Hurwitz, Johanna 1937–
Hurwitz, Johanna 1937–
PERSONAL: Born October 9, 1937, in New York, NY; daughter of Nelson (a journalist and bookseller) and Tillie (a library assistant) Frank; married Uri Levi Hurwitz (a writer and college teacher), February 19, 1962; children: Nomi, Benjamin. Education: Queens College (now Queens College of the City University of New York), B.A., 1958; Columbia University, M.L.S., 1959. Politics: Liberal. Religion: Jewish.
ADDRESSES: Home—Great Neck, NY.
CAREER: New York Public Library, New York, NY, children's librarian, 1959–63; Queen's College of the City University of New York, Flushing, lecturer on children's literature, 1965–68; Calhoun School, New York, NY, children's librarian, 1968–75; Manor Oaks School, New Hyde Park, NY, children's librarian, 1975–77; Great Neck Library, Great Neck, NY, children's librarian, 1978–92; writer. New York Public Library, visiting storyteller, 1964–67.
AWARDS, HONORS: Parents' Choice Award, Parents' Choice Foundation, 1982, for The Rabbi's Girls, and 1984, for The Hot and Cold Summer; Texas Bluebonnet Award, and Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Award, both 1987, both for The Hot and Cold Summer; Kentucky Bluegrass Award, West Virginia Children's Book Award, and Mississippi Children's Book Award, all 1989, all for Class Clown; Florida Sunshine State Award, 1990, and New Jersey Garden State Award, 1991, both for Teacher's Pet; American Library Association Notable Book designation, 2001, for Rip-roaring Russell; winner of numerous child-selected state awards.
FICTION; FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
Busybody Nora, illustrated by Susan Jeschke, Morrow (New York, NY), 1976, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, 1990, illustrated by Debbie Tilley, Harper-Trophy (New York, NY), 2001.
Nora and Mrs. Mind-Your-Own-Business, illustrated by Susan Jeschke, 1977, illustrated by Lilian Hoban, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991, illustrated by Debbie Tilley, HarperTrophy (New York, NY), 2001.
The Law of Gravity, illustrated by Ingrid Fetz, Morrow (New York, NY), 1978, published as What Goes up Must Come Down, Scholastic/Apple (New York, NY), 1983.
Much Ado about Aldo, illustrated by John Wallner, Morrow (New York, NY), 1978.
Aldo Applesauce, illustrated by John Wallner, Morrow (New York, NY), 1979.
New Neighbors for Nora, illustrated by Susan Jeschke, Morrow (New York, NY), 1979, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, 1991, illustrated by Debbie Tilley, HarperTrophy (New York, NY), 2001.
Once I Was a Plum Tree, illustrated by Ingrid Fetz, Morrow (New York, NY), 1980.
Superduper Teddy, illustrated by Susan Jeschke, Morrow (New York, NY), 1980, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, 1990, illustrated by Debbie Tilley, Harper-Trophy (New York, NY), 2001.
Aldo Ice Cream, illustrated by John Wallner, Morrow (New York, NY), 1981.
Baseball Fever, illustrated by Ray Cruz, Morrow (New York, NY), 1981.
The Rabbi's Girls, illustrated by Pamela Johnson, Morrow (New York, NY), 1982, reprinted, HarperTrophy (New York, NY), 2002.
Tough-luck Karen, illustrated by Diane deGroat, Morrow (New York, NY), 1982.
Rip-roaring Russell, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983, illustrated by Debbie Tilley, HarperTrophy (New York, NY), 2001.
DeDe Takes Charge!, illustrated by Diane deGroat, Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.
The Hot and Cold Summer, illustrated by Gail Owens, Morrow (New York, NY), 1985.
The Adventures of Ali Baba Bernstein, illustrated by Gail Owens, Morrow (New York, NY), 1985.
Russell Rides Again, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Morrow (New York, NY), 1986.
Hurricane Elaine, illustrated by Diane deGroat, Morrow (New York, NY), 1986.
Yellow Blue Jay, illustrated by Donald Carrick, Morrow (New York, NY), 1986, published as Bunk Mates, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1988.
Class Clown, illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka, Morrow (New York, NY), 1987.
Russell Sprouts, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Morrow (New York, NY), 1987, illustrated by Debbie Tillie, HarperTrophy (New York, NY), 2001.
