Bettye Stroud (1939–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1939, in Athens, GA; Education: Fort Valley State University, B.S. (English and library science), 1960; University of Georgia, M.Ed., 1972, Ed.S. (library media specialist), 1974. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, photography, gardening, reading, puzzles.
Agent—Jennie Dunham, Russell and Volkening, 50 W. 29 St., New York, NY 10001.
Writer. Winder Middle Grade Schools, Winder, GA, media specialist, 1960–72; Barnett Shoals School, Athens, GA, media specialist, 1972–92; University of Georgia, Athens, lecturer in writing for children. Georgia Student Media Festivals, judge; Georgia Children's Book Awards, member of selection committee, 1985; Georgia Department of Education, member of instructional television panel, 1985; Georgia Library Association, member of committee for standards, 1986; Georgia Library Media Association, state president elect, 1989. Also member of Georgia Teacher Education Council, 1981–86, and President's White House Conference on Libraries, 1985.
International Reading Association, Travel Writers International Network, National Education Association, Society of Children's Book Writers, and Illustrators (contact person and workshop presenter), Cassell Network of Writers, Four at Five Writers, Georgia Association of Educators, Library Board of Athens-Clarke county, Delta Kappa Gamma.
Sandhills Writers Workshop honor, 1994, for Keep Running, Lizzie; grants from Southeastern Advocates of Literature for Children, 1984, and Georgia Council for the Arts, 1995; University of Chicago Classic Children's Book selection, 1996, for Down Home at Miss Dessa's; Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, 2004, for The Patchwork Path.
Down Home at Miss Dessa's, illustrated by Felicia Marshall, Lee and Low (New York, NY), 1996.
Dance Y'All, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2001.
A Personal Tour of Tuskegee Institute, Lerner Publications (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
The Leaving, illustrated by Cedric Lucas, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2001.
(Editor) The World's Wide Open (poetry collection), illustrated by Pat Cummings, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom, illustrated by Erin Susanne Bennett, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.
Contributor of articles and book reviews to Country America, Multicultural Review, Athens magazine, Georgia Journal, and Multicultural Resource Guide. Author of unpublished manuscript Keep Running, Lizzie.
Bettye Stroud worked as a library media specialist for elementary schools in Atlanta, Georgia, for over thirty years before beginning her second career as a children's book author. Dedicated to inspiring an interest in reading among very young children throughout both her careers, Stroud has authored several picture books that feature inspiring stories geared toward African-American children. In addition to picture books, such as Down Home at Miss Dessa's, The Leaving, and The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom, Stroud has authored A Personal Tour of Tuskegee Institute, a nonfiction work profiling the school established in Alabama by Booker T. Washington, and has edited the poetry collection The World's Wide Open.
Taking place in the American South during the 1940s, Down Home at Miss Dessa's focuses on two sisters who spend a warm summer day visiting and tending to an elderly woman who lives nearby and is recovering from a minor injury. Also featuring likeable young characters, Dance Y'All finds young Jack Henry excited about the arrival of friends and family for the annual harvest celebration, but also worried that he and his cousin will have to spend the night in the barn, where a snake-like coach whip also "resides." Praising Down Home at Miss Dessa's, Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman called the book a "warm, autobiographical account of caring across generations," while Catherine Threadgill, reviewing Dance Y'All for School Library Journal, wrote that Stroud transforms her "realistic vignette of a boy who conquers a big fear" into a "quietly realistic story."
The flight of slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad during the mid-nineteenth century is the backdrop to both The Leaving and The Patchwork Path. The Leaving takes place five years after slavery has been declared illegal by the Emancipation Proclamation, and finds a nine-year-old girl risking danger to lead her family's flight from their former master, who keeps control of them by claiming indebtedness. Praising the story as "suspenseful and episodic," Booklist reviewer Gillian Engberg also cited the "exceptional" pastel illustrations by Cedric Lucas. Taking readers back a few years, The Patchwork Path finds Hannah and her father living on a plantation in Georgia, where freedom is still only a dream. In their free time, Hannah and her mother stitch a beautiful quilt, patterning a secret key to freedom within the colorful patches. When Mama dies, Hannah and her father make a break for Canada, using the map sewn into the handstitched quilt as their guide. An Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award winner, The Patchwork Path was praised by School Library Journal reviewer Lauralyn Persson for its "first-person narrative [that] flows smoothly and lends immediacy to the dramatic events," while Rochman dubbed it an "exciting escape story" that is enhanced by Stroud's inclusion of an afterword that explains the history behind Hannah's tale.
Stroud once told SATA: "My writing landscape is the South, quite often the South of the past. My milieu is a mix of generations, chock full of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and extended families.
"After my mother died, I grew up with a great-aunt and uncle, but also had a father and his new family in another state. I spent a lot of time on trains, in the midst of the two families. It all made for a wonderful childhood!
"No wonder my stories are intergenerational. No wonder they swing between truck farms in the South and locomotives headed north. I hope they serve as evidence of the joy brought into the lives of young and old alike when generations come together to love, to share and to protect.
"But, present-day subjects find their way into my writing, too. More than thirty people died in my state in 1994 during the fury wrought by Tropical Storm Andrew. It was a setting I had to utilize, a subject I had to write about.
"Hopefully, in my writing, children meet the demons they have faced in their own lives and find they can be banished. They get to know protagonists who come up against obstacles and problems and somehow find solutions.
"I want children to understand all is never lost. Fears can be conquered; lost friendships can be replaced by new ones and broken hearts can be mended in time. There's always tomorrow. There's always hope.
"Like any good writer, I want the echoes of my stories to reverberate through the reader's head long after the book is closed and the reader has gone on to something else." In addition to writing and visiting schools and libraries, Stroud also teaches a course in writing for children at the University of Georgia.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, December 15, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of Down Home at Miss Dessa's, p. 734; February 15, 2001, Gillian Engberg, review of The Leaving, p. 1156; February 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom, p. 978.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1996, review of Down Home at Miss Dessa's, p. 153; January, 2005, Timnah Card, review of The Patchwork Path, p. 229.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1996, p. 1329; September 1, 2001, review of Dance Y'All, p. 1301; December 15, 2004, review of The Patchwork Path, p. 1209.
Publishers Weekly, September 16, 1996, review of Down Home at Miss Dessa's, p. 83; January 3, 2005, review of The Patchwork Path, p. 55.
School Library Journal, May, 2001, Susan Hepler, review of The Leaving, p. 136; November, 2001, Catherine Threadgill, review of Dance Y'All, p. 136; January, 2005, Lauralyn Persson, review of The Patchwork Path, p. 98.
Bettye Stroud Home Page, http://www.bettyestroud.com (October 20 2005).
Public Broadcasting Atlanta Web site, http://www.wabe.org/atlanta/community/ (October 20, 2005), This Is Atlanta: "Bettye Stroud."
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