Connie Brummel Crook (1930–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1930, in Ameliasburg, Ontario, Canada; Education: Queen's University, Kingston, B.A. (English, history, psychology), 1951; University of Toronto, education diploma for grades 1-13, 1955; graduate study at Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL), 1953–54; Ministry of Education/Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, Reading Spe-cialist, 1982. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, writing, walking, swimming, playing computer and board games, baby-sitting her grandchildren, making author visits to schools.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Ltd., 195 Allstate Pkwy, Marham, Ontario L3R 4T8, Canada.
Writer. Taught English and Latin for thirty years in public secondary schools in Ontario, Canada, including Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School. Teacher of developmental reading and English as a second language.
Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People shortlist, and Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC) Choice designation, both 1995, both for Nellie L., both 1998, both for Nellie's Quest; Storytelling World Award Honours Title for Tellable Stories for Ages 13-17, and CCBC Choice designation, both 1998, both for Maple Moon; Violet Downey Book Award shortlist, 2000, for Nellie's Victory; Regional Silver Birch Award, Violet Downey Book Award shortlist, CCBC Choice designation, and Word Guild Novel Award, all 2002, all for The Hungry Year; Word Guild Novel Award (corecipient), 2004, and CCBC Choice designation, both 2004, both for The Perilous Year; several of Crook's works have been placed on booklists in Canadian schools.
HISTORICAL FICTION, EXCEPT AS NOTED
Flight ("Meyers' Saga"), Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1991.
Laura's Choice: The Story of Laura Secord, Windflower Communications (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), 1993.
Nellie L., Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994.
Meyers' Creek ("Meyers' Saga"), Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
Maple Moon (picture book), illustrated by Scott Cameron, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997.
Nellie's Quest (sequel to Nellie L.), Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
Nellie's Victory, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
Laura Secord's Brave Walk (picture book), illustrated by June Lawrason, Second Story Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
The Hungry Year, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.
The Perilous Year (sequel to The Hungry Year), Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Markham, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Meyers' Rebellion ("Meyers' Saga"), Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Markham, Ontario, Canada), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Canadian Children's Literature.
Crook's work has been translated into French.
Flight was published in Braille by CNIB in 1973, and was adapted as a sound recording by the Vancouver, British Columbia library services branch, 1993.
Work in Progress
Several picture books; three chapter books; a young-adult novel that takes place during the depression of the 1930s; an adult novel.
Canadian author Connie Brummel Crook is credited for writing well-researched historical novels for young adults that celebrate Canadian history. Calling her his-torical fiction "dramatized biography," Crook is perhaps best known as the creator of works featuring notable nineteenth-century Canadian women Laura Secord and Nellie McClung. She is also highly regarded for her "Meyers' Saga," a series of novels focusing on an American family loyal to the British Crown who relocate to Canada during the Revolutionary War, as well as for her novels The Hungry Year and The Perilous Year, which recall hardships endured by the O'Carr family—based on her Carr ancestors—during and after a catastrophic drought brings on starvation conditions in 1787–88. Crook's research methods include library research, corresponding with the descendants of her characters, visiting cemeteries, and in one case, actually retracing the journey made by one of her heroines. Praising the factual basis of The Hungry Year, a Resource Links reviewer added that Crook's novel "is well-written, [and] the characters are realistic and well-developed." In Booklist, Frances Bradburn noted that the novel "demonstrates the courage, resourcefulness, and stubbornness" that have become hallmarks of the North American character, while Kristen Oravec wrote in School Library Journal that the novel "will hook readers with its life-on-the-frontier theme."
Crook has lived in the Peterborough area of Ontario, Canada, for most of her life. After attending elementary school near Belleville, she moved with her parents to a farm near Peterborough, then to a farm north of Norwood, where she walked three miles to high school. Crook showed an aptitude for writing as a student; at the end of high school, she won scholarships to Queen's University and the College of Education at the University of Toronto. She began her career as an educator after receiving her teaching certificate from Toronto. Two years after her marriage to minister F. Reginald Brown, Crook left teaching to start a family. When her husband died of leukemia, she resumed teaching to help raise their two young daughters.
Eight years after the death of her first husband, she married his first cousin, Albert W. Crook. The author taught English in Ontario secondary schools in Owen Sound, Sault Ste. Marie, Norwood, and Peterborough for thirty years; in Peterborough, she taught at Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School for twenty-six years and also started that city's first secondary-school reading lab. Between raising her family and teaching, Crook was unable to find the time to seriously pursue her writing interests. Upon retiring, however, she finally started, as she related, "taking the creative English lessons to heart that she gave others" and began to write.
