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Geras, Adèle 1944- (Adèle Daphne Weston Geras)

Geras, Adèle 1944- (Adèle Daphne Weston Geras)

Personal

Surname pronounced with a hard "G" and rhymes with "terrace"; born March 15, 1944, in Jerusalem, Palestine (now Israel); immigrated to England, 1955; daughter of Laurence David (a lawyer) and Leah Weston; married Norman Geras (a retired professor and writer), August 7, 1967; children: Sophie, Jenny. Education: St. Hilda's College, Oxford, B.A., 1966. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Films, detective fiction.

Addresses

Office—10 Danesmoor Rd., Manchester M20 3JS, England. Agent—Laura Cecil, 17 Alwyne Villas, London N1 2HG, England. E-mail—adele@adelegeras.com.

Career

Children's book author. Fairfield High School, Droylsden, Lancashire, England, French teacher, 1968-71; writer, 1976—. Actress in Four Degrees Over (play), 1966.

Awards, Honors

Taylor Award, 1991, for My Grandmother's Stories: A Collection of Jewish Folktales; National Jewish Book Council Award, 1994, for Golden Windows, and Other Stories of Jerusalem; Houseman Society prize, 2000, for The Sampler Alphabet; British Arts Council award, 2000; shortlisted for Whitbread Children's Book Award, 2000, Carnegie Medal highly commended designation, and Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book designation for fiction/poetry, both 2001, all for Troy; HH Wingate Jewish Quarterly Poetry Award and Smith Doorstop Poetry Pamphlet Award, both for adult poetry.

Writings

CHILDREN'S FICTION

Tea at Mrs. Manderby's, illustrated by Doreen Caldwell, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1976.

Apricots at Midnight, and Other Stories from a Patchwork Quilt, illustrated by Doreen Caldwell, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1977, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1982.

Beyond the Cross-Stitch Mountains, illustrated by Mary Wilson, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1977.

The Painted Garden, illustrated by Doreen Caldwell, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1979.

A Thousand Yards of Sea, illustrated by Joanna Troughton, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1980.

The Rug That Grew, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1981.

The Christmas Cat, illustrated by Doreen Caldwell, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1983.

Little Elephant's Moon, illustrated by Linda Birch, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1986.

Ritchie's Rabbit, illustrated by Vanessa Julian-Ottie, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1986, Random House (New York, NY), 1987.

Finding Annabel, illustrated by Alan Marks, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1987.

Fishpie for Flamingoes, illustrated by Linda Birch, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1987.

The Fantora Family Files, illustrated by Tony Ross, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1988.

The Strange Bird, illustrated by Linda Birch, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1988.

The Coronation Picnic, illustrated by Frances Wilson, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1989.

Bunk Bed Night, Dent (London, England), 1990.

My Grandmother's Stories: A Collection of Jewish Folktales, illustrated by Jael Jordan, Knopf (New York, NY), 1990, published as My Grandmother's Stories: A Collection of Jewish Folk Tales, illustrated by Anita Lobel, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.

Nina's Magic, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1990.

Pink Medicine, Dent (London, England), 1990.

A Magic Birthday, Simon & Schuster (London, England), 1992.

The Fantora Family Photographs, illustrated by Tony Ross, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1993.

Golden Windows, and Other Stories of Jerusalem, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 1993.

Baby's Bedclothes, illustrated by Prue Greener, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

The Dolls' House, illustrated by Prue Greener, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

Keith's Croak, illustrated by Prue Greener, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

Mary's Meadow, illustrated by Prue Greener, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

Mimi; and Apricot Max, illustrated by Teresa O'Brien, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

Josephine, illustrated by Teresa O'Brien, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

The Return of Archibald Gribbet, illustrated by Sumiko, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

Toey, illustrated by Duncan Smith, Heinemann (London, England), 1994.

Gilly the Kid, illustrated by Sue Heap, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.

Stories for Bedtime (with cassette), illustrated by Amanda Benjamin, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

A Candle in the Dark ("Flashbacks" historical fiction series), A. & C. Black (London, England), 1995.

(Compiler) Kingfisher Book of Jewish Stories, illustrated by Jane Cope, Kingfisher (London, England), 1995, published as A Treasury of Jewish Stories, Kingfisher (New York, NY), 1996.

(Adapter) Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, illustrated by Louise Brierley, Viking (New York, NY), 1996.

The Magical Storyhouse, illustrated by Joanna Walsh, Macdonald (Brighton, England), 1996.

Chalk and Cheese, illustrated by Adriano Gon, Transworld (London, England), 1996.

Cinderella, illustrated by Gwen Tourret, Macdonald (Brighton, England), 1996.

From Lullaby to Lullaby, illustrated by Kathryn Brown, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1997.

Picasso Perkins, illustrated by Tony Ross, Transworld (London, England), 1997.

Blossom's Revenge, illustrated by Tony Ross, Transworld (London, England), 1997.

Silent Snow, Secret Snow, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1998.

The Fantora Family Files, illustrated by Tony Ross, Avon (New York, NY), 1998, published as The Fabulous Fantoras, Book One: Family Files, illustrated by Eric Brace, Avon (New York, NY), 1998.

Callie's Kitten, illustrated by Tony Ross, Transworld (London, England), 1998, published as The Cats of Cuckoo Square: Callie's Kitten, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2003.

Geejay the Hero, illustrated by Tony Ross, Transworld (London, England), 1998, published as The Cats of Cuckoo Square: Geejay the Hero, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2003.

The Gingerbread House, Barrington Stoke (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1998.

The Six Swan Brothers, illustrated by Patrick Benson, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Lolly, Orchard (London, England), 1998.

The Fabulous Fantoras, Book Two: Family Photographs, illustrated by Eric Brace, Avon (New York, NY), 1999.

Sleep Tight, Ginger Kitten, Dutton (New York, NY), 2001.

The Cats of Cuckoo Square: Two Stories, illustrated by Tony Ross, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2001.

My Wishes for You, illustrated by Cliff Wright, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

The Ballet Class, illustrated by Shelagh McNichols, Orchard (London, England), 2003, published as Time for Ballet, Dial (New York, NY), 2004.

Rebecca's Passover, illustrated by Sheila Moxley, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2003.

(Reteller) Sleeping Beauty, illustrated by Christian Birmingham, Orchard (New York, NY), 2004.

Lizzie's Wish ("Historical House" series), Usborne, 2004.

Lily: A Ghost Story ("Quick Reads" series), Orion (London, England), 2007.

Cecily's Portrait ("Historical House" series), Usborne, 2007.

Cleopatra, Kingfisher (New York, NY), 2007.

Little Ballet Star, Orchard House (London, England), 2008, published as Like a Real Ballerina, Dial (New York, NY), 2008.

Also author of Josephine and Pobble and Sun Slices, Moon Slices.

"LITTLE SWAN" SERIES

Little Swan, illustrated by Johanna Westerman, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.

Louisa's Secret, illustrated by Karen Popham, Red Fox (London, England), 1997.

Louisa in the Wings, illustrated by Karen Popham, Red Fox (London, England), 1997.

Louisa and Phoebe, illustrated by Karen Popham, Random House (London, England), 1997.

A Rival for Louisa, illustrated by Karen Popham, Red Fox (London, England), 1997.

Louisa on Screen, illustrated by Karen Popham, Red Fox (London, England), 2001.

Good Luck, Louisa!, illustrated by Karen Popham, Red Fox (London, England), 2002.

"MAGIC OF BALLET" SERIES

Giselle, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, David & Charles (New York, NY), 2001.

Sleeping Beauty, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, David & Charles (New York, NY), 2001.

Swan Lake, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, David & Charles (New York, NY), 2001.

The Nutcracker, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, David & Charles (New York, NY), 2001.

The Firebird, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, Gullane (London, England) 2001.

Coppélia, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, Gullane (London, England), 2002.

My First Ballet Stories (collection; contains Giselle, Coppélia, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and Firebird), illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, Gullane (London, England), 2004.

YOUNG-ADULT FICTION

The Girls in the Velvet Frame, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1978, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979.

The Green behind the Glass, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1982, published as Snapshots of Paradise: Love Stories, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1984.

Other Echoes, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1983, reprinted, David Fickling (New York, NY), 2004.

Voyage, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1983, reprinted, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

Letters of Fire, and Other Unsettling Stories, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1984.

Happy Endings, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1986, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1991, reprinted, 2006.

Daydreams on Video, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1989.

The Tower Room, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1990, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1992.

Watching the Roses, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1991, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1992.

Pictures of the Night, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1993.

A Lane to the Land of the Dead, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1994.

Troy, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2001.

Ithaka, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.

OTHER

(With Pauline Stainer) Up on the Roof (adult poetry), Smith Doorstep (Huddersfield, England), 1987.

Yesterday (memoirs), Walker (London, England), 1992.

Voices from the Dolls' House (adult poetry), Rockingham Press (Ware, England), 1994.

The Orchard Book of Opera Stories, Orchard (London, England), 1997, published as The Random House Book of Opera Stories, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.

Facing the Light (adult novel), Thomas Dunne (New York, NY), 2004.

Hester's Story (adult novel), Orion (London, England), 2005.

Made in Heaven (adult novel), Orion (New York, NY), 2006.

A Hidden Life (adult novel), Orion (London, England), 2007.

Contributor to of reviews and articles to periodicals, including London Guardian, Times Educational Supplement, Armadillo Online, and Cricket. Geras's work has been translated into several languages, including Dutch and German.

Adaptations

Troy was adapted as an audiobook by Listening Library, 2002. Hester's Story was adapted as an audiobook by Clipper Audio, 2006.

Sidelights

A childhood spent following her father on his wide-ranging assignments for the British colonial service had a great influence on the work of novelist and short-story writer Adèle Geras. Using her experiences in historic Jerusalem, where she was born, as well as exotic Africa and Great Britain, where she attended boarding school and now lives, Geras weaves a strong sense of place and time into her fiction. Trained as both a performing artist and a teacher, Geras did not intend to be a writer, although it had been a hobby for her as a child. As she explained to an interviewer at Wordpool Online, "I've written for fun since I could write. I started with poetry, and when I was at school, the main thing I did was write plays for my friends and me to perform." "I came to writing by accident," she ezplained to an interviewer at BlogCritics Online. "I went in for a story competition in 1973 and enjoyed writing my piece so much that I decided to try and write some more." The story, "Rose," was joined by several other short tales and published by Geras in 1977 as Apricots at Midnight, and Other Short Stories from a Patchwork Quilt. This collection of story "patches" is narrated by a dressmaker named Aunt Piney as she works on a quilt with her young niece. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book "unusual and entrancing," while Horn Book contributor Kate M. Flanagan praised the tales as "rich in detail and delightfully recounted."

Geras's enthusiasm for her newfound craft also found an outlet in writing picture books for young children; the first, Tea at Mrs. Manderby's, is a story about a young girl who resigns herself to taking afternoon tea with an elderly neighbor at her parents' urging. Several more books for young readers followed, including A Thousand Yards of Sea, about a fisherman who releases a mermaid from his net and is rewarded with beautiful sea-colored cloth that the women of his village make into skirts; and Toey, about two children who hope for a new pet and end up with a pair of playful kittens. Geras has also published many short stories in magazines such as Cricket, and several of these short tales are collected as Stories for Bedtime.

In addition to short stories and picture books for young children, Geras is the author of several collections of short fiction written with older readers in mind. In 1983 she wrote The Green behind the Glass, a set of eight tales about young love that was released in the United States as Snapshots of Paradise: Love Stories. Called "an intriguing departure from the sunny sentimentality of so many romance collections for young adults" by Booklist reviewer Stephanie Zvirin, The Green behind the Glass includes "Don't Sing Love Songs," narrated by a young woman who is on her own with a friend in Paris until their shared attraction for handsome Jim threatens their friendship; the title story, in which a woman's older sister knows herself to be the real object of the sister's now-dead fiancée's true affections; and "Tea in the Wendy House," in which a young, pregnant woman laments for her soon-to-be-lost youth as she faces a shotgun wedding and a future as wife and mother in a tiny house. Horn Book writer Mary M. Burns hailed the variety of styles and settings of Geras's love stories, calling them "distinguished by perceptive insight into human nature, dexterity in plot construction, and a sense of style remarkable for its readability and its imagery and constraint."

In A Lane to the Land of the Dead, Geras uses suspense and elements of the supernatural to add spice and a touch of melancholy to the lives of her young protagonists. The author "shows her usual lightness of touch," Elspeth S. Scott observed in the School Librarian, predicting the collection would have wide appeal. In contrast, the five tales in Golden Windows, and Other Stories of Jerusalem show readers what life was like in early twentieth-century Jerusalem. In "Beyond the Cross-Stitch Mountains," one story from this collection, eleven-year-old Daskeh conspires with friend Danny to escape the care of her aunt Phina and visit Danny's family, despite the danger in leaving the bomb shelter where they routinely spend each nights during Israel's 1948 War for Independence. "Dreams of Fire" shows the after-effects of this wartime experience on young Danny as memories of death and violence return to haunt him in the form of a memorial built to honor the war. Reviewer Ellen Mandel praised Golden Windows in Booklist as "well-written, laced with subtleties of history, and rich in personal emotion."

