Patricia Reilly Giff was born on April 26, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York. She is an author and teacher. She was educated at Marymount College, where she was awarded a B.A. degree, and St. John's University, where she earned an M.A. and Hofstra University, where she was awarded a Professional Diploma in Reading and a Doctorate of Humane Letters. After spending some twenty years as a full time teacher, she began writing, specializing in children's literature. Giff now resides in Weston, Connecticut, along with her husband James and their three children.
Giff's series of children's books about the kids from Polk Street School has proven popular and won critical acclaim ( 1). The stories revolve around second-grade teacher Ms. Rooney and the students in her class, in particular perpetual troublemaker Richard Best (nicknamed "Beast") and Emily Arrow, who is good in math but terrible in reading. Some novels in the series also feature Emily's younger sister Stacy as the central character.
Books in the series include:
The Beast in Ms. Rooney's Room (1984) - Richard "Beast" Best must repeat his second-grade year, and between the teasing from his former classmates and having to take classes with "babies," his new school year is off to a miserable start.
Fish Face (1984) - Emily is excited to make friends with Dawna, the new girl from Florida, until a good-luck charm of Emily's is stolen and Emily discovers that Dawn is the culprit. Made into a musical by ArtsPower.
The Valentine Star (1985) - Emily reports her classmate Sherri for misbehaving in class, and Sherri vows revenge.
Lazy Lions, Lucky Lambs (1985) - Richard has trouble with a writing assignment, since writing is his worst subject.
Snaggle Doodles (1985) - Ms. Rooney assigns her students to groups to come up with inventions, and Emily clashes with Linda, the bossy leader of her group.
Purple Climbing Days (1985) - Richard struggles with rope-climbing in physical education class.
Say "Cheese" (1985) - Summer vacation is about to begin, but Emily is lonely and depressed because she doesn't have a best friend.
Pickle Puss (1986) - Emily and her friend/rival Dawn compete in a book-reading contest to determine who will get to keep Pickle Puss, the stray cat they found.
Sunny Side Up (1986) - Beast and his friends Emily and Matthew attend summer school.
The Candy Corn Contest (1987) - Mrs. Rooney offers a jar of candy corn as a prize for whoever correctly guesses the number of candies in the jar.
In the Dinosaur's Paw (1987) - Richard is convinced that the ruler he found in his desk has magical powers, and is mortified when it disappears.
December Secrets (1987) - Emily is assigned the irritating class "crybaby," Jiliannel Simon, as a "secret pal" for the month of December.
Watch Out! Man-Eating Snake! (1988) - On the first day of school, Stacy tries to make friends with her classmate Jiwon, with disastrous results.
All About Stacy (1988) - Stacy tries to think of something special to go in her "About Me Box" project.
Fancy Feet (1988) - When Jiwon's pair of gold shoes disappears, the whole class accuses Stacy of stealing the shoes.
B-E-S-T Friends (1988) - Annie, the "weird" new girl in class, constantly irritates Stacy, but then Stacy is assigned to be her class partner.
Spectacular Stone Soup (1988) - Stacy begins a campaign to be more helpful, beginning with her class's Stone Soup project.
Garbage Juice for Breakfast (1989) - Dawn participates in a treasure hunt at summer camp.
The Case of the Cool Itch Kid (1989) - When some of Dawn's prized possessions turn up missing at summer camp, she suspects the students from a rival school of being thieves.
The Beast and the Halloween Horror (1990) - Beast finds himself in trouble after he fudges a letter-writing assignment.
Emily Arrow Promises to Do Better This Year (1990) - Emily makes a New Year's resolution she finds difficult to keep.
Monster Rabbit Runs Amuck! (1991) - Beast and his friend Matthew accidentally ruin a prop for the school spring assembly.
Look Out, Washington D.C.! (1995) - Ms. Rooney takes her class on a trip to the United States' capital city.
Next Stop, New York City! (1997) - Ms. Rooney takes her class on a trip to New York City.
Eleven (2008) - Sam Mackenzie thinks that his "grandfather" has kidnapped him.
Awards: (Newbery Honor 1998)
Plot: Elizabeth Mollahan...the Lily of Lily's Crossing...lost her mom when she was little. Her father and a grandmother are her only family. Every summer the three of them flee sweaty New York City for a beach house in New York's Rockaways. She looks forward to this trip every year, and hopes to spend a fun summer with the small family she loves.
This year though, Lily's father announces that he's enlisted in the Army; days later, he is gone. A few days later, Lily's friend announces that her family is moving. Alone with her grandmother, Lily sees a long lonely summer ahead. And then, Albert appears. A refugee from Hungary, from his family thrown to the winds to his escape from the Nazis, young Albert bears a grief and sadness of his own. His sister, Ruth, is in France and his grandmother is in Hungary. Lily learns to deal with the situation of having her best friend gone, she is friends Albert, and makes her summer a little more worthwhile.
All the Way Home
Plot: Though worlds apart, city girl Mariel and Brick, a farmer's son from upstate New York, have a lot in common. They're both strong-willed, fiercely independent, and fervent Brooklyn Dodgers fans. Their divergent paths merge when Brick's family's orchard is destroyed by fire, and his parents send him to stay with Mariel and her adoptive mother in 1941 Brooklyn. Though excited by the chance to see his beloved baseball team play in person, Brick can think of little else but getting back to Windy Hill and saving what's left of the apple trees. Unexpected help comes in the form of Mariel, whose big heart cannot always overcome the weakness of her polio-stricken legs. Determined to help Brick and discover the identity of her birth mother, Mariel finds a way to get them both to Windy Hill...where Brick's trees and the hospital where Mariel was born await...one shaky step at a time. Author of the much lauded Lily's Crossing, Patricia Reilly Giff has written another lovely work of historical fiction that perfectly evokes a long-past time and place. Here, we can't help but smell Brick's apples and hear the cheers of hopeful Dodgers fans in Ebbets Field. A wonderful story of friendship and personal triumph for the preteen set.
