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Gerald Morris

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Gerald Morris

I grew up between worlds. Most of my childhood I lived in Singapore, where my parents were missionaries in the Chinese churches there and where I was a curiosity—an undersized boy with a white-blond crewcut and pink cheeks that seemed to be just right for pinching. When I was small, I reacted against the Chinese and Malay and Indian cultures that surrounded me, by proudly declaring myself American and turning up my nose at everything Singaporean. In this way, I rejected all sorts of mouth-watering foods in favor of such true American specialties as Velveeta and Wonder Bread. I would have eaten library paste if I'd thought it would make me more American. The paste would have tasted better.

Then, on visits back to the United States, I discovered that I was just as much an outsider in my own country as I was in Singapore. It wasn't just that the other kids I met in the states didn't know anything about other cultures or people, but that they didn't seem to want to know. I began to appreciate Singapore as I never had. For the rest of my childhood and teen years, I tried to work out how to love both the country of my birth and the country that was my home. One thing was sure, though: I would never be just an American or just a Singaporean. I was like a pollywog, stuck somewhere between tadpole and frog.

I was the same way concerning my plans for the future. I was going to be a minister, a teacher, or a writer, depending on which day you asked me. Even as I went to college, my career picture never really become clear. I had officially decided to become a minister, but I majored in English and began writing poetry and short stories. I went to ministerial school and, while there, began writing novels. I became pastor of a small church in Muncie, Indiana, and while I drove around making pastoral visits, I composed light verse about church history in my head. I became a religion professor and got a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Greek, but I kept on writing fiction. None of my books are "religious" novels. I began teaching in the religion department of a Baptist university, where I mostly hung out with English professors.

I was thirty-three years old and still a pollywog.

I don't mean to say that I'm unstable. (I might be, but I certainly don't intend to say so.) Certain things do stay the same throughout my life: my faith, my love for my wife (Rebecca) and children (William, Ethan, and Grace), my enjoyment of words, my tendency to forget appointments, my habit of trailing off in mid-sentence and losing my train of thought, my ...

But in many ways I'm still between worlds. Now I am a part-time associate pastor in a Methodist church in Wausau, Wisconsin, writing children's novels to support my ministry habit. Often the people I meet in one of my worlds are shocked to hear about my other. Literary people who find out I'm a minister are frequently astonished. ("How interesting!" they say doubtfully, as if they had just discovered that I lived entirely on a diet of worms.) On the other hand, many church people disapprove of my novels, which are full of sorcery and beheadings and fairies and elves and other things that you hardly ever find in Sunday School literature. I'm not what anyone in any of my worlds expects me to be.

The poet Walt Whitman once wrote "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. (I am large. I contain multitudes.)" I don't think I'm as large as Whitman—I'm only a pollywog, after all—but I guess it's all right for me to be bigger than other people's notions of what I'm supposed to be.

An earlier form of this autobiographical essay appears in the Ninth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, edited by Connie C. Rockman, and published by H. W. Wilson in 2004. It is used here with permission.

The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True
illustrated by Aaron Renier
Houghton Mifflin, 2011
ISBN 978-0547418551

In the third installment in the Knights’ Tales series, Gerald Morris tells the laugh-outloud tale of King Arthur’s most celebrated knight, and nephew, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. With lively illustrations by Aaron Renier, Morris creates a captivating and comical medieval world that teems with humor and wonder.

Legend of the King The Legend of the King
Houghton Mifflin, 2010
ISBN 978-0547144207

In this final installment of the Squire's Tale series, Terence and his fellow Knights of the Round Table must come together in a last stand to save Camelot. The characters Gerald Morris has brought to life throughout his series—“Terence and Gawain, Lynet and Gaheris, Luneta and Rhience, Dinadan and Palomides"—each have an important role to play in this climactic final conflict. Maintaining their faith, selflessness, and honor, Arthur's court bands together to try to defeat Morgause and Mordred and banish the dark magic from England forever.

Squire's Quest The Squire's Quest
Houghton Mifflin, 2009
ISBN 978-0547144245

Why is it, Terence wondered, that the things you know most surely are always the things you can’t demonstrate to any one else?