The Cold and Hot Winter, illustrated by Carolyn Ewing, Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.
Teacher's Pet, illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka, Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.
Hurray for Ali Baba Bernstein, illustrated by Gail Owens, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.
Russell and Elisa, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989, illustrated by Debbie Tilley, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Class President, illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka, Morrow (New York, NY), 1990.
Aldo Peanut Butter, illustrated by Diane deGroat, Morrow (New York, NY), 1990.
"E" Is for Elisa, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991, illustrated by Debbie Tilley, HarperTrophy (New York, NY), 2003.
School's Out, illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.
Roz and Ozzie, illustrated by Eileen McKeating, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.
Ali Baba Bernstein: Lost and Found, illustrated by Karen Milone, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.
Make Room for Elisa, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
New Shoes for Silvia, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
The Up and Down Spring, illustrated by Gail Owens, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
School Spirit, illustrated by Karen Dugan, Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
A Word to the Wise, and Other Proverbs, illustrated by Robert Rayevsky, Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
A Llama in the Family, illustrated by Mark Graham, Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
Elisa in the Middle, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.
Ozzie on His Own, illustrated by Eileen McKeating, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.
Even Stephen, illustrated by Michael Dooling, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.
The Down and Up Fall, illustrated by Gail Owens, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.
Spring Break, illustrated by Karen Dugan, Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.
Ever-Clever Elisa, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Morrow (New York, NY), 1997, illustrated by Debbie Tilley, HarperTrophy (New York, NY), 2002.
Faraway Summer, illustrated by Mary Azarian, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
Starting School, illustrated by Karen Dugan, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
A Llama in the Library, illustrated by Mark Graham, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.
The Just Desserts Club: Stories and Snacks with Cricket and Lucas, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.
Summer with Elisa, illustrated by Heather Harms Maione, Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.
PeeWee's Tale ("Park Pals Adventure" series), illustrated by Patience Brewster, SeaStar Books (New York, NY), 2000.
One Small Dog, illustrated by Diane deGroat, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Russell's Secret, illustrated by Heather Harms Maione, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Lexi's Tale ("Park Pals Adventure" series), illustrated by Patience Brewster, SeaStar (New York, NY), 2001.
PeeWee and Plush ("Park Pals Adventure" series), illustrated by Patience Brewster, SeaStar (New York, NY), 2002.
Oh, No Noah!, illustrated by Mike Reed, SeaStar (New York, NY), 2002.
Ethan out and About, illustrated by Brian Floca, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
Dear Emma, illustrated by Barbara Garrison, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Ethan at Home, illustrated by Brian Floca, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
Elisa Michaels, Bigger and Better, illustrated by Debbie Tilley, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Fourth-Grade Fuss, illustrated by Andy Hammond, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
The Unsigned Valentine; and Other Events in the Life of Emma Meade, illustrated by Mary Azarian, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
Mostly Monty, illustrated by Anik McCrory, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.
NONFICTION; FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
Anne Frank: Life in Hiding, illustrated by Vera Rosen-berry, Jewish Publication Society, Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.
Astrid Lindgren: Storyteller to the World, illustrated by Michael Dooling, Viking (New York, NY), 1989.
Leonard Bernstein: A Passion for Music, illustrated by Sonia Lisker, Jewish Publication Society (New York, NY), 1993.
Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark, illustrated by Neverne Covington, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.
A Dream Come True, photographs by Michael Craine, Richard C. Owens, 1998.
Contributor to periodicals, including Horn Book. Editor of books, including Birthday Surprises: Ten Great Stories to Unwrap, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.
ADAPTATIONS: Dear Emma was adapted as an audio-book, Recorded Books, 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: With more than fifty short novels to her credit and counting, Johanna Hurwitz is considered one of the most popular and prolific writers of chapter books for beginning readers and novels for middle graders. Among her best-known works are lighthearted novels for both elementary and middle-grade readers that are characterized by endearing and eccentric protagonists who face the universal difficulties of childhood. Based on personal experience, many of Hurwitz's books arrange themselves in several loosely jointed series that focus on the everyday adventures of urban and suburban families. Nora's family, including brother Teddy, along with several of her friends appear in several novels, while other books focus on the Sossi family: Aldo, his siblings Karen and Elaine, and his friend DeDe. In the Michaels family, oldest son Russell is featured in several titles, while middle child Elisa stars in books such as Summer with Elisa and Elisa Michaels, Bigger and Better. Cricket Kaufman and friends also appear in Hurwitz's fictional universe, their stories related in Class Clown, Fourth-Grade Fuss, and other related titles.
