GH woman receives Gwen Frostic Award

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 10:50 AM

Willey is known for her “Clever Beatrice” stories. According to the MRA’s introduction, Willey “has touched the hearts of many children, young adults and adults through her novels. Her first published young adult novel, ‘The Bigger Book of Lydia,’ received critical acclaim.”

Willey wrote more young adult novels before switching over to folktales and the award-winning “Beatrice” series, the introduction noted. Her latest novel, “A Summer of Silk Moths,” is a tribute to a novel Willey loved as a young girl — “A Girl of the Limberlast,” written by Gene Statton Porter.

“Margaret’s novel reflects her long-standing belief that damaged children can fine emotional healing in the natural world,” the introduction noted. “Gwen Frostic would be honored that Margaret is receiving the award.”

Willey said she has devoted much of her life to connecting with children of all ages through books and stories.

“In my own life, books were crucial, almost like individual friends,” she said. “I grew up in St. Joseph, the eldest daughter of 11 children, and I have fond memories of reading stories and poetry to my younger brothers and sisters.”

Now that she is a grandmother, Willey said she is still doing the same thing by going into the schools and reading her stories and poetry.

“I believe that all children have a deep need and a basic right to be exposed to stories and poetry,” she said.

Willey has lived in Grand Haven with her husband, Richard Joanisse, for the past 30 years. During that time, she has written eight novels, “many short stories and essays,” and several picture books for children. Willey said her best-known books are the “Clever Beatrice” stories, which are set in the Upper Peninsula.

Willey and her husband have two grown children: Jeffrey Joanisse of Grand Haven and Chloe Willey Joanisse of Milwaukee, Wis.

Willey has won a number of awards for her books — including the Charlotte Zolotow Award for original folktales, the Los Angeles Times Best Children’s Books and the American Notable Children’s Books award for “Clever Beatrice.”

One of her other recent prizes was the Honor Award from the Green Earth Book Awards for “A Summer of Silk Moths.” That award recognizes books that promote appreciation for the natural world and encourage environmental stewardship among children and young adults.


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