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Anita Horrocks (1958–) Biography

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

Born 1958, in the Pas, Manitoba, Canada; Education: Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, diploma (biological sciences; with honors), 1978; Lethbridge Community College, diploma (print journalism; with honors), 1986; University of Lethbridge, marketing certificate, 1992, B.A. (English; with distinction), 1997. Hobbies and other interests: Fitness, cycling, golf, swimming, hiking, quilting, reading.


Banff National Park, Banff, Alberta, Canada, park naturalist, 1979; Helen Schuler Coulee Centre, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, park interpreter, 1981–84; City of Lethbridge, parks information project writer, 1986–87; University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, public-relations assistant, 1987, coordinator of communications and public relations, 1988–94; freelance writer, 1994–. Presenter at schools and writing conferences.


Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers; Canadian Children's Book Centre; Writers' Union of Canada; Young Alberta Book Society; Lethbridge Children's Literature Roundtable.

Honors Awards

MacDonald Dettwiler Award for Best Science and Technology Article, Western Magazine Awards, 1985; Governor General's Silver Academic Medal, 1996; Alberta Book Award's R. Ross Annett Children's Literature Award shortlist, and New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, both 1997, both for Breath of a Ghost; R. Ross Annett Children's Literature Award, 1999, and New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, and Red Maple Award, Ontario Library Association, both 2000, all for What They Don't Know; R. Ross Annett Children's Literature Award, 2001, and Golden Eagle Children's Choice Award runner-up, 2003, both for Topher.


Breath of a Ghost, Stoddart Kids (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996.

What They Don't Know, Stoddart Kids (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.

Topher, Stoddart Kids (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.

Almost Eden, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2006.


Anita Horrocks grew up in the central Canadian prairie, where sports and reading became two of her favorite pastimes. "I loved the smell of books and the feel of the pages, but mostly, I loved the stories that took me on so many wonderful adventures," the author noted on the Albert Author Connection Web site. Early in her career she combined these two loves by working as an interpreter at various provincial, national, and municipal parks. After juggling a series of jobs while raising her children and completing her education at the University of Lethbridge, where she worked as a public-relations coordinator, Horrocks established a successful career writing for both children and young adults, with several award-winning novels for middle-grade and young-adult readers to her credit.

In Breath of a Ghost twelve-year-old Darien mourns the death of his little brother Jeri, who died of leukemia. Although he still senses his brother's supportive presence, Darien is now haunted by nightmares about a sinister coyote that means him harm. As Halloween approaches, the hauntings accelerate, prompting Darien to attempt to end these dreams; with his dog, Ringo, he goes to a remote area near his home, where he confronts both the creature and the great sadness now overwhelming him.

Almost Eden focuses on another twelve year old, Elsie, who must deal with the mental illness of a parent. Like Darien, in Breath of a Ghost, Elsie is also isolated with her feelings of guilt and confusion, but this time it is her emotionally distant Mennonite community that leaves her with little guidance. Ultimately, through her faith and her willing to accept the challenges of her changing family, Elsie is able to confront her feelings and understand where her true responsibilities are.

Also for middle-graders, Topher focuses on two children who fall in love with Grandmother McCrae's lakeside cabin in a remote part of Saskatchewan. When their father insists that the family property be quickly fixed up and sold after his mother's death, twelve-year-old Chris and seven-year-old Stacie are brokenhearted. Puzzled by their father's decision, and concerned by the visions now haunting Stacie, the siblings investigate the history of the cabin and learn that a family tragedy occurring thirty years in the past is the source of their father's dislike of the family home place. Praising Topher as a "fast-paced adventure full of intrigue," a Resource Links contributor added that "children who are fond of science fiction and fantasy are sure to enjoy the supernatural elements" in Horrocks's novel.

Another effort to deal with difficult emotions is the focus of Horrocks's award-winning young-adult novel What They Don't Know. In this 1998 work, which is also set in Canada, fourteen-year-old Hannah lashes out A trip Chris and Stacie take to the family cabin is haunted by a mysterious boy and a secret that threatens to tear their family apart in Hor-rocks's suspenseful novel. (Cover illustration by Sharif Tarabay.)at everyone, but mostly at herself. Watching her younger sister spiral downward into a life of alcohol and drugs with the encouragement of some bad-news friends, seventeen-year-old Kelly is determined to discover the reason for Hannah's anger. Realizing that her parents' divorce and her custodial father's current romantic relationship may be part of the problem, Kelly delves into her parents' past and in the process unearths the family secret that has set Hannah on her self-destructive path. Praising the novel as a "realistic family portrait," Debbie Carton wrote in Booklist that What They Don't Know is a "psychological drama" that is "beautifully portrayed."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, November 1, 1999, Debbie Carton, review of What They Don't Know, p. 515.

Books in Canada, November, 1996, review of Breath of a Ghost, p. 32; summer, 1999, review of What They Don't Know, p. 45.

Canadian Book Review Annual, 1996, review of Breath of a Ghost, p. 479; 1998, review of What They Don't Know, p. 507; 2000, review of Topher, p. 480.

Canadian Children's Literature (annual), 2000, review of What They Don't Know, pp. 74-76; summer, 2001, review of Topher, p. 90.

Quill &Quire, January, 1999, review of What They Don't Know, p. 46; March, 2000, review of Topher, p. 65; March, 2006, review of Almost Eden, p. 81.

Resource Links, February, 1999, review of What They Don't Know, p. 25; October, 2000, review of Topher, p. 8.

School Library Journal, August, 1999, Jeanette Larson, review of What They Don't Know, p. 158; December, 2000, Heather Deiffenbach, review of Topher, p. 145.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2001, review of Topher, p. 52.


Alberta Author Connection, http://tlc.epsb.ca/aauthor/ (April 12, 2006), "Anita Horrocks."

Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers Web site, http://www.canscaip.org/ (April 12, 2006), "Anita Horrocks."

Additional topics

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