Books by Ann Turner

MY NAME IS TRUTH by Ann Turner
Released: Jan. 27, 2015

"When used in concert with other sources, a powerful life of a determined woman who rose from slavery to preach for freedom. (author's note, photograph, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)"
An American story of an extraordinary woman. Read full book review >
FATHER OF LIES by Ann Turner
Released: Feb. 8, 2011

Salem Village is a vividly cold and scary place, her neighbors a constant threat as 14-year-old Lidda struggles to silence the seductive, sometimes frightening voice that dominates her thoughts. Calling himself "Lucian, light bringer," the voice implies that she alone has the power to end the madness afflicting some of the town's youth. At first believing that the witch-accusers must also hear Lucian, Lidda begins to recognize the heartless lies behind their destructive behavior. Her family divides over Lidda's increasing inability to cope; while shallow sister Susannah sides with the afflicted girls, the rest of Lidda's relatives offer much-needed support. Turner perfectly captures the nightmare nature of Salem's witchcraft period and of some of the outside forces that may have fueled it without ever diminishing the strength and humanity of those who distrusted and refused to support the reign of terror. Yet the town's issues play a secondary role to Lidda's own believable struggles with encroaching insanity—or an otherworldly paranormal force: an appraisal left for engaged readers to make. (Historical fiction. 11 & up)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

Minor's well-rendered, gorgeous illustrations beg for a text that informs and emulates the lyric language of the Sioux. Short, uninterestingly constructed sentences portray Sitting Bull's encounter with Long Hair (Custer), his eventual flight to Canada and finally his return to the government-designated reservation at Fort Yates. The author purports to speak from the mouth of Sitting Bull, reminding the reader that this is a fictionalized portrait, an attempt to convey what Sitting Bull might have been thinking about the events in his life, but she fails to do so convincingly. And while one can appreciate the beauty of the ledger-style illustrations integrated with the more dimensional renderings, there is no explanation of the significance of the butterfly on Sitting Bull's hat in the illustration on the cover and the first interior spread. That illustration seems to have been based on a historic photo by N. W. Photo Co. (Chadron, Neb.) now in the collection of E.A. Brininstool (Los Angeles). The historical note is informative and quite interesting, but the note and the illustrations will not be enough to redeem this and make it a priority purchase. Useful only as an introduction to the history. (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
HARD HIT by Ann Turner
Released: Feb. 1, 2006

Mark Warren's world is about to be turned upside down by his father's sudden diagnosis of cancer in this novel written in a spare, masterful sequence of poems. The tenth grader, an aspiring star pitcher, still has an innocence and ability to feel, qualities absent from much of contemporary YA fiction. And while the story follows a formulaic structure—Mark's got a best friend and falls in love—both these characters support Mark with genuine warmth and affection through the ups and downs of his father's treatment. What keeps this arresting is the kindness and understanding of the characters—not just Mark's friends, but his family, too—and the astonishing minimalist language of each poem that advances the storyline and reveals Mark's attempt to grapple with everything. There isn't a lot of background noise: no sidebar conversations into other character's unhappy or dysfunctional lives; the focus is clearly on Mark, life and death and the exquisitely evoked simple and complex mysteries of the universe. Backmatter includes "National Help Lines" for further information on cancer and organizations to help children with bereavement. (Fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
PUMPKIN CAT by Ann Turner
Released: Aug. 1, 2004

An orange cat, caught out in the New England autumn, finds a cozy place to sleep in the book drop of the town library. Librarians Rochelle and Lisa adopt her and name her Pumpkin Cat. Pumpkin loves the library, but something is missing. She's lonely at night. After a Halloween celebration, the librarians discover a black kitten left in a basket on their doorstep. The librarians are angry, but Pumpkin Cat adopts Halloween Cat and shares her library. Turner tells the gentle seasonal story from the cat's perspective; though it's short, it manages to meander and nearly lose itself. The real selling point here is Bates's realistic, golden-hued watercolors. Pumpkin Cat has just the right amount of expressive, anthropomorphic charm. Pumpkin Cat's search is never compelling, but the package is as comfortable as a cat on a cable knit sweater. (Picture book 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2004

Ned, a fictional boy, meets Thomas Jefferson, who's staying at his mother's boardinghouse while he's writing the Declaration of Independence. The focus here is a snapshot of a specific place, time, and historic moment—not the life of Jefferson. As in Drummer Boy (1998), Turner has successfully melded fact and fiction in a story that enlivens history for young readers by narrating it through a young boy's eyes. The opening sentence, "What did I know of freedom, of all the wild talk of independence that summer of 1776," expresses Ned's point of view and establishes context. The spare text and large type offer simplicity while the realistic, detailed illustrations provide a stereoptic peek into the time. The dialogue seems natural and the visual perspectives build dramatic tension. A perceptive, accessible tribute to freedom. (historical note, sources) (Picture book/historical fiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
IN THE HEART by Ann Turner
Released: May 31, 2001

