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Shelley Hrdlitschka (1956–) Biography

Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

(Shelley Joanne Hrdlitschka)


Surname pronounced Herd-litch-ka; born 1956, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Education: Simon Fraser University, teaching certificate. Religion: Unitarian-Universalist. Hobbies and other interests: Music, browsing at bookstores and libraries, theatre, hiking, traveling to warm places, watching her daughters participate in sports, music, and dance.

Shelley Hrdlitschka


Elementary schoolteacher in Delta, British Columbia, Canada, 1979–86; currently, writer and teacher of creative writing classes.


Writers Union of Canada, Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers, Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable, Children's Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia.

Honors Awards

Our Choice Award, Canadian Children's Book Centre; BC2000 Book Award, 2000, for Tangled Web; Canadian Library Association Young-Adult Honor Book citation, White Pine Award, and CCBC Our Choice Award, all 2002, Best Book nomination and Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, both American Library Association (ALA), both 2003, Popular Paperback citation, ALA, 2005, and Choice for Young Adults citation, International Reading Association, all for Dancing Naked; New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, White Pines Honor Book designation, and Arthur Ellis Award nomination, Crime Writers of Canada, all 2005, all for Kat's Fall.


Beans on Toast, illustrated by Ljuba Levstek, Orca (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 1998.

Disconnected, Orca (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 1998.

Tangled Web (sequel to Disconnected), Orca (Custer, WA), 2000.

Dancing Naked, Orca (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2001, Orca (Custer, WA), 2002.

Kat's Fall, Orca (Custer, WA), 2004.

Sun Signs, Orca (Custer, WA), 2005.

Newspaper columnist. Contributor of articles and reviews to magazines.


Canadian author Shelley Hrdlitschka began her writing career while she was still a teacher. As she once told SATA: "I discovered my love of children's literature while teaching elementary school, so, while on a parenting leave, I decided to try writing children's stories myself. It took ten long years before I landed my first book contract, but the wait made it that much more rewarding. The second book contract came six months af-In this award-winning novel a pregnant teen realizes that she must make some of the crucial choices in her life on her own.ter the first! I've written and published many parenting articles, book reviews, and newspaper columns, but I focus solely on teen fiction now. I never did get back to teaching, but I now enjoy visiting schools and libraries and talking to students about the writing process and about the value of perseverance—setting goals and sticking to them."

Hrdlitschka's three daughters provided their mother with source material during their teen years. As she wrote on her home page, "Although I try not to write about them specifically, they do influence my writing in many ways." "Although my story ideas usually come from my own experiences, my three daughters help me with the details," Hrdlitschka also explained to SATA, "reminding me that fourteen-year-old boys don't usually drink coffee, and they don't say things like 'cute' any more." Her daughters have not been the sole source of subject material, however; Hrdlitschka also gets ideas from her own life, as well as from stories she hears on the news, and the protagonists of her novels deal with a wide variety of issues, from teen pregnancy, loneliness, and extremely disfunctional families.

Beans on Toast, Hrdlitschka's first novel, is geared for younger readers. It tells the story of Madison, who feels like an outsider during her first experience at Band Camp. Her parents have just divorced, and Madison feels like something of an ugly duckling. Over the two-week camp session, however, she begins to realize some of her strengths and starts to gain confidence in herself.

In her first two novels for an older, teen readership, Hrdlitschka introduces Alex and Tanner, twins who were separated at birth. In Disconnected the twins begin dreaming of each other's lives, unable to figure out where the strange dreams are coming from. Alex cannot wait to leave the small coastal town he lives in and move to the city, while city-boy Tanner hopes to find peace by visiting the coast and the sea that figures in his strange dreams. In the sequel, Tangled Web, the boys have been reunited and are now learning to become brothers when a savage crime rocks their summer vacation. Roger Leslie, writing in Booklist, commented on the "nice light suspense, and the short, dialogue-driven chapters" in the two novels, while School Library Journal reviewer Elizabeth A. Kaminetz commented that the books' "exciting and fast moving … action will keep readers engaged."

