The Alliance for the Study and Teaching of Adolescent Literature at Rhode Island College




- Gloria Whelan -

Brief Biography:

It seems Gloria Whelan has always had an affinity for children. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she worked in varying positions for the welfare of children as a social worker in Minneapolis and as a supervisor of group services and day care programs in the Detroit area. Her experiences are diverse, spending time also teaching literature and writing. This diversity follows through in her writing. She has exhibited an ability to write varying genre, children's literature, young adult literature, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, in addition to, short stories and poems for adults.

Born in Detroit, Michigan and moving into the woods of northern Michigan definitely plays a role in Ms. Whelan's writing. Wilderness settings are a major part of her young adult novels. It's the mystery of nature and the characters it affects that most attracts this author, prodding her to write on. Dreaming of doing things that weren't always possible Gloria gives this advice to young people, "If there's something that you really want to do and can't, write a story about it." Writing about doing it gives you a chance to realize your dream.

When Gloria is not inspiring children, it seems that they are inspiring her. This is evident in her own two children. When they were young, the Whelans read to their children each night. This may have been the inspiration for Gloria's daughter in becoming a librarian. Her son, realizing his mother's need, purchased a computer for her for Mother's Day several years ago. This has been a life saver in her writing.


A Clearing in the Forest, Putnam, 1978.
A Time to Keep Silent, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI 1993. (First published in 1979)
Next Spring an Oriole, illustrated by Pamela Johnson, Random House, 1987.
Playing with Shadows (short-story collection ; for adults), University of Illinois Press, 1988.
Silver, illustrated by Stephen Marchesi, Random House, 1988.
A Week of Raccoons, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, Knopf, 1988.
The Secret Keeper, Knopf, 1990.
Hannah, illustrated by Leslie Bowman, Knopf, 1991.
Bringing the Farmhouse Home, illustrated by Jada Rowland, Simon & Schuster, 1992.
Goodbye, Vietnam, Knopf, 1992.
Night of the Full Moon (sequel to Next Spring an Oriole), illustrated by Leslie Bowman, Knopf, 1993.
That Wild Berries Should Grow: The Diary of a Summer, Eerdmans, 1994.
Once on This Island, HarperCollins, 1995.
The Indian School, HarperCollins, 1996.
The Presidentís Mother (adult novel), Servant Publications, 1996.
The Shadow of the Wolf, Random House, 1997.
Forgive The River, Forgive The Sky
Farewell To The Island (sequel to Once On This Island)

Also, contributor of short stories to anthologies, including O. Henry Prize Stories. Contributor of adult fiction to periodicals, including Michigan Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly, Story Quarterly, Missouri Review, Gettysburg Review, Detroit Monthly, and Ontario Review. Contributor of poetry to periodicals, including Ontario Review and Country Life.

The goal of her writing:

"To write the very best, most honest book I can."


Juvenile Book Merit Award (older), Friends of American Writers, 1979, for A Clearing in the Forest;
Juvenile Fiction Award, Society of Midland Authors, 1994;
Best Books of the Year Citation, Bank Street College of Education;
Creative Artist Award, Michigan Council for the Arts;
Master List finalist, Florida Sunshine State Young Readers Award;
Citations for Texas Lone Star Reading Lost and International Reading Association (IRA) Children's Choices List;

Quotes from Reviews:

Once On This Island
"Well-rounded fiction that incorporates a little romance, adventure, drama, and history of an American period that is not as commonly used for background." - Rita Soltan, School Library Journal
" Whelan's smooth writing, vivid characters, and strong sense of place make this a good choice for libraries and treasure for one in the Great Lakes area." - Susan Dove Lempke, Booklist

Night of the Full Moon
"Conveys the Native American point of view concerning land ownership. Teachers looking for novels on frontier life will find this useful as well." - Kay Weisman, Booklist

Goodbye, Vietnam
"The book describes well the hardships many of America's newest refugees have endured." -by Diane S. Marton, School Library Journal reviewer
"A rare simplicity and sharp focus" by Roger Sutton, Bulletin for the Center for Children for Children's Books reviewer
"Whelan's characters are distinctive, and her story is riveting, haunting, and memorable." - Booklist
"A moving story, wonderfully told and profoundly true." - Ellen Moore, Amnesty International USA

A Time To Keep Silent
Claire Rosser, writing in Kliatt, characterized the book as "strong and life-affirming" and noted that "there is suspense amidst the story of emotional healing."