Pictures of Hollis Woods
Awards: (Newbery Honor 2003)
Plot: Giff (Lily's Crossing; All the Way Home) again introduces a carefully delineated and sympathetic heroine in this quiet contemporary novel. Artistically talented Hollis Woods, age 12, has made a habit of running away from foster homes, but she's found a place on Long Island where she wants to stay for a while. She immediately bonds with Josie, her new guardian, who is a slightly eccentric, retired art teacher. Yet Hollis is far from content. She worries about Josie's increasing forgetfulness, and she sorely misses her last foster family, the Regans, whom she left under tense circumstances that are only gradually made clear. She finds her self wondering what it would be like if she were still with the Regans. She remembers how she drove the old man's red truck with Steven. She misses the mountain. Giff intersperses tender scenes demonstrating Hollis s growing affection for Josie with memories of the Regans, whose images Hollis preserves in her sketchbook. Pictures of motherly Izzy Regan, her architect husband and their mischievous yet compassionate son, Steven, sensitively express the young artist's conception of a perfect family. As readers become intimately acquainted with Hollis, they will come to understand her fears, regrets and longings, and will root for her as she pursues her dream of finding a home where she belongs.
Nory Ryan's Song
Plot: Life is hard for poor Irish potato farmers, but 12-year-old Nory Ryan and her family have always scraped by... until one morning, Nory wakes to the foul, rotting smell of diseased potatoes dying in the fields. And just like that, all their hopes for the harvest...for this year and next...are dashed. Hunger sets in quickly. The beaches are stripped of edible seaweed, the shore is emptied of fish, desperate souls even chew on grass for the nourishment. As her community falls apart, Nory scrambles to find food for her family. Meanwhile, the specter of America lurks, where, the word is, no one is ever hungry, and horses carry milk in huge cans down cobblestone streets.
As Patricia Reilly Giff writes in her note to the reader, the Great Hunger of 1845 to 1852 was a tragic time for the Irish. Enough food to feed double the population was sent out across the sea, while an indifferent government ignored the starving masses. More than one million of the eight million people in Ireland died. Nory Ryan's Song, a fictionalized account based on this terrible era in history, describes the heroic struggles of one girl who refuses to give in to hunger, exhaustion, and hopeless circumstances. Young readers may have heard of the Irish Potato Famine, but they won't truly understand it until they meet Nory.
Plot: 416 Smith Street, Brooklyn, America: this is the ultimate goal for Nory Ryan as she flees her famine-ridden home in mid-1800s Ireland. One by one, her family has departed for a new life in America; Nory is the last to go. Keeping her sister Maggie’s address close to her heart, Nory embarks on the perilous, heart-breaking journey to Galway and onward. Meanwhile, her friend Sean Red Mallon is just a few days ahead, traveling with his mother and Nory’s little brother, Patch, with the same destination in mind. Picking up where Nory Ryan’s Song leaves off, award-winning author Patricia Reilly Giff’s historical novel tells, in alternating voices, Nory and Sean’s stories. Readers will be engrossed in the series of dramatic events, as well as the grueling day-by-day struggle, as the protagonists suffer injuries, thievery, separations, and horrific sea passages. The very real tragedy of the Irish potato famine and the subsequent exodus from that country is brought to life in a fictional account that will make a profound, lasting mark on the memories of young readers.
A House of Tailors
Plot: Thirteen-year-old Dina Kirk has worked in her family's tailoring business ever since she was little. Her mother is very proud of Dina and her sister Katharina. Just one thing...Dina does not like sewing very much. She dreams of "escaping" from her sewing machine, and soon her wish comes true. She moves in with her uncle's family in Brooklyn in the USA though her family will stay in Germany. She is horrified when she finds out her uncle is also a tailor, and soon, she has to help out and sew again. She is miserable and homesick. She tries to fit in and also to stand up to her uncle, who is about as stubborn as she is. Soon, her uncle and his family realize that Dina is so strong and brave. She helps the family in a time of need, saving one's life. Readers will enjoy all her adventures while learning about the struggles our ancestors had to go through when coming to America.
Plot: Eleven-year-old Meggie Dillion lives in Rockaway, Queens, New York, while her brother Eddie fights in World War II. When two boys paint a swastika (Nazi sign) on her grandpa's window, Meggie decides that her grandpa should stay in New York while Meggie and her family move to Willow Run. But in the process, Meggie runs away from her best friend Lily, and meets new friends in Willow Run. Just when things start to go smoothly, the mail truck comes to the Dillion's apartment, and Meggie finds out that Eddie is missing, and was possibly killed in Normandy, France. Desperately, Meggie does everything to locate him while her parents pray and hope that Eddie is still alive. In the end, Meggie finds hope.
Plot: Long ago, Lidie's mother died. Her brother and father move to America after her death. Then, when twelve-year-old Lidie leaves Brazil to go to America to join her father and brother on a horse ranch in New York, she has a hard time adjusting to the new lifestyle. The same thing happens when she receives a horse.