A genuine tea-cozy of a picture book: warm and reassuring. A Valentine's Day in the life of a little girl, who wakes up on a February morning knowing "the heart of the day is the sun." The heart of the house is the kitchen, where she sits with her muffin, her little brother in his high chair, and her mother with a cup of cocoa. The heart of the town is her school, she says, festooned as it is with Valentines for all. Her friend, to hold hands and share secrets with, is the heart of the afternoon, and at night, the moon rests on her friend, her street, her mother's muffin bowl, and herself. The lyrical text, with its sweet knowledge of what's important, is served by the collage art with the heart motif seen everywhere from the school bus of Hartsville to the knobs on the child's chest of drawers. The textures are rich: knit and felt fabrics, embroidery, buttons, papers, and lace, all cunningly arranged with a fine eye for design as well as for the feel of the story. The narrator's family, with dark hair and milky-brown skin tones, might be Latino; her friend has blonde braids. Their neighborhood, with its winter-bare trees and hopscotch sidewalks, is a town of small houses and backyard swings. As comforting as a hot drink on a cold day. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 31, 2001

This handsome and genuinely appealing collaboration transcends the usual picture-book biography genre. The author and artist impressively succeed in taking the well-known details of this oh-so-familiar life and shaping them into an accessible, affecting personal story. Experienced historical novelist Turner (Dakota Dugout, 1985) chose to tell this remembrance in the imagined voice of Lincoln, setting it on the evening of April 14, 1865, just before he and wife Mary are about to leave for the theatre. Historians have made much of Lincoln's moodiness and melancholy at this moment in time; Turner reflects that conventional wisdom yet she does not make this a maudlin or sappily sentimental tale. Lincoln's voice is simple and steadying. In spare, restrained prose, he recounts his life story in a voice that resonates with an undertone of grief and loss. The effect is simple, fresh, and inspiring. Minor (who previously collaborated with Turner on the haunting 1997 Shaker Hearts) is a prolific illustrator who has risen to the challenge of refreshing and refashioning time- and shop-worn events and images. His handsome and characteristically detailed acrylic paintings are perfectly pitched to Turner's tone, which is increasingly somber. Minor also doubled as the book's designer and makes effective use of white space, employs clean-edged line borders in red and white, and even includes occasional ghost images of Lincoln's distinctive signature. In the book's well-developed and inclusive "historical note," Turner reflects on Lincoln's pivotal role in the nation's history. Finally, she asserts that Lincoln's "words echo down the years to us, calling to us, reminding us of what it means to lead an ethical and courageous life." Memorable. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

In episodic free verse, Turner tells of the summer she was raped repeatedly by a neighbor boy. The six-year-old narrator relates both joyful and horrifying scenes in short lines of three or fewer beats: "the motor purrs and drips, / we speak softly / as if in church," "and I am cutting you / into little pieces / that I will bury / in the meadow / outside / when there is no moon / and no stars." Each scene is completed in less than a page, and as the verses are printed only on odd pages (facing blank white), each stands alone sharply, then fades to the next, as if they were episodes in a home movie, with Turner's ever-present rhythm running in the background like the projector's motor. Her language is regular and prose-like, and though no one poem stands on its own, the entire narrative works together as one. The book is divided into three sections, "sailing," "sinking," and "swimming," harking to the tenacious metaphor of the title. Two longer poems, in italics and in Turner's adult voice, ceremoniously commence and complete the exorcism of the memoir. Though not as strong as the main narrative (and not necessary to it), they provide a contextual entry for the teenage audience the book is intended for (and will appeal to, despite the character's age). Teen readers will appreciate this work not just for its story, but for its illustration of the writing process and the power one can wield with words. Three national 24-hour help lines are listed in the back. (Fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 29, 2000

