June Rae Wood
June Rae Wood grew up in Versailles, Missouri, the second of eight children. The third child, Richard, was born with Down’s syndrome.
Ms. Wood recalls, “Richard was a happy-go-lucky little fellow, a natural comedian, but those were the ‘Dark Ages,’ when society didn’t know how to deal with the disabled. Sometimes other kids made fun of Richard or were afraid of him, so we surrounded him with love and a fierce protectiveness.” Many years later, Ms. Wood drew on the family’s sometimes funny, sometimes painful experiences to break into the world of publishing. Throughout her childhood she was an avid reader, which laid the groundwork for her writing.
While studying business education at Central Missouri State University she met a young airman, William A. Wood, on a blind date. She soon dropped out of school, married William, and took a job as a clerk-typist at the local air base. When their daughter, Samantha, was born four years later, Ms. Wood became a stay-at-home mom.
Eventually, the family moved into a rural home near Windsor, Missouri. As Ms. Wood remembers, “I was alone all day and the silence was deafening, so I began to write.”
For three years, publishers rejected her short stories and a frequently re-written children’s novel. However, after Richard died at age thirty-six, she wrote an article about how much her special brother had meant to her family and sold it immediately to Family Circle magazine. The story was later reprinted in Reader’s Digest.
As a result of those articles, Ms. Wood received mail from adults all over the United States who had been touched by Richard’s life story. It occurred to Wood that perhaps she could touch children too, and she began work on The Man Who Loved Clowns, which was published in 1992. For that novel, she created “Punky,” a man with Down’s Syndrome, in hopes that kids might better understand people who are different.
Ms. Wood’s mail now comes mainly from young readers who love Punky almost as much as her family loved Richard.
The Man Who Loved Clowns was awarded the 1995 Mark Twain Award in Missouri and the 1995 William Allen White Award in Kansas.
Ms. Wood is the 1999 recipient of the Edgar Wolfe Literary Award which is presented by the Friends of the Library in Kansa City, KS. She and her husband were blessed with their first grandchild in 1998.
copyright ? 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.