Mazer, Anne 1953–
Mazer, Anne 1953–
Born April 2, 1953, in Schenectady, NY; daughter of Harry (a writer) and Norma (a writer) Mazer; children: Max and Mollie Futterman. Education: Attended State University of New York at Binghamton, Syracuse University, and University of Paris, Sorbonne.
Home—Ithaca, NY. Agent—Elaine Markson, Elaine Markson Literary Agency, 44 Greenwich Ave., New York, NY 10011.
Freelance writer, 1982—. Also worked variously as an au pair, a bank teller, a pill-bottle labeler, a receptionist, an English tutor, and an administrative assistant.
Authors Guild, Authors League of America.
Keystone to Reading Book Award for books for younger children, 1992, ABC Children's Choice Award, Reading Rainbow Feature Selection, and Pick of the Lists, American Booksellers Association, all for The Salamander Room; Editor's Choice Award, Booklist, 1992, for Moose Street; Notable Book designation, American Library Association (ALA), 1993, and Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies citation, National Council for the Social Studies/Children's Book Council, both for The Oxboy; finalist, Hungry Mind Best Young-Adult Books designation, 1993, and Best Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, both for America Street: A Multicultural Anthology of Stories; Best Books for Teens citation, ALA, 1998, Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, and Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults selection, ALA, 2000, all for Working Days: Stories about Teenagers and Work.
Watch Me, illustrated by Stacey Schuett, Knopf (New York, NY), 1990.
The Yellow Button, illustrated by Judy Pedersen, Knopf (New York, NY), 1990.
The Salamander Room, illustrated by Steve Johnson, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.
Moose Street, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.
The Oxboy, Knopf (New York, NY), 1993.
(Editor) America Street: A Multicultural Anthology of Stories, Persea Books (New York, NY), 1993.
The Accidental Witch, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1995.
(Editor) Going Where I'm Coming From: Memoirs of American Youth, Persea Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Goldfish Charlie and the Case of the Missing Planet, illustrated by Jerry Harston, Troll Communications (Mahwah, NJ), 1996.
A Sliver of Glass and Other Uncommon Tales, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1996.
(Editor) Working Days: Stories about Teenagers and Work, Persea Books (New York, NY), 1997.
(Editor) A Walk in My World: International Short Stories about Youth, Persea Books (New York, NY), 1998.
The Fixits, illustrated by Paul Meisel, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1998.
The No-Nothings and Their Baby, illustrated by Ross Collins, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 2000.
"THE AMAZING DAYS OF ABBY HAYES" SERIES
Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
The Declaration of Independence, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
Reach for the Stars, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
Have Wheels, Will Travel, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.
Look before You Leap, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.
The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.
Two Heads Are Better Than One, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
The More, the Merrier, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Everything New under the Sun, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
Too Close for Comfort, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
Good Things Come in Small Packages, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
Some Things Never Change, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
The Best Is Yet to Come, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
Knowledge Is Power, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
It's Music to My Ears, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.
Now You See It, Now You Don't, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.
That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.
Home Is Where the Heart Is, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.
"SISTER MAGIC" SERIES
Violet Makes a Splash, illustrated by Bill Brown, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2007.
The Trouble with Violet, illustrated by Bill Brown, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2007.
Mabel Makes the Grade, illustrated by Bill Brown, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2008.
Raised in a family of children's book authors, Anne Mazer has made her own mark on the field of children's literature, writing several highly praised picture books and young-adult novels. "Mazer writes with such clarity and perception, it can sometimes take your breath away, the same way an unexpected punch does," noted Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper of Mazer's young-adult novel Moose Street. Other titles to Mazer's credit include the picture books The Salamander Room and The Fixits, as well as the works in "The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes" series. She has also compiled several anthologies of short fiction for teens that showcase diversity of both socioeconomic culture and ethnic heritage.
Mazer has loved books ever since she can remember. As she once told CA: "From the earliest age, I would devour anything that could be read—from comic books to cereal boxes to encyclopedias. I loved boys' books, girls' books, mysteries, adventures, humor, and historical fiction. As a young girl, I stood in front of the shelves of books that lined our walls, and hungrily pulled out volumes. The same scene was repeated countless times in libraries, where I would wander among the stacks almost intoxicated by so many books. When I got older, I crept into my closet late at night, where I stuffed towels under the door and read until well past midnight."
