Sally M. Keehn (1947–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1947, in London, England; Education: Hood College, B.A., 1969; Drexel University, M.L.S., 1972. Religion: Lutheran.
Agent—c/o Philomel Publicity, 345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
Anne Arundel County Public Library, Annapolis, MD, young-adult librarian, 1972–75, part-time reference librarian, 1975–79; freelance writer, 1981–. Part-time and volunteer reference librarian, Parkland Community Library, 1980–91; part-time tour guide, Lehigh County Historical Society, 1985–86. Also worked for American Red Cross in Korea.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Authors Guild, Inkweavers, Riverstone Writers, Bucks County Authors of Books for Children, Rutger's University Council on Children's Literature.
New York Public Library Reading and Sharing citation, and Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies citation, both 1991, Carolyn W. Field Award, and Jefferson Cup Honor Book, both 1992, International Reading Association Young Adults' Choice citation, 1993, Favorite Paperback citation, and Hodge Podger Society Award, 1994, and Texas Lone Star Reading List includee, 1994–95, all for I Am Regina; New York Public Library Reading and Sharing citation, 1995, for Moon of Two Dark Horses; New York Public Library Reading and Sharing citation, 2005, for Gnat Stokes and the Foggy Bottom Swamp Queen.
(With husband, David C. Keehn) Hexcursions: Daytripping in and around Pennsylvania's Dutch Country, Hastings House (New York, NY), 1982.
I Am Regina (young-adult novel), Philomel (New York, NY), 1991.
Moon of Two Dark Horses (young-adult novel), Philomel (New York, NY), 1995.
The First Horse I See, Philomel (New York, NY), 1999.
Anna Sunday, Philomel (New York, NY), 2002.
Gnat Stokes and the Foggy Bottom Swamp Queen, Philomel (New York, NY), 2005.
I Am Regina was translated into Danish, Flemish, German, and Italian.
Work in Progress
Magpie Gabbard: The Quest for the Buried Moon.
Sally M. Keehn has always loved to read, and this passion led her to become a librarian for young adults. She never planned to be a fiction writer, but when she began writing a travel book with her husband, she discovered two stories that she had to tell. The result of this urge was the historical novels I Am Regina and Moon of Two Dark Horses, and they in turn opened Keehn to the possibility of becoming a writer for young adults. Several awards and novels later, she has written historical and contemporary fiction, and even voyaged into fantasy with her novel Gnat Stokes and the Foggy Bottom Swamp Queen.
I Am Regina is based on the true story of a ten-year-old girl who is captured by Indians during the French and Indian Wars. Renamed Tskinnak, she lives within a poor tribe for nine years, gradually losing the horrific memories of her capture and gradually bonding with the elderly woman who cares for her. Susan F. Marcus noted the educational value of the story, writing in her School Library Journal review that "Readers will hardly realize how much they're learning in the pleasure of the story." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called I Am Regina "a profoundly moving evocation of a terrible experience" that is "told with simplicity and compassion and admirable restraint." Many critics noted that while Keehn clearly shows why white settlers were afraid of Indian raids, she makes Regina's ultimate acceptance of her captors believable.
Explaining the inspiration for I Am Regina, Keehn once told SATA: "The Native Americans say that a story stalks a writer and, if it finds you worthy, comes to live in your heart. The story of Regina Leininger … stalked me for nine years. Her story did come to live in my heart. It still does. I came upon the incident that gave rise to the story while researching a travel book on Pennsylvania's Dutch Country…. What I read started me on a journey that led from a few words in a program to a 237-page novel. Why? I was curious. I wanted to know why she was kidnapped. By whom? What was going on at the time? The French and Indian Wars? What were they? I wanted to know what life was like back then: for the Pennsylvania Germans with whom Regina lived for ten years; for the Native Americans with whom she lived nine…. I sifted through many secondary sources to find out about these things, but what truly inspired me to keep on going were the primary sources that detailed Regina's life. This story happened and I was fortunate to discover first-hand accounts that told about it. I call these accounts my 'voices from the past.' During the three years I worked on the novel, these voices stalked me. They told me, don't give up. This story's worth telling."
In Moon of Two Dark Horses Keehn recounts the story of two boys who must deal with the growing conflict between their people. Daniel is an American fighting for independence from Great Britain and Coshmoo is a member of the Delaware tribe who is trying to remain neutral in the conflict. With so much going on, how can the boys remain friends? The story is "well researched and lyrically written," according to Marilyn Long Graham in School Library Journal, while Booklist contributor Julie Yates Walton observed that "Keehn has produced an acutely insightful, complex, and deeply moving tale."
Encouraged by the successes of her first two books, Keehn decided to write a contemporary novel loosely based on her own childhood. In The First Horse I See Willo's dying mother has promised her daughter that she could have a horse. When Willo falls in love with an abused racehorse, her father will not let her keep the horse unless she can tame it. During the girl's efforts to calm the half-wild animal, she begins to deal with her mother's death and her father's alcoholism, both difficult issues drawn from the author's own life. "Coming to grips with the real depths of the story proved to be a heart-wrenching time for me," Keehn admitted to Debbi Michiko Florence on the interviewer's Web site.
