Gena K. Gorrell (1946–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
(Gena Kinton Gorrell)
Born 1946, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Education: Attended University of Toronto.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Tundra Books, 481 University Ave., Ste. 900, Toronto, Ontario M5G 2E9, Canada.
Lester & Orpen Dennys (publisher), Toronto, Ontario, Canada, editor, 1978–91; freelance editor and writer. Toronto Police, volunteer constable in marine unit, 1991–2005; volunteer first-aid instructor for St. John Ambulance, 1991–2003.
Parents' Choice Award, 1997, for North Star to Freedom; Norma Fleck Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children shortlist, 1999, and New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, and Canadian Children's Book Centre Choice, both 2000, all for Catching Fire; New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, and Norma Fleck Award, both 2001, and Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award shortlist, 2002, all for Heart and Soul; American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Henry Bergh Children's Book Award, 2004, for Working like a Dog.
Stories of the Witch Queen, illustrations by N.R. Jackson, Peppermint Press (Cavan, Ontario, Canada), 1985.
North Star to Freedom: The Story of the Underground Railroad, foreword by Rosemary Brown, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Catching Fire: The Story of Firefighting, Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
Heart and Soul: The Story of Florence Nightingale, Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
Working like a Dog: The Story of Working Dogs through History, Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Canadian writer Gena K. Gorrell moved into writing after working for many years as a book editor and researcher. Drawing on her curiosity and her personal interests, she has produced a number of highly praised nonfiction titles that range from biographies and social history to Catching Fire: The Story of Firefighting. Inspired by Gorrell's experiences in emergency services as a volunteer police officer and first-aid instructor, Catching Fire reveals the history of firefighting, the job of fire investigators, and the scientific background necessary to battle fires and discusses the many different dangers modern firefighters must confront during the course of their dangerous but necessary job.
Man's best friend earns his reputation for a good reason, as Gorrell shows in Working like a Dog: The Story of Working Dogs through History. Evolved from wolves, dogs have skills that have aided mankind throughout the centuries, such as their ability to scent out danger, retrieve game during a hunt, herd livestock, guard against predators, and pull sleds. Beginning with an outline of dog history and evolution, Gorrell introduces readers to modern canine heroes, including a yellow lab that works as a guide dog for the blind, the search-and-rescue dogs that aided firefighters and police during the 9/11 tragedy, and dogs that are trained to nose out everything from illegal drugs to dangerous snakes to hidden caches of fish. Winner of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Henry Bergh Children's Book Award, Working like a Dog was praised by Anne Chapman Callaghan in School Library Journal as "a thoroughly researched and captivating offering," while Resource Links contributor Carol-Ann Hoyte dubbed it "fascinating and comprehensive." In Quill & Quire, John Wilson wrote that in Gorrell's "splendid, in-depth book … even the most fanatical dog lover will discover something new."
North Star to Freedom: The Story of the Underground Railroad and Heart and Soul: The Story of Florence Nightingale focus on America's past. North Star to Freedom profiles the men and women who, in order to escape slavery in the American south, risked their lives on the dangerous trek north to freedom. Harriet Tub-man and Henry "Box" Brown are among the people covered in Gorrell's inspirational book. The English nurse who became known as the "Lady of the Lamp" due to her work reforming hospital care is the subject of the award-winning Heart and Soul, a book described by a Resource Links contributor as a "compelling biography" that presents "both Florence's passion to help others who were less fortunate and her own 'inner struggles.'" Now considered the founder of modern nursing, Nightingale rejected the prospects of marriage in favor of contributing to society's betterment by studying nursing. In charge of hospital nursing care during the Crimean War, she witnessed the appalling conditions of battlefield medicine and spent the rest of her life battling to improve standards of care. Considered difficult and uncompromising in person, Nightingale nonetheless achieved her goal, as Gorrell shows in a work that "succeeds in separating myth from reality, smoothly crafting a picture of a gifted individual who was also wholly human," according to School Library Journal reviewer Cindy Darling Codell.
Gorrell told SATA: "How are kids today supposed to learn about their world? The past gets longer and longer—not just literally, but also because we're expected to know more about it than our grandparents were—while much of our emerging knowledge is beyond a lay person's comprehension. I'm concerned that some kids may feel overwhelmed, and may give up trying to understand where we've come from and where we're going, leading to a sense of apathy, futility, and inadequacy.
"My goal in each book is to explain a small corner of the world, focusing on what's interesting and memorable (not all that stuff you forget as soon as you turn the page). I try to put the topic in context, tying it to other times and places. I hope to give kids some of those 'aha!' moments when a piece of the jigsaw suddenly fits into place, and the puzzle of our world seems a little less impenetrable."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, February 15, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of North Star to Freedom: The Story of the Underground Railroad, p. 1012; January 1, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of Heart and Soul: The Story of Florence Nightingale, p. 944; November 1, 2003, Lauren Peterson, review of Working like a Dog: The Story of Working Dogs through History, p. 494.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1997, review of North Star to Freedom, p. 205; May, 1999, review of Catching Fire: The Story of Firefighting, p. 314.
Canadian Book Review Annual, 2000, review of Heart and Soul, p. 532.
Horn Book, January, 2001, Anita L. Burkam, review of Heart and Soul, p. 110.
Publishers Weekly, December 16, 1996, review of North Star to Freedom, p. 61.
Quill & Quire, April, 1996, review of North Star to Freedom, p. 41; April, 1999, review of Catching Fire, p. 35; January, 2001, review of Heart and Soul, p. 36; October, 2003, John Wilson, review of Working like a Dog.
Resource Links, June, 1997, John Fielding, review of North Star to Freedom, p. 229; October, 1999, review of Catching Fire, p. 17; February, 2001, review of Heart and Soul, p. 22; October, 2003, Carol-Ann Hoyte, review of Working like a Dog, p. 22.
School Library Journal, January, 1997, Shirley Wilton, review of North Star to Freedom, p. 125; June, 1999, William C. Schadt, review of Catching Fire, p. 146; December, 2000, Cindy Darling Codell, review of Heart and Soul, p. 161; December, 2003, Anne Chapman Callaghan, review of Working like a Dog, p. 167.
Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1998, review of North Star to Freedom, p. 364; February, 2001, review of Heart and Soul, p. 441; February, 2004, Michele Win-ship, review of Working like a Dog, p. 510.
Gena K. Gorrell Home Page, http://www.netrover.com/∼gorrell/ (May 18, 2005).
Canadian Review of Materials Online, http://www.umanitoba.edu/cm/ (September 5, 2003), review of Working like a Dog.
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