Andrew Fusek Peters (1965–) Biography
Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1965, in Hildesheim, Germany; Education: Attended Corpus Christi College, Oxford, 1984. Politics: "Liberal." Religion: "Open minded."
Writer, broadcaster, and musician. Creative writing tutor, 1987–; author, 1992–. Presenter and writer for broadcast media, including British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio 4, BBC-1 poetry television series Wham Bam Strawberry Jam, and documentaries for Carlton &Central Television.
Poetry Society, National Association of Writers in Education, Society for Storytelling, Performing Rights Society, MCPS.
West Midland Arts Valuing the Arts Award, 1996; BBC Radio 4 Write Out Loud Award, 1997; West Midland Arts Creative Ambition Award, 1998; Arts Council Translation Award, 1999, for Sheep Don't Go to School; North East Book Award shortlist, Stockton Schools Book Award shortlist, and Carnegie Medal nomination, all 2005, all for Crash.
Word Whys (poetry), Sherbourne (Oswestry, England), 1992.
(Reteller) Salt Is Sweeter than Gold (picture book), illustrated by Zdenka Kabatova-Taborska, Barefoot Books (Bath, England), 1994.
The House That Learned to Swim, Ginn (Oxford, England), 1996.
The Goat-Eared King, and Other Czech Tales, Collins Educational (London, England), 1996.
The Weather's Getting Verse: The Stomping and Storming Poems of Andrew Peters, illustrated by Alan Larkins, Sherbourne (Oswestry, England), 1996.
(Reteller) The Barefoot Book of Strange and Spooky Stories, illustrated by Zdenka Kabatova-Taborska, Barefoot Books (Bath, England), 1997, published as Strange and Spooky Stories, Millbrook Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.
The Moon Is on the Microphone: The Wild and Wacky Poems of Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by Danny Bradford, Sherbourne (Oswestry, England), 1997.
(Editor) Sheep Don't Go to School: Mad and Magical Children's Poetry, illustrated by Marketa Prachaticka, Bloodaxe Books (Tarset, Northumberland, England), 1999.
(Editor) The upside down Frown (shape poems), Wayland/Young McDonald Books (London, England), 1999.
(Compiler) Poems about Seasons, illustrated by Kelly Waldek, Hodder (London, England), 2000.
(Compiler) Poems about Festivals, illustrated by Kelly Waldek, Hodder (London, England), 2000.
(Compiler) The Unidentified Frying Omlette (poetry), Hodder (London, England), 2000.
(With wife, Polly Peters) Angelcake, Wayland (London, England), 2001.
(With Polly Peters) Dragon Chaser, Wayland (London, England), 2001.
(With Polly Peters) Much Ado about Clubbing, Wayland (London, England), 2001.
(With Polly Peters) Twisted, Hodder (London, England), 2001.
(With Polly Peters) Sadderday and Funday, Hodder (London, England), 2001.
Dragon and Mousie, illustrated by Gini Wade, Lolfa (Ta-lybont, Wales), 2002.
Monkey's Clever Tale, illustrated by Amanda Montgomery-Higham, Child's Play (Auburn, ME), 2003.
(Compiler) Hubble Bubble: A Potent Brew of Magical Poems, Hodder (London, England), 2003.
The Tiger and the Wise Man, illustrated by Diana Mayo, Child's Play (Swindon, England), 2004, Child's Play (Auburn, ME), 2005.
Bear and Turtle and the Great Lake Race, illustrated by Alison Edgson, Child's Play (Swindon, England), 2005.
(Coeditor with Jane Yolen) My Very First Book of Poetry, illustrated by Polly Dunbar, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2006.
Also author of A Pint of Unleaded Please (poetry). Poems published in anthologies, including Jugular Defences, Oscar's Press, 1993, Custard Pie, Macmillan, 1995, A Faber Book of First Verse, Faber &Faber, 1995, The Young Poetry Pack, Radio 4/Poetry Society, 1995, and Friends, Macmillan. Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Junior Education.
FOR YOUNG ADULTS
(With brother, Mark Peters) May the Angels Be with Us (poetry), Shropshire County Council Education Services, 1994.
(With Polly Peters) Poems with Attitude, Hodder (London, England), 2000.
(Compiler) Out of Order (poetry), illustrated by Clive Goodyear, Evans Brothers (London, England), 2002.
(With Stephen Player) Ed and the Witchblood (graphic novel), Hodder (London, England), 2003.
(With Polly Peters) Crash: A Novel of Love and Death (verse novel), Hodder (London, England), 2004.
(With Polly Peters) Love, Hate, and My Best Mate (poetry), Hodder (London, England), 2005.
(With Stephen Player) Ed and the River of the Damned (graphic novel; sequel to Ed and the Witchblood), Hodder (London, England), 2005.
(With Polly Peters) Roar, Bull, Roar!, Francis Lincoln (London, England), 2006.