And why is it, after all of these years, that Terence is still just a squire, offering advice on how best to scrub the rust spots from armor? But Squire Terence has more to worry about than his social standing. Despite the apparent peace and prosperity in England, Terence is uneasy. After months without contact with the World of the Faeries—not even from his old friend, mischievous sprite Robin—Terence is sure something is rotten in King Arthur's court.

Adventures of Sir Givret The Adventures of Sir Givret the Short
illustrated by Aaron Renier
Houghton Mifflin, 2008
ISBN 978-0618777150

Many years ago, the storytellers say, the great King Arthur held court with his gallant Knights of the Round Table. Poor Givret, who is easily the shortest man at court, bears the brunt of their jokes. But what he lacks in stature, Givret makes up for in brains—and before he knows it, his quick thinking has landed him a place at the famous Round Table! And so beginneth the exciting and funny adventures of Sir Givret the Short, Brilliant, and Marvelous.

Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great The Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great
illustrated by Aaron Renier
Houghton Mifflin, 2008
ISBN 978-0618777143

Many years ago, the storytellers say, the great King Arthur brought justice to England with the help of his gallant Knights of the Round Table. Of these worthy knights, there was never one so fearless, so chivalrous, so honorable, so...shiny, as the dashing Sir Lancelot, who was quite good at defending the helpless and protecting the weak, just as long as he'd had his afternoon nap. Behold the very exciting and very funny adventures of Lancelot the Great, as only the acclaimed Arthurian author Gerald Morris can tell them.

The Quest of the Fair Unknown The Quest of the Fair Unknown
Houghton Mifflin, 2006
ISBN 978-0-618-63152-0

On her deathbed, Beaufils's mother leaves him with a quest and a clue: find your father, a knight of King Arthur's court. So Beaufils leaves the isolated forest of his youth and quickly discovers that he has much to learn about the world beyond his experience. Beaufils's innocence never fails to make his companions grin, but his fresh outlook on the world's peculiarities turns out to be more of a gift than a curse as they encounter unexpected friends and foes. With his constant stream of wise fools and foolish wise men, holy hermits and others of rather less holiness, plotting magicians and conniving Ladies, Gerald Morris infuses these medieval stories with a riotous humor all his own.

The Lioness and Her Knight
Houghton Mifflin, 2005
ages 9 to 12, ISBN 978-0-618-50772-6

Luneta is tired of living in dull Orkney with her mother and father (who happens to be the most boring knight of King Arthur"s Round Table). She prides herself on always getting what she wants, so when the opportunity presents itself, she jumps at the chance to stay at a family friend"s castle near Camelot. Her handsome cousin, Sir Ywain —a young knight seeking adventure—arrives just in time to escort her to King Arthur"s court.

Along the way they pick up a knight-turned-fool named Rhience, whose wit and audacity set many a puffed-up personality in its place. Before arriving at Lady Laudine"s castle, the trio stops at Camelot, where they hear the story of the Storm Stone, a magical object deep in the forest that soon sweeps everyone into a web of love, betrayal, and more than a bit of magic.

Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight
HoughtonMifflin, 2004
ages 10 to 14, ISBN978-0-618-37823-4

A reworking of the French romance The Knight of the Cart, by Chrétien de Troyes. Ever since that tragic night when her mother and guardian were murdered, thirteen-year-old Sarah has been living on her own and searching for the knight who was responsible. Her quest for revenge leads to an even greater adventure when she witnesses Queen Guinevere being kidnapped. Soon Sarah finds herself accompanying Sir Gawain and Squire Terence on a remarkable journey to rescue the Queen. In their travels they meet, among others, a mystery knight traveling incognito in a dung cart, a faery who becomes Sarah's first friend in a long time, a reclusive monk who plans to spend the rest of his life building a tomb for Sir Lancelot, and a princess who might have a little more gumption than she appears to. As the plot thickens, Sarah finds out more about the people she's met and befriended, as well as about herself. She begins to learn the true consequences of vengeance and what it really means to be a princess.
Ballad of Sir Dinadan

The Ballad of Sir Dinadan
Houghton Mifflin, 2003
ages 10 to 14, ISBN 978-0-618-19099-7

