Marzollo, Jean 1942–
Marzollo, Jean 1942–
Born June 25, 1942, in Manchester, CT; daughter of Richard (a town manager) and Ruth (a teacher) Martin; married Claudio Marzollo (a sculptor), March, 1969; children: Daniel, David. Education: University of Connecticut, B.A., 1964; Harvard University, M.A.T., 1965. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, swimming, reading, sewing, baseball, knitting, painting.
Home—Cold Spring, NY. Agent—Molly Friedrich, Molly Friedrich Agency, 136 E. 57th St., New York, NY 10022.
Teacher, editor, author, and illustrator. Teacher in Arlington, MA, 1965-66; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, assistant director of Project Upward Bound, 1967; General Learning Corp., New York, NY, staff member, 1967-69; National Commission on Resources for Youth, New York, NY, director of publications, 1970-71; freelance writer, 1972—. Served on Elementary School Study Group for U.S. Secretary of Education, 1986.
American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book, 1978, for Close Your Eyes; ALA Best Books for Young Adults citation, 1981, for Halfway down Paddy Lane; ALA Children's Book of International Interest, 1984, for Jed's Junior Space Patrol; National Science Teachers Association Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children, 1989, for Getting Your Period: A Book about Menstruation; Certificate of Excellence, Parenting magazine, 1990, for Pretend You're a Cat; I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles named among New York Public Library Books for Reading and Sharing; Best Books
listee, Parents magazine, for I Spy Christmas; I Spy Fun House and I Spy Mystery named Best Books of 1993 by Publishers Weekly; Children's Books of the Year designation, Bank Street College School of Education, for Ten Cats Have Hats; New York Public Library Best Books of 1995, for I Spy School Days; Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award, 1998, for I Am a Caterpillar, I Spy Little Book, I Spy Super Challenger, and Home Sweet Home, 2003, for I Am Planet Earth and I See a Star, 2004, for Shanna's Animal Riddles, 2005, for Little Bear, You're a Star! A Greek Myth about the Constellations; Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Book Award, 2003, for Daniel in the Lion's Den: A Bible Story, and 2004, for David and Goliath: A Bible Story; Best Counting Book, BabyZone, 2004, for Ten Little Eggs; Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, 2006, for Pandora's Box: A Greek Myth. Numerous books also honored on Bank Street Child Study Children's Book List, American Bookseller Pick of the Lists selections, and Sydney Taylor Notable Books selections.
FOR CHILDREN; FICTION, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED
The House That Dreams Painted, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1975.
Close Your Eyes, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, Dial (New York, NY), 1978.
Amy Goes Fishing, illustrated by Ann Schweninger, Dial (New York, NY), 1980.
Uproar on Hollercat Hill, illustrated by Steven Kellogg, Dial (New York, NY), 1980.
(With husband, Claudio Marzollo) Jed's Junior Space Patrol, Dial (New York, NY), 1982.
(With Claudio Marzollo) Robin of Bray, Dial (New York, NY), 1982.
(With Claudio Marzollo) Red Sun Girl, Dial (New York, NY), 1983.
(With Claudio Marzollo) Blue Sun Ben, Dial (New York, NY), 1984.
(With Claudio Marzollo) Ruthie's Rude Friends, illustrated by Susan Meddaugh, Dial (New York, NY), 1984.
Three Little Kittens, illustrated by Shelley Thornton, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1985.
(Compiler) The Rebus Treasury (poetry), illustrated by Carol Devine Carson, Dial (New York, NY), 1986.
(With Claudio Marzollo) The Baby Unicorn, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.
Cannonball Chris, illustrated by Blanche Sims, Random House (New York, NY), 1987.
(With Claudio Marzollo) Jed and the Space Bandits, Dial (New York, NY), 1987.
The Silver Bear, illustrated by Susan Meddaugh, Dial (New York, NY), 1987.
Soccer Sam, illustrated by Blanche Sims, Random House (New York, NY), 1987, reprinted, 2003.
Red Ribbon Rosie, illustrated by Blanche Sims, Random House (New York, NY), 1988.
(With Claudio Marzollo) The Baby Unicorn and the Baby Dragon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.
The Pizza Pie Slugger, illustrated by Blanche Sims, Random House (New York, NY), 1989.
The Teddy Bear Book (poetry), illustrated by Ann Schweninger, Dial (New York, NY), 1989.
Pretend You're a Cat, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Dial (New York, NY), 1990.
What Else Can You Do?, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Bodley Head (New York, NY), 1990.
Slam Dunk Saturday, illustrated by Blanche Sims, Random House (New York, NY), 1992.
Halloween Cats, illustrated by Hans Wilhelm, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.
Ten Cats Have Hats: A Counting Book, illustrated by David McPhail, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.
Snow Angel, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.
Sun Song, illustrated by Laura Regan, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
Valentine Cats, illustrated by Hans Wilhelm, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.
Christmas Cats, illustrated by Hans Wilhelm, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.
Home Sweet Home (prayer book), illustrated by Ashley Wolff, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
Once upon a Springtime, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.
Thanksgiving Cats, illustrated by Hans Wilhelm, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
I Love You: A Rebus Poem (poetry), illustrated by Suse MacDonald, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
What's the Matter with Mother Goose, pictures by Irene Trivas, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Ten Little Eggs, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2004.
Ten Little Christmas Presents, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2008.
"SHANNA'S FIRST READERS" SERIES
Shanna's Doctor Show, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2001.
Shanna's Princess Show, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2001.
Shanna's Ballerina Show, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2002.
Shanna's Teacher Show, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2002.
Shanna's Animal Riddles, illustrated by Maryn Roos, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2004.
Shanna's Bear Hunt, illustrated by Maryn Roos, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2004.
Shanna's Hip, Hop, Hooray!, illustrated by Maryn Roos, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2004.
Shanna's Lost Shoe, illustrated by Maryn Roos, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2004.
Shanna's Party Surprise, illustrated by Maryn Roos, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2004.
Shanna's Pizza Parlor, illustrated by Maryn Roos, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2004.
"HELLO READER LEVEL THREE" SERIES
Football Friends, illustrated by True Kelley, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.
Soccer Cousins, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.
(With son, Dan Marzollo) Basketball Buddies, illustrated by True Kelley, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
(With Dan Marzollo) Hockey Hero, illustrated by True Kelley, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
(With sons Dan Marzollo and Dave Marzollo) Baseball Brothers, illustrated by True Kelley, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
NONFICTION; FOR CHILDREN
Getting Your Period: A Book about Menstruation, illustrated by Kent Williams, Dial (New York, NY), 1989.
In 1492, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Patricia Adams) The Helping Hands Handbook: How Kids Can Help People, Plants, and Animals, illustrated by Jeff Moores, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.
Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.
I'm a Tyrannosaurus: A Book of Dinosaur Rhymes, illustrated by Hans Wilhelm, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.
In 1776, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.
My First Book of Biographies: Great Men and Women Every Child Should Know, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.
How Kids Grow, photographs by Nancy Sheehan, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
Baby's Alphabet, photographs by Nancy Sheehan, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2002.
"HELLO SCIENCE READER LEVEL ONE" SERIES
I Am Water, illustrated by Judith Moffatt, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.
I Am Fire, illustrated by Judith Moffatt, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.
I Am a Seed, illustrated by Judith Moffatt, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.
I Am an Apple, illustrated by Judith Moffatt, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.
I Am a Caterpillar, illustrated by Judith Moffatt, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.
I Am a Leaf, illustrated by Judith Moffatt, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
I Am a Rock, illustrated by Judith Moffatt, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
I Am Snow, illustrated by Judith Moffatt, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
I Am a Star, illustrated by Judith Moffatt, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
I Am Planet Earth, illustrated by Judith Moffatt, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
I See a Star, illustrated by Suse MacDonald, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
"FIRST DISCOVERY" SERIES
(Author of English text) Claude Delafosse and James Prunier, Dinosaurs, illustrated by Prunier and Henri Galeron, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.
(Author of English text) Rene Mettler, The Rain Forest, illustrated by Mettler, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.
"39 KIDS ON THE BLOCK" SERIES
The Green Ghost of Appleville, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.
The Best Present Ever, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.
Roses Are Pink and You Stink, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.
The Best Friends Club, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.
Chicken Pox Strikes Again, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.
My Sister the Blabbermouth, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.
"READ AND PLAY STORYBOOKS" SERIES
Papa Bear's Party, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1982.
Baxter Bear's Bad Day, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1982.
Doll House Adventure, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1984.
Cinderella, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1985.
Doll House Christmas, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1985.
"I SPY" PICTURE RIDDLE SERIES; WITH PHOTOGRAPHS BY WALTER WICK
I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.
I Spy Christmas,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.
I Spy Fun House,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.
I Spy Mystery,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.
