Carolyn Reeder: From Reader to Writer

Cover to Shades of GrayCarolyn Owens (Reeder) knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was 12 years old. A book lover herself, she taught a nearly 9-year-old boy how to read because he had never learned in school. She grew up to teach 4th, 5th, and 6th grades, eventually going full circle and becoming a reading specialist for primary grades. She was born and grew up in Washington , D.C. and later graduated from the American University where she returned to earn her masters degree in education.

Carolyn Reeder started writing non-fiction books with her husband about the Blue Ridge Mountains where they loved to hike and camp with their two kids. Whenever they veered off the trail they found burned out cabins and other eerie traces of families who had been removed by force when Shenandoah National Park was built in 1935.

Carolyn and her husband started asking the park rangers questions about the clearances. Eventually, they interviewed families who had left the mountains during the 1930s. Yes, some of the families had left by choice and welcomed the chance to get money for their land. However, those who did not leave when asked might find their houses burned to the ground by "the CCC boys" who made sure the evicted families could not return and live on their land.

With her husband, Jack, she wrote three non-fiction books for adults about those days at Shenandoah National Park: Shenandoah Heritage, Shenandoah Vestiges, and Shenandoah Secrets.

When her husband found he didn't have time to continue writing with her, Carolyn plunged ahead and tried her hand at fiction. At first, she wrote and researched only during school holidays, but over the years, she decided to pursue writing and researching full time.

Her first book, Shades of Gray, takes place close to home in Virginia's countryside. This tale of a boy trying to understand his "coward" uncle's objections to the Civil War earned her critical praise and many awards, including the Scott O'Dell Historical Fiction Award, the Jefferson Cup Award from the Virginia Library Association, and the Jane Addams Children's Book Award Honor. Reeder wrote two more stories that took place in the Civil War period, Captain Kate and Across the Lines. She ventured back to those same Blue Ridge mountains for Moonshiner's Son, a story about star-crossed lovers set during Prohibition, seventy years after the end of the Civil War. With Grandpa's Mountain, she came full circle to write a novel on the subject of the Shenandoah clearances, drawing on research she had done previously for her non-fiction work.

Be looking for her new book, Before the Creeks Ran Red, which tells the stories of three boys caught up in the Civil War. Orphan Timothy Donovan is finding his work as a Union bugle boy at a post in Charleston, South Carolina until the rebels open fire on Fort Sumter. In Baltimore, Joseph Schwartz, a brilliant son of German immigrants, attends boarding school with the sons of landed aristocracy. Maryland is a divided state when war breaks out, and Joseph must decide where his sympathies lie. For Gregory Howard who lives in Alexandria, Virginia, the Civil War splits his immediate family, for his father is determined to support the Union while Gregory and his mother support the Confederacy and hate the Yankee troops who occupy their city.

Books by Carolyn Reeder Available at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library

Click on a title to go to our catalog and place a reserve.

Across the Lines
It's May of 1864, and Edward and his family must flee their plantation as the Union Army advances across Virginia. They go to stay with family in Petersburg, which is about to be put under seige. Meanwhile, Simon, Edward's personal servant and friend, has escaped slavery to try his first taste of freedom. The book switches back and forth between the two boys who come of age under the harsh realities of war.

Captain Kate
Twelve-year-old Kate is determined to take charge of her late father's mule-powered barge and continue the work of hauling coal from Cumberland, Maryland to Georgetown in the District of Columbia along the C & O Canal in this Civil War-era tale. Reluctantly, she takes on her new stepbrother as crew, and the two face a voyage of discovery and danger from a run-in with Confederate soldiers..

Shades of Gray
After the Civil War, orphaned Will Page is sent to the Virginia countryside to live with his aunt and uncle. Will believes his uncle is a coward and a traitor because he refused to fight for either side. Also available as a sound recording.

Foster's War
When World War II comes to San Diego, eleven-year-old Foster must say good-bye to his big brother who is going to fight one kind of war while Foster remains behind to face his father's rage and try to help the war effort as best he can. If you like to read about this time period, you will enjoy browsing our booklist, On the Homefront.

Grandpa's Mountain
Have you been to Shenandoah National Park? Its road curves through the Blue Ridge Mountains, and there are beautiful views throughout every season, Virginians treasure the park today as a natural resources, but during its construction back in 1935, many mountain farm families were evicted to make room for this government project. Grandpa's Mountain tells a story based on these sad times. When eleven-year-old Carrie makes her yearly visit to her grandpa's farm, she watches her beloved grandpa change as he struggles to prevent the government from taking his farm. The author and her husband also wrote a non-fiction book about these times, Shenandoah Heritage: The Story of the People Before the Park.

On the Web

Biography Resource Center: Carolyn Reeder
Articles from these reference works tell about her life and achievements: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Contemporary Authors, and Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults.

Carolyn Reeder's Page at the Children's Book Guild
Carolyn briefly tells about her life and her works.
The author's own home page also has information about her life and her work.