Not only characters, but also incidents make repeat performances in Hurwitz's novels; a similar situation or action is viewed from a different perspective in several different books. While Hurwitz sometimes tackles serious issues—such as divorce in DeDe Takes Charge!, prejudice and the death of a parent in The Rabbi's Girls, and the acceptance of change in One Small Dog—her fiction is also laced with her trademark humor and irony, and her protagonists' main problems are often resolved by book's end. Hurwitz's optimistic approach, fast-paced narratives, and frequent depictions of strong family relationships have made her books appealing to readers and reviewers alike. Reviewing her novel Class Clown, a critic in Kirkus Reviews noted that Hurwitz here and elsewhere "demonstrates her Cleary-like gift for making the everyday stuff of life both funny and touching." As Christine Doyle wrote in the St. James Guide to Children's Writers, the author "provides her young readers with believable heroes and heroines facing the common but important crises of childhood, and treats them to much laughter on the way to convincing, attainable solutions of their problems."
Hurwitz grew up in a New York City apartment where the walls were lined with books. Her parents (who met in a bookstore) passed their love of reading on to their daughter; Hurwitz remembers being interested in books from an early age. She secured a library card as soon as she was able to and by age ten decided that she would someday become a librarian and a writer. Hurwitz began working at the New York Public Library while still in high school and, after attending Queens' College and Columbia University, she became a full-time children's librarian in 1959. She married in 1962 and had two children within the next four years. Though she began writing poems and stories at an early age, it was not until 1976 that she published her first book, Busybody Nora, which was inspired by Hurwitz's experiences raising a family in a New York City apartment.
Geared for early elementary school readers, Busybody Nora focuses on the everyday adventures of the inquisitive seven-year-old title character—based on Hurwitz's own daughter, Nomi—who lives in a large city apartment building with her parents and younger brother, Teddy—based on Hurwitz's son Benjamin. The heroine's further escapades are chronicled in Nora and Mrs. Mind-Your-Own-Business and New Neighbors for Nora. Five-year-old Teddy also resurfaces in Superduper Teddy where, bolstered by his superhero cape and outgoing sister, Teddy learns to overcome his shyness.
Hurwitz develops similar themes in her books about Russell and younger sister, Elisa, siblings who live in the same apartment building as friends Nora and Teddy. In Rip-roaring Russell the title character begins nursery school, a task that is, at first, a source of anxiety and temper tantrums. In Russell's Secret the four year old decides that he would like to forget school and regress to babyhood like his younger sister, but Russell's scheme becomes far less attractive when his clever mother feeds him a lunch of warm milk and mashed vegetables. The boy's sixth birthday party is the main event of Russell Rides Again, and Russell Sprouts revolves around the boy's adventures in first grade. In Russell and Elisa Russell deems his little sister a cause of embarrassment, especially when she tags along to his baseball game with her doll, Airmail. The young heroine wants to do everything her older brother can in "E" Is for Elisa, and that includes going on cookouts with the Cub Scouts. In the course of the book, Elisa breaks her arm, wears her bathing suit in the winter, and endures Russell's teasing.
With the beginning chapter books Make Room for Elisa, Summer with Elisa, and Elisa Michaels, Bigger and Better, Hurwitz allows Russell's little sister to come into her own while growing up. Make Room for Elisa contains six connected stories dealing with topics from stage fright to a first pair of glasses, while Summer with Elisa the girl enjoys a season as oldest child in the family when Russell is sent off to summer camp. Elisa Michaels, Bigger and Better focuses on the second graders as she enthusiastically takes on the responsibilities of being the almost-eight-year-old older sister to two-year-old Marshall. "As usual," noted Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin in a review of Make Room for Elisa, "Hurwitz manages to keep her authorial fingers directly on the pulse of childhood, touching on both the humor and the seriousness of growing up." Praising Elisa Michaels, Bigger and Better in Horn Book, Roger Sutton noted that "Hurwitz knows kids, and … writes like everyone's favorite aunt." Claudia Cooper, writing in School Library Journal, compared the books featuring Elisa to Cleary's "Ramona" series, concluding that each volume is "packed with situations any child can relate to and written with charm and wit." Praising Elisa Michaels, Bigger and Better as "a perfect transitional book for new readers," a Kirkus Reviews writer commended the title character and remarked that "Hurwitz has a gift for making everyday family life seem remarkable."
