Karen Gravelle (1942–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1942, in Alexandria, VA; Education: University of Oregon, B.A., 1965; Catholic University of America, M.S.W., 1969; City University of New York, Ph.D., 1981.
Office—55 W. 70th St., New York, NY 10023.
Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY, medical social worker, 1969–70; Greenwich House Counseling Center, New York, NY, therapist, 1970–75; Hunter College of the City University of New York, adjunct lecturer, 1978–81, visiting assistant professor of psychology, 1982; Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, visiting assistant professor of psychology, 1981; Cancer Research Institute, New York, NY, director of public information, 1983–84; Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA, senior science editor, 1985–86; Renaissance Medical Group, New York, NY, supervisor of behavioral modification support program for obese patients, 1986–87. Freelance writer, editor, and photographer, 1982–.
Authors Guild, Authors League of America.
Best Book Award, Young Adult Library Services Association/American Library Association, 1993, for Teenage Fathers: An Inside View; New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age citation, 1999, for What's Going on down There?
Feather (fiction), Weekly Reader (Stamford, CT), 1985.
Fun Facts about Creatures, Weekly Reader (Stamford, CT), 1986.
(With Ann Squire) Animal Talk, Messner (New York, NY), 1988.
Lizards, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1991.
Animal Societies, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1993.
Growing up in a Holler in the Mountains: An Appalachian Childhood, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1997.
Growing up Where the Partridge Drums Its Wings: A Mohawk Childhood, photographs by Stephen R. Poole, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Sylviane A. Diouf) Growing up in Crawfish Country: A Cajun Childhood, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1998.
FOR YOUNG ADULTS
(With Bertram A. John) Teenagers Face to Face with Cancer, Messner (New York, NY), 1989.
(With Charles Haskins) Teenagers Face to Face with Bereavement, Messner (New York, NY), 1989.
Understanding Birth Defects, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1990.
(With Leslie Peterson) Teenage Fathers: An Inside View, Messner (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Susan H. Fischer) Where Are My Birth Parents?: A Guide for Teenage Adoptees, Walker (New York, NY), 1993.
Soaring Spirits: Conversations with Native American Teens, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1995.
(With Jennifer Gravelle) The Period Book: Everything You Don't Want to Ask (But Need to Know), illustrated by Debbie Palen, Walker (New York, NY), 1996.
(With Nick and Chava Castro) What's Going on down There?: Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask, illustrated by Robert Leighton, Walker (New York, NY), 1998.
Five Ways to Know about You, illustrated by Mary Lynn Blasutta, Walker (New York, NY), 2001.
The Driving Book: Everything New Drivers Need to Know but Don't Know to Ask, illustrated by Helen Flook, Walker (New York, NY), 2005.
(With Robert Rivlin) Deciphering the Senses: The Expanding World of Human Perception (adult nonfiction), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1984.
Contributor of articles to scholarly journals, including Animal Behavior and Sociobiology.
Many of Karen Gravelle's books are written for young children and teens experiencing the confusing and turbulent years of adolescence. Dealing with issues such as grief, disease, puberty, and racial discrimination, often through interviews with young people, Gravelle provides information and new perspectives that help young adults understand basic issues that affect their lives. In writing several of her books, Gravelle has worked with teen coauthors as a way to help her focus on what modern teens really want to know.
Gravelle's first book for young adults, Teenagers Face to Face with Cancer, is based on interviews with sixteen adolescents who were then battling cancer. Gravelle and coauthor John A. Bertram grouped the adolescents' stories by theme to provide answers to questions teens with cancer often ask, including the difficult question: "What if I die?" Types of cancer, treatments, doctors, family matters, and coping techniques are also discussed by both interviewees and coauthors. A Kirkus Reviews writer concluded that this "honest treatment" of cancer would "help and reassure other teenage cancer patients, as well as their friends and relatives."
Teenagers Face to Face with Bereavement, written by Gravelle and Charles Haskins, utilizes an interview structure similar to Teenagers Face to Face with Cancer to provide information about death and the loss of loved ones. In the book seventeen teenagers comment on their relationships with parents, siblings, and friends, their feelings at the time of death and at the funeral, and the emotions they experience at later stages of grief. The authors provide guidance and advice while highlighting positive activities teenagers can take on to help them rebuild their lives after the death of a loved one. As Libby K. White pointed out in the School Library Journal, "Both interviewees and compilers offer hope and comfort. The compilers endorse survivor counseling and point to successful outcomes of peer group therapy."
After publishing Understanding Birth Defects, another book for young adults, Gravelle went on to write Teenage Fathers: An Inside View with Leslie Peterson. The third book in Simon & Schuster's interview-based series, the book presents in-depth discussions with thirteen teenage fathers and was designated a 1993 Young Adult Library Services Association/American Library Association best book. Described as "well laid out and informative" by a writer for Kirkus Reviews, Teenage Fathers allows readers to examine the diverse situations, backgrounds, and characteristics of these fathers as well as to understand the challenges presented by fatherhood. Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin characterized the interviews as "filled with disillusionment, fear, anger, and occasionally real joy," the young men's words presenting a "dramatic, eye-opening portrayal of what teen fathers face when their desires and expectations collide with reality." In Voice of Youth Advocates, Mary Veronica advised that young men should listen to the advice of teen fathers, suggesting: "Wait, don't rush into a relationship which could change your life and all of your dreams."
