Charlotte Agell (1959-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1959, in Norsjö, Sweden; Education: Bowdoin College, B.A., 1981; Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ed.M., 1986.
Agent—Edith Kroll Literary Agency, 12 Grayhurst Park, Portland, ME 04101.
Author and illustrator. Conducts workshops for youths and adults. Middle school language arts teacher.
Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.
The Sailor's Book, Firefly Books (Buffalo, NY), 1991.
Mud Makes Me Dance in the Spring, Tilbury House (Gardiner, ME), 1994.
I Wear Long Green Hair in the Summer, Tilbury House (Gardiner, ME), 1994.
Wind Spins Me Around in the Fall, Tilbury House (Gardiner, ME), 1994.
I Slide into the White of Winter, Tilbury House (Gardiner, ME), 1994.
Dancing Feet, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1994.
I Swam with a Seal, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1995.
I Love the Seasons and Me, Tilbury House (Gardiner, ME), 1995.
To the Island, DK Publishers (New York, NY), 1998.
Up the Mountain, DK Publishers (New York, NY), 2000.
Welcome Home or Someplace Like It, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2003.
Some of Agell's works have been published in France.
Charlotte Agell's books have been praised both for their lyrical language and their illustrations, which are also by the author. Her love of water and the outdoors translated into her first work, The Sailor's Book, about a boy and girl who sail on a sea they imagine to be a dragon. Irene Aubrey, a reviewer in Canadian Materials, praised the book's "lyrical tone," adding, "The great appeal of this picture-book fantasy lies in its simplicity and naiveté."
Dancing Feet, another picture book, poetically celebrates the function of a variety of human body parts. Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper called attention to the work's "jaunty rhyme," maintaining that Dancing Feet would be "especially good for story hours where kids will clap along to the catchy rhythm." Lesley McKinstry, writing in School Library Journal, called Agell's book "delightful," noting that it "shows individuals from a variety of cultures engaging in activities." A New York Times Book Review critic called Dancing Feet "ebullient" and "celebratory."
To the Island and Up the Mountain feature casts of animal characters. The happy group of animal friends common to both books includes Cat, Rabbit, Chicken, and Dragon. In To the Island, the quartet climbs into a small boat and sails away for an island picnic. The simple story is a "charmer," according to Stephanie Zvirin in Booklist. Zvirin praised Agell for her text and bright watercolor illustrations, which convey the "joy of spending a pleasant time with best buddies." The critic also praised Agell's effective use of white space in the illustrations, combined with blue and yellow paints to evoke the sea and sunshine, as experienced while sailing and enjoying the beach. Lastly, Zvirin pointed out that the vocabulary level is "perfect" for children who are on the verge of learning to read, encouraging them to make the leap to looking at words as well as pictures.
In Up the Mountain, the animal friends set out for a walk in the rain. Enjoying their umbrellas and splashing in puddles, they make their way to a mountain, where the clouds give way to blue skies. The foursome enjoys nibbling on blackberries and gazing at a rainbow in the sky. When the sun sets and the moon comes up, they make their way back into the valley and their own happy homes. The easy rhymes and simple text of Up the Mountain "nicely convey rainy-day joys and challenges," observed Shelle Rosenfeld in Booklist, and a Publishers Weekly writer also praised the "economical, crisp rhymes" and "sprightly, tightly framed drawings."
Agell published her first novel for older readers in 2003. Welcome Home or Someplace Like It tells the story of Aggie B. Wing and her brother Thorne, using Aggie's personal diary as the narrative. Deserted by their father, Aggie and Thorne live an uprooted existence with their romance novel-writing mother, eventually landing in tiny Ludwig, Maine, at the home of their eccentric grandfather. As she experiences the pleasures of nature and the challenges of living with an elderly but loving grandparent, Aggie comes to love Ludwig and to hope it will be her final home. In School Library Journal, Barbara Auerbach called the novel "evocative" and "insightful," citing it for its "strong and winning characters." Carolyn Phelan in Booklist likewise found the book "engaging reading," and a reviewer for Publishers Weekly praised Aggie's "lively voice and agile commentary."
Agell once commented: "I have always written and illustrated little books. When I speak to school children, one of my favorite 'show and tell' items is Tommy Pickle, an illustrated story about an elf and the girls who spy on him, 'written by Charlotte Agell, age 8 3/4. Pictures by C. Agell also.' A testimony to dreams, or stubbornness, perhaps.
"I grew up in Sweden, Canada, and Hong Kong. When I was a child in Montreal, I wrote a story about a boy in Maine. Vacationing friends had told me that Maine was a wonderful place. I called his town Halibut and imagined myself to be him. I would fish for my dinner and have ruddy cheeks. It was a snippet of a story, really, but years later, I ended up coming to Maine for college (from Hong Kong!). I wonder if that early piece of fantasy had not, in part, directed me. Life imitates art. I have been living happily ever after in Maine since 1977.
"I love to read, bake, and to be outside—in the woods, on a mountain, or by the water—all three at once, sometimes, preferably on cross-country skis on new snow."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, July, 1994, Ilene Cooper, review of Dancing Feet, p. 1952; November 1, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of To the Island, p. 500; May 15, 2000, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Up the Mountain, p. 1747; November 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Welcome Home or Someplace Like It, p. 607.
Canadian Materials, January, 1992, Irene Aubrey, review of The Sailor's Book, p. 18.
New York Times Book Review, September 25, 1994, p. 32.
Publishers Weekly, March 28, 1994, p. 95; March 13, 2000, review of Up the Mountain, p. 83; November 24, 2003, review of Welcome Home or Someplace Like It, p. 65.
School Library Journal, May, 1994, Lesley McKinstry, review of Dancing Feet, p. 84; June, 1999, Shelley Woods, review of To the Island, p. 85; November, 2003, Barbara Auerbach, review of Welcome Home or Someplace Like It, p. 134.*
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