Jan Cheripko (1951-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Surname pronounced chur-ip-ko; born 1951, in West Point, NY; Education: Attended Orange County Community College, 1970-72; St. Thomas Aquinas College (Sparkhill, NY), B.A., 1974. Politics: Conservative. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, bird-watching, volleyball.
office—c/o Boyds Mill Press, 815 Church St., Honesdale, PA 18431.
Author and editor. Sullivan County Democrat, Callicoon, NY, reporter and editor, 1979-86; The Family School, Hancock, NY, English teacher, 1986—; Boyds Mills Press, Honesdale, PA, institutional promotion specialist, 1990—. Lecturer at schools and conferences.
National Council of Teachers of English, Pennsylvania Library Association, New York State Teachers of English, Sullivan County Reading Association.
Upper Delaware Council Special Award, Upper Delaware Heritage Alliance, 1994; Joan Fassler Memorial Book Award, International Reading Association Best Book for Young Adults, and Parents' Media Guide Choice, all 1996, all for Imitate the Tiger.
(And photographer) Voices of the River: Adventures on the Delaware, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1994.
Imitate the Tiger, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1996.
(And photographer) Get Ready to Play Tee Ball, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1999.
Rat, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2002.
Caesar Rodney's Ride: The Story of a Patriot, illustrated by Gary Lippincott, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2004.
Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove, illustrated by Kestutis Kasparavicius, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2004.
Also author of a musical adaptation of The Wise Woman, by George MacDonald. Contributor to Times Herald-Record, 1989-92.
In addition to being an English teacher and an editor at a publishing house, Jan Cheripko is the author of several children's books, among them the young-adult novel Imitate the Tiger, about a teen alcoholic, and the picture book Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove. Born in 1951, Cheripko worked in the newspaper business before he wrote his first book, an account of a tenday canoeing trip down the Delaware River titled Voices of the River. "Working on newspapers helped me learn about deadlines, being edited, and the real world," he once told Something about the Author (SATA).
Written for younger readers, Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove presents a "sweetly drawn morality tale," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Taking place on a quiet hilltop monastery, the story examines the life of a young monk. When Brother Stephen arrives at the monastery Old Brother Bartholomew has been looking after the apple grove for years, all the while allowing the local deer to feast on the fruit as they please. Brother Stephen is exasperated at this, and when he finally gains control of the grove, he immediately puts up a barbed-wire fence. However, when a tragic accident injures a beautiful buck the monk realizes the error of his ways. Jennifer Mattson, while noting the Christian underpinnings of the tale, commented in a Booklist review that the book's "simple messages of generosity, compassion, and respect for the wisdom of the elderly reach out to an ecumenical audience."
"I was thirteen when I first discovered that I loved to write and most of the other kids I knew didn't," Cheripko once told SATA. "And for the rest of my high school days I tried to balance a love of writing poetry and short stories with the life of being a jock." In his novels for older readers, such as Rat and Imitate the Tiger, Cheripko draws on such personal experiences, as well as on the emotions he felt while growing up. His 2002 novel Rat finds fifteen-year-old Jeremy learning an important lesson about the importance of truth when the repercussions of a lie told to gain popularity come back to haunt him. Childhood Education contributor Jeanie Burnett praised the book's "strong characters and fluent dialogue," while in School Library Journal Todd Morning dubbed Rat "compelling" and noted that Cheripko's tale "is filled with emotional power, told through a skillful first-person narration."
In addition to his work in writing and publishing, Cheripko also teaches English at The Family School, a private school in upstate New York that specializes in helping at-risk teenagers. According to the author, it isn't enough for a children's book to place readers "face-to-face with the harshness of life (they know harshness well)." A successful book—particularly a young-adult problem novel—should do more: "bring them into it, through it, and past it into the majesty and glory of hope and meaning. Too many young people have too little experience of the hope and meaning of life." "Whether or not I can do that," Cheripko added to SATA, "remains to be seen."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, January 15, 1994; March 1, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove, p. 1193.
Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books, May, 1994, p. 283.
Childhood Education, winter, 2002, Jeanie Burnett, review of Rat, p. 109; mid-summer, 2004, Terre Sychterz, review of Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove, p. 273.
Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, April, 2003, Susan Ourada, review of Rat, p. 609.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of Rat, p. 1306; February 1, 2004, review of Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove, p. 129.
School Library Journal, August, 2002, Todd Morning, review of Rat, p. 183; April, 2004, Shelley B. Sutherland, review of Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove, p. 103.
Boyds Mills Press Web site, http://www.boydsmillspress.com/ (July 20, 2004).*