Dayle Ann Dodds (1952-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1952, in Ridgewood, NJ; Education: California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, B.S. in Childhood Development.
Agent— Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown, Ltd., Ten Astor Pl., New York, NY 10003.
Writer, 1989—. Teacher and teacher's aide for kindergarten, first through third grades, and art classes in Palo Alto, CA, 1975-78; administrative assistant for a publishing company in Palo Alto, 1978-80; freelance proofreader, 1980-82.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Bay Area Book Reviewers Association nomination for Wheel Away!
Wheel Away!, illustrated by Thatcher Hurd, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1989.
On Our Way to Market, illustrated by John Gurney, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.
Do Bunnies Talk?, illustrated by Arlene Dubanevich, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.
The Color Box, illustrated by Giles Laroche, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1992.
Sardines, illustrated by Jerry Smath, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.
The Shape of Things, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1994.
Someone Is Hiding: A Lift-the-Flap Counting Game, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
Sing, Sophie!, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1994.
Ghost and Pete, illustrated by Matt Novak, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.
The Great Divide: A Mathematical Marathon, illustrated by Tracy Mitchell, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.
Pet Wash, illustrated by Tor Freeman, Candlewick Press (New York, NY), 2001.
The Kettles Get New Clothes, illustrated by Jill McElmurry, Candlewick Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Where's Pup?, illustrated by Pierre Pratt, Dial Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Henry's Amazing Machine, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.
Minnie's Diner, illustrated by John Manders, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Hello, Sun!, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa, Dial Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Work in Progress
More Are Mice, a picture book, and The Phantom Family of Lawrence O'Toole, a middle grade novel.
Dayle Ann Dodds's picture books can be read aloud or enjoyed by beginning readers, who are able to pick out the rhymes and figure out the harder words from context. Sometimes the pictures spill off the page, as in Where's Pup?, in which a circus clown hunts for his puppy, only to find him at the very top of an elaborate fold-out spread. Writing for School Library Journal, Linda M. Kenton deemed Where's Pup? "a visually exciting charmer for storytime," and Horn Book reviewer Betty Carter declared it "an engaging story for beginning readers."
Dodds has drawn praise for incorporating mathematics into her picture books, as in The Shape of Things, an introduction to basic shapes. School Library Journal critic Ruth Semrau called it "an effective concept book," while Ilene Cooper of Booklist complimented its "appealing, crisp design … [and] choice of kid-appealing subjects." The Great Divide: A Mathematical Marathon is a study of simple division wrapped into an around-the-world race that ends with a surprising twist. A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked, "All lessons should be this gratifying." A writer for Kirkus Reviews concluded, "few readers will notice that they've just finished a math problem, and most will want to go over all the action again."
Some of Dodds's books are less about learning and more about having fun. In Pet Wash, two enterprising boys bathe an array of animals, from rhinos and alligators to an ant, before facing their biggest challenge: a customer's baby brother. "Young readers will be in stitches," Laurie Edwards warned in her School Library Journal review of the work. A similar spirit animates The Kettles Get New Clothes, in which a dog family finds that its formerly no-nonsense clothing shop has been transformed into a chic boutique. After trying on a series of gaudy outfits, the Kettles finally opt for the useful, if drab, clothes they always buy—except for the new baby, who revels in the designer duds. A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded, "This engaging book will earn giggles from kids who love a good joke."
"As a child," Dodds once told SATA, "I enjoyed reading stories of fantasy most of all. Grimm's Fairy Tales were probably my favorite, especially 'The Twelve Dancing Princesses,' who sneaked off into the night without being caught and danced their shoes to pieces. I was the youngest child in my family, and in many of Grimm's tales, the youngest child grew to become the smartest after all the others failed. I also loved the story of the table cloth that became filled with luscious food when the boy commanded 'Spread yourself.' What a wonderful treasure that would be to own! I read The Wizard of Oz over and over and the tales of Hans Christian Andersen, then my tastes took a turn to the whimsical and humorous. I loved Homer Price's misadventures, especially the donut-making machine that went out of control, and the ball of string that grew bigger and bigger. I carried this love for cumulative, building and 'out-of-control' happenings into my own stories later on.
