Lisa Jahn-Clough (1967-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1967, in Wakefield, RI; Education: Hampshire College, B.A., 1988; Emerson College, M.F.A., 1993.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Houghton Mifflin, 222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116-3764.
Writer, illustrator, and teacher. Emerson College, Boston, MA, teacher of writing and children's literature, 1994—. Teacher of writing at conferences and workshops, including Children's Museum of Maine, Boston Public Library, Stonecoast Writer's Conference, Portland, ME, and Company of Writers, Cambridge, MA. Judge, Emerging Writer Award, PEN American Center, 2002; member, Monhegan Island Library book selection committee.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Women's National Book Association, Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.
The Purple Queen, Arm-in-Arm Press (Boston, MA), 1991.
Alicia and Her Happy Way of Life, Arm-in-Arm Press (Boston, MA), 1991.
Alicia Has a Bad Day, Arm-in-Arm Press (Boston, MA), 1991.
Alicia's Evil Side, Arm-in-Arm Press (Boston, MA), 1992.
My Happy Birthday Book!, Arm-in-Arm Press (Boston, MA), 1992.
ABC Yummy, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1997.
1 2 3 Yippie, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1998.
My Friend and I, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.
Missing Molly, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2000.
Simon and Molly plus Hester, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2001.
Alicia's Best Friends, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.
On the Hill, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.
Carol Snyder, We're Painting, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2002.
Laurie Friedman, A Big Bed for Jed, Dial Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to short-story anthology Somebody to Love, edited by Leslea Newman, Third Side Press, 1991.
Work in Progress
Country Girl, City Girl, for Houghton Mifflin.
Lisa Jahn-Clough has turned a lifelong interest in reading and writing into a career as an author and illustrator of children's books. An avid writer and artist since the age of four—when Jahn-Clough was handed her first paintbrush by her mother and dictated her first story to her father—she considers the art of creating books to be her primary means of expression. Supplementing her writing and drawing with several jobs, including teaching, Jahn-Clough wrote, illustrated, and self-published several children's picture books before Alicia Has a Bad Day was picked up by Boston publisher Houghton Mifflin and released in 1994.
Writing for children is especially important to JahnClough because, as she once told SATA, "I recall my own youth vividly, both the warmth and the suffering, and feel that I have something to say to children of all ages." Raised on a small farm in Rhode Island by her zoologist father and artist mother, Jahn-Clough and her older brother grew up around all sorts of animals, as well as in an environment that encouraged creativity. "There was an entire wall in our kitchen plastered from top to bottom with [our] artwork," she recalled.
Although determined to make writing a large part of her life, Jahn-Clough's start in publishing would be hard work. As she explained to SATA: "In 1990 I wrote and illustrated a small book (literally small, approximately three inches by four inches with black and white drawings and hand-written text, tied with ribbon) called Alicia and Her Happy Way of Life. It describes Alicia and her seemingly relentless happiness and delight in the world. After several friends pointed out that not even Alicia could be happy all the time, I felt I needed to explore Alicia's other moods. Thus came Alicia Has a Bad Day.
"I wrote and illustrated four books about the character Alicia and self-published them…. I marketed them from 1990 to 1993 with some regional success, mostly in Maine where I grew up." Although Jahn-Clough enjoyed writing her books, having Alicia Has a Bad Day published by a mainstream publishing house like Houghton Mifflin marked a turning point in her career. "Although I learned a great deal about the field, about publishing, about marketing, and about believing in my work and myself from this experience … self-publishing is not something I advocate," she told SATA. "Although it was exciting, it was also a lot of work and produced very little money. Having my work out there and knowing others were reading it was my main motivation. It is incredibly gratifying to have your work reach other people."
Alicia Has a Bad Day features a character that its author calls "sort of an alter-ego…. Sheisa strong, spunky, independent child who is not afraid of her own emotions, although she does not always understand them." A happy person by nature, Alicia wakes up on the "wrong side of the bed" one morning, and when her dog, Neptune, doesn't even lick her face like he usually does, it puts her further out of sorts. She tries to shake off her bad mood by writing about it, playing her favorite music really loud and dancing, and going out to play. Of course, it rains; she gives up and crawls back into bed. Finally, Neptune cheers her up with a doggy kiss, and Alicia's day gets better. A Publishers Weekly contributor observed that "Jahn-Clough's simplistic brushwork, roughly hewn in straight-from-the-tube colors, wryly conveys surliness."
Jahn-Clough's spunky heroine returns in Alicia's Best Friends. In the work, Alicia is put on the spot when her four closest pals demand that she choose one of them as her favorite. She resolves the situation by acknowledging that each friend is special to her in a particular way. Jahn-Clough "once again presents a complex aspect of friendship in a way children will understand," wrote Ellen Mandel in Booklist. A Kirkus Reviews contributor stated that "the brightly hued illustrations sparkle with the energy and vivacity of Alicia's personality," and Gay Lynn Van Vleck, reviewing the book in School Library Journal, noted that "childlike, multicultural cartoon paintings prove highly successful in using color to evoke mood."
