The first time Candice Ransom picked up a pencil, she drew a witch wearing a ball gown, a beehive, and a diamond tiara in her sister’s spelling book. It was an inauspicious beginning for an award-winning writer who would publish more than 100 children’s books, ranging from fiction to nonfiction, biographies to board books, picture books to young adult novels.
Candice learned to tell stories by listening to her mother recall the “olden days” of her childhood in the Shenandoah Valley and by taking note of her sister’s excuses for cutting school (“I broke my arm playing basketball”). The combination of reminiscence and creative fibbing became the basis for her work. Many of her books are set in her native Virginia.
Candice has given hundreds of presentations to schools, libraries, conferences, and literary festivals. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College and an MA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University. In addition to writing and speaking, she currently teaches in the MA/MFA Children’s Literature program at Hollins.
She lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with her husband and two high-maintenance cats. Sometimes she dreams of dressing up in a ball gown and a tiara and flying out her office window on a bejeweled broomstick.
Selected Reviews of Candice Ransom’s Books
Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World
Illustrated by Heather Ross
Iva Honeycutt is looking forward to the summer after third grade. She has found what she believes to be a treasure map in some old magazines of her great-grandfather’s and is determined to locate the buried gold she thinks it shows. Her great-grandfather is often described as somewhat different, a description that fits Iva as well. Fiercely proud and self-sufficient, she is content to not have friends, other than a few adults. She particularly wants separation from her family, most particularly her “double” first cousin, Heaven (their mothers are sisters who married two brothers). It is easy to understand why–Heaven is a pain in the neck who often lies, bullies, and tattletales yet manages to get away with her obnoxious behavior with no apparent consequences. When Heaven horns in on Iva’s friendship with Miz Compton, it’s nearly more than Iva can bear; but she soldiers on in her efforts to find the treasure, with the help of her dog Sweetlips. However, it becomes clear she needs help digging in her chosen spot and so begrudgingly invites Heaven along as a helper and silent partner. Set in a small Virginia town populated with adults with unusual names and characteristics, the often-humorous story reads quickly. More a story of friendship and loneliness than an adventure, it realistically sets up the relationship between the two girls. Readers looking for a story about some independent girls trying to figure out what friendship means will enjoy this light read. 2012, Hyperion/Disney, $14.99. Ages 7 to 9. Reviewer: Peg Glisson (Children’s Literature).
Ransom (Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World) again creates a heroine with an unusal passion: 12-year-old Rebel McKenzie wants to be a paleontologist, and her goal this summer is to attend the Ice Age Kid’s Dig and Safari. Instead, she is stuck babysitting her seven-year-old nephew, Rudy, in a mobile home while her 26-year-old sister, Lynette, attends beauty school. An outgoing smart aleck with a talent for “burp-talking,” Rebel decides–along with new friend Lacey Jane–to enter a local beauty pageant to win the money she needs for the Dig. Peopled by offbeat characters–including an annoyingly perfect pageant winner named Bambi, elderly Odenia Matthews, a former hand model who trains the girls for the pageant, and an enormous cat named Doublewide–the book is especially strong in the development of Rebel’s relationship with Rudy, who talks to God at lunchtime and is obsessed with fashion–for corpses. Surprises in both plot and character development create a quick pace, extra material like Rudy’s cartoons and pages from Rebel’s “field notebook” provide welcome and often amusing insight. 2012, Hyperion/Disney, Ages 9 to 12, $16.99. Reviewer: Publishers Weekly.
Candice Ransom, Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant
A day on a tractor is lots of fun! After greeting the crows and taking the cover off the tractor, it’s time to get the tractor started. Once it is going, the farmer and his assistant use it for spring planting. The plow digs up broken cups and springs in addition to dirt. After a break for lunch, it’s back to work. Once the tractor’s work is done, the humans plant the seeds in the freshly-plowed earth. After a long, hard day, both the tractor and humans rest for the night. Ransom shows both the fun and difficult work required on a farm in entertaining and fun-to-read verse. Bryant’s illustrations perfectly compliment this idyllic tale of farm life. The reader will enjoy following the animals shown in the illustration yet not mentioned in the text. 2007, Walker and Company, $16.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Amie Rose Rotruck (Children’s Literature).
Candice gives three presentations plus an autographing session and optional lunch with selected students. Her programs are on PowerPoint, peppered with enthusiastic discussions. Programs for each grade level falls into two categories: book talks and writing workshops.
The Big Green Pocketbook/The Old Blue Pick-up Truck/Tractor Day
Three autobiographical picture books–one based on a fun day with the author’s mother, one based on a fun day with her father, the last on a family tradition–help young children realize it’s okay to “write what you know.” Grades K-1. 45 minutes.
Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World
In this program Ransom discusses how she created the rambunctious Iva and a town based on a real place. Iva may live in Uncertain, Virginia, but she knows exactly what she wants to do: be a famous discoverer. While giggling over Iva’s antics, students will learn Virginia geography and backyard/neighborhood mapping. Grades 2-3. 50 minutes.
In this program, students will be introduced to Rebel McKenzie, a character drawn from Ransom’s life. Rebel, who longs to be a paleontologist, digs a big hole for herself when she befriends a bully, alienates the trailer park beauty queen, teaches her nephew to belch, and enters a beauty pageant to earn money for Ice Age camp. Partly told through comic strips, field notebooks, beauty newsletters, the book surprised me by requiring these non-narrative forms to advance plot and develop character. Students will be encouraged to create their own traditional narrative stories augmented with newspapers, cartoons, journal and diary entries, etc. PowerPoint. Grades 4-8. 50 minutes.
“Write Where You Are: Large-group Student Writing Workshops”
In response to teachers asking how to motivate their students to write more, Ransom has created large-group workshops based on her own image vs. idea writing process. Each workshop is geared to meet the curriculum needs of K-1, 2-3, 4-5.
- Ransom uses her own childhood stories to show how her stories fizzled out (lack of planning!). She also uses her published texts to demonstrate how picture books, chapter books, and novels grew from her own personal stories.
- Students will bring notebooks and pencils, prepared to write. They’ll leave with at least one focused topic, opening sentence, lists of strong verbs and nouns, questions to propel narrative, and the energy to write completed pieces from their own personal place.
- Ransom uses her own books to demonstrate the process. To get the most out of these programs, students need to be familiar with her work. For K-1: The Big Green Pocketbook, Tractor Day, The Old Blue Pickup Truck. For 2-3: Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World, Seeing Sky-Blue Pink. For 4-5: Rebel McKenzie, Finding Day’s Bottom.
In-service for teachers:
“You Are Here: Personal Geography and Maps as Story Starters.”
This workshop focuses on helping students write based on place and image. They learn to create personal maps that serve as the foundation for memoirs, stories, and nonfiction. Through “deep-mapping,” students access memories and learn to observe. Exercises, handouts, bibliography. PowerPoint, 1 hour.
All fees for presentations and workshops are negotiable.
To learn more about Candice Ransom and her publications please visit www.candiceransom.com.