Adoff, Jaime (Levi)
Adoff, Jaime (Levi)
PERSONAL: Born in New York, NY; son of Arnold Adoff (a poet) and Virginia Hamilton (an author); married; wife's name Mary Ann. Education: Central State University, B. Mus.; attended Manhattan School of Music.
ADDRESSES: Home—Yellow Springs, OH. Agent—c/o Arnold Adoff, 750 Union St., Yellow Springs, OH 45487. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer of children and young-adult books, 1998–. Songwriter and musician in a rock band for eight years.
AWARDS, HONORS: Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award honor book designation, International Reading Association notable book designation, and New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age designation, all 2003, all for The Song Shoots out of My Mouth: A Celebration of Music; New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age designation, 2005, for Names Will Never Hurt Me.
The Song Shoots out of My Mouth: A Celebration of Music (poetry), illustrated by Martin French, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.
Names Will Never Hurt Me (novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 2004.
Jimi and Me (novel), Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Jaime Adoff is the author of such critically acclaimed works as the poetry collection The Song Shoots out of My Mouth: A Celebration of Music and Names Will Never Hurt Me, a young-adult novel. Adoff's success comes as no surprise: his father, Arnold Adoff, is an accomplished poet, biographer, and anthologist, and his mother, the late Newbery Award-winning writer Virginia Hamilton, was a highly respected author who received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her contributions to children's literature. "I don't think I realized the impact my parents had on my future career until I was much older," Adoff explained on the Embracing the Child Web site. "As writers, both of my parents worked at home, so I got to see what they did every day. I remember watching them go into their offices in the morning with nothing but a cup of coffee. Then emerge hours later with pages of writing. To a small kid, it was like magic."
Adoff grew up in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and attended Central State University in nearby Wilberforce, studying drums and percussion and graduating with a degree in music. In 1990 he moved to New York, NY to attend the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied voice and drums. He also formed a rock band and spent eight years writing songs and performing at clubs throughout the northeast before turning his attention to writing for young adults.
Adoff draws on his passion for music in his 2002 book, The Song Shoots out of My Mouth, an illustrated collection of twenty-four poems that explores musical experiences from a teenager's perspective. Among the subjects of Adoff's verse are the struggles of a garage band, the intensity of an air guitarist, and the hopes of an aspiring trumpet player. In School Library Journal, Nina Lindsay remarked that Adoff's "free verse is highly rhythmic and demands to be performed" while also complimenting his "raplike word-play and puns." In a review for Booklist, Michael Cart praised "the energy underscoring Adoff's language, which invites readers to move to the rhythm of the words." The passion reflected in Adoff's verse was also noted by other critics; his "enthusiasm for his subject comes endearingly to the fore in the section of 'Backnotes,' in which he identifies the artists alluded to and includes specific selections for listening," noted a Kirkus reviewer in a review of The Song Shoots out of My Mouth.
Names Will Never Hurt Me was cited as "a powerful, complex, skillfully written novel" by Booklist reviewer Frances Bradburn. The work follows four teenagers—a star football player, a bullied outcast, a power-hungry snitch, and a lonely biracial girl—through an anxious, tension-filled day at Rockville High, where, one year earlier, a fellow student was killed in a school shooting. As events unfold, the lives of the four teens overlap until they are all brought together outside the principal's office. "With painfully immediate accounts of daily humiliations and power-plays, Adoff sets a time bomb ticking, but the final outcome is not quite what we expect," observed Lauren Adams in Horn Book. "Writing in a free-verse, almost-poetic style, Adoff pulls off a young adult page-turner with literary ease," noted School Library Journal contributor Angela J. Reynolds, while a Kirkus contributor deemed it "outstanding."
Adoff's free-verse novel Jimi and Me focuses on eighth-grader Keith James, who is thrust into a new school in a quiet, mid-western town far from his native Brooklyn, New York, following the violent death of his father. Feeling like an outsider because of his unusual clothes and taste in music, Keith finds solace in the music of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. Gradually, he begins to come to terms with life in his new town, and also begins to deal with his father's responsibility in his own death in a novel that Voice of Youth Advocates contributor David Goodale praised as "an exceptional story about a young teen who must cope with grief, love, prejudice, and betrayal."
On the Embracing the Child Web site, Adoff discussed the role inspiration plays in his writing. "I begin with a very basic emotion, a feeling," he commented. "I put it down on paper. It's usually something that really needs to get out of me. Something that needs to get air. Something that needs to see the light of the page." Regardless of whether the feeling becomes a poem, a story, or a novel, Adoff is most concerned "with getting that initial feeling down on paper. That first feeling is what is trapped inside of me, screaming to get out. Wherever it goes from there, it goes."
Adoff once commented: "I write for the boy in the last row who never raises his hand, but has so much to say.
"I write for the girl in the front row who now has pages of poems and stories for me to read, before I've even taken my coat off.
"I write because it is the most freeing experience I know of. I can create my own world, my own universe, create my own rules, then break them if I want to.
"I would like to think that I could make a difference in a young person's life, but that is making too much of what I do. I would settle for just being a small part in getting a young person to see themselves and to see others around them. To see how we are all the same and different at the same time, and to respect an honor those differences. Showing a teen that there can be hope, that there is always hope even in the darkest hour.
"I write because I love the fact that a book doesn't care what color you are, or what religion you are or how much money your parents make. Books are for everyone and should be shared like a big slice of apple pie with two scoops of ice-cream on top.
"So what do you say?
"Let's dig in…."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2003, Michael Cart, review of The Song Shoots out of My Mouth: A Celebration of Music, p. 864; April 1, 2004, Frances Bradburn, review of Names Will Never Hurt Me, p. 1359.
Horn Book, July-August, 2004, Lauren Adams, review of Names Will Never Hurt Me, p. 445.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2002, review of The Song Shoots out of My Mouth, p. 1526; March 1, 2004, review of Names Will Never Hurt Me, p. 217.
Kliatt, March, 2004, Michele Winship, review of Names Will Never Hurt Me, p. 6.
Publishers Weekly, May 3, 2004, review of Names Will Never Hurt Me, p. 193.
School Library Journal, October, 2002, Nina Lindsay, review of The Song Shoots out of My Mouth, pp. 178-179; April, 2004, Angela J. Reynolds, review of Names Will Never Hurt Me, p. 148; December, 2004, Ginny Gustin, review of The Song Shoots out of My Mouth, p. 60; May, 2005, Jennifer Ralston, review of Names Will Never Hurt Me, p. 51.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 2005, David Goodale, review of Jimi and Me.
Embracing the Child Web site, http://www.embracingthechild.org/ (July 15, 2005), "Jaime Adoff."
Jaime Adoff Web site, http://www.jaimeadoff.com (July 15, 2005).