Shelley's Biography


shelley with friend and AlaskaShelley Gill's books on Alaska and the Pacific Northwest have sold more than a million copies since she stopped papering her bathroom with rejection slips and helped start a children's publishing company in Alaska. Her first book, Kiana's Iditarod , was about her own experience as one of the first women to run in the 1,100 mile dog sled race to Nome.

It was rejected by New York editors who felt kids would not be interested in "some story about a dog race in Alaska." "When I read that," Shelley said, shaking her head, "I wondered if that editor had ever even been a kid...much less talked to one! Sometimes you just have to trust your own instincts." Since Kiana's Iditarod , Shelley has written 25 more best-sellers.

shelley and Jack Horner"I write about the same stuff I liked to read about when I was a kid," she says. "Kids are excellent judges of good and bad, and there's so much out there that's bad." Shelley was born in Alburquerque, New Mexico and raised in south Florida. "I was a surfer. My only experience with snow was what I saw on Christmas cards."

Shelley drove a Volkswagon bus to Alaska on a 1972 vacation and never came back. She has worked as a stone mason, a wrangler, a pizza cook and a newspaper reporter, editor and publisher.

"I have one simple goal. I want to produce something kids can relate to, a story that knocks their socks off, that fills them with that WOW! feeling. I want kids to say: "THIS is my FAVORITE book!"Shelley lives in Homer, Alaska - a small fishing town on the tip of the Kenai Peninsula with her Mom, her animals and her way cool daughter, Kye.

Shelley with Paleontologist and
"Jurassic Park Dude" Jack Horner

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a line of fish

Some Reviews


Review of the Day: Gabe by Shelley Gill

June 10, 2016 by Elizabeth Bird
The older I get the more I like children’s books that don’t slot easily into neat little categories. Gone are the days when everybook you read was easily cataloged, neat as a pin. It may be a nightmarish wasteland out there for catalogers, but the fluidity of books these days speaks to their abilities to serve different kinds of readers in different kinds of areas. Even biography sections of libraries and bookstores are morphing. I remember when Siena Siegel’s To Dance was published and we, the children’s librarians, had to come to terms with the fact that we had an honest-to-goodness children’s graphic novel autobiography on our hands (a rare beastie indeed). I’ve not really seen a book to shake up the biography sections in a similar way since. That is, until now. Gabe: A Story of Me, My Dog, and the 1970s is a textbook case of not being a textbook case. Autobiographical and deeply visual, it offers a slice of 1970s life never approached in this manner in a children’s book before. Different kinds of readers require different kinds of books to feed their little brains. This is a book for dog and pet readers, throwing them into the past headfirst and keeping them there thanks to some truly beautiful art. An original.Description: abe2

Growing up in Florida, Shelley Gill had enough of the vapid, polluted culture she’d grown up with. At seventeen she was out.The year was 1972 and Shelley was volunteering in the medical tent of the first Rainbow Gathering at Table Mountain. When she wasn’t patching up people she was patching up pets. And there was one pet in particular, a blue merle husky mix she named Gabe. When the party was over, Gabe was left and so Shelley kept him by her side. Together they hitchhiked, lived in New Orleans for a time, tried Colorado, suffered through NYC, were parted, reunited, and ultimately found their final home in Alaska. Gill chronicles her life through the dog that helped make that life possible. Backmatter consists of five great historical moments alluded to in the book.
When I was growing up, the 1970s was just that decade we never quite got to in history class because we ran out of time by the end of the school year (thanks, WWII). A child of the 1980s myself, it would take me years and years and a significant chunk of my adult life to get a grasp on that time period. Children’s books that talk about the 70s or are set in the 70s aren’t exactly plentiful. Either they’re entirely about the Vietnam War or the Civil Rights movement or. . . . yeah. No. That’s about it. So Shelley Gill’s decision to place her own story inextricably within the times in which she lived is fascinating. She starts off not with Woodstock (as you might expect) but the far lesser known Rainbow Gathering of 1972. Backmatter relays information about The Vietnam War, the protests, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, and The Age of Aquarius. None of it is enough to serve as a focus for the story, but they do at least offer context and groundwork for kids willing to seek out additional information on their own on any of the mentioned topics.
It’s a surprisingly slight book for the chunk of Gill’s life that it contains. That may have more to do with the author’s square focus on the dog more than anything else. Gabe is first and foremost the center of the book. Gill’s marriage, and even her eventual commitment to dog sledding, pale in the face of this owner/pet love story. In 2011 Adam Gopnik wrote a piece for The New Yorker called “Dog Story” in which he talked about pet owners’ blind adoration of their own dogs. It’s a fun piece because, amongst other things, it really clarified for me the fact that I am just not a dog person. If you have a friendly dog I’ll pet it like crazy and enjoy its company, but other people’s dogs are like other people’s children. You appreciate their existence on this globe (hopefully) but wouldn’t necessarily want one of your own. The interesting thing about Gabe is that Gill makes no bones about his bad qualities. She loves him, psychopathic tendencies and all. He is her constant companion through thick and thin and (craziest of all) the 1970s. I don’t feel particularly gushy towards dogs, but a good writer allows you to feel emotions that aren’t your own. And in that last page, where Shelley cuddles her dying dog? That, I felt.

