Ann Whitford Paul (1941–) Biography
Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1941, in Evanston, IL; Education: University of Wisconsin—Madison, B.A., 1963; Columbia University School of Social Work, M.S.W. (with honors), 1965. Hobbies and other interests: Quilting, knitting, cooking, reading, walking.
Writer; worked as a social worker in medical hospitals and adoption agencies, 1965–70.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People.
New York Times Notable Children's Book citation, and Notable Social Studies Book citation, both 1991, both for Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet; Outstanding Science Trade Book citation, 1992, for Shadows Are About; Carl Sandburg Award for Children's Literature, and New York Times Best Illustrated Books selection, both 1996, both for The Seasons Sewn; selected among best Under-Fives, Bank Street College of Education Children's Book Committee, 2003, for Little Monkey Says Good Night; selected among Best Children's Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education Children's Book Committee, 2005, and state reader award nominations, all for Mañana, Iguana.
Owl at Night, Putnam (New York, NY), 1985.
Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Shadows Are About, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.
The Seasons Sewn: A Year in Patchwork, illustrated by Michael McCurdy, Browndeer Press/Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1996.
Hello Toes! Hello Feet!, DK Ink (New York, NY), 1998.
Silly Sadie, Silly Samuel, illustrated by Sylvie Wickstrom, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1998.
All by Herself: 14 Girls Who Made a Difference: Poems, illustrated by Michael Steirnagle, Browndeer Press/Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1999.
Everything to Spend the Night: From A to Z, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 1999.
Little Monkey Says Good Night, illustrated by David Walker, Melanie Kroupa Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Mañana, Iguana, illustrated by Ethan Long, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2004.
Hop! Hop! Hop!, illustrated by Jan Gerardi, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.
Also author of In My Yard, Scholastic. Contributor to Poems for Grandmothers and Dog Poems, both edited by Myra Cohn Livingston; Snuffles and Snouts, edited by Laura Robb; Hannukkah Lights; Oh, No! Where Are My Pants?; and Hoofbeats, Claws & Rippled Fins, Wonderful Words, My America, and Home to Me, all edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Contributor to Cricket and Spider.
Work in Progress
If Animals Kissed, for Farrar, Straus; Snail's Good Night, for Holiday House; and Word Builders, for Simon & Schuster; new picture books, poetry, and early readers.
Ann Whitford Paul is a writer of children's picture books and early readers who published her first book, Owl at Night, in 1985. Paul's debut is a simple story about two children and their family who settle down to sleep just as an owl begins his activities in the night. Susan Hepler, in her review for the School Library Journal, called Paul's story "a cozy catalog of nighttime activity that would make a good addition to the bedtime story collection." A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Paul's writing contains "a gentle touch and a lyrical voice."
Paul's second book, Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet, was distinguished by being chosen one of the outstanding social studies books of 1991. Designed for children between the ages of eight and twelve, this work combines the alphabet-book format with twenty-six patchwork quilt patterns, from A for anvil to Z for zigzag, and also presents the historical background, customs, and events that inspired each design. Through it all, "a fine history lesson emerges," noted Denise Wilms in her review for Booklist, while in Kirkus Reviews a reviewer praised the book as "a novel way to introduce patchwork's economic, social, and artistic role while relating it to history."
Shadows Are About is also written for younger children. In this book Paul's rhyming story as it follows the shadow explorations of a brother and sister. The book was praised for its "simple, lyrical text," by Stephanie Loer in the Boston Globe, while Deborah Abbott, in her Booklist review, found that "shadows, which are about light and movement and new perspectives, take on a life of their own in this beautifully crafted picture book."
The Seasons Sewn: A Year in Patchwork is similar to Eight Hands Round in that quilt patterns serve as some of the book's illustrations. Paul selects six quilt patterns for each of the four seasons and includes a fanciful explanation as to how each pattern got its name. For the pattern called Rising Star, for example, Paul tells of two slaves who escape to freedom by navigating their way by the North Star. Each story is illustrated by Milchael McCurdy with the appropriate pattern as well as a picture from the story told. Noel Perrin, writing for the New York Times Book Review, noted that Paul's book is "so beautiful and so filled with real archetypal patterns that it could easily make quilt lovers, if not quilt makers, of us all." Writing in Booklist, Carolyn Phelan concluded that The Seasons Sewn is "an attractive combination of craft and history."
For her collection All by Herself: 14 Girls Who Made a Difference: Poems, Paul presents verses about real-life American girls who did something heroic for others. Ida Lewis, for example, saved a crew whose boat was sinking, while Kate Shelley rescued two men injured in a train wreck. "Paul keeps the flow lively," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, "by employing a range of poetic styles." Phelan described the poems as "plain, forthright, and sometimes dramatic," while a critic for Kirkus Reviews concluded that All by Herself "honors both quiet and noisy acts of heroism."
In Little Monkey Says Good Night, an impish circus monkey delays bedtime by telling his father that he first has to say good night to everyone. Jumping and swinging all around the bigtop tent, with his father chasing him, the monkey says good night to all the circus performers. He even jumps into his mother's arms while she is swinging on a trapeze during her act. Finally, the curtain comes down on his bedtime hijinks: mother gracefully drops him into his father's arms to be put to bed, and the audience applauds. "The only drawback is that when listeners reach the end," a critic for Kirkus Reviews noted, "they'll ask to start again." As a reviewer for Publishers Weekly concluded: "As lively as Barnum and Bailey, Little Monkey's circus adventure is just plain fun."
