Descendants of Captain Arthur Fenner
Carol Elizabeth Fenner
[b 30 Sept. 1929 at Hornell, NY; d 16 Feb. 2002 at Battle Creek, MI] Carol Fenner m 1st Carleton Brown. He was an athlete and was a machinist in his father’s shop. She m 2nd Aldo Guinta, a writer; m 3rd Martin Bell, a film makeup artist and writer; m 4th Major Jiles Brantley Williams [b 20 May 1928; d 3 July 2011] in 1965. Jiles served in the US Air Force. Regarding her 4th husband, Carol said, “My neat husband Jay, to whom I’ve been married for over 30 years, would feel less than ecstatic at being listed as number four.”
Carol was an award-winning author of children’s books. Her book Gorilla Gorilla won a Christopher Award, a science award from the National Science Trade Book Assoc., and was Library of Congress Book of the Year. She won a Newberry Award in 1997 for her book Yolanda’s Genious. In addition to being a writer, she was also an actress. She could been seen on New York-based television, landing roles in The Naked City and The Defenders series. She taught at Mildred Dunnock’s school in NYC. Carol eventually settled in Battle Creek, MI. No children.
1. Multiple emails from John David Fenner and Carol Fenner to Chris Fenner.
2. Carol's memorial at FindAGrave.com, no. 65573148
3. Eighth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators (NY: H.W. Wilson Company, 2000).
Biography from Eighth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators (NY: H.W. Wilson Company, 2000)
Reading was as natural as eating in our house. My mother is the only person I ever knew who laughed out loud (and nearly fell off the bed) reading one of Shakespeare’s comedies. “It was probably ‘As You Like It,’” she said when I recently asked which play. “That’s the funniest.” My father had a chair he read in every evening. Books were reward and respite as well as entertainment. They connected us to the world. My mother read to us, in a voice filled with mystery, Mother Goose rhymes, the poetry of Milne, Eugene Field, and from A Child's Garden of Verses. My father read us Sherlock Holmes. One evening, getting ready for bed, my sister, Faith, asked him if he was going to read us some more of “The Hound of the Basketballs.”
Long before I went to school, I decided I would be a poet. I remember sitting in a vast field of grass and sun and dandelions and being filled with such an excess of pleasure and happiness that I couldn’t contain it. I needed to say something. Name something. Words came into my mind. I said them over and over to myself. I was four or five and couldn't write yet. I ran to my mother with a poem dancing in my head. She wrote it down, careful to keep every word. After that, my mother wrote down all my gems until I learned to write them down myself. She says I would come in from playing and tell her, “I feel a poem coming on.”
I have a happy memory of my father from about this time. My sister and I are being pulled in a wagon by our father. The lawn is bumpy and the wagon leaps and lurches. My father runs. We shriek and giggle with excitement and pleasure. My father sings out: “Rumbly, tumbly! Tangerino! Beanerino!” We squeal the words out after him. The tiger song from my first book, Tigers in the Cellar, called on this memory:
pull my toes.
rub my nose.
the currant jelly.
Scratch my ears
and tickle my belly.
We had a magic aunt, my father’s sister. Phyllis Fenner was a librarian and a well-known anthologist of short stories for children. She wrote two highly acclaimed books about reading: Proof of the Pudding and Our Library, and she reviewed books for The New York Times. Phyllis sent many books for birthdays and Christmas and “just for fun.” Whenever Phyl visited us, she would tell us unforgettable fairy tales drenched with her own excitement and pleasure. The joy in cadence and word shape, the way words color each other, was a gift from both my Aunt Phyl and my mother. I love the way words rub up against each other, clash and support and change each other. I love the shapes they make on the page and in my mind. I love reading aloud.
When I was twenty, I moved to New York City to seek my fortune. I thought I would study art but became enthralled with the theater. I studied acting and anything related to it—voice and speech, fencing and dance. I performed in off-Broadway plays and in summer stock, did a little television. I wrote lengthy biographies for all of the characters I played, exploring their persona. And all the time I read—working my way through a lot of English, Spanish, German, French, and Russian classics—prose and poetry, plays, too, since the theater had seized me.
My aunt Phyllis worried that I was off track, that I would be a jack of all trades. I have never regretted those years with the theater or any of the side roads I explored so eagerly. All I learned along the way has given me greater insight and control in my writing than had I stayed in the well-tended old gardens. [End of autobiographical statement]
Born in Hornell, New York, Carol Fenner spent her childhood years in Almond, N.Y., but also lived in Shelton, Connecticut, and Brooklyn, N.Y., before returning to Almond, where she graduated from high school. After moving to New York City, she studied acting at the Herbert Berghof School of Drama and Curt Conway’s Acting School, and modern dance at the New Dance Group and Irving Burton School. During her early entertainment career, she performed with the New Century Dancers and played small television roles in such series as The Defenders and Naked City. She later worked for McCall’s magazine and, later still, served as the assistant to the director of public relations for the Girl Scouts of the USA.
Fenner’s first published work, Tigers in the Cellar, was an ALA Notable Children's Book. Gorilla, Gorilla was also an ALA Notable Children’s Book and a Library of Congress Book of the Year in addition to receiving both a Christopher Award for nonfiction and an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children citation from the National Science Teachers Association. The Skates of Uncle Richard was a runner-up for the Coretta Scott King Freedom Award and was adapted for a television movie. Randall’s Wall was named to master lists for readers’ choice awards in ten states and won the Maryland Children's Choice Book Award.
Yolonda's Genius, the inventive story of a girl who is convinced her brother is a musical prodigy, received a Newbery Honor Book award and was named an ALA Notable Children’s Book. It was also cited in the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing and in Book Links magazine’s “A Few Good Books.” The King of Dragons, a poignant story about a boy living in an abandoned town hall, won the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People and was named a Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies as well as a Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts.
Married in 1965 to Jiles B. Williams, a U.S. Air Force career officer, Fenner traveled extensively with her husband throughout the Far East and lived for two years in the Philippines. Since 1968 the couple has resided in Battle Creek, Michigan. Some of their interests, which include horseback riding, tennis, dancing, and listening to live jazz and blues, have been incorporated into Fenner’s novels.
SUGGESTED READING: Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, vol. 57, 1997; Something About the Author, vol. 89, 1997; Something About the Author Autobiography Series, vol. 24, 1997.
SELECTED WORKS WRITTEN: Gorilla, Gorilla, 1973; The Skates of Uncle Richard, 1978; A Summer of Horses, 1989; Randall’s Wall, 1991; Yolonda’s Genius, 1995; The King of Dragons, 1998.
SELECTED WORKS WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED: Tigers in the Cellar, 1963; Christmas Tree on the Mountain, 1966; Lagalag, the Wanderer, 1968.