Hurwitz's works involving Nora, Teddy, Russell, and Elisa have been praised for their light, humorous glimpses into the world of children, replete with minor disasters and triumphant successes. The books are considered especially suitable for reading aloud, as their chapters are short and self-contained while relating to a more general plot. In a Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books review of Russell and Elisa, Ruth Ann Staitl commented: "Hurwitz excels in conveying the young child's point of view without any condescension. The moments of laughter in this family story ring true." More of Elisa's adventures are served up in both Ever-Clever Elisa and Summer with Elisa.
A number of Hurwitz's books for upper elementary and middle-school readers concern the Sossis family. Aldo, a fourth-grader, is featured in books such as Aldo Ice Cream, where his summer activities include sampling every flavor at the local ice-cream parlor, and Aldo Peanut Butter, in which the boy experiences the joys and frustrations of raising puppies (named Peanut and Butter). Aldo's thirteen-year-old sister is the focus of Tough-luck Karen, in which the teen encounters some "bad luck" after neglecting her homework in favor of cooking, writing to pen pals, and baby sitting. Eventually, however, Karen recognizes her carelessness and begins to take responsibility for her actions. Another sister is the main character of Hurricane Elaine, in which the fifteen year old begins dating, looks forward to high school, and learns to curb the impulsive habits that get her into trouble at school and at home.
Critics frequently praise Hurwitz for storylines in which her young protagonist achieves noticeable personal growth. In one such book, School's Out, class clown Lucas Cott delights in getting the best of his new French babysitter, Genevieve, during summer vacation. As the weeks go by, however, Lucas comes to like Genevieve and decides that he must become a better influence on his younger twin brothers. In Class Clown Lucas reappears, "full of enthusiasm and an overabundance of energy, never deliberately misbehaving but always wanting attention," according to Trev Jones in School Library Journal. "Once again," Jones commented, "Hurwitz exhibits her talent for creating characters who talk, act, and think just like real kids."
Other books featuring Lucas Cott include Teacher's Pet, School Spirit, The Just Desserts Club: Stories and Snacks with Cricket and Lucas, and Fourth-Grade Fuss. In Teacher's Pet Hurwitz focuses on Cricket Kaufman, "a world-class conformist and achiever," as Zena Sutherland described the girl in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. When new-girl-in-school Zoe Mitchell turns out to be just as smart as Cricket, Cricket has trouble overcoming her jealousy. Reviewing Teacher's Pet in School Library Journal, Amy Kellman concluded that "Hurwitz sets up the situation quickly in the first few pages and keeps the plot moving so that even reluctant readers will be caught early and held."
In School Spirit Lucas, Cricket, Zoe, and Julio Sanchez form a Save Our School committee after the school board threatens to close their school. "A surefire hit," is how Elaine Lesh Morgan described the book in School Library Journal. The friends' love affair with food is the focus of The Just Desserts Club, as Cricket and company prepare a party menu, organize a bake sale for a local charity, and suffer from an all-zucchini diet in mid-summer. Lucas, Cricket, and company make a return visit in Fourth-Grade Fuss, as Julio worries about becoming separated from his friends if he fails to pass the standardized test his teachers have scheduled for the coming spring. "Fans of this series as well as young test takers everywhere are sure to appreciate the humorous, reassuring" plot in Hurwitz's chapter book, noted Ilene Cooper in a Booklist review of Fourth-Grade Fuss.
Lucas's twin younger brothers Marcus and Marius have some fictional exploits all their own, courtesy of Hurwitz's pen. First introduced in School's Out and School Spirit, the rambunctious twins take center stage in Starting School, a book about entering kindergarten that is intended for middle-grade readers. In Booklist, Zvirin called the novel "a charmer," noting that "Hurwitz incorporates lots of true-to-age details and jokes to give an authentic picture of how little ones tend to see the world, interact with others, and view themselves."
