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 Juvenile Books Author of the Month
Patricia Reilly Giff
Patricia Reilly Giff
26 April 1935 -- ???

Biography
     Patricia Reilly Giff was born on April 26, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York to William J. Reilly and his wife Alice Tiernan (Moeller) Reilly.  She grew up in the small community of Saint Albans.

    Like many children's authors, books played a very important part in Giff's childhood.  "I spent most of my childhood with a book in my hands.  I read before the sun was up, then hunched over the breakfast table with my book in my lap.  After school, I'd sit in the kitchen leaning against the warm radiator, dreaming over a story." [1]  Giff often read the same things her mother had read as a child, such as the classics, mythology, and fairy tales.  She was particularly fond of Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the Black Stallion series, and the Nancy Drew series.  Giff also loved to sit with her father when she was younger as he would read aloud some of the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, such as Hiawatha and Evangeline.

    In fact, Giff spent so much time reading in the little library in her home town that she read all of the books on the juvenile shelves.  Fortunately, her friend, Miss Bailey, came to her rescue.  She would sneak into the adult section to find some books for Giff to read.

    When she finished high school, Giff went to Marymount College in New York.  She had always wanted to write so it seemed natural to major in English, but after studying Keats, Poe, Pope, and Drysden, she felt that she was not talented enough.  She switched her major first to business, and then to history.  She found that history was another field where wonderful tales of the past could be spun.  That was not her final change in her career track.  Thanks to her Dean, who had no idea she wanted to write, Giff fell into teaching.  She received her B.A. Degree in Education  in 1956, a Master's Degree in History from St. John's University in Jamaica, New York in 1958, and a profesional diploma in reading from Hofstra University in 1975.  Giff also received a doctorate of Humane Letters from Hofstra University.

    Upon finishing her undergraduate studies, Giff became a teacher.  She was a public school teacher in New York City until 1960.  She taught in public elementary schools in Elmont, New York from 1964 to 1971.  At that point she became a reading consultant.

    During her time teaching in New York City, she met her future husband James A. Giff, who was a police detective.  They married on January 31, 1959.  They have three children James, William, and Alice, as well as four grandchildren.

    Before she knew it, Giff was forty years old.  She was disappointed with the fact that not only had she not written a book, but she had never even tried.  "By this time, I had worked with so many children who had terrible problems that I wanted to say things that would make them laugh.  I wanted to tell them that they were special." [2]

    With the support of her husband James, Giff began concentrating on writing, but it wasn't easy.  "I dragged myself out of bed in the early morning darkness to spend an hour or two at my typewriter before I had to leave for school.  Slowly and painfully, I began to form the words, the sentences...And then suddenly, writing became one of the most important parts of my life, a part that now I couldn't live without." [1]  Giff states that it is still not easy, but she can't stop.  She still gets up early to write.  She just wishes that she had done it sooner.

    In 1990, she and her husband James opened The Dinosaur's Paw, a children's bookstore named after one of her Kids of the Polk Street School novels.  This store is part of Giff's quest to bring children and books together.  She is also a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and is an educational consultant for Dell Yearling and Young Yearling books.

    Currently, Giff visits schools and libraries around the country to speak to her readers about her books and about writing.  When discussing her work, she claims "I have no special talent, you know.  I never took a writing course before I began to write....anyone who has problems or worries, anyone who laughs and cries, anyone who feels, can write.  It's only talking on paper...talking about things that matter to us.

    When she is not writing, Giff enjoys reading in the bathtub, going to the movies, and eating popcorn.  She and her husband of 35 years live in Weston, Connecticut.  They have three cats named J.R. Fiddle, Bonnie, and Jake.

Information for this biography was taken from:
    1) Anne Commire (ed.). Contemporary Authors, #33; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1983.
    2) Educational Paperback Association.  Patricial Reilly Giff; (http://www.edupaperback.org/authorbios/giffpatr.html).
    3) Random House. "Patricia Reilly Giff", Authors and Illustrators Index; (http://www.randomhouse.com/teachersbdd/giff.html)

Fiction Titles

Kids of the Polk Street School Books

J-P-GIF Beast and the Halloween Horror (1990) -- Halloween should be fun , but Beast is in big trouble.  He was working really hard on his spelling homework when Ms. Rooney read "The Halloween Horror" to the class. Then, she tells the students to write to the author.  Beast does and invites the author to the school's Halloween parade, never dreaming he might accept.