PLB 0-06-024567-0 Turner (Red Flower Goes West, p. 971, etc.) imagines that dollhouses can be pretty scary places, where fears from the human world may be amplified. Emma, a doll, narrates this glimpse into her life, where a longing for an adventure in the land beyond the walls of her house tugs at her, while the cat, mice, and the war-playing proclivities of dollhouse owner's brother give her a good case of the willies. Emma has a difficult time getting around, because she is made of wood, but she does go outside with the human girl and even spends an exciting twilight hour watching the sky turn to stars when she is briefly left behind. The outward of the serenity of a doll's life is totally refuted by Emma's perspective and in these pages: the mice that roam the dollhouse at night are tiger-sized; the house cat, sharp of tooth and claw, is as large as a brontosaurus; a baby doll gets kidnapped and her room is left in tatters. Even though the cat returns the baby, it doesn't quell the initial terror of the act; the other inhabitants can hear the baby's cries as it is snatched, but cannot act, or even move. Children who like their dollhouse tales with an edge will take to this; in poem-like passages, Turner has ratcheted up all the yearnings and frustrations of childhood to almost unbearably intense levels. Col¢n's artwork, with its Edwardian atmosphere, aptly conveys the mute, vulnerable qualities of the dollhouse. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
DRUMMER BOY by Ann Turner
Released: Aug. 30, 1998

An appealing Civil War story about a 13-year-old boy who proved to himself that he was useful, despite the opinion of his father: "Pa said I wasn't much use, not like my brother, Jed, who left before me." When the nameless boy hears President Lincoln speak, the appeal for help seems to be directed right to him. The boy writes a note to his father, climbs out the window one night, and enlists by lying about his age, becoming a drummer boy for the North. War is worse than he could have imagined, until he learns that "if I kept beating my drums I couldn't always hear the men crying out or the horses dying." The soldiers encourage him: "[T]hey tell me it covers the first sounds of battle, so I guess I am some use after all." Turner (Angel Hide and Seek, p. 745, etc.) tells an unforgettably sad story, of youth wasted, and of the thoughtless condemnation of a child by a parent. Lovely realistic illustrations make vivid the lessons of the story. (Picture book. 6-9) Read full book review >
Released: June 30, 1998

A fanciful conceit brought to fruition by Turner's poetic text and Ehlert's signature illustrations. Turner writes about the angels that may be found in the faces of sunflowers, or in the silvered pattern of wood on an old barn. Everyone has made snow angels, but what about hay angels? Both are here. Butterflies are angelic naturals in a sky "blue as paint." The words are simple and limpidly clear as they trace angels through the seasons, accompanied by Ehlert's rich layers of paper collage. Her vegetables seem edible, her milkweed angels and cloud angels marvels of tactile artistry. Readers will search for an angel wing in the shape of fire or an angel face on a rain-wet stone. Occasionally the thin sans-serif typeface fades into the fabulous, full-page, full- bleed pages, but this is fine to read aloud and to pore over. An artist's pictorial note makes plain—and fascinating—the materials used. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1997

For readers who ever felt that dolls had thoughts and feelings comes a funny, touching fantasy from Turner (Mississippi Mud, p. 728, etc.). Two sisters, Emily and Rose, clean up an old dollhouse they find in their grandmother's attic. The dolls have been lying dormant, abused by mice, moths, and dust, and are relieved to have someone play with them again. But as they reemerge into life, the doll family finds that the youngest member of their clan, Walter, is nowhere to be found. By sending the girls mental images, the dolls communicate their plight and the warring sisters work together to help the dolls become a complete family again, and mend their own relationship, too. Emily and Rose's alliance unfurls nicely in the background without upstaging the real starsthe dolls. Readers will embrace the characters and warm to the old-fashioned manners and attitudes the dolls demonstrate. Turner's style is gentle and timeless, masterfully shifting between the ``real'' world and the doll world. Not only a humorous, thoughtful adventure, the story is a smart allegory that, like Sylvia Cassedy's Behind the Attic Wall (1983), has the makings of a classic. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: May 11, 1997

Turner (Shaker Hearts, 1997, etc.) offers a splendid tale of the pioneering spirit. Traveling west from Kentucky to Oregon in the 1800s, three children keep a journal of their thoughts, feelings, and events along the way. These brief poetic passages capture in two or three paragraphs the hardship, fears, longings, joys, adventures, and sorrows of that journey west. Amanda, the oldest, teeters on the edge of adulthood, and wishes for ``a land where I could run and shout with no one to tell me I was not a lady.'' Lonnie, the older son, dreams of ``soil as deep as a man is tall,'' and a place to plant his peach orchard. Caleb, the youngest, is so fired up with fear that he reports that he looks like a peddler with charms around his neck to ward off evil: ``rabbit's foot for water, snakeskin for woods, and a dead man's fingernail to keep off the horse-stealing, ma-hurting wild men.'' Along the way a baby is born, their dog dies, they find an orphan, buy an abused horse, and nearly lose a child to cholera. They come at last to the place of their new beginning. The vivid writing is ideal for savoring at story hours; the appealing illustrations—sometimes intrusively literal, more often a poetic match to the text—would also work well in a group setting. (Picture book. 8-10) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 30, 1997