I Spy Fantasy,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.
I Spy School Days,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.
I Spy Spooky Night,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.
I Spy Super Challenger,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.
I Spy Little Book,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.
I Spy Little Animals,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
I Spy Little Wheels,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
I Spy Gold Challenger,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
I Spy Little Christmas,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
I Spy Little Numbers,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
I Spy Treasure Hunt,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
I Spy Little Letters,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
I Spy Extreme Challenger!,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
I Spy Little Bunnies,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.
I Spy Year-Round Challenger!,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.
I Spy a Dinosaur's Eye,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
I Spy Funny Teeth,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
I Spy a School Bus,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
I Spy Ultimate Challenger!,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
I Spy: Interactive Sound Book of Picture Riddles,, Publications International (Lincolnwood, IL), 2003.
I Spy a Candy Cane,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
I Spy a Scary Monster,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.
I Spy a Penguin,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.
I Spy a Pumpkin,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.
I Spy Santa Claus,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.
I Spy a Balloon,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.
I Spy a Butterfly,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.
I Spy Nature,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.
I Spy Phonics,, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2007.
FICTION; FOR YOUNG ADULTS
Halfway down Paddy Lane, Dial (New York, NY), 1981.
Do You Love Me, Harvey Burns?, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1983.
FOR BABIES; "GROWING TREE" SERIES
Do You Know New?, illustrated by Mari Takabayashi, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
Papa, Papa, edited by Simone Kaplan, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Mama, Mama; Papa, Papa, illustrated by Laura Regan, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2003.
NONFICTION; FOR ADULTS
(With Janice Lloyd) Learning through Play, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Harper (New York, NY), 1972.
Nine Months One Day One Year, Harper (New York, NY), 1975.
Supertot: Creative Learning Activities for Children from One to Three and Sympathetic Advice for Their Parents, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Harper (New York, NY), 1977.
Superkids: Creative Learning Activities for Children Five to Fifteen, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Harper (New York, NY), 1981.
Birthday Parties for Children, Harper (New York, NY), 1983.
The New Kindergarten: Full-Day, Child-centered, Academic, illustrated by Irene Trivas, Harper (New York, NY), 1987.
Your Maternity Leave: How to Leave Work, Have a Baby, and Go Back to Work without Getting Lost, Trapped, or Sandbagged along the Way, Poseidon Press/Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.
Fathers and Babies: How Babies Grow and What They Need From You, illustrated by Irene Trivas, HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 1993.
Fathers and Toddlers: How Toddlers Grow and What They Need from You from Eighteen Months to Three Years, illustrated by Irene Trivas, HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 1994.
Birthday Parties for Children: How to Give Them, How to Survive Them, Galahad Books (New York, NY), 1999.
(Reteller and illustrator) Daniel in the Lion's Den: A Bible Story, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2003.
(Reteller and illustrator) Miriam and Her Brother Moses: A Bible Story, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2003.
(Reteller and illustrator) David and Goliath: A Bible Story, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2004.
(Reteller and illustrator) Jonah and the Whale (and the Worm): A Bible Story, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2004.
(Reteller and illustrator) Little Bear, You're a Star! A Greek Myth about the Constellations, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.
(Reteller and illustrator) Ruth and Naomi: A Bible Story, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.
(Reteller and illustrator) Let's Go, Pegasus!, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.
(Reteller and illustrator) Pandora's Box: A Greek Myth, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.
Editor of Let's Find Out (magazine for kindergarten children), Scholastic Magazines, New York, NY, 1971-91.
Jean Marzollo is a prolific children's author who has worked in many different genres, producing rhythmic picture books for children, easy-readers and chapter books for elementary-grade students, nonfiction for middle graders, novels for young adults, and practical nonfiction for adults. Marzollo once noted: "I am interested in children, and I like to write books that support families. Whether I'm writing a picture book, an easy-to-read book, a novel, or a book for parents, I find writing an intriguing challenge. It's a job, a hobby, and a game—all in one." Among Marzollo's books are the "I Spy" and "39 Kids" series.
"In addition to writing early readers and chapter books for beginners, I write picture books. More and more, I enjoy writing picture books that rhyme," Marzollo once noted. One of her rhyming works, Pretend You're a Cat, was informed by a setting the author frequented while growing up in Connecticut. Every year she visited a friend who lived on a farm. With the question "What else can you do …?" at the end of discussions of separate animals, children are expected to make sounds, actions, and gestures to add to the fun.
Marzollo has written numerous other works that pair poetry with illustrations. Close Your Eyes is a soothing bedtime story with a drowsy rhythm that describes some of the wonderful things one can see with closed eyes. In The Teddy Bear Book, Marzollo presents twenty-one rhymes and short poems that deal with the world of teddy bears. In 1492 is a lighthearted read-aloud that begins with the familiar rhyme "In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."
Marzollo spent twenty years as editor of Scholastic's kindergarten magazine Let's Find Out. It was there that she met Walter Wick, with whom she collaborated on the highly successful "I Spy" series. With their brightly colored photographs and rhymed riddles, the "I Spy" books provide a visual language game that teachers often use to promote various skills, such as observation, classification, and creativity.
Marzollo's "Shanna's First Readers" series features an engaging cast of young African American characters whose energetic word play and clever activities help offer early readers "rhyme, rhythm, phonics, and plenty of fun, all the while teaching young readers important skills," commented Deborah Rothaug in School Library Journal. In Shanna's Bear Hunt, the kids engage in a game of hide-and-seek with a bear (actually Shanna herself), who shouts out clues to help the other children find her. Shanna's Teacher Show lets Shanna and her friends describe what it is like to be a teacher while also giving youngsters an early peek at what to expect in school, from learning the alphabet to coloring with crayons to making music. A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded of Shanna's Teacher Show that "Shanna definitely delivers the goods on teachers."
Marzollo has also written books with her sons, Dan and Dave Marzollo. These works, including Football Friends, Basketball Buddies, Hockey Hero, and Baseball Brothers focus on sports and are aimed at readers in grades one and two. Critics were largely positive in their assessment of the works. Carolyn Phelan, in a review of Basketball Buddies for Booklist, observed that children "will identify with [the protagonist's] … reaction to his classmates' teasing and with his pride in learning to play basketball better."
As part of her wish to introduce children to important stories and myths from the past, Marzollo retells and illustrates famous Greek myths and biblical stories. "My decision to retell and illustrate Greek myths for young children in picture book form is based on my desire to give children the opportunity to meet the famous Greek mythological characters and learn their powerful stories in a meaningful way," she commented on her home page. "I also want them to hear retellings that are faithful to the ancient storytellers Ovid and Hesiod." In Let's Go, Pegasus! Marzollo tells the story of how Perseus defeated the frightening Medusa, who then gave birth to the beautiful winged horse Pegasus. She recasts the story in modern language, describing how Perseus acts to save his mother, Danae, from an evil king who wants Danae to be his wife. The king agrees to not marry Danae if Perseus can complete the extremely difficult task of bringing him the head of Medusa, a monster whose hair of snakes turns people into stone statues. Perseus asks the Greek gods for help, which leads to the creation of Pegasus and the successful completion of his mission. "This introduction to Greek mythology will be a storytime favorite," observed Alexa Sandmann in School Library Journal.
Little Bear, You're a Star! reworks the story of Callisto and Arcas, two Greek characters who become the constellations of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. When Zeus meets the beautiful Callisto, he falls in love with her and fathers her son, Arcas. Hera becomes very jealous of what Zeus has done. In her anger, she turns Callisto into a bear, but even in this form, Callisto manages to watch over Arcas as he grows. Later, Zeus places both Callisto and Arcas in the sky where as constellations of stars they will be together forever. Marzollo also includes information on the Ursa Minor and Major constellations and tells how to find them in the night sky.
Robin L. Gibson, writing in School Library Journal, called Marzollo's version of the story an "engaging retelling of the Greek myth of Callisto and Arcas."