More lovable and sometimes obstreperous kids are presented in four interrelated novels built around the seasons: The Hot and Cold Summer, The Cold and Hot Winter, The up and down Spring, and The down and up Fall. Featuring Derek, Rory, and Bolivia, The Cold and Hot Winter is a story of trust and friendship in which "Hurwitz again demonstrates what makes her books so popular with middle-graders," according to Roger Sutton in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. The quartet rounds off with The down and up Fall, a book "full of enthusiastic, well-behaved, helpful, obedient, and kind children," according to a critic in Kirkus Reviews.
Other popular characters that readers meet in Hurwitz's fiction include Ozzie, a boy who first makes his appearance in Roz and Ozzie; in Ozzie on His Own the boy faces a summer alone while his father suffers a heart attack. Deborah Stevenson noted in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books that Ozzie on His Own "handles the serious issues and the funny moments with the same calm tenderness." David Bernstein—also known as Ali Baba Bernstein—is an eight year old who is taken with the tales of The Arabian Nights. In The Adventures of Ali Baba Bernstein, his exploits are presented in six self-contained chapters, a "pleasant pick for readers newly into 'chapter' books," according to Denise M. Wilms in Booklist. Containing a "few hard-earned lessons about responsible pet ownership" according to School Library Journal reviewer Maryann H. Owen, One Small Dog follows a fourth grader whose love for a new puppy prompts him to defend his pet when the pup proves too destructive to stay in the small city apartment the boy now shares with his newly separated mom. Praising Hurwitz's "poignant tale," a Publishers Weekly wrote in a review of One Small Dog that "genuine emotion … runs through" the story as the boy learns that some things in life—parents and pets included—cannot be controlled.
Praised by School Library Journal contributor Beth Wright as "a charming chapter book for newly independent readers," PeeWee's Tale introduces one of Hurwitz's most unusual characters: an escaped guinea pig who, with the help of squirrels and other animal friends, makes a new home for himself in New York's Central Park. Set loose by nine-year-old Robbie's rodent-hating mom, the guinea pig is able to repay the kindness shown him by his new friends because of his ability to read (he grew up in a kindergarten classroom!). Together with his new best friend, a streetwise squirrel named Lexi, PeeWee makes "some humorous and insightful observations about the urban outdoors," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In Booklist a reviewer praised the "adorable" illustrations Patience Brewster contributes to PeeWee's Tale, predicting that they will "have many children clamoring for a guinea pig of their own." PeeWee's adventures continue in PeeWee and Plush, which finds PeeWee with a new love interest in another lost guinea pig, and the helpful squirrel takes central stage in Lexi's Tale, a "gentle tale of friendship [that] will appeal to lovers of animal stories," according to Booklist contributor Amy Brandt.
Moving from the everyday present into the past, Hurwitz has also penned a series of historical novels that pull readers back to the world of a young teen living on a remote Vermont dairy farm a century in the past. Fifteen-year-old Emma Meade is introduced in Faraway Summer, and her adventures continue in The Unsigned Valentine; and Other Events in the Life of Emma Meade. In Faraway Summer Hurwitz accomplished a long-held desire: to write a novel through journal entries. This book is set in 1910, and focuses on twelve-year-old Russian immigrant Hadassah Rabinowitz as she spends two weeks on the Meade's Vermont farm as part of a civic venture organized to send New York City's children to the country. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly concluded that "readers will likely be drawn to this little-known slice of history."
Illustrated by New England artist Mary Azarian, The Unsigned Valentine finds Emma Meade forced to leave school after her older brother's marriage and her mother's pregnancy require her to shoulder more responsibility at home. While her world brightens when the handsome nineteen-year-old Cole Berry starts to pay her visits, the teen's father's efforts to discourage Cole's attention create a frustration many of Hurwitz's readers will relate to. The novel provides "a fine look into the era and setting," wrote a Kirkus Reviews writer, the critic also commending Hurwitz's "easy, smooth writing style." Noting that several historical personages move in and out of Emma's fictional life, Carolyn Phelan wrote in Booklist that The Unsigned Valentine can be enjoyed as "a quite, satisfying historical novel." Hurwitz's "engaging period fiction," in addition to providing realistic characters, also "nimbly integrates … the dramatic effects of nature's ravages on farm life," commented a Publishers Weekly writer. Noting that the book can be enjoyed by readers who have not previously been introduced to Emma through Faraway Summer and its sequels, School Library Journal contributor Debbie Stewart recommended The Unsigned Valentine as "a good choice for readers who have graduated from [Pleasant Company's] … 'American Girl'" historical novels.