The Shaker motto ``Hands to work, hearts to God'' is depicted in twelve four-line verses and seventeen acrylic paintings as elegant and serene as the buildings and artifacts they show, from Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts. Readers see ``brothers and sisters'' at work in field and barn, kitchen, garden, and workshop, and dancing in their worship. An introductory note gives a brief history of the Shakers, and endnotes tell a bit more about their activities. Turner (Elfsong, 1995, etc.) and Minor have created a beautifully designed addition to the sparse literature for young people about this remarkable sect, and a very different look at the Shakers from that provided by Raymond Bial's photo-essay, Shaker Home (1994), or Mary Lyn Ray's Shaker Boy (1994), which focuses on this group's music and mysticism. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7+) Read full book review >
ELFSONG by Ann Turner
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

The first book of a projected trilogy. While exploring with her grandfather, Maddy, 10, sees a tomcat racing through the woods and ``on its back it wore a saddle.'' Later, she finds the saddle, beautifully made of green tooled leather. Maddy meets the missing rider, an elf named Nata, after he charms away her own cat to replace the tom. Elfin law forbids contact with humans but Nata, threatened by a marauding owl, is desperate. Maddy and her grandfather prove their friendship by joining the battle against the owl. Some details are compelling, especially the common language of music (at one point, Maddy calms the wary elf by singing part of a Bach prelude). The descriptions of the saddle and Nata's handling of his feline mount are wonderful, but readers may crave more concrete detail. Unlike The Borrowers (1953), in which the society is so completely visualized that Mary Norton seems to be describing folk she has met, this tale leaves readers with a nagging awareness that someone is making it all up. The dialogue often feels forced, and the notion of elf song visible as colored notes is starkly reminiscent of a place called Disney. (glossary) (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: June 30, 1995

Turner (The Christmas House, 1994, etc.) pens a generous tale about the small acts of bravery that seal the bonds of friendship. A summer in the mountains with her writer-mother is not Katy's idea of fun, but her attitude changes when sassy and funny neighbor Lena May comes into her life. The two are polar opposites: Lena May is adventurous and brave, while timid Katy is a ``careful sort of person.'' Lena May steadily involves her in several adventures, and Katy finds herself having fun. During one nocturnal outing, the girls come across Lena's beloved grandmother, the only parent she has known since the death of her parents, sleepwalking on the road in her nightgown and talking to herself. For once, brave Lena May is frightened, and it is Katy who must be the strong one. A fully realized rural setting, a community of people in which looking out for each other is expected instead of the exception, and the zeal of Lena May and newly feisty Katythese elements make for a happy story about love, friendship, and a quiet coming-of-age that will have broad appeal. (Fiction. 7-10) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 30, 1994

The spirit of Christmas is examined through the eyes of each member of a family, including pets, the table, even the house itself. An engaging idea, but the narrative design behind these 13 poems is indiscernible. Switch their order around and not much is lost. Therefore, each poem carries the burden of being a complete emotional experience unto itself. Some are strong enough to carry the weight (one of the best, almost like a haiku, relates the baby's simple wonder), but too often they fall short. We hear clearly the house's gathering spirit, the father's worry, and the grandfather's nostalgia, but the other siblings and animals are not convincing. Turner (A Moon for Seasons, p. 311, etc.) is less successful with this rather static volume than she has been in the past. The illustrations, though technically proficient, are strictly standard fare. Such a promising concept requires a visual and verbal feast- -like a roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings—but all we get for this Christmas is white bread and thin gravy. (Poetry/Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1994

Known for historical fiction (Katie's Trunk, 1992, etc.), Turner's also an accomplished poet (Grass Songs, 1993). Here she turns to nature in a tightly structured cycle of 28 (a lunar number) short poems about the seasons in a northeastern woodland. Each of four septets opens with a poem about the moon, and the entire cycle is stitched together by recurrent appearances of other ``characters'': an owl, a porcupine, herons, and especially frogs, whose activities Turner employs (as Marilyn Singer used bullheads in Turtle in July) as emblems of seasonal change. There is also an ``I'' that ``tastes sky'' (snowflakes), looks through a telescope at geese flying across the moon, sits under a maple lapped by ``waves'' of light and shadow, and buries bones found in the forest with a ``blessing of leaves.'' Noreika's full-bleed watercolors capture the varied lights and colors of weather, time, and seasons. His most dramatic painting, accompanying ``Forest Time,'' a poem about ``death's sundial'' (a circle of feathers marking the spot where an owl has killed a blue jay), shows an unsuspecting jay overlaid by the owl's shadow just before it strikes. Spare and serious; memorable images, verbal and visual. (Poetry/Picture book. 6+) Read full book review >
GRASS SONGS by Ann Turner
Released: March 1, 1993

