Mel Boring (1939–) Biography
Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1939, in St. Clair Shores, MI; Education: Sterling College, B.A., 1961; Princeton Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1965.
Elementary school teacher in Meriden, KS, 1961–62; Chi Alpha Student Center, Berkeley, CA, assistant director, 1965–67; ordained interdenominational minister, 1966; Inter-Church Team Ministries, Newhall, CA, director of student conferences and seminars, 1967–69; elementary school teacher in Monroe Center, MI, 1969–71; junior high school teacher of mathematics in Palmdale, CA, 1971–76; radio announcer, 1976–80; high school teacher of social studies in Vergennes, VT, 1978–80. Writer and editor for Hoffman Information Systems, 1972–74; editor of Children's Writer's E-News, 2003–06. Member of Green Valley, CA, Volunteer Fire Department, 1972–76.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators of Iowa Award; (with Leslie Dendy) Booklist Top-Ten Science Books for Youth designation, and Book Links Lasting Connections designation, both 2005, and Subaru Science Books and Films Prize finalist, American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults designation, and New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age designation, all 2006, all for Guinea Pig Scientists.
Sealth: The Story of an American Indian, Dillon, 1978.
The Rainmaker, Random House (New York, NY), 1980.
Clowns: The Fun Makers, Messner, 1980.
Wovoka: The Story of an American Indian, Dillon, 1980.
Incredible Constructions and the People Who Built Them, Walker (New York, NY), 1984.
Birds, Nests, and Eggs, NorthWord (Minnetonka, MN), 1996.
Caterpillars, Bugs, and Butterflies, NorthWord (Minnetonka, MN), 1996.
Rabbits, Squirrels, and Chipmunks, NorthWord (Minnetonka, MN), 1996, illustrated by Linda Garrow, Gareth Stevens (Milwaukee, WI), 2000.
(With Diane L. Burns and Leslie Dendy) Fun with Nature, illustrated by Linda Garrow, NorthWord (Minnetonka, MN), 1999.
(With Leslie Dendy) Guinea Pig Scientists: Bold Self-Experimenters in Science and Medicine, illustrated by C.B. Mordan, Holt (New York, NY), 2005.
Flamingos, Loons, and Pelicans, illustrated by Andrew Recher, NorthWord (Minnetonka, MN), 2006.
Contributor to magazines, including Highlights for Children, Young World, and Children's Playmate.
Mel Boring's varied career has included stints as a truck driver, a radio commentator, and a minister as well as a teacher of elementary, middle-school, high-school, and college students. His overriding interests in nature and in inspiring young children to be curious and think for themselves has resulted in a long list of books that include Incredible Constructions and the People Who Built Them, Caterpillars, Bugs, and Butterflies, and Guinea Pig Scientists: Bold Self-Experimenters in Science and Medicine, the last coauthored with Leslie Dendy. In addition to writing, Boring enjoys visiting schools where, in addition to telling entertaining stories while wearing his height-enhancing Cat-in-the-Hat costume, he encourages students to translate personal interests into stories of their own.
While several of Boring's books are geared for younger children, Guinea Pig Scientists presents middle graders and young adults with ten case studies about men and women who risked their own health to pursue scientific goals. In profiles that Booklist reviewer John Peters described as "lively, compelling, and not always for the squeamish," Boring and Dendy travel several centuries of science history to describe John Paul Stapp's risky trip in a rocket car decelerating from 600 mph to a dead stop in 1.4 seconds; eighteenth-century Italian Lazzaro Spallanzani's experiments in digestion that caused him to swallow things that even a hungry dog would not find tempting; and Marie Curie's early-twentieth-century experiment with deadly radium that ultimately shortened her life. According to Peters, the coauthors' profiles "make riveting reading," while in School Library Journal Jodi Kearns wrote that the "biographies are provocative with underpinnings of intrigue for discovering what is yet unknown." Dubbing the book a "satisfyingly gruesome exploration of scientific dedication," a Kirkus Reviews writer added that Boring and Dendy are careful to provide a cautionary introduction to discourage budding scientists from such risky experimentation.
Boring once told SATA: "A young friend of my son's once asked me if I had 'made' the book Clowns: The Fun Makers. I started to correct him, saying that I had 'written' it. Then I realized that making a book is more correct. Publishing a book is more than writing. It's the revision, the publisher-seeking, the chaptering, the art-work, the meeting of deadlines, the intensive work with a book's editors. And the unparalleled thrill of holding in your hands the result of a creative idea once inside your head and heart.
"I had always had an unfocused interest in writing. It came into focus as I was reading to my students in a one-room school in Michigan in 1970. I saw such enjoyment in their eyes that it made me want to give that enjoyment myself. So I began writing magazine stories and articles in order to gain the experience that would teach me how to write.
"At first I thought of children's books as a stepping stone to writing 'serious' books for adults. But stepping along the stones, I found my imagination being captured by a world of literature that I had never taken seriously. I've been a willing captive of children's books ever since.
"What I discovered is that children's books are serious literature. They are roads that children travel as they develop into adults. Hopefully, the ideas they feed on along the way in books will be included in their adult selves and not surrendered to the demands of a falsely sophisticated adult world in which imagination is often undernourished.
"There is much in adult media that fails to exercise imagination and thus threatens to 'obsolesce' it. Imaginative children's books can deliver a child's imagination intact into their adult self. For me, this has made writing children's books a pretty serious business. But fortunately, humor is one of the tools I have found most useful. It keeps us from the opposite extreme that also smothers imagination: taking life too seriously.
"I take neither rejections nor acceptances too seriously. The rejection of a manuscript can be the road to its revision and acceptance, and continual acceptance can be the road to unimaginative books. Long live rejection and acceptance, and longer live imaginative children's books!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, July, 2005, John Peters, review of Guinea Pig Scientists: Bold Self-Experimenters in Science and Medicine, p. 1922.
Horn Book, May-June, 2005, Danielle J. Ford, review of Guinea Pig Scientists, p. 347.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2005, review of Guinea Pig Scientists, p. 587.
School Library Journal, November, 1981, Gale Eaton, review of Wovoka: The Story of an American Indian, p. 88; August, 1985, review of Incredible Constructions, p. 61; July, 2005, Jodi Kearns, review of Guinea Pig Scientists, p. 114.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1985, review of Incredible Constructions, p. 196; June, 2005, Melissa Potter, review of Guinea Pig Scientists, p. 156.
SBF Prize Web site, http://wwwsbfonline.com/SubaruAward/ (March 6, 2006), review of Guinea Pig Scientists.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators of Iowa Web site, http://www.kimn.net/scbwi/ (March 6, 2006), "Mel Boring."