Kathleen V. Kudlinski (1950-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1950, in Philadelphia, PA; Education: University of Maine, B.S., 1972. Politics: "Compassionate liberal and environmentalist."
Agent—Susan Cohen, Writer's House, 21 W. 26th St., New York, NY 10010.
Writer. Weekly columnist, "The Naturalist," New Haven Register, New Haven, CT, 1988—. Has also worked as an elementary school classroom teacher; makes frequent visits to classrooms to talk about writing and book production. Chairperson, Guilford, CT Community Fund, 2003.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
"Master Teaching Artist" citation, Connecticut Commission for the Arts, 1998; NSTA-CBC "notable children's book in the field of science" citation, 1999, for Dandelions; Learning Magazine Teacher's Choice Awards, 2003, for It's Not Easy Being Green and Food for Life!
Rachel Carson: Pioneer of Ecology, McGraw Hill (New York, NY), 1988.
Juliette Gordon Low, America's First Girl Scout, Viking (New York, NY), 1989.
Hero over Here: A Story of World War I ("Once upon America" series), Viking (New York, NY), 1990.
Pearl Harbor Is Burning: A Story of World War II ("Once upon America" series), Viking (New York, NY), 1990.
Animal Tracks and Traces, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1991.
Night Bird: A Story of the Seminole Indians, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.
Earthquake!: A Story of Old San Francisco ("Once upon America" series), Viking (New York, NY), 1993.
Lone Star: A Story of the Texas Rangers ("Once upon America" series), Viking (New York, NY), 1994.
Facing West: A Story of the Oregon Trail ("Once upon America" series), Viking (New York, NY), 1994.
Marie: An Invitation to Dance, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Shannon: A Chinatown Adventure ("Girlhood Journeys" series), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Shannon: Lost and Found ("Girlhood Journeys" series), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Shannon: The Schoolmarm Mysteries, San Francisco, 1880 ("Girlhood Journeys" series), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Popcorn Plants, Lerner (New York, NY), 1998.
Venus Flytraps, photographed by Jerome Wexler, Lerner (New York, NY), 1998.
Dandelions, Lerner (New York, NY), 1999.
My Tree, McGraw Hill (New York, NY), 2000.
My Body Is Changing: Now What Do I Do?, McGraw Hill (New York, NY), 2000.
Rosa Parks, Young Rebel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Harriet Tubman, Freedom's Trailblazer, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
It's Not Easy Being Green, Newbridge Educational Publishing, 2003.
Food for Life!, Newbridge Educational Publishing, 2003.
Sojourner Truth, Voice of Freedom, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
The Spirit Catchers, Watson-Guptill (New York, NY), 2004.
What Do Roots Do?, North Word Press, 2004.
Boy Were We Wrong about Dinosaurs!, Dutton (New York, NY), 2005.
The Sunset Switch, North Word Press, 2005.
Boy Were We Wrong about the Solar System!, Dutton (New York, NY), in press.
Contributor to Camelot: A Collection of Original Arthurian Stories, edited by Jane Yolen, Philomel (New York, NY), 1995. Columnist for The Agawam Advertiser, 1980-84, and The Springfield Sunday Republican, 1984-87. Some of Kudlinski's books have been translated into Japanese.
Work in Progress
A historical novel based in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.
Kathleen V. Kudlinski is a prolific author of historical fiction, biographies, and science books that reflect her passionate interest in the natural world and preserving its treasures. She told SATA: "My family was always on the move when I was growing up. In each new town I searched anew for people to talk to. Books—and their authors—were the only friends who traveled across the country with me. Unlike anyone else in my family, I loved nature and art and I had a secret longing to be great someday.
"I spent my days climbing trees to look into nests or digging in streambeds to find salamanders. Books by Robert McClung and, later, Sally Carrigher and Rachel Carson, honored my interest. I could ask any nature question, however odd or embarrassing, and find the answers for myself—in books. When I wasn't nature watching, I was drawing birds, horses, castles, or monsters. 'How-to' books showed me ways to sketch and paint. I read dozens of biographies looking to see how people became great.
"I never thought about becoming a great author. I thought writers were tidy people with good grades and perfect spelling. My bedroom was always full of shed snake skins and feathers, piles of books, art projects, and camping gear. My report card was a mess and my spelling was worse.
"During high school in Westport, Connecticut, I volunteered at a local museum, sketching, caring for wild animals, and teaching about nature. It seemed a perfect match for my talents and hobbies. I studied science in college at the University of Maine where I met my future husband, Hank. After we graduated in 1972, I decided to teach in schools instead of museums. For three years I taught science at an elementary school in North Carolina in a classroom crowded with cages of gerbils and snakes, parakeets and tarantulas. For three years after that, my animals and I taught fifth grade in New Hampshire. I had found a way to be important in the lives of many kids, doing what I love.
"Then my husband took a new job in Massachusetts where there was no need for school teachers—even those with dozens of classroom animals. I spent months trying to find something to do with my life. When I saw an ad for a conference of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in nearby Northampton, Massachusetts, I decided to drop in.
"One of the speakers, Jane Yolen, was as excited and happy with writing as I had been with teaching. I bought her book, Writing for Children, and stood in a long line waiting for her to sign it. As we inched along I thought about perhaps trying to write, someday. But Jane didn't write 'good luck' in the book. In black ink, she wrote 'from one writer to another.'
"I stumbled away from the table, my life changed. The great Jane Yolen had given me permission to think of myself as an actual writer. I went home and began work on my first book. Over the next four years, Jane and I became friends, I had two children and dozens of rejections. I wrote for magazines and newspapers, doing stories about nature.
