Ehrlich, Amy 1942-
EHRLICH, Amy 1942-
PERSONAL: Born July 24, 1942, in New York, NY; daughter of Max (a television writer and novelist) and Doris (Rubenstein) Ehrlich; married Henry A. Ingraham (a college professor), June 22, 1985; children: Joss. Education: Attended Bennington College, 1960-63 and 1964-65.
ADDRESSES: Home—Box 73, RFD 3, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819. Agent—F. Joseph Spieler, 154 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Writer. Early jobs for short periods include teacher in day-care center, fabric colorist, and hospital receptionist. Freelance writer and editor for publishing companies; roving editor at Family Circle magazine, New York, NY, 1975-76; senior editor at Delacorte Press, New York, NY, 1977-78; Dial Books for Young Readers, New York, NY, senior editor, 1978-82, executive editor, 1982-85; Candlewick Press, Cambridge, MA, vice-president, editor-in-chief, 1991-95, consulting editor, 1996—.
AWARDS, HONORS: New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year, 1972, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and ALA Children's Books of Exceptional Interest citations, all for Zeek Silver Moon; Children's Choice citation, International Reading Association-Children's Book Council (IRA-CBC), for The Everyday Train; "Pick of the Lists" citation, American Booksellers Association (ABA), Kansas State Reading Circle, and Editor's Choice, Booklist, all for Leo, Zack, and Emmie; Editor's Choice, Booklist, Children's Choice, IRA-CBC, Children's Book of the Year, Child Study Association, and "Pick of the Lists" citation, ABA, all for Thumbelina;Children's Book of the Year citation, Redbook, 1987, for The Wild Swans; "Pick of the Lists" citation, ABA, and Editor's Choice citation, Booklist, both for The Snow Queen; "Pick of the Lists" citation, ABA, Child Study Association Children's Book of the Year, and Kansas State Reading Circle citations, all for Cinderella; Young Adult Reviewer's Choice and Best of the Decade citations, Booklist, and Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, 1990, all for Where It Stops, Nobody Knows; Editor's Choice citation, Booklist, 1993, for Parents in the Pigpen, Pigs in the Tub.
Zeek Silver Moon, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, Dial (New York, NY), 1972.
The Everyday Train, illustrated by Martha Alexander, Dial (New York, NY), 1977.
Leo, Zack, and Emmie, illustrated by Steven Kellogg, Dial (New York, NY), 1981.
Annie Finds a Home, illustrated by Leonard Shortall, Random House (New York, NY), 1982.
Annie and the Kidnappers, Random House (New York, NY),1982.
Leo, Zack, and Emmie Together Again, illustrated by Steven Kellogg, Dial (New York, NY), 1987.
Buck Buck the Chicken, illustrated by R. W. Alley, Random House (New York, NY), 1987.
Emma's New Pony, photographs by Richard Brown, Random House (New York, NY), 1988.
Where It Stops, Nobody Knows (young adult novel), Dial (New York, NY), 1988, republished as Joyride, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
The Story of Hanukkah, illustrated by Ori Sherman, Dial (New York, NY), 1989.
Lucy's Winter Tale, illustrated by Troy Howell, Dial (New York, NY), 1991.
The Dark Card (young adult novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1991.
The Snow Queen (sound recording), Lightyear, 1991.
Parents in the Pigpen, Pigs in the Tub, illustrated by Steven Kellogg, Dial (New York, NY), 1993.
Maggie and Silky and Joe, illustrated by Robert Blake, Viking, 1994.
Hurry Up, Mickey, illustrated by Miki Yamamota, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.
Kazam's Magic, illustrated by Barney Saltzberg, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
Bravo, Kazam!, illustrated by Barney Saltzberg, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
Rachel: The Story of Rachel Carson, illustrated by Wendell Minor, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2003.
ADAPTER, EDITOR, AND RETELLER
(Adapter) Dee Brown, Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (from Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee), Holt (New York, NY), 1974.
(Reteller) Hans Christian Andersen, Thumbelina, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, Dial (New York, NY), 1979.
(Reteller) Hans Christian Andersen, The Wild Swans, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, Dial (New York, NY), 1981.
(Reteller) Hans Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, Dial (New York, NY) , 1982.
(Adapter) Annie (storybook from John Huston's movie of the same title), Random House (New York, NY), 1982.
(Editor and adapter) The Random House Book of Fairy Tales, illustrated by Diane Goode, Random House (New York, NY), 1985.
(Adapter) The Ewoks and the Lost Children (storybook from the George Lucas television film), Random House (New York, NY), 1985.