Summary of Books:

In Once on This Island, set in 1812, it wasn't enough that 12 year old Mary's mother had died shortly after her birth. Now the island, her homeland that she so loved, was being threatened by the British and her Papa would be forced to go away. Life on Mackinaw Island had seemed so peaceful until that time that it was captured by the British. Mary's Papa, an immigrant from Ireland would not stand to have the British take land from him again as they had in Ireland. Refusing to take the British oath, he was shipped off the island to help fight the war against the British in Detroit. His three children would be entrusted to maintain the farm. They would be safe on the British-occupied island. Papa would only be away a few months at the most. Along with the help of her older siblings, Mary O'Shea maintains the family farm for three years. During this time Jacques, her brother, dreams of fighting the British and is forced to leave the island. He later becomes a fur trader. Angelique, Mary's oldest sister, begins to have eyes for one of the British soldiers, to the Mary's dismay. Mary's childhood friend, Gavin (White Hawk), who was adopted by a white family, finds his clan. Mary is saddened by his need to be with his people, because her feelings for him are beginning to run deeper. Times are difficult. The winters on the island are especially tough. Supplies are short and sometimes the British soldiers use force to get the needed supplies. It is Mary's courage and strong-will that get her through this time. When the war is over, life may return to normal, but it will never be the same.

Night of the Full Moon is a dramatic sequel to Next Spring an Oriole which is a historical novel set in 1837 and describes Libby's experience of moving from Virginia to Michigan. This is a portrait of two young girls; one is white, one Native American. The setting of this story is Saginaw, Michigan and the villages nearby. Libby, the main character has a friend, Fawn, who is a Potawatomi Indian. Libby wishes she could be one of the Indians hearing the story of the Potawatomi's life from Fawn. On the night of the full moon, Libby sneaks away from home to attend a native ceremony, breaking a promise to her father. Government soldiers ride into camp to round up the Potawatomis and force them from their land. Libby is also imposed to go with them, mistaken for one of the tribe. She is driven to the place far away from home. Strong friendship and trust are built between Libby and Fawn, Libby's family and Fawn's tribe. This story will enhance students' understanding of the tragedy that many Indian tribes have suffered throughout the American history and the cultural values of Native American heritage.

Goodbye, Vietnam is the story of thirteen-year-old Mai, whose family is forced to leave its village, because her grandmother was accused of practicing folk medicine, looked upon as a form of witchcraft by the Vietnamese government. The family endures a dangerous and harsh voyage on a small, crowded boat hoping to seek freedom in Hong Kong. When they arrive there, the situation is not as good as they expected. There are many Vietnamese refugees, like them, in a shelter, all of whom have been dreaming of a better life. Many have been living in these crowded shelters for some time and know in the end they may be forced to return to Vietnam. Mai's family is one of the lucky few, who have family in another country, the United States. With relatives to sponsor them, Mai and her family will soon be on their way to a better life. This touching story gives readers a deep insight of one of the crucial issues of our multicultural society.