"Every month I met with a writer's group, led by Jane and including Robert McClung and Patty MacLachlan. We talked about getting books published and then critiqued each other's books in progress. The encouragement and support of these famous people kept me from being discouraged by rejections. I finally signed a book contract for Rachel Carson, Pioneer of Ecology six years after Jane told me I was a writer.
"In 1985 our family moved to Connecticut where we still live. I've written more than two dozen books here, sitting at my desk overlooking a deep, wild pond. Sometimes now I take my computer up to our log cabin in the woods of Vermont. I write about the things that fascinate me: nature and art and greatness. Every week I write and illustrate a newspaper article about nature, too. In writer's groups, I pass on the same encouragement I got when I was just beginning. I often visit classrooms, where I talk about writing well and the joy of finding a life full of the things you love."
Kudlinski's writing career demonstrates how a professional can earn respect, and a good living, as a children's writer. She is equally at home with historical fiction and science writing and has contributed to two popular series, "Once upon America" and "Girlhood Journeys." Both of those series introduce middle grade readers to real events in American history through the first-person adventures of fictitious heroes and heroines. In Lone Star: A Story of the Texas Rangers, for instance, eleven-year-old Clay Andrews dreams of becoming a Ranger so that he can hunt down and kill the Indians who murdered his father. As the action unfolds, Clay actually meets some Texas Rangers and eventually learns, to his dismay, that their brand of "justice" is more senseless and brutal than that of the Comanches who made Clay an orphan. In Booklist, Chris Sherman found Lone Star to be "a slice of history, thoughtfully presented."
Hero over Here was one of the first "Once upon America" titles. Theodore is too young to go away to Europe to fight in the First World War. Chafing at his lost chances for adventure, he is frightened—and then galvanized—when his mother and sister become deathly ill during the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918. Diane Roback in Publishers Weekly liked the way Kudlinski's descriptions "breathe color and life" into a topic that most students find only in dull history texts. Other Kudlinski titles dealing with American history include Earthquake!: A Story of Old San Francisco, Night Bird: A Story of the Seminole Indians, and Pearl Harbor Is Burning!: A Story of World War II.
The "Girlhood Journeys" series bears certain similarities to the "American Girl" books made so popular by Pleasant Company. In the case of the "Girlhood Journeys" series, however, the heroines range widely through historical eras and are not necessarily stereo-typical American girls. Kudlinski has written three novels about one such adventuress, Shannon: A Chinatown Adventure, Shannon, Lost and Found, and Shannon: The Schoolmarm Mysteries, San Francisco, 1880. Shannon is a nineteenth-century Irish immigrant who is old enough to miss her former home and to make astute observations about her new home, San Francisco. In Shannon: A Chinatown Adventure, Shannon comes to terms with her homesickness by orchestrating the liberation of a young Chinese girl who is enslaved to a local merchant. Julie Shatterly in School Library Journal commended the book for its "suspense" and "likable characters." Shannon: The Schoolmarm Mysteries concerns itself more directly with prejudice. Even though Shannon is Caucasian, she finds that, because she is Irish, other whites shun her. This brings her closer to her Chinese friends, who are themselves victims of racism. Joan Zaleski in School Library Journal appreciated the "strong female characters" that Kudlinski has presented in "historically accurate" circumstances.
One of Kudlinski's most popular science titles is Venus Flytraps. Written for the youngest audience interested in the natural world, Venus Flytraps introduces the fascinating carnivorous plant, describes its life in the wild, and offers advice on growing it in a home environment. With a nod to ecology, Kudlinski urges children to be careful not to buy Venus Flytraps that have been taken from the wild, only those that have been bred domestically. According to Ruth S. Vose in School Library Journal, the author presents her topic in "clear, simple sentences," yet conveys a great deal of information for children and adults. In Booklist, Carolyn Phelan called Venus Flytraps "a good look at an ever popular plant." Kudlinski's titles Boy Were We Wrong about Dinosaurs! and Boy Were We Wrong about the Solar System update and rectify older theories on the sciences of paleontology and astronomy. These titles are also for read-aloud or middle grade students ready to explore scientific topics on their own.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, May 1, 1994, Chris Sherman, review of Lone Star: A Story of the Texas Rangers, p. 1602; May 1, 1997, Chris Sherman, review of Shannon, Lost and Found: San Francisco, 1880, p. 1494; December 1, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of Venus Flytraps, p. 678.
Publishers Weekly, April 13, 1990, Diane Roback, review of Hero over Here, p. 64; November 11, 1996, review of Shannon: A Chinatown Adventure, p. 76.
School Library Journal, February, 1992, Phyllis K. Kennemer, review of Pearl Harbor Is Burning!: A Story of World War II, p. 87; May, 1993, Yvonne Frey, review of Night Bird: A Story of the Seminole Indians, p. 106; August, 1993, Ruth S. Vose, review of Earthquake! A Story of Old San Francisco, p. 164; June, 1994, George Gleason, review of Lone Star, p. 132; August, 1994, Sally Bates Goodroe, review of Facing West: A Story of the Oregon Trail, p. 154; September, 1996, Julie Shatterly, review of Shannon: A Chinatown Adventure, p. 204; April, 1998, Joan Zaleski, review of Shannon: The Schoolmarm Mysteries, p. 102; January, 1999, Lisa Wu Stowe, review of Popcorn Plants, p. 116; March, 1999, Ruth S. Vose, review of Venus Flytraps, p. 196.
Kathleen V. Kudlinski Home Page, http://www.kathleen-vkudlinski.com/ (December 15, 2003).
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