Meet Authors & Illustrators

Joan Lowery Nixon

   Joan Lowery Nixon, a prolific writer, has used her talents to reach young adults through a variety of genres. However, her mystery stories are the ones garnering the most notoriety and awards. Her ambition to write began during childhood and blossomed under the encouragement of her high school English teacher. At the age of seventeen, she sold her first magazine article. So determined was she to become a writer that her first manuscript, The Mystery of Hurricane Castle, was submitted to twelve different publishers and rejected each time. But the thirteenth did publish the book.

   Nixon believes several factors have contributed to her success. First, journalism training taught her to focus on important facts and to isolate them from unnecessary details. Second, drawing from her past experiences, her characters, plots and setting are believable. Third, Nixon believes her writing gives young adult readers hope.

   Teens gravitate to Lowery's books because her characters are faced with problems which, in "teen speak", are just "not fair". But the odds are overcome and the teen protagonist is a better person because of the experience. Some characters become self-reliant; others learn to work with and trust their contemporaries.

   In the Orphan Train Quartet and the Land of Hope series, Nixon has teens triumphing over adversity. The Orphan Train Quartet follows a family of six children who are adopted because their widowed mother can no longer care for them. The children face abandonment, abuse and separation from one another; yet their love, adaptability, courage, and strength help them survive. The Land of Hope series tells of an Irish family's immigration to Chicago.

   Earning seven Edgar Allan Poe nominations and winning four Edgars has set Nixon apart in the mystery genre. She is skilled at drawing the reader deeper and deeper into her characters and the story. The New York Times Book Review noted that Nixon's suspense fables "are distinguished by stalwart female protagonists and a gradual, carefully built rise in tension." The Times attributes the popularity of Nixon's mystery books to a "combination of youth's eternal desire to shock its elders and a budding interest in all things odd and uncomfortable."

Contributor: Mary Sue Preissner

 

Reviews

Aggie's Home
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Agatha Mae Vaughn was very happy to be leaving the Asylum for Homeless Waifs in New York City, but she was concerned about what the future would bring. Mrs. Marchlander, the head of the home, had been very hard on her. She spent much of her time sitting in the office. Mrs. Marchlander was cruel in predicting that no one would want to adopt her. However, it was while she was sitting in the office one day that she learned about the files that existed for each child with information about their parents. Being rather brave, Agatha took advantage of the situation and looked up her file. What she learned that day soothed an aching heart and gave her the strength and determination to endure the ordeals that were to come. Agatha was eventually adopted by a family, and although she was very nervous about being rejected, her new family welcomed her with open arms and she found the love she had missed for so many years. A brief history of the Children's Aid Society concludes the publication. Part of the "Orphan Train Children" series. 1998, Delacorte Press, Ages 8 to 12, $9.95. Reviewer: Kristin Harris
ISBN: 0-385-32295-X
Best Books:
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 1999 ; National Council for the Social Studies; United States

Ann's story, 1747
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Nine-year-old Ann McKenzie loves living in Williamsburg--the colony's capital and the center of many exciting events. But when the Capitol building is set on fire, there is talk of moving the capital to another city. Ann worries that her father will have to move his apothecary shop and that her family will be forced to move away from her beloved home. Added to these concerns is her burning desire to follow in her father's footsteps and enter the medical profession. Ann loves to pore over medical books, to help in the apothecary, and to accompany her father on house calls. However, in colonial Williamsburg, a female doctor defies tradition and Ann struggles to understand the limitations that society would place on her. When a smallpox epidemic sweeps through the town, Ann finds an unexpected opportunity to care for her own family and neighbors, nursing them back to health. She discovers that although she cannot be a doctor, she can care for her family and friends. With her spunk and determination, Ann will capture the hearts of readers as she finds a way to fulfill her dreams. Accompanied by an author's note as well as short articles on Williamsburg, childhood and medicine in the eighteenth century, and activities and recipes, this historical novel is an excellent addition to the elementary classroom. These historical notes and activities establish a background for the story and provide creative suggestions for extending the learning. 2000, Delacorte Press, $9.95. Ages 8 to 10. Reviewer: Leah Hanson
ISBN: 0-385-32673-4

