Dian Curtis Regan (1950-)
Dian Curtis Regan is the author of fifty books for children, ranging from picture books to young adult novels. "I've published in all genres: picture books, chapter books, middle-grade, young adult, mystery, suspense, romance, humor, historical fiction, and fantasy," Regan once explained to SATA. "I was 'warned' not to do this, and advised to stick to one area and become good at it. But the idea of writing the same kind of book over and over didn't appeal to me. One niche I've carved for myself seems to be humor/fantasy, or 'scary funny' as one editor called it." Among Regan's "scary fun" titles are the "Ghost Twins," series, a four-volume "Monster of the Month Club" series, My Zombie Valentine, and Fangs-giving.
Regan was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1950, and among her favorite books as a child were Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and the "Bobbsey Twins" books. "When I was in elementary school, I loved hearing the teacher say, 'We're going to write a story.'" she recalled. "Everyone would groan except me. I'd already be writing. The reason, I suppose, was that I always surprised myself with the end result—something I still try to do. And when the teacher chose my story to read to the class, it reinforced my instinct that what I'd written was good, or, at least, different from what everyone else had written."
After high school, although Regan was still interested in writing, she confined her efforts to part-time freelancing while working another job. However, attending a writer's conference in the mid-1970s inspired her to begin seriously studying writing and literature. She enrolled in college and earned a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Colorado in 1980. After teaching for two years at elementary schools in Denver, Regan decided to divert her attention to writing full-time, figuring that if she did not find success after a year she would return to the teaching profession. Her first books, I've Got Your Number and The Perfect Age, were written that year, published several years later by Avon, and also found their way to publishers in Germany.
Many of Regan's books are geared toward an elementary school-aged readership, such as her "Monster of the Month" quartet. In Monster of the Month Club, readers are introduced to thirteen-year-old Rilla Harmony Earth, who is without the company of other children because her New Age-y single mom home-schools her while running a small country inn. One cold day in January a mysterious box arrives from the Monster of the Month Club, and inside is a small, seven-eyed creature named Icicle who is accompanied by specific instructions as to his care and feeding. The next month, Icicle is joined by Sweetie Pie, a fluffy, pink, far more loveable monster who, like its companion monster, becomes active only when the stars are in a particular alignment. Despite the companionship they provide Rilla, keeping the monsters fed, happy, and hidden is the ultimate challenge. Rilla's quandary grows in each of Regan's three subsequent novels as more monsters are added to the mix. In Monsters in the Attic, not only monsters but a budding romance occupy the teen's time, creating a story that Booklist contributor Lauren Peterson praised as a "quirky coming-of-age story that is often funny, sometimes sad, and always on target." In Monsters and My One True Love twelve monsters now inhabit Rilla's room, and amid the stress of meeting her long-absent father and preparing for a relative's wedding, she worries that a freak shift in the heavens—an eclipse AND a comet are scheduled for Christmas Eve—will spark all manner of mischief among her resident monsters. "Regan is particularly adept at mixing fantasy with realistic concerns," noted School Library Journal contributor Connie Tyrrell Burns in reviewing the concluding "Monster of the Month" volume. Burns went on to note in particular the interjection of "lots of tongue-in-cheek humor about Rilla's politically correct family."
"Many of my books are sparked by a single premise, phrase, or title," Regan once explained to SATA, citing Liver Cookies, My Zombie Valentine, and Home for the Howl-idays as examples. In composing her 1993 novel for middle-grade readers, as the author explained on her Web site, she started with a title, then dreamed up an "impossible situation" and asked "What happens next?": "What if Joey Ocean is sitting in his sixth grade math class when a new girl arrives? Not only does she have a strange name (Xia Dedd) but there's something weird about the way she walks and the way she never speaks, yet she can read Joey's mind. Are the rumors true? Is she really a zombie?" That idea was sparked from the title My Zombie Valentine.
Other ideas came from Regan's publisher, such as the concept behind her eight-volume "Ghost Twins" series. In the first installment, The Mystery at Kickingbird Lake, twins Robbie and Rebeka Zuffel become ghostly sleuths after drowning in a boating accident in the summer of 1942, along with their equally ghostly St. Bernard, Thatch. Haunting the lakeside house where they grew up, the twins eventually find themselves sharing space with the Shooks, a family on vacation who are the first to rent the Zuffel house in half a century. While playing pranks on the Shook children, the twins ultimately become involved in a mystery in a series that a Publishers Weekly contributor praised for "humorous details, spry dialogue and characters that are, well, spirited." The saga of the ghostly twins continues in the novels The Missing Moose Mystery and The Mystery of the Haunted Castle, among others.
