Marthe Jocelyn (1956-) Biography
Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1956, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; children: Hannah, Nell.
Writer. Jesse Design (toy and clothing design firm), owner for fifteen years; worked variously as a cookie seller, waitress, sailor, and photo stylist.
Canadian Governor General's Award finalist, for Hannah's Collections; Book of the Year for Children shortlist, Canadian Library Association, 2005, for Mable Riley; Norma Fleck Award shortlist, 2005, for A Home for Foundlings.
EARLY CHAPTER BOOKS
The Invisible Day, illustrated by Abby Carter, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.
The Invisible Harry, illustrated by Abby Carter, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.
The Invisible Enemy, illustrated by Abby Carter, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.
SELF-ILLUSTRATED PICTURE BOOKS
Hannah and the Seven Dresses, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.
Hannah's Collections, Dutton (New York, NY), 2000.
A Day with Nellie, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2002.
Mayfly, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2004.
PICTURE BOOKS; ILLUSTRATED BY HUSBAND, TOM SLAUGHTER
One Some Many, Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Over Under, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2005.
ABC x 3: English, Español, Français, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2005.
Earthly Astonishments (young-adult fiction), Dutton (New York, NY), 2000.
Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance (young-adult fiction), Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
A Home for Foundlings (nonfiction), Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2005.
Secrets (short stories), Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2005.
Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including On Her Way: Stories and Poems about Growing up Girl.
Marthe Jocelyn came to writing relatively late in life, after working at a variety of other occupations. Raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and spending summers in nearby Stratford, where her family has lived for generations, Jocelyn left Canada in tenth grade to attend boarding school in Great Britain. "That gave me a taste of something so different that I wanted to keep exploring the world," she recalled on the Red Cedar Awards Web site. She has gone on to live in many different places and sampled many different jobs, even selling cookies, before settling down in New York City and opening her own company designing children's toys and clothing. While raising her two daughters, and reading children's books to them, Jocelyn was inspired to try her hand at adding "children's book author and illustrator" to her resume.
Jocelyn's first book, The Invisible Day, centers on ten-year-old Billie, who is frustrated by the lack of privacy while sharing a tiny studio apartment with her mother, a librarian at Billie's school. When Billie discovers a jar of powder that turns her invisible, she finally gets to experience life out from under her mother's eyes. Calling The Invisible Day "a fun book," Mary Thomas added in Canadian Review of Materials that the novel boasts "a strong female protagonist and an interesting, without being harrowing, storyline." A Publishers Weekly critic also praised the book, predicting that Jocelyn's "whimsical, high-spirited novel" will be "a sure-fire crowd-pleaser."
Jocelyn followed her first book with two related ones, The Invisible Harry, in which Billie uses the invisibility powder to try to adopt a puppy without her mother finding out, and The Invisible Enemy, about what happens when a mean classmate steals some of Billie's powder out of her backpack. As Jocelyn explained, The Invisible Harry was inspired by her younger daughter, Nell, who begged to be allowed to have a pet even though Jocelyn declared it unfair to coop a dog up in their small New York apartment. In fact, Jocelyn has never had a pet dog, so "I had to learn about puppies from watching them on the street or following them around the park," she recalled on the Red Cedar Awards Web site. "That was fun research."
Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance was inspired by a diary kept by Jocelyn's grandmother, Mable Rose. The author discovered the diary while poking around in the attic of a house her family has owned in Stratford for over a century. Most of the journal was filled with dry recollections, but "hidden on the back pages were a few lines of dreadful romantic poetry," Jocelyn noted on Kidsreads.com. "Just enough to reveal a character to me, a yearning and curious girl, at odds with the docility expected of her. That's when Mable Riley was born."
Like the real-life Mable Rose, the fictional Mable Riley records her experiences as a teacher in a turn-of-the-twentieth-century one-room school near Stratford, where she sometimes entertains herself by writing about love. Along the way, Mable Riley also gets caught up in the budding suffragist and labor movements through her eccentric, feminist neighbor, Mrs. Rattle. Although Jocelyn's book clearly has a message, it "is never strident," commented Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman, "because the funny, poignant diary entries show family and neighbors without reverence." Horn Book contributor Anita L. Burkam wrote that "the book's social issues are given a realistic shades-of-gray treatment, the diary format is handled adroitly, and the diarist herself is engaging and many-faceted."