Similarly, Marzollo has retold several well-known stories from the Bible, which she has illustrated herself. "I have been overjoyed to retell and illustrate Bible stories for young children," the author remarked on her home page. "I find these stories to be riveting and deeply satisfying. Too many children today do not know these wonderful stories, and they should. These rich tales are a vital part of our culture, and their messages are indeed relevant today." Her works include Daniel in the Lion's Den: A Bible Story, David and Goliath: A Bible Story, Jonah and the Whale (and the Worm): A Bible Story, and Ruth and Naomi: A Bible Story. Anne M. Holcomb, reviewing Jonah and the Whale (and the Worm) for School Library Journal, called the book "a fun, unpretentious take on a favorite old story." Ruth and Naomi is a "fine addition to Marzollo's well-received series of Bible stories." stated School Library Journal critic Linda L. Walkins.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature, 1975-1991, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Booklist, June 1, 1994, Isabel Schon, review of Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, p. 1849; December 1, 1994, Ilene Cooper, review of I Spy Fantasy, p. 682; December 1, 1994, Chris Sherman, review of My First Book of Biographies: Great Men and Women Every Child Should Know, p. 684; June 1, 1995, Mary Harris Veeder, review of Sun Song, p. 1788; December 1, 1995, Janice Del Negro, review of I Spy School Days, p. 639; September 15, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of I Am Water, p. 241; September 15, 1996, Lauren Peterson, review of I Spy Spooky Night, p. 243; October 1, 1997, review of I Spy Super Challenger!, p. 334; February 1, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Soccer Cousins, p. 927; February 1, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Football Friends, p. 927; July, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of I Am a Rock, p. 1891; January 1, 1999, Susan Dove Lempke, review of I Spy Gold Challenger!, p. 868; March 15, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Basketball Buddies, p. 1337; December 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of I Love You: A Rebus Poem, p. 787; October 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of I Spy: Extreme Challenger, p. 342; January 1, 2001, Isabel Schon, review of I'm a Seed, p. 973; February 1, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of I Spy Year-Round Challenger!, p. 942; October 15, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of I See a Star, p. 412; October 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Daniel in the Lions' Den: A Bible Story, p. 334; August, 2004, Karen Hutt, review of Shanna's Bear Hunt, p. 1943; August, 2004, Karen Hutt, review of Shanna's Hip, Hop, Hooray!, p. 1943; June 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of I Spy Lightning in the Sky, p. 1822.
Daily Variety, spring, 2003, "HBO Family Finds Scholastic's ‘Spy.’"
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2002, review of Shanna's Teacher Show, p. 807; November 1, 2002, review of I See a Star, p. 1621; January 15, 2004, review of Daniel in the Lion's Den, p. 85.
Publishers Weekly, April 27, 1990, review of Pretend You're a Cat, p. 60; October 25, 1991, review of In 1492, p. 67; January 6, 1992, review of I Spy, p. 65; September 7, 1992, review of I Spy: A Book of Christmas Riddles, p. 67; November 30, 1992, review of Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, p. 54; April 19, 1993, review of I Spy Fun House, p. 58; August 23, 1993, review of I Spy Mystery, p. 69; August 8, 1994, review of Ten Cats Have Hats: A Counting Book, p. 426; October 17, 1994, review of I Spy Fantasy, p. 80; May 22, 1995, review of Sun Song, p. 59; July 24, 1995, review of I Spy School Days, p. 63; February 24, 1997, review of Home Sweet Home, p. 90; September 27, 1999, review of Thanksgiving Cats, p. 50; November 22, 1999, review of More Where That Came From, p. 57; January 3, 2000, review of I Love You, p. 74; January 17, 2000, review of Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, p. 27; January 26, 2004, review of Daniel in the Lions' Den, p. 251; January 26, 2004, review of Miriam and Her Brother Moses: A Bible Story, p. 251.
School Library Journal, December, 2000, Carrie Lynn Cooper, review of I Spy Extreme Challenger!, p. 135; April, 2002, Jean Pollock, review of I Spy Year-Round Challenger!, p. 137; October, 2002, Susan Patron, review of I See a Star, p. 61; November, 2002, Olga R. Kuharets, review of Baby's Alphabet, p. 130; June, 2004, Wendy Lukehart, review of David and Goliath: A Bible Story, p. 129; August, 2004, Sandra Kitain, review of Daniel in the Lion's Den, p. 111; October, 2004, Deborah Rothaug, review of Shanna's Bear Hunt, p. 123; October, 2004, Deborah Rothaug, review of Shanna's Hip, Hop, Hooray!, p. 123; November, 2004, Anne M. Holcomb, review of Jonah and the Whale (and the Worm): A Bible Story, p. 128; May, 2005, Linda L. Walkins, review of Ruth and Naomi: A Bible Story, p. 112; January, 2006, Robin L. Gibson, review of Little Bear, You're a Star! A Greek Myth, p. 121; July, 2006, Alexa Sandmann, review of Let's Go, Pegasus!, p. 92; October, 2006, Jill Heritage Mazai, review of Pandora's Box, p. 140.
Armchair Interviews,http://www.armchairinterviews.com/ (July 25, 2007), Andrea Sisco, review of Let's Go, Pegasus!; Sharon Broom, review of Pandora's Box.
Jean Marzollo Home Page,http://www.jeanmarzollo.com (July 25, 2007).
Scholastic Web site,http://www.scholastic.ca/ (July 25, 2007), autobiography of Jean Marzollo.
Jean Marzollo contributed the following autobiographical essay to SATA:
I was born in 1942 in Manchester, Connecticut, a town just east of Hartford. My name was simply Jean Martin with no middle name. My father was from Vermont, where apparently middle names were considered too fancy. My parents moved from a smaller house into a new, bigger one around the corner to accommodate my arrival. Now we were a family of five: my mother, my father, my brother Allen, five years older, and my sister Kathy, a year and a half older.
It was wartime, but my father wasn't fighting. When he was young, he had suffered from polio, a disease that made one of his legs shorter than the other, so he couldn't serve in the armed forces. Many fathers on our block were overseas in the war, however; and so, when the war ended, the parents on our street had a victory party. It was 1945. I was three. I remember getting out of bed because of strange noises and going downstairs. Outside, I stood on the sidewalk and looked down our hill at a huge bonfire. This is my first memory, a mysterious and exciting introduction to the world of grown-ups.
Our sloped street, Harvard Road, was short with only seven houses per side, but there were kids in these homes. The slope was good for skating and sledding, the bottom leveling out so that skates and sleds stopped in time. The top was flat enough for hopscotch and softball games. Harvard Road was a fine place to grow up because our parents let us go out and play unsupervised. I was lucky to live there throughout my childhood. So did Beth, Brenda, Susan, and Sarah—friends then and still today.
When we weren't skating, riding bikes, or playing ball, my girlfriends and I liked to make things. A particular passion was making doll clothes. During the summer we would sit under the trees between our yards and sew for hours. As the afternoon grew hotter, we would split up to find a parent who could be persuaded to drive us to the public swimming pool in a nearby town. I liked to swim and to jump from the high diving board.
I never thought about being an author when I was young, but the pleasure I now take in making books is the same pleasure I took making doll clothes as a child. The creative process is exactly the same. First, you think of something you want to make, next you plan how to do it, and then you do it. By the time it's finished, you've usually thought of something else to make. The work is both challenging and fun.
I don't know if people are born creative or taught to be creative. I expect both are true. Having the opportunity to explore in a pressure-free environment is important. When I was young, my friends and I had plenty of time on our hands in which to be creative and make mistakes. We didn't have arts and crafts classes or fancy, expensive materials to work with. But we did have time, scrap materials, and the role models of our mothers constructing slipcovers and baking cakes from scratch at home.
Today I wonder if some of the mothers on Harvard Road were bored. After all, not all of them excelled at sewing and cooking. Would they rather have been doctors, lawyers, or engineers? My mother often said wistfully she would have liked to have been an actor or run a boardinghouse for actors. In my eighth-grade yearbook, I said I wanted to be a social studies teacher in keeping with my mother and aunt, both of whom taught high school before they had children. Actually, I wanted to write down U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (then one big department), but didn't dare because in 1956 girls were taught to think modestly.
My mother, Ruth Martin, was Irish Catholic. My brother and sister both made their First Communion, but I didn't because, when I was in first grade, my mother left the Church over the issue of birth control. Birth control, which would have enabled my mother to prevent a fourth pregnancy, was not allowed by the Catholic Church. My mother didn't tell me this, though. She just told me we would be going to a different church. She didn't explain why. My brother, sister, and I now went with the neighbors' kids to a Protestant church called Center Congregational.
I liked the new Protestant church because you could color pictures in Sunday school, but I missed the exotic gold-rimmed pictures of Mary and Jesus we were given at St. Bridget's. I also missed the doll-sized statue of Jesus as a child prince in front of the Catholic Church and remembered how it had been covered with black cloth during Lent. When the cloth was lifted at Easter, I was thrilled to see Jesus again.
I went to the Center Congregational Church all through school. I sang in the choir for a while, and then I joined the Rhythmic Choir. Wearing white robes with blue sashes, we danced to hymns like "I Wonder as I Wander" during special Rhythmic Choir services. My mother never came to them, but my father did; usually when I looked over at him, I found him sound asleep.
It wasn't until I was a grown-up that I realized just how painful my mother's split from the Church was for her. Her mother and older sister, who both lived in our town and visited frequently, were critical of her decision. My mother never talked about their disapproval with us. She wasn't one to talk directly and emotionally about her problems. Neither was my father.
