Brenda had the good fortune to grow up in south Georgia, a region rich in storytellers. When she was young she listened to their tales on the porch in the summer and by the fire in the winter. Television had been invented but no one had one. She says, “I write a lot about my childhood because we were always doing interesting things. We wanted to travel so we tried to dig to China, and we swung from trees like Tarzan. We made up our own games involving spies and horses, put on plays without written scripts and a lot of shows using our side porch for a stage.” She lived on the edge of a small town and had lots of animals: dogs, rabbits, fish, and a horse that she rode into town to the library. “As soon as I figured out that books had authors, I knew that was what I wanted to be. The greatest day in my childhood was the day I demonstrated to the children’s librarian at the Carnegie Library that I could read and got my own library card at age six,” says Brenda. After she graduated from Newcomb College, she married, had children and taught school. She has taught humanities and writing in elementary and high schools and presented college workshops in writing for children and adults. She has lived in many interesting places, including a haunted eighteenth century fort. She now lives on an island in Florida. Her pets and her children and even some of the places she has lived appear in her stories. In addition to the honors and awards her books have received, Brenda has also been the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Robie Macauley Fellowship from Emerson College-Ploughshares.
Master storyteller Seabrooke weaves her delicious spell from the opening pages of this haunting, gripping novel: “This is the one,” Matron says–and young Nicholas is transported from his brutal Dickens-like orphanage to a mysterious castle, where he is raised in lonely luxury and kept in deliberate ignorance by a collection of wonderfully-named sinister guardians: Ranik, Wark, Scrob. It becomes increasingly clear to Nicholas that he is perceived to be the possessor of some crucial secret, to be extracted from him through a series of dangerous and disturbing “treatments”–but what is it? How can he reveal a secret he himself does not know? As the years pass, Nicholas acquires two weapons against his menacing keepers–his hidden, self-taught passion for reading, and a growing friendship with a bold and brash new girl Larka who is brought to the castle. Everything depends on whether Nicholas can trust Larka and get her to trust him. Seabrooke creates just the right blend of evocative atmosphere and page-turning suspense to lead readers on to the exciting, but carefully ambiguous ending, which will leave them clamoring for a sequel. 2005, Holiday House, $16.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature)
The Haunting of Swain’s Fancy
Eleven-year-old Taylor arrives in West Virginia to spend the summer with her father, her new stepmother Sylvia, and Sylvia’s children Peter and Nicole. Her father and his new family have purchased a pre-Revolutionary stone house called Swain’s Fancy, which is full of antiques and comes with a fair amount of local history attached. Sharing a room with her twelve-year-old stepsister and finding her balance in the new household proves difficult for Taylor at first, but she, Nicole and Peter, together with a neighbor boy, Cody, are drawn together as they realize that Swain’s Fancy is haunted. They join forces to unravel the mystery of the anguished woman who walks the rooms each night, and end up clearing the name of the woman’s lover, a man who died nearly one hundred and forty years before. Brenda Seabrooke tells the story in simple words, painting a believable picture of a present-day pre-teen who misses television, computer games, and her familiar home with her mother. She especially handles the topic of divorced and remarried parents delicately, portraying the differences that arise when parents remarry, rather than presenting the ogreish stepparent beloved of children’s stories. That realism makes Taylor’s reactions to the haunting all the more natural. This book will certainly appeal to readers with a taste for ghost stories and historical mysteries. It may also be a good choice for children who are settling into a new family situation and not yet at ease with the changes around them. 2003, Dutton’s Children’s Books/Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, $16.99. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Julie Govan (Children’s Literature)
The Vampire In My Bathtub
I am a firm believer in the value of light reading. The kind that makes you smile and settle in until that last page. Brenda Seabrook’s The Vampire in My Bathtub is that kind of charming adventure. The title alone is irresistible. Since moving to a new town, Jeff is miserable. He misses his old buddies and feels sorry for himself until he discovers a vampire named Eugene trapped inside an old trunk. Eugene is not typical–he hates blood, likes garlic, is out of shape from lack of flying, and is ravenous after being asleep for 150 years. Now Jeff has lots to do. He must hide Eugene and keep him stocked with food. Maybe it will work out, but uh-oh, there’s the problem of Eugene’s evil cousin, Louis Vennard, whose only purpose is to get rid of Eugene and perhaps even Jeff. His powers are greater than Eugene’s. Jeff has more than he bargained for. 1999, Holiday, $15.95. Ages 8 to 11. Reviewer: Jan Lieberman (Children’s Literature).
Brenda is a former teacher who tailors her presentations to the age level of the audience. In her programs she explores ideas: where to find them and how to turn them into stories. Her slide presentation includes photographs from her life as well as the characters and places from her books. She explains the process of creating, from the first glimmer of an idea to the finished book. She brings visuals to show her audience which include rejections and edited manuscripts. Brenda encourages questions and prefers to be informal with groups rather than a lecturer.
Brenda will conduct up to 4 one-hour presentations in a day. She prefers smaller groups, under 100 students. She will address up to 500 in a session. Her presentations are designed for elementary, middle school, high school, and adults.
Costs: Basic fee for 4 one-hour talks the fee is $1,100. This fee can include book signings & lunch with chosen students. Travel, lodging and other expenses are to be paid by the booking organization.
To learn more about Brenda and her books please visit www.childrensbookguild.org/brenda-seabrooke.