May 13, 1960
Easton, Pennsylvania, United States
|Occupation||children's and young adult author and poet|
|Genre||nonfiction, picture books, biographies, novels, poetry|
Jen Bryant (born 1960) is an American poet, novelist and children's author. She has won several awards for her work, most notably the Robert F. Sibert International Book Medal for The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award and the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award for A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, and the Schneider Family Book Award for Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille. Her books The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus and A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams have both been distinguished with Caldecott Honors for Melissa Sweet's artwork.
Background and education
Jen Bryant (née Jennifer Fisher) was born in Easton, Pennsylvania, but grew up in Flemington, New Jersey. Bryant grew up next to a funeral home, where her father and grandfather were undertakers. She was fascinated by the manual typewriter her father used and would “try and copy whatever material happened to be lying around: drafts of obituaries. And what are obituaries, really, but one’s life summed up in a paragraph or two? Good ones leave an impression of the person as an individual. I suppose as I practiced typing them, I must have absorbed some of the craft behind the writing of these little ‘biographies'.”
She attended Hunterdon Central High School and Gettysburg College, where she received her bachelor's degree in French (1982) and minored in German and secondary education. She then taught French and German at Paul VI High School in Fairfax, Virginia, where she coached their cross-country teams.
After moving with her family to Chester County, Pennsylvania, Jen Bryant began to write poetry, to study independently with poet Tina Barr, and to host poetry readings in local independent bookstores. Encouraged and mentored by Eileen Spinelli and Jerry Spinelli, authors, she began to write picture books and novels in verse and to submit them to publishers. She continued to teach and to write while obtaining an master of arts in English (1999) from Arcadia University, mentored by poet David Keplinger.
Beginning in 1999, Bryant taught writing and children's literature at West Chester University and delivered lectures and workshops for schools and colleges. She continued to write poetry for adults as well as novels and picture books for children, eventually focusing on the latter as her publications list grew. Bryant's writing for children has been recognized with several awards and honors, including the Robert F. Sibert International Book Medal, the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award, the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award and the Schneider Family Book Award. In May 2013, along with Julia Chang Bloch and David Gergen, Bryant received an honorary doctorate degree from Gettysburg College. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Gettysburg College.
Jen Bryant lives with her family in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Non-fiction picture book biographies
- Working Moms: A Portrait of their Lives; six of seven books in the career series (1990–91)
- Anne Abrams: Engineering Drafter
- Zoe Mc Cully: Park Ranger
- Sharon Oehler, Pediatrician
- Carol Thomas-Weaver, Music Teacher
- Jane Sayler, Veterinarian
- Ubel Velez, Lawyer
- Georgia’s Bones, illus. by Bethanne Andersen (about Georgia O’Keeffe, 2005)
- Music for the End of Time (about Olivier Messiaen, 2005)
- Call Me Marianne, illus. by David A. Johnson (about Marianne Moore, 2006)
- A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, illus. by Melissa Sweet (2008)
- A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, illus by Melissa Sweet (2013)
- The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, illus. by Melissa Sweet (2014)
- Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille, illus. by Boris Kulikov (2016)
Middle-grade and young adult biographies
- Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the Everglades, illus. by Larry Raymond (1992)
- Margaret Murie: A Wilderness Life, illus. by Antonio Castro (1993)
- Louis Braille, Inventor (1994)
- Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: Artist (1995)
- Lucretia Mott: A Guiding Light (1996)
- Thomas Merton: Poet, Prophet, Priest (1997)
Novels in verse
- The Trial (2004)
- Pieces of Georgia (2006)
- Ringside, 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial (2008)
- Kaleidoscope Eyes (2009)
Novels in prose
- The Fortune of Carmen Navarro (2010)
- The Whole Measure (chapbook), Greyhounds Press, 2006
- Hand Crafted (chapbook), Nova House Press, 2001
- Individual poems published in The American Literary Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Paterson Literary Review, Poet Lore, Smartish Pace, Comstock Review, ''The Pittsburgh Quarterly'', Journal of NJ Poets, Northeast Corridor, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and others.
Magazines and anthologies
Bryant's poems and articles have appeared in Highlights Magazine and IMAGE: A Journal of Art and Religion, among others. Her work is anthologized in Rush Hour: A Journal of Contemporary Voices (Delacorte Press); You Just Wait, The Poetry Friday Anthology; The Poetry Anthology for Middle School (all Pomelo Press); One Minute Till Bedtime (Little, Brown.)