Backstage with a Ghost
Joan Lowery Nixon
Illustrations by Kathleen Collins Howell
   In this, the third book in the "Casebusters" series, the reader joins Brian and Sean Quinn as they try to unravel the mystery behind strange occurrences at the old Culbertson Theater. Eager to help their private investigator dad crack the case, Sean and Brian begin a search that puts them face to face with a greedy mall developer, frantic historical society members, a nervous theater caretaker, an elderly reminiscing actress, a friendly ghost named Horatio and another ghost determined to keep the secrets of the theater. Readers will laugh at the boy's antics and scream with delight as they find themselves Backstage with a Ghost and solving the mystery in true Casebusters style! 1995, Disney Press, Ages 7 to 11, $13.95 and $3.95. Reviewer: Katie Preissner
ISBN: 0-7868-3048-4
ISBN: 0-7868-4025-0

Bait for a Burglar
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Joan Lowery Nixon is an Edgar award-winning mystery writer; author of The Gift, a magical book about leprechauns and love; and author of a series of historical picture books featuring the hilarious couple, Shirley and Claude. Adult readers will bring high expectations to this book, her newest entry in a mystery series for Disney Books. They may be disappointed. Young readers won't be. Here, the kids are the heroes. The kids solve the case. The kids get into danger and get themselves back out again. And not only that, but the kids tell the whole story on their own kid TV show. It's empowering reading-Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys for the Nineties...and there's nothing wrong with that. Casebusters #12, so you know that there are eleven more titles in the series. 1997, Disney Press, Ages 7 to 11, $3.95. Reviewer: Judy Katsh
ISBN: 0-7868-4089-7

Caesar's Story, 1759
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Mrs. Otts, a tour guide in present-day Williamsburg, is an excellent storyteller. A group of young people gather to hear her telling of the story of Caesar, a young slave in the 1700s. This opening format provides excellent factual background. Up until he is seven years old, Caesar, the son of slaves, is best friends with Nat, the son of slave owners. Sadly, at seven they are both told that "the past is over." They are to face the responsibilities which come with their differences in position. This, along with the new back-breaking work, disheartens Caesar. He longs to be free. Even more devastating is the newest change; Caesar's father, a gifted carpenter, is hired out to work for a cabinetmaker far away in Williamsburg. With his mother and sister working in the fields and his older sister working in the big house, Caesar tries to fill his father's shoes by attempting to catch opossum and fish to supplement the family's meager rations. Just growing used to this position, Caesar is again shocked when he learns that his former best friend, Nat, now the owner in training, has chosen Caesar as his personal servant in the big house--away from his mother and sister. "He felt like a dried leaf, blowing in the wind, unable to even choose where to land." He wondered if his life would always be like this. An older slave had once told Caesar, "In this life everybody must make his own place." Here, under Master Nathaniel, Caesar will learn what it means to grow up and to hold onto that light inside himself called spirit--no matter what. The narrative is followed by an intriguing account of the research used to construct the story. There is also a history of Williamsburg, The Revolutionary War, Modern Williamsburg, Childhood in 18th Century Virginia, and Slavery in Colonial Virginia. For those who want a taste of authentic colonial food, a recipe for bean hominy is even included. This is an excellent book for both home and school. 2000, Delacorte Press, $9.95. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Leslie Julian
ISBN: 0-385-32676-9

Caught in the Act
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Mystery, intrigue, compassion and adventure are but a few of the feelings aroused as you read this true story of a little known time in the history of the United States. Mike is one of the six Kelly children on the Orphan Train, sent out by The Children's Aid Society which searches for homes in the West for New York City orphans. From the beginning Mike knew that life would be difficult living with the Friedrich family. Mr. Friedrich is a taskmaster to all who work on his farm. Marta and Reuben befriend Mike and they make life a little more bearable. There were secrets in the family and Mike suspects the worst. The Friedrich's son, Gunter, is determined to "send Mike back to New York" and he uses dirty tricks to accomplish his goal. Fortunately, in the end Mike turns the tables on Gunter and justice is served. This is one of six titles in the "Orphan Train Adventures," and although the characters and their adventures are fictional, the context in history is accurate. It is a thoroughly engaging story that leaves you wanting to know more about the Orphan Train and the children. 2000, Gareth Stevens Publishing, $21.27. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Karen Werner
ISBN: 0-8368-2639-6

