Best known as the author of the award-winning children's series Ivy and Bean, Annie Barrows also collaborated with her aunt, the late Mary Ann Shaffer, on the epistolary novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
A voracious reader (but an admittedly poor speller!), Annie Barrows grew up in northern California. One of her first jobs, while she was still in school, was re-shelving books in one of her favorite haunts, the public library. She attended the University of California at Berkeley and graduated with a degree in Medieval History. After graduation, she went to work for a publisher, editing books in many different fields.
Bitten by the writing bug, Barrows received her M.F.A in Creative Writing from California's Mills College. She wrote several books on such diverse topics as fortune telling, urban legends, and opera before branching into children's literature. In June of 2006, she released Ivy and Bean, the first award-winning book in a series about two young girls who become best friends in spite of their differences. In 2007, she published The Magic Half, a standalone children's fantasy about the middle child (between two sets of twins) who travels back in time and befriends a young girl in need of her help.
In addition, Barrows and her aunt, the late Mary Ann Shaffer, collaborated on a post-WWII epistolary novel entitled The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Conceived by Shaffer, the novel was accepted for publication in 2006, shortly before Shaffer fell ill. Barrows stepped in to complete the project, and the book was published in 2008 to positive reviews.
Good To Know
Here are some fascinating outtakes from our interview with Annie Barrows:
I can read palms. I learned when I was researching a book on fortune-telling, and I figure it's my back-up career if this writing thing doesn't work out. I can also read head lumps, but no thanks.
In my house, we have a Museum of Despair. The collection includes a burst pipe; the wire hanger that was being used to open my car when I surprised the thief; the stitches from my daughter's knee; a bottle of vodka so old that it's a product of the Soviet Union; and a broken thermometer.
There are two quotations stuck to the wall over my desk. Here they are: .
"But how could it be true, Sir?" said Peter. "Why do you say that?" asked the Professor. "Well, for one thing," said Peter, "if it was real why doesn't everyone find this country every time they go to the wardrobe? I mean, there was nothing there when we looked; even Lucy didn't pretend there was." "What has that to do with it?" said the Professor. "Well, Sir, if things are real, they're there all the time." "Are they?" said the Professor; and Peter did not know quite what to say.
--from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis
"Behold, you look on a man that is soon to be dust. Yet because love endures all things, tell me, I pray you, how fares the human race: if new roofs be risen in the ancient cities, whose empire is it that now sways the world; an if any still survive, snared in the error of the demons."
--from "The Life of St. Paul the Hermit"
Most of the time, I don't do anything but work and hang out with my family, but I just got back from a three-week trip to England, where I got a chance to indulge some of my secret fascinations: Neolithic standing stones, haunted battlefields, out-of-the-way castles, and Victorian anthropological collections.