J-P-GIF The Beast in Ms. Rooney's Room (1986) -- Held back in second grade, Richard can't seem to help getting into trouble until he gets really interested in reading and helps his class in a special way.

J-P-GIF The Candy Corn Contest (1986) -- Richard is determined to win the Thanksgiving candy corn contest by guessing the correct number of candies in the jar, but before he realizes what he has done, he has eaten three big pieces.  What will the teacher do when she finds out?

J-P-GIF Emily Arrow Promises to Do Better This Year (1990) -- Emily's New Years resolution is to be perfect, but her friend Dawn Bosco is making that very difficult.

J-P-GIF Fish Face (1986) -- Making friends with the new girl in her class is hard for Emily after she replaces Emily as the fastest runner and steals her lucky unicorn.

J-P-GIF In the Dinosaur's Paw (1986) -- When the kids in Ms. Rooney's class return to school after Christmas, one of them suspects that he has found a magic ruler that makes wishes come true.

J-P-GIF Lazy Lions, Lucky Lambs (1986) -- March is the worst month for Richard Best.  It is report card time, and if he doesn't get good grades, he might get left back again.

J-P-GIF Monster Rabbit Runs Amuck! (1991) -- Beast and his best friend, Matthew, have to move the huge rabbit on wheels onto the stage for the Spring assembly, but while they were doing it, it rolled right off the stage!  What are they going to do?

J-P-GIF Purple Climbing Days (1986) -- With the help of the meanest substitute teacher in the whole school, Richard "Beast" Best learns a lesson about fear.

J-P-GIF Say "Cheese" (1986) -- At the close of the school year, Emily thinks about the fun she had with her classmates.

J-Giff Sunny Side Up (1986) -- Summer for Richard Best, nicknamed Beast, means facing the two ordeals of summer school and losing his best friend, who is moving to another state.

J-P-GIF The Valentine Star (1986) -- As Valentine‚s Day approaches and her class becomes busy making cards, Emily is worried about her fight with Sherri, who tells her "You‚ll Be Sorry!"

The Lincoln Lions Band

J-P-GIF The Great Shamrock Disaster (1993) -- When the uniforms borrowed for the St. Patrick's Day Parade turn out to be too old and too big, Michelle Swoop tries to save the day for the Lincoln Lions Band.

J-P-GIF The "Jingle Bells" Jam (1992) -- Chrissie Tripp wants to play her fife with the rest of the band at the Sunrise Mall, but she doesn't know how.

J-P-GIF Meet the Lincoln Lions Band (1992) -- Chrissie Tripp wants to be in the marching band at Lincoln School , but lying about her abilities messes things up.

J-P-GIF The Red, White, and Blue Valentine (1993) --Will the Simson City Valentine's Day competition be Willie's greatest moment or worst embarrassment?

J-P-GIF The Rootin'‚ Tootin'‚ Bugle Boy (1993) -- The Winter Carnival is almost here, and that means ice skating, sledding, giant snow and ice sculptures, and this year‚s special performance by the Lincoln Lions Band.

J-P-GIF Yankee Doodle Drumsticks (1992) -- Willie Roberts dreams of a terrific Thanksgiving where he is wearing a shiny red-and-blue uniform, playing drums out on the football field, and having his father there.

New Kids of the Polk Street School Books

J-P-GIF All About Stacy (1988) -- Stacy wants to make a special "About Me" box for her new class project, but she can't think of a thing to put in it.

J-P-GIF B-E-S-T Friends (1988) -- Stacy thinks the new girl Annie is "H-A-R-B-L", and having to be Annie's partner in class is horrible, too.  It's not easy for Stacy to be friends with someone who is different -- until she realizes that it can be fun to be different.

J-P-GIF Spectacular Stone Soup (1989) -- After being accused of never helping anyone, Stacy realizes that she can't remember the last time that she did.  And now that Mrs. Zachary wants her class to be people-helpers and prepare a Spectacular Stone Soup, Stacy sees her chance, but no one seems to notice.

