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The Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books:

Rising Star
Each month we offer a focus on a particular author or artist. Sometimes we use this space to discuss a rising new talent or an established star, but we also like to celebrate those who now live on only in the rich legacy of their books.. See the archive for focus pieces from previous months.

Jane Cutler

Though mainly a writer of novels, Jane Cutler first came to my attention with her picturebook Darcy and Gran Don't Like Babies, which was a new-baby-adjustment story that had a refreshingly astringent tone along with its more comforting message. In My Wartime Summers, Cutler demonstrated that her gift for unforced detail and natural preteen dynamics could travel through time: her heroine, Ellen, is living through World War II on the American homefront, first suspecting her new emigre neighbor, Lisa-Lotte, of being a spy and then becoming inseparable friends with the girl. In Spaceman, Cutler goes not into orbit but into to the world of a contemporary kid struggling with learning disabilities and disappointed parents. Her new novel, 'Gator Aid, balances an easygoing saga of a boy's surprise find in a local park with a delicious skewering of Media Phenomena.

What Cutler carries throughout all these works is a knack for pitching narrative to the middle-grades level without dilution. In this respect, her work is reminiscent of Ann Cameron , who also makes her writing accessible by doingwork on behalf of her readers rather than simply taking an easy road.

Cutler's work is tender and thoughtful, humorous and sensitive, but never out of reach of her young readers; Gary's dilemma in Spaceman is vivid and immediate, his desperation palpable, so that readers struggling with similar problems will find the story bolstering indeed. Yet it's not a disability drama, dispensing clinical diagnoses between plot points, but a story about a kid whose out-of-placeness spirals into frustrated anger, a situation to which most youngsters will be able to relate. 'Gator Aid offers that rare thing, a truly original plot, but the people, ranging from the neighborhood know-it-all to the protagonist's insulting but loyal big brother, are immediately recogizable while still being individuals.

The architecture of literature is difficult enough when you can use the heavy machinery to build a book. Cutler hand-constructs her narratives with pocket-size and apparently inconsequential materials, but her craftsmanship makes them into warm and cozy houses well worth habitation. Readers, enter here.

--Deborah Stevenson, Associate Editor

  • Darcy and Gran Don't Like Babies; illus. by Susannah Ryan. Scholastic, 1993. 4-7 yrs. (BCCB 10/93)
  • My Wartime Summers. Farrar, 1994. Gr. 5-8 (BCCB 11/94)
  • Spaceman. Dutton, 1997. Gr. 4-6 (BCCB 5/97)
  • 'Gator Aid; illus. by Tracey Campbell Pearson. Farrar, 1999. Gr. 2-4 (BCCB 9/99)

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    This page was last updated on August 5, 1999.