(Adapter) Bunnies All Day Long, illustrated by Marie H. Henry, Dial (New York, NY), 1985.
(Adapter) Bunnies and Their Grandma, illustrated by Marie H. Henry, Dial (New York, NY), 1985.
(Reteller) Cinderella, by Charles Perrault, pictures by Susan Jeffers, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1985.
(Adapter) Bunnies on Their Own, illustrated by Marie H. Henry, Dial (New York, NY), 1986.
(Adapter) Bunnies at Christmastime, illustrated by Marie H. Henry, Dial (New York, NY), 1986.
(Adapter) Pome and Peel, illustrated by Laszlo Gal, Dial (New York, NY), 1989.
(Adapter) Brothers Grimm, Rapunzel, illustrated by Kris Waldherr, Dial (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor) When I Was Your Age: Original Stories about Growing Up, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.
SIDELIGHTS: Amy Ehrlich is a writer and editor whose work for children encompasses both original picture books and critically acclaimed young adult novels. Her novel, Where It Stops, Nobody Knows, was cited as Booklist magazine's "Best of the Decade," and many of her picture books have also topped award lists. Her works are noted for their innovative story lines and language that challenges the reader. From her first book published in 1972, Zeek Silver Moon, it was apparent that Ehrlich would take a different slant on life, and would explore themes that matter to young readers. "I feel very strongly about the books that I'm writing and about the market in general," Ehrlich once told CA. "My books shouldn't preach or offer simple answers." Despite some criticism for the edgy situations depicted in her young adult novels, Ehrlich feels that her first job as a writer is to provide a story. According to Ehrlich, books need to reach young readers. "Basically I do feel that the best book (at least for children) is the most readable and entertaining book. The writer's job as far as I am concerned is first and foremost to tell a good story about characters the readers will care about." And Ehrlich, also an editor, added: "Good editing is terribly important for writers. A good editor is as valuable as the financial terms of a contract or the promotion budget for a book—much more valuable, come to think about it. . . . I do really believe in the power of the story in books—not only in children's books, but also adult books."
Ehrlich attended Bennington College for a number of years, but "never quite finished....The 1960s were wild and I was a classic case," she told CA. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Ehrlich lived a roving life, taking various jobs. Eventually, she gravitated to freelance and part-time work in publishing, writing copy and working with children's books as an editorial assistant. "I had wanted to write a children's book for a long time, and my boss encouraged me to write one," Ehrlich told CA. "I was writing a lot of copy, and she'd always say, 'Oh, your copy's so good—why don't you write a book?'" Ehrlich tried, but had trouble initially finding the right material. Then some friends of hers in California had a baby, and Ehrlich wanted to send a little story as a present. "I sat down and started writing this thing. After I got to the second page I realized I was writing a book." The text for Zeek Silver Moon took a weekend of nonstop work to complete and was published exactly as written. The winner of the New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year award, among others, Zeek Silver Moon was representative of the manner in which parents were bringing up children at the time, tracing the everyday childhood events of the first five years of a boy's life.
Ehrlich's Wounded Knee, an adaptation of Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee for young readers, is an overview of the conquest of the Native Americans of the American West by European settlers, ending with the carnage that occurred in 1890 at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
In 1977, Ehrlich published The Everyday Train, a picture book story of a little girl who loves to watch the freight train pass her house each day. Ehrlich's 1979 retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen story Thumbelina also garnered a favorable response, as did her Leo, Zack, and Emmie, an easy-to-read title about how the new girl in Leo and Zack's class affects their friendship. There followed more retellings, based on both fairy tales and movies, as with Ehrlich's Annie books, based on the movie about Little Orphan Annie. More picture books and adaptations also followed, including Cinderella, for which Ehrlich teamed up with the illustrator Susan Jeffers, with whom she had worked on several other adaptations. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that the pair's collaboration on Cinderella "surpasses them all." A Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books critic noted that "Ehrlich's simplified adaptation . . . makes this edition particularly appropriate for reading aloud."
Reviewing Ehrlich's retelling of the Grimm fairy tale Rapunzel, Horn Book contributor Carolyn K. Jenks wrote that this "elegant, spare retelling" is "more distanced from the reader, creating a feeling of mysterious beauty." Ehrlich also retold a Venetian fairy tale with her Pome and Peel, the story of Peel, who risks his life to save his brother Pome's bride from her father's curse. "Young readers will be entranced by this Venetian fairy tale, with its many classic ingredients," noted a Publishers Weekly critic, while Betsy Hearne of the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books concluded that the "total effect is sophisticated enough to appeal beyond the older picture book crowd to romantic fairy tale readers."