Flight, is the first volume in Crook's "Meyers' Saga," about a family that retains a loyalty to the British during the American Revolution. Because father Hans Meyers is a top courier for the British, oldest son George Meyers is forced to take care of the family and their farm located in upstate New York. Angry at his father for leaving the family, George is nonetheless proud of the man's work for the British. When the rest of his family heads to New York City to reunite with Hans, George must stay behind. His adventures while trying to reunite with his family, who eventually move from Albany to Canada, serves as the central focus of the novel.
As a descendant of John W. Meyers, the founder of the city of Belleville, Ontario and a member of the family depicted in Flight, Crook was familiar with her subject. As she wrote in Canadian Children's Literature, she grew up hearing about the Meyers family's colorful history. Darleen Golke, a reviewer in the Canadian Review of Materials, declared that Flight "will appeal to young adult readers interested in Canada's history," adding that Crook "applauds the determination and courage" of the Loyalists. The "Meyers' Saga" continues with the novels Meyers' Creek and Meyers' Rebellion. Meyers' Creek focuses on nineteen-year-old Mary Meyers, who longs to be recognized as an adult by her family. Fifteen-year-old John Meyers is the focus of Meyers' Rebellion, which finds the teen involved in the Upper Canada Rebellion of the 1830s. Joined by his older brothers, especially twenty-four-year-old George, John helps Scots-born Reformist William Lyon Mackenzie and his followers during their failed attempt to set up an alternative Canadian Republic on Navy Island, near Niagara, New York. John eventually follow three of his brothers to a small coastal island that will soon be the site of the rebels' next skirmish; mean-while, another brother languishes in the Kingston prison.
Laura's Choice: The Story of Laura Secord is set during the War of 1812. The novel is part of a series in which Crook dramatizes the life of Canadian heroine Laura Ingersol Secord, a story that begins in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and includes Secord's migration to Canada, her romance with James Secord, and, in Laura Secord's Brave Walk, her twenty-mile, life-threatening journey by foot from her home in Queenston, Ontario, to a British outpost on the Niagara Peninsula. While on this trip, Secord endures quicksand, snakes, mosquitoes, and other natural elements in order to warn the British of an impending American attack. Crook admitted that researching this novel was much more complicated than her first. In addition to visiting many of the locations, libraries, and museums that mark Secord's life, Crook actually walked and drove the entire stretch of Secord's journey. Writing in Canadian Children's Literature, Crook noted that by retracing Secord's steps, "I got a sense of the lay of the land, the height of the terrain, and the kinds of trees she would have encountered. I needed that to make my description of her walk believable." In promotional mate-rial released by Windflower Communications, Canadian author and broadcaster Roy Bonisteel stated that, as with Flight, Crook brings Canadian history "to life in an exciting and dramatic fashion. Laura's Choice is a marvelous read and a real page-turner." Bonisteel concluded that the novel is "a must for every Canadian family and certainly should be in every school library."
Crook profiles another courageous Canadian woman, suffragist Nellie McClung, in a series of books that includes Nellie L., Nellie's Quest, and Nellie's Victory. Called "Canada's most famous woman activist" by Helen Norrie in the Winnipeg Free Press, McClung was elected to the Alberta legislature and was the first woman to sit on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation board of governors; she also helped to obtain the vote for women in Manitoba, the first Canadian province to grant this privilege, and was a best-selling author. Although Crook talks about McClung's life as a mother, author, activist, and civil servant, in the first book in the trilogy, Nellie L., she focuses more on McLung's childhood growing up as part of the pioneering Mooney family in Western Canada in the late nineteenth century. Drawing on McClung's autobiographies, Crook also located several members of the Mooney family. Speaking to the descendants of her subject "made me even more aware that researching a dramatized historical biography is much more than paper-work," Crook wrote in Canadian Children's Literature, adding: "[You] have a more immediate sense of the family and you realize what a great responsibility you have to present the person's life in an accurate way." Norrie called Nellie L. "interesting reading for any age" and referred to its subject as "a heroine with whom many girls will identify, and whom even boys may admire." The reviewer concluded that the work is a "lively, enjoyable book" that imparts "a good deal of little-known information."
