Isaacs, Anne 1949-
ISAACS, Anne 1949-
PERSONAL: Born March 2, 1949, in Buffalo, NY; daughter of Samuel (a materials handling engineer) and Hope (an anthropologist; maiden name, Levy) Isaacs; children: Jordan, Amy, Sarah. Education: University of Michigan, B.A., 1971, M.S., 1975; attended State University of New York, Buffalo, 1971-72. Religion: Jewish.
ADDRESSES: Home—8521 Buckingham Drive, El Cerrito, CA 94530. Agent—Gail Hochman, Brandt & Brandt Literary Agents, 1501 Broadway, New York, NY 10036. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Held numerous positions in environmental education from 1975 to 1990; writer of children's books and poetry, 1983—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Swamp Angel, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, was a Caldecott honor book and a Notable Books selection of the American Library Association (ALA), both 1994; other awards for Swamp Angel include: Best Illustrated Books citation, New York Times, and Best Books from School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, all 1994, and Honor Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book, Children's Book of the Year list, Child Study Children's Book Committee, and Notable Trade Book in Language Arts, National Council of Teachers of English, all 1995; National Jewish Book Award finalist, ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults designations, Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Young Readers designation, Smithsonian Notable Book for Children selection, Booklist Best of the Year/Holocaust Literature for Youth selection, International Reading Association Outstanding International Book and Notable Books for a Global Society selections, New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing selection, and Children's Literature Choice, Children's Book Council Notable Book in Social Studies, all 2000, all for Torn Thread.
Swamp Angel, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Treehouse Tales, illustrated by Lloyd Bloom, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Cat up a Tree: A Story in Poems, illustrated by Stephen Mackey, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Torn Thread, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
A Bowl of Soup, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Scholastic, in press.
ADAPTATIONS: Swamp Angel was adapted as a segment of Storytime, Public Broadcasting System (PBS), 1995.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The Song of Miriam (Scholastic), a historical novel, and two picture books, Toby Littlewood (Scholastic) and Dust Devil (Dutton Children's Books).
SIDELIGHTS: Anne Isaacs is best known for Swamp Angel, an imaginative historical tale spotlighting a young female heroine who appears larger than life. She is also the author of the fictional work Torn Thread, which is based on the true story of a young girl imprisoned in a Nazi labor camp during World War II.
Written in a tongue-in-cheek style, Swamp Angel features Angelica Longrider, who, as an infant, is a bit taller than her mother and who later accomplishes some amazing feats. In addition to building her first log cabin by the time she is two, Angelica rescues a wagon from Dejection Swamp and then defeats a bear, Thundering Tarnation, by throwing him up to the sky and creating a prairie from the bear's pelt. Commentators have compared Angelica to the legendary American folk hero Paul Bunyan. A Caldecott honor book with illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky, Swamp Angel was declared "visually exciting, wonderful to read aloud . . . a picture book to remember" by a Horn Book contributor. A reviewer in Kirkus Reviews exclaimed, "It is impossible to convey the sheer pleasure, the exaggerated loopiness, of newcomer Isaacs's wonderful story."
A more serious work is Isaacs's A Bowl of Soup, which, as Isaacs explained, "is a fictional account of the experiences of my mother-in-law, Eva Buchbinder Koplowicz, as a young woman in a Nazi labor camp in Czechoslovakia from 1943 to 1945. All of the incidents are either true or possible." To write this emotionally painful story, Isaacs researched a number of holocaust topics; read the testimony of other holocaust survivors; visited concentration camps, death camps, and former ghettos in Europe; and visited the labor camp and factory where Eva worked. About writing the story, Isaacs revealed: "It has been hard going. I have had to invent the most wonderful father I have ever known, then hand him over to the Nazis again and again during subsequent drafts of the book. I have had to experience repeatedly many unbearable realities. But at the end of each writing day, I have been fortunate to be able to return to the safe and loving world of my family." While the holocaust is often difficult for children to understand, Isaac provides a spirited story sensitive to young readers. "Given its precise detail and sensitivity to unimaginable suffering," a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted, "this gripping novel reads like the strongest of Holocaust memoirs."