Hrdlitschka takes on the serious issue of teen pregnancy and adoption in Dancing Naked. After having sex with her boyfriend Derek, Kia discovers she is pregnant. Rather than having an abortion—as her father and Derek both advise—Kia decides to have the baby and give the infant up for adoption. She finds support for her decision from the members of a youth group at a local church, especially from the group's leader, Justin, who is gay. Nicole M. Marcuccilli, writing in School Library Although forgiveness is hard for Darcy to feel when his mother is released from prison, things change when the teen faces a similar burden of proof after being is accused of an act he did not commit in Hrdlitschka's 2004 novel.Journal, called the novel "thought-provoking and competently done," while Booklist contributor Francisca Goldsmith noted that Hrdlitschka's "subject matter, plus strong writing and plotting, invites recreational reading."

In Kat's Fall Darcy Frasier is not looking forward to his mother's release from prison; she was convicted of dropping Darcy's younger sister, Kat, from a balcony ten years ago. His mother wants them to be a family again, but the boy finds it impossible to trust her—that is, until he, too, is accused of a horrible crime. "This powerful novel is both heart wrenching and shocking," wrote Leigh Ann Morlock in School Library Journal.

The characters in Sun Signs, while not dealing with convicted parents or teen pregnancy, nonetheless have troubling complications in their lives. Told through e-mails, diary entries, and other correspondence, Sun Signs reveals the results of a project that Kaleigh and several of her online classmates must complete for school. By studying astrology, they begin to reveal things about each other's lives that brings them closer together. Cancer, the Internet, juvenile delinquency, and other topics "are explored in a sensitive manner," according to Resource Links critic Myra Junyk.

On her home page, Hrdlitschka talked about what she enjoys about her job. "I LOVE being a writer," she confessed. "I can set my own hours, I can wear anything I want to work, I can use my imagination, and I am my own boss. Sometimes I think writing is a compulsion or an obsession as much as anything else." She also enjoys receiving correspondence from her fans. As Hrdlitschka once told SATA, "If a young person writes to me and gives me feedback on my books, I keep their name to use in a future story. That's the little prize they get for going to the trouble of letting me know how they liked my story!"

Formatted as a series of e-mails, this 2004 novel introduces a trusting teen who learns that, because they avoid providing visual clues as to their character, online "friends" are not always who they claim to be. (Cover design by Lynn O'Rourke.)

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, October 15, 2000, Roger Leslie, review of Tangle Web, p. 431; March 15, 2002, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Dancing Naked, p. 1251; March 15, 2003, review of Dancing Naked, p. 1311.

Canadian Book Review Annual, 2001, review of Dancing Naked, p. 494.

Canadian Children's Literature, summer, 2000, review of Beans on Toast, pp. 75-76.

Canadian Review of Materials, December 15, 2000, review of Tangled Web; November 16, 2001, review of Dancing Naked.

Kliatt, July, 2002, Deborah Kaplan, review of Dancing Naked, p. 21; July, 2004, Ann Hart, review of Kat's Fall, p. 20.

Resource Links, February, 2002, Gail De Vos, review of Dancing Naked, p. 27; April, 2005, Myra Junyk, review of Sun Signs, p. 34.

School Library Journal, October, 2000, Elizabeth A. Kaminetz, review of Tangled Web, p. 161; March, 2002, Nicole M. Marcuccilli, review of Dancing Naked, p. 232; August, 2004, Leigh Ann Morlock, review of Kat's Fall, p. 124.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 2000, review of Tangled Web, p. 350; April, 2002, review of Dancing Naked, p. 44; December, 2004, review of Kat's Fall, p. 382; June, 2005, Diane Emge and Billy Palmer, review of Sun Signs, p. 131.


Shelley Hrdlitschka Home Page, http://members.shaw.ca/shelleyhrdlitschka (May 4, 2005).

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: James Heneghan (1930-) Biography - Personal to Rick Jacobson Biography - Personal