- Virginia Johnson
Patricia Beatty made history fascinating with her tales of young men and women caught up in America's beginnings. She was a good researcher who felt out the roots of her stories, adding details to let the reader experience what life was like long ago. She researched in libraries but also drew on her own knowledge when creating her books.
As a girl in the 1920s, Patricia lived near Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest. She became an adopted daughter of the Quillayute people. They taught her many of their ways. Her first book, Indian Canoemaker, described how the people lived before the coming of the Christian missionaries.
Her husband, John, was a history professor, and he encouraged her to write historical fiction, co-authoring some of her early work, including Who Comes to King's Mountain, a book about the divided loyalties of the Scots-Irish colonists during the American Revolution. Alec Macleod's father is a true king's man, although he speaks no English, only Scots Gaelic, but Alec is not at all certain he wants to fight and die for the King after he sees the soldiers brutalize his people.
Patricia Beatty's Civil War stories are gripping accounts of the war's sidelights as told by brave young people who grew up in times of drastic change. Twelve-year-old Charley Skedaddle was once called Charley Quinn. On the streets of New York, he was a tough gang member of the Bowery Boys, proud to be recognized as a troublemaker by the police. He thought he was as brave as his older brother who died at Gettysburg so he followed the Union Army, figuring he could prove himself with a gun, just as he had on the streets with his fists. When Charley deserts his post as drummer boy at the Battle of the Wilderness, he knows he's a coward, for a soldier calls him Charley Skedaddle as he runs away. He heads for the safety of the Blue Ridge Mountains, not knowing that the hills hide dangers just as deadly as war.
Turn Homeward, Hannalee follows a young mill worker who is sent away from her home in Georgia to work in the Northern mills during the last days of the Civil War. She promises her mother she will come back when the war is over, not knowing the hardships she must face to do so. Lije Tulley, the 13-year-old abolitionist in Jayhawker, risks his life to spy on the Confederate Bushwhackers in Missouri and Kansas. Truth Hopkins, a Quaker girl in Who Comes With Cannons, discovers that although her relatives may refuse to openly fight slavery, they do their part by helping escaped slaves as part of the Underground Railroad.
Plucky heroines play a special part in Beatty's writing. Although her second book, Bonanza Girl, was praised by critics, she found that women in her town gave her a cold shoulder. They did not approve of her taking time away her husband and children to write. This made her more determined to write books featuring smart, brave girls who could accomplish things. From the always-in-trouble preacher's daughter in Behave Yourself, Bethany Brant to Lupita Torres, an illegal immigrant in Lupita Manana, Beatty's girls use their wits and courage to overcome hardships.
Patricia Beatty died in 1991, but the John and Patricia Beatty Award, given each year to honor the book that best promotes an awareness of California and its people, assures that her legacy of promoting cultural and historical understanding will continue.
Read More About the Author on the Web
The following articles are available online to CRRL cardholders:
"Patricia Beatty." Authors and Artists for Young Adults. Vols. 7-26. Gale Research, 1992-99. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2002.
"Patricia Beatty." St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd ed. St. James Press, 1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2002.