Beyond the Cross-Stitch Mountains, which was published as a separate book in the United Kingdom, draws on the author's Jewish heritage. Similarly, Geras's novel The Girls in the Velvet Frame takes as its setting the city of Jerusalem circa 1913 and focuses on five sisters whose brother Isaac left for the United States and has been out of contact for months. "The appeal of this charming book comes … from the accurate, penetrating and quite unsentimental portraits of the five children and of their elders," Marcus Crouch noted in a review of The Girls in the Velvet Frame for the Times Literary Supplement. Cyrisse Jaffee praised the story's fictional characters, and added in School Library Journal that "marvelous descriptions of time and place add contours" to the novella.

The full-length novel Voyage also focuses on the history of the Jewish people, this time by following a group of characters who flee from the poverty of Eastern Europe by enduring a fifteen-day crossing of the Atlantic Ocean aboard a tightly packed ship. The sight of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor at journey's end is the beginning of a new life for the characters. The book's vignettes "cleverly [reveal] not only the happenings on board but the thoughts, hopes, fears, and memories of the little community," Ethel L. Heins wrote in Horn Book.

Among Geras's most notable novels for young adults are the books comprising the "Egerton Hall" series. Set in Egerton Hall boarding school in 1963, the stories revolve around three friends: Alice, Bella, and Megan. In The Tower Room modern-day Rapunzel Megan is freed from the boarding school's lackluster tower room after falling in love with a handsome young laboratory assistant at Egerton Hall. In Watching the Roses Geras draws from the Sleeping Beauty legend in telling Alice's story. On the night of her eighteenth birthday party, Alice is attacked and raped by the son of her family's gardener. Her story is told in the diary entries she writes as she tries to recover from the shock of the event. Time seems to stop while Alice deals with her concerns over how the rape will affect her relationship with Jean-Luc, her own handsome prince. Florence H. Munat praised Watching the Roses in the Voice of Youth Advocates, noting that Geras "has deftly added just the right modern twists and details to allure older readers back to the story that enchanted them as children." The author's fairy-tale trilogy is completed with a modern-day retelling of Snow White's story, casting eighteen-year-old Bella in the lead. Pictures of the Night finds evil step- mother Marjorie so jealous of her stepdaughter's budding singing career that she tries to kill the young woman. In a Kirkus Reviews assessment of the novel, one critic called Geras "a writer distinguished for her imaginative power and fresh, vivid writing."

With Troy, Geras brings the tumultuous Trojan War to life through the eyes of four teenagers living in ancient Greece, each of whom is connected to a major figure in the epic conflict. Xanthe is nursemaid to Andromache and Hector's infant son; her sister, Marpessa, is maidservant to Helen and Paris. Polyxena, identified as the granddaughter of the "singer"—Homer—is her grandfather's caretaker. Stable hand Iason, who adores Xanthe, is too shy to express his feelings; he is more comfortable talking to Hector's war horses. "It's a domestic and youthful view of Troy," the author told Julia Eccleshare in a London Guardian interview, "rather than the heroic and traditional one." The teens in Troy, while learning about the realities of love and war, also encounter the gods, as when Eros shoots his arrow at Xanthe.

Ruminator Review contributor Christine Alfano notes that Geras integrates myth and reality by presenting the gods and goddesses in Troy "as living characters. They are strongly present throughout the novel and keep their fingers on the strings of fate." Patricia Lothrop-Green, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, found some of the key characters "thin, one-dimensional figures." A Publishers Weekly contributor stated that the novel accomplishes two goals: "Mythology buffs will savor the author's ability to embellish stories of old without diminishing their original flavor; the uninitiated will find this a captivating introduction to one of the pivotal events of classic Greek literature." New York Times Book Review critic Elizabeth Deveraux, citing Geras's "contemporary" attitude, noted that Troy performs "a valuable service: it paves a road into the realm of Homer, then lures young readers along its course."

Drawing on the events figuring in both the epic The Odyssey and Illiad, Ithaka focuses on the events occurring on Odysseus's home front while the hero strives to return to his kingdom. The novel is told through the eyes of Klymene, a girl in the service of Odysseus's wife Queen Penelope. Assumed to be a widow because her husband has not returned, the wealthy Penelope is plagued by suitors hoping to convince her to remarry. While the actual epic depicts Penelope as the essense of faithfulness, here Geras portrays her as a real woman with real emotions, as plagued by loneliness and human desire as is the starry-eyed and idealistic young Klymene. Klymene is in love with Prince Telemachus, but the prince has already been smitten by another: the young maid Melantho, who has also stolen Klymene's brother's heart. When one of Penelope's suitors falls in love with Klymene, the teen must navigate the tricky world of court intrigue and avoid upsetting the fickle Greek gods as she pursues the attention of her beloved. "Lovers of Greek mythology will appreciate the authentic flavor of this book, but readers need not be familiar with The Odyssey," assured a Publishers Weekly critic. School Library Journal reviewer Patricia D. Lothrop felt that "readers looking for a romance novel set in ancient Greece … will be as pleased with Ithaka as they were with Troy." According to Holly Koelling in Booklist, Geras's "visceral, lusty, tragic retelling will draw older teens," while Horn Book reviewer Anita L. Burkham concluded of the novel that "Geras gives this tale the epic treatment it deserves.

In addition to historical fiction, Geras has penned contemporary novels for both young teens and adults. Other Echoes draws from the author's own childhood spent in North Borneo (now Malaysia). The novel's narrator, nineteen-year-old Flora, is recovering from exhaustion at her boarding school, and recalls the events that shaped her childhood. According to Janis Flint-Ferguson in Kliatt, Geras "tells the story of a girl learning to fit in, of finding her own way and coming to appreciate the role that writing plays in such growth and development."

The author's love of both opera and ballet figure into much of her writing, and her "Magic of Ballet" series helps young audiences understand well-known dance productions by narrating the stories behind four ballets: Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker. Geared for older readers, The Random House Book of Opera Stories presents the tales behind such productions as Aïda, The Magic Flute, Turandot, and The Love for Three Oranges. Geras also presents a picture-book introduction to the dance designed for young children in Time for Ballet. "As much about movement as ballet, this warm story aptly conveys a child's love of dance," wrote Susan Pine in School Library Journal.

Focusing on young readers, Geras's chapter books for beginning readers include the "Cats of Ku of Cuckoo Square" series. Comprising Callie's Kitten, Geejay's Hero, Blossom's Revenge, and Picasso Perkins, the tales feature four cats that share the same neighborhood. Blossom and her owner plot to get rid of an obnoxious human pest, while Perkins models for a painting, which he decorates with his own paw prints as a final touch. These chapter books are "just the right challenge for early chapter-book readers," according to Caroline Ward in School Library Journal. Geras has also contributed to the "Quick Reads" series with Lily: A Ghost Story. Quick Reads "are aimed at people who might be frightened of a fat book or of going into a conventional bookshop," Geras explained to a writer for Europe Intelligence Wire.

Geras has also written a collection of folk tales for younger readers. Originally published in 1990, My Grandmother's Stories received new life when it was re-illustrated by award-winning artist Anita Lobel. Susan Pine, writing in School Library Journal, noted that all the stories included "impart universal truths about everyday foibles and follies" and should be "shared and treasured." A Publishers Weekly critic predicted that "a treat is in store for readers of all faiths" with this book.

In 2003 Geras published her first adult novel, Facing the Light, a multi-layered story about a family over a time-span of seventy-five years. The novel describes the seventy-fifth birthday celebration of Leonora, during which some old family secrets emerge. Geras has followed this novel with several other works of fiction for adults, among them Hester's Story, a novel about a retired prima ballerina, and Made in Heaven, about a lavish family wedding. Of the former, Kliatt reviewer Nola Theiss commented: "The world of ballet … is interesting and the story is filled with some well-drawn characters."

When asked why she likes writing for children by a Word Pool Online interviewer, Geras explained: "Children read properly. They have the time. If they like a book, they live in it, and it becomes part of their lives." Whether intended for adults or children, Geras's books share similar themes. "Geras is interested in people and understands them, especially girls," Eccleshare wrote in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. "Her books have an emotional integrity which makes them satisfying. Though not challenging or highly plotted they are all very well constructed and the fluent writing makes them easy to read and enjoy."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

St. James Guide to Young-Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1989.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 1984, p. 1609; October 15, 1993; November 15 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 582; April 15 1997, Lauren Peterson, review of From Lullaby to Lullaby, p. 1436; October 15, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Random House Book of Opera Stories, p. 414; November 1, 1998, Michael Cart, review of The Fabulous Fantoras, Book One: Family Files, p. 490; June 1, 1999, review of The Fabulous Fantoras, Book Two: Family Photographs, p. 1829; April 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Troy, p. 1482; September 1, 2001, Zvirin, review of The Cats of Cuckoo Square: Two Stories; December 15, 2002, Lauren Peterson, review of My Wishes for You, p. 766; February 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Time for Ballet, p. 975; May 1, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Sleeping Beauty, p. 1556; December 15, 2005, Holly Koelling, review of Ithaka, p. 39.

Bookseller, November 5, 2004, "Royal Over-Seas League," p. 11.

Books for Keeps, May, 1996, review of A Lane to the Land of the Dead, and Other Stories, p. 17; September, 1996, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 32; March, 1999, review of The Six Swan Brothers, p. 21, and Silent Snow, Secret Snow, p. 27; May, 1999, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 27; July, 1999, review of Sun Slices, Moon Slices, p. 20; November, 1999, review of Josephine and Pobble and Mimi; and Apricot Max, p. 16.

Books for Your Children, autumn, 1992, p. 27.

Childhood Education, summer, 2003, Aaron Condon, review of Troy, p. 245.

Children's Bookwatch, May, 1997, review of From Lullaby to Lullaby, p. 3.

Christian Science Monitor, May 13, 1983.

Dance, December, 2001, review of "The Magic of Ballet" series, p. 77.

Emergency Librarian, May, 1998, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 51.

Europe Intelligence Wire, March 8, 2007, "Top Writer Shares Her Words of Wisdom with Schoolgirls"; March 23, 2007, "Renowned Author Inspires."

Guardian (London, England), March 28, 2000, review of Troy, p. 63; July 13, 2001, Julia Eccleshare, "Notes from an Accidental Career."

Horn Book, February, 1983, pp. 43, 44; August, 1983, p. 452; September-October, 1984, p. 596; March-April, 1993, p. 211; January-February, 2006, Anita L. Burkam, review of Ithaka, p. 78.

Junior Bookshelf, December, 1976, p. 326; June, 1994, p. 100; August, 1994, p. 134; June, 1996, review of A Candle in the Dark, p. 113; December, 1996, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 251.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1984, p. J8; March 15, 1993; October 15, 1996, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 1532; April 1, 1997, review of From Lullaby to Lullaby, p. 554; May 1, 2001, review of Sleep Tight, Ginger Kitten, p. 659; October 1, 2001, review of The Cats of Cuckoo Square, p. 1423; February 1, 2004, review of Time for Ballet, p. 133; December 15, 2005, review of Ithaka, p. 1322.

Kliatt, March, 2005, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Other Echoes, p. 10.

New Statesman, December 4, 1998, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 60.

New York Times Book Review, July 15, 2001, Elizabeth Deveraux, review of Troy, p. 25.

Publishers Weekly, October 15, 1982, p. 66; November 25, 1996, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 74; March 17, 1997, review of From Lullaby to Lullaby, p. 82; August 10, 1998, review of The Fabulous Fantoras, Book One, p. 388; August 31, 1998, review of The Random House Book of Opera Stories, p. 78; May 7, 2001, reviews of Sleep Tight, Ginger Kitten, p. 245, and Troy, p. 248; August 25, 2003, review of My Grandmother's Stories, p. 51; March 1, 2004, review of Time for Ballet, p. 67; January 2, 2006, review of Ithaka, p. 63; June 26, 2006, review of Happy Endings, p. 54.

Ruminator Review, summer, 2001, Christine Alfano, review of Troy, pp. 53-54.

School Librarian, June, 1983, pp. 162, 165; November, 1992, p. 157; May, 1994, p. 60; May, 1995, p. 77; May, 1996, review of A Candle in the Dark, p. 62; winter, 1999, review of Sun Slices, Moon Slices, p. 185; summer, 1999, reviews of Silent Snow, Secret Snow and The Six Swan Brothers, pp. 79, 99.