A fifth Arthurian retelling. This one begins with the stories of Tristram and Iseult, especially as told in Tristan, by Gottfried von Strassburg, and in Malory. Young Dinadan has no wish to joust or quest or save damsels in distress or do any of the knightly things expected of him. He'd rather be a minstrel, playing his rebec and writing ballads. But he was born to be a knight, and knights, of course, have adventures. So after his father forces his knighthood upon him, he wanders toward King Arthur's court, in the company of a misguided young Welsh lad named Culloch. There Dinadan meets Sir Kai and Sir Bedivere, and the three find themselves accompanying Culloch on the worst sort of quest. Along the way, Dinadan writes his own ballads, singing of honor, bravery, loyalty, and courtly love—and becomes a player in the pathetic love story of Tristram and Iseult. He meets the Moorish knight Palomides, the clever but often exasperating Lady Brangienne, and an elvin musician named Sylvanus, along with an unusual collection of recreant knights and dimwitted defenders of chivalry. He learns that while minstrels sing of spectacular heroic deeds, honor is often found in simpler, quieter ways.
Parsifal's Page Parsifal's Page
Houghton Mifflin, 2001
ages 10 to 14, ISBN 978-0-618-05509-8

Arthurian stuff again, this one based on the German classic Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach. Piers is desperate to become a page to escape the dirty, tedious labor of his father's blacksmith shop. So when a knight arrives announcing that he's on "the quest," Piers begs to go along. Off on a series of adventures he never dreamed possible, Piers and the knight quickly run into difficulties. The knight is slain by Parsifal who is on a quest of his own. Parsifal is unlike anyone Piers has ever met. He doesn't behave "knightly" at all. Slowly, Piers realizes that being a knight has nothing to do with shining armor and winning jousts. And, as their journey continues, they find that to achieve their quest they must learn more than knighthood: they must learn about themselves. The tale of Parsifal has been told more than that of any other knight, but no one has ever told his story quite like Gerald Morris does in his fourth Arthurian novel, another tour de force of humor, action, magic, and, as always, true love.

Savage Damsel and the Dwarf The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf
Houghton Mifflin, 2000
ages 10 to 14, ISBN 978-0-395-97126-0

Another Arthurian novel, from Book VI of Malory. Her castle under siege by an evil knight who keeps beheading all her would-be rescuers, Lady Lynet realizes the only way to get help is to get it herself. So one night she slips away and strikes out for King Arthur's court where she hopes to find a gallant knight to vanquish the Knight of the Red Lands and free her castle. Gerald Morris's latest Arthurian novel is a highly comic tale of hidden identities, mysterious knights, faeries and enchantments, damsels-in-distress, and true love.

Squire, His Knight, &His Lady The Squire, His Knight, & His Lady
Houghton Mifflin, 1999
ages 10 to 14, ISBN978-0-395-91211-9

My second Arthurian novel, based on the anonymous medieval work Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Squire Terence and Sir Gawain are off questing again, but this time their journey is overshadowed by their ultimate destination: Gawain is to meet up with the Green Knight in a contest that could easily lead to Gawain's death. Along the way the two have a slew of hair-raising adventures and encounter the usual odd assortment of characters, including the plucky Lady Eileen. Sparks instantly fly between Terence and Eileen as she joins the squire and his knight on their travels. As they weave their way between the world of men and the Other World, Gawain and Terence discover much about themselves. The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady is the sequel to Gerald Morris's debut book, The Squire's Tale, about which the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books raved, "This Arthurian road trip will have readers wondering why there aren't more books like this one and hoping that Morris will do it again." And so he has.

Squire's Tale The Squire's Tale
Houghton Mifflin, 1998
ages 10 to 14, ISBN978-0-395-86959-8

Growing up an orphan in an isolated cottage in the woods, young Terence never expected much adventure. But upon the arrival of Gawain, his life takes a surprising turn. Gawain is destined to become one of the most famous knights of the Round Table. Terence becomes Gawain's squire and leaves his secluded life for one of adventure in King Arthur's court. In no time Terence is plunged into the exciting world of kings, wizards, knights, wars, magic spells, dwarfs, damsels in distress, and enchanters. As he adjusts to his new life, he proves to be not only an able squire but also a keen observer of the absurdities around him. His duties take him on a quest with Gawain and on a journey of his own, to solve the mystery of his parentage. Filled with rapier-sharp wit, jousting jocularity, and chuckleheaded knights, this is King Arthur's court as never before experienced.

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