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About The Author

Veronika Martenova Charles creates stories for children that are inspired by her own travels around the world as well as her fascination with the stories and folklore of many lands. In her books, which include Maiden of the Mist: A Legend of Niagara Falls, The Crane Girl, and The Birdman, as well as her her "Easy-to-Read Spooky Tales" series for beginning readers, Charles weaves multicultural details into both folktale retellings and original stories, all reflecting her positive outlook. Her first self-illustrated picture book, a story set in Japan titled The Crane Girl, was praised by a Publishers Weekly contributor who cited its "poignance and ... timeless universality," as well as its "skillfully rendered setting." From Japan, Charles transports readers to the Andes mountains of Ecuador in Necklace of Stars, as a boy who has captured mythical golden ducks must then make a difficult decision. In addition to praising Charles' artwork as "dreamlike and luminescent," a Resource Links contributor cited the author/illustrator for her ability to blend "history and tradition."

Charles developed an interest in both art and music while growing up in Prague, Czechoslovakia. After her art studies were curtailed, the teenager focused on music and, through her talent and determination, found success in a Western-style pop band formed with a friend. As an entertainer, Charles toured throughout Europe and the Soviet Union. Stopping in Newfoundland, Canada, on her way home from performing in Cuba--a Cold War ally of the then-USSR--Charles decided to defect. Making English-speaking Canada her home, she learned her new language by reading novels, and worked a variety of jobs while also earning several college degrees.

Charles' award-winning picture book The Birdman was inspired by a newspaper article the author read, and this article motivated her to take a trip to Calcutta to investigate the story for herself. In the story, a tailor named Noor Nobi is emotionally crushed by the accidental death of his three children. Wandering the streets of Calcutta, homeless and alone, the man eventually finds himself in a bustling marketplace. There he sees a caged and frightened bird, which he purchase with the last of his money. Caring for the bird helps Nobi focus on something other than his own loss, and by the time the bird is strong enough to fly away, the man has come to terms with his loss. Returning to his tailor shop, Nobi continues to dedicate himself to healing injured birds, and ultimately gains respect for his caring. In her Booklist review, Gillian Engberg praised The Birdman, noting Charles' "vivid, poetic text" and her "focus ... on the uplifting message that acts of kindness can ease grief." Engberg also cited the "lavish" illustrations by Annouchka Gravel Galouchko and St├ęphan Daigle, while a Kirkus Reviews writer concluded that the book's richly toned paintings "combine with the theme of the story to lift the reader's spirit."

In her "Easy-to-Read Spooky Tales" chapter-book series, which include Don't Go in There!, Don't Go into the Forest!, Don't Go Near the Water!, and Don't Open the Door!, Charles' young characters engage in activities that allow them to share scary stories based on actual tales from around the world. In Don't Open the Door!, for example, the young narrator invites friends Leon and Marcos over for a sleep-over. Soon the supervising parent has to leave, and the boys are told not to open the door to strangers. While left alone, the friends take turns telling scary stories about the downfall of people who have ignored such sound advice. Ultimately, they successfully scare each other into staying away from the door. Don't Go Near the Water! takes a similar tack, as the boys' imaginations conjure up new versions of three traditional tales about the downfall of walking too near the banks of a local, fast moving creek. As an added feature of each book, Charles leaves the last story told open-ended and invites the readers to create an ending for themselves. In her afterwords to each book in the series, Charles explains the origins of each story included, noting that they are drawn from diverse cultures. Reviewing Don't Go into the Forest!, which finds the boys staying at a woodland cottage, a Resource Links contributor praised the book's "captivating" text, and added that Charles' "skilful combination of comedy and horror might also be a draw for reluctant readers."

 

photo: Monica McKenna

   
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© copyright Veronika Martenova Charles. Artwork used by permission. Website by Hoffworks