Check in to Danger
Joan Lowery Nixon
Illustrations by Kathleen Collins Howell
   A relaxing vacation at the Piney Point Resort Hotel turns into a search for a sneaky beef thief in this, the fourth in the "Casebusters" series. Brian Quinn can't wait to help his friend Jennifer discover who the thief is, while his brother Sean can't understand how a GIRL can help, even if she is the hotel owner's daughter. The search for clues uncovers a trail marked by old suitcases, nervous waiters, an ex-cook with a rap sheet and a talented dog named Pete. It all adds up to a delicious, suspicious conclusion that will have readers on the edge of their seats and in the middle of the action. 1995, Disney Press, Ages 7 to 11, $13.95 and $3.95. Reviewer: Katie Preissner
ISBN: 0-7868-3049-2
ISBN: 0-7868-4026-9

Circle of Love
Joan Lowery Nixon
   This is the fifth installment of the "Orphan Train Adventures," a series which follows the Kelly children from New York to the Midwest in the 1800's. Frances Mary Kelly, once an Orphan Train rider, now nineteen and a teacher, agrees to journey back to New York to escort the new group of children west to seek new homes. This journey proves to be a very emotional one for her, for she realizes that her future with Johnny is just as tenuous as the futures of her young charges. Their safety and hers are in jeopardy in many ways. 1997, Delacorte Press, Ages 10 to 14, $15.95. Reviewer: Mary Sue Preissner
ISBN: 0-385-32280-1
Best Books:
   Books for You: An Annotated Booklist for Senior High, Fourteenth Edition, 2001 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States

Ghost Town: Seven Ghostly Stories
Joan Lowery Nixon
   In a delightful collection of stories, Nixon once again creates a mysterious world--of the ghosts who live in ghost towns, where "only babies can see through to the other side," (and once in a while children can, too). Readers are carried through the whispering, lonely streets of seven western ghost towns. Thirteen-year-old Chip goes to Tombstone with his family against his will, but once there, he meets gunfighter Billy's ghost and suffers with him when he is shot to death near the OK Corral. Lauren's mother won't buy her a computer unless she sees a real ghost in Shakespeare, New Mexico. But when Lauren meets little ghost Jane, she knows at once that she must keep the child's secret. When Dub and his buddy run away and end up in a town full of angry ghosts, they make tracks right back home, where Dub decides he can now get along with his sisters. Each teenage protagonist has a life dilemma until he encounters a ghost, then finds a new strength in himself and experiences a transformation. Every story concludes with a brief history of the ghost town, directions to its location and resources to learn more about it. A short chapter about how to properly explore a ghost town concludes this hauntingly good read. 2000, Delacorte, $14.95. Ages 8 to 13. Reviewer: Elaine Wick
ISBN: 0-385-32681-5
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2001 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2002 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Eighth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States

Gus & Gertie and the Lucky Charms
Joan Lowery Nixon
Illustrated by Diane deGroat
   As a mystery writer of some renown, Nixon has now turned her pen to mystery stories for really young readers. Other detective teams that kids may enjoy are Rylant's "High Rise Private Eye" series, Bruce Hale's Chet Gecko mysteries, and Adler's Young Cam Jansen series. Gus and Gertie are two cool penguins who want to compete as synchronized swimmers in the animals' Olympic Games. They are the first competitors to come from Antarctica. In the ensuing mishaps--learning that there are no swimming events in the winter Olympics--they meet a number of Olympic stars and learn how many of them cherish a lucky charm. But then things go horribly awry as the charms are stolen. The penguin team--with the help of their photographs and an ability to spell--solve the crime. In doing so, they find a lovely way to participate in the Olympics. Nixon loves puns and there are quite a few--there is suspense and humor, too--especially in deGroat's wonderful illustrations. A good choice for home and class and especially for readers ready for chapter books. Be prepared also to offer Gus and Gertie and the Missing Pearl, which is another entry in the series. 2001, SeaStar/NorthSouth, $14.95. Ages 5 to 7. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
ISBN: 1-58717-100-7
ISBN: 1-58717-099-X