My father, Richard Martin, was director of the Connecticut State Water Commission when I was young. When I was in fourth grade, he was appointed by the elected Board of Directors in Manchester to be Town
Manager. This was the top government position in our town, so we were very proud of him. He remained Town Manager until he retired. My father was an honest, intelligent, hardworking public servant with a wry Yankee sense of humor. His job was tough because the tax payers were always complaining to him.
When things got to be too much for him, my father went fishing. At least he had ways to make himself happy; my mother didn't have such an outlet, which is perhaps why we kids felt that it was our responsibility to make her happy. The trouble was we didn't know what we could do to make her happy. Her off-and-on edginess was hard for us to deal with. Mother said that the best thing to do when you're upset is to get busy and do something. She made us wash the windows in our house with her the day my father had open-heart surgery. Mom's recipe for problem solving made its mark on us and is probably the reason why my brother, sister, and I are all compulsive workers today. When we talk with each other on the phone, we immediately discuss what projects we're working on and how much work we have to do on Project A before we can get started on Project B.
Later in life, I learned that my father had been an alcoholic who had given up alcohol before I was born. My mother wasn't an alcoholic, but every afternoon she would have a gin and tonic and retire to her Barcalounger for a snooze. We were told in no uncertain terms not to interrupt her, and we didn't. Our parents, like most other adults back then, smoked heavily. That was their world. Ours was different. We did kid things in a fun, kid-safe neighborhood and were content that the grown-ups left us alone most of the time. Looking back, I realize that our parents were giving us all they had, coping with troubles as best as possible.
It seems that family problems and solutions have interested me in a quiet but persistent way throughout my life. I wrote many articles about families for Parents magazine and a number of books for adults about families and children. I wrote my picture book Uproar on Hollercat Hill (illustrated by Steven Kellogg) as a fantasy of how nice it would be if family fights just blew up and blew away. My family wasn't like that. The fights never blew up and, consequently, never blew away.
From kindergarten on, I walked with my sister and friends to school; the first was a mile away. Parents didn't come with us because the streets were safe. Half-way to school we passed the house of a boy whose mother insisted on walking him to school. We felt dreadfully sorry for both of them—for the sad boy whose mother overprotected him and for the sad mother who didn't know better. It was awful to think a mother could be so wrong. Today, as an adult, I realize this mother may have had good reasons. I would have been interested in discussing a similar type of situation with
my children when they were young, but when I was a child, it never occurred to me to talk with my parents about such problems.
On the way home from school we passed a candy store, where we bought candy bars for a nickel. We also passed a witch's house that was similar to the other wooden homes on Hollister Street, but we weren't fooled. We judged the owner to be a witch because she parked her black Ford on the front lawn. We didn't run past her house in fear, but we kept our eyes out.
Because I liked to read and make things, I liked school. It was less confusing than home. One knew exactly what to do to make teachers happy—be neat, be good, try hard. If you did that, you got gold stickers, E's and A's. For me, this was an easily managed and highly satisfying system.
After school I had very little homework. I'm always amazed at how much homework children have today. When I visit schools and tell kids how little homework I had in elementary school, they have a fit. I explain that we didn't have TV until I was in the fifth grade because it hadn't yet been invented. We didn't have computers, computer games, CDs, DVDs, and video games. Once a child asked me if we had electricity. I laughed and said yes. Maybe the reason we didn't have much homework is that we read a lot. Going to the town library was an exciting weekly event.
Apart from my immediate worlds of Harvard Road and school, I was fortunate to experience three other worlds: my Irish grandmother's world "on the other side of the tracks," my grandfather's world of hills and lakes in northeastern Vermont, and my friend Martha's farming world of sheep and horses. Each of these three worlds had a strong effect on me.
My Irish grandmother lived in a part of Manchester called the North End, which was the poor Irish section. My grandmother's husband had died before I was born, so I never knew my Irish grandfather. Grandma lived her whole life in a big four-family house built by her mother, who had come to America to escape poverty in Ireland. My grandmother rented parts of the house to boarders.
I was fascinated as a young child by my grandmother's apartment, especially her big kitchen and front parlor. I loved her old chairs and tables, which were beautiful then and are even more beautiful now. In my dining room today I have one of her graceful, upholstered rocking chairs and the big oak table that sat in her kitchen. I've never been able to figure out how, being poor, Grandma had such lovely furniture. Recently, I moved into a new, larger office/studio, where I have room for visitors to sit in my grandmother's wicker kitchen chairs.
Sometimes Grandma liked to play cards with her grandchildren, but other than that, she was not particularly fun. She taught us to drink tea with milk and sugar. I wrote about my Irish background in a young adult time-travel novel called Halfway down Paddy Lane (an ALA Best Book for Young Adults in 1981). In this book Kate Calambra, a fifteen-year-old sophomore, wakes up in 1850 and has to go to work in a textile mill. She falls in love with her brother Patrick, who turns out to be her great-great-grandfather.
Allen Martin, my Vermont grandfather and the person for whom my brother and grand-nephew were named, was my father's father. His first wife was Kizzie Bates, a name I mention here because I sometimes use it for a pen name. His second wife, Jean, died before I was born, so I never knew the woman I was named for.
Every summer our family and dog Teddy packed ourselves into the family Chevy and drove north on Route 5 for seven long hours to visit Grandpa in his county home in Morgan, Vermont, way up near Canada. His kitchen was wonderful, too. You entered into it directly from the outside and saw a huge cast-iron wood stove, a small table near the front windows, and a rocking chair where Grandpa often sat in silence and smoked a pipe. He had a dining room, but we usually sat on the
screened-in back porch, overlooking Seymour Lake, where we swam and fished daily. For supper, my Vermont aunts fried salt pork until it was crisp, rolled the fish we caught in cornmeal, and fried them in the pork fat. Every morning we ate fried donuts made by a neighbor down the road. Even though my husband is a great Italian cook, I don't think I've ever tasted better food than the food we ate in Vermont.
At Grandpa's house kids slept upstairs under home-made quilts. One of the beds was next to a window that was slanted at a forty-five degree angle to accommodate an adjacent roof. Only grown-ups could use the flush toilet; kids had to use the three-hole outhouse behind the shed. In the woodshed, Uncle George carved little fish pendants out of wood, and sometimes he gave us soft balsam wood so we could carve, too. Next to the house was a big barn filled with hay and old cats. The house is still there today, but the barn is gone. "Fell down," said Aunt Helen, in succinct Vermont style.
Curt and Velma Cobb lived in a white Victorian house up the hill from my grandfather. They kept guests, and every once in a while my father would go alone to Vermont to stay with them to get away from things. Curt Cobb was a guide, which meant that he took tourists hunting and fishing. Occasionally, he served in the state government, or as he put it, "went down to the Legislature." The Cobbs, my father, my grandfather, and all my Vermont relatives spoke slowly—with a strong Vermont accent and a dry humor you had to listen for in order to enjoy. When they cracked a joke, they didn't smile, but sometimes you could catch a twinkle in their eyes. Their humor was quiet. To show you got a joke, you might, for example, try to nod with just the barest bit of a smile.
My third exotic world belonged to my friend Martha McHutchison, who lived on a farm on Grant Hill Road in Tolland, Connecticut. I visited her for a week or two every summer. I couldn't get enough of that place. I learned how to drive a tractor, ride a horse, and show a lamb in a 4-H show. I saw lambs actually being born! And what's more, Martha's mother was an expert seamstress and taught me advanced sewing skills. By this time, I was sewing my own clothes. I remember her helping me make a beautiful yellow, sleeveless, boat-neck dress with a big cabbage rose centered on the chest, a fitted waist, and a lovely, full gathered skirt.
Martha and I ate lunch every sunny afternoon in two special places we discovered in the apple tree—Queen's Perch and Robin's Notch. On many days we played Office, my favorite game. Her office was the Horse Office; mine was the Dog Office. We colored animal pictures, wrote animal stories, and pasted animal stickers in sticker books.
Once, we decided that the interior of the horse barn needed paint. It never occurred to us to ask Martha's parents if they agreed. Instead, we found some paint in the garage and set to work. Because we didn't have enough of any one color, we painted the vertical barn boards in the following pattern: one board white, one board green, and one board brown (this one we left unpainted). We were so proud of the results. To this day, I can remember the shocked look on her parents' faces when they came at our beckoning to see what we had done. They were very angry, but because they knew that we had meant well, they didn't punish us. For many years, you could see faint stripes in the barn.
I have never written about Martha's farm world directly, but I've drawn upon it when writing picture books about animals and nature. Pretend You're a Cat (an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists winner in 1990) and Sun Song are two examples. Several times I have attempted to write a picture book about horses, but haven't yet succeeded. Still, I keep all my drafts and may write one yet.