In Princess Nevermore, Princess Quinn of Mandria wants to escape from her humdrum life as a king's daughter and believes she will find more excitement by traveling up through the magical wishing pool and reaching the place known by the Mandrians as "outer Earth"—the Earth as readers know it. A wizard's apprentice whom Quinn befriends accidentally grants her wish, and the regal teen suddenly finds herself in a strange new world. Befriended by an old man and his grandchildren, Quinn learns about this new world—and falls in love—yet she must choose whether to stay on outer Earth or return to her own world. Reviewing the novel for Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Susan Dove Lempke praised the princess's "puzzlement with the foreign Earth customs," and added that Quinn's "contemplation of the freedoms of Earth versus the traditions of Mandria provide most of the novel's interest." Calling the book both "suspenseful and poignant," a Publishers Weekly contributor added that Regan "has some sly fun," weaving a fairy-tale aura around twentieth-century life by "using courtly language to describe modern goings-on."
Regan is also the author of several picture books, including Chance, a tall tale about a strong-willed baby of the same name. Chance, who narrates the story with a cowboy's drawl, becomes fed up with being treated like a baby by his Ma and Pa soon after he is born and toddles off into the world. For nearly a year, he lives with different animals, including a bear, monkeys, and sea lions, staying in touch with his human family through letters. Finally, as his first birthday approaches, he becomes homesick. Once his Ma promises to stop feeding him "gooky mush" and to bake him a cake with peppermint sprinkles, he agrees to come back. Regan's "clever language reads aloud well," Donna Cardon wrote in School Library Journal, and a Publishers Weekly contributor thought that the "offbeat tale" was "a delight to chance upon."
"Letting my imagination run wild in the course of everyday living probably accounts for my being a writer of children's books," Regan once explained, acknowledging her imaginative plots and the fantasy elements she interjects into her fiction. "Being caught daydreaming is embarrassing when one is an adult, but it makes for good story ideas." When asked if she has plans to "'grow up' and write for adults," she responds: "I think I've already found the best audience. If writing for children means I'll never grow up, then so be it."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, March 15, 1992, Karen Hutt, review of The Curse of the Trouble Dolls, p. 1379; November 15, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of The Peppermint Race, p. 110; January 1, 1995, Carolyn Phelan, review of Monster of the Month Club, p. 822; October 15, 1995, Lauren Peterson, review of Monsters in the Attic, p. 404; June 1, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of Daddies and Mommies, p. 1736; June 1, 1997, Lauren Peterson, review of Monsters in Cyberspace, p. 1706; April 15, 1998, John Peters, review of Monsters and My One True Love, p. 152.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1995, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Monster of the Month Club, p. 175; November, 1995, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Princess Nevermore, p. 103; July, 1997, Susan S. Verner, review of Monsters in Cyberspace, p. 408.
Children's Digest, September, 1995, Jane Raver, review of Monster of the Month Club, p. 9.
Horn Book, July-August, 2003, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Chance, pp. 447-448.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of Chance, p. 682.
Publishers Weekly, June 9, 1989, review of Game of Survival, p. 70; September 14, 1990, review of Jilly's Ghost, p. 128; September 20, 1993, review of The Thirteen Hours of Halloween, p. 29; September 5, 1994, review of The Mystery of Kickingbird Lake, p. 111; August 14, 1995, review of Princess Nevermore, p. 85; May 6, 1996, review of Daddies and Mommies, p. 79; May 5, 2003, review of Chance, p. 220.
School Library Journal, April, 1991, Pamela K. Bomboy, review of The Class with the Summer Birthdays, p. 122; August, 1992, Lisa Dennis, review of The Curse of the Trouble Dolls, p. 158; February, 1994, Lisa S. Murphy, review of The Thirteen Hours of Halloween, p. 98; January, 1995, Margaret C. Howell, review of The Peppermint Race, p. 110; March, 1995, Elaine E. Knight, review of Monster of the Month Club, p. 206; September, 1995, Bruce Anne Shook, review of Princess Nevermore, p. 202; November, 1995, John Sigwald, review of Monsters in the Attic, p. 106; July, 1996, Blair Christolon, review of Daddies and Mommies, p. 70; September, 1997, Anne Parker, review of Dear Dr. Sillybear, p. 191, and Leigh Ann Jones, review of Monsters in Cyberspace, p. 224; June, 1998, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of Monsters and My One True Love, p. 152; July, 1999, Amy Lilien, review of The Friendship of Milly and Tug, p. 61; September, 2003, Donna Cardon, review of Chance, pp. 188-189.
Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1996, Sally Kotarsky, review of Monsters in the Attic, pp. 375-376.
Writer's Digest, winter, 1987; fall, 1992.
Dian Curtis Regan Web Site, http://www.diancurtisregan.com/(February 4, 2002).
Kids Bookshelf, http://www.kidsbookshelf.com/(May 3, 2004), author interview.
Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyDian Curtis Regan (1950-) - Awards, Honors, Sidelights - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Autobiography Feature