Gus & Gertie and the Missing Pearl
Joan Lowery Nixon
Illustrated by Diane deGroat
   Two pros, Nixon and de Groat, created this light-hearted mystery for second and third grade readers. Penguins Gus and Gertie have gone on vacation to a posh seaside resort, the Hotel de View. Gertie admonishes Gus to enjoy the sea air and ocean view, but he reminds her they have both at home, which is where he clearly wishes to be. Why? Because at first all they see is a ramshackle "OTEL," with a sign proclaiming it the home of the Bad Guys Club. Rain forces them inside and they meet the "rascally rowdies," the "wretched wharf rats," a few pirates, a "wily weasel" in a green and yellow-striped suit, and an "agile alligator" in high-top boots. Gus's husbandly tendency to worry infects the reader as we contemplate the "beautiful, valuable deep-sea pearl" on Gertie's chest. For sure, trouble is a-brewing. The pearl vanishes, a chase ensues, and Gus saves the day with his trusty camera, as his pictures provide the necessary clue for finding the missing pearl. The layout and type fit the story admirably, and the illustrations are delightful, but the ending falls down. Gus and Gertie finally arrive at the fancy hotel, which is far too hoity-toity to make them feel welcome, and so they decide to go back home. 2000, Sea Star, $15.88 and $14.95. Ages 8 to 10. Reviewer: Joan Carris
ISBN: 1-58717-022-1
ISBN: 1-58717-023-X

A Family Apart
Joan Lowery Nixon
   From the 1860s to the late 1920s orphaned children were rounded up in New York City and sent via train to live with farm families in Missouri and other points West. Nixon's first book in the series, "The Orphan Train Adventures" finds a struggling widowed mother trying to feed and care for six children. When her eldest son is caught stealing for the family his mother makes the choice to send her children West to protect her son from jail and all of them from a miserable life. Her eldest daughter becomes the strength of the family by trying to make sense of why their mother has seemingly abandoned them. What will become of them? Who will be their new families? Will they ever see each other again? The series begins to unfold in this extremely moving and well-paced novel. It provides a rich look into problems immigrant and orphaned children faced during a difficult time in our developing nation. Highly recommended for classroom and libraries. 2000, Gareth Stevens, $21.27 and $4.50. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Melissa A. Caudill
ISBN: 0-8368-2638-8
ISBN: 0-440-22676-7
Best Books:
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:

   Virginia Young Readers Program Winner 1992 Middle School Virginia

The Haunting
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Graymoss, the family's antebellum home, looms at the end of the dusty road complete with its own mysterious legend. As great-grandmother Sarah slips to her eternal slumber, she admonishes Lia that this aging edifice must be preserved and protected, but also to be kept at a distance for "the house is haunted by a terrible, fearful evil." Searching for a 130 year-old diary, keeping her parents and grandmother misinformed, and procuring good voodoo to protect her, Lia embarks on a journey, not only to save her heritage, but to affirm that she too is courageous, a legacy left by a family of strong females. A must buy! 1998, Delacorte Press, Ages 11 up, $15.95. Reviewer: Mary Sue Preissner
ISBN: 0-385-32247-X
Best Books:
   Books for You: An Annotated Booklist for Senior High, Fourteenth Edition, 2001 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 1999 ; American Library Association-YALSA; United States
   Young Adults' Choices, 2000 ; International Reading Association; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Golden Sower Award 2001 Nebraska
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   South Carolina Book Awards, 2001 ; South Carolina

If You Were a Writer
Joan Lowery Nixon
Illustrated by Bruce Degen
   Melia, whose mother is a writer, decides that she might want to be one too. But what is it like to be a writer? How do you know what to write about, what words to choose, and how to shape the characters? To every question Melia asks, her mother provides some specifics but also says, "if you were a writer you'd know." Through Melia's own analysis and the dialogue with her mother, readers learn about the craft and life of a writer, including that wonderful moment when a box arrives with copies of the just published book. 1995 (orig. 1988), Aladdin, Ages 5 to 8, $5.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
ISBN: 0-02-768210-2
ISBN: 0-689-71900-0

