Don Trembath (1963–) Biography
Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1963, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Education: Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Diploma in Civil Engineering Technology, 1983; University of Alberta, B.A. (English), 1988.
Writer. Prospects Literacy Association, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, special projects coordinator, 1988–. Morinville Mirror, Morinville, Alberta, Canada, reporter, photographer, and editor, 1988–90. Works variously as a tutor and writing instructor.
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list nomination, Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list nomination, and Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Readers' Choice Award nomination, all 1997, all for The Tuesday Café; R. Ross Annett Juvenile Fiction Award, and YALSA Quick Pick list nomination, both 1998, both for A Fly Named Alfred.
Lefty Carmichael Has a Fit, Orca (Custer, WA), 1999. Rooster, Orca Book (Custer, WA), 2005.
Author of biweekly column, "To Be a Dad," Edmonton Journal, 1993–96.
"HARPER WINSLOW" SERIES; NOVELS
The Tuesday Café, Orca Book (Custer, WA), 1996.
A Fly Named Alfred, Orca Book (Custer, WA), 1997.
A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street, Orca Book (Custer, WA), 1998.
The Popsicle Journal, Orca Book (Custer, WA), 2001.
"BLACK BELT" SERIES; NOVELS
Frog Face and the Three Boys, Orca (Custer, WA), 2001.
One Missing Finger, Orca (Custer, WA), 2001.
The Bachelors, Orca (Custer, WA), 2002.
The Big Show, Orca (Custer, WA), 2003.
Canadian author Don Trembath's fiction includes his novel series about a rebellious teen. The first novel of his "Harper Winslow" series, The Tuesday Café, focuses on a fifteen year old who seems to be the ideal child, until he commits an act of rebellion. Harper Winslow shocks his upper-middle-class community by setting a trash can on fire and ends up in juvenile court. After Harper is sentenced to writing an essay in consequence of his arson charges, his mother signs him up for a writing workshop, not realizing the class is for students with learning disabilities. It is there that Harper finally encounters peers with whom he is comfortable and to whom he can relate.
Kliatt contributor Jacqueline C. Rose commented that Trembath possesses a "fresh, humorous writing style" and applauded "the depth of his characters." Gerry Larson noted in School Library Journal that Trembath's style, ending, and inspirational message "combine to create an appealing package." Janet McNaughton, reviewing the novel for Quill & Quire, deemed Trembath a "welcome" talent who has the ability to "create a character who tells us more about himself than he realizes."
Trembath continues Harper's story in A Fly Named Alfred, A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street, and The Popsicle Journal. In A Fly Named Alfred the teen continues to improve his writing and even pens a gossip column for the school newspaper, which he secretly submits under the pseudonym Alfred. After one of "Alfred"'s columns takes aim at a popular female student, the girl's football-player boyfriend asks Harper to investigate and uncover Alfred's identity. "Harper … is so quick-witted and engagingly honest about his life that it's hard to put down this latest misadventure," wrote Booklist reviewer Anne O'Malley, the critic concluding that the book provides "a searingly honest look at life through adolescent eyes." In Canadian Review of Materials Harriet Zaidman noted that "the events" in Trembath's novel "are both believable and silly, and the fast pace keeps the reader interested."
In A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street Harper attends a camp for aspiring writers, where he meets and falls in love with sophisticated classmate Sunny Taylor and ultimately encounters heartbreak. As Booklist contributor O'Malley commented, "We experience [Harper's] angst and inner-voice soul-searching as we are treated to his nonstop, intense wit and commentary." Despite his romantic entanglement, writing camp is a success and Harper becomes a student writer for the local newspaper in The Popsicle Journal. While the paper's editor focuses on the upcoming mayoral election, Harper publishes his own column, and Harper's father's run for mayor, as well as his sister's arrest on drunk-driving charges soon become his focus. Reviewing the novel, which tackles the ethics of journalism and the impact of drunk driving, Lynn Bryant wrote in School Library Journal that "Trembath's characterization of the teen excels when he shares samples of his writing." As Kliatt critic Sarah Applegate wrote, while The Popsicle Journal seems geared for a more mature audience, the novel "is easy to follow, the characters are likeable, and the situations are, at times, believable."
In another series for younger readers, Trembath's "Black Belt" novels follow the adventures of twelve-year-old boys Charlie, Jeffrey, and Sidney. In Frog Face and the Three Boys the principal, fed up with the boys' behavior, decides to enroll them in a karate class taught by his son, Sensei Duncan. The troublesome trio soon realize that their usual antics will not fly with the sensei and they learn new ways to handle themselves in difficult situations. Betsy Fraser, writing in School Library Journal, termed the book "a satisfying and humorous tale," and noted that "the characters have definite and entertaining personalities." The series continues with One Missing Finger, as Charlie develops a crush on a girl he met on the street when his dog tore a finger from her glove. Linda Irvine noted in Resource Links that "there are few love novels with young males as protagonists, so this novel should please both boys and girls."
