Boyd, Candy

(b. 1946)

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(b. 1946), born Marguerite Dawson, educator, activist, and novelist.

Educating people about their positive potential has long been Candy Boyd's priority. As a high school student, she tried to stop blockbusting in her native Chicago by convincing three of her friends, an African American, a Jew, and a Protestant, to join her in personal visits to more than two hundred white families. She withdrew from college to work as an organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. When she finally earned her bachelor's degree from Northeastern Illinois State University, she became, in her own words, a “militant teacher.” She worked with Operation PUSH, organized neighborhood beautification projects, and used her Saturdays to take students on excursions to parks, theaters, and other neighborhoods.

When Boyd moved to Berkeley, California, and began teaching in a more diversely multicultural setting, her frustration with literary stereotypes and negative depictions of African Americans was exacerbated by her discovery that Asians, Latinos, and many Euro-Americans suffered similar literary treatment. She decided to write books for children that were honest, interesting, and inspiring. Though she had earned a PhD in education from the University of California and had been teaching for several years, Boyd prepared for this task by taking courses in writing for children and by reading every children's book in the Berkeley Public Library.

Named Professor of the Year at St. Mary's College in 1992, Candy Boyd is renowned for training teachers and creating organizations that encourage and develop reading among young people. In her books, schools are sites for learning and developing responsibility outside the family. Her characters encounter bullies, liars, and other misdirected classmates and teachers. They also build relationships with adults and children who inspire and guide them.

Candy Boyd's books explore complex and perplexing questions about the world and the emotions engendered as youngsters experience it. Her plots generally focus upon family relations complicated by external forces. In Charlie Pippin (1987), Charlie's father's experiences in Vietnam hinder family communication. In Circle of Gold (1984), the death of Mattie Benson's father requires her mother to work two jobs to support the family. Death and grieving nearly defeat twelve-year-old Toni Douglas in Boyd's second book, Breadsticks and Blessing Places (1985; republished as Forever Friends in 1986). Toni Douglas wants to please her family by being accepted into King Academy but her frustration with math, her need to babysit her brother, and her desire to socialize with her friends were already interfering when her friend Susan is killed in an automobile accident. First rejected by publishers because of its “relentless” focus on death, Breadsticks and Blessing Places was later selected for the Children's Book of the Year List.

Boyd's characters are not merely survivors; they are intriguingly typical, basically competent young people who have (or who create) supportive families and friends to help them face crises and move toward more hopeful futures. The protagonists are generally from working- or middle-class homes and their dilemmas are realistic. Joey Davis in Chevrolet Saturdays (1993) was the best science student in his fourth grade class whose testing for the gifted classes was postponed because of budget cuts. Mrs. Hamlin, his fifth grade teacher, however, is an inexperienced and unhappy individual without particular interest or competence in science and with a decided preference for those already certified as high achievers. Misinterpreting Joey's preoccupation with his mother's remarriage and his father's pending move to Chicago as evidence of low intelligence, Mrs. Hamlin recommends Joey be placed in a class for slow learners. Unlike admission to the gifted classes, this transfer threatens to occur without further ado. When his stepfather takes a strong part in challenging the teacher's recommendation, when Joey learns to balance his afterschool job at the neighborhood pharmacy with more positive classroom behavior, and when he atones for the family dog's injury by judiciously nursing him back to health, things begin to work out.


Subjects: Literature.

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