(Author of lyrics; and performer) Colour People-Didjeridu (sound recording), Sonoton, 1990.
When I Come to the Dark Country: Poems of Land, Love, and Loss (adult poetry), illustrated by Jackie Astbury, Abbotsford (Lichfield, England), 1997.
Author, with Sue Harris, of lyrics for Tales from under the Puddle (sound recording), 1992.
Work in Progress
Ed and the Devil's Chair, the third part of a (graphic-novel trilogy; Spies Unlimited, Ghosts Unlimited, and The Poetry Archive, all poetry collections; Animals Abroad!, a picture book.
British writer Andrew Fusek Peters is a poet and storyteller whose interest in Czech folk tales was kindled hearing the history of his mother's family. Peters' picture book Salt Is Sweeter than Gold retells a traditional Czech fairy tale about an old king who asks his three daughters to express their love for him. While the older two flatter him with extravagant claims, the youngest announces only that she loves her father more than salt. The king angrily banishes the girl, asserting that he will welcome her return only when salt becomes more valuable than gold. School Librarian critic David Lewis noted similarities between these opening scenes and Shakespeare's play King Lear; in Peters' story the young princess finds a home with a wise old woman in the forest who helps her become reunited with her father. "This picture book will appeal to children seeking 'princess books,'" predicted Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan.
Peters includes a traditional story from Czechoslovakia in his nine-tale compilation Strange and Spooky Stories. Also included are legends from North America, the British Isles, and Central Europe, each with an element of the magical in them. Reviewers were quick to distinguish between the content and style of these stories, which were published in Great Britain under the title The Barefoot Book of Strange and Spooky Stories, and include the kind of tales usually presented to American children as "scary." A Children's Book Review Service contributor maintained that "readers will be captured by the strange, silly and spooky tales." "Peters writes in a simple, almost conversational style that should appeal to storytellers," observed Julie Corsaro in Booklist. A Times Educational Supplement commentator similarly asserted: "Peters' skill as an oral storyteller is evident in his retellings…. [You] could read these stories aloud in the classroom with enormous pleasure."
Peters has drawn on folk tales for some of his picture books as well, including The Tiger and the Wise Man. Set in East India, the story tells of a wise man who frees a tiger from a trap. The tiger then captures the man and plans to eat him. When the man calls to the banyan tree, the eagle, and the crocodile to defend him and convince the tiger to free him, they all turn away, saying that humans have been cruel to them and the en-vironment. Jackal comes along at the last minute and convinces the tiger to let the wise man go—only to capture the man for himself. "This well-paced trickster tale has charm," wrote Linda Perkins in Booklist. "Peters, billed as 'Britain's tallest storyteller,' writes with a conversational fluency," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Bear and Turtle and the Great Lake Race is a spin off of a Native American tale with a twist at the end.
In addition to his own original works, Peters has teamed with his wife, writer Polly Peters, on several poetry titles, including Poems with Attitude, the only poetry collection ever to make the Carnegie Medal long list, and the verse novel Crash: A Novel of Love and Death, which was nominated for several awards. When asked on his home page how the couple work together, Peters explained: "Our writing relationship is very fluid, so sometimes it's hard to say when one of us ends and the other begins." This fluidity is evident in Crash, which tells the story of a group of seventeen year olds whose mutual friend dies in a car accident. The book shifts from one perspective to the next, capturing the pain and sadness of each of the book's characters. Crash "is original to its core in both telling and the tale," wrote Jo Kalce in the Times Educational Supplement, while Sue Roe noted in School Librarian that the novel's "pace is fast, the emotions raw, and the narrative voices ring true."
Another collaboration by the Peters', the poetry collection Poems with Attitude, captures some of the same raw emotions dealt with in Crash. Here the collected poems are divided among such themes as "Snogging" and "Family," each corresponding to emotions familiar to teens. "I cannot emphasise how much every school needs this," wrote a reviewer for School Librarian. The Peters have also recorded some of their work for the British Library in a project called The Poetry Archive, which features sound recordings of poetry by British authors.
Along with picture books and poetry, Peters has also worked with illustrator Stephen Player on a graphic-novel trilogy, beginning with Ed and the Witchblood. The series tells the story of the trials of Ed, who thinks his life cannot get any worse. However, ancient legends are moving in Ed's life, and something waits for him under a stone circle. It may be all Ed can do to survive. In Ed and the River of the Damned Ed's troubles follow him to London, where a series of underground tunnels reveal dark forces brewing beneath the city. A critic for School Librarian considered the second volume of the trilogy to be "a strange and compelling mixture of close-to-the-edge teen-angst 'realism' and new-age-ish fantasy."
