Finchler, Judy 1943–

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Finchler, Judy 1943–

PERSONAL: Born March 28, 1943, in Paterson, NJ; daughter of Sidney (a postal worker) and Harriet (a teacher; maiden name, Schnittlich) Gold; married Jerome Finchler (an accountant), August 11, 1963; children: Todd, Lauren Finchler Fitch. Education: Montclair State University, B.A., 1964; William Paterson College of New Jersey, elementary school certification; Kean College of New Jersey, teacherlibrarian certification. Politics: Independent. Religion: Jewish.

ADDRESSES: Home—23 Trouville Dr., Parsippany, NJ 07054. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Educator, librarian, writer. School teacher in Paterson, NJ, 1964–67; supplemental instructor in Parsippany, NJ, 1977–81; Paterson Board of Education, teacher, 1981–86, teacher-librarian, 1986–2004.

MEMBER: National Education Association, New Jersey Education Association, Paterson Educational Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Outstanding Service Award, Department of Instructional Services, Paterson Public Schools, 1994.

WRITINGS:

Miss Malarkey Doesn't Live in Room 10, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Walker (New York, NY), 1995.

Miss Malarkey Won't Be in Today, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Walker (New York, NY), 2000.

Testing Miss Malarkey, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Walker (New York, NY), 2000.

You're a Good Sport, Miss Malarkey, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Walker (New York, NY), 2002.

Miss Malarkey's Field Trip, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Walker (New York, NY), 2004.

Miss Malarkey Leaves No Child Behind, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Walker (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS: Judy Finchler's first book, Miss Malarkey Doesn't Live in Room 10, features a child narrator whose image of his teacher's life outside of school is dashed when she moves into his own apartment building. "Finchler's lively story destroys a typical misconception in wonderfully comic fashion, with an unnamed narrator trying to fit his teacher's after-hours life neatly into his own childhood frame of reference," noted Booklist reviewer Stephanie Zvirin. School Library Journal contributor Virginia Opocensky also offered a favorable assessment of Miss Malarkey, calling the book "an entertaining romp that's sure to elicit lots of chuckles."

In Finchler's Miss Malarkey Won't Be in Today, the teacher lets her imagination run away with her. When Miss Malarkey has to call in sick because she has the flu, she begins to worry about her class, the substitute teachers they might get to replace her, and how the students might misbehave in response. Wearing only a robe and slippers, she rushes off to school, only to find that everything is fine. Her students insist she go to the school nurse's office. While reviewers of Miss Malarkey Won't Be in Today thought the story was humorous, some of them questioned the negative portrayal of substitute teachers. For example, a Publishers Weekly contributor remarked that the story does "a great disservice to fill-in instructors." However, April Judge wrote in Booklist that the book could be used as an instructional tool for students "who may have more experience taking advantage of their substitute teachers," concluding that Finchler's book is a "robust story."

Students and parents will likely appreciate the situation in Testing Miss Malarkey, which is about standardized school tests. The entire school community is on edge as the big "Instructional Performance Through Understanding" examination approaches. Teachers drill their classes incessantly, and even the parents join in by quizzing their sons and daughters in their free time. As for Miss Malarkey, she is on the verge of becoming a nervous wreck, while her students, on the other hand, do not seem concerned in the least. In the end, all of the preparation pays off and the children all do well. School Library Journal critic Kate McClelland, ironically, found this conclusion to be a drawback to the story, saying that the author missed an opportunity to comment on the mass hysteria surrounding some standardized school tests. McClelland concluded that whether or not adult readers appreciate Testing Miss Malarkey depends on whether they feel "the laughs are at the expense of the testing process, society, or the teachers themselves." Nevertheless, Booklist reviewer Marta Segal concluded that "listeners will enjoy the silly humor and joyful, creative illustrations."

Finchler tackles another modern problem in schools with You're a Good Sport, Miss Malarkey. The bad behavior of parents attending school sporting events has become an increasing concern in recent years, and in this book the author points out just how this can have a negative effect on children's enjoyment of sport. Miss Malarkey takes on the role of soccer coach, and there is a great deal of silly fun as she tries to get her students organized for their games. But the parents in the stands put a damper on their fun by becoming increasingly loud and obnoxious, until, finally, Miss Malarkey cannot take it anymore and yells, "Are you people crazy?" The soccer game is cancelled, and the league is reorganized into a noncompetitive event so that children can just focus on having a good time and getting some exercise. Parents in the crowd are all given lollipops to enjoy. While reviewers appreciated the subject matter of You're a Good Sport, Miss Malarkey, Grace Oliff, writing in the School Library Journal, was disappointed that Malarkey resorts to screaming back at the parents "rather than trying to take a more reasoned approach." Still, critics generally felt that this fourth installment in the series is another humorous romp for readers. Booklist contributor Shelley Townsend-Hudson added that Kevin O'Malley's "lively illustrations … leaven a story about a subject of increasing concern to both parents and kids."

Finchler once commented: "I've always loved writing. Whether in a story, poem, letter, or even a grant proposal, words have always been my dearest friends. Finding the best word, the most appropriate phrase, arranging, rearranging, and expressing my ideas are all deeply satisfying. The experience of seeing my words in print in bookstores and libraries has greatly surpassed even what I envisioned it to be.

"As a lover of the written word, I am also a reader," Finchler once said. "It's hard to identify where one skill ends and the other begins. That is what I try to develop in my students: reading is so much more than what you have to do in school. A book is a lifelong companion that will enrich your life. The words you read become a part of you and will in some way be given back in what you write."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Finchler, Judy, You're a Good Sport, Miss Malarkey, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Walker (New York, NY), 2002.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 1995, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Miss Malarkey Doesn't Live in Room 10, p. 563; September 1, 1998, April Judge, review of Miss Malarkey Won't Be in Today, p. 126; October 1, 2000, Marta Segal, review of Testing Miss Malarkey, p. 345; October 15, 2002, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of You're a Good Sport, Miss Malarkey, p. 411; September 15, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Miss Malarkey's Field Trip, p. 248.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1995; July 1, 2004, review of Miss Malarkey's Field Trip, p. 628.

New York Times Book Review, March 11, 2001, review of Testing Miss Malarkey, p. 26.

Publishers Weekly, August 14, 1995, review of Miss Malarkey Doesn't Live in Room 10, p. 83; September 14, 1998, review of Miss Malarkey Won't Be in Today, p. 68; October 2, 2000, review of Miss Malarkey Won't Be in Today, p. 83; October 7, 2002, "Encore Performance," p. 75.

School Library Journal, December, 1995, Virginia Opocensky, review of Miss Malarkey Doesn't Live in Room 10, p. 80; October, 1998, Tom S. Hurlburt, review of Miss Malarkey Won't Be in Today, p. 98; October, 2000, Kate McClelland, review of Testing Miss Malarkey, p. 124; October, 2002, Grace Oliff, review of You're a Good Sport, Miss Malarkey, p. 105; November, 2004, Grace Oliff, review of Miss Malarkey's Field Trip, p. 103.