School Library Journal, September, 1979, p. 138; February, 1997, Donna Scanlon, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 90; July, 1997, Sue Norris, review of From Lullaby to Lullaby, p. 67; October, 1998, Renee Steinberg, review of The Random House Book of Opera Stories, p. 153; January, 1999, Eva Mitnick, review of The Fabulous Fantoras, Book One, p. 127; May, 2001, Rosalyn Pierini, review of Sleep Tight, Ginger Kitten, p. 115; July, 2001, Patricia Lothrop-Green, review of Troy, p. 108; November, 2001, Amy Kellman, review of Giselle and Sleeping Beauty, p. 123; December, 2001, Caroline Ward, review of The Cats of Cuckoo Square, p. 102; December, 2002, Be Astengo, review of My Wishes for You, p. 96; August, 2003, Susan Pine, review of My Grandmother's Stories, p. 149; February, 2004, Susan Pine, review of Time for Ballet, p. 112; August, 2004, Susan Scheps, review of Sleeping Beauty, p. 107; October, 2004, review of Time for Ballet, p. S26; February, 2006, Patricia D. Lothrop, review of Ithaka, p. 131.

Times Educational Supplement, February 5, 1999, review of Silent Snow, Secret Snow, p. 27; September 24, 1999, review of The Cats of Cuckoo Square, p. 48.

Times Literary Supplement, September 29, 1978, p. 1083; March 27, 1981, p. 340; January 27, 1984; November 30, 1984; June 6, 1986.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1992, p. 278.

ONLINE

Adèle Geras's Home Page,http://www.adelegeras.com/ (April 26, 2007).

Word Pool Web site,http://www.wordpool.com.

Autobiography Feature

Adèle Geras

Adèle Geras contributed the following autobiographical essay to SATA:

It is March 15, 1995, and my fifty-first birthday. It seems appropriate, somehow, to start an autobiography on a significant date. There's a symmetry about it which pleases me. One of the things I most enjoy about writing is the creation of patterns. I like putting things into an order; I like my work to have a structure. I'm also obsessed by all kinds of handiwork: embroidery, knitting, sewing, and so on, and images of threads, scissors, needles, and fabrics of one kind and another come up over and over again in what I write, and especially in my poems. One of my first books was called Apricots at Midnight and told the story of an old lady who had made a quilt in which each patch was the starting point for a tale. It seems to me that the principles of patchwork should govern the piece I am embarking on now. Please imagine, therefore, that my life is like a basket, full to overflowing with scraps of material in every possible color. Think of scarlets and blues, wool and silk, florals and stripes, checks and polka dots. What I plan to do is pick out one piece after another and stitch them together into a satisfying shape.

*

Before I begin a book or story, I choose a notebook. The choice is important. I love stationery. I am going to be writing in this notebook almost every day, sometimes for a couple of months, so it has to entice me, to enchant me. I've chosen an extra special one today. It has on the cover a picture of a cat, painted in India in about 1890. This saffron cat, with patches of black, has strange, human, pale blue eyes, and it's holding a glum-looking fish in its mouth. The notebook is ring-bound, and the paper is thick and white and unlined and luxurious. At the back of the book, there are with a few pages of music manuscript paper that make me wish I knew how to compose a song. I am writing with a black pen. I always do. I go back over what I've written with red, then turquoise, and only when I've corrected the manuscript about three times am I ready to put my

words onto the word processor. I write lying down on my sofa, which is comfortable and upholstered in black velvet. I have a cushion at my back, and the notebook leaning on knees. I write very quickly, as though there were a time limit; as though I were in an xamination and the invigilator were about to stop me.

*

In 1944, on this day, I was born in Jerusalem. The world was still at war, and Jerusalem was still part of Palestine, under the authority of the British Government. The State of Israel was four years away. My father, Laurence Weston, was in the British Army in Egypt. I am an only child. My mother, Leah Hamburger, was one of nine children, so I have many cousins. One of these, Danny, became an honorary brother. When I first went to boarding school in England in 1955, I put his photo on my chest-of-drawers, next to a picture of my parents. I told anyone who asked that he was my brother, and my poor mother was quite disconcerted, when she came to visit me, to be asked how her son was.

*

My father's father died before I was born. He adored Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and my father always said he would have loved me very much. When I was a child, I could never understand why he kept telling me this, but now I know exactly what he meant. My own father died when Sophie, my elder daughter, was one year old, and I find myself thinking very often of how much he would have loved her and her sister, Jenny, and being filled with a kind of frustration that he has missed knowing them, seeing them grow up. My paternal grandmother was called Messoda. She came from Morocco. She was a magnificent cook. She was a magical storyteller. I have memories of her in my aunt Vivienne's house in Cardiff, looking out of place in Wales: too exotic, too foreign, muttering under her breath, with something gypsylike and glamorous about her, even in old age.

*

My mother's mother was known to all her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren as Ima Gdola (Big Mother). She was quite an old lady by the time I was born, but according to family legend she had once been a fair-haired, blue-eyed beauty with an eighteen-inch waist. She married at sixteen; she was a widow before she was forty. My grandfather must have had raven-black hair, because all my aunts and uncles on my mother's side are either blonde, with a reddish tinge, or else dark, with straight eyebrows. I am named after an aunt who died before I was born. She was one of the dark ones. Her photograph much enlarged and in a wooden frame, hung in the dining room of Ima Gdola's apartment. The first Adèle is leaning on her hand. She is wearing a lace blouse, with a high collar, and staring soulfully into the distance.

*

When I was about two years old, we lived for a while in Rhodes. My father was in charge of a transit camp for men who had been German prisoners-of-war during World War II. The story goes that a man who used to be one of Hitler's cooks asked my mother whether he could teach me the words of "Lili Marlene" in German. She refused. I don't know how true this is, but it's a good story.

*

My cousin Danny and I played together all the time. He is four years older than I am and completely fearless. When we were small children, he was a climber-on-top-of-wardrobes, and a jumper-off-the-wardrobe-and-onto-the-bed. Once, he banged his mouth on the metal bedstead, and the pillows were covered with blood from his cut lip. He used to make a tent out of one of my grandmother's royal blue blankets, which was bound with wide, blue satin ribbon, and we'd lie in the blanket-tent and pretend the woolly blueness was the night sky.

*

From an early age, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. My relations were constantly asking me to sing and admiring me greatly whenever I did. I loved dressing up in my aunt Sara's (tiny) shoes and my mother's scarves and jewels. Therefore, as soon as I saw my first movie, I knew at once that what I was going to be was "A Star." Musicals were my favorite kind of movie. When I was nine years old and we lived in North Borneo, my friend Monica and I used to go and gaze at Jane Powell, Ann Miller, Kathryn Grayson, and Esther Williams, and our games reflected what we saw. There was a beach at the bottom of our garden that looked much like the set for Pagan Love Song, so Esther Williams-type cavortings in the water went on a lot. The boys we knew always wanted to play cowboys, and once I was tied to a tree for hours while my friends disappeared to have a gunfight or organize a stampede somewhere else.

*

My aunt Sara was married to a crazy American journalist called Mike. He and my dad were great friends. Mike would come home late, late at night, sometimes in the early hours of the morning, after working in the offices of the Jerusalem Post, and he would always wake me up to play with me, sing to me, or read to me.

I guess my mother must have objected, but Mike was like a tornado of enthusiasm and he loved me so much! He and Sara never had children, so they shared me with my parents. I didn't mind. I was a terrible sleeper as a young child.

*

My children have lived in the same two streets throughout their childhood. They both went to local schools, and all the shopkeepers in the area have known them since birth. Until I was eleven, I never stayed at any school for longer than a year or two. This was because my father (after 1948, when the state of Israel came into being) joined the British Colonial Service and was sent to all kinds of places (Nigeria, North Borneo, The Gambia, Tanzania) as long as the British Empire lasted. When people asked him, towards the end of his life, why he didn't simply retire and live in England, he'd answer: "Oh, I couldn't live in England … the policemen don't salute me!" He was only partly joking. As a lawyer, and later a High Court judge, he enjoyed being quite a big fish in an exotic pond.

*

We spent some months in London before my father took up his first colonial post, in Nigeria. I remember almost everything as black and white, like an old movie, but one place was a monument to color and glamour and luxury and light. This was Lyons Corner House in Marble Arch. We used to go there to eat fish-and-chips and multicolored ice creams in silver dishes, or sundaes in tall glasses. I remember it as vast, and brightly lit, and were there really marble columns rising up to the ceiling? Certainly the waitresses wore black dresses and frilly white caps and starched white aprons, and tunes from Ivy Benson's All-Girl Band poured over us like musical maple syrup as we sat there. I thought Lyons Corner House was Paradise. Outside Lyons, London in the early fifties was a dark place. John Christie, the serial killer, was at large. My mother has always maintained that he, Christie, once spoke to her in the street. It's perfectly possible. We were living in a hotel in Notting Hill Gate, right round the corner from the infamous Rillington Place.

*

In my school in Ibadan, Nigeria, we read about English history from a fat book called Our Island Story, which concentrated on dramatic episodes like the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. The ladies in the colored illustrations were dressed in wonderful costumes and looked noble and tragic. I don't recollect ever being taught mathematics at this age. My friends didn't believe me when I told them I was born in Jerusalem. "You can't have been," they'd say. "Jerusalem is in heaven."

*

My father read poetry aloud to me all the time. He never cared whether I understood it fully, but he would always explain if necessary. His brother, my uncle Reggie, was a painter living in Paris, and my father loved Paris better than anywhere else on earth. Every time my parents had home leave, we would spend some time there. We used to walk round art galleries for hours at a time. I had an exercise book into which I stuck postcards of paintings we had looked at together. All those galleries must have made an impression on me. Somewhere in my attic there is a story I wrote when I was nearly ten. It is about a mouse called Squeaker de Whiskers Blanches, who lived with his family of many baby mice behind a Cézanne in the Jeu de Paumes. I still love looking at paintings, and in Manchester we are lucky to have wonderful museums and art galleries. In the Whitworth there is a casket embroidered most beautifully by a young girl of twelve in 1644. Her name was Hannah Smith, and I've been obsessed by this casket since I first saw it, and I've written poems, stories, and even a play about it.

*

My father's work took him all around Nigeria. My mother and I followed him. In a place called Onitcha we lived in an enormous house with bats roosting in the roofspace. They came out at night and flopped around the cavernous rooms. We used to retire under the gauzy mosquito nets at twilight to hide from them. Around the house, blood red lilies grew in terrifying profusion.

*

In Kano, I fell ill with jaundice. My memory of the place is of somewhere very yellow, both because of my illness and because of the yellow walls of all the houses, and the general sandiness and desertlike feel of the town.

*

In Lagos, I had a friend called Alero, who had lots of brothers and sisters. I envied her and spent the night at her house as often as my parents would allow. We used to play a game called "What is the time, Mr. Wolf?" following Alero's big brother, Peter, until the horrifying moment when he turned around, crying "Dinner time!" and chased us into the hibiscus bushes. We knew the wolf was Peter, really, but there was always that heart-stopping second just before we saw his face when we thought: maybe he's changed … maybe his face has stretched and grown and become furry … maybe his teeth are sharp and white … maybe he truly will eat us up.

*

The house we live in now was built in 1911. It stands at the bottom of a cul-de-sac in a leafy suburb of

Manchester. We have been in this house for twelve years. The garden is tiny, but in it there is a wonderful spreading camellia which is now covered in pink flowers. In a couple of weeks, the yellow blossom on the laburnum tree will appear. All the rooms are well-proportioned, with high ceilings, and every window has a border of stained glass flowers at the top. The utility room (where the washing machine lives; where brooms and ironing boards are kept) has wooden walls. I have stuck hundreds and hundreds of pictures all over them: postcards, photographs, pictures cut from magazines. It's another kind of patchwork.

*

In North Borneo we lived in a town called Jesselton. Our house was a long bungalow with a verandah running along one side of it. There were halves of coconut shells hanging from the verandah roof, and in these orchids grew and grew, looking more like dragons than like flowers. The whole building was raised on stilts, because rain in Borneo means business, and roads turn into rivers overnight.

*

The school hut in Jesselton was a palm-thatched rickety affair, also up on stilts. Our teacher's name was Mrs. Arrowsmith, and she was married to a policeman, who drove her to school each day. Monica and I used to get to the hut especially early so that we could watch them kissing good-bye in the car. Mrs. Arrowsmith was delightful, but everyone over the age of eleven was at boarding school back in England. Monica and I were great readers of Enid Blyton's "Malory Towers" books and could hardly wait to sample midnight feasts and pleated tunics. My father thought that English food would put roses in my cheeks; that English teachers would teach me Latin and even manage to steer me through the mathematical rapids I'd been cheerfully avoiding all through my early childhood.

*

I may not have been any great shakes at arithmetic, but as a young child, I wrote up a storm. I wrote long poems about characters from Greek mythology; I wrote abut Helen of Troy. Behind our house, the purple mass of Mount Kinabalu rose into the clouds, and I wrote a story about a dragon who lived at the top of the mountain for a competition run by the local newspaper, the Sabah Times. I have always adored competitions and still go in for as many as I can. These days, it's mostly poetry competitions I favour, but I'm happy to turn my hand to stories as well. My dragon tale won first prize, and I was presented with a grey and gold Parker 51 pen-and-pencil set. I think it was the lustre of the dull gold, the sheen of the velvet lining the case, and above all the possibilities of all those words locked-up in the ink of the pen, the lead of the pencil that started my lifelong love affair with writing implements. Certainly having the story printed on the front page of the newspaper, with my name at the top, was a thrilling moment. I have no idea where that Parker set is now, although I can remember having it when I first arrived at my boarding school in January, 1955.

