Faye Gibbons (1938- ) is a writer of children’s picture books and young adult novels that focus on life in the rural South. She grew up in northern Georgia but has spent the majority of her later years in Deatsville, Elmore County.
Faye Gibbons The oldest of four siblings, Gibbons was born on January 31, 1938, in Carter’s Quarter, located in the mountains of north Georgia. Her father, George Manley, was a welder and mechanic, and her mother, Alice Lenell, was a mill worker. Her family moved regularly, and she remembers living in places without electricity, running water, or indoor toilets. Her family told stories as a form of entertainment.
She did not enter school until she was nine, but she quickly learned to love reading. She graduated from North Whitfield High School in Dalton, Georgia, and attended Oglethorpe University (1960), Emory University (1961), and earned her bachelor’s degree from Berry College in Rome, Georgia, in 1961. She also took graduate courses at Auburn University in 1965. Gibbons taught at two elementary schools in Georgia between 1961 and 1964.
Gibbons married Benjamin Turner Gibbons, a mathematician and computer analyst, in 1964, and with him had two sons. Moving to Alabama in 1964, Benjamin Gibbons worked for NASA, doing satellite tracking, and Faye Gibbons taught at Beauregard High School (Lee County) from 1964-66 and at Lincoln Elementary School in Huntsville from 1966-69.
Emma Jo’s Song Gibbons stopped teaching in 1969 to focus her energy on raising her sons; also at this time she began to consider a writing career. Teaching, according to Gibbons, gave her a better understanding of young people and a clearer idea of the kinds of stories that interested them. Gibbons has said that her writing has been influenced by Laura Ingalls Wilder, C. S. Lewis, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Katherine Paterson.
Faye Gibbons has described being “wiped out” by the super tornado outbreak that occurred across the United States from April 3rd to 4th, 1974, one of the worst outbreaks of tornadoes in American history. Following the tornado, the family left Huntsville and moved to Deatsville, Elmore County. Gibbons’ husband took a position working with computers and computerized information at the Air Force Standard Information Center at Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery. The family moved to a home on land that had been in the Gibbons family since about 1819. Built in 1888 by her husband’s great-great uncle, the house had stood empty for some time and was in bad need of restoration. Over the next two years, the Gibbonses restored the house.
Gibbons’ works have common themes—broken homes, poverty, rural life, and the importance of family, nature, and the land. Some themes in her stories—living with an alcoholic father, being a sometime ambivalent participant in fundamentalist churches, the longing to escape poverty—are autobiographical, though the individual events that bring out those themes are fictional.
Faye Gibbons at Alabama Bound Gibbons’s first novel for young adults, Some Glad Morning (1982), is set in the Georgia mountains and centers on a 10-year-old girl, Maude, who with her mother and other siblings escapes from life with their alcoholic father. The story involves three generations of women, beginning with her grandmother, Ma Fields, the matriarch of the family, Maude’s independent mother who works in a factory, and Maude herself, who hopes to become a teacher to escape a life of factory work. The work garnered Gibbons the Georgia Author of the Year Award for Children’s Literature in 1983.
The 1989 novel King Shoes and Clown Pockets, Gibbons’ third book, is set in Alabama and draws on her observations of rural life there. The main character, Raymond Brock, has trouble adjusting after losing his grandfather and moving to an Alabama trailer park. His problems are compounded when he is forced to wear a pair of shoes he finds ugly because new sneakers are too expensive for his family.
Night in the Barn, a picture book published in 1995, tells of four boys who sleep overnight in a barn and are frightened by the howling wind and shadows and noises. The boys think a ghost or monster is near, only to learn at the end that the “ghost” was really their dog. Gibbons’ Mountain Wedding (1996), a picture book illustrated by Ted Rand, tells of a young girl named Mandy, one of five children whose mother marries a widower who has his own children. It is a story of love and acceptance. Her popular book Hook Moon Night (1997), a collection of original ghost tales, is based on stories her grandfather told her.
In 1999, Gibbons followed Mountain Wedding with a sequel, also illustrated by Ted Rand, titled Mama and Me and the Model T. The work captures the excitement and chaos that ensues when the children’s new stepfather brings home their first motorcar. The illustrations in the book also depict Gibbons’ historic home in Deatsville: her house, outbuildings, some trees, and even her dogs. The opening spread shows her house, surrounded by cotton fields, which a local farmer leases.
In 2002, Gibbons published a children’s biography of Spanish conquistador Hernando De Soto in Hernando De Soto: A Search for Gold and Glory. That same year, she also published Horace King: Bridges to Freedom, the life story of the formerly enslaved engineer and bridge builder Horace King.
Gibbons regularly visits schools and libraries, especially in Alabama, to talk with her young readers. She reiterates the theme she stresses in her books and that she has modeled in her own life, encouraging children to follow their dreams. She continues to live her family’s historic home in Deatsville.
Works by Faye Gibbons
Some Glad Morning (1982)
Mighty Close to Heaven (1985)
King Shoes on Clown Pockets (1989)
Breaking New Ground: The History of the Autauga Quality Cotton Association (1993)
Night in the Barn (1995)
Mountain Wedding (1996)
Hook Moon Light: Spooky Tales from the Georgia Mountains (1997)
Mama and Me and the Model-T (1999)
Emma Jo’s Song (2001)
Hernando De Soto: A Search for Gold and Glory (2002)
Full Steam Ahead (2002)
Horace King: Bridges to Freedom (2002)
The Day the Picture Man Came (2003)
“Faye Gibbons.” Contemporary Authors. Detroit: Gale, 2008.