More About the Author
Doris Buchanan Smith (June 1, 1934 - August 8, 2002) was an award-winning author of children's books. A TASTE OF BLACKBERRIES, her most recognized work, is about a young boys first grief experience. Published in 1973, with illustrations by Charles Robinson, the book has never been out of print.
In THE READ-ALOUD HANDBOOK (Penguin, Sixth Edition, 2006), Jim Trelease praised Smith's groundbreaking first novel; "The sensitivity with which the attendant sorrow and guilt are treated makes this an outstanding book. It blazed the way for the many other grief books that quickly followed, but few have approached the place of honor this one holds."
"Smith deals honestly and emphatically with the range of emotions... the story is not, however an elegy; but a celebration of the continuity of the life-death cycle." THE ATLANTA JOURNAL, 1973,
"Rightfully viewed, along with Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, 1977, as one of the seminal children's books on the subject of death." THE SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL (2002)
"It will be difficult to find a children's book this autumn by a new author as good as Doris Buchanan Smith's A Taste of Blackberries . . . Smith's success lies in knowing how to handle the theme with exactly the right balance of sensitivity, humour and open emotion." THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT, 1975
An ALA Notable Children's Book, A TASTE OF BLACKBERRIES was a Newbery Medal finalist, and won the Josette Frank Award, the Georgia Children's Book Award, and the Children's Best Book Prize in Holland (Zilveren Griffel).
Doris Jean Buchanan was born in Washington, D.C. to parents Charles A., and Flora R. Buchanan. At two, she began memorizing nursery rhymes that had been read to her by her mother, and then inventing stories of her own. At nine, her family moved from the nation's Capital to Atlanta, Georgia. Noticing her flair for storytelling, a sixth-grade teacher, Miss Pruitt, to whom A Taste of Blackberries is dedicated, asked Doris if she planned on being a writer one day. The suggestion resonated, and a "closet" writer was born. Her parent's divorced the next year, leaving Doris and her brothers, Bob and Jim, to be reared by their mother. While attending South Georgia College, in Douglas, Georgia, she met R. Carroll Smith. Neither of them completed their courses. Instead they married on December 18, 1954, and started a family.
By the mid-1960s the Smiths had settled in Brunswick, Georgia, and, in addition to their own children, had begun to care for foster children. They raised four of their own children, and cared for dozens of foster children, one from age 12 to adulthood. After her youngest child entered public school, Smith began to focus on her writing. Lacking in discipline at first, Smith began to make time in the day when she could be alone to write. She attended workshops and writers groups as well, which also helped her to learn the craft. Her first completed novel was never published. Her second, A Taste of Blackberries, has become a classic. Before it was published, no other modern children's book had wrestled with its difficult subject--the death of a child's playmate.
In 1977, Smiths marriage ended in divorce. While at a writer's convention in Hawaii, the author met Dr. William J. "Bill" Curtis, an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. They reunited some time later and were married from 1988 until Curtis' death in 1997 from ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gerhig's disease). Smith, who had previously been diagnosed with diabetes and heart disease, succumbed to cancer in 2002.
Of Smith's 17 books, only A Taste of Blackberries remains in print. Former Executive Editor of Viking Penguin, Deborah Brodie, wrote in Publishers Weekly, "Near the end of the book, when Jamie's mother accepts the basket of blackberries his friend has picked, she says, 'I'll bake a pie. And you be sure to come slam the door for me now and then.' The slam of that door reverberates still."