*

Dragons are everywhere in Borneo. Chinese shops had enormous dragon-masks hanging from the walls, and the creature is depicted on every available surface. I still have a silk dressing gown with a beautiful, twisting, blue dragon embroidered onto the back. The silk is brittle and yellowed, but the fabulous beast is as bright and vibrant as he was over forty years ago.

*

Wherever I go, I glance into windows. I've done it for as long as I can remember. Whether I'm walking, or on a bus or train, my head is permanently turned to one side, looking for the possibility of a glimpse, however brief, of other lives. When I write, the same process takes place in my head. I'm looking into imaginary windows, which I've devised for myself, and asking such questions as: who lives here? What's happening in their lives? What time of day is it? What season? Who, in particular, am I watching? What sort of story will it be? The most important question of all is: where am I going to situate myself as the writer in relation to the people in my story? It's as though I had a camera in my hand. What shall I focus on? Where will the edges of the picture come?

*

Where do ideas spring from? It's something which writers are asked over and over again. There are all sorts of answers to it, which can be reduced to one which sounds silly: ideas come from the writer. Well, OK, that's obvious enough, but what exactly does it mean? It means that our stories, our poems, come from our memories and our obsessions; from places we remember, from objects we are drawn to; from people who have interested or frightened or enchanted us; from the rooms of our childhood and the thick soup of everything in the world that we have read, seen, heard, smelled, eaten, and lived. A questioner might then say: fine, but what things in particular obsess and fascinate you? What is it that makes you want to write?

In my case, quite often, it's specific places. My own Ima Gdola's house in My Grandmother's Stories and Golden Windows; North Borneo in Other Echoes; my boarding school in The Tower Room and its sequels and so on. There are also places I see which ask for a story to be written about them. For instance, the old junk shop (now sadly closed) called J.F. Blood and Sons which begged for a vampire tale that I have now at last written, and which appears in a collection of ghost stories set in Manchester.

I love describing houses and rooms and enjoy reading books which pay proper attention to fixtures and fittings. I love describing almost anything: clothes, food, scenery—you name it. It's a substitute, I think, for not being able to paint. I try not to let this tendency hold up the narrative, and I've developed quite a critical eye and a fairly ruthless blue pencil which I hope sees to it that the descriptions don't go on too long or become too boring.

Here are some of the other things which appear again and again in my work: cats, sets of Russian nesting dolls, families with many children, older sisters (resourceful, clever) with younger, weaker brothers, Jerusalem, old women, photographs, jewellery, fabric, clothes, the sea, homelessness and exile, and every conceivable kind of handiwork, especially the ones (sewing, tapestry, embroidery) at which I am quite useless.

*

My English teachers at school, Miss Godfray and Miss Sturgis, stand like ghosts at my shoulder while I am go- ing through my work, correcting it. They were eagle-eyed and swift to pounce on adjectives that were surplus to requirements, two words where one would do, redundant clauses, and anything at all they regarded as "showing off." Their red ink pens used to draw neat lines through entire paragraphs and write the damning word: "irrelevant" in the left-hand margin. Now I have to do their work for myself, and I hope I'm getting better at it. As well as my teachers, there was also my father. He was a great one for giving advice about what he considered to be Good English. It's thanks to him that I haven't dreamed of splitting an infinitive since I was ten years old, and I bet his shade is groaning somewhere every time someone uses the phrase: "at the end of the day" when they do not mean "evening."

*

But I am a show-off. I have always loved performing. I talk too much, in spite of eight years at a boarding school where teachers were forever saying: "Do be quiet, Adèle!" It seems I'm incapable of quiet. I am noisy. My daughter Sophie once referred to my "fluorescent voice," and I suppose that's accurate. I have the vocal equivalent of day-glo socks. This is a disadvantage most of the time, but used to be a terrific asset in the days when I was singing on stage. Microphones were unnecessary for the most part, and there wasn't a problem about the back row of the audience catching the words.

*

During World War II, North Borneo had been occupied by the Japanese. My friend Monica and her brother Ronnie had both been born in a prisoner-of-war camp. There was a thin volume on the top shelf of our bookcase called Kinabalu Guerrillas, which was the only book in the house my parents had forbidden me to read. It became in my mind something like the locked room in the Bluebeard story. I had to know what was in it. One day while they were busy somewhere else, I climbed up and found the book and opened it. It detailed all the atrocities of the recent Occupation and I put it back wishing I had never read it. But I did read it, all the way through to the end, even though I could have stopped at any time.

*

My first appearance in public was at a Red Cross concert in Jesselton in 1952. I sang "You Made Me Love You" and "Pretty Little Black-eyed Suzie" in a tent set up in the middle of a field. I realized then that there was no sound in the world like applause. Between 1952 and 1967, I sang at every possible opportunity. I sang in the choir at school; I sang (accompanied by a guitarist from Liverpool) in the streets of Paris in the summer of 1963, and made a fortune by passing a hat around the assembled tourists. I sang all through my college years, in student reviews, and shows, and cabarets. I sang on stage in the West End of London, on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and even in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. Later on, I continued to sing as I pushed my babies along the pavements in their buggies, but by then it was under my breath. I only let rip at the children's bedtime, when my husband and I would take it in turn to do the lullaby session. My specialties were "Bye-bye Blackbird," "Lulu's Back in Town" and, best of all, "Over the Rainbow." There's a tiny part of me still that imagines I'm really Judy Garland.

*

I was happy at Roedean, my boarding school. I was a noisy, exuberant child who was longing for the company of other people … the more the merrier. I was clever enough to do well, but not clever enough (dreadful, still, at math and science and appalling at all sporting activities) to intimidate anyone. I was a good chameleon, finding it easy to blend in with what was required to please a set of strangers. I am not obstinate, or single-minded, or brave, so I found it easy to accommodate myself to quite often silly rules and regulations. I was homesick at first, but not cripplingly so, and easily distracted by the next nice thing that happened. I've always been like that. I find it difficult to be unhappy for long, and count myself extremely fortunate that, for the most part, my life has proceeded smoothly. I think this incapacity for misery may be inherited. My father always maintained that he was allergic to unhappiness, and actually ran a temperature on some occasions when life was going badly for him.

*

All through my school days, I had no proper answer to the question: "Where do you live?" At boarding school, thoughts of home are very important, and there was much discussion of possessions, rooms, gardens, and so forth. There were photographs of parents and siblings standing next to flower beds and favourite trees, and references to dresses and shoes left behind in "my cupboard" because they were unsuitable for school. I had a home too, in the sense that my parents lived somewhere, but because that somewhere wasn't in Britain, I only went there once a year for the long summer holidays. Christmas and Easter holidays were spent moving round the country from one friend's home to another, and my base was my aunt Vivienne's house in Rhiwbina, a suburb of Cardiff. Vivienne was divorced. She lived with her mother, Messoda, and her two sons, Wyn and John. The house was small, in a long street of other small houses. I stayed there so often that I even had a circle of friends, and together we went to Saturday morning movies at the Monico cinema. Vivienne wore bright red lipstick and filled the house with laughter. Messoda cooked Moroccan dishes in the

kitchen, and Wyn and John did little boy-stuff in the field behind the house.

*

I always enjoyed staying with friends. In one place, I went riding with Jillian, and discovered how terrifyingly high up a horse's back is. One of my friends was called Patricia, and she was the youngest daughter of the school doctor. Their house in Brighton seemed the perfect home to me, and their family (three daughters and a son) the perfect family. I suppose they must have been very well-off. The garden was huge and well-stocked with shrubs, and there were at least five bedrooms. I had another friend called Kaye, whose parents ran a public house in Portsmouth. Her mother had to get up at six o'clock to make sausage rolls and pies for the day. Kaye also had a very good-looking elder brother called Derek, with whom I was hopelessly infatuated.

*

My parents, living in The Gambia in a town that was then called Bathurst but is now called Banjul, were part of a circle that included many French expatriates, who had somehow slipped over the border from the neighbouring French colony of Senegal. My mother worked for a man called Marc, who was divinely handsome and more than twice my age. I fell in love with him, but an occasional dance at the Club was as close as I got. The summer after I was fourteen, I met another Frenchman, named Jean. He had the most extraordinary turquoise eyes, and he was the first man to kiss me properly. I returned to school after the summer holidays full of information for my contemporaries, and with my French conversation greatly improved. It was also in The Gambia that I began to get some inkling of the pains of love. My parents had a good friend who was having an affair with someone who was not her husband. She broke up with her lover in the end, and I eavesdropped on long and tearful sessions between her and my mother, which often went on late into the night. My father used to drive me the five miles or so to the Club whenever there were dances. He used to sit in the Reading Room, looking at back numbers of the magazines from London, or else chatting to his friends at the bar. When the dance was over, he would drive me home. He didn't mind how late it was, but he would never let me come home with any of the young men, who were all, in his opinion "drunk as Bandusian goats." I do not know what a Bandusian goat is, and have never heard the expression from anyone but my father. After The Gambia, my parents went to Tanzania, which was then called Tanganyika. My father was a judge by then, and our house was next door to the home of Julius Nyerere, who later became president. In the evening the fragrance of cloves from the offshore island of Zanzibar drifted in on the sea breeze. I loved Dar es Salaam. I spent three summers there, and I was old enough by then to do some holiday work. I had a job in a dress shop one summer; I did some schools broadcasting for Tanganyika Radio, reciting long passages of nineteenth-century poetry onto tape for the benefit of students who were far from any teacher. I also showed tourists round the town. Many ships docked in Dar es Salaam, and I conducted excursions in both French and English to places of interest like the sisal factory. My chief memory of those days is of endless barbecues on the beach and dinners at the Aquarium Club. My mother spent a great deal of time turning up the hems of all her dresses so that they would be short enough for me. Then when she wanted to wear them herself, she would take them down again. During my last summer holiday in Tanzania, I took some driving lessons. I loved driving, but failed my test. From that day to this, cars have somehow never been conveniently at hand, so I still don't drive and we have never owned a car. We live in a city well-served by buses; I'm mad about trains, and I've always taken taxicabs at the drop of a hat.

*

I write and receive a great many letters. I wait for the postman every day. Getting mail in the morning makes me happy, and not getting any lowers my spirits in a quite irrational way. Fortunately, being a writer generates a lot of post, and I'm slightly dreading the day when everything becomes electronic. There's no delightful slitting open of envelopes on the Internet. This passion for the post dates from my days at Roedean. It was very important indeed to have frequent letters. Our House Mistress, Miss Ratcliffe, would bring the pile into breakfast with her, and after finishing her slice of toast and marmalade, she would read out the names of everyone who had a letter. We used to squint at the pile, trying to catch a glimpse of distinctive stationery, in my case the blue and red flashes along the edges of an airmail envelope. A writing case had been part of my equipment when I was first sent to school. It was a beautiful red affair with a gold zip, and it contained air-letter cards, a pad of Basildon Bond paper, a packet of envelopes, and a book of stamps. Every Sunday morning, we sat in the prep room writing home. The prefect in charge used to chalk a list of "news items" on the board, for those who didn't otherwise have anything to tell their parents. As I grew older, I searched for more and more elaborate paper. I went through deckled edges, and all manner of fancy pastel colors, before settling at last on the austere (and I hoped elegant) combination of Three Candlesticks notepaper in cream, and always, always the blackest possible ink. I modelled my handwriting on that of a favourite teacher, and one of the reasons I like writing everything in longhand first is because I actually enjoy the way my handwriting looks.

*

Breaking friends with someone was what caused me the most misery during my school days. Not being picked for this or that gang was a tragedy, and one or other of my companions preferring someone else an absolute torment. Failures weren't too much fun, either. I failed all the math exams I ever took, and only managed to scrape a pass in my G.C.E. paper (which I had to have, to qualify for any college) after three attempts. I was also always the last to be picked for any team game whatsoever.

*

I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to go to RADA, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. My parents and my teachers wanted me to go to university. My father was a dreadful snob when it came to universities. He had been at Oxford, so that was where he wanted me to go. The Sorbonne in Paris he also regarded as quite respectable, and Cambridge came a very poor third. No other places could even be considered. I agreed to stay on at school and take the entrance exams, partly because by then I had met a young man who was at Cambridge and was very much in love with him, and partly because I realized that one could do an enormous amount of acting along with the studying. The deal was, I could go to RADA if neither Oxford nor Cambridge accepted me. As it turned out, I went to St. Hilda's College, Oxford, and spent three wonderful years singing and acting and enjoying life and reading modern languages from time to time as well. I've written a memoir of that time, called Yesterday, but have so far resisted the temptation to produce yet another Oxford novel.

*

One evening, about a month after I arrived at St. Hilda's, I was in a pub called The Eastgate. We were on our way to a party. Then someone came in with the news of President Kennedy's assassination. We all went back to our colleges and watched those horrifying images blazing across our television screens for the very first time.

