Cheryl Harness was born in California where she read books avidly, especially American classics. Her career began with a degree in art education from Central Missouri State University. In addition to her success in Children’s Literature, Cheryl has worked as a student teacher, a waitress, an art supply seller, a theme park portrait spinner, a greeting card person at Hallmark Cards and a needlework designer in California. Through all this she maintained a passion for the illustrative works of N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, and Jessie Wilcox Smith.

   The American story inspires Cheryl in her works, for which she researches extensively and travels the country to see the historic sites. It was Uri Shulevitz’s children’s book summer-study in 1984 which gave her the courage to go to New York in 1985 and work in illustrating children’s books. Since then, she has published many acclaimed books and made presentations where she engages the students with her love for history.

   In her school visits, Cheryl explains the dedication to making books that made her succesful, and through this she reinforces the teacher’s message that really engaging ourselves in our passion is the way to achieve. She brings students an understanding that history is not simply the past, but is ongoing now and forever, and that immersing yourself in history’s movement is the way to realize your best self.

Selected Reviews of Cheryl’s Books

Women Daredevils: Thrills, Chills, and Frills
Cheryl Harness
   This is one fun and exciting book! The author highlights 14 women who were the first women daredevils in a number of areas between 1880 and 1929. From “human cannonball” Zazel to bicycle riders Mlle. D’Zizi and Gertrude Breton–forerunners of Evil Knieval and his motorcycling leaps over buses–each of the women is highlighted as to her “extreme sport” and the specifics of that challenge as well as to the personal challenges she faced in life. Detailed pen and pencil drawings provide younger readers with fabulous poster-like visuals of both the woman and her particular circus act or daring escapade. Cultural tidbits, such as the fact that American President Woodrow Wilson came to the circus to specifically watch May Wirth, “The World’s Greatest Bareback Rider,” and the news that parachutist Georgie Broadwick tested an aerial life preserver for the Aviation Bureau of the U.S. Navy, are fun to read. Women wing walkers, the first woman to ride down Niagara Falls in a barrel, the first woman wild animal trainer, and the girl with the high-diving horse help to round out this fascinating book. A must-have for any library or any household with adventurous young women in it! 2008, Dutton Children’s Books, $17.99. Ages 6 to 12. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).

The adventurous life of Myles Standish and the amazing-but-true survival story of the Plymouth Colony
Cheryl Harness
   If you think you know everything about the Mayflower, pilgrims, Myles Standish, and the hardships faced by the early settlers, Harness’s book will be an eye-opener. The life of Myles Standish, the redhead with the fiery temper and nicknamed Captaine Shrimpe, is seamlessly integrated into the story of the colonists’ voyage, their arrival, and their settlement of the colony at Plimoth. The lively, chatty narrative reads like an adventure story that has turned historical icons into flesh and blood–God-fearing people with hopes and dreams and a healthy dose of fear and doubt. Incredible research has turned up fascinating information, such as the fact that the natives greeted the settlers in English, that captain John Smith wanted to sail with the pilgrims but was not invited, that the Mayflower was almost blown up by a young boy, and that Standish was made Captain General of the small pilgrim army, a post he held for forty years. The conversational tone of the book with its expressions in modern vernacular makes for easy reading, while always displaying the utmost respect for its subjects. Painstakingly detailed pen-and-ink drawings richly evoke the era. A time line running along the bottom of the pages puts world events of the time into perspective. A full index and bibliography complete this excellent example of nonfiction at its best. 2006, National Geographic, $16.95. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey (Children’s Literature).

Just For You to Know
Cheryl Harness
   It is 1963 and twelve-year-old Carmen Cathcart is not happy: her restless dad is on the move again, taking her, her mom, and five younger brothers along to another new town. On top of having to start a new school and find new friends, Carmen learns that Mom is pregnant–again! To Carmen’s surprise, though, it looks like things might work out this time: Robin, the girl next door, immediately befriends her and Carmen, a talented artist, will finally get to take a real art class in school. The night before her thirteenth birthday, during a rare mother-daughter chat, Carmen learns that Mom had miscarried twice before her: “You were a dream come true,” her mother tells her, then assures her that the new baby will be, too. Ironically, as her last dream child is born, Carmen’s mother hemorrhages and dies. Thus, the story takes a huge, 180-degree turn one-third into the story, as the remaining Cathcarts struggle to carry on without her. While everyone is greatly affected, it is Carmen who bears the brunt of it, as the responsibility of caring for six younger siblings falls on her thin shoulders. (Dad works the night shift.) Sprinkled with the usual ‘60’s events (Kennedy’s assassination, “I have a dream”), this coming-of-age tale is wise, funny, and bittersweet. Carmen is a wonderful heroine, and her struggle to hold onto her family without sacrificing her dream of being an artist is one any reader will relish. 2006, HarperCollins, $16.99. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Naomi Milliner (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

I’d be happy to talk about:

Creating Books For Young Timetravelers
   The scenic route I took from Laura and Mary on the Prairie by way of a long-ago teaching degree to ending up as writer and illustrator of historical picture books and first-time novelist.
PLUS a show & tell (rough drawings, marked up manuscript, actual paintings:
I bring’em along) whizbang: how I do one of my books, from concept to final
artwork.

PLUS a slide show.

AND if you all have Qs, I’ve got As.

10 Big Fat Reasons For Studying History
   Just in case you (or a student you may know) ever thought that history was
boring, a lively, thought-provoking countdown from someone who makes her
living writing about dead people.

   An exciting, entertaining, educational day: that’s what your students will have when I come to visit your school:

  • Will I draw pictures? Play my harmonica? Show up in period costume? Probably! I’ve got a very fetching 18th century gown this year in honor of my new book about Benjamin Franklin.
  • Will I engage kids’ imagination? Answer questions? Give writing tips? Sign books? Share my love of history? You bet! My talk is a mixture of writing, humor, bookbiz, and history, mine and the nation’s.
  • Before I’m done, I’ll show and tell how I research, write, revise, draw, and paint my books and I’ll inspire more than one young writer or artist, showing them the path to telling stories of their own.
  • While my audiences are mostly Kindergarten through 6th graders, I’m plenty happy to talk with middle schoolers and high schoolers. How about presentations for gatherings of grownups? Absolutely!

Program Length:
   My program lasts from 45 to 50 minutes – or longer when the Qs & As are flying fast. A half an hour seems to be a fine length of time for the wiggly kindergartners and first graders.

Audience Size:
   Smaller groups of students, meeting in a library: this is ideal, but large groups, seated on a nice, comfortable floor in the gym are fine too. Either way, we’ll have a jammin’ good time.

Additional Programs:
Young Author Conferences and Festivals.
   On the day of the school visit [or the night before, depending on travel plans] evening programs are available at no extra charge, for parents, siblings, and community. Writing workshops + handouts for smaller groups.

Fees:
   My fees are around $1200 – $1500 per day. They are negotiable.

Additional Information

To learn more about Cheryl Harness and her publications please visit www.cherylharness.com.