Hurwitz continues to illuminate the life of immigrant children during the early twentieth century in Dear Emma. Comprised of a series of letters written to Emma by Hadassah, the novel follows the Jewish girl's experiences in her new home as she gets used to living with her older married sister Ruthi in a tenement located in New York City's lower east side. Sickness, poverty, struggles with a new language, and making do in cramped living conditions take a back seat to tragedy, however, when Ruthi and Hadassah lose several close friends during the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. In Booklist Kay Weisman deemed Dear Emma "a good choice for history buffs," and School Library Journal Laura Scott cited Hurwitz for including author's notes that "add historical details" about a "grim" period of American history.
In addition to fiction, Hurwitz has published four nonfiction works. Anne Frank: Life in Hiding introduces Anne and the Frank family to elementary school readers, gives an explanation of the political and economic background of the Holocaust of World War II, and describes the significance of the diary that was published after Anne's death. In Astrid Lindgren: Storyteller to the World Hurwitz recounts the life and career of the creator of the beloved character Pippi Longstocking, and Leonard Bernstein: A Passion for Music details the several artistic lives of a noted American conductor, composer, pianist, and teacher. Ellen Mandel, writing in Booklist, commented that "Hurwitz make it clear that Bernstein's determination and talent propelled his career." A further biographical entry is Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark, recounting the many trials and triumphs of this sight- and hearing-impaired American author and lecturer who made the cause of educating the blind her life's work.
Hurwitz's talents have also led to work in picture books, such as New Shoes for Silvia, a "simple story, told in spare prose" that "speaks universally to the imagination and emotions," according to Ann Welton in School Library Journal. In Even Stephen Hurwitz writes for an older audience; the YA novel focuses on a high school boy who discovers he is not perfect. Deborah Stevenson remarked in a review of Even Stephen for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books that "Hurwitz is writing about older kids than she usually does, but her easy style and sympathetic characterization are evident here as well."
Though she has penned a variety of works for young readers, Hurwitz does not expect or want to write for adults. "I get angry when people ask me when am I going to write a book for adults," the author once commented. "I do not feel that my writing for children is practice for that. I write for children because I am especially interested in that period of life. There is an intensity and seriousness about childhood which fascinates me." Though her writings have ranged from picture books to YA, and her settings from turn-of-the-century to modern day, Hurwitz is best loved for her lighthearted middle-grade novels with contemporary settings. As Stevenson wrote in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, "Hurwitz is one of our most reliable writers about daily kid-life."
"More than anything else," Hurwitz noted in the St. James Guide to Children's Writers, "I hope children gain pleasure from my books. I do not write with deep messages or hidden meanings. If upon completion of my book, the reader is eager to read another (by me or by someone else too), then I know I have been successful."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Children's Books and Their Creators, edited by Anita Silvey, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1995.
St. James Guide to Children's Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999, pp. 540-542.
Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 18, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Booklist, March 15, 1985, Denise M. Wilms, review of The Adventures of Ali Baba Bernstein, p. 1334; October 15, 1988, p. 409; August, 1993, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Make Room for Elisa, p. 2062; October 15, 1993, p. 452; February 15, 1994, Ellen Mandel, review of Leonard Bernstein: A Passion for Music, p. 1079; March 1, 1995, p. 1242; April 1, 1996, p. 1354; August, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Starting School, p. 2005; May 1, 1999, Chris Sherman, review of Llama in the Library, p. 1594; August, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Just Desserts Club, p. 2056; September 15, 2000, Ellen Mandel, review of Summer with Elisa, p. 240; October 1, 2000, Marta Segal, review of PeeWee's Tale, p. 339; October 15, 2000, Kay Weisman, review of One Small Dog, p. 438; December 15, 2001, Amy Brandt, review of Lexi's Tale, p. 731; January 1, 2002, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Russell's Secret, p. 866; December 1, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of Dear Emma, p. 666; December 15, 2003, Lauren Peterson, review of Elisa Michaels, Bigger and Better, p. 753; August, 2004, Kay Weisman, review of Fourth-Grade Fuss, p. 1935; March 1, 2006, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Unsigned Valentine; and Other Events in the Life of Emma Meade, p. 79.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1980; June, 1980; November, 1984; June, 1985; October, 1985; December, 1986; April, 1987; March, 1988, Zena Sutherland, review of Teacher's Pet, p. 139; November, 1988, Roger Sutton, review of The Cold and Hot Winter, p. 75; January, 1990, Ruth Ann Staitl, review of Russell and Elisa, p. 111; April, 1991, p. 197; March, 1995, Deborah Stevenson, review of Ozzie on His Own, p. 239; March, 1996, Deborah Stevenson, review of Even Stephen, p. 230; February, 1998, p. 206; March, 1999, review of Llama in the Library, p. 241; September, 2000, review of One Small Dog, p. 23.