*

When I know what I want to write about, that's when the fun begins. First of all, I daydream about the story, turning it over and over in my mind while I'm cooking, or waiting at the bus stop, or pushing a trolley along the aisles of a supermarket. This part of the writing process is pure pleasure, like playing a game of dolls' houses in my head, and if I'm not careful, it can go on for months. Decisions have to be made now. Whose point of view should I use to tell this tale? Will it be in the first person (which is easier in some ways, but very limiting), or the third person, or a combination of the two? Even after I've decided, I may change my mind and have to rewrite chunks of the book, but I'm ready for this.

*

I started smoking when I was sixteen and didn't give it up until I was nearly forty. I come from a long line of dedicated smokers. My mother has smoked since her childhood; so has my aunt Sara. Their aunt, whom I remember as an ancient crone with prunelike wrinkles, used to exist on black coffee and fierce, untipped cigarettes. In Ima Gdola's apartment, on the Sabbath when smoking is forbidden, all the grown-ups used to make small excursions either to visit a neighbour, or go up to the roof for a quick puff.

From when I was about eight years old, one of my tasks, whenever my mother was dressing to go out, was to move her lipstick, powder compact, comb, and so on from her daytime bag to her evening one. She would sit at the dressing table and put her hair up with long, black pins and spray herself with "Arpege." My other duty was to put one of her cigarettes in my mouth and light it, and then hand it to her, making sure there was an ashtray nearby.

I can truthfully say that I enjoyed every single cigarette I ever smoked, but also that now that I've given it up, I don't miss it or even think about it.

*

After I gave up smoking, I took up knitting to keep my hands busy. I was clumsy at first, but I'm very proficient now, and do all sorts of complicated things: Fair Isle and Aran patterns and intarsia knitting and so forth. Kaffe Fassett, the knitwear genius who transformed the craft in the eighties is a hero of mine, and the character of Filomena (the grandmother in the Fantora books who can tell the future from her knitting) was inspired by his example. He has also said something which I have adopted as a kind of motto. It works for almost everything: "If in doubt, add twenty more colors." I always have some knitting on the go, just as I'm always in the middle of a piece of writing, and the comparisons between the two processes are many. For instance, if you've made a mistake ten rows back, it's no good hoping that no one will notice. Nor is it any good trying to patch it up later. Much the best method is to unpick the work and start over again. This is what I do when I'm writing as well. I read yesterday's piece and fix it up before I go on.

*

When Sophie was five, we had a cat called Pobble. He was a beautiful tabby, with a funny, sideways sort of walk. He didn't live very long. Our house in those days was near a main road, and Pobble became a victim of the traffic. Toey's life was even shorter. He was a lovely ginger-and-white kitten. He used to follow me or my husband when we took Sophie to school. He, too, died on the road. Pobble and Toey were buried in the garden, with rose bushes to mark their graves. We all agreed that the misery of losing the cats was not something we wanted to go through again, so we spent several years with nothing more thrilling than a couple of stick insects to brighten our lives. Jenny was still a baby when Toey died, and as she grew older, she started to nag, gently, and say she wanted a cat. We agreed in the end. We no longer live near the main road, and Mimi has been with us for nearly five years. As she is a female, she is more home-loving than adventurous, and she is easily the most beautiful, clever, affectionate, and thoroughly wonderful cat in the whole world, and we are all devoted to her. She is usually called Meems. I have written about all three of our cats. Toey has a whole small book called after him, and Pobble appears in it as well. I've written many poems about Meems and also one about Pobble.

*

A person's writing style is largely unconscious, and it's almost impossible for a writer to analyse the elements of her own work. The main aim I have when I write is to find a suitable language for the story I'm telling. The right words depend on who the people in the story are. To put it at its most obvious: the words of a group of young male soldiers in an Army camp will be different from those of two old ladies in turn-of-the-century Cheltenham. The setting, the time, the characters—all these dictate the language, and it's almost as though, for each story, I put on a different costume, and different kinds of words come out. I regard writing as another form of acting and always see the action unfolding in my mind's eye as though it were a movie running in my head.

*

I met my husband, Norman Geras, at Oxford. We were married on August 7th, 1967, and in the words of the music hall song: "It Don't Seem a Day Too Much." We came to live in Manchester because Norm had been appointed a junior lecturer in the Government Department of the university. We have lived here ever since. It's a handsome and exciting city with a long and illustrious history, and not at all the black hellhole we had been led to expect from rumours we'd heard in the south. I would have married Norm whatever he'd been called, but "Geras" is a wonderful name to have if you write for children. It puts you on the same shelf as Jane Gardam, Leon Garfield, and Alan Garner, and just a bit along from Anne Fine. "Geras" has not been an entirely trouble-free name, however. Hardly anyone pronounces it properly. It has a hard "G" and rhymes with "terrace," but I've had all sorts of variations from "giraffe" to "grass."

*

August 7th, 1967; June 28th, 1971; April 19th, 1977: these are the three best days of my life. The first was my wedding day, and the other two dates are Sophie's and Jenny's birthdays. I never write about my immediate family. First of all, I would have to tell the truth and I prefer invention. Secondly, real people are always much more complex and ungraspable than the richest of fictional characters. I have no such inhibitions about my teachers. I've used them and their clothes and habits over and over again in many of my books. Creating characters is a little like playing with those old heads-bodies-legs books where pages are divided into three sections and you can turn them to make all sorts of combinations.

*

I wasn't a very good French teacher. I enjoyed having a captive audience, but I lacked any kind of authority. The only way I could manage to control the more unruly classes was by providing them with a kind of cabaret. I had had no training. In those days, a degree was considered to be enough of' a qualification. I couldn't think of any way to avoid the basic learning of vocabulary and grammar which everyone needed to know before they could go on to do the more pleasant things, like reading the literature. I met one of my old pupils in a school I visited last year. She was Deputy Head of History, which made me feel very ancient indeed. Another ex-pupil wrote to me recently, telling me her twelve-year-old child enjoyed my books. Where, as Villon used to say, are the snows of yesteryear?

*

I am a library junkie. If I can't go into my library on an almost daily basis, I become seriously twitchy and nervous. On Wednesday, when my local branch is closed, I'll go to the shops that lie in the opposite direction and take advantage of a branch that closes on Thursdays. My idea of Hell is living in the depths of the countryside, hours away from the nearest library—and cinema!

*

I never gave children's books a single thought until I started reading picture books to Sophie. I've been a voracious reader all my life, but as children we never had beautiful, full-color, specially designed volumes written just for us. Some of the books we discovered with Sophie and Jenny (Where the Wild Things Are, The Sign on Rosie's Door, Mouse Tales, The Stone Doll of Sister Brute) were magnificent, and Norm and I read them over and over again with enormous pleasure to ourselves. Not every book, however, was of this standard. Some were, quite frankly, dreadful. It's reciting stuff like that night after night, which makes many exasperated parents feel: "I could do so much better." Not everyone goes on actually to write a story, and I don't suppose I would have done so, either, were it not for a competition in the London Times newspaper. As soon as I saw the contest announced, memories of my wonderful Parker pen-and-pencil set flashed into my mind. I wrote a story and sent it off, and although it did not win, it did become the starting point for Apricots at Midnight. It's a ghost story called "Rose," and the mo- ment I'd finished it, I knew that this was what I wanted to do from now on. It was completely pleasurable. You simply made things up; gave words to your best fantasies. You could do anything you wanted: travel in time and space, re-invent yourself, redesign the universe if you felt so inclined. You could do all this without any special equipment and without having to go to an office or factory. You could do it at the kitchen table, while your baby sucked on a rusk. You could pick your work up when your child was napping and put it down when she woke up. Best of all, you could tell yourself stories … once upon a time …

*

I am extremely lazy. Having failed to win the competition, I decided that as picture-book texts were very short, they would be an easy place to begin. I was wrong. Picture books are expensive to produce and are perhaps, the very worst way to start, particularly if the writer is not also the artist. It was only after two years of wall-to-wall rejection slips that I discovered the best place to begin was with what are called "series books." I wrote a story for a series called "Gazelles," published by Hamish Hamilton. It was called Tea at Mrs. Manderby's. They accepted it, and it appeared in 1976. Since then, I have published nearly fifty books, quite a

number of which have also come out in the United-States. My novels and stories appear on the children's list. I write for very young children and also for what publishers call "young adults." If I am working on something I hope a five-year-old will like, I will not focus on the marital or financial difficulties of a sixty-year-old advertising executive. But—and I would like to emphasize this—I do not regard writing for children as an easier option or in any way inferior to writing for grown-ups. I try occasionally to think of an appropriate answer to the person who once asked me: "Will you write a real book when you've had the practice?" I was speechless at the time and I still am. The main differences between "grown-up" books and children's books are that the former are much longer and the latter generally (though not invariably) have children or teenagers as the main characters. Many writers of teenage novels are producing work that is infinitely more complicated and demanding than much of the fiction found on the adult lists. And (abracadabra! the magic of the movies!) the moment a book is metamorphosed into a film, it becomes perfect for every single member of the family.

*

When I'm writing for younger children, I try to keep my audience in mind, and often make life easier for myself by having the main character or narrator be the same age as the readers for whom the book is intended. Beyond a certain level of understanding (and I don't know at what biological age this takes place), I write to please myself. That sounds selfish, but what I mean is: I try to write the kind of book that I enjoy reading. I am the first person who has to be absorbed and interested, crying at all the sad bits and falling in love with the hero. I read every word I ever write aloud, and am amazed to discover that some people find this unnecessary. How they seek out clumsy rhythms and hideous repetitions is a mystery to me.

*

I try to put off writing as long as I possibly can. I think about the book constantly, imagining what the cover will look like, composing reviews, fantasising about interviews on the television—anything to push back the time when I actually have to put pen to paper. Starting to write is terrifying. It's like diving into a swimming pool, or like the first few seconds on stage, when every word you ever knew seems to have flown out of your head. But (and it's important to remember this) once the first sentence is written, the worst is over. This is true even if the words you have put down are the purest rubbish, and you're about to cross them out. All the other technical problems you meet (and there will be plenty of those) won't be anything like as bad, because by then you will be into the process of writing, anxious for your story to become the one you've envisaged during your daydreams.

*

One thing led to another. When Tea at Mrs. Manderby's was published, the idea of writing a novel of about thirty-five thousand words never occurred to me. It was Linda Jennings, my first editor at Hamish Hamilton, who took a seven-thousand-word story I had written and pointed out to me that it would work much better as a novel. I reread the manuscript and saw at once that she was right. The result was The Girls in the Velvet Frame. The inspiration for this story comes from a real photograph of my mother and four of my aunts, taken when they were young girls. I used to look at it and wonder: what was the occasion? Why had these girls been dressed up and taken to the photographer's studio? I also wanted to write about sisters together. Little Women was my favourite book as a child, and this is the same sort of tale.

*

Short stories are pleasant to write simply because they are short. You can congratulate yourself on finishing something after a few days instead of after a period of months. Collections of linked short stories (Apricots at Midnight, Golden Windows, My Grandmother's Stories) sometimes take longer to put together than a novel. I'm so delighted when story number one is done to my satisfaction that I'm quite likely to celebrate by taking a week off. It's sometimes said that a good short story is harder to achieve than a novel, and in many ways this is true. You have to ensure that nothing extraneous creeps in; that you have set the boundaries of the action in exactly the right place; that you enter the narrative at the precise moment that will ensure the maximum emotional punch; that you don't have too many characters jostling for attention and, above all, that your tale has a beginning, middle, and end (though not necessarily in that order, as someone once said). The short story is a restrictive form, but sometimes restrictions are liberating, and it's in a short story that you can experiment with such things as starting at the end and working through to the beginning, of braiding together different narrative strands.

*

I love writing ghost stories. I find them comforting. When so much of the real world is menacing and difficult, while there are real wars, real hunger, and real poverty all about us, it's pleasant to contemplate terrors that are happening to someone else, and which, moreover, couldn't posssibly be true. There … my secret is out. I don't believe in ghosts, but I do very strongly believe in the present-ness of the past in our lives, and also in the ability of places to convey atmosphere. Anywhere where people have suffered bears the imprint of their pain like damp. You don't have to visit goals to see the truth of this—just go into the home of any unhappy family.

*

A sense of place is important to me, both as a reader and as a writer. It's what remains with us long after we have forgotten the intricacies of the plot. Usually, I enjoy describing everything, but just recently, I have retold eight fairy tales for a wonderful British artist named Louise Brierley in 1996. These stories were exhilarating to write. On the one hand, I did not want, by so much as an adjective, to influence Louise's vision. On the other hand, I very much wanted to write the kind of words in the kind of order that would inspire her. I haven't yet seen the pictures, but I was happy writing a much sparer, leaner kind of prose for a change. I also felt that to do it in this way was much truer to the spirit of these old tales, which in their traditional forms give us almost no description at all. "There was once a merchant who had three daughters…." What could you

possibly add to that which would not remove some of its impact?

