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Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (born January 4, 1933) is an American writer best known for children's and young adult fiction. Naylor is best known for her children's-novel quartet Shiloh (a 1992 Newbery Medal winner) and for her "Alice" book series, one of the most frequently challenged books of the last decade.
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was born in the U.S.A. She grew up during the Great Depression with her older sister Norma and younger brother John. She has said that she never felt poor, as her parents had a book collection and read stories aloud to her and her siblings until adolescence. Her favorite book as a child was Huckleberry Finn. She began writing her own stories when she was in elementary school. When she was 16 years old, a Sunday school teacher asked her to write a story for the church magazine. She wrote a baseball story named "Mike's Hero" and was paid $4.67 for it. She continued writing, even sending her stories to magazines such as Highlights, Seventeen, and Jack and Jill, receiving two years of rejection letters. Naylor graduated from Joliet Township High School in 1951 and from Joliet Junior College in 1953. When Naylor was 18 years old, she married her first husband and they soon moved to Chicago where she worked as a clinical secretary in a university hospital. Years later her husband began showing signs of severe mental illness, requiring her to seek out treatment for him all over the country. To support them, Naylor wrote and worked a series of jobs including assistant executive secretary, an elementary school teacher and eventually got a job as an editorial assistant for a magazine. He was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and with no hope of recovery, they divorced.
Settling in Maryland, Naylor decided to attend American University, graduating in 1963 with a BA degree. In 1960, Naylor married Rex Naylor, a speech pathologist whom she met at church. Naylor planned to work towards a master's degree in clinical psychology but decided to become a full-time author. Her first children's book was called The Galloping Goat and Other Stories and was published in 1965. Since then, Naylor has written an average of two books a year, many receiving special recognition by the American Library Association and the International Reading Association, and have also been selections for the Junior Literary Guild. In 1985 she received the Edgar Allan Poe Award for her 1984 novel Night Cry.
In 1991, Naylor published the children's book Shiloh about a young boy and an abused dog set in West Virginia. The book won the Newbery Medal in 1992, putting Naylor in the national spotlight. The book went on to win the Sequoyah Children's Book Award, the Mark Twain Readers Award, and the William Allen White Children's Book Award in 1994, and was also selected as an American Library Association Notable Children's Book. In 1999, Shiloh was selected as a recommended novel for children ages nine to twelve in the Read Across America initiative. A few years later, Naylor went on to write two sequels to the book: Shiloh Season and Saving Shiloh, published in 1996 and 1997, respectively. In 2000, the Shiloh trilogy placed at number seven on the National Education Association's Children's Top 100 book list. In an interview, Naylor said she was delighted that children had given her work such a high ranking. Today, Shiloh is taught in many American elementary school courses.
In 1985, Naylor wrote The Agony of Alice, about a sixth grade motherless girl looking for a role model while fumbling through life. Naylor soon began receiving letters and demands for more "Alice", which led her to write a sequel, and then eventually create the Alice series, in which Alice grows older in each book (Naylor would eventually write three prequels of a younger Alice). The series chronicles several months of Alice's life from ages 12–18, with the final book showing highlights of her life from 18–60. The Alice books have been lauded for realistically portraying the life of a regular girl and covering topics such as sex, which resulted in the books being one of the most frequently challenged and banned in libraries.
Naylor was married to Rex Naylor for 52 years until his death in 2012. They have two sons, Jeffrey and Michael, and four grandchildren: Sophia (who is herself a writer, comedian, and playwright), Tressa, Garrett and Beckett. So far, she has written over 130 books, and about 2000 articles. Naylor says that she will write "as long as she can hold a pencil."
Naylor is also a founder of the PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, which annually rewards an author of children's or young-adult fiction of literary merit to complete a manuscript.