Charlie, Sidney, and Jeffrey rejoin readers in The Bachelors and The Big Show. The first novel describes the trio's antics when they are left in charge of caring for Jeffrey's grandfather for a week. In seven short days the boys manage to get into a heap of harmless trouble, including skipping school and trying to watch "hot" videos which actually turn out to be old black-and-white movies. Debbie Stewart, writing in School Library Journal, called the tale "fast-paced and humorous," while Resource Links critic Joan Marshall noted that Trembath's "short novel will satisfy fans of the series and provide laughter, especially from younger boys." The Big Show finds the boys hoping to show off their karate talents in Sensei Duncan's annual sparring competition. According to Resource Links writer Carroll Atkins, the novel demonstrates how boys "can use their martial arts skills to achieve control of their minds, bodies, and emotions." In Kliatt, Stacey Conrad noted that The Big Show is "an easy read" that will be popular with boys who enjoy karate.
In addition to his series fiction, Trembath also authored the standalone novels Lefty Carmichael Has a Fit and Rooster. Lefty Carmichael Has a Fit focuses on a boy who suffers from epileptic seizures, tracking Lefty's family from their initial concern over his condition to their annoyance with his overly cautious lifestyle. With the urging of his friend Penny, Lefty tries to resume a "normal" life and enjoy himself again. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Trembath is "deftly balancing humor with grim realism" in this novel. As the reviewer continued, "The strength of the author's writing lies in his precise, entertaining depiction of characters and their chorus of lively dialogue."
In Rooster Trembath introduces a teen similar to the independent-minded Harper Winslow. Rooster Cobb is bright and gifted and … totally undisciplined, according to his high-school guidance council. With his graduation threatened, his teacher presents the nonchalant teen with an opportunity: community service as a bowl-ing coach for a group of mentally challenged grown-ups. At first Rooster tries to shirk his responsibility, but after tragedy brings the group together, he learns to work for something other than his own interests. In Kliatt, Annette Wells wrote that Rooster "is a worthy story about discovering self-confidence."
Trembath once told SATA: "I started writing stories when I was about ten or eleven. I would leave them on the dining room table and my mom and dad and all my brothers would pick them up and read them. Then they would tell me what they thought and ask if I was doing any more. That kind of support and encouragement is crucial to a writer. I believe it went a long way in convincing me that writing would be a career path worth pursuing, that writing was something I was actually pretty good at. I think all young people should have the opportunity and encouragement to write."
Biographical and Critical Sources
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Booklist, August, 1997, Anne O'Malley, review of A Fly Named Alfred, p. 1891; June 1, 1998, review of The Tuesday Café, p. 1741; March 1, 1999, Anne O'Malley, review of A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street, p. 1208; January 1, 2000, Debbie Carton, review of Lefty Carmichael Has a Fit, p. 908; March 1, 2001, review of Frog Face and the Three Boys, p. 1283.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 1999, review of A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street, p. 331.
Canadian Book Review Annual, 1998, review of A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street, p. 524; 1999, review of Lefty Carmichael Has a Fit, p. 523; 2000, review of Frog Face and the Three Boys, p. 508.
Canadian Children's Literature, winter, 1999, review of A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street, p. 70, review of A Fly Named Alfred, p. 70; fall-winter, 2003, Margaret Steffler, review of The Big Show, p. 134.
Canadian Literature, summer, 1998, Alexandra and Gernot Wieland, review of A Fly Named Alfred, p. 165.
Canadian Review of Materials, February 26, 1999, Mary Thomas, review of A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street; April 23, 1999, review of A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street; January 21, 2000, Betsy Fraser, review of Left Carmichael Has a Fit; March 30, 2001, Liz Greenaway, review of Frog Face and the Three Boys; January 3, 2003, review of The Bachelors; October 17, 2003, review of The Big Show.
Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), July 28, 2001, review of One Missing Finger, p. D13.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1999, review of A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street, p. 152.
Kliatt, November, 1996, p. 11; July, 1999, review of A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street, p. 20; July, 2002, Sarah Applegate, review of The Popsicle Journal, p. 25; September, 2003, Stacey Conrad, review of The Big Show, p. 22; September, 2005, Annette Wells, review of Rooster, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, June 9, 1997, review of A Fly Named Alfred, p. 46; January 3, 2000, review of Lefty Carmichael Has a Fit, p. 77.
Quill & Quire, May, 1996, pp. 33-34; November, 1998, review of A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street, p. 48; November, 1999, review of Lefty Carmichael Has a Fit, p. 47; July, 2001, review of One Missing Finger, p. 50.
Resource Links, October, 1997, review of A Fly Named Alfred, p. 36; February, 1999, review of A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street, p. 29; October, 2001, Linda Irvine, review of One Missing Finger, p. 20; February, 2002, Margaret Mackey, review of The Popsicle Journal, p. 35; October, 2002, Joan Marshall, review of The Bachelors, p. 15; June, 2003, Carroll Atkins, review of The Big Show, p. 47.
School Library Journal, September, 1996, pp. 228-230; July, 1999, review of A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street, p. 101; September, 2001, Betsy Fraser, review of Frog Face and the Three Boys, p. 234; July, 2002, Lynn Bryant, review of The Popsicle Journal, p. 126; February, 2003, Debbie Stewart, review of The Bachelors, p. 148.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1997, p. 248; April, 1998, review of The Tuesday Café, p. 42; June, 1999, review of A Beautiful Place on Yonge Street, p. 118.
Childrenslit.com, http://www.childrenslit.com/ (February 28, 2006), "Don Trembath."
Young Alberta Book Society Web site, http://www.yabs.ab.ca/ (November 25, 2002), "Don Trembath."