As a teen, Mazer's love of books far surpassed her love of school. She admitted to leaving school after attendance was taken in homeroom and walking the four miles to her town library to spend the day reading. Even though her parents were both published writers by this time, Mazer never considered making the transition from avid reader to writer. "My love of books was private," she recalled.
Following her graduation from high school, Mazer spent several years in Paris where she studied French language and literature and began to write. Her first book, an novel for young adults set in Paris, was never published. After her son was born, she began to write for younger children, and by 1987 she had completed three picture books. Her first book, Watch Me, was released in 1990.
Watch Me was Mazer's reaction to watching her then-two-year-old son playing on her bed. "‘Look at me, Mom! Look at me!’" Mazer recalled him saying. "I wrote the words on my blank piece of paper. In a few minutes ‘look at me’ had changed to ‘watch me,’ and I was off." Despite its simple text, Mazer reworked each verse of Watch Me numerous times before she felt she had it right. "Some of the verses came out smoothly and easily, but most were the result of hours of trial and error," she recalled. "The phrase ‘watch me’ seemed such a universal theme for small children that I couldn't believe half a dozen people hadn't thought of it already."
Unlike Watch Me, The Yellow Button grew easily out of the author's childhood memories. "When I was a small child, I often tried to encompass infinity within my own mind," Mazer explained. "I would dazzle myself with visions of unlimited space, and then return to my room, my self, my own small, but somehow newly expanded and enlivened reality. This mental game—a kind of contemplation really—used to give me great pleasure. One night I was sitting at the typewriter, when a picture popped into my mind of a button sitting in a pocket. As I wrote down the words, describing the picture I clearly saw, one image seemed to flow from another. In a very short time, the book was written—and I made few changes in it.
"My third book, The Salamander Room, was triggered by a remark a little boy made while we were on a nature hike," explained Mazer. "I no longer remember the original conversation, but the boy wanted to bring a salamander home." From the boy's comment, Mazer developed the story of a boy named Brian who is determined to bring home a new pet salamander. Despite his mother's practical questions, like "Where will the salamander sleep?," "Brian's cozy bedroom is gradually transformed into a dark green forest that overflows the pages" as he imagines his pet's ideal home, according to School Library Journal contributor Louise L. Sherman. Praising both the story and its illustrations, a Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that "Mazer's text offers fitting tribute to a child's perseverance and imagination."
In The Fixits, a pair of clumsy repair experts wreak havoc on an unsuspecting household. When Augusta and her brother accidentally crack their mother's favorite plate, Tom and Ed Fixit promptly arrive to offer their services. The cheerful duo only serves to make matters worse, and before long the entire house is in shambles. Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin praised the "wacky, energetic story," and a Publishers Weekly contributor stated that Mazer's "boisterous book will have readers wincing and giggling by turns."
A ridiculously dimwitted couple takes charge of a newborn in The No-Nothings and Their Baby, another humorous work by Mazer. Upon meeting their daughter, Betty, Bertram and Doriana No-Nothing attempt to diaper her head, take a swig from her bottle, and place her in the tub for an upcoming "baby shower." After a particularly wild stroller ride, young Betty does the responsible thing and phones for help. Mazer's "deadpan dialogue sets up silly sight gags that reveal the adult No-Nothings' blithe ignorance and their baby's unforeseen smarts," a critic in Publishers Weekly remarked.
In addition to picture books, Mazer has written several novels for older readers. In Moose Street, eleven-year-old Lena Rosen feels like a loner in her neighborhood because she is the only Jewish child on the block. Her isolation provides her with a different perspective on the people around her, and she shares her heightened sensitivity to people's secret side through a series of interrelated vignettes. Cooper commended Mazer for portraying the "exquisite torture Lena feels when she's made to suffer for a religion she barely believes in, or when she's asked to participate in the torture adolescents excel at, picking on the most vulnerable child around." In another novel, The Accidental Witch, Mazer assembles "an imaginative, action-packed plot and a fine cast of characters" in a "light, fun-filled fantasy," according to Booklist contributor Lauren Peterson. Fifth-grader Phoebe discovers that she has gained the witchlike powers she always wanted but cannot quite figure out how to focus them in a novel that Anne Connor described in School Library Journal as "a lively fantasy [that] creates a world very much like our own," where Phoebe "fulfills her dream through persistence and good will."