Horn Book, December, 1976, p. 663; December, 1981, p. 664; June, 1982, p. 288; October, 1982, p. 517; December, 1983, p. 710; September-October, 1987, p. 605; November-December, 1993, p. 734; July-August, 1994, p. 478; July-August, 1995, p. 484; November-December, 1995, p. 761; September-October, 1997, p. 572; July-August, 1998, p. 490; September-October, 1998, Cathryn M. Mercier, review of Starting School, p. 609, and Elizabeth S. Watson, review of Snowflake Bentley, p. 622; September, 2000, Roger Sutton, review of One Small Dog, p. 570; November-December, 2003, Roger Sutton, review of Elisa Michaels, Bigger and Better, p. 747.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1987, review of Class Clown, p. 720; June 15, 1996, review of The Down and Up Fall, p. 900; May 1, 2002, review of Oh No, Noah!, p. 657; September 1, 2002, review of Pee-Wee and Plush, p. 1311; October 15, 2002, review of Dear Emma, p. 1531; October 15, 2003, review of Bigger and Better, p. 1271; December 1, 2005, review of The Unsigned Valentine, p. 1275.
Publishers Weekly, January 30, 1981; June 29, 1984, p. 104; July 8, 1988, p. 56; March, 30, 1990, p. 62; August 10, 1990, p. 444; August 26, 1996, p. 100; April 27, 1998, review of Faraway Summer, p. 67; April 5, 1999, review of Rip-Roaring Russell, Russell and Elisa, and Russell Sprouts, p. 243; July 24, 2000, review of One Small Dog, p. 94; October 2, 2000, review of PeeWee's Tale, p. 82; April 22, 2002, review of Oh No, Noah!, p. 70; December 5, 2005, review of The Unsigned Valentine, p. 55. School Library Journal, October, 1978, pp. 129, 134; September, 1979, p. 113; February, 1980, p. 57; December, 1980, p. 53; January, 1983, p. 76; May, 1984, p. 81; November, 1984, p. 126; August, 1987, Trev Jones, review of Class Clown, p. 86; April, 1988, Amy Kellman, review of Teacher's Pet, p. 105; September, 1988, p. 183; March, 1989, p. 163; August, 1989, p. 146; February, 1990, p. 103; May, 1990, p. 106; May, 1991, p. 93; October, 1993, Ann Welton, review of New Shoes for Silvia, p. 101; November, 1993, Claudia Cooper, review of Make Room for Elisa, p. 84; May, 1994, Elaine Lesh Morgan, review of School Spirit, pp. 114-115; May, 1998, p. 44; September, 1998, p. 174; September, 2000, Wendy S. Carroll, review of Summer with Elisa, p. 199; October, 2000, Beth Wright, review of PeeWee's Tale, p. 127; November, 2000, Maryann H Owen, review of One Small Dog, p. 123; December, 2002, Debbie Stewart, review of PeeWee and Plush, p. 97, and Laura Scott, review of Dear Emma, p. 140; March, 2004, Leanna Manna, review of Elisa Michaels, Bigger and Better, p. 170; August, 2004, Sharon R. Pearce, review of Fourth-Grade Fuss, p. 88; January, 2006, Debbie Stewart, review of The Unsigned Valentine, p. 134; May, 2006, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Baseball Fever, p. 60.
Meet Authors and Illustrators Web site, http://www.childrenslit.com/ (December 26, 2006), "Johanna Hurwitz."
Good Conversation: A Talk with Johanna Hurwitz (video), Tim Podell Productions, 1997.