In the Face of Danger
Joan Lowery Nixon
   In this third book in her series "The Orphan Train Adventures," Nixon again uses engrossing fiction to relate the factual experiences of children from the New York slums who were adopted by settlers and taken West from 1854 to 1929. This book realistically portrays the experiences of a group of children who began this journey frightened and alone, but who over time, came to love and be cherished by their new families. Megan, age twelve, is separated from her siblings when her widowed mother decides she can no longer care for her children . Several years earlier, Megan had answered the door to her home only to face a beggar woman who puts a bad luck spell on her. From that day forward, she feels responsible for her father's death and all the "bad luck" that befalls the people she loves. This story is about Megan--her sorrows and the love of her adoptive family that led to a renewed belief in herself. The female characters are refreshingly strong and resourceful. This is a good novel for boys and girls who want an exciting story based on historical fact and that provides lessons still applicable today. 2000 (orig. 1988), Gareth Stevens, $21.27. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Kathleen Orosz
ISBN: 0-8368-2640-X
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Western Writers of America Spur Awards Winner 1988 United States
   State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Lone Star Reading List, 1990-1991 ; Texas
   Mark Twain Award, 1990-1991 ; Missouri

The Internet Escapade
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Part of the "Casebuster" series, this is an up-to-date mystery centered on the misuse of school computers and the consequences of such actions. While sleuthing with Sean and Brian, the reader becomes cognizant of how one inappropriate prank can lead authorities to blame that same person in future similar situations. 1997, Disney Press, Ages 8 up, $3.95. Reviewer: Pat Metz
ISBN: 0-7868-4088-9

Land of Dreams
Joan Lowery Nixon
   When Kristin Swenson arrives in America as a Swedish immigrant, she is sure that life will be different here. But as she and her family begin to carve a life for themselves in the Great Rock Lake of Minnesota, she finds that much is frustratingly the same. Her entire community continues to speak Swedish, her family arranges a marriage for her, and her interest in women's suffrage is frowned upon. With her spunk and charm, Kristin can't help but turn heads and life upside down as she speaks up for herself and thinks for herself. But must she alienate herself from her friends and family in order to gain the independence for which America is so famous? A tragic loss and Kristin's own courage, teach both Kristin and her family that she can cherish old traditions while creating a new life in America. This addition to the "Ellis Island" series continues the account of immigrant experiences in America with its focus on the move west. Although Kristin's story is from a century ago, her independence and confidence will capture the admiration of young readers today. An added element of romance will particularly appeal to young girls. 2001 (orig. 1994), Gareth Stevens Publishing, $22.60. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Leah Hanson
ISBN: 0-8368-2810-0

Land of Hope
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Three teenage girls stand together with the Statue of Liberty towering in the background. They are very different. Rebekah Levinsky, dark-haired and earnest, is part of a Jewish family hoping to escape Russia's increasing oppression of her people. Swedish Kristen Swensen, with her blue eyes and blond braids, is traveling with her family to Minnesota. Irish Rose Carney, with her curly red hair and green eyes, will join her father in Chicago, then help him earn enough money to send for the rest of the family. The three girls, all so different, find friendship through their common destination--Ellis Island. Nixon's tale follows the main character, Rebekah, from the night she huddles with her family on Russia's borders, through the rigors of ocean travel in steerage and the suspense of Ellis Island, on to the tenements of New York. Although Rebekah experiences loss and disappointment along the way, she is eager to embrace the new world's opportunity--free education, open to girls like her. But will the family's values or their poverty allow her to realize her dreams? Letters from Kristen and Rose, plus the steadfast friendship/budding romance with tall, musical Aaron Mirsch help to bolster Rebekah's resolve. Well-researched and interesting, this book, part of the "Ellis Island" series, could be the catalyst for creative classroom projects, such as mapping Rebekah's journey, writing journal entries for a character in the book, or donning period dress in order to give oral reports about Ellis Island or New York's ethnic neighborhoods of the period. 2001 (orig. 1992), Gareth Stevens, $22.60. Ages 8 to 14. Reviewer: Judy Crowder
ISBN: 0-8368-2811-9

