Sheila Cole

Biography

When I was a child, my mother kept telling me to stop reading so much. She said, “All those books are giving you ideas.” She was right, they were giving me ideas - some that were crazy and some not so crazy. One of them was to become a writer. I went to UCLA with that intention. I learned all sorts of other things there, and at Indiana University where I transferred after two years. But one thing I did not learn at either of those universities was how to be a writer.

After I graduated from Indiana, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where I began writing for a newspaper - a good way to start on my chosen career path. Then I attended Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and continued to write for newspapers and national magazines.

I began to write for children and young adults because children’s books had a profound effect on me as a child. They provided me with models of girls who dared to be different. These books taught me about the world beyond my neighborhood. They enriched my questions about how other people lived and my curiosity about what they did. They gave me solace and wisdom when I felt lost and powerless as a child. And they gave me untold hours of pleasure, dreams of adventure, competence and power.

My first novel for children, Meaning Well, was published in 1974. It was selected as an honor book by the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators. Since then I have written several picture books, nonfiction books and novels. My young adult novel, What Kind of Love?: The Diary of A Pregnant Teenager was selected by the American Library Association as a “Recommended book for Reluctant Young Readers.” My latest book for children is To Be Young In America: Growing Up With The Country, 1776-1940. It shows what life was like for children in times past. In addition to writing books for children, I am the co-author of a widely used college textbook on child development, The Development of Children.

My goal as a writer is to encourage young people to be themselves even if it means being different from everyone else, and to do what they think is right even if it is not the popular thing to do. The heroes in my stories are ordinary girls and boys who find themselves in situations that call for extraordinary courage. They are a girl who made her living finding fossils at a time when girls didn’t do such things; a girl who refuses to join her friends in being cruel to another girl; a pregnant teenager who decides to give her baby up for adoption; a boy who refuses to sit quietly by and allow the canyon where he plays to be turned into a housing development.

Selected Works

"An exceptional job of showing readers what life was like for children in times past." School Library Journal
“Solid, truthful writing about a teenager wrestling with the greatest of dilemmas”
-Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
A portrait of a Mary Anning, who in 1811, when she was only 13 years old, discovered the first complete fossil of an ichthyosaur.
Lisa learns that meaning well is not enough. It's the doing that counts. "A common peer group situation...dealt with bluntly and convincingly." Booklist
Eleven-year-old Zachary tries to stop the development of the local canyon he loves.