Despite the favorable response to her retellings, Ehrlich began to leave adaptations behind, concentrating more and more on original picture books and young adult novels. Her subjects for picture books are wide-ranging—from the daily lives of second-graders, to the loss of a pet, to contemporary fairy tales, to the story of Hanukkah. Ehrlich returned to the world of Leo, Zack, and Emmie with her Leo, Zack, and Emmie Together Again, set during the winter amid a flurry of snowballs, valentines, and a bout of chicken pox. Lauralyn Persson, writing in School Library Journal,concluded that the "expert blend of picture and story makes this a book that will be a popular and worthwhile choice for the easy-reader shelves."
Ehrlich teamed with illustrator Ori Sherman for The Story of Hanukkah, a "notable Hanukkah picture book that combines both cohesive storytelling and distinguished art," according to Betsy Hearne in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. A Kirkus Reviews critic commented that the origin of the Festival of Lights is "retold in clear, well-cadenced, biblically formal language."
Ehrlich's rural Vermont life is mirrored in much of her work, including the picture books Lucy's Winter Tale, Parents in the Pigpen, Pigs in the Tub, and Maggie and Silky and Joe. With Lucy's Winter Tale, Ehrlich created something of a modern fairy tale—the story of a farm girl named Lucy who is kidnapped by Ivan the Juggler and placed in his miniature circus as he travels in search of his love, Martina. In the end, Lucy returns to her family but will never forget the experience. "Ehrlich's poetic narrative puts her story in the special world of dream or allegory," noted a Kirkus Reviews commentator. Parents in the Pigpen, Pigs in the Tub, described by a Publishers Weekly reviewer as "a barnyard switcheroo," tells of farm animals who get tired of their routine lives and decide to move into the house. The family, in turn, takes up residence in the barn, but eventually things return to normal when both parties get tired of the new arrangement. "Ehrlich and [illustrator Steven] Kellogg . . . invest the naively accommodating family with a goofy cheerfulness that provides much of the book's humor," the Publishers Weekly writer remarked. Vanessa Elder, writing in School Library Journal, concluded that the book was "squeaky clean fun that's bound to get the children guffawing."
More somber of tone is Maggie and Silky and Joe, the story of a young farm boy who grows up with the family's cow dog, Maggie. When a stray puppy, Silky, comes to the farm, Maggie helps to train the younger dog. But Maggie grows old, and one day, taking refuge under the back porch during a thunderstorm, she dies, and young Joe must learn to deal with loss. A Publishers Weekly commentator called the book a "tender story of the death of a beloved pet," noting that it managed to avoid sentimentality by "letting honest facts speak for themselves." Booklist's Hazel Rochman similarly asserted that "kids will feel Joe's sorrow, the physicality of his loss."
Though she has written only two young adult novels, Ehrlich is perhaps better known for these than for her many picture books, retellings, and easy-readers. Where It Stops, Nobody Knows remains a popular title a decade after it was written and has been republished under the title Joyride. Meanwhile, The Dark Card broke new ground in subject matter for young adult novels. Inspired by the real-life experience of her son's friend, Where It Stops, Nobody Knows is the story of a young adolescent, Nina, and her mother Joyce, who together continually move from place to place. There is a mystery surrounding these moves, for Nina can never let her friends know where she is going. Is it about the $16,000 that Joyce has hidden or perhaps stolen? Is Joyce her mother's real name? Clue is laid upon clue until the ending, "which proves surprising when it is finally revealed," according to a Kirkus Reviews critic, who added that "the narrative is taut enough to hold attention until its believable, unsentimental conclusion." Zena Sutherland, reviewing the novel in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, concluded that it was "trenchant and touching." Awards committees agreed, and Where It Stops, Nobody Knows earned several honorary citations.
With The Dark Card, Ehrlich again explored the life of a young girl in difficult circumstances. Trying to come to terms with her mother's death, seventeen-year-old Laura is lured into the glitzy world of Atlantic City's casinos. Dressing in her mother's clothes and jewelry, she assumes a new identity by night at the casinos, becoming involved with a slick gambler named Ari, who in one startling scene induces Laura to strip for him. Eventually Laura escapes from what becomes a dangerous situation for her, though as Robert Strang noted in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, her escape is "a relief rather than a victory." Strang added: "Laura's story is sad, but more significant, it's scary." A Kirkus Reviews critic commented that even "minor characters here are well drawn . . . while relationships are deftly portrayed," and concluded that the book was a "well-structured cautionary tale . . . that also thoughtfully explores the complicated feelings that can follow the loss of a flawed parent."