Mañana, Iguana tells of an iguana who plans to have a party for her friends. When she tries to get those friends to help her prepare for the party, however, they all have excuses why they cannot do any work. Day after day, the iguana makes the invitations, cooks the food, and prepares a piñata, all by herself; then, on the day of the party, she refuses to invite any of her lazy friends. As they watch the party from a distance, Iguana's friends realize that they should have helped, so while she falls off to sleep at party's end, they clean up the mess and win back the industrious iguana's friendship. Mary Elam, writing in School Library Journal, found that Mañana, Iguana has "a lot of appeal." In her review for Booklist, Connie Fletcher called it a "lively tale," while a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews judged Paul's book "a clever dual-language update of The Little Red Hen."
Hop! Hop! Hop! tells about Little Rabbit, who is struggling to keep up with Big Rabbit. Lisa S. Schindler noted in School Library Journal that the book's gentle story will encourage "fledgling readers," and that Paul's "positive message about believing in one's self and succeeding on one's own terms will be appreciated."
Paul once told SATA: "As the oldest of five children, I lived a normal, happy and uneventful life in the Midwest. Although I once entertained the idea of being a writer, it was quickly repressed in the seventh grade when a neighbor girl stole my diary and read all the nasty things I'd written about her! It put a big damper on our friendship and watching the hurt and angry expression on my first reader's face discouraged my writing ambition. In addition, no matter how hard I tried in school, I never got above a B on any creative writing assignment—final proof that I was not cut out to write. I turned my sights to a more attainable goal and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in sociology and then attended Columbia University School of Social Work, where I received an M.S.W.
"It was not until I was thirty-five years old and had just given birth to the third of my four children that I began to think about writing books. The inspiration came from my children. As you can imagine, life was chaotic in our crowded house—someone always needed a diaper changed, or a drink of apple juice, or a tear to be dried—except for that time when darkness wrapped around our house Then I would sit with each child in a rocking chair, or in bed under the covers. Without noise and distractions, we read a book together.
"I loved the peace and closeness of those bedtime readings so much, I decided I would try to write books that other adults and children could share together.
"When not at my computer, I can most often be found taking a long walk. My hobbies include cooking, quilting, and knitting. I also love to watch spiders spin their webs, snails paint their trails, and cats play with yarn.
"I prefer writing picture books because of their brevity (which doesn't necessarily make them easier to write!) and their musical, poetic language. Inspiration comes from my children and things they did when they were young. Now that my children and grown and out of the house, I'm fortunate enough to be able to write every day—weekends included. If I don't write, watch out! I get cranky and anxious.
"It took me five years of submitting eighteen different stories a total of 180 times before I made my first sale. That number isn't meant to be discouraging, but encouraging. Persistence is the name of the game. Those who give up will never succeed. Those who keep trying will either succeed, or at the very least, have a wonderful journey along the way.
"My advice to people who are thinking about writing for children is to first of all, get to know yourself and what interests you. Secondly, read lots and lots of picture books, especially those published in the last ten years. Picture books have a form. It behooves you to learn that form before you experiment with ways to break it. And third—write, write, write and write some more. Fourth, don't be shy about seeking knowledge from others. And last and most important of all, enjoy the process!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, June 1, 1991, p. 1876; July, 1992, p. 1944; April 1, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Seasons Sewn: A Year in Patchwork, p. 1358; November 17, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of All by Herself: 14 Girls Who Made a Difference: Poems; March 15, 2003, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Little Monkey Says Good Night, p. 1333; November 1, 2004, Connie Fletcher, review of Mañana, Iguana, p. 493.
Boston Globe, May 31, 1992.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July, 1991, p. 270; May 1, 2003, review of Little Monkey Says Good Night.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1991, p. 183; November 1, 1999, review of All by Herself; February 19, 2003, review of Little Monkey Says Good Night; September 15, 2004, review of Mañana, Iguana, p. 917.
New York Times Book Review, May 19, 1991, p. 29; November 10, 1996, Noel Perrin, review of The Seasons Sewn.
Publishers Weekly, October 18, 1985, p. 64; April 22, 1996, review of The Seasons Sewn, p. 71; December 13, 1999, review of All by Herself, p. 82; February 7, 2000, review of The Seasons Sewn, p. 87; March 24, 2003, review of Little Monkey Says Good Night, p. 74; August 30, 2004, review of Mañana, Iguana, p. 54.
School Library Journal, December, 1985, p. 80; July, 1991, p. 70; April, 1992, p. 98; January, 2000, Margaret Bush, review of All by Herself, p. 152; March, 2000, Diane Janoff, review of Silly Sadie, Silly Samuel, p. 211; July, 2003, Marianne Saccardi, review of Little Monkey Says Good Night, p. 104; September, 2004, Mary Elam, review of Mañana, Iguana, p. 176; August, 2005, Lisa S. Schindler, review of Hop! Hop! Hop!, p. 104.
Ann Whitford Paul Home Page, http://www.annwhitfordpaul.net (February 17, 2006).
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