Bonnie Geisert (1942–) Biography
Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1942, in Hartley, IA; Education: Concordia College (Seward, NE), B.S., 1963; Concordia University (River Forest, IL), M.A., 1968.
Writer and photographer. Has worked as a teacher. Freeport Journal-Standard, Freeport, IL, feature writer and columnist, 1991–95. Exhibitions: Photographs have appeared in group shows at Dubuque Museum of Art, Eagle Ridge Inn and Resort, Freeport Art Museum, Galena City Hall, Galena Art Festival, 1995, and Group Photography Show-Galena, 1996 and 1997.
Children's Honor Book Award, Nebraska Center for the Book, 2003, for Prairie Summer.
Haystack, illustrated by husband, Arthur Geisert, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1995.
Prairie Town, illustrated by Arthur Geisert, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1998.
River Town, illustrated by Arthur Geisert, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1999.
Mountain Town, illustrated by Arthur Geisert, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2000.
Desert Town, illustrated by Arthur Geisert, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2001.
Prairie Summer (novel), illustrated by Arthur Geisert, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2002.
Lessons (novel), illustrated by Arthur Geisert, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2005.
Monthly columnist for Journal Standard (Freeport, IL). Contributor of poetry and articles to Lutheran, Cobblestone, Galenian, and Julien's Journal. Poetry has been featured in annual poetry anthology, Gallery, Dubuque, IA.
Work in Progress
A third novel for Houghton.
Bonnie Geisert is the writer of picture books and novels for young readers, all illustrated by her husband, Arthur Geisert. Their teamwork debuted in 1995 with the picture book Haystack, which describes the life cycle of a haystack and reveals the purpose it served in early farms. Called "a quiet tribute to a bygone era" by a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, the book shows readers what farm life was in earlier years. Leone McDermott, writing for Booklist, noted that "readers will gain not only knowledge about haystacks, but also a sense of the atmosphere of farm life." Horn Book critic Margaret A. Bush wrote that Geissert's "simple exercise in ingenuity is a satisfying tale."
The Geiserts followed Haystack with a series of books about life in a small town. Beginning with Prairie Town, the Geiserts described in simple text and detailed art what life is like in a small Midwestern town. Kay Weisman, writing in Booklist, called Prairie Town "a sure bet for primary social studies classes as well as browsers." In her review for Horn Book, Joanna Rudge Long found the text to be "clear and uncondescending … making the book suitable for use with older readers." The author and illustrator team followed with River Town, portraying life in a town that depends on a nearby river for its economy. "Children will easily absorb the deceptively straightforward information about river town industry and economy," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The book "is sure to serve well in primary-school units on community life and on the value of natural resources," explained Ellen Mandel in Booklist. Mountain Town, which describes life in a small town in the mountains, was complimented by Carol Ann Wilson for its collaboration of image and words: "The present-tense text occasionally provides helpful explanations for the already-informative pictures," Wilson wrote in her School Library Journal review although she noted at times that the text only reiterates what readers already notice in the pictures. Susan Dove Lempke, writing in Booklist, felt that "the text is brief, just one or two lines per page, and pleasant." Desert Town transports readers to the American Southwest. "The Geiserts let readers explore this town inside and out, from the minutest detail to the grandest view," wrote Nina Lindsay of School Library Journal. Booklist contributor GraceAnne A. DeCandido called the picture books "an absolutely engaging series."
In 2002 Geisert published her first novel for young readers, which featured some small line drawings by her husband. Titled Prairie Summer, the book tells the story of Rachel, a fifth grader on a South Dakota farm in 1954. Rachel does not like farm work and manages to make plenty of mistakes, but when she is able to come through for the family when her mother goes into early labor, she saves the day. "The Geiserts here expand their repertoire with fiction in the same thematic vein," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who favorably compared the novel to the Geiserts' picture books. Though noting that the slow pace might not appeal to some readers, Booklist reviewer John Peters praised Geisert's "carefully detailed picture of everyday life on the farm." School Library Journal critic Carolyn Janssen wrote that the author "skillfully uses the plot and the setting to reveal the relationships and develop the characters."
Lessons, the sequel to Prairie Summer, delves into deeper issues of family, religion, and healing, all from the past. Rachel's father can't stand to be around her new baby brother, and her mother explains to her that the first child Rachel's parents had was a boy who died before he could be baptized. Because of this, their minister told them the child could not have a proper burial or go to heaven. Rachel's mother does not believe it, but her father still suffers from guilt. Rachel makes it her mission to help her father heal, if only so that he can grow to love his new son. "Geisert's quiet, simple style gives the details immediacy and interest," com-mented Horn Book reviewer Roger Sutton, who compared the novel to the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted that while Lessons "isn't for every reader," it would appeal to "children like Rachel, who care deeply about matters of the heart and soul."
Though all of her books are illustrated by her husband, Geisert once shared with SATA her own interest in art: "I find that the camera is a powerful tool in exploring the world around me—whether I'm taking photos of Galena architecture, rolling hills, people, animals, or flowers. My interest in photography started in 1991 while writing feature stories for the Freeport Journal-Standard. I could count on my fingers the times I held a camera before I started stringing for the Journal-Standard. Jim Quick was a great help in getting me started with equipment and fundamentals. Recently I've been shooting butterflies and other insects with a macro lens, and that has lured me into abstract photography."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 15, 1995, Leone McDermott, review of Haystack, p. 165; April, 1998, Kay Weisman, review of Prairie Town, p. 1326; July, 1999, Ellen Mandel, review of River Town, p. 1948; March 15, 2000, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Mountain Town, p. 1386; March 1, 2002, John Peters, review of Prairie Summer, p. 1136.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1995, review of Haystack, p. 54.
Horn Book, November, 1995, Margaret A. Bush, review of Haystack, p. 756; May-June, 1998, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Prairie Town, p. 332; March, 2001, Joanne Rudge Long, review of Desert Town, p. 229; March-April, 2005, Roger Sutton, review of Lessons, p. 201.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1995, review of Haystack, p. 1023; March 15, 2005, review of Lessons, p. 351.
New York Times Book Review, January 28, 1996, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, August 28, 1995, review of Haystack, p. 112; April 19, 1999, review of River Town, p. 72; March 4, 2002, review of Prairie Summer, p. 80.
School Library Journal, September, 1995, review of Haystack, p. 193; April, 2000, Carol Ann Wilson, review of Mountain Town, p. 104; March, 2001, Nina Lindsay, review of Desert Town, p. 208; May, 2002, Carolyn Janssen, review of Prairie Summer, p. 114; May, 2005, Laura Scott, review of Lessons, p. 126.
Time, December 11, 1995, p. 77.
Kids Reads Web site, http://www.kidsreads.com/ (November 4, 2005), Norah Piehl, review of Lessons.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Illinois Web site, http://www.scbwi-illinois.org/ (November 4, 2005).