Authors: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist and short-story writer

Author Works

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

The Galloping Goat, and Other Stories, 1965

Jennifer Jean, Cross-Eyed Queen, 1967

To Shake a Shadow, 1967

What the Gulls Were Singing, 1967

When Rivers Meet, 1968

Witch’s Sister, 1975

Walking Through the Dark, 1976

Change in the Wind, 1980 (short stories)

A String of Chances, 1982

The Mad Gasser of Bessledorf, 1983

A Triangle Has Four Sides, 1984 (short stories)

The Agony of Alice, 1985

Beetles, Lightly Toasted, 1987

The Baby, the Bed, and the Rose, 1987

Send No Blessings, 1990

Shiloh, 1991

Ice, 1995

I Can’t Take You Anywhere, 1997

Saving Shiloh, 1997

Carlotta’s Kittens, 2000

Blizzard’s Wake, 2002

Long Fiction:

Revelations, 1979

Unexpected Pleasures, 1986


Crazy Love: An Autobiographical Account of Marriage and Madness, 1977

The Craft of Writing the Novel, 1989


Born in Anderson, Indiana, in 1933, the daughter of a mother who was a sometime schoolteacher and a father who worked in sales, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor moved quite frequently. The only constant in her life seemed to be the volumes of books in her home and the love for storytelling that her parents shared with her. From an early age she began to fashion her own stories to amuse and entertain herself. As a child she would create books from the discarded scraps of used paper she found. Writing, illustrating, and fashioning them through folding and stapling, it seems apropos that this child creator of books would grow up to be a creator of some of the best-known and best-loved children’s books of the twentieth century.{$I[A]Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds}{$I[tim]1933;Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds}

When Naylor was sixteen, a former Sunday school teacher asked her to write a story for a church magazine that she was editing. Naylor agreed, and her story about baseball, “Mike’s Hero,” the only one about sports she ever published, appeared in Boys and Girls Comrade and earned for her $4.67. Encouraged by this small success, over the next few years she continued to write and send out many stories for review. In 1951, at the age of eighteen, she married Ted Moreno and entered Joliet Junior College. She received an associate’s degree in 1953 and began working as a secretary to support her husband, who was working on a graduate degree in mathematics. At this time, she read extensively and eclectically and expanded her intellectual horizon under the direction of her husband. She also worked as an elementary school teacher in Hazelcrest, Illinois.

Unfortunately, by 1956 Ted, who was always obsessive and domineering, began to develop a severe mental illness that required extensive hospitalization. Phyllis, who was still a bit of an innocent, had to emerge from behind her husband and take over the daily responsibilities of their life and his health care. As recounted in the autobiographical Crazy Love, the road that eventually led to their inevitable divorce some three years later was emotionally trying and exhausting.

By the early 1960’s Phyllis began a new and busy chapter in her life. She married Rex Vaughn Naylor, completed a B.A. in psychology from American University, and gave birth to the first of two sons, Alan Jeffrey, in 1962. Her second son, Michael Scott, was born in 1967. With her new husband and children, Phyllis Naylor at last found the stability that enabled her to pursue her writing career. In 1965 she published her first book, The Galloping Goat, and Other Stories. Not long afterward, her future as a full-fledged children’s novelist would begin with the publication of What the Gulls Were Singing. In the same year, her career as a writer for young adults was also born, with the publication of the novel To Shake a Shadow. Over the next three decades she continued to write, and during this time she published more than eighty titles in almost every genre (save science fiction) and for readers of almost every age.

Although most of her works have been well received, two distinctly different series of books stand out. The Alice series, begun in 1985 with the publication of The Agony of Alice, recounts the difficulties of a teenage girl trying to grow up in a family without a mother. Young Alice’s problems are real and immediately identifiable to many young readers, yet Naylor brings to these works a healthy sense of humor. In tone, these books have their opposite in her narrative accounts of a young West Virginia boy named Marty Preston in the novel Shiloh. The story of the love and loyalty this boy and his family share with a runaway beagle won for Naylor the coveted Newbery award in 1992 and inspired two sequels and two films. Indeed, the appeal and success of these well-known works among young readers is noted by Naylor, who must often recount for her audience the inspiration for the books, a stray beagle named Clover who was taken in by friends of the writer.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor resides in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband, where she continues to enjoy writing and continues to publish. On occasion she makes speaking appearances at libraries and schools for the children and adults who have enjoyed her work.

BibliographyOlendorf, Donna, ed. “Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.” In Something About the Author. Vol. 66. Detroit: Gale, 1991.Stover, Lois Thomas. “Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.” In Writers for Young Adults, edited by Ted Hipple. 3 vols. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1997.Stover, Lois Thomas. Presenting Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. New York: Twayne, 1997.
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