Having grown up on Dick and Jane, I love easy readers with drama and excitement! Cornstalks and Cannonballs, my first book, tells how townspeople defended themselves against the British in the War of 1812. I was a pen-and-ink illustrator then and had to know all about British in American ships in 1812, what the officers’ uniforms looked like, and what kind of farming equipment the townspeople used as they burned them black to look like guns.

It was such a thrill to have Kate Shelley animated for public television, though I wish it also included getting to meet Levar Burton! It was the first book I did in color—compare it with Rescue on the Outer Banks and you can see I’ve learned a lot about painting since then!

Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express
Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express
written by Margaret K. Wetterer
illustrated by Karen Ritz
Carolrhoda Books (1991); ISBN 0876144253
paper 0876145411
Scholastic paper ISBN 0590262769
Ages 4-8
Easy reader adventure about fifteen-year-old Kate Shelley who risks her life in a storm to prevent a train disaster. Watercolor illustrations.
Reading Rainbow Feature
Notable Children's Trade Book in Social Studies, 1990
"Watercolor and charcoal illustrations are strong and stormy, with enough dignity to make the book appealing to older reluctant readers."
Rescue on the Outer Banks
Rescue on the Outer Banks
written by Candice F. Ransom
illustrated by Karen Ritz
Carolrhoda (2002); ISBN 0876144601
Ages 4-8
Ten-year-old Sam Deal dreams of becoming a surfman someday. On October 11, 1896, he finds a way to brave a storm to help save nine people stranded on a shipwreck. This easy reader tells the dramatic story of the first black sea rescue team in North Carolina in 1896. Watercolor illustrations.
2003 Best Children's Books of the Year, selected by the Children's Books Committee at Bank Street College
"This exciting and fast-paced tale will inspire its young readers and the large typeface and illustrations make the story easy to follow. The watercolors are detailed enough to show the characters' emotions and reflect the tale's drama perfectly."
"The text and evocative, full-color watercolor artwork give life to a long-forgotten and exciting sea rescue. A page-turner for newly independent readers."
Cornstalks and Cannonballs Cornstalks and Cannonballs
written by Barbara Mitchell
illustrated by Karen Ritz
Carolrhoda Books (1980); ISBN 0876141211; out of print; Dell paper
Ages 4-8

Easy reader telling of the townspeople of Lewes, Delaware outwitting the British Navy during the War of 1812. Pen and ink illustrations.

Valentine's Day Valentine's Day
written by Joyce Kessel
illustrated By Karen Ritz
Carolrhoda Books (1981); ISBN 0876141661; out of print; paper ISBN 0876145020
Ages 4-8

Easy reader explaining the origins of Valentine's Day and describing the international traditions celebrated on this special day. Pen and ink illustrations.

Martha Washington Martha Washington
written by Candice F. Ransom
illustrated by Karen Ritz
Carolrhoda (2003); ISBN 0876149182
Ages 4-8

Easy reader biography of the first Fist Lady of the Country, illustrating her daily life and contributions during the beginnings of America. Watercolor illustrations.

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