty spray of the ocean, and when her wish comes true she ends up aboard a cattle barge-turned-pirate ship where pirate captain Red Angus finds that in Moo he has found his "dairy queen." Praising the illustrations by Ponder Goembel, a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Sailor Moo is chock full of "silly cow puns," and John Peters predicted in a Booklist review that Wheeler's bouncy story will make young listeners "stampede into story time … and that's no bull."
Wheeler teams with illustrator Goembel again for Old Cricket, which finds a creaky, crabby insect faking a host of aches and pains to avoid having to help his wife out around the house. Sent into town to see the doctor, Old Cricket manages to wheedle his way out of helping neighbors Uncle Ant and Cousin Katydid, even though given food by his insect friends. Finally, when he has to hurry to avoid a hungry crow, Old Cricket realizes that he really does need Doctor Hoppers help, and when he returns home he is more enthusiastic about helping out. Old Cricket, a trickster tale, was praised as "smartly paced and skillfully drawn" by a Publishers Weekly reviewer, while in Kirkus Reviews a contributor wrote that Wheeler's "sidesplitting animal story" is "a natural for reading aloud" due to its alliterative, repetitive refrain.
In a more fantastic vein, Avalanche Annie: A Not-so-Tall Tale features a Native-American heroine that is only four-foot three inches tall. Living in a nonexistent region called Michisota, Annie Halfpint refuses to let herself be limited by her short stature, and when her home in Yoohoo Valley is threatened by an avalanche coming from nearby Mount Himalachia, Annie saves the day. Snelson had special praise for Wheeler's "small but mighty heroine" as well as for the author's ability to mimic the made-up language and exaggeration of actual American tall tales, such as the story of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. The Booklist critic also cited the book's "mellifluous metered verse."
One of Wheeler's most unusual picture-book offerings, Seadogs: An Epic Opera, is inspired by the light operas composed by nineteenth-century British composers Gilbert and Sullivan. In the picture book an operetta about a band of pirates is staged using an all-dog cast. After the curtain rises, song and rhyme relate a saga starring Old Seadog and Brave Beagle, who set sail on the Beauty but are attacked by a pirate ship's "mongrel hoard," led by the wily Captain Fifi. A treasure map and a comely canine stowaway also figure in the rollicking tale, which "contains a good deal of whimsical humor," according to School Library Journal reviewer Marilyn Taniguchi. In Booklist Francisca Goldsmith described Seadogs as "a delightful book to share with prereaders," while a Kirkus critic wrote: "Chock full of … wonderfully clever turns of phrase," Wheeler's book is "a genuine howl."
In an online interview for Debbi Michiko Florence's Web site, Wheeler joked about the way she comes up with story ideas. "I believe that ideas are invisible, and they float around in the air looking for a head to settle into. The emptier the head, the better. That's why I get a LOT of ideas!" On a more serious note, she added: "You have to be open to ideas and you have to have a fertile mind…. I am always playing with words and trying to look at things from different angles. I get ideas from things that happen in life as well as things I wish would happen."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, Ilene Cooper, review of Wool Gathering: A Sheep Family Reunion, p. 480; May 21, 2002, John Peters, review of Sailor Moo: Cow at Sea, p. 1529; September 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Turk and Runt, p. 141; May 15, 2003, Lauren Peterson, review of Old Cricket, p. 1674; July, 2003, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of New Pig in Town, p. 1903; October 15, 2003, Karin Snelson, review of Avalanche Annie: A Not-so-Tall Tale, p. 420; February 1, 2004, Francisca Goldsmith review of Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta, p. 986; August, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Te Amo, Bebé, Little One, p. 339; November 1, 2004, Karin Snelson, review of Farmer Dale's Red Pickup Truck, p. 494.
Horn Book, March-April, 2004, Lolly Robinson, review of Seadogs, p. 176.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2001, review of Wool Gathering, p. 1371; March 1, 2002, review of Sixteen Cows, p. 348; June 15, 2002, review of Sailor Moo, p. 890; September 1, 2002, review of Turk and Runt, p. 1323; December 15, 2002, review of Porcupining, p. 1859; April 15, 2003, review of Old Cricket, p. 613; September 1, 2003, review of New Pig in Town, p. 1132; October 1, 2003, review of Avalanche Annie, p. 1233; January 1, 2004, review of Seadogs, p. 43; March 1, 2004, review of Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum, p. 231; March 15, 2004, review of Te Amo, Bebé, Little One, p. 279; August 15, 2004, review of Farmer Dale's Red Pickup Truck, p. 814; November 1, 2004, review of Uncles and Antlers, p. 1055.
Publishers Weekly, October 8, 2001, review of Wool Gathering, p. 62; March 25, 2002, review of Sixteen Cows, p. 63; June 3, 2002, review of Sailor Moo, p. 87; December 2, 2002, review of Porcupining, p. 52; January 6, 2003, review of One Dark Night, p. 481; April 7, 2003, review of Old Cricket, p. 65; September 15, 2003, review of When Pigs Fly and New Pig in Town, p. 65; February 9, 2004, review of Seadogs, p. 81.
School Library Journal, October, 2001, Linda Ludke, review of Wool Gathering, p. 147; April, 2002, Helen Foster James, review of Sixteen Cows, p. 128; August, 2002, Judith Constantinides, review of Sailor Moo, p. 172; October, 2002, Melinda Piehler, review of Turk and Runt, p. 134; January, 2003, Carol Ann Wilson, review of Porcupining, p. 115; May, 2003, Kathy Piehl, review of Old Cricket, p. 132; December, 2003, Faith Brautigam, review of Avalanche Annie, p. 130; March, 2004, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Seadogs, p. 186; May, 2004, Sheilah Kosco, review of Te Amo, Bebé, Little One, and Andrea Tarr, review of Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum, p. 126; August, 2004, Corrina Austin, review of Who's Afraid of Granny Wolf?, p. 103; December, 2004, Carolyn Janssen, review of Farmer Dale's Red Pickup Truck, p. 124.
Debbi Michiko Florence Web site, http://www.debbimichikoflorence.com/ (April, 2004), interview with Wheeler.
Lisa Wheeler Home Page, http://www.lisawheelerbooks.com (July 15, 2005).
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