Land of Promise
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Fifteen-year-old Rose Carney arrives at Ellis Island from her native Ireland in 1902, leaving behind a mother and two young sisters. She must travel halfway across the continent to Chicago. The father and brothers that she has not seen for several years await her. Rose has her hands full from the moment she arrives, cooking and cleaning for the men, dealing with a full-time job in a shop, adjusting to the ways of a new and different world, and experiencing her first love. To top it all off, she discovers that her father has a serious drinking problem and one brother is involved in Irish revolutionary politics. Joan Lowery Nixon handles her heroine's problems with a sure hand while introducing the well-researched and historically detailed world of a turn-of-the-century immigrant. This is one of the "Ellis Island" series of novels that deal with specific immigrant populations and the problems they faced. If the other stories are as dramatic and absorbing as Rose's, they will succeed in making history come alive to young readers in a way that dry historical texts never can. 2001, Gareth Stevens, $22.60. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Michele Tremaine
ISBN: 0-8368-2812-7

Land of Promise
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Strong fictional characters can help history can alive for young adults. In this first of a new series of immigrant stories, Ellis Island, Nixon tells the story of 15-year-old Rose Carney who comes to Chicago from Ireland only to discover that her father is an alcoholic, her mother has died at home, and her brother is associated with the Blackhands. Through Rose, readers will meet historic people like Jane Addams and gain a vivid sense of immigrant life. 1994, Bantam, Ages 11 up, $16.00. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
ISBN: 0-553-08111-X
Best Books:
   The Immigrant Experience, 1999 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States

The Legend of Deadman's Mine
Joan Lowery Nixon
Illustrated by Kathleen Collins Howell
   In the second volume in the superb "Casebusters" series, Nixon takes Sean and Brian Quinn for a two-week vacation at a dude ranch. Sean is eager to ride the horses and relax, but when Brian becomes interested in a case about a stolen horse that even has the sheriff baffled, Sean joins his brother to try and solve the mystery. The boys search for clues which link suspects, a stolen horse, insurance claims, and the legend of the old Deadman's Mine. The reader will relate to Brian and Sean's feelings as they are annoyed by clingy campmates and know-it-all roommates, and will beg their parents to let them stay awake so they can keep reading and solve the mystery. A great story to read to young children without the fear of nightmares, and also great for readers to enjoy alone. 1995, Disney Press, Ages 8 up, $13.95 and $3.95. Reviewer: Katie Preissner
ISBN: 0-7868-3047-6
ISBN: 0-7868-4019-6

The Making of a Writer
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Written with evident affection to young readers who also want to be writers ("You love to read. You love to write. . . I hope that what I share with you will lead you to keep your eyes and ears open to the insights and ideas that will come bursting into your own imagination"), this charming memoir shares formative incidents from Nixon's childhood and adolescence, each one distilling some key lesson about writing. As young Nixon misunderstands a quoted poem, "I love you more than tongue can tell," as "I love you more than Tunkentel," she is led to speculate all kinds of exciting "What ifs" about this imaginary monster, the key to generating stories. As Nixon stages plays in her doll house for neighborhood children, she learns how to catch and hold the attention of an audience through action, suspense, and dialogue. And as she pens mass-produced love poems for her friends to share with soldier correspondents during World War II, she learns the joys of touching another's heart through writing. The memories that Nixon offers up here are funny and poignant in their own right. The writing lessons each memory uncovers are tried-and-true. The book design, using old-fashioned manual typewriter fonts, makes for an especially inviting presentation of this warm and encouraging welcome to the world of writing. 2002, Delacorte, $14.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Claudia Mills
ISBN: 0-385-73000-4
ISBN: 0-385-90046-5

