Virginia Hamilton Essay, Research Paper
?I never thought seriously of any other career?1, Virginia Hamilton
said, speaking of being an author. Virginia Hamilton is a very talented
African American Children?s author. She was born on March 12, 1936 in
Yellow Springs, Ohio. Her Mother had lived in Yellow Springs since the late
1850?s. Virginia Hamilton said that she loves Yellow Springs. ?I live on land
that has been in my family for generations?2 ?I love my hometown?3.
She says, as a child, both of her parents were enthusiastic readers and
gifted storytellers. Hamilton recalls that her mother could ?take a slice of
fiction and polish it into a saga.?4 Virginia Hamilton is known for her
wonderful ability to create mood, tension and to build individualistic and
complex characters. She also teaches the reader something whenever they
read one of her books. These expressive qualities have led her to win
numerous awards such as the Newbery Award, the Coretta Scott King
Award, the Edgar Allen Poe Award, the National Book Award and many
others as well. She has also been awarded three honorary doctorates and is
the only Children?s author to have been awarded a MacAuthor fellowship.
In The House of Dies Drear and The Mystery of Drear House, Virginia
Hamilton uses fictional stories with historic background to educate the reader
about the Underground Railroad.
The House of Dies Drear is a story about a family living in South
Carolina. In the beginning of the book, they move to Ohio, to a giant mansion
that supposedly ?held secrets?. The Small Family found out that the house is
known to the town as haunted. Throughout this book, the house does prove
itself as having secrets. Thomas Small finds secret passageways, special
rooms, tunnels and many other secrets used in the Underground Railroad. The
Small family finds out that the house had a century-old legend, where two
fugitive slaves, trying to escape, had been killed by bounty hunters. Also
killed, was Dies Drear, the abolitionist who had made the house into a station
of the Underground Railroad. The ghosts are still said to walk the rooms of
Drear House. When they get to their house, they meet new people like the
Darrow?s and the scary land lord, Mr. Pluto, who Thomas thinks is the devil.
While they were living in Drear House, it was obvious some one did not want
them to be there. They got many threats and damage to their house. In the
end, Thomas and his Father stumble into Mr. Pluto?s underground lair. Mr.
Pluto?s son is there, and they explain how the Darrow?s are trying to take
over the treasure Mr. Pluto had. So, Thomas, his Father, Mr. Pluto, Mr.
Pluto?s son, and some of their friends scared the Darrow?s away by dressing
up as ghost slaves.
This story teaches the reader a lot about slavery and the Underground
Railroad, while also having an entertaining fictional plot. Virginia Hamilton
says, of her book, ?I needed to know how men, women and children could
travel hundreds of miles on foot through enemy land. I found out that they
were brave beyond belief. Perhaps with this book I have at last touched them
the way they first touched me so long ago.?5 One of the reasons she became
so interested in the Underground Railroad is because her hometown was one
of the stops. It is said that her Great Grandmother was a conductor. Family
stories of slavery and freedom fascinated Hamilton, and in her books, she
explores both historical and contemporary African American experiences.
She also draws from her heritage, childhood and life experiences, and shares
much of herself in her writing.
?Virginia Hamilton is one the country?s most versatile and spellbinding
authors for young people.?6
The Mystery of Drear House is the sequel to The House of Dies
Drear. In this book it is a lot like the first one, but just a little more deeper in
detail. The reader gets to know the characters a little better. When Virginia
Hamilton was talking about this book she said that when she wrote it she
realized that she had left something or someone out of the first book that she
had put in this one. Also, in this book, Thomas? little brothers Buddy and
Buster, the twins, were more a part of the main story. They were always
getting in trouble and finding new passageways. They were even in physical
danger, at one point, due to their toddler curiosity.
This story also talks more about the hidden secret passageways of the
Underground Railroad. It brings back the same characters from the other
story, along with a new one. Thomas Small, the main character, in his early
teenage years, full of curiosity and pensiveness. His twin brothers, Buddy
and Buster, the two toddlers always getting in trouble but also known for
their powers to sense evil. Mr. and Mrs. Small, parents of Thomas, Buddy
and Buster. Pesty and M.C. Darrow, Thomas? friends and the only members
of the Darrow family that are good. Pluto, the old landlord. The rest of the
Darrow family, the bad people who are looking for hidden treasure. ?Darrows
had been hunting for hidden treasure in the maze of underground slave escape
tunnels of the region?s hills for generations.?7 Also, not a main character in
the first book, Thomas? Grandmother Jeffers from North Carolina, is much
more of the Small?s lives.
When asked how did Virginia Hamilton first know she wanted to be a
writer, she replied, ?Well, I?ve always written, since the time I was a child. I
kept a notebook in which I kept all those things adults couch in cover up
phrases so children won?t understand. I figured someday I would know what
they were talking about. Unfortunately, I lost the notebook during my rush
It is very evident when one reads a book of Virginia
Hamilton?s, that she has had years of practice. Her stories have good plots
and they teach the reader something. It is no wonder that many of her books
have won awards and can always be found on children?s summer reading lists
everywhere. Also, they are also a great pick of librarians to read to their
class or recommend to read outside class for fun.
Mrs. Hamilton is also a very respectable and large achiever due to her
hard work. Before she was a writer she held other jobs such as a bookkeeper
and singer in New York City. She worked her way up and now she is very
Virginia Hamilton uses historical undertones in The House of Dies
Drear and The Mystery of Drear House with a fictional plot. This is what
captures the reader. A child would probably not be very interested in a
non-fiction book all about the history of slavery and the Underground
Railroad. She creates a fun story to read where you enjoy the plot and also
learn historical facts. It is a combination of the two. That is what makes her
stories so delightful to read. She writes about slavery and the Underground
Railroad with knowing, because her family was involved in helping at stations
of the Underground Railroad. That also makes a story good, when the reader
has experience and knowledge of the topic they write about. Mrs. Hamilton
has many traits that classify her as a wonderful children?s author. She is
hardworking, talented, knowledgeable and fun, which makes her the best
candidate for any children?s author.
Hamilton, Virginia. The House of Dies Drear. New York: Macmillan
Publishing Co., 1968.
——. The Mystery of Drear House. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1987.
——. Sweet Whispers Brother Rush. New York: Philomel Books, 1982.
——. ?The Mind of a Novel: The Heart of the Book?. Children?s Literature
Quaterly 8. (Winter 1983), pp.10-13 .
?Hamilton, Virginia?, 1998. Available
——. available http://www.cris.com/~bonfire2/pages/mothers.htm
Harper, Amy, ?Yellow Springs News?, March 28, 1996. (Virginia
as told to Hoffman, Tracy. ?An Exclusive Interview with Virginia Hamilton?.
IPL Youth Division : Ask the Author, ?Virginia Hamilton?. available
Landsberg, Michele. ?Kid?s Source?, Entertainment Weekly, May 1, 1992.
ML Author Spotlight – Virginia Hamilton, 1998, McDougal Littell Inc.,
Reisman, Rosemary M. Canfield. Masterpieces of African American
Literature. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992. pgs. 293-296
Walters, Susan. Virginia Hamilton Papers, April, 1995. Available