LEARNING ABOUT BRUCE BROOKS

Compiled by: Elsie Nigohosian, Dawn Haring, and Doris Kelly with Kay E. Vandergrift in Young Adult Literature


BIOGRAPHY


Bruce Brooks, one of today's most acclaimed writers of young adult fiction, was born in Washington, D. C., but spent most of his childhood in North Carolina after his parent's divorce. He was constantly shuttled between the two and had to adapt to two different lifestyles, urban and more rural southern. It was not unusual for Brooks to have to change schools in the middle of the school year. Brooks states that this constant moving made him overcome his shyness because he had to make friends very quickly, always being a good story teller and a good talker. Belonging to both of these different worlds, Brooks said, made him an observer and student of social situations, feeling never to truly fit in. This was a helpful skill and provided him material for later works of fiction. The Moves Make the Man was influenced by his own childhood memories of school segregation in North Carolina. The book was not originally meant as a work of young adult fiction, rather as a 14 page part of a larger novel meant for adults.

The critical success of his first fiction work made Brooks think about writing young adult fiction as a career. The idea for Midnight Hour Encores was three years in the making, during which time he and his wife decided to take a chance to see if he could earn his living writing. This book was inspired by the birth of his son, which made him think about fatherhood and the demands of raising a child. His next book No Kidding was based in part of his mother's experience with alcoholism.

Even while struggling to earn as a writer, love of writing and persistence were the reason Brooks said he continued. His excellent observational skills were crucial to becoming a writer,

"most writers have that element of being a spy in their characters... How else would we be so good at mimicking different people's voices and knowing what certain gesture a minor character would use..." From: Brooks, 1992, 23.

Bruce Brooks has many diverse literary influences, among them Charles Dickens, Henry James, P.G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler.

Born: September 23, 1950
Graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1972 and from University of Iowa writer's workshop in 1980.
Previous jobs: Letterpress operator, reporter for magazines and newspapers
Hobbies and other interests: Music, nature study, sports, reading
Address: Office- 11208 Legato Way, Silver Spring, MD 20901

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fiction

The Moves Make the Man. New York: Harper, 1984.
Midnight Hour Encores. New York: Harper, 1986.
No Kidding. New York: Harper, 1989.
Everywhere. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.
What Hearts. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Boys Will Be. New York: Holt, 1993.
Each A Piece. Illus. By Elena Pavlov. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.
Asylum for Nightface. New York: Laura Geringer Book, 1996.

Nonfiction

On the Wing: The Life of Birds from Feathers to Flight. New York: Scribner, 1989.
Predator. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux,1991.
Nature by Design. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1991.
Making Sense: Animal Perception and Communication: Knowing Nature. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1993.

AWARDS


The Moves Make the Man

Best book of 1984 by School Library Journal, notable children's book by the American Library Association, notable book of the year New York Times (1984), Boston Globe-Horn Book award (1985) and a Newbery Honor from ALA (1985)


Midnight Hour Encores

Best book of 1986 by School Library Journal, a best book for young adults by the ALA (1986), Horn Book Fanfare Honor List book (1987), teacher's choice by the National Council of Teachers of English (1987), a young adult choice by the International Reading Association (1988), ALA/Booklist best of the 1980's book for young adults.


No Kidding.

A best book for young adults by the ALA, ALA/Booklist young adult editor's choice, a best book by School Library Journal and a notable children's trade book in social studies.


Everywhere.

A notable children's book by the ALA and a best book by School Library Journal.


REVIEWS AND CRITIQUES

The Moves Make the Man.

Summary

Jerome Foxworthy "the Jayfox" is an extraordinary basketball player. Bix Rivers excels at baseball. When Jerome becomes the only black student in Bix's all-white school in North Carolina, he befriends the moody and troubled Bix. Bix's mother is in a mental institution and his nasty stepfather refuses to let him visit her. Bix's stepfather thinks basketball is a "man's sport" and baseball is for "sissies." They make a deal- if Bix can beat his stepfather in a game of basketball he wins the right to visit his mother. The Jayfox commits to teaching Bix the art of playing basketball. Bix, obsessed with always being truthful, protests having to learn the fakes and moves necessary to win. He learns them well, however, and at his mother's bedside puts on the performance of his life. Bix runs away, the Jayfox contemplates the consequences of what he has done, "The fact is- if you are faking, somebody is taking...there are no moves you truly make alone." The book contains some racial slurs and racist behavior on the part of some of the adult characters in the story. Narrated by the feisty and self-assured Jayfox, the story is fast-paced, humorous, poignant and engaging.

