Kornblatt, Marc 1954-
KORNBLATT, Marc 1954-
PERSONAL: Born September 13, 1954, in Edison, NJ; son of Lloyd (a veterinarian) and Dolores (a homemaker and business manager; maiden name, Nelson) Kornblatt; married Judith Deutsch (a college professor), November 24, 1985; children: Jacob, Louisa. Education: Brandeis University, B.A., 1976; New York University, M.A., 1985; University of Wisconsin—Madison, B.S. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Music (singing and guitar), running, biking, swimming, camping, traveling, films.
ADDRESSES: Home—1108 Garfield St., Madison, WI 53711. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Freelance writer, elementary-school teacher, and storyteller. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, public information officer; worked variously as a bartender, waiter, doorman, furniture mover, typist, and staff reporter for the Westsider and Chelsea Clinton News. Actor in films, including Special Effects, The Important Thing, Acts of a Young Man, Nighthawks, The Warriors, and Altered States; appeared on television series Another World, and in regional theater and off-off Broadway productions.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, National Education Association, Council for Wisconsin Writers, Madison Teachers, Inc.
AWARDS, HONORS: Finalist, Drama League New Play Contest, Ann White Theater New Play Contest, and Shipping Dock Theater New Play Contest, all for Last Days of a Translator; finalist, West Coast Ensemble New Play Contest and Siena College New Play Contest, both for Clifford's Voices; second prize, short fiction, Council for Wisconsin Writers, for "Wind and Rain"; Elizabeth Burr Award, Patterson Prize, Arthur Tofte Juvenile Fiction Book Award, Council for Wisconsin Writers, all 2002, Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice selection, Best Children's Book of the Year selection, Bank Street College of Education, and Best of the Bunch selection, Association of Jewish Libraries, all for Understanding Buddy.
Flame of the Inquisition ("Time Machine" series), illustrated by John Pierard, Bantam (New York, NY), 1986.
Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Party (novel), illustrated by Ernie Colon, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.
The Search for Sidney's Smile (picture book), illustrated by John Steven Gurney, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.
Eli and the Dimplemeyers (picture book), illustrated by Jack Ziegler, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1994.
Understanding Buddy (novel), Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Izzy's Place (novel), Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2002.
The Great Soul, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1991.
Plain Jane, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1991.
Bar Talk (one-act; for adults), first produced at Nat Horne Theater, New York, NY, 1992.
Clifford's Voices (for adults), first public reading at Mint Theater, New York, NY, 1993.
Last Days of a Translator, staged reading at John Houseman Theater, New York, NY, 1995.
Also author of plays Cold War Casualties, 1989; Biblical Warfare, 1990; Bloodbath at Cuyahoga, 1990; and The War at Home, 1990, published in Search. Also author of plays Dead Man on the Sidewalk Trilogy, 1996, and Rope of Sand, 1998. Author of short story "Wind and Rain."
Contributor of short stories to anthologies and of articles to periodicals, including Jewish Spectator, Wisconsin, Cricket, Child, Parents, Update, Milwaukee Journal, and New York Daily News. Author of guest columns for Capital Times.
SIDELIGHTS: Children's book author Marc Kornblatt went back to school in his mid-forties to earn a teaching degree and become a full-time fifth-grade teacher. As an author of juvenile fiction, he contributed to Bantam's "Time Machine" series for young adults, including Mission to World War II, about the Warsaw Ghetto, and Flame of the Inquisition, which focuses on the Spanish Inquisition from its start in 1478. Kornblatt's picture books include The Search for Sidney's Smile and Eli and the Dimplemeyers, while Izzy's Place and Understanding Buddy are novels for older readers.
"I think I wanted to be a writer early on—at least as far back as elementary school," Kornblatt once told CA, "but wasn't sure I was cut out for the job until I was nearly thirty." After college graduation, he first worked as an actor, appearing in regional theater productions, in plays off-off Broadway, and in television shows, films, and commercials. He attempted to make a living in this competitive field, and worked as a bartender, waiter, doorman, furniture mover, and typist in order to support himself. Eventually, Kornblatt decided to start writing again, figuring that, with his varied life experiences, "maybe I had something to say after all."
Beginning as a journalist, Kornblatt started working on children's books "as a fluke," he admitted. Susan Nanus was looking for someone to help her finish Mission to World War II. "She came to me, knowing that I, as a newspaper reporter, was pretty good with deadlines, and because she knew (better than I) that I was a lot younger at heart than I let on. Since then, I have found that I enjoy writing for children and performing as a storyteller as much as anything I have ever done."
Flame of the Inquisition was Kornblatt's first solo book-writing venture, and was published in 1986. Part of a series that allows young people to write their own story by choosing among alternatives within the story line, Flame of the Inquisition returns readers to fifteenth-century Spain after Ferdinand and Isabella authorize Tomas de Torquemada to "cleanse" the country of unbelievers—including Jews, Protestants, Muslims, and other non-Catholics—by increasingly violent means. The novel presents a quest to gain information in Spain during the years of the infamous Inquisition, and Kornblatt provides a cast of characters, information about the Inquisition, and a basic plotline. John Naud, a critic for Voice of Youth Advocates, appreciated the "originality" of the plot and character development, and called Flame of the Inquisition "a unique work." School Library Journal contributor Elaine E. Knight found the book to be "unusually chilling" with some "bloodcurdling scenes."
