Barbara Smucker, née Claasen, children's author (b at Newton, Ks 1 Sept 1915; d at Bluffton, Ohio, 29 July 2003). A New Order Mennonite, Smucker graduated in journalism from Kansas State University (1936) and came to Canada in 1969. She worked as a reporter, teacher and librarian. In 1988, she received the Vicky Metcalf Award for a distinguished body of writing. Smucker focused on the historical plight of minority groups. In Underground to Canada (1977), winner of the Canada Council Children's Literature Prize, the story of escaping black slaves establishes themes about the need for tolerance and humane values. Similar ideas appear in Days of Terror (1979) and the picture book Selina and the Bear Claw Quilt (1995), in which pacifist Mennonites flee revolutionary Russia and Civil War America.
Barbara Smucker's time-shift fantasies combined historical and contemporary conflicts. In White Mist (1985) 2 teenagers learn about ecological exploitation and the dispossession of native peoples; in Garth and the Mermaid (1992), a boy copes with his family problems after encountering parallel ones in the 14th century. Incredible Jumbo (1991) is more conventional: it combines the true story of Barnum's gigantic elephant with a fictional story about a lonely boy's quest for a circus career and reunion with his mother. Smucker has also described unusual elements of contemporary life in Jacob's Little Giant (1987), about a Mennonite boy raising a Canada goose, and Amish Adventure (1983), about the internal and external conflicts facing the Amish.