I have always been troubled by the different kinds of places in which people live. Because children don't choose where they live, it doesn't seem fair that some
of them live in unsafe, impoverished places. When I was a child, my aunt's family lived in well-to-do West Hartford, but to get to their house, we drove on a highway that cut through poor Hartford neighborhoods. For years I stared at flaking, sagging wooden porches that looked like they were about to fall off old buildings. Sometimes sad-looking kids would be standing on the porches watching cars go by. One day I asked my father, "If you wanted to have a job to help people who lived here, what job would you have?" He said, "You would be a social worker."
I graduated from Manchester High School in 1960. In my senior year I applied for early admission to Smith College in Massachusetts, an excellent school for would-be social workers, or so I was told. Students only applied for early admission if they were absolutely sure they'd be accepted. I was absolutely sure. After all, my grades were good, I was active in student council, I was co-captain of the cheerleaders, I wrote for the school newspaper, and I had taught swimming to handicapped youngsters. Also, as I explained during my college interview, I had made my skirt! I stood and turned around to show the Smith admissions officer a pleated skirt with matched plaid and stitched-down pleats. After years of sewing my clothes in junior and senior high school, it was by far the most difficult article of clothing I had ever made. I explained to my interviewer that, as a social worker, I thought I would be able to help poor people learn to make things for themselves and thus improve their lives.
I thought I was quite impressive, but I guess I wasn't because I was rejected for early admission to Smith College. I could have applied for regular admissions, but I was too hurt and angry. I chose instead to attend the University of Connecticut and major in home economics. I made this choice partly out of spite but also because my sister recently had been hospitalized. UConn would be much cheaper than Smith for my parents.
UConn was, and still is, a big, beautiful university in eastern Connecticut. I shared a room with my high school friend Roberta Shankman. She and I jointed Kappa Alpha Theta, a women's sorority, and lived at the sorority house for most of our college years. The sorority house was in a boring, brick college dorm (now torn down and replaced with fancier housing), but we had our own rules and rituals that made it seem special.
I enjoyed Theta's fun spirit, good food, and activities, such as float-building for homecoming parades, but I can understand why many colleges today have banned fraternities and sororities on campus. The worst thing about a sorority is that it is exclusive. Every year new girls "rushed," or considered joining Theta. We had late-night meetings to decide which girls we would invite to join. These meetings couldn't help but bring out a catty, mean spirit in us.
The summer before my junior year (1962) I went on a trip to Europe with a group of kids from other colleges. In the spirit of the Peace Corps started by our young, handsome president, John F. Kennedy, the trip was sponsored by the Experiment in International Living in Putney, Vermont, an organization that promotes international understanding by helping young Americans live and travel with people from other countries.
My worldview at the time consisted of two main notions: one, that non-Americans were backward, and, two, that the USSR was the enemy. I absorbed the first notion over the years from church missionary drives to collect money for the downtrodden people of other countries. These drives were well intentioned, but they made the rest of the world seem hopeless, compared to America.
I developed the second notion from the mock air-raid drills we had at school in the 1950s to prepare ourselves in the event of a Soviet atomic bomb attack. We crouched under our desks to escape imagined flying glass. Some say that our generation was traumatized by such experiences, but I thought the drills were rather exciting. I did not realize that the United States had dropped two atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II, and that other countries were as afraid of us as we were of them. All I knew was that we were good and "they" were bad.
Foreign travel gave me the opportunity to see that people in other countries were more like Americans than they were different. My Experiment group lived for weeks with families in the beautiful city of Reggio Calabria, located on the toe of Italy. The family I stayed with had a daughter my age. We went to the beach together and flirted with boys under the watchful eyes of her mother, who sat in a chair under a beach umbrella. We had a big, hot midday meal every day—after which, the whole family, including the father who had come home from his engineering firm, took a siesta and rested. Around four we went out shopping. After a light supper, we went out yet again, often for a stroll around a downtown plaza. It seemed as if the whole city came out for that stroll, in the same place every night. As we walked with Mama, we smiled at the handsome boys we had flirted with at the beach.
Sometimes I was homesick. I missed American candy bars and American milk. My Italian family drank goat's milk from a goat kept on the roof of the apartment building. I missed people I could talk with rapidly in English, but I had my American friends in my Experiment group. They were staying with other families in Reggio Calabria, and we often got together for trips and parties.
After a month, our group and some of the Italians from our Italian families traveled throughout Italy. I was stunned by what I saw—and embarrassed by my lack of knowledge. Although I had studied Rome and Florence, I couldn't remember anything I had learned. These great, dazzling cities seemed brand new to me, as if I had never read a word about them.
When I returned to UConn for my junior year, I realized that studying home economics was not enough. I needed a better education. I wanted to learn more about Rome, Florence, and other cities I had traveled to that summer—Munich, Paris, and London—their history, their literature, their culture. Because I had always liked reading, I switched my major to English.
It was 1963. One day in November at UConn, while walking to class, I saw students running and shouting, "Did you hear Kennedy was shot? The president might die!" People stopped whatever it was they were doing, and no one talked of anything else. It was just unbelievable that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I, like many other students at UConn, went home because I was scared.
To this day I cannot see Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, without seeing the riderless horse in JFK's funeral procession. Predicting that Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin, would be shot, my father stayed up all night to see his prediction come true. The next day he also said, "You will now see how great this country is because it will not come apart—even in a time like this." I clung to those words and, as it turned out, my father was right.
In the middle of my senior year at UConn, I applied to, and was accepted by, the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I had decided that the best way for me to help people was to become a high school English teacher. I started Harvard's program in February 1964 because I had enough credits at UConn to leave a semester early. Harvard's Master of Arts in Teaching program was short and to the point. The underlying concept was that you learn to teach by teaching. I therefore soon found myself teaching English in a high school classroom in Arlington, Massachusetts. I had five large classes of kids, who were not much younger than I was.
I liked them right away, and I felt comfortable teaching. I liked having my desk, my books, and papers to correct—it was like playing office. I liked the kids' eager faces and their adolescent humor. I spent hours after class and in the evenings preparing for the next day. Once again, I felt my ignorance. After all I had studied, it seemed as if I knew nothing about poetry, short stories, and novels. I had to study literature all over again
on my own in order to understand my views well enough to articulate them for high school students.
In 1968 I applied for a summer job at Harvard's Upward Bound Program sponsored by the Office of Economic Opportunity (called OEO), which was part of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (still, one big department). The late Sixties was an optimistic time. People, especially young people, were convinced that poverty could be erased. The U.S. government, under the leadership of President Lyndon Johnson, had declared its War on Poverty, and OEO was part of that war. Many new programs, such as Head Start and the Job Corps, were started at this time.
Cambridge high schools recommended talented, potential dropouts to us for Upward Bound, and we went to their houses to invite them to join our program. We told them they would get to study for the summer at Harvard Yard and that it would be fun. Their eyes sparkled; they joined.
The Upward Bound students came to classes, thrived, and learned a lot that summer. We had a great staff including Chester E. Finn, Jr. (who was to become Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education under President Reagan and later president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation) and Barry O'Connell (who became James Ostendarp Professor of English at Amherst College). Everything was great except that when summer ended, our students realized they had nowhere to go except back to the schools in which they had failed. We promised to continue to help the kids after school and on weekends during the school year. I liked this new kind of teaching so much that I decided to stay on as Assistant Director of Upward Bound.
The kids had trouble back at their regular schools, and there wasn't much we could do about it, although we tried. One of the problems they had was that the books they were given to read in their classes had nothing to do with their lives. The kids got depressed, and I got depressed. I no longer felt I was helping. The problems were too overwhelming.
That spring I decided to move to New York City, largely because I knew it was the center of the publishing world. I wanted to see if there was some way I could help to publish educational materials that would help kids like the ones in Upward Bound.
Upward Bound gave me a going-away party during which the kids gave me a preppy dress and cable-knit sweater. "Just your type," said Clorae Evereteze, one of my favorite students who became a dear friend.
One of the problems with the War on Poverty was that it was so new to America that not everyone knew what they were doing. Bits of brilliance and lots of high hopes flashed on all sides, but there was too little coordination between various stages of progress and too
little cooperation between education, jobs, health, and community services. Critics were quick to point out problems and costs—especially the costs, now that the Vietnam War was escalating.
I moved to New York in 1967, a time when happy-go-lucky hippie gatherings in the parks were beginning to feature focused demonstrations against the Vietnam War. People were starting to realize that the war, which was never officially declared by Congress, was costing too much in money, lives, and national spirit. These problems affected me greatly then—and still do today. America lost both the Vietnam War and the War on Poverty, and as a result, I feel, we lost our way both at home and abroad. Now, forty years later in 2007, as I write this and as our country is mired in the war in Iraq, I believe that we are still lost. We have still not determined a set of shared national goals in which we all can take pride and devote our energies. Our country is, and always has been, comprised of many cultures, yet we still have not learned to live in peace with one another and with the rest of the world. We need to experience our country's greatness again so that we can have the kind of confidence in America that my father had.
