Cover image for John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck
Reef, Catherine.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Clarion Books, [1996]

Physical Description:
163 pages : illustrations ; 27 cm
An introduction to the life and most significant works of American author John Steinbeck.
Reading Level:
980 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 7.2 5.0 65099.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.5 8 Quiz: 15745 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3537.T34 Z833 1996 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

On Order



A photobiography of John Steinbeck, covering his life and writing career, with excerpts from his works.

Author Notes

Catherine Reef received a degree in English from Washington State University. She began her career as a writer at Washington State, where she created brochures for the College of Pharmacy and developed the university's first research magazine. She is the author of more than 35 nonfiction books for young people. She has received several awards including the Joan G. Sugarman Children's Book Award for Walt Whitman in 1996, the Sydney Taylor Award for Sigmund Freud: Pioneer of the Mind in 2002, and a Golden Kite Honor Award for Ernest Hemingway: A Writer's Life in 2010.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. With the same handsome open design and clear, unpretentious prose as Reef's Walt Whitman (1995), this photobiography sets Steinbeck's work firmly within the social conditions of his time. The focus is not on Steinbeck's personal relationships but on how his themes and his writing style grew out of his concern about what was happening to ordinary people in hard times. Reef talks directly about Steinbeck's ideas and stories and his struggle to write about people in a casual style, neither difficult nor showy. The quotes are wonderful, never pompous, and the plain, strong words may make young adults want to read the classic novels, from East of Eden to Grapes of Wrath. The many black-and-white photos throughout include portraits of Steinbeck and his family and friends, and also stirring photos, by artists such as Dorothea Lange, of those whose suffering he dramatized with depth and dignity. There's a selected bibliography but, unfortunately, no documentation of sources, even for direct quotes. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Fresh from her YA biography of Walt Whitman, Reef again subtly traces the links between the life and the work of a major American writer. This story begins in the middle, as John Steinbeck (1902-1968) travels among the migrant laborers of the Great Depression in California, gathering material for newspaper articles and for what would be his greatest work, The Grapes of Wrath. Other key experiences are presented chronologically, from the author's childhood in Salinas, Calif. (which he drew on for East of Eden) to a scientific trip along the coast to Mexico, during which he heard the story that formed the basis for The Pearl. According to Reef, Steinbeck did not seek fame or critical approval, wishing instead to make "people understand each other" in his varied writings, a goal that perhaps explains his enthusiastic embrace by the public as well as by the Pulitzer and Nobel juries. This thoughtful story, supplemented by more than 70 black-and-white photos, is as nonjudgmental and upbeat as Steinbeck himself strove to be, and an excellent introductory work. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-10-This biography is more a photographic essay and historical narrative of the 1920s-1960s than an in-depth portrayal of this important American writer. Steinbeck's compassion for working people and his deep belief in human goodness are indeed emphasized, but Reef stresses the events that had the greatest influence on his work. The Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, the plight of migrant workers, and World War II are part of the American scene so well depicted in his writings. Not much attention is given to Steinbeck's personal life, although the author does touch upon his worrisome, serious nature and his unease with fame. Abundant black-and-white photos are a favorable feature in bringing the era to life. Some critical analysis of his writing is interspersed with the historical facts. This is a very readable introduction to the writer's life and work, but it is not as introspective as Jay Parini's John Steinbeck (Holt, 1995).-Judy R. Johnston, Auburn High School, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Harvest Gypsiesp. 1
2 The Magicp. 9
3 A Minstrelp. 25
4 The Fireflies of Our Thinkingp. 39
5 Experimentsp. 53
6 A Truly American Bookp. 69
7 A Poem, a Stink, a Grating Noisep. 91
8 Joyp. 107
9 John Steinbeck, Knightp. 121
10 The Old Tailorp. 135
Books by John Steinbeckp. 153
Selected Bibliographyp. 155
Acknowledgments and Picture Creditsp. 157
Indexp. 159