Gardiner, John Reynolds (Author)
December 6, 1944 – March 4, 2006
“As a boy, I was a rebel. Whatever my parents wanted me to do, I did the opposite. My mother wanted me to read. So I didn’t read. She tried to bribe me, but that didn’t work. The more she insisted, the more I refused. In fact, I really showed her. I didn’t read my first novel until I was nineteen.
If she had just put all those books she wanted me to read into a glass case and locked it, I would have found the key and read every one of them. But she didn’t.
However, in the evenings, after I had turned off my light, she would come into my room, turn on the light, and read to me. At first, I would complain, put my hands over my ears, or pretend to be asleep, but as soon as I became interested in the story, I wouldn’t want her to stop.
Nonreaders are usually poor spellers, and I was no exception. Because I couldn’t spell (not to mention my grammar), I received low grades on my writing compositions. The imagination was there, and so was the humor that was to appear later in my books, but my teachers didn’t seem to notice, except for one who said, “You couldn’t have written this.” Looking back now, she had paid me a compliment, but at the time, it was far from encouraging.
When I was about to graduate from high school, my English teacher took me aside and told me quite frankly, “You’ll never make it in college English.” What really gets me is that he was right! At UCLA I ended up in “dumbbell” English along with the foreign students, who couldn’t speak English, but who could and did get better grades on their compositions than I did.
With all this “encouragement,” I wrote no stories between the ages of eighteen and twenty-eight. Ten lost years. My imagination, however, was still intact, for at this time I had started the Num Num Novelty Company, selling plastic neckties filled with water and goldfish.
My brother, recognizing my imagination, got me to enroll in a television writing class, taught by an instructor who didn’t give a hoot about spelling and grammar, and my writing career began.
Six years later, after being unable to sell anything to television, I sent a story about a boy and his dog to a book publisher, and it was purchased.
Had my spelling and grammar improved? No. Were there misspelled words in the manuscript? Yes. Then why did the publisher buy it? Because the publisher knew something that my English teachers didn’t, and that is that someone who may not have a good command of spelling or grammar may still be able to write a good story.
That story, by the way, became a children’s book called Stone Fox, which is currently selling at a rate of 15,000 copies a month and has been translated into six foreign languages.
I would like to thank anyone who has ever given a beginning writer encouragement. And thank you, Mom, for not giving up on me, for your rebel son is now a reader, a writer, and a lover of books.”
(Acceptance Speech for the 1987 George G. Stone Center for Children’s Books Recognition of Merit Award)
Biographical Statement (Updated on May 21, 2004)
John Reynolds Gardiner has a Master’s Degree in Engineering from the University of California in Los Angeles and has worked as an engineer for McDonnell Douglas Corporation, where he predicted the temperature of electronic components on satellites. He did his writing on his lunch break. He has held a variety of part-time jobs, including rock-and-roll singer and Santa Claus at a Sears store. He offers seminars in writing and marketing children’s books at colleges and universities.
He has traveled widely, living and working in Ireland, El Salvador, Germany, Italy, England, and Mexico. He is married to Gloria and has three daughters: Carrie (1981),Alicia (1982), and Danielle (1983), and one granddaughter, Lana (born on January 3, 2003).
Stone Fox has sold over 3,000,000 copies. In 1980, it was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association and a Notable Book by the Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People. In 1987, it won the Maud Hart Lovelace Award and the George G. Stone Center for Children’s Books Recognition of Merit Award and was made into an NBC television movie.
Selected Works: Stone Fox (novel, 1980), Top Secret (novel, 1985), General Butterfingers (novel, 1986), “How to Write a Story That’s Not Boring” (article, 1990), “I’m Yours” (song, 2000), “America’s Dirty Dishes” (poem, 2004), and How to Live a Life That’s Not Boring (nonfiction book, 2004).