*

Whenever I write a book that is to be illustrated, the biggest treat is getting a first glimpse of the artwork. I've been very fortunate in most of my illustrators, and those of my books whose pictures I actually dislike are few and far between. Sometimes (as with the fairy tales) the bringing together of my words and someone's pictures is the publisher's idea, but sometimes I write a story and suggest illustrators whom I think might be suitable. I walk around bookstores looking at everything I can, and when the work of a particular artist catches my eye, I make a note of their name, just in case….

*

I write a great many love stories. All my novels are in some sense love stories, and so are quite a few of my short fictions. I am quite unashamed about this. Writers of love stories are seen as even lower down the literary pecking order than children's writers, and children's writers who write love stories … horrors! They (the scornful ones) think: "cheap romances" and "sloppy magazine stories" the minute the word "love" is uttered, but I throw Wuthering Heights and Madame Bovary and Jane Eyre and Anna Karenina at them, like a vampire-hunter hurling cloves of garlic at her prey.

*

I wish I could paint. All that walking round art galleries as a small child, all that closeness, in my uncle Reggie's studio in Paris, to the wonderful fragrances of turpentine and oils, has made me very conscious of how things look. The fact that I cannot draw so much as a cup and saucer that resemble what they're supposed to be is a sadness. I overcome this by writing poems, which I often think of as the pictures I'm incapable of painting. I don't write very many, but I have published one collection, work has appeared in magazines and anthologies, and I have won prizes in competitions. Someone once said that working on a poem was like having a secret bar of chocolate hidden in a drawer and taking little nibbles at it from time to time … that's exactly how I feel.

*

When I visit schools, boys will sometimes gaze at the covers of my books and I can see a kind of panic in their eyes. These, they can clearly see, are GIRLS' BOOKS. I try to calm them and generally steer them to the ghost stories, or to my two "Fantora" books, which are humorous. Sometimes I try to persuade them that it wouldn't kill them to read a book which had a heroine at its centre. We girls, I say, are perfectly happy to read about boys as heroes. The truth is that you can only write the kind of book that you can write, and much as I may wish to achieve a rip-roaring space adventure, or a tale of warring armies blasting one another to bits, it simply isn't in me. When you come right down to it, it's probably because those are not the kind of books I like to read.

*

I love all my books. I often say they are like children. The points of comparison are many, but the main one is: you love them. Once they go out into the world, there's very little you can do to influence what happens to them. Some succeed, others fail for no reason you can understand; but you love them. The one that preoccupies you (in very much the same way that a pregnancy preoccupies you) is this one … the one you're busy writing NOW.

*

After travelling a great deal all through my childhood, I suppose to many people my life at the moment may seem uneventful, but to me it is busy and packed with incident, and I'm not only talking about the things that go on in the books. I visit many schools and libraries and give talks about my work; I teach creative writing classes here and there to both adults and children; I go to conferences and book fairs; I write letters. We visit friends, they visit us; we go to the movies; I knit a lot, and I read a lot…. My family and friends would say I also never stop talking. There do not seem to be enough hours in the day.

*

Being a writer is such fun that it seems only fair to list some of the less pleasant aspects of the job. Here then is a list of HORRIBLE THINGS:

1) People who write a review of your book without having read it properly.

2) A book you have laboured over being completely ignored.

3) Being left off lists of "recommended reading."

4) Seeing a cover for one of your books that is not only ugly but WRONG.

5) Seeing a book already in the bookstore that is about something you were just going to write yourself.

6) Finding new mistakes in a published book that you never noticed at proof stage.

7) Spotting a misprint on the cover or in the blurb when it's too late to do anything about it.

8) Going to a school to discover that (a) they've never read any one of your books in the past, and (b) they clearly don't intend to read any in the future, since not one single copy has been provided for the children to buy or borrow.

9) Anyone who assumes you must be childish to write for children.

*

Beginnings are important. You have somehow to draw the reader into your words. You have to make them want to stay and listen for a while. Endings are even more important. You want everyone to go away happy. I'm a great believer in happy endings in fiction, and I try and fix it in such a way that everyone closes the book with some kind of satisfaction. In the case of this autobiographical piece, it's a little more difficult. I think I shall simply say "Goodbye" and close with a poem which expresses something of what I feel about writing, about patchwork, and about life. Good-bye….

Adèle Geras contributed the following update to SATA in 2007:

I've just reread the entry I wrote in 1995 and now, a dozen years later, much of what I said in it still applies. I haven't changed my opinion about my own work, nor about the horrible things that sometimes attend it, though mostly it continues to be huge fun and something I still enjoy doing very much. I'm now nearly at an age when people begin to consider retirement, but I appear to have taken on even more work. This is the story of the last dozen years.

The first thing to say is that when looking at the photographs of our daughters, I see how time has passed. Sophie is now a published and acclaimed poet and novelist and writes under the name of Sophie Hannah. She has her own Web site, www.sophiehannah.com. Jenny works for Macmillan, the publisher, and both sisters are married—to two brothers! Sophie and her husband have two gorgeous children, so I've become a devoted granny too. No one tells you how marvellous that experience will be.

My husband has retired. He's now emeritus professor at the University of Manchester, but his main occupation these days is blogging and his site has acquired a worldwide reputation. He blogs at http://normblog.typepad. com/normblog/.

One thing that's gone are the notebooks. Alas and alack, I now have little excuse to buy them because I have gone over completely to computers. It happened like this. In 1999, I was commissioned to write my novel Troy, which I knew would be much longer than my previous books. I thought I'd risk typing it straight onto the computer, otherwise the whole handwriting/typing process would take much too long. It worked so well that I've never looked back and am now devoted to my laptop. Troy changed a lot for me. Since 1995, I've written something like forty new books, and it's true that some of those are quite short, and for quite young children. I have, however, taken a turn that's led me into writing longer YA books, like Troy and its follow-up (though not its sequel!), Ithaka.

One of the side effects of the Harry Potter phenomenon is that we're now allowed to write books of whatever length we feel is right for the story. Publishers can no longer say, oh, but children can't read a book that long! Before Harry, I was always told that forty thousand words was the maximum. Now, anything goes, lengthwise, and I took full advantage of this with both Troy and Ithaka.

Troy tells the story of the last days of the Trojan War through the eyes of two young sisters. It was very successful indeed, both in the UK, where it was shortlisted for various prizes, and the USA, and also in some European countries. It is more than double the length of any of my previous novels for young adults and I loved writing it. So I was delighted to be asked to do a follow-up with Ithaka.

The writing of Ithaka, however, was interrupted by a life-changing turn of events. Late in 1999, a friend of mine in publishing suggested that it was time women's fiction stopped being dominated by chick lit. Why weren't there any good, solid novels for grown-up women? Did I have an idea for such a thing? By one of those flukes that sometimes does happen, the plot twist at the end of Facing the Light came to me, out of the blue. I wrote an email outlining my idea, was encouraged to write more, and an agent for adult novels asked to look at what I'd done. Laura Cecil, who's been (and still is!) a wonderful agent for my children's books since 1981, said, go for it! The long and the short of the story was that Facing the Light was sold to Orion in an extremely good two-book deal and also sold to twenty-two other countries. I had turned, almost overnight, into a Proper Writer for Grown-ups. Facing the Light was published in the USA, too, but it did very badly indeed. I cannot think why, but hey, you can't predict these things. It might have had a little to do with the lacklustre cover it was given, but I can't blame that entirely. Since then, I've written two more novels for adults (Hester's Story and Made in Heaven), and neither of these has been sold in the USA, I assume because the first one did so badly.

So what are my adult books like? Well, the best way to describe the first two is as novels where things that have happened in the past, and secrets that have been hidden for a long time, come back to affect characters in the present. Facing the Light takes place over one weekend in the summer at a beautiful house called Willow Court. Leonora is celebrating her seventy-fifth birthday and her family gathers for the party. Throughout the book, we have flashbacks to the past and we discover that all is not what it seems in this family.

Hester's Story is set in another big house, but this time we're in the middle of winter. Hester is a retired ballerina and has a theatre on the grounds of her house where each year a new ballet is premiered. The "let's do the show right here" story that takes place in the present alternates with the story of Hester's life … and there is a secret that is revealed during the course of the story.

My third novel, Made in Heaven, is entirely different as I didn't want to be typecast. It's about a grand family wedding. Zannah and Adrian are about to get married. There's a lunch party where the two families are going to meet for the first time. When Zannah's mother catches sight of Adrian's stepfather, she collapses and has to leave the party. So begins a story of romance,

deception, and preparations for the wedding. My fourth novel is different again and deals with the effects of a malevolently drawn up will. It's called A Hidden Life and is due to be published in the UK in 2007.

I feel that any reader of my YA books won't find anything strange or difficult with these books. To me, they are all of a piece with the rest of what I've written. Books have your DNA whatever the age group they're intended for.

The main difference between writing for adults and writing for children, at least in that corner of the adult market that I inhabit, is that money is spent on publicity. So there are posters, advertisements in newspapers, and your novel is at the front of the store and in as many promotions as Orion can get it into. This contrasts with children's marketing, which usually means turning your book face out on the shelf yourself—if the store has stocked it! But it's interesting (and something that a few reviewers picked up on when Facing the Light first came out) that my adult books are of a kind that is scarcely ever reviewed in the serious press: women's fiction! The Guardian critic said something along the lines that I had leapt from one ghetto to another. The first ghetto, of course, is children's books. It's also fascinating to me that my YA books are perceived as "literary" and my adult ones as "popular." I just try to write the stories as well as I can and I leave the categorization to others. My aim is still, as it always has been, to give pleasure to readers and to enjoy the process myself as much as I possibly can. I'm happy to say I still do. I don't feel jaded or as though I've got nothing to say, but I do dread the day coming when no more stories occur to me. I face this by refusing even to think about it till it happens. It may not and I hope very much it doesn't.

I haven't stopped writing for children, though, nor do I intend to. There have been several highlights over the last dozen years, apart from Troy and Ithaka. The artist Christian Birmingham asked me to provide the text for his most beautiful Sleeping Beauty. I wrote a YA book I'm very fond of called Silent Snow, Secret Snow. Another of my favourite books, My Grandmother's Stories, was reissued in the USA with gorgeous new illustrations by Anita Lobel. I wrote The Orchard Book of Opera Stories (Random House Book of Opera Stories in the USA) and My First Ballet Stories, both of which have wonderful artwork to accompany the text.

I also greatly enjoyed writing a series of books called "The Cats of Cuckoo Square" (Blossom's Revenge, Picasso Perkins, Callie's Kitten, and Geejay the Hero), in which the cats are the narrators, one for each story. A picture book called Wishes for You (My Wishes for You in the USA) has done very well indeed in Germany, where it's into its eighth reprint. Another picture book, From Lullaby to Lullaby, with illustrations by Kathryn Brown, was published by Simon and Schuster in the USA but never in the UK. Go figure! It's now long out of print.

More successful has been a book called The Ballet Class, with cute illustrations by Shelagh McNicholas (Time for Ballet in the USA). That's been through several reprints and a sequel is forthcoming, Little Ballet Star (in the USA, it will be called Like a Real Ballerina).

More recently, I've written two books in a series called the "Historical House," which imagines one house through time, with different girls living in it. My co-writers are Linda Newbery (www.lindanewbery.co.uk) and Ann Turnbull (www.annturnbull.com), and my own titles are Lizzie's Wish, and its sequel, Cecily's Portrait. It's been great fun to write books that allow you to be completely independent and yet also part of a team. Usborne published the books and further details of all the books in the series can be found on www.usborne.com.

I've also kept up my reviewing and write pieces for both the London Guardian and the Times Educational Supplement, and also for the online magazine Armadillo (www.armadillomagazine.com). I contribute occasional articles to the Guardian books blog at http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/books/.

In 2007 I'm one of the judges for the Costa Book Awards (which used to be called the Whitbread Awards) and that's been a terrific experience. I read about fifty children's books and now I've gone forward to be one of the panel deciding who gets the overall prize. This is is chosen from among five categories: First Novel, Novel, Children's Novel, Poetry, and Biography.

Look how scattered with Web addresses this piece is! I have become, instead of a postal junkie, an e-mail addict. I look at the little icon at the bottom of my screen all the time as I'm working, and I try to limit the number of times I go over and read messages or I'd be bobbing backwards and forwards constantly. But I do love the Internet—it's a mind-boggling resource and huge fun at the same time. I said back in 1995 that I love writing ghost stories. I've written one that was published by Orion on March 1, 2007, World Book Day. It's called Lily: A Ghost Story and it was written for a series called "Quick Reads," which aims to provide short books for people who find it hard to tackle long stories. I wrote it for adults but it's fine for YA readers as well.

The paperback of Made in Heaven is forthcoming, as is the hardback of A Hidden Life—and so it goes on. My next project is a YA book: something short and passionate this time, I reckon, but I've not decided yet exactly what it will be, so I shall say no more for the moment. Full details of my books can be found on my home page, www.adelegeras.com.