"Drawing and riding horses were my favorite pastimes as a child. I was lucky to have my own horse, and most days after school were filled with galloping escapes through the canyons of our Southern California community, still largely rural at that time. I also loved 'putting things together.' Magazine scraps and glue became illustrated books. Light bulbs taped to soda pop bottles were transformed into brightly painted papier-maché animals. Bits of leather were cut and woven into saddles and bridles for my stable of toy horses. My favorite spot in the house was the junk drawer in the kitchen, where my mother stashed everything from magnets to glitter to broken watches. These were the jewels my treasures were made of.
"It wasn't until college that the thought of writing books for children came to me. A class on children's literature sparked a longing to relive the excitement of the stories of my youth. I found myself reading children's books once again. After all, my chosen career was teaching young children, wasn't it? I had every right to chose Robert McCloskey or Theodor Geisel as my weekend reading. I had a lovely excuse for returning to the world of children's books.
"The arrival of my first child, daughter Jaime, gave me the green light to begin writing my own children's books. I had taken a leave from teaching to work for an educational publishing company, where I gained some valuable experience about the putting together of illustrated books. Now I had someone to write for—my own child. I found myself getting up at 5 A.M. to have time to work before the baby woke up. I wrote every chance I got (which isn't much with a new baby), and I found great pleasure in knowing I had my own creative secret: I was writing children's books and no one else knew. For the first year, I literally worked in my upstairs closet, my special space where my thoughts and ideas were my own.
"My first published story, 'The Carrot Corporation,' concerned two boys who started a carrot cake business in their mother's kitchen. I got so excited that I could write something that could be published, that I began thinking along the lines of a book. For three years, I worked on story after story, making all the mistakes beginners do. My first stories were too long, too complicated, not easily illustrated as picture books.
"Next, my son Greg was born. Although a busy mother, I refused to give up on my dream to write books for children. As the children grew, my world centered around strollers, wagons, roller skates, bicycles—wheels. Wheel Away! was one of those ideas that comes out of nowhere and everywhere at the same time. As I stood in the shower (I did most of my creative thinking in the shower in those days), I could see the cover of the book in front of me. What resulted was a simple, cumulative tale of a wheel that gets loose from a boy's bicycle and makes a funny, noisy journey through the town. I submitted the story to Harper & Row, and to my delight, they bought it. My wishes had been answered, my dreams had come true. I was a children's book author.
"Following the success of Wheel Away! I began taking my writing very seriously, too seriously in fact. My ideas seamed forced and contrived. What had brought me pleasure now caused frustration. One day my husband saw me struggling to pull an idea out of a now-empty magical hat (or at least it seemed that way). He said to me, 'Dayle, if it isn't fun anymore, you shouldn't be doing it. You began writing because it brought you pleasure.' Nothing could have helped me more. That summer I wrote a fun little story about a boy taking a basket of eggs and a hen to market. I let myself off the hook. I found the words, the joy all came back.
"One of my writing friends calls me the 'noisiest writer I know.' I love words, I love sounds, I love how words sound, alone and together. I wanted to write a book that had more than a few sounds we hear. I wanted to write an explosion of sounds. And I did: Do Bunnies Talk?
"I am now working on a middle grade novel, which I hope to complete sometime soon. But I haven 't given up on picture books. I have a few ideas up my sleeve, and as long as children keep enjoying my books, I will keep writing them!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Bulletin of The Center for Children's Books, July, 1997, Pat Mathews, review of Sing, Sophie!, p. 392.
Emergency Librarian, November-December, 1995, Teri S. Lesesne, review of The Shape of Things, p. 56.
Horn Book, March-April, 2003, Betty Carter, review of Where's Pup?, p. 201.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1999, review of The Great Divide: A Mathematical Marathon, p. 1808; July 1, 2002, review of The Kettles Get New Clothes, p. 952; January 15, 2003, review of Where's Pup?, p. 141.
Publishers Weekly, December 13, 1999, review of The Great Divide, p. 82; September 17, 2001, review of Pet Wash, p. 78; July 22, 2002, review of The Kettles Get New Clothes, p. 177.
School Library Journal, February, 1995, Ruth Semrau, review of The Shape of Things, p. 90; March, 1996, Sharron McElmeel, review of Ghost and Pete, p. 173; November, 1999, Kathleen M. Kelly MacMillan, review of The Great Divide, p. 114; October, 2001, Laurie Edwards, review of Pet Wash, p. 114; July, 2003, Linda M. Kenton, review of Where's Pup?, p. 95.*
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