Ehrlich returned to beginning readers with her books Kazam's Magic and Bravo, Kazam! The writing is very simple and is made more understandable by the bright and descriptive illustrations. These books were written to encourage the first steps in learning how to read. The basic vocabulary and the focused illustrations make "strong connections between art and text," wrote Stephanie Zvirin for Booklist. Both books follow the trials of a young magician, who more often than not, must witness her own magic going awry. In Kazam's Magic, for instance, the young magician makes a glass disappear but gets all wet in the process, offering young readers the joy of discovering that reading can be fun.
In 2003, Ehrlich wrote Rachel: The Story of Rachel Carson. This nonfiction book is an account of the pioneering environmentalist and is written on a level that young children can understand. Carson, a scientist, was one of the first people to notice that something was wrong with the earth's ecosystem because of the overuse of pesticides and herbicides. Her book Silent Spring was a landmark publication that inspired the entire international environmental movement that exists today. Ehrlich, in telling the story of Carson, inspires young children by relating how one person can change the world. She captures not only Carson's accomplishments as an adult but also the vivid imagination that Carson had in her youth, a child forever curious about the natural world around her. In a School Library Journal review, Margaret Bush noted that "the spare narrative . . . might serve as an evocative introduction for slightly older children." In Publishers Weekly, Diane Roback, Jennifer M. Brown, and Jason Britton wrote, "Ehrlich effectively evokes Carson's passion for and curiosity about nature."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
The Writers Directory 2002, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2002.
Booklist, October 1, 1987, pp. 325-26; July, 1992, Hazel Rochman, review of Lucy's Winter Tale, p. 1942; January 1, 1993, Nancy McCray, review of The Snow Queen, p. 818; September 15, 1993, Ilene Cooper, review of Parents in the Pigpen, Pigs in the Tub, p. 150; July, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of Maggie and Silky and Joe, p. 1954; April 15, 1996, p. 1437; September 15, 1999, review of When I Was Your Age: Original Stories about Growing Up, p. 254; May 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Where It Stops, Nobody Knows, p. 1610; April 15, 2002, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Bravo, Kazam!, p. 1407.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1985, review of Cinderella, p. 35; January, 1989, Zena Sutherland, review of Where It Stops, Nobody Knows, p. 120; December, 1989, Betsy Hearne, review of The Story of Hanukkah, p. 82; September, 1990, Betsy Hearne, review of Pome and Peel, p. 6; April, 1991, Robert Strang, review of The Dark Card, pp. 190-91.
Horn Book, November-December, 1989, Carolyn K. Jenks, review of Rapunzel, p. 779; January-February, 1994, Maeve Visser Knoth, review of Parents in the Pigpen, Pigs in the Tub, p. 62.
Junior Bookshelf, June, 1986, pp. 103-4; December, 1989, pp. 291-92; December, 1991, pp. 272-73.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1988, review of Where It Stops, Nobody Knows, p. 1603; July 15, 1989, review of The Story of Hanukkah, p. 1074; March 1, 1991, review of The Dark Card, p. 317; August 15, 1992, review of Lucy's Winter Tale, p. 1060.
New York Times Book Review, December 17, 1989, p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, September 27, 1985, Jean F. Mercier, review of Cinderella, p. 96; December 22, 1989, Diane Roback, review of Pome and Peel, p. 56; February 22, 1991, Diane Roback and Richard Donahue, review of The Dark Card, p. 219; August 10, 1992, review of Lucy's Winter Tale, p. 70; August 16, 1993, review of Parents in the Pigpen, Pigs in the Tub, p. 102; July 25, 1994, review of Maggie and Silky and Joe, p. 55; March 4, 1996, review of When I Was Your Age, p. 66; February 22, 1999, review of When I Was Your Age, p. 96; January 6, 2003, Diane Roback, Jennifer M. Brown and Jason Britton, review of Rachel: The Story of Rachel Carson, pp. 59-60.
School Library Journal, October, 1987, Lauralyn Persson, review of Leo, Zack, and Emmie Together Again, pp. 110-11; July, 1990, Karen Litton, review of Pome and Peel, p. 76; April, 1991, Dona Weisman, review of The Dark Card, p. 141; September, 1992, Karen James, review of Lucy's Winter Tale, p. 202; October, 1993, Vanessa Elder, review of Parents in the Pigpen, Pigs in the Tub, p. 98; September, 1994, Lauralyn Persson, review of Maggie and Silky and Joe, p. 184; August, 1996, Nancy P. Reeder, review of When I Was Your Age, p. 152; February, 2002, Anne Knickerbocker, review of Kazam's Magic, p. 100; May, 2003, Margaret Bush, review of Rachel, p. 136.*