What else is different? I no longer go about to schools as much as I used to. Partly because I haven't the time (those adult novels take a lot of writing), but partly because I feel lazier and recognize that I'm now one of the Older Generation (see granny, above!). I've been doing it for years and now it's someone else's turn. But I do go out occasionally and love taking part in events with Linda and Ann for "The Historical House" series. I am also very fond of a good festival. I've been to Belgium a couple of times to speak at schools and that was great. If it weren't for my flying phobia, I'd be over in the States like a shot! Meanwhile, I sit in my study in the same house we've lived in since 1982 and hope I can continue to tell stories for many years to come.

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Geras, Adèle 1944-

Geras, Adèle 1944-
(Adèle Daphne Weston Geras)


Personal


Surname pronounced with a hard "G" and rhymes with "terrace"; born March 15, 1944, in Jerusalem, Palestine (now Israel); immigrated to England, 1955; daughter of Laurence David (a lawyer) and Leah (Hamburger) Weston; married Norman Geras (a lecturer and writer), August 7, 1967; children: Sophie, Jenny. Education: St. Hilda's College, Oxford, B.A., 1966. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Films, detective fiction.

Addresses


Office—10 Danesmoor Rd., Manchester M20 3JS, England. Agent—Laura Cecil, 17 Alwyne Villas, London N1 2HG, England.

Career


Children's book author. Fairfield High School, Droylsden, Lancashire, England, French teacher, 1968-71; writer, 1976—. Actress in Four Degrees Over (play), 1966.

Awards, Honors


Taylor Award, 1991, for My Grandmother's Stories: A Collection of Jewish Folktales; National Jewish Book Council Award, 1994, for Golden Windows, and Other Stories of Jerusalem; Houseman Society prize, and British Arts Council award, both 2000, both for The Sampler Alphabet; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award honor book designation for fiction/poetry, 2001, for Troy.

Writings


CHILDREN'S FICTION


Tea at Mrs. Manderby's, illustrated by Doreen Caldwell, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1976.

Apricots at Midnight, and Other Stories from a Patchwork Quilt, illustrated by Doreen Caldwell, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1977, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1982.

Beyond the Cross-Stitch Mountains, illustrated by Mary Wilson, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1977.

The Painted Garden, illustrated by Doreen Caldwell, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1979.

A Thousand Yards of Sea, illustrated by Joanna Troughton, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1980.

The Rug That Grew, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1981.

The Christmas Cat, illustrated by Doreen Caldwell, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1983.

Little Elephant's Moon, illustrated by Linda Birch, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1986.

Ritchie's Rabbit, illustrated by Vanessa Julian-Ottie, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1986, Random House (New York, NY), 1987.

Finding Annabel, illustrated by Alan Marks, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1987.

Fishpie for Flamingoes, illustrated by Linda Birch, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1987.

The Fantora Family Files, illustrated by Tony Ross, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1988, published as The Fabulous Fantoras, Book One: Family Files, illustrated by Eric Brace, Avon (New York, NY), 1998.

The Strange Bird, illustrated by Linda Birch, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1988.

The Coronation Picnic, illustrated by Frances Wilson, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1989.

Bunk Bed Night, Dent (London, England), 1990.

My Grandmother's Stories: A Collection of Jewish Folktales, illustrated by Jael Jordan, Knopf (New York, NY), 1990, published as My Grandmother's Stories: A Collection of Jewish Folk Tales, illustrated by Anita Lobel, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.

Nina's Magic, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1990.

Pink Medicine, Dent (London, England), 1990.

A Magic Birthday, Simon & Schuster (London, England), 1992.

The Fantora Family Photographs, illustrated by Tony Ross, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1993, published as The Fabulous Fantoras, Book Two: Family Photographs, illustrated by Eric Brace, Avon (New York, NY), 1999.

Golden Windows, and Other Stories of Jerusalem, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

Baby's Bedclothes, illustrated by Prue Greener, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

The Dolls' House, illustrated by Prue Greener, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

Keith's Croak, illustrated by Prue Greener, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

Mary's Meadow, illustrated by Prue Greener, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

Mimi; and Apricot Max, illustrated by Teresa O'Brien, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

Josephine, illustrated by Teresa O'Brien, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

The Return of Archibald Gribbet, illustrated by Sumiko, Longman (Essex, England), 1994.

Toey, illustrated by Duncan Smith, Heinemann (London, England), 1994.

Gilly the Kid, illustrated by Sue Heap, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.

Little Swan, illustrated by Johanna Westerman, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.

Stories for Bedtime (with cassette), illustrated by Amanda Benjamin, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

A Candle in the Dark ("Flashbacks" historical fiction series), A. & C. Black (London, England), 1995.

(Compiler) Kingfisher Book of Jewish Stories, illustrated by Jane Cope, Kingfisher (London, England), 1995, published as A Treasury of Jewish Stories, Kingfisher (New York, NY), 1996.

(Adapter) Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, illustrated by Louise Brierley, Viking (New York, NY), 1996.

The Magical Storyhouse, illustrated by Joanna Walsh, Macdonald (Brighton, England), 1996.

Chalk and Cheese, illustrated by Adriano Gon, Transworld (London, England), 1996.

Cinderella, illustrated by Gwen Tourret, Macdonald (Brighton, England), 1996.

From Lullaby to Lullaby, illustrated by Kathryn Brown, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1997.

Picasso Perkins, illustrated by Tony Ross, Transworld (London, England), 1997.

Louisa's Secret, illustrated by Karen Popham, Random House (London, England), 1997.

Louisa in the Wings, illustrated by Karen Popham, Random House (London, England), 1997.

Louisa and Phoebe, illustrated by Karen Popham, Random House (London, England), 1997.

Blossom's Revenge, illustrated by Tony Ross, Transworld (London, England), 1997.

Silent Snow, Secret Snow, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1998.

Callie's Kitten, illustrated by Tony Ross, Transworld (London, England), 1998, published as The Cats of Cuckoo Square: Callie's Kitten, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2003.

Geejay the Hero, illustrated by Tony Ross, Transworld (London, England), 1998, published as The Cats of Cuckoo Square: Geejay the Hero, Dell Yearling (New York, NY), 2003.

The Gingerbread House, Barrington Stoke (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1998.

The Six Swan Brothers, illustrated by Patrick Benson, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Lolly, Orchard (London, England), 1998.

Sleep Tight, Ginger Kitten, Dutton (New York, NY), 2001.

The Cats of Cuckoo Square: Two Stories, illustrated by Tony Ross, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2001.

My Wishes for You, illustrated by Cliff Wright, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

The Ballet Class, illustrated by Shelagh McNichols, Orchard (London, England), 2003, published as Time for Ballet, Dial (New York, NY), 2004.

(Reteller) Sleeping Beauty, illustrated by Christian Birmingham, Orchard (New York, NY), 2004.

Also author of Josephine and Pobble and Sun Slices, Moon Slices. Contributor to periodicals, including Cricket.

"MAGIC OF BALLET" SERIES


Giselle, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, David & Charles (New York, NY), 2001.

Sleeping Beauty, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, David & Charles (New York, NY), 2001.

Swan Lake, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, David & Charles (New York, NY), 2001.

The Nutcracker, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clarke, David & Charles (New York, NY), 2001.

YOUNG-ADULT FICTION


The Girls in the Velvet Frame, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1978, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979.

The Green behind the Glass, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1982, published as Snapshots of Paradise: Love Stories, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1984.

Other Echoes, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1983, reprinted, David Fickling (New York, NY), 2004.

Voyage, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1983.

Letters of Fire, and Other Unsettling Stories, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1984.

Happy Endings, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1986, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1991, reprinted, 2006.

Daydreams on Video, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1989.

The Tower Room, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1990, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1992.

Watching the Roses, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1991, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1992.

Pictures of the Night, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1993.

A Lane to the Land of the Dead, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1994.

Troy, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2001.

Ithaka, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.

OTHER


(With Pauline Stainer) Up on the Roof (adult poetry), Smith Doorstep (Huddersfield, England), 1987.

Yesterday (memoirs), Walker (London, England), 1992.

Voices from the Dolls' House (adult poetry), Rockingham Press (Ware, England), 1994.

The Orchard Book of Opera Stories, Orchard (London, England), 1997, published as The Random House Book of Opera Stories, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.

Facing the Light (adult novel), Thomas Dunne (New York, NY), 2004.

Hester's Story (adult novel), Orion (London, England), 2005.

Made in Heaven (adult novel), Orion (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor of book reviews to periodicals, including London Guardian. Geras's work has been translated into several languages, including Dutch and German.

Adaptations


Troy was adapted as an audiobook by Listening Library, 2002.

Sidelights


A childhood spent following her father on his wideranging assignments for the British colonial service had a great influence on the work of novelist and short-story writer Adèle Geras. Drawing on her experiences living in historic Jerusalem, where she was born, as well as in exotic Africa and in Great Britain, where she attended boarding school and now lives, Geras weaves a strong sense of both place and time into her fiction. "I write because I enjoy it," the author once told SATA. "I write about places and things that have been important to me in one way or another." Her vivid character portraits, often inspired by people encountered during her childhood years, have been praised by reviewers and readers alike. Sea travel, Jewish culture, and a love of tradition also play strong roles in shaping Geras's stories for children and teenage readers.

"I used to write a lot as a child," Geras once explained, "and then I found that what happened was, as you got more and more educated and had more and more academic work given to you, you had less and less time to do your own stuff. And of course the other thing is that, as you become an adolescent, you become very self-conscious, and you get the idea that if you can't be Tolstoy or Jane Austen, then you're not going to be anybody at all and you should stop. So I did stop when I was about fourteen, and I didn't start again until after my daughter was born. Then I rediscovered what fun [writing] was—which is what every child knows."

Geras studied modern languages at Oxford University and spent much of her time there performing in theatrical productions of various kinds. She even had a role in a college revue that was also produced on London's West End. Her first attempt at writing came later, spurred on by a competition sponsored by the London Times. "As soon as I saw the contest announced, … I wrote a story and sent it off," she recalled in an essay for Something about the Author Autobiography Series (SAAS), "and although it did not win, it did become the starting point for Apricots at Midnight. It's a ghost story called ‘Rose’ and the moment I'd finished it, I knew that this was what I wanted to do from now on."

"Rose" was joined by several other short tales and published by Geras in 1977 as Apricots at Midnight, and Other Short Stories from a Patchwork Quilt, a collection of story "patches" narrated by a dressmaker named Aunt Piney as she works on a quilt with her young niece. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the collection "unusual and entrancing," while Horn Book contributor Kate M. Flanagan praised the tales as "rich in detail and delightfully recounted."

Geras's enthusiasm for her newfound craft also found an outlet in writing picture books for young children; the first, Tea at Mrs. Manderby's, is a story about a young girl who resigns herself to taking afternoon tea with an elderly neighbor at her parents' urging. Several more books for young readers followed, including A Thousand Yards of Sea, about a fisherman who releases a mermaid from his net and is rewarded with beautiful sea-colored cloth that the women of his village make into skirts; and Toey, about two children who hope for a new pet and end up with a pair of playful kittens. Geras has also published many short stories in magazines such as Cricket, and several of these short tales have been collected as Stories for Bedtime.

In addition to short stories and picture books for young children, Geras is the author of several collections of short fiction written with older readers in mind. In 1983 she wrote The Green behind the Glass, a set of eight tales about young love that was released in the United States as Snapshots of Paradise: Love Stories. Called "an intriguing departure from the sunny sentimentality of so many romance collections for young adults" by Booklist reviewer Stephanie Zvirin, The Green behind the Glass includes "Don't Sing Love Songs," narrated by a young woman who is on her own with a friend in Paris until their shared attraction for handsome Jim threatens their friendship; the title story, in which a woman's older sister knows herself to be the real object of the sister's now-dead fiancée's true affections; and "Tea in the Wendy House," which tells of a young, pregnant woman's lament for her soon-to-be-lost youth as she faces a shotgun wedding and a future as wife and mother in a tiny house. Horn Book writer Mary M. Burns hailed the variety of styles and settings featured in Geras's love stories, calling them "distinguished by perceptive insight into human nature, dexterity in plot construction, and a sense of style remarkable for its readability and its imagery and constraint."

In A Lane to the Land of the Dead, Geras uses suspense and elements of the supernatural to add spice and a touch of melancholy to the lives of her young protagonists. The author "shows her usual lightness of touch," Elspeth S. Scott observed in School Librarian, predicting the collection would have wide appeal. In contrast, the five tales in Golden Windows, and Other Stories of Jerusalem show readers what life was like in early twentieth-century Jerusalem. In "Beyond the Cross-Stitch Mountains," one story from this collection, eleven-year-old Daskeh conspires with friend Danny to escape the care of her aunt Phina and visit Danny's aunt, despite the danger in leaving the bomb shelter where they routinely spend each nights during Israel's 1948 War for Independence. "Dreams of Fire" shows the after-effects of this wartime experience on young Danny as memories of death and violence return to haunt him in the form of a memorial built to honor the war. Reviewer Ellen Mandel praised Golden Windows in Booklist as "well-written, laced with subtleties of history, and rich in personal emotion."