Nancy's Story, 1765
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Nancy's story itself is interesting, informative, and fun, but the somewhat heavy-handed, modern Williamsburg setting, inquisitive modern children, and too-helpful docent are for the most part a waste of time. What we really want to know about is Nancy's life. She has to deal with a pregnant stepmother who does not understand her, a rambunctious toddler half-brother, chores, girlfriends and their mothers, as well as her feelings for a friendly boy who is apprenticed to her uncle. Combine these with the times--ordinary chores that are terribly difficult, the Stamp Act that makes business owners nervous, the unfairness of a society that allowed Nancy's slave's mother to be sold (and never heard from), and a father who needs to be convinced to join public opposition to the government--and we have a terrific little story. Not much is known about the real Nancy Getty, but Nixon makes her fascinating. Descriptions of cooking lessons are terrific. Altogether a good picture of the times. Recommended, and the reader can always skim through the modern part of the book. 2000, Delacorte Press, $9.95. Ages 7 to 12. Reviewer: Judy Silverman
ISBN: 0-385-32679-3

Nobody's There
Joan Lowery Nixon
   When Abbie Thompson saw her father leave the apartment with a young woman on his arm she was so angry she threw stones at the window. Because of her "malicious mischief" Abbie was sentenced to take part in a program to help elderly women, called Friend to Friend. She was assigned to stubborn, cranky Mrs. Merkel. When Mrs. Merkel learns the police would like the help of Senior Citizens in watching out for crime, she takes on the role wholeheartedly and places herself and Abbie in danger. Abbie arrives at Mrs. Merkel's and finds her in a coma on the floor. Who attempted to kill the old woman? She certainly had many enemies! Abbie decodes Mrs. Merkel's notebook and uses her skills of observation and deduction to solve the mystery. Along the way, she learns how to help her brother cope with their father's estrangement. Well-developed and interesting characters combine with a fast-moving plot to make good vacation reading. 2000, Delacorte Press, $15.95. Ages 11 to 14. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
   Teenagers are always getting the short end of the stick; life is so totally unfair. It is bad enough that Abbie must endure the emotional roller coaster caused when her dad leaves the family for another woman. Abbie's temper flared over that; she got just a little impulsive, which in turn found her charged with malicious mischief. To clear her name, the judge offers a volunteer opportunity. Abbie must join a community service group, pairing senior citizens with high schoolers, and check up on her "assignment" at least once a week. As Abbie is assigned to the notorious Mrs. Merkel, an amateur investigator, and she initially hangs in there to clear her own name. As this fast-paced mystery unfolds, Abbie may be the only one who can also save Mrs. Merkel from a mysterious assailant. 2000, Delacorte, $15.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Mary Sue Preissner
ISBN: 0-385-32567-3
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2001 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Parent's Guide to Children's Media, 2000 ; Parent's Guide to Children's Media, Inc.; United States
   State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Nevada Young Readers' Award, 2002 ; Nevada
   South Carolina Book Awards, 2003 ; South Carolina

Playing for Keeps
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Sixteen-year-old Rose, tired of nonstop fighting with her mom, agrees to accompany her grandmother, Glory, and her bridge club on a week-long Caribbean cruise. Rosie's best friend is convinced that Rosie will find love on the high seas, and when Rosie meets handsome teen Enrique at one of the ports of call, she thinks her friend might be right. When Enrique's mysterious uncle disappears and when Cuban police start looking for the boy, Rosie and her too-nerdy-to-be-desirable friend Neil decide to investigate. They discover that Enrique is a promising young Cuban baseball player, using the cruise as a means to reach the United States and find asylum. Rosie is determined to help Enrique escape, but when people close to Enrique start turning up dead, Rosie fears her own life may also be in danger. Although Rosie's relationship with Enrique builds too fast to be believable--she exchanges perhaps twenty words with the boy before declaring him "the love of her life"--the idealism that leads Rosie and Neil to help Enrique find freedom seems entirely plausible. Glory's bridge-playing senior citizen friends are not adequately differentiated, but this makes little difference to the main plot. The cruise ship setting is an effective venue for transporting what is essentially a classic country-house mystery into more exotic locales. 2001, Delacorte, $15.95. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer: Norah Piehl
ISBN: 0-385-32759-5
ISBN: 0-385-90014-7
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2002 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States