About her own life, Isaacs once commented: "I was born in 1949 in Buffalo, New York, and lived there until I left to attend the University of Michigan in 1967. As a child I did a limited amount of creative writing on my own. I had two poems published at the age of ten in a city-wide magazine of writing by school children. I read constantly, selecting books haphazardly from my parents' and the public library shelves. In fifth grade, for example, along with The Wind in the Willows, I read Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest, plus Lorna Doone and The Caine Mutiny. As now, poetry affected me more profoundly than any other genre. At age ten I memorized Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan' while reading it for the first time.
"Probably the greatest childhood influence on my writing was reading and re-reading, over a period of years, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I would finish the last page and immediately start over at the first. The story became a kind of life plan for me, although I didn't realize that until a few years ago. Like Alcott's semi-autobiographical heroine, Jo, I grew up to marry a kindly, professorial man with an unpronounceable name, to raise a passel of kids in the country, and to combine careers in educational program development and children's book writing. This experience has taught me to respect the long-term influence a children's book may have on its readers.
"I studied English literature in my undergraduate years at the University of Michigan, and in a year of graduate study at the State University of New York, Buffalo. I also studied French, Russian, Latin, and American literature during these years. I have always been especially interested in nineteenth-century novels and poetry. Only as an adult have I begun to read extensively in children's literature, often experiencing a book for the first time while reading it to my children.
"As a result of reading children's and adult literature interchangeably throughout my life, I have never recognized a clear distinction between them, nor do I apply different standards."
In Treehouse Tales, a collection of her short stories, Isaacs links the lives of three farm children with their tree house. The stories take place in Pennsylvania during the 1880s. Whether pretending to be U.S. Civil War generals or in the midst of a dragon's lair, each of these stories is imaginatively told, combining fantasy with lessons about family harmony and affection. According to Kay Weisman of Booklist, "Isaac's lighthearted tales sparkle with warmth and humor."
Cat up a Tree communicates a series of mystical poems about a cat's adventures climbing a tree. Stephen Mackey's expansive, rich illustrations add a sense of enchantment to the poems, each one told from a different point of view. The poems and paintings combine to transport the reader from an ordinary event into a hidden, secretive world of mystery and imagination. "Cat Lovers will go wild for this work, as will poets and dreamers," proclaimed a contributor to Publishers Weekly in a review of the book.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of Swamp Thing, p. 424; January 15, 1995, pp. 862, 907; April 15, 1995, p. 1412; September 15, 1997, Kay Weisman, review of Treehouse Tales, p. 235; March 1, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Torn Thread, p. 1236; March 15, 2001, review of Torn Thread, p. 1366.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1997, review of Treehouse Tales, p. 54; November, 1998, review of Cat up a Tree, p. 101.
Childhood Education, fall, 2000, Jeanie Burnett, review of Torn Thread, p. 45.
Children's Book Review Service, August, 1997, review of Treehouse Tales, p. 164.
Children's Bookwatch, December, 1998, review of Cat up a Tree, p. 4.
Entertainment Weekly, October 21, 1994, Leonard S. Marcus, review of Swamp Angel, p. 83.
Horn Book, March/April, 1995, Mary M. Burns, review of Swamp Angel, p. 184; September-October, 1997, Ann A. Flowers, review of Treehouse Tales, p. 572.
Horn Book Guide, spring, 1999, review of Cat up a Tree, p. 132.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1994, p. 1408; June 1, 1997, review of Treehouse Tales, p. 874; September 1, 1998, review of Cat up a Tree, p. 1286.
New York Times Book Review, November 13, 1994, p. 30; June 22, 1997, review of Treehouse Tales, p. 22; November 15, 1998, Jen Nessel, review of Cat up a Tree, p. 48.
Publishers Weekly, October 3, 1994, review of Swamp Angel, p. 69; November 7, 1994, p. 43; May 26, 1997, review of Treehouse Tales, p. 86; August 24, 1998, review of Cat up a Tree, p. 57; May 22, 2000, review of Torn Thread, p. 57.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 22, 1998, review of Cat up a Tree, p. 9.
School Library Journal, December, 1994, pp. 24, 76; July, 1997, Julie Cummins, review of Treehouse Tales, p. 69; November, 1997, review of Swamp Angel, p. 41; November 1, 1998, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Cat up a Tree, p. 136; April, 2000, Virginia Golodetz, review of Torn Thread, p. 136.
U.S. News & World Report, December 5, 1994, Marc Silver, review of Swamp Angel, p. 95.