New neighbors have their budding friendship tested in My Friend and I. A young girl, the story's narrator, has fun playing with the boy who moved in next door, until the pair argue and she damages his new stuffed animal. Together, the pair come up with a solution that repairs both the toy and their relationship. "The understated message that friendship includes sorrow and forgiveness makes this a solid choice" for children, according to Anne Knickerbocker in School Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly critic remarked that Jahn-Clough "never betrays her narrator's perspective, neither in the text nor in her paintings," and Booklist's Hazel Rochman stated that "young preschoolers will like the bright, simple, childlike illustrations."
Jahn-Clough introduces the characters of Molly and Simon in Missing Molly. The two best friends love to play hide-and-seek, but Simon complains that Molly makes the game too easy by always hiding in the same place. During one of Simon's visits Molly is nowhere to be found, and a mysterious, strangely dressed girl who appears at the door joins in the search. After Simon fails to locate his friend, the stranger reveals her secret: she is really Molly in disguise. Ilene Cooper, reviewing Missing Molly in Booklist, remarked that "the search that turns silly will tickle listeners." In School Library Journal, Lisa Dennis noted that there was "an engaging element of fantasy implied in the illustrations."
In Simon and Molly plus Hester "both story and illustrations capture a child's misgivings about change and being left out," according to Wanda Meyers-Hines in School Library Journal. Simon and Molly do everything together, but new neighbor Hester has her own interests. When Molly invites Hester to play, Simon feels threatened. Molly comes up with the solution: she suggests that Simon teach Hester how to ride a twowheeler, and Hester agrees to show Simon how to fold a paper airplane.
Jahn-Clough has also illustrated works for other writers. Laurie Friedman's A Big Bed for Jed tells of the difficulties a young boy faces when he switches from his crib to a larger bed. Jed refuses to sleep in his new bed because he is certain he will fall out of it, and his family's efforts to convince him otherwise simply aren't working. Finally, Jed's sister comes up with an ingenious plan that helps settle him in. According to Rosalyn Pierini in School Library Journal, Jahn-Clough's artwork does a "great job of conveying the disproportionate sense of scale Jed experiences as he feels dwarfed, overwhelmed, and intimidated by this developmental challenge." Ilene Cooper stated in Booklist, "The pen-and-gouache illustrations, set against bright backgrounds, have the carefree look of kids' own drawings."
Discussing the themes of her books on her Web site, Jahn-Clough stated, "I am very curious how people interact with themselves and with each other. Most of my books deal with some sort of relationship and conflict." She added, "We all deal with the same things the kids in my books do: having bad days and not knowing why, wanting something someone else has, missing people, or being jealous or insecure that we aren't loved enough. The great thing about making my own books is that I can create an ending that is logical and happily resolved! I love that part of it."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 1, 1997, Julie Corsaro, review of ABC Yummy, pp. 1337-1338; March 15, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of 123Yippie, p. 1249; April 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of My Friend and I, p. 1536; February 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Missing Molly, p. 1029; September 1, 2001, Ellen Mandel, review of Simon and Molly plus Hester, p. 115; January 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of A Big Bed for Jed, p. 864; August, 2002, Cynthia Turnquest, review of We're Painting, pp. 1976-1977; March 15, 2003, Ellen Mandel, review of Alicia's Best Friends, p. 1332.
Horn Book, February 9, 2004, review of On the Hill, pp. 80-81.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1994, p. 1274; February 15, 2003, review of Alicia's Best Friends, p. 309; February 15, 2004, review of On the Hill, p. 180.
Publishers Weekly, August 29, 1994, review of Alicia Has a Bad Day, p. 79; January 22, 1996, review of My Happy Birthday Book, p. 72; February 8, 1999, review of My Friend and I, p. 212; March 27, 2000, review of Missing Molly, p. 80; January 7, 2002, review of A Big Bed for Jed, p. 63; February, 2003, "True Companions," p. 74; October 6, 2003, review of My Friend and I, p. 87; February 9, 2004, review of On the Hill, pp. 81-82.
School Library Journal, October, 1994, Margaret C. Howell, review of Alicia Has a Bad Day, pp. 91-92; June, 1996, Lisa Marie Gangemi, review of My Happy Birthday Book, pp. 100-101; June, 1997, Lisa Dennis, review of ABC Yummy, pp. 92-93; July, 1998, Meg Stackpole, review of 123Yippie, p. 76; May, 1999, Anne Knickerbocker, review of My Friend and I, pp. 90-91; April, 2000, Lisa Dennis, review of Missing Molly, p. 107; September, 2001, Wanda Meyers-Hines, review of Simon and Molly plus Hester, p. 191; July, 2002, Rosalyn Pierini, review of A Big Bed for Jed, p. 90; March, 2003, Gay Lynn Van Vleck, review of Alicia's Best Friends, p. 196.
Berkeley Beacon Online, http://www.berkeleybeacon.com/ (February 5, 2004), Megan Petersen, "Illustrations in Learning."
Houghton Mifflin Web site, http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/ (March 15, 2004), "Lisa Jahn-Clough."
Lisa Jahn-Clough Home Page, http://www.lisajahnclough.com/ (March 15, 2004).*
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