Publishing turned out to be a good choice for me. My first job in New York was with General Learning Corporation, a short-lived joint subsidiary of Time Incorporated and General Electric. I was hired to be a preschool researcher. The switch from high school educator to preschool researcher was easy. To me, no matter what age you are teaching, teachers need to know four things in order to be effective: (1) what information the students can learn, (2) the information itself, (3) how to motivate the students to learn it, and (4) how to convey the material to be learned. I have always been fascinated by this process and now discovered that I liked to write about it.
As I was learning about preschools in the late Sixties, I realized that instead of working nine to five in an office, I would be better off working as a freelance writer at home. The term "freelance" comes from medieval days when a knight could fight with his lance for whoever hired him. As a freelance writer, I could write for various publishers who hired me.
The late 1960s and early 1970s were an exciting and well-funded time to be involved in early childhood education. Head Start was new, and so was Sesame Street. I started with two friends a small company called Education Workshop to produce educational materials. We wrote the first Parent-Teacher Guide to Sesame Street.
In 1972 I coauthored my first book, Learning through Play. The original intention of this book was to present what I had learned about preschool education in an easy-to-use format for disadvantaged parents and Head Start teachers. My friend Irene Trivas illustrated the book, the first of many we did together, including Supertot, Superkids, Birthday Parties for Children, Fathers and Babies, and Fathers and Toddlers. It turned out that Learning through Play, appreciated by all kinds of parents and teachers, sold nicely for twenty years.
In 1972 I also took, on a freelance basis, the job of editing Let's Find Out, Scholastic's monthly kindergarten magazine. The job was so satisfying that I kept it for twenty years. I worked with Carol Devine Carson, a superb New York City art director. Together, we created an outstanding, award-winning magazine, using some of the best educators and illustrators to help us. I enjoyed being in charge of the whole magazine. I conceived every story and wrote practically every word, working in my home most of the time and going into the office one day a week. Producing the magazine enabled me to create high-quality materials for children, teachers, and parents. As a teacher, I could affect only my students; as an editor, I could affect half a million subscribers. Meeting the magazine's deadlines also helped me develop a disciplined work schedule.
The publication of my first children's book grew out of my experiences with Let's Find Out. In 1973 I gave birth to my first son, Daniel—definitely one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. As I was nursing him one day, I was looking at a funny drawing by Irene Trivas in which a child was sleeping in a sandwich bed. A rhyme popped into my head: "Close your eyes and you can be / Sound asleep in a B.L.T." I later changed this to "Close your eyes and you can be / Sound asleep in an apple tree." I finished the poem, really a lullaby, and showed it to Susan Jeffers, who had just illustrated a poster for Let's Find Out. She liked the poem and showed it to her editor at Dial, Phyllis Fogelman. Phyllis agreed to publish it. I am grateful to Phyllis for teaching me an important lesson about writing in rhythm and rhyme. "Keep it natural," she said. "Don't strain the language."
Close Your Eyes, an ALA Notable Book, came out in 1978 and was dedicated to my second son, David, who
had been born in 1975. Because of my freelance situation, I was lucky to be able to work at home throughout my pregnancies and my children's childhoods. Nothing is more important to me than my family, but I would never want to choose between my work and my family because both are essential to my happiness.
Since Learning through Play and Close Your Eyes, I have written over one hundred books—books for parents, children's picture books, easy-to-read books, chapter books, young-adult novels, and children's nonfiction.
Some of my books are coauthored with my husband, Claudio Marzollo. He's very much like me in that he likes to make things. He has created beautiful sculptures, renovated houses, built furniture, and recently took charge of building a new office/studio for me. Claudio was born in Italy and didn't come to America until he was ten. His parents spoke Italian at home. His family provided some of the inspiration for Soccer Sam (A Reading Rainbow Selection in 1990) and Pizza Pie Slugger. In both books, characters struggle to get their ideas across in English.
Claudio, who often reads science-fiction and fantasy books, coauthored with me a number of science-fiction stories for children: Baby Unicorn, Baby Unicorn and Baby Dragon, Jed's Junior Space Patrol, Jed and the Space Bandits, Red Sun Girl, Blue Sun Ben, Ruthie's Rude Friends, and Robin of Bray. The author of Kenny and the Little Kickers, he has a unique imagination, coming up with ideas I would never think of on my own.
My sons Dan and Dave are now in their early thirties and both interested in literature, theatre, music, and sports. They, along with my husband, have proofread my work all along, pointing out factual errors and boring parts. I have always found their input invaluable. Dan and Dave have ghostwritten, under my supervision, seventeen spin-off "I Spy" books for me, which I'll discuss further on in the section on "I Spy."
Early Readers and Chapter Books
When I visit schools, kids ask me, "Where do you get your inspiration?" I say, "From real life and from my imagination—same as you." Dan and Dave inspired a number of books, such as The Silver Bear, the "39 Kids on the Block" stories, and my sports stories. When they were young, my sons wanted to read books about sports, and when we couldn't find any that were easy to read, I wrote Cannonball Chris, Soccer Sam, Pizza Pie Slugger, and Red Ribbon Rosie. When they grew up, they remembered interesting things that happened when they played sports. Together we co-authored a new set of sports books, based on these memories and their sports interests: Football Friends, Baseball Brothers, Hockey Hero, and Basketball Buddies.
When I write easy-to-read books and chapter books, I remember what I liked to read at that age—exciting books that made me feel both happy and sad and that taught me something. I also like to address indirectly various kinds of family and social problems that have always concerned me. In my novel Pizza Pie Slugger I gave the main character, Billy, parents who are divorced. Billy lives with his father and grandfather in an apartment over a pizza parlor, which they own. They eat all their meals in the pizza parlor. But the story isn't about the composition of this interesting family; it's about Billy's problem as the slugger on his baseball team—he's in a batting slump, partly because his mother, stepfather, and baby stepsister come to his games and upset him. I don't write stories in which social problems are the main point because such stories, to me, are too preachy. I'd rather have the point be how the characters solve problems that are universal.
Love, or lack of love, is a powerful universal problem to write about. My father inspired my children's books Cannonball Chris and Amy Goes Fishing. The background and mood of Amy Goes Fishing is very much like my grandfather's town in Morgan, Vermont. The father in Cannonball Chris is a little more talkative than my father was, but he had the same sensitive faith in his children that my dad had. Both of those books are about the love between child and parent.
Money and acceptance by others are two more universal problems that I like to write about. The experience of poverty in my mother's youth was more embedded in her personality than her ethnicity. Ethnicity can be a character's problem if the character feels unacceptable on the basis of race; the problem then is actually acceptance by others. On Harvard Road the ethnic mix of Italians, Swedes, Irish, and Scots became less and less obvious as people stressed their identity as Americans after World War II.
The optimistic and integrated spirit of my middle-class neighborhood is reflected in the six books in my "39 Kids on the Block" series written for second and third graders. The titles of the six books in this series are: The Green Ghost of Appleville, The Best Present Ever, Roses Are Pink and You Stink, Best Friends Club, Chicken Pox Strikes Again, and My Sister the Blabbermouth. In these books I have created an ethnic mix of European Americans, Asians, Hispanics, African Americans, and American Indians. The universal problems in the books are the same ones that always affect children: love, acceptance, embarrassment, loneliness, and competition.
Some of the stories in "39 Kids on the Block" books are based on true stories. Fizz Eddie, a junior high school student, helps the younger children in most of the books. His character was inspired by Dan and Dave, who attended Haldane, our town's one and only public school, in which the elementary and high school grades used to share the same building. John Beane was inspired by a real person with that name who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. Some of the stories about John Beane in the books are true; others I made up. The story about his eagle feather in The Best Present Ever is true.
I loved writing the books in the "39 Kids on the Block" series, but unfortunately those books are out of print now. The only way you can get them is through used bookstores or on the Internet. It's very sad for me when my books go out of print, but I try to understand that because so many new books are published every year, many old books drop from sight. I'm fortunate to be able to keep on writing new ones.
Rhythm and Rhyme
In addition to writing early readers and chapter books for beginners, I have written many picture books, a number in rhythm and rhyme. My mother liked to read aloud the poems in A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. She also had several small poetry books on her bookshelf. With their leather covers and gold titles, they were treasures for me. I liked to hold them and peek through the pages. I still have these books.
My mother, my father, my grandmother, my aunts—they could all recite poems they had memorized as children. I heard these poems spoken and I loved them. They influenced me. I strongly recommend that children in school hear poetry read aloud every day because it's enjoyable to hear and because you have to hear it to write it.