Description: abe3The text is great, no question, but would be merely okay with a lesser illustrator. So a lot of the heavy lifting going on in this title is due the talents of Marc Scheff. I would love to hear the story of how Marc came to this particular book. A quick look at his various websites and you can see that he describes himself as the kind of artist who creates, “portraits that blend the fantastic and the surreal.” In Gabe Scheff scales back his more sumptuous tendencies, but not by much. He’s sticking to reality for the most part, but there’s one moment, when people are exchanging rumors of an escaped devil dog terrorizing the citizens of New Orleans, where he allows the paper he paints to gorge itself in a blood red beast awash in snarls and drool. Shelley herself is the kind of woman Scheff typically likes to paint. A 20th century Rossetti model, all flowing hair and latent hippie tendencies. Farrah Fawcet would have been envious. And Gabe is consistently fascinating to watch throughout. Scheff’s challenge was to make him tame enough that a girl would do anything to keep him by her side, but also wild enough to attack at a moment’s notice. For the book to work you have to like Gabe on some level. That may be the most difficult challenge of the book, but Scheff is up to the task and the end result is a dog that, at the very least, you respect on some level.
For all that I love the art of the book, there is one element of the design I’d change in a heartbeat, if I had that power. That would be (and this is going to sound crazy to you if you haven’t seen the book yet) the size of the font on each new chapter’s first page. Somebody somewhere made the executive decision to shrink that font down to teeny, tiny, itty-bitty, oh-so-miniscule words. In some chapters this is clearly done to fit a large amount of text into a particular part of the accompanying illustrations. The trouble is that it just looks awful. Right from the bat it sets the wrong tone for everything. It was with great relief that I turned the first page to discover a far larger, lovelier font for most of the rest of the book. Yet with every new chapter there it would be again. That small, horrid little font. A weird complaint, you bet, but for a book that relies so heavily on attractive visuals, this seems an unfortunate misstep.
The more graphic and visual a children’s book, the more opportunities to really put the reader in a historical time and place. For the 9-year-old that picks up and reads this book, the 1970s might as well be the 1670s. Yet together Gill and Scheff transport their young readers. From the sweltering heat of New Orleans to the dry chill under an Aurora Borealis, you are there. Gill writes what she knows and what she knows is the story of her best dog. A moving, eye-popping, ambitious, genre-busting little number. I guarantee you this – you’ll find nothing else like it on your bookshelves today.
On shelves now.


kiana coverVirginia@Ashley River El., October 20, 2000 A Kid's Review - I loved this book! If you want a cool {get it? She lives in Alaska} author to come to your scool,get Shelley Gill! I loved Kiana's Iditarod because it told me a lot of things.Alaska! cover

An Alaskan Author & Educator Shares Cool Activities, Projects, Games, Maps, and Fascinating Facts to Help You Explore Our Northernmost State
NEW! Funtastic social studies! Bundle up for fun with this learning-packed resource on awesome Alaska! Students make a model of Denali, avoid the perils of the icy Iditarod in a History and Hazards board game, chart the sizes of big bears and other "giants" of the Alaskan wilderness,

Up on DenaliGr. 2-4. As the tallest mountain in North America, Denali, or Mount McKinley, has its own unique ecosystem. To start, Gill gives two explanations of the mountain's origins, including the scientific and the Athabascan Indian legend. The shortness of the scientific explanation of Denali's geology will likely confuse young readers. However, most of the pages in this picture book are devoted to the plants and animals that live on or near the mountain, and these anecdote-filled accounts will spark plenty of interest. Cartwright supplies slightly cartoonish watercolor illustrations in double-page spreads that show the plants and animals with a certain amount of sly humor. Each of the layouts also features informative borders with additional pictures and facts on topics such as the yearly growth of a moose's antlers, wildflowers from the mountain meadows, or the fish of the mountain streams. Pages on animal tracks and scat are also included. An amusing and informative introduction to Denali's climate zones and the varied wildlife of Alaska. --Todd Morning Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

image of a blue whaleIf your science class is anything like mine, your students are fascinated by the magnificant blue whale. Big Blue by Shelley Gill and illustrated by Ann Barrow, is an enjoyable story that integrates sound scientific information about the ocean's largest mammal with the universal theme of dreams becoming reality. In Big Blue, a young heroine dreams of swimming with a blue whale. Her adventure takes her and biologist friends to Baja, Mexico. Snorkeling in the warm waters, the heroine encounters eels, skates, and dolphins in her search for the blue whale. Beautiful colored illustrations take the reader along with the heroine on her adventure. This book is unique in that it is not entirely about whales and other marine life. There is room for many classroom discussions about dreams, goal-setting, and character traits such as persistence, dedication, and responsibility. If you like to integrate good literature into your science class programs, Big Blue is highly recommended. -- Science Scope, January 2004

Sitka roses

Two long-time Alaska residents take the name of a local and beloved flower and give it to an outsized heroine in this awkwardly scanned, rhymed tall tale. "Not an inch of her was tame" goes the story of Sitka Rose by Shelley Gill and illustrated by Shannon Cartwright. With her long flame-colored braids woven with wildflowers, and like most heroes, Sitka Rose could do fabulous things even as an infant, when she'd climb a spruce to see the sky before she could crawl. The image shows a grubby girl in a nest with fledgling eagles. She lassoed a whale to reach the Nome gold rush, left a trench filled by the Yukon River in her search for nuggets, and won a sled race by harnessing a grizzly bear and ten wolverines. the watercolors have both a slightly mystical bent and a gorgeous sunrise-over-the-mountains palette: the animals have almost-human expressions and Sitka Rose wears a wonderful pink plaid shirt, green breeches, hiking boots--and then there's that hair. -- Kirkus Reviews, January 2005

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