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Jack Gantos (born July 2, 1951) is an American author of children's books. He is best known for the fictional characters Rotten Ralph and Joey Pigza. Rotten Ralph is a cat who stars in ten picture books written by Gantos and illustrated by Nicole Rubel from 1976 to 2011. Joey Pigza is a boy with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), featured in five novels from 1998 to 2014.
Gantos won the 2011 Newbery Medal from the American Library Association (ALA), recognizing Dead End in Norvelt as the previous year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children". Dead End also won the 2012 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction and made the Guardian Prize longlist in Britain.
His 2002 memoir Hole in My Life was a runner up for the ALA Printz Award and Sibert Medal. Previously Gantos was a finalist for the U.S. National Book Award and a finalist for the Newbery Medal for two Joey Pigza books.
Jack Gantos was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh to construction superintendent John Gantos and banker Elizabeth (Weaver) Gantos. The seeds for Gantos's writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister's diary and decided he could write better than she could. Raised in South Florida and the Caribbean, he began collecting anecdotes in grade school, realizing that everyday stories were the basis of great literature. He was a good high school student, but he lost interest when his family moved. At first Gantos tried staying in Florida alone, but he kept messing up and was failing in school, so something had to change. He found a better opportunity to find things to write about when he followed his family out of the country. He decided to reinvent himself and followed his parents to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. However, he got caught up in the drug game there and through a series of events and bad decisions, including sailing a boat of hash for $10,000, Gantos ended up in jail. After serving one year out of a six year sentence he entered college and continued writing, finally publishing his first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. The latest Rotten Ralph book was published in 2011; there are now 20 titles in the series for young readers. Gantos has written for readers of all ages, including the memoir "Hole in My Life," published in 2002.
During that time he began to work on picture books with Nicole Rubel, a student at the Boston Museum School. Rotten Ralph was the first to be published, by Houghton Mifflin in 1976. Within ten years Gantos and Rubel completed some twenty picture books including two more in the Rotten Ralph series. Meanwhile Gantos began teaching about writing children's books. He was professor of creative writing and literature (1978–95) and a visiting professor at Brown University (1986); University of New Mexico (1993); and Vermont College of Fine Arts (2004). He developed master's degree programs in children's book writing at both Emerson College and Vermont College.
Awards and honors
- Best Books for Young Readers citation, American Library Association (ALA), 1976–93, for the "Rotten Ralph" series.
- Children's Book Showcase Award, 1977, for Rotten Ralph
- Emerson Alumni Award, Emerson College, 1979, for Outstanding Achievement in Creative Writing
- Massachusetts Council for the Arts Awards finalist, 1983, 1988
- Gold Key Honors Society Award,1985, for Creative Excellence
- National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1987
- Quarterly West Novella Award, 1989, for X-Rays
- Children's Choice citation, International Reading Association, 1990, for Rotten Ralph's Show and Tell
- Batavia Educational Foundation grant, 1991
- West Springfield Arts Council (WESPAC) grant, 1991
- Parents' Choice citation, 1994, for Not So Rotten Ralph
- New York Public Library Books for the Teenage, 1997, for Jack's Black Book
- Silver Award, 1999, for Jack on the Tracks
- finalist, 1998 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, for Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key
- Great Stone Face Award, Children's Librarians of New Hampshire, ALANNA Notable Children's Book, NCSS and CBC Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Riverbank Review Children's Book of Distinction, and New York Public Library "One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing," all 1999, for Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key
- Iowa Teen Award, Iowa Educational Media Association, Flicker Tale Children's Book Award nomination, North Dakota Library Association, and Sasquatch Award nomination, all 2000, for Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key
- Newbery Honor, ALANNA, 2001, for Joey Pigza Loses Control
- California Young Reader Medal, 2002, for Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key
- Printz Honor, 2003, for Hole in My Life
- Sibert Honor, 2003, for Hole in My Life
- National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Creative Writing, m fiction
- Newbery Medal, 2012, for Dead End In Norvelt
- Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, 2012, for Dead End in Norvelt
- Guardian Children's Fiction Prize longlist, 2012, for Dead End in Norvelt
- Anne V. Zarrow Award for Young Readers' Literature, 2014, career award
- Hole in my Life (2002), a memoir
Gantos is the author of dozens of published picture books including about twenty illustrated by Nicole Rubel. Rotten Ralph was the first published book for both creators and the first of about ten in the Rotten Ralph series as of 2012.
- Rotten Ralph series by Gantos and Rubel
- Rotten Ralph (Houghton Mifflin, 1976, ISBN 978-0-395-24276-6) —introducing the "very, very, nasty cat"
- Three Strikes for Rotten Ralph (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011, ISBN 978-0-374-36354-3) —the latest of about ten
- Rotten Ralph's Rotten Family (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014, ISBN 9780374363536)
- "Welcome to the Newbery Medal Home Page!". Association for Library Service to Children. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
- Roger Sutton (17 January 2012). "2012 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction". The Horn Book. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
- "Discover the Guardian children's fiction prize 2012 longlist - gallery". theguardian 8 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
- "National Book Awards – 1998". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
- (Nicole Rubel search report). Library of Congress Online Catalog. Retrieved 2012-10-27. Select "Rubel, Nicole" and Sort by "Date (oldest to youngest)".
- JRank Biography of Gantos
- "Jack Gantos to Receive 2014 Anne V. Zarrow Award for Young Readers' Literature", Tulsa World, December 15, 2013.
- "Formats and Editions of Rotten Ralph". WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
- Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2006. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2006.
- Gantos, Jack. Hole in My Life. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Books for Young Readers). 2002.
- Jack Gantos (official)
- Nicole Rubel, illustrator (official)
- Hole in my Life at publisher Macmillan
- Webcast of Gantos at the Library of Congress[dead link]
- Jack Gantos to Publish New Joey Pigza Book[dead link]