"The Moves Make the Man is an excellent novel about values and the way people relate to one another...entertaining and accessible." From: Watkins, New York Times Book Review (1984) 21.

Midnight Hour Encores

Summary

Midnight Hour Encores is the story of Sibilance T. Spooner, a teenage cello master that discovers her love and need of her father through a cross country trip to see her mother who abandoned her as a baby. As a heroine, she is bright and beyond her years in wisdom. Sib believes she has pretty much raised herself and the trip with her father and her discussions with him demonstrate to her how important an influence he has really been in her life. Over the trip, her father tries to recreate as much of the atmosphere and philosophy of the sixties as possible, such as driving an old Volkswagon bus and playing on his acoustic guitar many popular songs of the time (which do sometimes come across as quite humorous). Much of the technical music talk can be confusing to someone not familiar with the classical music world, but Sib's journey of discover of both herself and her father make this story one worth reading.

"This is a book the reader will have to fool around with, poke into, and tell in his own accents." From: Paterson, (1986): 17.
"Sib's first person narrative is rendered with wonderful control: arrogant, unselfconscious, sharp, and funny, she is also cunning and mean; so fiercely disciplined, she is almost obsessive..." From: Review of Hazel Rochman, (1986): 22.
"Through the first person voice, the reader witnesses the gradual growth of Sib's understanding. Although Sib is the source of information, the reader draws independent conclusions." From: McDonnell, (1987): 18.

No Kidding.

Summary

Have you ever imagined what the world would be like in the future? In this futuristic novel set in the mid twenty-first century in Washington D.C., Sam, a fourteen year-old, must take responsibility for his younger brother and alcoholic mother. In this society, almost 70% of the population are alcoholics. As if this wasn't enough of a challenge, the industries in the town have closed because of a devastating impact from cathode ray tubes which seem to prevent women from getting pregnant. Sam is faced with decisions and choices. Just before Sam committed his mother to Soberlife, one of the many rehabilitation clinics, Sam's father left to join a religious group that preaches against alcoholism. While Sam's mother is in the Soberlife program, Sam's younger brother Ollie, is placed in foster care. Does Ollie know about his mother's drinking? Will Sam's mother make a recovery? Will Sam's family ever be reunited? Are things out of control? This intriguing and complex novel of alcoholic offspring combines Brooks' serious writing style and third person narration with a surprising, yet realistic ending that will get some readers hooked- no kidding!

Brooks revealed his own mother's challenges with alcoholism in an interview with Authors and Artists for Young Adults and admitted that his fascination with the topic spurred an interest and motivation to write this book. Even with this personal edge, Brooks' novels really focus on society at large and address problems and issues that face all of us, no matter how young or old, each and every day.

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF WORKS ABOUT BROOKS

Brooks, B. In Authors and Artists for Young Adults. Vol. 8. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 1987, pp. 17-24.
Brooks, B. In Children's Literature Review. (Vol. 25, pp. 16-26). Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 1991.
Brooks, B. In Collaboration with My Characters. Horn Book. 62(1), (1986): 38-40.
Brooks, B. In Something About the Author. (Vol. 72, pp.22-26). Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 1993.
McDonnell, C. New voices, New Visions: Bruce Brooks. Horn Book. 63, (1987): 188-191.
Paterson, K. Heart strings and Other Attachments. Book World/The Washington Post. (1986, November 9): 17.
Reed, K. Review of No Kidding. New York Times Book Review. (1989, June 25): 30.
Rochman, H. Review of Midnight Hour Encores. Booklist. 83(2), (1986, September 15): 120.
Twitchell, E. Review of Midnight Hour Encores. Horn Book. 63(1), (1987): 58-59.
Watkins, M. A Trickster and His Upright Friend. New York Times Book Review. (1984, November 11): 54.


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Created March 22, 1996; Last revised September 20, 1996