J-P-GIF Stacy Says Goodbye (1989) -- Stacy is thrilled to see the class's baby pictures go up on the bulletin board until Twana spoils the day by saying Stacy's picture looks like a hippopotamus.  Now, Mrs. Zachary says she has a secret to share with the class, but Stacy is not sure she can handle any more surprises.

Polka Dot Private Eye

J-P-GIF The Case of the Cool Itch Kid (1989) -- Dawn Bosco, who is on her way to summer camp, can't wait for the fun to begin, but when her shell mirror and a favorite pin disappear, it's time for the Polka Dot Private Eye to investigate.

J-P-GIF The Clue at the Zoo (1990) -- Arno the killer kindergarten kid is joining Dawn and Jill on trip to the zoo.  Fortunately, they have come across a mystery to solve so they can have fun.

J-P-GIF Garbage Juice for Breakfast (1989) -- Dawn Bosco's camp counselor has just handed out the clues for a treausure hunt.  Dawn can't wait to start investigating, but her friend Lizzie Lee is on the case, too.

J-P-GIF The Riddle of the Red Purse (1987) -- Dawn Bosco finds a shiny, new red purse in the school yard.  Inside is a shopping list and some sandy grit.  It's another chance for Dawn to solve a mystery.

J-P-GIF The Secret at the Polk Street School (1987) -- Dawn knows that detectives aren‚t supposed to get scared, but because of the messages she is getting signed "The Wolf," she is getting scared.  She has to solve the mystery of the person leaving her notes so she can help the school play win a contest.

Other Fiction Titles

J-P-GIF The 100 Book Hog Wild Race in the Reading Room (1997) -- Miss Pampaluzzi's class is trying to read 100 books in 100 days.  Find out if they make it!

J-P-GIF Fourth Grade Celebrity (1979) -- Cassandra Eleanor Valentine searches for a way to become a celebrity in her school.

J-P-GIF The Gift of the Pirate Queen (1982) -- Sixth-grader Grace, her mother dead and her only sister suffering from diabetes, learns to be brave like the pirate queen Grace O'Malley, whom her Irish cousin says she resembles.

J-P-GIF The Girl Who Knew It All (1979) -- Always-in-trouble Tracy discovers most of her problems stem from the fact that she doesn't read well.

J-P-GIF The Left-Handed Shortstop (1980) -- When his classmates brag that Walter is their star shortstop, Walter makes a cast for his left arm so the kids won't see what a terrible player he really is.

J-Giff Lily's Crossing (1997) -- During the summer spent at Rockaway Beach in 1944, Lily's friendship with a young Hungarian refugee causes her to see the war and her own world differently.

J-P-GIF Matthew Jackson Meets the Wall (1990) -- Matthew‚s family move from New York to Ohio is difficult enough as they leave behind good friends and memories, but the disappearance of their cat and a neighbor so tough he's called the "Wall" add to Matthew's anxieties.

J-Giff Noya Ryan's Song (2000) -- When a terrible blight attacks ireland's potato crop in 1845, twelve-year-old Nory Ryan's courage and ingenuity help her family and neighbors survive.

J-P-GIF Poopsie Pomerantz, Pick Up Your Feet (1989) -- Poopsie‚s plans for self improvement include losing enough weight to fit into a medium-sized bathing suit and becoming a prima ballerina.

J-P-GIF Rat Teeth (1984) -- Fifth-grader Cliffie feels that nothing has been right in his life since his parents got their divorce and his two front teeth began growing out over his lower lip.

J-Giff The Winter Worm Business (1981) -- When his look-a-like cousin moves to town, acts like an idiot in school, and takes away his friend, fifth-grader Leroy is sure his life is ruined.

Non-Fiction Titles
J-92-WILDER Laura Ingalls Wilder: Growing Up in the Little House  (1987) -- A biography of the author of the "Little House" books, including the years she was married to Almanzo Wilder.

Websites
Educational Paperback Association: Patricia Reilly Giff (http://www.edupaperback.org/authorbios/giffpatr.html) -- A brief biography of this popular writer for Beginner Readers.

Authors And Illustrators: Patricia Reilly Giff (http://www.randomhouse.com/teachersbdd/giff.html) -- A message from Patricia Reilly Giff about her life and writing.  You can even hear the author speak! 

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