Lester L. Laminack (1956-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1956, in Flint, MI; Education: Jacksonville State University, B.S., 1977, M.S., 1978; Auburn University, Ed.D., 1983. Religion: Methodist. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, playing the saxophone, reading children's books and southern fiction.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Peachtree Publishers, 1700 Chattahoochee Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30318-2112.
Cleburn County Elementary School, first-grade teacher, 1977-81, reading teacher, 1981-82; Western Carolina University Cullohwee, NC, professor, 1982-2004; author literacy education consultant, Sylva, NC; writer.
International Reading Association, National Council of Teachers of English, Authors Guild, Authors League.
Botner Superior Teaching Award, Western Carolina University College of Education and Psychology, 1989; Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award, Western Carolina University, 1991; Fassler Award, Association for the Care of Children's Health, for The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins.
Learning with Zachary, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Katie Wood) Spelling in Use, National Council of Teachers of English (Urbana, IL), 1996.
Trevor's Wiggly-Wobbly Tooth, illustrated by Kathi Garry McCord, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 1998.
The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins, illustrated by Constance R. Bergum, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 1998.
Volunteers Working with Young Readers, National Council of Teachers of English (Urbana, IL), 1998.
(With Katie Wood) The Writing Workshop: Working through the Hard Parts (And They're All Hard Parts), National Council of Teachers of English (Urbana, IL), 2001.
Saturdays and Teacakes, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 2004.
Jake's 100th Day of School, illustrated by Judy Love, Peachtree Publishers (Atlanta, GA), 2006.
Work in Progress
Learning under the Influence of Language and Literature, with Reba Wadsworth, for Heinemann.
Lester Laminack retired in 2005 after a long career in education to pursue his passion for writing, researching, and consulting. An award-winning teacher and educator, Laminack is the author of numerous books for young children, among them Saturdays and Teacakes and The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins, and has also produced several guides for teachers.
In Saturdays and Teacakes Laminack celebrates a young boy's relationship with his grandmother and their Saturday tradition of baking teacakes together. Linda L. Walkins, writing in School Library Journal, praised Laminack's descriptive text as well as illustrator Chris Soentpiet's "brilliant watercolor paintings [that] glow with light and idyllically capture the world of yesterday." A Publishers Weekly critic wrote that Laminack brings readers on "a sweet trip down memory lane in this ode to his grandmother," while a Kirkus Reviews critic noted that the author "crafted this as a tribute to a childhood tradition." "While not all of us had his childhood," the critic added, the book's "nostalgic look back offers us the childhood may of us wish we'd had."
In The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins Laminack once again visits the theme of close-knit family, this time through the story of Miss Olivia Wiggins, who is in a nursing home. When her daughter and great-grandson Troy come to visit her, the elderly woman acts as if she does not know they are there. However, as Troy begins to hum a tune, Miss Olivia is suddenly flooded by recollections of her children, as well as by other fond memories. "Realistic watercolors flow gently between present and past in this tender depiction of a life well lived," stated Susan Dove Lempke in a review for Booklist.
Laminack told Something about the Author: "I have always loved to write. I kept notebooks of stories and riddles in the fourth grade. I began writing for children in the 1990s after years of teaching. I hope that children see themselves and their families in these books. I want them to realize that everyone has a story to tell and that every life is worthy.
"I keep a writer's notebook with me at all times. I am always tuned in to the world around me and make notes about those things that strike me. I find ideas for stories in everyday events. Saturdays and Teacakes began with the smell of cookies baking in the local grocery store." I routinely read through my notebooks and on occasion I find a little nugget that can serve as the beginning of a new story.
"When a story begins I move to my computer and save every version until the final draft is ready for my editor. I write any time of day. I don't have a special time when writing seems to work. I prefer to write in my office at home, however, I do work on books when I'm on airplanes, in hotel rooms, dining alone or sitting in an airport waiting for a plane. I write most any place.
"I wrote The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins as a bridge to understanding what happens as our bodies and minds begin to fail us. I wanted children to understand that their love and the love that binds families has tremendous power.
"I wrote Trevor's Wiggly-Wobbly Tooth because I taught first grade and I remember what a big—huge—event it is to loose a tooth. I also remember those children who were last. The book should make us all chuckle and remember.
"I wrote Saturdays and Teacakes to honor my maternal grandmother and my mom. I had a very special bond with my grandmother; she made me feel so very special, so very real and worthy. I wanted children to know that everyone deserves to be loved and cherished. I wanted adults to remember those feelings and to recognize the importance of making childhood that special time in life. I wanted to remind us all that children are to be cherished and nurtured if we expect them to cherish and love others as they grow up.
"The four children's authors I most admire are Mem Fox, Patricia MacLachlan, Tony Johnson, and Cynthia Rylant. For those who want to write: Stop wishing, start writing. Don't say 'one day when…' Just pick up a pen and open a notebook and start taking note of what you notice. Let your brain get in the habit of noticing the world. Read, read, read, read, read, read.…If you want to write read everything that is anything near what you hope to achieve. Fill your head with the sounds of it."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, May 1, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins, p. 1521; April 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Saturdays and Teacakes, p. 1369.
Children's Digest, June, 2002.
Horn Book, fall, 1998, review of The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins, p. 297; spring, 1999, review of Trevor's Wiggly-Wobbly Tooth, p. 34.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2004, review of Saturdays and Teacakes, p. 181.
Publishers Weekly, March 30, 1998, review of The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins, p. 82; February 23, 2004, review of Saturdays and Teacakes, p. 251.
Radical Teacher, summer, 2004, Wendy Weisenberg, review of The Writing Workshop: Working through the Hard Parts (And They're All Hard Parts), p. 40.
School Library Journal, July, 1998, Martha Topol, review of The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins, p. 79; February, 1999, Farida Shapiro, review of Trevor's Wiggly-Wobbly Tooth; April, 2004, Linda L. Walkins, review of Saturdays and Teacakes, p. 118.
Teacher Librarian, May, 1999, review of Volunteers Working with Young Readers, p. 41.
Heinemann Web site, http://www.heinemann.com/(July 6,2005), "Lester Laminack."
Lester Laminack Home Page, http://www.lesterlaminack.com(October 15, 2005).