With the help of McClung's family, Crook wrote Nellie's Quest in 1998. Reflecting Nellie's early life as part of a pioneer family, the novel was praised by Quill & Quire writer Bridget Donald, who wrote: "If you crossed Anne of Green Gables with Little House on the Prairie and added a sharper political focus, the hybrid might resemble Nellie's Quest. McClung's experiences as a young mother are detailed in Nellie's Victory, which follows her gradual involvement in the suffrage movement. Noting that the novel incorporates many of the experiences detailed in McClung's autobiography, The Stream Runs Fast, a Resource Links reviewer wrote that Crook has "cleverly dramatized" actual events and produced a "well researched" novel.
In addition to her young adult novels, Crook has also written an award-winning picture book for children. Maple Moon is a fictionalized account of the discovery of maple syrup. In the story, Rides the Wind (also called Limping Leg) is a young native Canadian boy who has a limp that keeps him from doing all the things other boys can do. During a solitary walk in the woods, he discovers sap running from a maple tree and collects some in a bucket. This "sweet water" helps feed his hungry people, giving him new status in his community and a new name, Wise Little Raven. Anne Louise Mahoney, a critic for Quill & Quire, noted that Crook's "sensitive telling and ear for language make the story echo in the reader's heart long afterward. She captures the boy's loneliness, his curiosity, and his need to find a place in this community."
As an author, Crook believes that presenting Canadian history in engaging fiction helps to foster Canadian unity. As she explained, "All of my novels and my picture book are true stories of our Canadian heritage. This is one of my purposes—to give credit to great Canadians of the past and to bring them to life for students. The Americans pay tribute to their founding heroines and heroes. We should also, for we have many worthy Canadians to remember."
In her essay in Canadian Children's Literature, Crook remarked, "Though I always try to write an exciting story, it is just as important to write something that is accurate enough that the subject of the book would also enjoy reading. If John W. Meyers, Laura Secord, and Nellie McClung were alive today, I hope they would find their lives honoured and accurately reflected in the books I have written about them."
Crook told SATA: "In 1998 I was given an award at Norwood High School, where I attended as a student. That year, I spoke to the graduating class and my photo was hung in their hall of honour. In 2000 the City of Peterborough added my name to the special stone walkway at our main park, called the Pathway of Honour. In 1998, Maple Moon … was given a Storytelling World Award at the International Reading Association's Convention at Orlando, Florida. In May of 2002, The Hungry Year won a regional Silver Birch Award and was one of three runner's up to the main award. The winners were voted on by Ontario elementary school children. The awards were given before an outdoor audience of 3,000 cheering Ontario elementary school children at Toronto's waterfront harbour festival. This award, voted on and presented by school children, was one of my greatest moments!
"I am fulfilling my dreams—as a teacher and author—in writing for children and young adults. I think of my past students always when I write and try to keep my stories adventuresome and exciting. Through e-mails, letters, and school visits, these young adults and also my grandchildren make wonderful requests for future stories and are a great inspiration to me. Also, they connect my past and my present, since they keep me in touch with children with whom I spent many years as a teacher."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, January 1, 2002, Frances Bradburn, review of The Hungry Year, p. 856.
Canadian Children's Literature, fall, 1995, pp. 76-78; number 83, 1996, pp. 84-86; summer, 1997, p. 75.
Canadian Review of Materials, May, 1992, p. 166; June 9, 2000, review of Nellie's Victory; September 21, 2001, review of The Hungry Year.
Examiner (Peterborough, Ontario, Canada), May 29, 1993, p. D4.
Free Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), January 22, 1995, p. D5.
Loyalist Gazette, spring, 2001, Meredith G. Johnson, review of Laura Secord's Brave Walk; fall, 2001, Meredith G. Johnson, review of The Hungry Year, p. 52.
Quill & Quire, November, 1994, Patty Lawlor, review of Nellie L., p. 37; January, 1998, p. 38; May, 1998, Bridget Donald, review of Nellie's Quest, p. 33.
Resource Links, April, 2000, review of Nellie's Victory, p. 25; October, 2001, Victoria Pennell, review of The Hungry Year, p. 10; December, 2003, Victoria Pennell, review of The Perilous Year, p. 13.
School Library Journal, April, 1998, p. 98; August, 2000, Shilo Halfen, review of Nellie's Victory, p. 180; July, 2001, Linda Ludke, review of Laura Secord's Brave Walk, p. 74; November, 2001, Kristen Oravec, review of The Hungry Year, p. 154.
Connie Brummel Crook Home Page, http://www.conniebrummelcrook.ca (September 7, 2005).
Windflower Communications promotional literature, including commentary by Roy Bonisteel on Laura's Choice.