Author

 

Peggy Caravantes writes middle grade and young adult nonfiction, primarily biographies. Her most recent interest is writing stories about women from the past who can serve as role models for today’s girls. Caravantes describes herself as a “research junkie” because she loves searching for an unusual tidbit or a little-known fact that may capture the attention of her readers. She will research almost any topic (except mathematics!) and enjoys writing on a variety of subjects. She is a frequent speaker both at schools and for various organizations as she enjoys sharing the fascinating stories of her book’s subjects.

 

 

Self-Reliance: The Story of Ralph Waldo Emerson
     Ralph Waldo Emerson became a Unitarian minister when he was twenty-five years old, but soon began to question his commitment to the denomination's beliefs. Eventually, he resigned his ministry, choosing instead to write and speak about his own ideas. In the process, he became the most influential writer and philosopher in the United States.
     Emerson's life was marked by ill health and family tragedies that challenged his commitment to his doctrine of self-reliance. He found solace in both his love of nature and his commitment to the American Transcendental Movement, which emphasized an individual's intuitive ability to live a spiritual life free of religious doctrine and social customs. He popularized the group's ideas in his essays and public lectures. Over a long and productive life, Ralph Waldo Emerson made himself into the most important figure in the first flowering of a truly American culture. (read an excerpt)


Excerpts

 

A Great and Sublime Fool: The Story of Mark Twain
     Mark Twain is one of America's most celebrated authors. Known for his sharp wit and his beloved books-The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and many others-Twain was one of the most popular figures of his day, and his work remains widely read. Twain's own life, though, was filled with drama and adventure, and often was the source and inspiration for his works.
     Born Samuel Clemens in Florida, Missouri, Twain, even as a child, sought freedom and adventure. Whether it was running away from home aboard a steamship, or accidentally rolling a boulder into a local office building with his best friend, Twain always tried to live life to the fullest. As an adult, he set out traveling America, making his way to New Orleans, New York, and then California, hoping to cash in on the Gold Rush. Through it all, he wrote articles and letters, often printed in his brother's newspaper, and gradually came to realize that he had a talent for writing, and might use that talent to make a living.
     After gaining some fame with travel books and essays, Twain tried his hand at being a novelist, and found even more success, thrilling children with his stories of adventure and mischief, and amusing adults with his keen satirical eye and wit. His life, though, was still filled with drama and misadventure. Throughout it all, Twain always maintained a warm but incisive humor for which he remains beloved and respected. (read an excerpt)

Writing is My Business: The Story of O. Henry
     William Sydney Porter was one of the most popular storytellers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, yet most knew him simply as O. Henry. Born in North Carolina in the midst of the post-Civil War Reconstruction, Will was brought up by his aunt and grandmother. At the age of twenty, he left North Carolina for Texas, where he met his fist wife and eked out a living as a ranch hand, draftsman, journalist, and bank clerk. In 1897, Porter’s beloved wife Athol died of tuberculosis. The same year, he was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzling funds from an Austin bank. Porter’s guilt or innocence remains a mystery, but he spent the rest of his life trying to conceal his past as a convicted criminal. He created for himself a prolific and profitable career writing short stories for newspapers and literary magazines. His trademark “twist endings” made him one of the most sought after writers of his day. But success and fame did not bring O. Henry happiness. He wrote for hire, and always felt that he had never lived up to his true literary potential. (read an excerpt)

Deep Woods: The Story of Robert Frost
     Robert Frost is considered the quintessential New England poet, though he was born in California. Left penniless by the death of her free-spending husband, Robbie's mother had to move her family east, where they relied on the charity of relatives. Young Robert would grow to love the landscape and make it a defining feature of his poetry.
     Though he constantly struggled to provide for his family, Frost eked out a living as a farmer, teacher, and poet, until his poetry began to draw positive notice. Though he did not have a college degree, Frost went on to teach at some of the country's most prestigious universities and collected twenty-six honorary degrees. His dozens of honors included four Pulitzer Prizes, but this glory and success did not translate to his personal life. He had to commit his mother, sister, and a daughter to sanitariums because of mental illness. His only son committed suicide, and Frost himself suffered from depression. His stature as a famous American poet was cemented when he read at President John F. Kennedy's inauguration, but Frost was never quite comfortable with his notoriety. Deep Woods: The Story of Robert Frost explores the story behind the life and words of one of America's best-known writers. (read an excerpt)

Best of Times: The Story of Charles Dickens
     Charles Dickens is one of the most famous authors in the world. His books, including the classics A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and Oliver Twist, have had an incalculable impact on literature. But the man behind these flights of imagination was not as cheery as the comedy of his novels might suggest. His father's extravagant spending left little for Dickens's education: he had only a few years of schooling. At the age of twelve, when his father was remanded to debtors' prison, Dickens was sent to work in a factory. The experience scarred him deeply, and he never got over his fear of debt or forgot what it was like to be young, alone, and afraid.
     Dickens's rise to literary fame was quick. The Pickwick Papers was all the rage by the time its author was twenty-four. His astonishing eye for detail and his sense of humor helped Dickens reach a previously untapped audience in the poor and the growing middle class. While Dickens contributed substantial sums of money as well as time and energy to charitable efforts, he was a cold father and a distant husband. His life was as complicated and dramatic as his novels, revealing a complex and fascinating man who devoted himself to telling stories that illuminated the people and the times of Victorian England. (read an excerpt)

An American Hero: The Audie Murphy Story
     By the time he was twenty-one years old, Audie Murphy had become a World War II hero, distinguishing himself by winning more medals than any other American soldier in history. Despite coming from an impoverished background in Texas and having little formal education, Murphy quickly rose through the ranks of enlisted men fighting in the European theater. He was commissioned as an officer while still on the battle field and later received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for a soldier in battle. After he returned to the United States, he suffered from post-traumatic-stress-syndrome but managed to carve out a career as a movie star in forty-four films. Ironically, he escaped the bullets intended for him during the war but then died in a plane crash in his own country. Murphy is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. This book is featured on the Audie Murphy Research Foundation national website. (read an excerpt)

Waging Peace: The Story of Jane Addams
     From her first glimpse of poverty as a young girl, Jane Addams resolved to find a way to help those who could not help themselves. Her own privileged upbringing included a good education and travel in Europe. In London, she discovered the settlement house phenomenon, an idea she brought to life in Chicago when she opened the famous Hull House. There, Addams and her team of dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly to provide those trapped in the city’s slums with better sanitation and safer working and living conditions. From Hull House, she branched out to larger concerns, working to win women the right to vote and promoting peaceful solutions to the world’s problems. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931—the first woman ever so honored. (read an excerpt)

Marcus Garvey: Black Nationalist
     Although Marcus Garvey remains a controversial figure, he holds a secure place in history. He advocated black pride in black culture. He inspired hope and he influenced a renewed interest in African roots and history that would continue to grow long after his passing. (read an excerpt)

An American in Texas: The Story of Sam Houston
     The life of Sam Houston spanned the United States' dealings with the Indians, westward expansion, slavery, and secession. He held more military offices than anyone else in American history. (read an excerpt)

Petticoat Spies
     Petticoat Spies (2002, Morgan Reynolds Publishing), contains the collected short life stories of six female spies during the Civil War. (read an excerpt)

 

 

Caravantes is currently working on a collection of biographies of Native American women and another on fearless females—women who dared to be different.

 

 

Peggy likes to hear from her readers, and you can email her at peggy@peggycaravantes.com or post comments on her blog at http://wwwpeggycaravantes.blogspot.com.

 



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