"It's Not Pretty," Jen Bryant, Bookology magazine, Knock Knock, Apr. 25, 2015, accessed Oct. 29, 2018
“Working with an Editor,” Nonfictionary, Bookology magazine, February 8, 2018, accessed Oct. 29, 2018
"The Writing Apprenticeship," Jen Bryant, Bookology magazine, Knock Knock, Nov. 11, 2015, accessed Oct. 29, 2018
Translations and adaptations
Selected children’s books by Jen Bryant have been translated into Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Hebrew. Six Dots, her biography of inventor Louis Braille is available in a print/ braille edition.
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin was adapted for the stage by Book-It Repertory Theater, Seattle, Washington.
Selected awards and honors
Call Me Marianne
- Society of Illustrators: "The Original Art" annual exhibition 2006
Fortune of Carmen Navarro, The
- Paterson Prize for Young People 2011
Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, The
- Caldecott Honor Book 2015
- Horn Book Magazine‘s Best Books of 2014
- Maine Lupine Book Award 2015
- Orbis Pictus Honor Book 2015 (NCTE)
- Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal 2015
- Society of Illustrators: “The Original Art” annual exhibition 2014
River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, A
- Caldecott Honor Book 2009
- Christian Science Monitor Best Children's Books of 2008
- Cooperative Children's Book Center Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award 2009
- NCTE Orbis Pictus Award 2009
- New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2008
Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille
- ALA Schneider Family Book Award for young children 2017
- Society of Illustrators: “The Original Art” annual exhibition 2016
Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, A
- IBBY Outstanding Books for Children with Disabilities 2015
- NCTE Orbis Pictus Award 2014
- Robert F. Sibert Honor Book 2014
- Schneider Family Book Award, ages 0–10 2014
- Society of Illustrators: “The Original Art” annual exhibition 2015
- Official website
- Jen Bryant's manuscripts, correspondence, and memorabilia are held at Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA. Finding Aid
- “Author Interview: Jen Bryant,” Eerdmans Young Readers, 2005, accessed June 3, 2018
- “Interview,” by poet and author E. Kristin Anderson, April 2010, accessed June 3, 2018
- "'I'll Write What Needs to Be Remembered': The Use of Verse in Children's and Young Adult Historical Fiction about the Vietnam War," Rachel Rickard Rebellino, The Lion and the Unicorn, Johns Hopkins University Press, Volume 42, No. 2, April 2018, pp. 162-179
- “Interview Session: Jen Bryant, author of Six Dots,” Twenty by Jenny, August 30, 2016, accessed June 3, 2018
- “Jen Bryant,” Penguin Random House, author interview, undated, accessed June 3, 2018
- “Jen Bryant: an Award-Winning Career Influenced by Dr. Seuss, Obituaries, and Libraries,” Amy Meythaler, MackinVIA, July 1, 2015, accessed June 3, 2018
- "Jen Bryant: Inspiration for Six Dots, Mackin Educational, YouTube, January 23, 2017, accessed August 21, 2018
- “Jen Bryant,” Bookology magazine, interview, April 20, 2016, accessed June 3, 2018
- "Jen Bryant wins awards for children's book on Horace Pippin," Sarah Figorski, Daily Local News, July 7, 2014, accessed June 3, 2018
- "Kaleidoscope Eyes: Jen Bryant," Jen Robinson, Jen Robinson's Book Page, September 28, 2011, accessed August 21, 2018
- "Rhetorical Technique in the Young Adult Verse Novel," Mike Cadden, The Lion and the Unicorn, Johns Hopkins University Press, Volume 42, No. 2, April 2018, pp. 129–144
- “The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, Jen Bryant Interview,” Texas Bluebonnet Award interview, YouTube, February 15, 2015, accessed June 3, 2018
- "The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus and More," Leonard S. Marcus, New York Times, Nov. 7, 2014, accessed June 3, 2018
- "The Right Word Trifecta," John Schumacher, Watch. Connect. Read., Sept. 16, 2014, accessed August 21, 2018
- "Young at Heart: The western suburbs seem to nurture authors with a knack for connecting to kids and young adults. Here are 14 you should know.," J.F. Pirro, Mainline Today, undated, accessed June 3, 2018
- "Jen Bryant: an Award-Winning Career Influenced by Dr. Seuss, Obituaries, and Libraries". Mackin VIA. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
- "Jen Bryant: For the Press". Jen Bryant's website. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
- "Jen Bryant, Honorary Doctorate". Gettysburg College. Archived from the original on March 11, 2015. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
- "Gettysburg College Board of Trustees". Gettysburg College. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
- "Jen Bryant: For the Press". Jen Bryant's website. Retrieved June 3, 2018.