In A Time To Keep Silent, Clair Lothrop is a thirteen year old minister's daughter who has recently lost her mother to illness. In a misguided attempt to deal with her grief and her father's inattentiveness, Clair stops speaking. Her father, who runs a prosperous, large church, then decides to move to the remote wilderness of Michigan, where he hopes to start a mission church. Clair is forced to give up her comfortable suburban existence. She is determined now more than ever to keep silent, in an effort to prove to her father that moving away from the city will not cure her. Clair discovers that living in the country, with all its spiders, bugs, and lack of conveniences, brings adventure as well. She shares these adventures with her new friend Dorrie, a poverty-stricken, abused and neglected girl who has also recently lost her mother. Through this new and powerful friendship, Clair discovers fortitude and heroism, and questions the wisdom of keeping silent.

Student Activities:

Once On This Island
Several characters in this novel experience inner journeys. For instance, Jacques struggles with his duty to keep the farm safe or fight against the British; Gavin loves the white family that adopted him, yet he needs to know more of his Ottawa tribal ways; Angelique slowly falls in love with the enemy; Mary, a child, must struggle to maintain the farm which holds so much pride for this family. Ask students to choose a character and write a seven day journal from that character's point of view, depicting that character's struggle, the decisions to be made and why those choices were important.
Throughout this novel we get a sense of the beauty of Mackinaw Island. While many of us have visited this treasured spot, we do not know what it may have looked like in 1812. In pairs, using magazines, ask students to compile a collage reflecting the beauty of the island as depicted in this book.
Mary is a descendent of Irish and French immigrant parents. Gavin, who was from the Ottawa tribe was adopted by a white family and does not know his parents. Have students design family tree beginning with themselves and going back four generations to discover their own heritage.

The Night of the Full Moon provides students with a chance to develop an understanding and appreciation of the Native American people and their culture. Have students discuss in brainstorming, asking questions such as, "What does the Potawatomis tribe value in their culture?" "How different is the Native American culture from your own?", " How about the similarities?" "What do you like in their traditions or cultural values?"
The Night of the Full Moon depicts the beautiful friendship beyond the cultural barrier and strong family bond. Have students think what friend/family means to them, comparing the relationship of the characters in the story and write the response journal regarding this topic, or create their own story about their friends and family.

Goodbye, Vietnam ends with Mai's family leaving for the United States, seeking a new life. Have students create the continuing story, a new ending. The teacher may ask,"What do you think would happen to Mai and her family in the United States?" This activity will enhance student creativity and imagination.
Many people living in our society today were involved in some way during the Vietnam War. Ask students to interview family members, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to discover what they remember about that time. As a class, develop a list of interview questions.

A Time to Keep Silent, among other issues, focuses on a culture clash between Clair, who grew up in the comfortable suburbs, and her new wilderness home. Students can create a poster advocating either living in the city or living in the country. This will help stimulate a discussion regarding the differing cultures of country and city life.
In order to give the text a visual representation and stimulate hands-on learning, students can draw a map of the wilderness where Clair lives, including the stone house, Dorrie's home and hideout, the pond, the berry bowl, and the church.

Unifying Elements:
Whelan's writings share the grandness of the nature and the life of the people coexisting with the beauty and harshness of nature on a dynamic scale. Time and again her works portray female protagonists who experience growth through an inner journey. Indeed, her texts provide cross-cultural experiences for both her characters and her readers.

Works Cited:

Whelan, Gloria. A Time To Keep Silent ( 1993). William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI. (first published in 1979)
Goodbye, Vietnam (1992). Random House, NY.
Night of the Full Moon (1993). Knopf, NY.
Once On This Island (1995). HarperCollins, NY.
Booklist. Vol 92, n. 3, October 1, 1995. P. 321. American Library Association, Chicago, IL.
Contemporary Authors Vol 101, p. 553. Gale Research Co., Detroit, MI
Michigan Authors (3rd ed) p. 382. Hillsdale Educational Publishers, Hillsdale, MI
School Library Journal Vol. 41, n. 11, Nov. 1995. p. 107-108. R. R. Bowker Co., NY.
Something About the Author Vol 85, p. 201-204. Gale Research Co., Detroit, MI

Page compiled in part by: Shelli Anderson, Akemi Katayama, and Erin Sullivan

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