Other novels for older readers include Understanding Buddy, about Sam, a fifth grader who must go against the wishes of a close friend and simultaneously grapple with questions regarding God's purpose after his housekeeper, Laura, is killed in a car accident. When Sam realizes that the quiet, antisocial boy in class is Laura's son, he reaches out to the boy despite their religious differences—Sam is Jewish while Laura's son, Buddy, is a Jehovah's Witness. Praising the novel as "eloquent," Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman added that Understanding Buddy contains "fast, often funny, dialogue that's also edgy with anger and grief." Noting the "hefty religious questions" that surface as Buddy attempts to understand the reason for Laura's death, a Horn Book contributor found that Kornblatt weaves such faith-based musings into his plot in such a way that would not deter readers. He "skillfully imbeds" the religious differences between Buddy and Sam within what School Library Journal contributor Lee Bock described as "a familiar childhood world" of soccer games and homework to create "a thoughtful, believable resolution."
Henry Stone, the main character in Izzy's Place, is having problems as a result of his parents' endless bickering, and he is sent to spend the summer in the Midwest with his newly widowed grandmother at the suggestion of his therapist. At Grandma Martha's house, he meets Mr. Fine, a neighbor who lost his son and has used music to transform his grief into something positive. Booklist contributor Shelle Rosenfeld praised Izzy's Place as "a well-written, touching novel, without overt sentimentality," while in School Library Journal, Edith Ching praised Kornblatt for imbuing his story with "a simple honesty that will be especially appealing to reluctant readers."
Kornblatt's first picture book for younger children, The Search for Sidney's Smile, begins when Sidney wakes up frowning. His father attempts to make Sidney smile by buying him an ice-cream cone and by taking him to the movies, playground, and zoo, but nothing makes Sidney's smile return until his father gives him a big hug. Kathy Piehl, writing in School Library Journal, observed that Sidney's father "spends an extended period of time with his son, and genuinely tries to have fun with him."
Also a picture book, Eli and the Dimplemeyers is based on an anecdote Kornblatt heard about a friend's son's imaginary friends. In the book, which according to Nancy Seiner in School Library Journal possesses "a streak of happy insanity," Eli discovers that an entire family—Donald Dimplemeyer, his wife, Doris, their daughter, Drusilla, and their son, Trip—lives in his house, but only he can see them. Eli has a difficult time keeping the Dimplemeyers safe from his family members, who unknowingly sit on or run into his invisible friends. In an effort to protect the Dimplemeyers from further dangers, Eli tells his parents about them. But they do not believe their son and even suggest that he might need to see a psychiatrist. Finally, Eli's grandmother suggests that the Dimplemeyers find a new home in the backyard; Eli builds them a tree house and the situation is resolved. As a critic noted in Publishers Weekly, Kornblatt "leaves the final say" about whether or not the Dimplemeyers are imaginary "up to readers." According to Hazel Rochman in Booklist, children who read Eli and the Dimplemeyers "will recognize how imagination can be a powerful force against authority."
In addition to novels and picture books for young people, Kornblatt has published short stories and plays and contributed articles to magazines and newspapers. Kornblatt also works as a storyteller in libraries and schools, an activity that led the author to return to the classroom himself to earn a teaching certificate. As he noted on his Web site, "Now, I'm a full-time fifth-grade teacher, and I write when I have the free time, mostly in the summer."
Kornblatt told CA: "It was thanks to my experience as a visiting author in schools that prompted me to return to college at age forty-four to earn a teaching degree. I discovered that I loved being with children in a classroom. And the truth is that I got lonely working at home all the time with a computer and also frustrated by the countless rejections I received as an author. That doesn't mean that I've given up writing, of course, just that I have changed from being a full-time writer who teaches on the side to a full-time teacher who writes part-time."
Kornblatt expects that he will resume full-time writing eventually. "But working in a classroom is where I think I was meant to be for now," he told CA. "It provides me with a great source for future writing projects, to be sure. I also happen to feel at home in an elementary school, probably because I've always thought of myself more as a kid than an adult."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 15, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of Eli and the Dimplemeyers, p. 937; February 1, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Understanding Buddy, p. 1052; June 1, 2003, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Izzy's Place, p. 1777
Horn Book, March, 2001, review of UnderstandingBuddy, p. 209;
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2003, review of Izzy's Place, p. 752.
Publishers Weekly, March 14, 1994, review of Eli and the Dimplemeyers, p. 73; April 16, 2001, review of Understanding Buddy, p. 66.
School Library Journal, April, 1987, Elaine E. Knight, review of Flame of the Inquisition, p. 116; December, 1993, Kathy Piehl, review of The Search for Sidney's Smile, p. 90; May, 1994, Nancy Seiner, review of Eli and the Dimplemeyers, p. 97; April, 2001, Lee Bock, review of Understanding Buddy, p. 144; July, 2003, Edith Ching, review of Izzy's Place, p. 131.
Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1987, John Naud, review of Flame of the Inquisition, p. 95.
Marc Kornblatt Web site,http://www.webpages.charter.net/mkornblatt/ (December 5, 2003).