Beyond the Cross-Stitch Mountains was published as a separate book in the United Kingdom. It draws on the author's Jewish heritage. Similarly, Geras's novel The Girls in the Velvet Frame takes as its setting the city of Jerusalem circa 1913 and focuses on five sisters whose brother Isaac has left for the United States and been out of contact for months. "The appeal of this charming book comes … from the accurate, penetrating and quite unsentimental portraits of the five children and of their elders," Marcus Crouch noted in a review of The Girls in the Velvet Frame for the Times Literary Supplement. Cyrisse Jaffee acclaimed Geras's characters, and added in School Library Journal that "marvelous descriptions of time and place add contours" to the novel.

Geras's novel Voyage also focuses on the history of the Jewish people, this time by following a group of characters who flee from the poverty of Eastern Europe by enduring a fifteen-day crossing of the Atlantic Ocean aboard a tightly packed ship. The sight of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor at journey's end marks the beginning of a new life for the characters. The book's vignettes "cleverly [reveal] not only the happenings on board but the thoughts, hopes, fears, and memories of the little community," Ethel L. Heins wrote in Horn Book.

Among Geras's most notable novels for young adults are the books comprising her "Egerton Hall" series. Set in Egerton Hall boarding school in 1963, the stories revolve around three friends: Alice, Bella, and Megan. In The Tower Room Megan becomes a modern-day Rapunzel when she is freed from the boarding school's lackluster tower room after falling in love with a handsome young laboratory assistant at Egerton Hall. In Watching the Roses Geras draws from the Sleeping Beauty legend in telling Alice's story. On the night of her eighteenth birthday party, Alice is attacked and raped by the son of her family's gardener. Her story is told in the diary entries she writes as she tries to recover from the shock of the event. Time seems to stop while Alice deals with her concerns over how the rape will affect her relationship with Jean-Luc, her own handsome prince. Florence H. Munat praised Watching the Roses in Voice of Youth Advocates, noting that Geras "has deftly added just the right modern twists and details to allure older readers back to the story that enchanted them as children." The author's fairy-tale trilogy is completed with a modern-day retelling of Snow White's story, casting eighteen-year-old Bella in the lead. Pictures of the Night features evil stepmother Marjorie, who becomes so jealous of her stepdaughter's budding singing career that she tries to kill the young woman. In a Kirkus Reviews assessment of the novel, one critic called Geras "a writer distinguished for her imaginative power and fresh, vivid writing."

With Troy, Geras brings the tumultuous Trojan War to life through the eyes of four teenagers living in ancient Greece, each of whom is connected to a major figure in the epic conflict. Xanthe is nursemaid to Andromache and Hector's infant son; her sister, Marpessa, is maidservant to Helen and Paris. Polyxena, identified as the granddaughter of the "singer"—Homer—is her grandfather's caretaker, and stable hand Iason, who adores Xanthe, is too shy to express his feelings; he is more comfortable talking to Hector's war horses. "It's a domestic and youthful view of Troy," the author told Julia Eccleshare in a London Guardian interview, "rather than the heroic and traditional one." The teens in Troy, while learning about the realities of love and war, also encounter the gods, as when Eros shoots his arrow at Xanthe.

To Ruminator Review online contributor Christine Alfano, in Troy Geras integrates myth and reality by presenting the gods and goddesses "as living characters. They are strongly present throughout the novel and keep their fingers on the strings of fate." Patricia Lothrop-Green, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, found some of the key characters "thin, one-dimensional figures." A Publishers Weekly contributor stated that the novel accomplishes two goals: "Mythology buffs will savor the author's ability to embellish stories of old without diminishing their original flavor; the uninitiated will find this a captivating introduction to one of the pivotal events of classic Greek literature." New York Times Book Review critic Elizabeth Deveraux, citing Geras's "contemporary" attitude, noted that Troy performs "a valuable service: it paves a road into the realm of Homer, then lures young readers along its course."

Drawing on the events figuring in both the epic Odyssey and Illiad, Ithaka focuses on the events occurring on Odysseus's home front while the hero strives to return to his kingdom. The novel is told through the eyes of Klymene, a girl in the service of Odysseus's wife Queen Penelope. Assumed to be a widow because her husband has not returned, the wealthy Penelope is plagued by suitors hoping to convince her to remarry. While the actual epic depicts Penelope as the essence of faithfulness, here Geras portrays her as a real woman with real emotions, as plagued by loneliness and human desire as is the starry-eyed and idealistic young Klymene. Klymene is in love with Prince Telemachus, but the prince has already been smitten by another: the young maid Melantho, who has also stolen Klymene's brother's heart. When one of Penelope's suitors falls in love with Klymene, the teen must navigate the tricky world of court intrigue and avoid upsetting the fickle Greek gods as she pursues the attention of her beloved. "Lovers of Greek mythology will appreciate the authentic flavor of this book, but readers need not be familiar with The Odyssey, assured a Publishers Weekly critic. School Library Journal reviewer Patricia D. Lothrop felt that "readers looking for a romance novel set in ancient Greece … will be as pleased with Ithaka as they were with Troy." According to Holly Koelling in Booklist, Geras's "visceral, lusty, tragic retelling will draw older teens." Horn Book reviewer Anita L. Burkham concluded of the novel that "Geras gives this tale the epic treatment it deserves.

In addition to historical fiction, Geras has penned contemporary novels for both young adults and adults. Other Echoes recalls a childhood spent in North Borneo (now Malaysia). The narrator, nineteen-year-old Flora, is recovering from exhaustion at her boarding school, and recalls the events that shaped her childhood. According to Janis Flint-Ferguson in Kliatt, Geras "tells the story of a girl learning to fit in, of finding her own way and coming to appreciate the role that writing plays in such growth and development."

Geras's love of both opera and ballet figure into much of her writing, and her "Magic of Ballet" series helps young audiences understand well-known dance productions by narrating the stories behind four ballets: Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker. Geared for older readers, The Random House Book of Opera Stories presents the tales behind such produc-

tions as Aïda, The Magic Flute, Turandot, and The Love for Three Oranges. Geras also presents an introduction to the dance designed for very young readers in Time for Ballet. "As much about movement as ballet, this warm story aptly conveys a child's love of dance," wrote Susan Pine in School Library Journal.

Focusing on younger readers, Geras's chapter books for beginning readers include the "Cats of Cuckoo Square" series. Comprising Callie's Kitten, Geejay's Hero, and The Cats of Cuckoo Square: Two Stories, the tales feature four cats that share the same neighborhood. Blossom and Geejay plot to get rid of an obnoxious human pest, while Perkins models for a painting, then decorates it with paw prints as a final touch. These chapter books are "just the right challenge for early chapterbook readers," according to Caroline Ward in School Library Journal.

Geras has also written a collection of folk tales for younger readers. Originally published in 1990, My Grandmother's Stories received new life when it was re-illustrated by award-winning artist Anita Lobel. Susan Pine, writing in School Library Journal, noted that all the stories included "impart universal truths about everyday foibles and follies" and should be "shared and treasured." A Publishers Weekly critic predicted that "a treat is in store for readers of all faiths" with this book.

In 2003 Geras published her first adult novel, Facing the Light, a multi-layered story that follows a family over a time-span of seventy-five years. The novel has at its center the seventy-fifth birthday celebration of Leonora, who has some old family secrets to reveal to her guests. Geras has followed this novel with several other works of fiction for adult readers, among them Hester's Story and Made in Heaven. "Geras is interested in people and understands them, especially girls," Eccleshare wrote in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. "Her books have an emotional integrity which makes them satisfying," the essayist added. "Though not challenging or highly plotted they are all very well constructed and the fluent writing makes them easy to read and enjoy."

Biographical and Critical Sources


BOOKS


Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 21, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.

St. James Guide to Young-Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, third edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1989.

PERIODICALS


Booklist, August, 1984, p. 1609; October 15, 1993; November 15 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 582; April 15 1997, Lauren Peterson, review of From Lullaby to Lullaby, p. 1436; October 15, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Random House Book of Opera Stories, p. 414; November 1, 1998, Michael Cart, review of The Fabulous Fantoras, Book One: Family Files, p. 490; June 1, 1999, review of The Fabulous Fantoras, Book Two: Family Photographs, p. 1829; April 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Troy, p. 1482; September 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Cats of Cuckoo Square: Two Stories; December 15, 2002, Lauren Peterson, review of My Wishes for You, p. 766; February 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Time for Ballet, p. 975; May 1, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Sleeping Beauty, p. 1556; December 15, 2005, Holly Koelling, review of Ithaka, p. 39.

Books for Keeps, May, 1996, review of A Lane to the Land of the Dead, and Other Stories, p. 17; September, 1996, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 32; March, 1999, review of The Six Swan Brothers, p. 21, and Silent Snow, Secret Snow, p. 27; May, 1999, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 27; July, 1999, review of Sun Slices, Moon Slices, p. 20; November, 1999, review of Josephine and Pobble and Mimi; and Apricot Max, p. 16.

Books for Your Children, autumn, 1992, p. 27.

Bookseller, November 5, 2004, "Royal Over-Seas League," p. 11.

Children's Bookwatch, May, 1997, review of From Lullaby to Lullaby, p. 3.

Childhood Education, summer, 2003, Aaron Condon, review of Troy, p. 245.

Christian Science Monitor, May 13, 1983.

Dance, December, 2001, review of "The Magic of Ballet" series, p. 77.

Emergency Librarian, May, 1998, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 51.

Guardian (London, England), March 28, 2000, review of Troy, p. 63; July 13, 2001, Julia Eccleshare, "Notes from an Accidental Career.".

Horn Book, February, 1983, pp. 43-44; August, 1983, p. 452; September-October, 1984, p. 596; March-April, 1993, p. 211; January-February, 2006, Anita L. Burkam, review of Ithaka, p. 78.

Junior Bookshelf, December, 1976, p. 326; June, 1994, p. 100; August, 1994, p. 134; June, 1996, review of A Candle in the Dark, p. 113; December, 1996, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 251.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1984, p. J8; March 15, 1993; October 15, 1996, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 1532; April 1, 1997, review of From Lullaby to Lullaby, p. 554; May 1, 2001, review of Sleep Tight, Ginger Kitten, p. 659; October 1, 2001, review of The Cats of Cuckoo Square, p. 1423; February 1, 2004, review of Time for Ballet, p. 133; December 15, 2005, review of Ithaka, p. 1322.

Kliatt, September, 2002, Nola Theiss, audiobook review of Troy, p. 58; March, 2005, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Other Echoes, p. 10.

New Statesman, December 4, 1998, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 60.

New York Times Book Review, July 15, 2001, Elizabeth Deveraux, review of Troy, p. 25.

Publishers Weekly, October 15, 1982, p. 66; November 25, 1996, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 74; March 17, 1997, review of From Lullaby to Lullaby, p. 82; August 10, 1998, review of The Fabulous Fantoras, Book One, p. 388; August 31, 1998, review of The Random House Book of Opera Stories, p. 78; May 7, 2001, review of Sleep Tight, Ginger Kitten, p. 245, and Troy, p. 248; August 25, 2003, review of My Grandmother's Stories, p. 51; March 1, 2004, review of Time for Ballet, p. 67; January 2, 2006, review of Ithaka, p. 63.

Ruminator Review, summer, 2001, Christine Alfano, review of Troy, pp. 53-54.

School Librarian, June, 1983, pp. 162, 165; November, 1992, p. 157; May, 1994, p. 60; May, 1995, p. 77; May, 1996, review of A Candle in the Dark, p. 62; winter, 1999, review of Sun Slices, Moon Slices, p. 185; summer, 1999, review of Silent Snow, Secret Snow, p. 79, and The Six Swan Brothers, p. 99.

School Library Journal, September, 1979, p. 138; February, 1997, Donna Scanlon, review of Beauty and the Beast, and Other Stories, p. 90; July, 1997, Sue Norris, review of From Lullaby to Lullaby, p. 67; October, 1998, Renee Steinberg, review of The Random House Book of Opera Stories, p. 153; January, 1999, Eva Mitnick, review of The Fabulous Fantoras, Book One, p. 127; May, 2001, Rosalyn Pierini, review of Sleep Tight, Ginger Kitten, p. 115; July, 2001, Patricia Lothrop-Green, review of Troy, p. 108; November, 2001, Amy Kellman, review of Giselle and Sleeping Beauty, p. 123; December, 2001, Caroline Ward, review of The Cats of Cuckoo Square, p. 102; December, 2002, Be Astengo, review of My Wishes for You, p. 96; August, 2003, Susan Pine, review of My Grandmother's Stories, p. 149; February, 2004, Susan Pine, review of Time for Ballet, p. 112; August, 2004, Susan Scheps, review of Sleeping Beauty, p. 107; October, 2004, review of Time for Ballet, p. S26; February, 2006, Patricia D. Lothrop, review of Ithaka, p. 131.

Times Educational Supplement, February 5, 1999, review of Silent Snow, Secret Snow, p. 27; September 24, 1999, review of The Cats of Cuckoo Square, p. 48.

Times Literary Supplement, September 29, 1978, p. 1083; March 27, 1981, p. 340; January 27, 1984; November 30, 1984; June 6, 1986.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1992, p. 278.

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