Turner's historical fiction (Katie's Trunk, 1992, etc.) is notable for putting a human face on great events; these 17 poems, all in the first person and inspired by the letters and diaries of pioneer women on the westward journey, are even more vivid and personalized. The collection begins with the exultation of throwing off the confinements of civilized female life (``I scream into the wind,/ race after cattle,/...and reach so high my waist tears,/ and no one can say/ I am not a lady'') and ends with a woman tending a plant she's carried to Oregon from her mother's Arkansas garden. In between are marriage, childbirth (and maternal death), Indian raids (one survivor miraculously finds her kidnapped child safe in California; another, who lived for years with the Mohave and was recaptured by Anglos, never ceases grieving for her Indian husband and sons), and a trail of graves in the wagons' wake. There are also dreams: Amanda Hays secretly reads the Odyssey by moonlight; behind her workaday faáade she dreams of ecstatic union with an ancient deity. Another woman dreams only of home: ``...just give me a porch, a song,/ peace.'' Moser's pencil drawings (mostly portraits), based on historical photos, are riveting. Unforgettable. (Poetry. 12+) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 30, 1992

A brief, lyrical text and exquisitely observed, beautifully composed watercolors evoke the dramatic passage of a late summer thunderstorm: looming clouds; creatures of the wild and the farm, scurrying before wind and rain; storm-tossed trees and fields. ``And when the sun burst through...the rain dripped from the barn door onto my tongue...and robins bloomed like flowers in the wet, black trees.'' Skillfully selecting memorable images, author and illustrator distill the experience to convey the joy of perceiving changes wrought by light and weather on a familiar landscape, educating both eye and mind. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
KATIE'S TRUNK by Ann Turner
Released: Sept. 30, 1992

In a true incident from the author's family history, rebel militia ransack a despised Tory family's house for valuables to buy arms. Young Katie hides in her mother's wedding trunk, nearly smothered under layers of clothes. One of the rebels (a neighbor) searches the trunk; discovering Katie, he claims to see Tories coming and, leaving the lid open so the child can breathe, hustles the others out. Told in the unvarnished yet vivid voice of its heroine, taut and poetically economical, a suspenseful story of a child's discovery that even enemies may be capable of goodness. Himler's gentle hues impart a misty, long-ago feeling, but he also nicely catches the story's drama in his carefully composed watercolors. (Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

Waking in the middle of a moonlit night, Sarah is afraid: ``Will the new house be home?'' Mother assures her that the important things will be there: the moonlight and the light from the hall, her dolls and toys, ``never...another Freddy'' but surely a new friend—and newly painted stars on the ceiling to ``push the dark away.'' A tender, reassuring vignette, its poetically expressed images beautifully reflected in Teichman's affectionate, carefully composed, realistic art—a fine debut. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: April 15, 1991

Rosemary and her family have high hopes for the lovely old country house: it's generously equipped with a study for Dad, a practice room for Mom, who teaches dance, and space for brother Nicky's fossil collections. Still, Rosemary reluctantly realizes, something is trying to make them unwelcome: her bike and other treasures disappear, the weather is unseasonably cold, and there are mysterious manifestations like a sinister cat and a plague of toads. Meanwhile, Rosemary becomes friends with a comfortingly sensible neighbor boy, Ernie; together they investigate the house's link with Mathilda, an ancient crone seen at a shack in the nearby woods. Vignettes from Mathilda's life, alternating with Rosemary's experiences, reveal that she is the witchy remnant of an unloved child, still yearning for affection and for her former home as she faces a decisive choice on her 150th birthday. The author adroitly weaves the dynamics of this engaging family into her pleasantly spooky tale: Rosemary, who sees herself as the only family member without a special calling, is actually a lover of words who is often tongue-tied because Dad, in his enthusiasm for categorizing everything, tends to ``go on at her.'' At the same time, Turner thoughtfully explores the idea of home and how it can be shared. In the end, Rosemary's willingness to give Mathilda her best-loved possession sets the woeful creature free —and also frees the house and town of her malevolent presence. A skillfully written, entertaining story. (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >