5 minute read

Coleen Salley Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born in Baton Rouge, LA. Education: Attended Louisiana State University.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Harcourt Children's Books, 15 E. 26th St., New York, NY 10011.


Writer, educator, and professional storyteller. Winthrop College for Women (now Winthrop University), librarian in laboratory school; University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA, distinguished professor of children's literature for thirty years, became professor emerita. Visiting professor at Simmons College, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, University of Denver, George Peabody College, and Louisiana State University. Founder, Coleen Salley/Bill Morris Literacy Foundation, 2004. Storyteller on audio and video recordings, including Louisiana Folk Tales, Texas Folk Tales, and Georgia Folk Tales, all Gateway Productions; Cajun Night before Christmas/Gaston the Green Nose Alligator and Cajun Night before Christmas/Cajun Night after Christmas, both Pelican Publishing Company; Tub People, HarperCollins; Read-aloud Riches, Eight Favorites, and Big Mama Makes the World, all Candlewick; Cocodrie Cajun Classics, More than a Card Press; and Three Classy Storytellers Read Three Classy Tales, SeaStar.

Honors Awards

Outstanding undergraduate teacher of the year award, University of New Orleans, 1972; distinguished faculty award, Louisiana State University Alumni Association, 1983; Essae M. Culver Service Award, Louisiana Library Association, 1989; Flicker Tale Children's Book Award (North Dakota), and children's book award, Florida Reading Association, both 2004, Virginia Young Readers Award, 2005, and Book Sense 76 citation, Children's Choice Award, International Reading Association/Children's Book Council, Gold Award, Oppenheimer Toy Portfolio, Volunteer State Book Award (Tennessee), and Show Me Readers Award (Missouri), all for Epossumondas.



Who's That Tripping over My Bridge?, illustrated by Amy Jackson Dixon, Pelican (Gretna, LA), 2002.

Epossumondas, illustrated by Janet Stevens, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.

Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail, illustrated by Janet Stevens, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2004.

Epossumondas Saves the Day, illustrated by Janet Stevens, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2006.


Coleen Salley was a storyteller for many years before she began turning her favorite stories into books. Her first picture book, Who's That Tripping over My Bridge?, takes the classic Norwegian fairy tale of the three billy goats Gruff and transplants it to her native Louisiana. "Salley spices up her retelling, giving it a dramatic sense of place and Louisiana flare," Shauna Yusko commented in School Library Journal. Plus, anyone who has ever heard the author tell the story live "will hear echoes of Salley's distinctive voice and delivery" in the text, commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. The story is set just north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in East Feliciana Parish. The three goats want to cross from that parish over Thompson Creek into West Feliciana Parish, where there are many nice hills full of green grass to eat, but a mean troll under the bridge threatens to eat anyone who tries to travel across the creek. The goats, however, are stubborn and smart, and they even-
[Image Not Available]
tually succeed in getting across, arriving in St. Francisville. As Salley explained to a Publishers Weekly interviewer, she began telling this story to school groups because "when I go to the west bank of New Orleans, those kids have never been across the river. They won't ever get to Norway, but they might get to St. Francisville…. Maybe one day, a kid will be sitting in the back of the car, and he'll see a sign that says 'Thompson Creek,' and he'll gasp and say, 'I know who lives under that bridge.'"

Epossumondas, Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail, Epossumondas Saves the Day all feature a diaper-wearing, none-too-bright baby possum. In his first picture-book outing, Epossumondas travels back and forth from his auntie's home to his mama's house with a series of gifts, but he manages to ruin each gift along the way. When his auntie gives him cake to carry home he smashes it, prompting his mama to tell him that cake should be carried under one's hat. Thus, next time, when he is carrying butter, he puts it under his hat—where it promptly melts and runs down his face. After each such mishap, Epossumondas's mama greets her son with the same refrain: "Epossumondas, you don't have the sense you were born with." Once again, Salley emphasizes her Louisiana setting, with alligators, nutrias, and armadillos featuring in the tale. Her "text rolls off the page (and off the tongue) easily," Jane Marino commented in School Library Journal, and Horn Book reviewer Joanna Rudge Long also found the "well-honed text … just right for group sharing."

In Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail the possum's mama tells him a just-so story explaining why possums have hairless tails. Long ago, she explains, the ancestral Papapossum had a long, fluffy tail, just like the other animals. Then Papapossum and Hare team up to try to steal some persimmons from Bear, but everything does not go as planned. Papapossum finds himself grabbed by the tail by Bear, and in the ensuing tug-of-war all of the tail's hair is lost, never to return. Like Epossumondas, Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail was praised for its humor and read-aloud appeal. "Salley's a grand storyteller who makes the most of the twists and turns," Joanna Rudge Long wrote in Horn Book, while School Library Journal contributor Grace Oliff commented upon Salley's "colorful descriptions and amusing expressions."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Salley, Coleen, Epossumondas, illustrated by Janet Stevens, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.


Book, March-April, 2003, Kathleen Odean, review of Epossumondas, p. 36.

Booklist, August, 2002, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Epossumondas, p. 1976; September 1, 2004, Julie Cummins, review of Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail, p. 135.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 2004, Timnah Card, review of Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail, p. 98.

Horn Book, November-December, 2002, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Epossumondas, p. 767; January-February, 2005, Joanna Ridge Long, review of Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail, p. 85.

Instructor, April, 2003, Judy Freeman, review of Epossumondas, p. 54.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of Who's That Tripping over My Bridge?, p. 578; August 1, 2002, review of Epossumondas, p. 1142; August 1, 2004, review of Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail, p. 748.

Library Media Connection, April-May, 2005, Anne Hanson, review of Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail, p. 87.

Publishers Weekly, February 3, 1997, review of The Tub People, p. 46; March 18, 2002, review of Who's That Tripping over My Bridge?, p. 103, Jennifer M. Brown, "PW Talks with Coleen Salley," p. 103; June 17, 2002, review of Epossumondas, p. 63.

School Library Journal, May, 2002, Shauna Yusko, review of Who's That Tripping over My Bridge?, p. 144; September, 2002, Jane Marino, review of Epossumondas, p. 217; September, 2004, Grace Oliff, review of Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail, p. 179.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December 1, 2002, review of Epossumondas, p. 5.


Balkin Buddies Web site, http://www.balkinbuddies.com/, (November 6, 2005), "The Coleen Salley/Bill Morris Literacy Foundation."

Coleen Salley Web site, http://www.coleensalley.com (November 6, 2005).

Woman's Day Online, http://www.womansday.com/ (November 6, 2005), review of Epossumondas.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr Biography