In The Oxboy, Mazer weaves together fantasy and social commentary to create a world in which animals and humans can marry. The "mixed-bloods" of these unions—which are outlawed by the intolerant humans—must attempt to pass as wholly human because the offspring of such unions, if discovered, are executed. Within this world, a boy whose disguised father is actually a noble ox refuses to oppress other, more obvious mixed-bloods, even though his actions will result in his imprisonment. Mazer's "allegorical world is compelling," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic, who found The Oxboy to be a "provocative, unusually imaginative tale." According to Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman, "Mazer writes with poetic restraint about the glory of pushing boundaries to understand ‘the language of stones and stars and moss and roses.’"
"The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes" series, designed to appeal to middle-grade readers, features a spunky fifth grader who often feels overshadowed by her high-performing siblings. In Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining, Abby uses a journal to chronicle her misguided efforts to make the soccer team, overlooking her true talent for writing. "Mazer injects some moments of sophisticated, wry humor," observed a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. Two Heads Are Better Than One centers on Abby's relationship with her science-fair partner, and in Good Things Come in Small Packages, she must find a way to salvage a disastrous school project.
In addition to her writing, Mazer has acted on her desire to promote tolerance of cultural differences among young people by editing such anthologies as Working Days: Stories about Teenagers and Work. In A Sliver of Glass and Other Uncommon Tales, she presents eleven fantasy and horror stories, including a retelling of the King Midas myth. "The best of these stories are told with fine economy," noted Hazel Rochman in Booklist. Working Days features tales by such noted young-adult authors as Marilyn Sachs, Victor Martinez, and Graham Salisbury. The collection "dynamically conveys the joys, traumas and discoveries of impressionable teens taking their first leap toward adulthood," a critic in Publishers Weekly remarked. In A Walk in My World: International Short Stories about Youth, "Mazer invites readers to examine and ponder pearls of wisdom collected from the intimate corners of five continents," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The anthology contains stories from Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz, Irish author Frank O'Connor, and Japanese Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata.
Although Mazer has expanded her works beyond picture books in recent years, she still respects picture books as a medium far more complicated than it might seem to the casual reader. "Though the text has to be done with the utmost simplicity, I find that I can express many complex and profound emotions such as joy, love and contentment. I also love the spareness of the picture book. There is no waste in a good picture book. Each word counts and each word must be placed exactly right."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 1, 1992, Ilene Cooper, review of Moose Street, p. 510; November 1, 1993, Hazel Rochman, review of The Oxboy, p. 523; November 1, 1995, Lauren Peterson, review of The Accidental Witch, p. 473; September 15, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of A Sliver of Glass and Other Uncommon Tales, p. 242; July, 1997, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Working Days: Stories about Teenagers at Work, p. 1811; January 1, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of A Walk in My World: International Short Stories about Youth, p. 857; April 1, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Fixits, p. 1421; September 1, 2007, Suzanne Harold, review of The Trouble with Violet, p. 118.
Horn Book, November-December, 1997, Roger Sutton, review of Working Days, p. 682.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1993, review of The Oxboy, p. 1526.
Publishers Weekly, January 11, 1991, review of The Salamander Room, p. 101; May 26, 1997, review of Working Days, p. 86; December 21, 1998, review of A Walk in My World, p. 69; March 8, 1999, review of The Fixits, p. 67; July 10, 2000, review of Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining, p. 63; September 25, 2000, review of The No-Nothings and Their Baby, p. 116.
School Library Journal, April, 1991, Louise L. Sherman, review of The Salamander Room, p. 100; January, 1996, Anne Connor, review of The Accidental Witch, p. 110; November, 2000, Karen James, review of The No-Nothings and Their Baby, p. 128; September, 2007, Debbie Whitbeck, review of The Trouble with Violet, p. 172.
Anne Mazer Home Page,http://www.amazingmazer.com (August 15, 2008).
Scholastic Web site,http://www2.scholastic.com/ (August 15, 2008), "Anne Mazer."