The nonfiction book A Home for Foundlings also has roots in Jocelyn's ancestors' experiences; in this case, those of her grandfather. As a child he lived in London's Foundling Hospital, a place where women who became pregnant and could not afford to support their babies abandoned them. However, the hospital had limited resources, and many of the "rescued" foundlings still perished. Jocelyn records the appalling conditions of the foundling home through brief biographies of several actual residents, as well as through her archival finds, such as photographs and official documents. Including detailed information helps "create drama in this history," Hazel Rochman commented in Booklist, while Lori Walker concluded in Canadian Review of Materials that A Home for Foundlings "provides a rich opportunity to explore poverty and the plight of children throughout the ages and the continents."
Jocelyn is also the author of several self-illustrated picture books for young listeners, including Hannah and the Seven Dresses and Mayfly, that are illustrated with unique mixed-media collages. For Hannah and the Seven Dresses, about a little girl who cannot decide what to wear on her birthday, Jocelyn created not only dresses but entire rooms out of scraps of fabric. "Wallpaper, carpets, accoutrements, and Hannah herself all have an eye-popping three-dimensional quality," Ilene Cooper noted in Booklist. Mayfly, a simple story about children spending time at their family's summer cabin, features spreads that Resource Links reviewer Carolyn Cutt called "whimsical … bright, colorful and imaginative." School Library Journal contributor Shelley B. Sutherland further commented that the author's "interesting multidimensional collages … capture the exuberance of the narrative."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklinks, March, 2005, Gwenyth Swain, review of Mable Riley, p. 16.
Booklist, January 1, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Invisible Day, p. 813; November 15, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of The Invisible Harry, p. 590; July, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of Hannah and the Seven Dresses, p. 1951; September 15, 2000, Denise Wilms, review of Hannah's Collections, p. 236; June 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of The Invisible Enemy, p. 1723; December 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of A Day with Nellie, p. 675; March 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance, p. 1201; April 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of One Some Many, p. 1366; August, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Mayfly, p. 1943; March 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of A Home for Foundlings, p. 1151.
Canadian Review of Materials, March 27, 1998, Mary Thomas, review of The Invisible Day; March 3, 2000, Jo-Anne Mary Benson, review of The Invisible Day; February 4, 2005, Lori Walker, review of A Home for Foundlings.
Horn Book, May-June, 2004, Anita L. Burkam, review of Mable Riley, p. 329.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2002, review of ADay with Nellie, p. 1392; February 15, 2004, review of Mable Riley, p. 180; June 15, 2004, review of One Some Many, p. 578; March 1, 2005, review of Over Under, p. 288.
Publishers Weekly, October 27, 1997, review of The Invisible Day, p. 76; June 21, 1999, review of Hannah and the Seven Dresses, p. 66; February 28, 2000, review of Earthly Astonishments, p. 80; February 23, 2004, review of Mable Riley, p. 77.
Resource Links, June, 1998, review of Invisible Day, p. 7; February, 1999, review of Invisible Harry, p. 9; October, 1999, review of Hannah and the Seven Dresses, p. 4; October, 2000, review of Hannah's Collections, pp. 2-3; April, 2002, Joanne de Groof, review of The Invisible Enemy, p. 23; April, 2004, Carolyn Cutt, review of Mayfly, p. 4; April, 2005, Gail de Vos, review of Over Under, p. 4.
School Library Journal, April, 2000, Carrie Schadle, review of Earthly Astonishments, p. 138; October, 2000, Meghan R. Malone, review of Hannah's Collections, p. 128; May, 2002, Alison Grant, review of The Invisible Enemy, p. 154; January, 2003, Be Astengo, review of A Day with Nellie, p. 97; March, 2004, Kimberly Monaghan, review of Mable Riley, p. 213; May, 2004, Shelley B. Sutherland, review of Mayfly, p. 116; June, 2004, Rachel G. Payne, review of One Some Many, p. 128.
Teaching Children Mathematics, March, 2000, Betsy J. Liebmann, review of Hannah and the Seven Dresses, p. 470.
Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 2005, review of A Home for Foundlings, p. 159.
BookLoons.com, http://www.bookloons.com/ (July 26, 2005), Hilary Williamson, review of One Some Many.
Kidsreads.com, http://www.kidsreads.com/ (July 26, 2005),"Marthe Jocelyn."
Marthe Jocelyn Home Page, http://www.marthejocelyn.com(July 6, 2005).
Red Cedar Awards Web site, http://redcedar.swifty.com/(October 28, 2002), "Marthe Jocelyn."