Rhythm and rhyme are like music without the tune; they lure and excite the ear. I never intended to create a body of rhyming picture books, but I did, instinctively. In 1492, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman, is a rhyme about Christopher Columbus's first ocean voyage. Pretend You're a Cat, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, is a rhyme about children imitating animals. Close Your Eyes, as I have mentioned, is a rhyme about a mischievous child preparing for bed. I Love You: A Rebus Book, featured on the "Today" show in 2000, is a good book for beginning readers because the rebus pictures help children read. All the "I Spy" books are written in rhythm and rhyme.
Sometimes verses pop into my head as if I've been singing them. Immediately, I write them down on scrap paper. I've learned the hard way that if I don't write them down, I forget them. I save my scraps of paper in folders and go to them when I need ideas. I can't always sit down at my desk and summon ideas. Ideas usually come to me while I'm doing other things.
Editors and Art Directors
I have worked with many fine children's book editors in my career: Grace Maccarone and Bernette Ford at Scholastic; Phyllis J. Fogelman and Amy Ehrlich at Dial; Stephanie Spinner at Random house; Willa Perlman and Simone Kaplan at HarperCollins; Lisa Holton, Andrea Davis Pinkney, and Jackie Carter at Hyperion; and David Ford at Little, Brown. I am also grateful
to have worked with outstanding editors on the articles and books I wrote for parents about children, particularly Elizabeth Crow at Parents and Hugh Van Dusen at HarperCollins. I have also had two excellent agents, Sheldon Fogelman and Molly Friedrich.
The best editors, in my opinion, do not have a heavy hand; that is, they do not impose themselves on a manuscript and take the author's individuality out of it. I have been fortunate to have editors who help me do what I do—only better. The best relationships between authors and editors are both professional and friendly at the same time.
The same goes for art directors. In the late 1990s I took up watercolor painting, and in 2000 I began to illustrate children's books. As I worked to create my own style, I was extremely grateful to all of my artist friends and art directors who encouraged me. It's not easy to learn something new.
Editors, art directors, teachers, librarians, parents, my family, and kids: all help me. I like to visit schools as an author and discuss my work with children. I like to look at their work too. I tell them, "You never really know what you're going to be when you grow up because you change as you grow. I became a teacher, then an editor, then an author, and now I've become an illustrator. Try to experience as much as you can, and stay open to change."
The willingness of children to learn from my work and to help me improve my work inspires me. I often visit classrooms to test books with different grades, especially preschool and early elementary grades. I ask kids to help me make my story clearer and more interesting, and they do. Now that I'm illustrating, I am able to bring pictures into classrooms and get better feedback than ever.
My most popular nonfiction books for kids are Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King (illustrated by Brian Pinkney) and the Scholastic "Hello Science Reader" books (illustrated by Judith Moffatt): I Am a Seed, I Am a Leaf, I Am a Rock, I Am Snow, I Am Fire, I Am Planet Earth, I Am Water, I Am an Apple, I Am a Caterpillar, and I Am a Star.
I enjoy doing the research for nonfiction books because I learn best when I study something and write it in my own words. I also enjoy the challenge of writing difficult material on a child's level. All of my books, I hope, are child-centered, meaning that they speak to what children can understand and can stretch to understand.
I have written some nonfiction books for upper elementary school children. I wrote Getting Your Period for preadolescent girls and coauthored The Helping Hands Handbook with my friend Patricia Adams to help kids today find ways to help people, animals, and the world we live in. As the years have gone by, I have discovered that the most comfortable age range for me to write for is birth to age eight.
The "I Spy" Books
One day in 1990, when I was editor of Let's Find Out at Scholastic, I went into my office and found in my mailbox a fascinating promotional card from Walter Wick, a photographer I'd never heard of. His photo showed nails, screws and other hardware store-type things floating in white space. The minute I saw it, I knew that this photographer would be perfect for kindergarten because his picture was so clear and enticing. Art director Carol Devine Carson agreed, and so we called up Walter Wick and asked him to create for young children a similar photograph in which everything fit into the same category: Fasteners. Walter came back with a gorgeous photograph featuring a big red zipper, colorful barrettes, buttons, tacks, and so forth. Though he had never made pictures for young children before, he did a great job. We hired him to create more posters of toys, blocks, sand, plants, and other real objects that interest children.
His consistently excellent work drew the attention of Grace Maccarone, senior editor, and Bernette Ford, editorial director of Cartwheel Books at Scholastic. They asked me to ask Carol and Walter if they'd like to work on a book. The result of that suggestion was I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles. Carol designed the book and the cover. Walter created the pictures, and I wrote the riddles.
Instinctively, I wrote I Spy for kindergartners and was pleasantly surprised to find out that older kids, teens, and adults liked the book, too. Carol, Walter, and I were very lucky. Many talented and deserving authors and artists create many wonderful, extraordinary books but never have a hit like I Spy.
After I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles, we created I Spy Christmas (Parents Magazine Best Books List 1992), I Spy Fun House, I Spy Mystery, I Spy Fantasy, I Spy School Days (A New York Public Library Best Book of 1995), I Spy Spooky Night, and I Spy Treasure Hunt. The "I Spy" books aren't about families, but they certainly bring family members of all ages together to cooperate in solving the picture riddles. Everybody enjoys "I Spy" on the same three levels: visual, auditory, and competitive (in a fun way).
To create the "I Spy" books, we conceptualized the overall title and various possibilities for scenes. Once we were in agreement, Walter began his elaborate imaginative, constructive process. For most of the pictures, he devised a set (four-by-eight approximately) using whatever was needed: blocks, toys, scraps of wood, old shelves, a window frame, chicken wire, fabric, pillow stuffing—even using, in the case of "Silent Night" in I Spy Christmas, baking soda for snow. Next, he carefully placed rhyming and non-rhyming objects into the scene, many of which he cleverly hid. It was helpful that Walter had had experience inventing and photographing many puzzles for GAMES magazine, a magazine for adults.
When I visit schools, I tell children that Walter didn't carry a camera around, looking for scenes for "I Spy." He made the "I Spy" scenes himself in his studio. His process was two-part: first, he made the set, and second, he photographed it. His work was spectacular.
Right from the start, I asked Walter to place lots of rhyming pairs in the pictures. I needed flexibility for riddle writing, and also I imagined that some day kids would be able to write new riddles using the extra rhymes.
The collaboration process was new to me. Traditionally, an author writes a text first; after it's accepted by a publisher, the illustrator creates the pictures. But I couldn't write the riddles for "I Spy" ahead of time because they would restrict Walter's creativity. He needed freedom to work, and I was happy to give it to him, as long as I could make suggestions for rhymes and interesting, rhythmic words and as long as I could check that Walter's visual conceptions were appropriate for kindergartners. If I thought some ideas were too difficult for them to understand, I spoke up.
Kindergarten was always a focus for me as we created the "I Spy" books and ancillary products. Older children are surprised when I tell them that I write the books for five-year-olds because they think "I Spy" is just right for them. And so it is—because of the sophistication of Walter's aesthetic vision and the cleverness with which he hides things in plain sight. But the bottom line is that the main skill required for playing "I Spy" is the skill of visual discrimination, and young children can be as good at that skill as older children.
We always used familiar objects in making "I Spy" so young children are not hampered by a difficult vocabulary. We also never relied on a child's knowledge base. I never called for "the first president of the United States" because that is knowledge a young child may not have. If Walter put a quarter in a picture, I would call for "a man's face." "Face" is a nice rhyming word so I might then ask Walter to put in something that rhymed with it: a vase, piece of lace, a playing card ace. He often thought of rhymes himself.
Because we live two hours away from each other, Walter faxed and Fed Ex'd me preliminary pictures that he and I discussed on the phone. Once we agreed on everything in the picture, Walter lit the scene to achieve desired shadows, depth, and mood. Finally, he photographed the set with an eight-by-ten-inch-view camera. When satisfied with the artistic quality of the final photo, he usually dismantled the set to make room for the next one. The sets survive only in photos and the reader's imagination. I finalized the rhymes with the finished photos in hand, checking that the rhymes set the right mood, scanned nicely, and contained language that was simple, yet fun.
Librarians complain (happily) that they can't keep "I Spy" books on the shelf. The minute someone returns a book, someone else checks it out. Some librarians bemoan the fact that upper elementary age students would rather check out "I Spy" than a novel. To this, I say, Don't worry about it! Novels are stories. If the stories appeal, children will read them. "I Spy" is a game. The child is the hero of the game. No matter the age of the "child" (it may be a grandparent), the child playing "I Spy" is experiencing a quest that involves looking at things more carefully, using language more vividly and flexibly, and thinking more creatively. Children need, and want, all kinds of books.