Peters once told SATA: "What interests me as a writer? That language is a craft and we have to serve our apprenticeship. It is something that takes time, patience and much work and it is a job. I used to get asked but what is your day job? as if writing were some kind of hobby—my books dashed off in a couple of hours! I am very much a perfectionist as I draft, whether it is stories, poems, or a piece for television. In poetry, as well as writing free verse, I love traditional forms—sonnet, sestina, roundel—and fitting modern-day language into these historical structures. I have even written a Garland of Sonnets!
"I mainly write for children. As an author and performer, I love to entertain, and write a lot of material that has a surreal sense of imagination, as well as throwing in the odd piece about bogies or kissing. But I am aware that children are sophisticated humans with the whole range of human emotions. Children's publishers often shy away from any of the big issues—such as grief, bullying, falling in love, etc.—yet this is the material that has often gone down well with readers and critics. I have been reading and admiring a lot of American children's poetry recently—and though I love the zany use of language, some of it seems to play safe.
"When my brother Mark died of AIDS in America, in 1993, I put together a book of his and my poems for teenagers that was successfully published. May the Angels Be with Us deals with all the joy of growing up together, and the fights, and the illness, and death and finally the healing of time. As a collection, it had a huge response in Britain, with features in the London Guardian, the Times Educational Supplement, and on the BBC Radio Four arts program Kaleidoscope, as well as support from actors such as Sir Ian McKellan and well-known children's poet Brian Patten. Poetry, in this instance, became a powerful medium to express a universal message of loss, and the book reached out to all those who had lost a loved one in whatever circumstances.
"My wife and I have completed a collection of adolescent poems. I do a lot of work with this age group, performing and running writing workshops. It seems that there is very little published work that deals with their experiences of growing up, especially not in poetry. You could say there was a gap in the market, or that once again, publishers have been reluctant to tackle a difficult area. The poems we have written deal with bullying, drug addiction, dysfunctional families, abuse, alcoholism, sexuality, and falling in love—issues that affect many young people these days. Trialling these poems has been a joy. To see tough kids from an inner-city area who normally hate poetry fall completely silent as I read the poems showed me that I had touched a nerve. Poetry doesn't just have to be about swaying trees!
"My other interest as a writer is how to get across the sense of the magical and lyrical to my audience. Strange and Spooky Stories is a collection of traditional tales gleaned from my mother's Czech upbringing, and from storytellers worldwide. There is something very powerful about traditional tales: the repeated motifs, events happening in threes, the impossible becoming everyday, and good triumphing over bad. In a sense, they are poetry in narrative form. The trick is to convey an atmosphere in your words that carries the reader for a while far from this world, to the place where imagination sings."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, January 1, 1995, Carolyn Phelan, review of Salt Is Sweeter than Gold, p. 824; February 1, 1998, Julie Corsaro, review of Strange and Spooky Stories, p. 916; August, 2005, Linda Perkins, review of The Tiger and the Wise-man, p. 2032.
Children's Book Review Service, February, 1998, review of Strange and Spooky Stories, pp. 78-79.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2005, review of The Tiger and the Wise Man, p. 293.
School Librarian, November, 1994, David Lewis, review of Salt Is Sweeter than Gold, p. 147; winter, 2000, review of Poems with Attitude, p. 209; winter, 2003, review of Hubble Bubble: A Potent Brew of Magical Poems, p. 207; spring, 2004, Mel Gibson, review of Ed and the Witchblood, p. 44; winter, 2004, Ann Trevenen Jenkin, review of The Tiger and the Wiseman, p. 188, and Sue Roe, review of Crash, p. 216; spring, 2005, review of Love, Hate, and My Best Mate, p. 43; spring, 2005, review of Crash, p. 43; summer, 2005, Andy Sawyer, review of Ed and the River of the Damned, p. 104.
School Library Journal, August, 2002, Sharon Korbeck, review of Out of Order, p. 214; January, 2004, Gay Lynn Van Vleck, review of Monkey's Clever Tale, p. 116; June, 2005, Rita Soltan, review of The Tiger and the Wise Man, p. 142.
Times Educational Supplement, January 30, 1998, review of The Barefoot Book of Strange and Spooky Stories, p. 15; October 1, 1999, review of Sheep Don't Go to School: Mad and Magical Children's Poetry, p. 41; May 12, 2000, review of Poems about Seasons and Poems about Festivals, p. 23; October 5, 2001, review of Dragon Chaser, Much Ado about Clubbing, Twisted, and Angelcake, p. 22; May 30, 2003, John Mole, "Magic Moments," p. 24; October 17, 2003, Gillian Maynard, "Chat and Mouse," review of Dragon and Mousie, p. 20; August 6, 2004, Jane Doonan, "A Little Retell Therapy," p. 24; November 26, 2004, Jo Klaces, "Matters of the Heart."
Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters Home Page, http://www.tallpoet.com (March 23, 2006).
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- Lisa Westberg Peters (1951–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
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