I grew up in Springfield, Missouri, "the Queen City of the Ozarks." As a child, I loved visiting my grandparents who lived in the Mississippi river town, Hannibal. It was the boyhood home of the famous author Mark Twain. Every summer the town celebrated his books with a lively festival called "Tom Sawyer Days." That literary tribute taught me about the power of books and how they can stick in people's minds.
I started my career as a writer at age ripe old age of six with the authorship of a story about the horse that I would never have (my rusted swing set was the only thing that graced our family's unfenced yard). The Black and Whit Pony is proof that correct spelling is not a requirement for creativity, though it is certainly something to be desired.
Now, as a grown-up author of children's books, I celebrate writing and all the rewards it can provide. After majoring in American Studies at Mount Holyoke College, history has remained one of my passions. I love sharing with children some of the exciting stories of our country's past. If I can write a book that illuminates, educates, and makes my reader say, "I know just what she means," then my job is done.
To learn about Marty's visits to schools, see our Speakers' Bureau.
A SAMPLE OF MY BOOKS
Jim the Wonder Dog
"An engaging slice of history that should appeal to young canine enthusiasts while demonstrating the solid use of primary sources." -- Kirkus Reviews
Sleeping Bear Press (2016)
It’s Christmas Eve and Santa is getting ready for this special night. But the special holiday undies that he always wears under his red suit are nowhere to be found!
"A troupe of entertaining elves, a jolly Santa, and lots of underwear jokes add up to Christmas chuckles in this engaging story." -- Kirkus
“Kids will love this adorably funny Christmas story for all its kinky details and for its underlying message of love.” -- Midwest Book Review
Emily and Carlo
A fresh look at the life of poet Emily Dickinson, focusing on her relationship with her dog, Carlo.
"Emily and Carlo is an astoundingly beautiful and profoundly moving book about friendship, loss and the power of words."
President Lynn Pasquerella, Mount Holyoke College
"He was a dog, a Newfoundland, a great, slobbering, shaggy mess of a creature, which undercuts any notions of primness modern readers may harbor of Miss Dickinson. As Figley draws forth their gathering affection, she reveals important aspects of Dickinson’s relationship to the world, her deep-running shyness that led to a reclusive life. But her time with Carlo, some 16 years, was full of beauty and meaning, as expertly coaxed from her poems and letters. The path to her brother’s house, 'just wide enough for two who love'; 'I started early, took my dog, / And visited the sea.' They were a couple, surely—they shared sweeps of time, they endured separations, they went calling—and when the end came for Carlo, Dickinson did not dodge the sting: ' 'Twas my one glory— / Let it be / Remembered / I was owned of thee.' And if a moodiness still pervades the proceedings, something blue, the tone is lifted by Stock’s watercolors, which are as drenched in color as a sun room painted by Childe Hassam. A pleasing little window into Dickinson’s life and an invitation to learn more about the fresh-breathed poet from Amherst." -- Kirkus
2013 Bank Street College Best Book of the Year
ON MY OWN HISTORIES
The Schoolchildren's Blizzard
Carolrhoda/Lerner Publishing Co. (2004)
Celebrates the bravery of Minnie Freeman and her students during the Great Blizzard of 1888, which swept across America's Heartland.
"The realistic interplay between Sarah and Annie will draw young readers into this simple, vivid story of natural catastrophe and native courage." --Booklist
"The early-reader format and lovely watercolors by Shelly Haas help make the tale accessible to beginning readers and show how important it is to keep a cool head in emergencies." --Children's Literature
"Well-painted, realistic watercolors depict their struggle to find a safe haven and blend well with the exciting text. A good choice for newly independent readers, this story can be used in conjunction with the study of 19th-century prairie life." -- School Library Journal
- 2005 IRA/CBC Children's Choice List - Bank Street College - Best Children's Book of Year
Prisoner for Liberty
Millbrook/Lerner Publishing Co. (2008)
Tells the heroic story of James Forten, who is captured by the British during the Revolutionary War.
"In dramatic words and vivid paintings, this entry in the On My Own History series celebrates the heroism of an African American teen in the Revolutionary War. Born free, 15-year-old James Forten joined the crew of the Royal Louis as a sailor. When the British captured the ship, he refused the chance to escape to help a sickly white friend. An impressive bibliography suggests that the narrative’s dramatized passages have been thoughtfully reconstructed, and a foreword and afterword frame the incident. This inspiring, personal story will help draw early readers into U.S. history." -- Booklist
"Figley's accessible account will prove useful in studies of the American Revolution and African-American history." -- School Library Journal
Saving the Liberty Bell
Carolrhoda/Lerner Publishing Co. (2005)
Spanish adaptation available: ediciones Lerner/Lerner Publishing Co (2005)
A farm boy helps save the famous bell from destruction by the British army.
"The easy-reader format will bring history alive for young readers, and the dramatic paintings, some full page, reflect the action and the characters' emotions." -- School Library Journal
"… a stirring story aptly illustrated." -- Children's Literature
"Two thumbs up!" -- Recommended by First Lady of Pennsylvania, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell
"Thank you for writing such a superb book!" -- Joshua Fink, Curator, Liberty Bell Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania
Washington is Burning
Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing Co. (2006)
The British set fire to Washington in 1814 while Paul Jennings, President Madison's slave, helps save America's most important picture.
"This book brings one important episode vividly to life, in language children can read for themselves." -- Children's Literature
"Notable for telling a historical event from the viewpoint of a slave. . . realistic paintings in vibrant colors illustrate these easy readers." -- School Library Journal