Kids like to make their own "I Spy" books with stickers, cutouts, photos, and their own drawings. "I Spy" riddle writing is an interesting challenge. The technical term for the pattern of an "I Spy" riddle is dactylic tetrameter. That means that there are four beats to a line ("tetra" means four) and each beat consists of three syllables with the stress on the first, for example, "‘I Spy’ a"—that's a dactyl. The fourth dactyl in an "I Spy" line may contain just one syllable, the other two being rests. So: "‘I Spy’ a donkey, a monkey, a ball" fits the "I Spy" pattern. The next requirement for an "I Spy" riddle is that the lines rhyme. So: "‘I Spy’ a donkey, a monkey, a ball; A pink dinosaur, and a mouse on a wall." It's not easy for kids to write "I Spy" riddles at first, but with practice they get good at it, and they like it.
On my web site (jeanmarzollo.com) there is a Riddle Workshop Video of me teaching how to write an "I Spy" riddle correctly.
I teach kids that you can test your riddles by singing your words to the tune of an old-fashioned song called "Sweet Betsy from Pike." If you have too many words or too few words, your song won't sound right. Fifth graders in Miami taught me that you can rap "I Spy." I tried it and you know what? It works perfectly! If you have rap rhythms in your head, you can write "I Spy" riddles.
I trained my sons Dan and Dave to write "I Spy" riddles and they are experts at it. They have ghost-written seventeen of the "I Spy" spin-off books: all of the "Challenger" books and all of the "I Spy" readers. Their job was tricky because I asked them not to call for things that I called for in the original books.
Coming next in the "I Spy" line is I Spy Phonics Fun, which Dan and Dave helped to write, too. I think I Spy Phonics Fun is one of the kindest books I've ever worked on because it really helps children read. In addition to helping them with phonics, it gives them additional reading clues: pictures, rhythm, rhyme, and repetition.
I wrote the "I Spy" board books for babies and toddlers, consulted on the Briarpatch "I Spy" games, Scholastic's "I Spy" CD-ROMs and DVDs, and on the I Spy television show on HBO Family. Through all of this, I've tried hard to keep my eye (and the eyes of others) on the prize: kindergarten. If "I Spy" works for kindergartners, it will work for everyone older, too. But because it works for older people, it's not always easy to convince others that kindergarten is the key.
Jean Marzollo contributed the following update to SATA in 2007:
"Shanna Show" Books
Kids who know Shanna from The Shanna Show on "Playhouse Disney" are often surprised to find out that I am the author of the "Shanna Show" books. When she was at Hyperion, Andrea Davis Pinkney asked me to write a series about a little African-American girl. I felt honored and soon imagined a lively preschooler who liked to put on shows. Once I had the word "Show," I kept my ears open for a girl's name that began with "Sh." One day I visited a school where a girl named Shanna asked me to autograph her book. And that was it: Shanna!
The Shanna Show on TV and the first "Shanna Show" books are based on occupations that children dream of having one day: Shanna's Princess Show (featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show), Shanna's Teacher Show, Shanna's Doctor Show, and Shanna's Ballerina Show.
Different kinds of stories are found in the six "Shanna Show" first readers: Shanna's Animal Riddles, Shanna's Party Surprise, Shanna's Hip Hop Hooray, Shanna's Bear Hunt, Shanna's Pizza Parlor, and Shanna's Lost Shoe.
When I visit schools, I ask kids to sing The Shanna Show song with me. It starts, "My name is Shanna, it rhymes with banana." I wrote that line because some people pronounced Shanna like this: Shaw-na. How could I get readers to say it like I do? I thought of a word that rhymes with Shanna: banana. Little did I know, that word and line would inspire a song that I would hear someday on "Playhouse Disney."
Books That I've Illustrated
When I started to paint with watercolor paints in the late 1990s, I did so for personal enjoyment and relaxation. Friends asked if I would try to illustrate some of my books and I said no.
Then I changed my mind because an editor asked me to write Bible stories for young children. I had never re-told books before but I thought retelling Bible stories would be educational for me—and interesting, especially if I could illustrate them. I wanted to make the stories and pictures fun because, to tell the truth, I had always found Bible stories a little boring.
I started with Daniel in the Lions' Den. I loved painting the angel and the lions. I loved working on both the words and the pictures. I was hooked. Never again will I just write books. From now on, I'll write and illustrate. Of course, I may change my mind about that, but for now that's how I feel.
I retold and illustrated four more Bible stories: Miriam and Her Brother Moses; David and Goliath; Jonah and the Whale (and the Worm); and Ruth and Naomi. I'm very proud to say that all five received either Sydney Taylor honor book or Sydney Taylor notable book awards.
I learned a lot from these stories. I learned that they are far more interesting than I thought they would be. The problem is that the Bible isn't written for children; that's why it can seem boring to a child. Once I started retelling the story for children, I fell in love with the stories. I tested my pictures and text with young children in religious schools to make sure that I was being both clear and entertaining. There is a reason these stories have lasted thousands of years. They are not only wise; they are ripping good stories.
I had written for HarperCollins a number of board books with simple rhymes because babies and toddlers love rhythm and rhyme. Do You Know New? illustrated by Maya Takabayashi celebrates the "oo-o" sound, one of the first sounds children make. Laura Regan illustrated my books Mama Mama (an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award winner) and Papa Papa. These were published as two separate books but now are published together as one flip book: Mama Mama Papa Papa. You start at the front with Mama Mama and flip to the back to start with Papa Papa.
I wrote those books for HarperCollins before I began to illustrate. When I sold the text for Ten Little Eggs to HarperCollins, I explained that I wished to illustrate it myself. I was still a little shy about my paintings, but HarperCollins was agreeable to my being the illustrator, and I was very grateful for that. When BabyZone named Ten Little Eggs as the "Best Counting Book" in 2004, I was pleased both for myself and for HarperCollins for taking a chance on me. I think it's important for publishers to support creative people trying new things.
Ten Little Eggs has little plastic eggs that "hatch" in the story. Each time an egg hatches, the number of eggs goes down and the number of birds goes up. I wrote the book in rhythm and rhyme because, well, it felt right to me.
The illustrations were a pleasure to make. Birds are actually great fun to draw. I looked at the art of different cultures in different times and found many different fanciful styles for representing birds. One of the added bonuses of becoming an illustrator is that now I love to look at art books and paintings in museums to see how other artists have painted things.
The Bible stories led me to the Greek myths, other rich ancient stories. I had never been that interested in them, even when I taught them to ninth graders, back in the days when I was a high school English teacher.
I found that retelling and illustrating them for children was a joy. My stories are true to the original stories told by Ovid and Hesiod, but I retell them in entertaining ways for children, complete with a Greek chorus of animals at the bottom of each page.
I chose three Greek myths that I thought young children could understand. Little Bear, You're a Star is a constellation story that tells about the love of mother and child and about the North Star, the most important star in the sky. Let's Go, Pegasus! is a hero story that tells how the boy Perseus killed the snakey-haired monster Medusa and rode off on the winged horse Pegasus. Pandora's Box (an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award winner) tells about a curious young woman named Pandora who opened a box that she wasn't supposed to open—an intriguing story for curious children.
I used to write every day on my Macintosh computer in an office on the third floor of my home. Now I write in a bigger office/studio added on to our house in 2007. In my office I have lots of books, my grandmother's chairs, desks, file cabinets, paintbrushes, and watercolor paper.
I have many friends who are writers and illustrators, such as Kate McMullan and Susan Jeffers, and I enjoy talking with them about the work we do. Mostly we talk about what's next because that's the most exciting part of what we do. That's where the energy comes from: imagining words, pictures, and stories to come, and hoping that children's faces will beam when they see and hear what we create.
My next project is an experimental interactive math book called Monsters for Sale. I've written it, painted the pictures, and tested it with children, especially kindergartners. I've found out what math skills they can learn at their stage of development and tried to create a good story to teach these skills. I'm almost done. I need to tweak it a bit here and there to make it as good as I can make it, and then it will be finished. I'm already thinking of the next interactive picture book, and I can't wait to get started on it.
"How long have you been making books?" children ask, and I answer: "All my life." As I said in the beginning of this autobiography, the pleasure I now take in making books is the same pleasure I took making doll clothes as a child. The creative process remains the same: I think, I plan, I execute. I've always enjoyed the work, which seems like play to me; and every project I've worked on has strengthened me for the next. When problems arise, as they always do, I usually find ways to solve them. If not, I put the project aside and start something else.
Even though I am now old enough to retire, I remain young at heart, perhaps because I write and illustrate for children. I am grateful for my family, friends, and all the children, parents, teachers, librarians, editors and art directors who have supported and encouraged me throughout my career.
"Marzollo, Jean 1942–." Something About the Author. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/scholarly-magazines/marzollo-jean-1942
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