With Anna Sunday Keehn returns to historical fiction and bases her novel on a little-known story about the U.S. Civil War and the song "Battle Hymn of the Republic." In the novel, Anna and Jed's father, a Union Army soldier, is wounded and cared for by a Confederate woman. The children are determined to rescue their father, so Anna cuts her hair, disguises herself as a boy, and the pair and their horse leave their home in Pennsylvania and travel south into wartorn Virginia. "Facts about the war are interwoven and the often-fraught-with-peril journey concludes in a satisfying manner," commented a critic for Kirkus Reviews. Carolyn Phelan, reviewing Anna Sunday for Booklist, praised the book's "original, believable characters, whose idiosyncrasies add texture and occasional humor to the story."
In the fantastical novel Gnat Stokes and the Foggy Bottom Swamp Queen readers meet orphan Gnat Stokes, a twelve-year-old girl with a sense of adventure. Gnat decides to rescue friend Goodlow Pryce, who has fallen into the clutches of the Foggy Bottom Swamp Queen. Goodlow, trying to communicate with his true love Penelope, manages to send his beloved an enchanted locket. When Gnat intercepts the locket, the gift's magic causes the girl to fall in love with Goodlow as well. Armed now with magically inspired determination, Gnat undertakes the quest, only to discover more about her parentage, and about love, than she had expected. "Keehn's tale is by turns creepy, laugh-aloud funny, touching, and utterly satisfying," observed Chris Sherman for Booklist, while a Kirkus Reviews contributor described Gnat Stokes and the Foggy Bottom Swamp Queen as a "warm, suspenseful, over-the-top adventure that bubbles up with swamp wisdom."
As Keehn explained to online interviewer Florence, before writing Gnat's story, "I'd always written books with a strong toe-hold on reality…. And then I came upon an old Scottish Ballad—'Tam Lin'—which grabbed my heart." At the suggestion of her editor, the author traveled through Appalachia, set the Scottish tale there, and Gnat Stokes was born.
On her home page, Keehn admitted: "Writing novels is a challenge for me, but I love the journey writing takes me on. I make such interesting discoveries about myself and about the world. I encourage everyone to read and write. There's a beautiful and intriguing world to be discovered—both inside and outside us."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, July, 1991, review of I Am Regina, p. 2040; September 1, 1999, Linda Perkins, review of The First Horse I See, p. 133; June 1, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of Anna Sunday, p. 1723; March 1, 2005, Chris Sherman, review of Gnat Stokes and the Foggy Bottom Swamp Queen, p. 1197.
Book Report, March-April, 1996, Patti Sylvester Spencer, review of Moon of Two Dark Horses, p. 35.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 1991, review of I Am Regina, p. 198; October, 1995, review of Moon of Two Dark Horses, p. 59; September, 1999, review of The First Horse I See, p. 19; September, 2002, review of Anna Sunday, p. 23; March 1, 2005, review of Gnat Stokes and the Foggy Bottom Swamp Queen, p. 296.
Childhood Education, fall, 2002, Connie M. Fritch, review of Anna Sunday, p. 51.
Children's Book Review Service, June, 1991, review of I Am Regina, p. 131.
Emergency Librarian, March, 1996, review of Moon of Two Dark Horses, p. 43.
Journal of Reading, November, 1993, review of I Am Regina, p. 224.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1991, review of I Am Regina, p. 730; September 1, 1995, review of Moon of Two Dark Horses, p. 1282; May 1, 2002, review of Anna Sunday, p. 658; March 1, 2005, review of Gnat Stokes and the Foggy Bottom Swamp Queen, p. 289.
Kliatt, November, 1997, review of Moon of Two Dark Horses, p. 8.
Library Talk, November, 1991, review of I Am Regina, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, May 10, 1991, review of I Am Regina, p. 285; October 2, 1995, review of Moon of Two Dark Horses, p. 74; July 5, 1999, review of The First Horse I See, p. 71; December 17, 2001, review of I Am Regina, p. 94; June 17, 2002, review of Anna Sunday, p. 65.
School Library Journal, June, 1991, Susan F. Marcus, review of I Am Regina, p. 108; November, 1995, Marilyn Long Graham, review of Moon of Two Dark Horses, p. 120; July, 1999, review of The First Horse I See, p. 96; June, 2002, William McLoughlin, review of Anna Sunday, p. 140; April, 2005, Cindy Darling Codell, review of Gnat Stokes and the Foggy Bottom Swamp Queen, p. 135.
Social Education, April, 1992, review of I Am Regina, p. 263.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1991, review of I Am Regina, p. 172; December, 1995, review of Moon of Two Dark Horses, p. 303; August, 2002, review of Anna Sunday, p. 193.
Debbi Michiko Florence Web site, http://debbimichikoflorence.com/ (June, 2005), interview with Keehn.
Sally Keehn's Home Page, http://www.sallykeehn.com (November 7, 2005).
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