Gravelle provides another important resource for young people in Where Are My Birth Parents?: A Guide for Teenage Adoptees. Co-written with Susan Fischer, this book describes the process of and problems with searching for birth parents. The authors present advice on what to expect from birth mothers as well as adoptive parents throughout the search. A list of search and support groups is also included.
Soaring Spirits: Conversations with Native American Teens focuses on the issues of growing up in contemporary society as a young Native American. Gravelle interviewed seventeen teens from five different tribes who lived on Indian reservations across the United States. "We need more contemporary books like this to go with the historical fiction and the shelves of great folklore," commented Hazel Rochman in a Booklist review.
Gravelle's two prominent books on puberty, The Period Book: Everything You Don't Want to Ask (But Need to Know) and What's Going on down There?: Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask, were co-written by young teens. Gravelle's niece, Jennifer, contributes insight into girl questions about periods in The Period Book, while Nick and Chava Castro, two brothers from Los Angeles, aided Gravelle in selecting the subject matter for What's Going on down There? Most of the issues in The Period Book revolve around menstruation, but also feature topics such as what to expect from a gynecologist, how to handle strong emotions, and ways of dealing with cramps and pimples. A Publishers Weekly contributor considered The Period Book to be an "accessible guide for adolescent girls." What's Going on down There? deals with puberty issues and changes in the body, as well as sex, masturbation, and STDs. "The tone is candid and the advice objective," noted Roger Sutton in a review of Gralley's book for Horn Book.
In addition to books on puberty, Gravelle is the author of the teen personality guide Five Ways to Know about You, which introduces readers to numerology, astrology (both Western and Chinese), palm reading, and hand-writing analysis. Many critics cited the greatest value of the book as the combination of the five types of personality analysis; most books that cover these topics for teens only feature one of the five. Ann G. Brouse, writing in School Library Journal, commented of the book, "More than just a taste, this is a satisfying first course." Kliatt reviewer Tricia Finch considered Five Ways to Know about You "a teen-friendly publication" that features an "accessible" text.
Gravelle covers a teen rite of passage in The Driving Book: Everything New Drivers Need to Know but Don't Know to Ask. The guide covers not only driving issues, but also describes general car maintenance and deals with road rage and the use of cell phones in cases of emergency. Gravelle also covers topics such as peer-pressure situations that affect driving, as well as how the use of drugs or medication can affect a driver's judgment, perception, and abilities. "Every new driver needs to read this book," proclaimed Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper, who commented that the volume's size makes it convenient to carry in the glove compartment. Kathleen E. Gruver commented in School Library Journal that "the book is clearly written and well organized, but it is also humorous and appealing."
Gravelle's books for younger readers include Fun Facts about Creatures, which provides interesting information about reptiles and insects. Animal Talk, written with Ann Squire, discusses animal communication both with other animals and with humans, and was described by Beth Ames Herbert in Booklist as a "fascinating" work. Lizards describes the differences and similarities between the lives of humans and lizards, while Feather, Gravelle's first work of fiction, is the story of a convalescent girl and a trapped pigeon.
Gravelle is also the author of the "Growing up in America" series, featuring such titles as Growing up in a Holler in the Mountain and Growing up Where the Partridge Drums Its Wings. These books allow young readers to peek into the everyday lives of children who have quite different experiences while growing up. Hazel Rochman wrote in Booklist that the titles in the series will aid readers in seeing beyond assumptions about people from specific regions; "The tone is very positive," Rochman wrote, "hitting hard at stereotypes of the poor and uneducated."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, October 15, 1988, Beth Ames Herbert, review of Animal Talk, p. 408; October 15, 1992, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Teenage Fathers, p. 413; March 15, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of Soaring Spirits: Conversations with Native American Teens, and Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Period Book: Everything You Don't Want to Ask (But Need to Know), p. 1258; January 1, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Growing Up in a Holler in the Mountains: An Appalachian Childhood and Growing up Where the Partridge Drums Its Wings: A Mohawk Childhood, p. 804; November 1, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of What's Going on down There?: Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask, p. 481; December 1, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Growing up in Crawfish Country: A Cajun Childhood, p. 663; March 1, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of The Driving Book: Everything New Drivers Need to Know but Don't Know to Ask, p. 150.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July 1996, review of The Period Book, p. 373.
Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, winter, 2000, Ann Barrett, review of What's Going on down There?, p. 278.
Horn Book, January, 1999, Roger Sutton, review of What's Going on down There?, p. 70.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1986, review of Teenagers Face to Face with Cancer, p. 1800; June 1, 1989, p. 836; June 15, 1993, p. 785; August 15, 1992, review of Teenage Fathers, p. 1061.
Kliatt, May, 2002, Tricia Finch, review of Five Ways to Know about You, p. 35.
Publishers Weekly, February, 1996, review of The Period Book, p. 217.
School Library Journal, February, 1987, p. 90; July, 1989, Libby K. White, review of Teenagers Face to Face with Bereavement, p. 95; January, 2002, Ann G. Brouse, review of Five Ways to Know about You, p. 156; May, 2005, Kathleen E. Gruver, review of The Driving Book, p. 150.
Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1992, Mary Veronica, review of Teenage Fathers, p. 307; June, 1996, review of The Period Book, p. 116; December, 2001, review of Five Ways to Know about You, p. 380.
Karen Gravelle Web site, http://www.karengravelle.com (November 30, 2005).