Barbara Ann Porte Books & Biography
Barbara Ann Porte is a versatile writer for readers of all ages. Her picture books include Surprise! Surprise! It's Grandfather's Birthday! and "Leave That Cricket Be, Alan Lee." For beginning readers she has written Harry's Pony, Harry's Birthday, and Harry in Trouble. Middle readers enjoy her story collections, such as Hearsay: Strange Tales from the Middle Kingdom and Black Elephant with a Brown Ear (in Alabama). For young adults she has written the novel I Only Made Up the Roses.
Before turning to writing full time, Barbara Ann Porte was a storyteller and a librarian, serving as Chief, Children's Services Division, in the Nassau Library System in New York for twelve years. She now lives in northern Virginia.
Nancy Carpenter has illustrated several books for children, including Sitti's Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye and Loud Emily by Alexis O'Neill. She is also a contributing illustrator to the New York Times. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
In Her Own Words...
"I was raised by a sometimes impractical mother with a strong social bent, and a father who worked hard but was also a dreamer. He often related extravagant stories. My two sisters and I took after them both. It was good preparation for becoming a writer.
"I spent a lot of my childhood helping in my father's store, a pharmacy around the corner from where we lived, on Manhattan's Upper East Side. It was a family affair. Even our mother, who was a lawyer, worked there. She got dressed up on Sundays, put on a hat, and "demonstrated" cosmetics.
"My sisters and I practiced doing that too. We also tried our hands at making "medicine": mixing colored powders, then tamping them into gelatin capsules. We ran errands, refused tips ("Explain that you're the owner's daughters," our mother told us), and conversed politely with customers, including a man with only one ear, his other having been bitten off in a fight. Other customers I remember were a magician who performed tricks for us, a sideline fisherman who kept us in mackerel, a famous short-story writer, an orchestra conductor, a chorus-line dancer, and a retired pianist who showed us how to shake our hands hard to keep them limber in case we ever became pianists, too.
"Favorites among our acquaintances were neighborhood proprietors: the baker who gave us cookies whenever we visited -I the bookseller in whose store we spent hours at a time reading; the uptown petshop owner from whom my father bought leeches, then delivered them to a local hospital to be used for bleeding unfortunate patients.
"Given this background, the variety of career possibilities didn't escape us-or our mother. "You can be anything you want," she told us nightly, after reading to us and tucking us in. "Actress," my older sister decided. Our best friend's mother had just married a British movie star. It sounded fine to me, but I also wanted to be like Mowgli in The Jungle Book and live with wolves, travel on the backs of geese as Nils did in Selma Lagerlof's novel. I wanted to be a liberator like Simon Bolivar and a scientist like Madame Curie. I wanted to ride the winged horse Pegasus and fly to exotic places.
"I flew instead to Iowa to study farming. Though it seemed a good idea at the time, later it was hard to find a job in my field in New York. I went back to school and became a science librarian. But the only job I was ever offered involved telling stories to children. "Of course I know how," I said at my interview, thinking of my father. It turned out fine, and led to my writing children's books.
"Now I'm everything I want to be. I work in worlds of my own invention. They're filled with fantastic events, extravagant people with strong social bents, and lots of animals. I've become a grandmother, too. I love to read to my grandchildren and tuck them in. "You can be anything you want," I tell them. I think there's only one trick: You have to dream the right dreams, and persist."