Carolyn Reeder grew up in Washington, DC. She remembers that even as a child she always had her nose stuck in a book. But later in life, while she was teaching and raising her family, she discovered that writing can bring just as much pleasure as reading. Now, writing is an important part of her life – an end it itself. All of her children’s books are historical novels set between 1860 and 1945. They are read mostly by students, grade 4 – 9. Carolyn does a tremendous amount of research for each of her novels and enjoys the opportunity to talk to people that she wouldn’t otherwise meet and to take excursions to places that are off the beaten track. She loves being able to read in depth on fascinating subjects and being able to call reading, “work.”
Timothy Donovan’s Story
Timothy Donovan isn’t a coward . . . not exactly. But he is prickly, overly defensive, stubborn to a fault, and not precisely certain he really wants to give his life for his country. This is not historical fiction’s standard image of the Civil War’s loveable fourteen-year-old bugler boy. Carolyn Reeder is braver than her protagonist in taking a stance for the secret doubters who surely peopled the Civil War’s battlefields in greater percentages than are ever allowed. In the first part of her Before the Creeks Ran Red trilogy, Reeder sets her young bugler in Charleston Harbor during the months leading to the firing on Fort Sumter and the irrevocable declaration of war between North and South that event precipitates. Along the way she takes on other complex topics: petty feuding between the non-commissioned men; the lack of faith in Sumter’s southern-bred, vacillating commandant; near-starvation conditions within the blockaded island fortress. By the time the Stars and Stripes are lowered and Fort Sumter is evacuated, Timothy has done some maturing. But he’s still not sure he wants to die for the Union. This is a provocative thought. That the choice might not be his is another one. Reeder’s novelette is filled with these classroom discussion bombshells. 2007 (orig. 2003), Children’s Literature, $6.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr (Children’s Literature).
Twelve-year-old Kate has always enjoyed her family’s boat trips down the C & O Canal from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown, in Washington, D.C., but this year was different. The death of her father had brought a most painful hardship, and now her mother had remarried, bringing in two more children, a boy, Seth, and a girl, Julia. Her plans for the canal trip ruined, Kate feels like an outsider, but she refuses to give up. With her mother expecting a child and knowing that they depend on the income from the coal they haul to D.C., Kate is determined to make the voyage. Along with her stepbrother, Seth, they sneak off down the canal. Although arrogant and somewhat resentful toward her stepbrother, Kate learns many valuable lessons, including the importance of respect and working as a team. Along the way, she grows up and learns that she must change. This heartfelt story is set during the mist of the Civil War, a time when often all one had was family. Children will love this very real and emotional story that captures both the beauty of the landscape and the hardships of life when the C & O Canal was a busy workplace. Past and present facts about the C & O Canal are also provided. 1999, Avon, $15.00. Ages 9 up. Reviewer: Melinda Medley Sprinkle (Children’s Literature).
The Secret Project Notebook
Late in 1944, thirteen-year-old Franklin and his mother and father move to a mesa outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico so Franklin’s father can work on a “Secret Project” for the government. Franklin, who voluntarily requests that his name be changed to Fritz to avoid constant badgering from a couple of bullies at his new school, is fascinated with the “project” and sets out to discover as much as he can about it without breaking any of the millions of rules. Along with a colorful cast of friends that includes Kathy, a smart but emotional girl whose brother is fighting in Europe; Manny, a Spanish-American boy who knows the local traditions; and Jacob, a Jewish boy whose family escaped the Nazis, Fritz discovers a number of clues that he carefully records in a notebook that he carries with him all the time. He and his friends do all of this while trying to avoid the military police and their own parents. Eventually, the truth about the “Secret Project” is revealed as the kids experience a unique and controversial piece of American history known as the Manhattan Project. While the book avoids tackling the most controversial aspects of the project, it does touch on them and allows the reader to explore his or her own feelings about them. Fritz is a well-rounded character and since the entire book is told in first-person, present tense, it is imperative that he be likeable, which he is. All in all, the book is an enjoyable read and a very creative way of presenting the fascinating story of the men and women involved in the Manhattan Project. 2005, Los Alamos Historical Society, $5.99. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Tom Jones (Children’s Literature).
Carolyn prefers to visit with small groups – 2-4 classes that are accustomed to working together. (She will add an additional fee to speak to a large auditorium/cafeteria group). Her programs are designed for students in grades 4-8, but she could accommodate third graders who have read or listened to Grandpa’s Mountain, Shades of Gray, Captain Kate. Her fees are negotiable. Travel and lodging costs are to be paid by sponsoring organization. In addition, Carolyn is available to present at conferences and to adult groups regarding her career as an historical fiction author and also about the three adult non-fiction books which she co-authored with her husband, Jack.
The following is a list of Power Point programs that she has developed for school visits:
- The Research is the Best Part–touches on all books;
- Writing Process–tailored to a specific book or sampling each of them;
- Shades of Gray: From Idea to Published Book;
- Across the Lines in Pictures–good for classes studying the Civil War;
- The True Story of Grandpa’s Mountain–especially good for 3rd or 4th who have read or listened to the book;
- The Pictures behind the Words–photos that provided the images for characters and scenes as I wrote my books;
- Down the C&O Canal with Kate and Seth–includes some features of (1) and (6) for Captain Kate;
- Self-editing-especially good for older kids or groups of enthusiastic writers. (This is the most interactive of her programs, with oral participation from the group throughout the session.)
- Cover Illustrations: An Author’s Point of View–sketches, finished art, and judging a cover by its book;
- Fritz, aka Franklin–The Secret Project Notebook, with emphasis on the importance of point of view and “voice.”
Carolyn usually begins a program by showing “artifacts” related to her books and ends with a question-and-answer period.
To learn more about Carolyn and her publications please visit www.reederbooks.com.