Sabotage on the Set
Joan Lowery Nixon
   The tenth book in the "Casebusters" series, Sabotage on the Set is a funny mystery for middle graders. It's just creepy enough to hold the reader's interest and just realistic enough so that you can say, "Yep. That could happen just that way." Brian, Sean, and Sam are thrilled when their school is chosen to be the setting of the next Dakota Wayne movie, and they will be extras. As the movie crew comes to town and sets up, though, there are nasty little acts of sabotage that could be accidents, but probably aren't. Brian, Sean, and Sam become "private investigators, not snoops," as they solve the mystery just in time to save a life. 1996, Disney Press, Ages 9 to 12, $3.95. Reviewer: Judy Silverman
ISBN: 0-7868-4087-0

Search for the Shadowman
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Nixon has turned a tedious school assignment into an exciting quest. As 12-year old Andy interviews various family members in order to record his family's oral history, he learns more about them and the settlement of Texas in the 1800's. Moreover, his investigation is met with stonewalling, threats, admonishments, difficult decisions and plenty of adventure. Outlaws, graveyard walking, the Internet, and a pair of elderly aunts are woven into this tension-packed story of one boy's determination to complete a school assignment while proving that his relative Coley Joe is innocent, and rewriting history in the process. 1996, Bantam Doubleday Dell, Ages 10 to 14, $15.95 and $4.50. Reviewer: Mary Sue Preissner
ISBN: 0-385-32203-8
ISBN: 0-440-41128-9
Best Books:
   American Booksellers Pick of the Lists, Fall, 1996 ; American Booksellers Association; United States
   Best Children's Books of the Year, 1996 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 ; California Department of Education; California
   Teachers' Choices, 1997 ; International Reading Association; United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Charlie May Simon Children's Book Award Reading List, 1998-1999 ; Arkansas
   Iowa Children's Choice Award, 1999-2000 ; Iowa
   Maine Student Book Award, 1997-1998 ; Maine
   Mark Twain Award, 1998-1999 ; Missouri
   Nevada Young Readers' Award, 2000 ; Nevada
   Nutmeg Children's Book Award, 2000 ; Connecticut
   Prairie Pasque Award, 1999 ; South Dakota
   Rhode Island Children's Book Award, 1999 ; Rhode Island
   South Carolina Book Awards, 1999 ; South Carolina
   Texas Bluebonnet Award, 1998-1999 ; Texas
   Utah Children's Book Awards, 2000 ; Utah

The Statue Walks at Night
Joan Lowery Nixon
Illustrated by Kathleen Collins Howell
   In this first in the Casebusters series, the master of mystery introduces the young reader to nine year old Sean Quinn and thirteen year old Brian Quinn, brothers who want to follow in their private investigator father's footsteps. Priceless works of art are mysteriously stolen from the local museum suggesting the thefts are an inside job. Readers relate to the childish antics of Sean and the ever-so-wise Brian as they hunt around for clues. Throw in several suspects, suspicious clues, and a legend of an Egyptian statue that walks at night, and the search for whodunit becomes so exciting and spine-tingling that readers won't want to put the book down, and yet will not give younger children nightmares. A great book to read aloud or by yourself. 1995, Disney, Ages 8 up, $13.95. Reviewer: Katie Preissner
ISBN: 0-7868-4018-8
Best Books:
   Children's Choices, 1996 ; International Reading Association; United States

Will's Story: 1771
Joan Lowery Nixon
   Twelve-year-old William has many things on his mind. It is 1771, and his father is the new gaoler in Williamsburg. His father also plays the organ for the church, and while William enjoys listening to his father play, he has no interest in learning the craft. William is trying to come to terms with the possibility that a family slave might be helping a runaway slave in the gaol escape. Beginning to question his own beliefs about slavery, William is torn. He knows that Emmanuel the runaway will face harsh punishment, possibly death, at the hands of his cruel owner. Yet, William can't help but feel he is betraying his father by not telling him of his suspicions. As a part of the "Young Americans: Colonial Williamsburg," series, Ms. Nixon has created a challenging and engaging story about young William's thoughts and feelings regarding life in Williamsburg. Told in the third person, the author's use of language and detail capture one's attention so well you cannot help but feel you are there. This fictional account will help any student learn about early American history and how our society and its rules have changed. 2001, Delacorte Press, $9.95. Ages 10 to 15. Reviewer: John D. Orsborn
ISBN: 0-385-32682-3

 

Added 03/07/03

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