McDonough, Yona Zeldis 1957–

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McDonough, Yona Zeldis 1957–


Born June 26, 1957, in Chadera, Israel; daughter of Chayym (a writer) and Malcah (a painter) Zeldis; married Paul A. McDonough (a photographer), November 2, 1985; children: two. Education: Vassar College, A.B., 1979; Columbia University, M.A., 1982. Religion: Jewish.


Home—Brooklyn, NY. E-mail—[email protected]


Freelance writer, c. 1983—. Presenter of workshops for children, including presentation, with mother, Malcah Zeldis, at Museum of Jewish Heritage, New York City, 2000.


American Society of Journalists and Authors, Society of Children's Book Illustrators, National Writers Union.


Coping with Social Situations: A Handbook of Correct Behavior, Rosen Publishing (New York, NY), 1984.

Coping with Beauty, Fitness, and Fashion: A Girl's Guide, Rosen Publishing (New York, NY), 1987.

(With Howard Yahm) Tying the Knot: A Couple's Guide to Emotional Well-being from Engagement to the Wedding Day, Penguin (New York, NY), 1990.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Chelsea House (New York, NY), 1992.

Eve and Her Sisters: Women of the Old Testament, paintings by mother, Malcah Zeldis, Greenwillow Press (New York, NY), 1994.

(Author of text) Moments in Jewish Life: The Folk Art of Malcah Zeldis, Friedman/ Fairfax (New York, NY), 1996.

Anne Frank, illustrated by Malcah Zeldis, Holt (New York, NY), 1997.

God Sent a Rainbow, and Other Bible Stories, paintings by Malcah Zeldis, Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia, PA), 1997.

(With Howard Yahm) Between "Yes" and "I Do": Resolving Conflict and Anxiety during Your Engagement, Carol Publishing (Secaucus, NJ), 1998.

(Editor) The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty, Touchstone (New York, NY), 1999.

Sisters in Strength: American Women Who Made a Difference, illustrated by Malcah Zeldis, Holt (New York, NY), 2000.

The Dollhouse Magic, illustrated by Diane Palmisciano, Holt (New York, NY), 2000.

Who Was Harriet Tubman?, illustrated by Nancy Harrison, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2002.

Peaceful Protest: The Life of Nelson Mandela, illustrated by Malcah Zeldis, Walker & Company (New York, NY), 2002.

(Editor) All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

The Four Temperaments, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2002.

A Doll Named Dora Anne, illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2002.

Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?, illustrated by Carrie Robbins, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2003.

Who Was Louis Armstrong?, illustrated by John O'Brien, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2004.

In Dahlia's Wake: A Novel, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2005.

The Doll with the Yellow Star, illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root, Holt (New York, NY), 2005.

Who Was John F. Kennedy?, illustrated by Jill Weber, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2005.

The Life of Benjamin Franklin: An American Original, illustrated by Malcah Zeldis, Holt (New York, NY), 2006.

Hammerin' Hank: The Story of Hank Greenberg, illustrated by Malcah Zeldis, Walker & Company (New York, NY), 2006.


The works of Yona Zeldis McDonough cover a broad range of subjects, from biographies and chapter books for young readers to both fiction and nonfiction for adults. "In the past," McDonough once noted, "I wrote books for young adults with great verve and interest, partly because I always felt connected to the adolescent in me. Now that I have a child … I find I am interested in going back even further, and have been working on manuscripts for very young children."

In Tying the Knot: A Couple's Guide to Emotional Well-being from Engagement to the Wedding Day, coauthored with psychotherapist Howard Yahm, McDonough examines the conflicts and fun that accompany an impending marriage and recommends ways of dealing with the stress that such emotional ups and downs inevitably cause. The authors based the volume in part on their own experiences and in part on interviews with about fifty couples. McDonough's "advice throughout," Mary Ann Wasick stated in Library Journal, "is that couples should … make final decisions that fulfill their own expectations, not those of others." "Chummy and useful," added Booklist contributor Deanna Larson-Whiterod, "this handbook should be wrapped and given alongside pretty wedding party books at every bridal shower."

Eve and Her Sisters: Women of the Old Testament, illustrated by McDonough's mother, artist Malcah Zeldis, brings the lives of Biblical women to young people in a picture-book format. "McDonough's tales," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor, "maintain the reverence of the originals and also highlight feminist-seeming issues in a voice accessible to children." Zeldis's pictures attracted favorable comment from several critics. Her "bright bubblegum colors," stated Ilene Cooper in Booklist, "… make for pictures that are full of energy." And Patricia Dooley, reviewing Eve and Her Sisters for School Library Journal, declared that "Zeldis's primitive paintings are brightly colored and childlike, with some amusing details and touches (pink lambs with blue faces)."

In another book for young readers, The Dollhouse Magic, McDonough reveals the lives of two young girls growing up during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Jane and Lila are captivated by a beautiful doll house that sits in the window of an elderly woman's house, and their interest eventually causes old Miss Whitcomb to emerge from her house and speak to them. In a story about friendship across the generations, McDonough has created what Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan called "an appealing beginning chapter book, particularly for doll fans."

A doll is also featured in The Doll with the Yellow Star, published in 2005. The book tells the story of eight-year-old Claudine, a young Jewish girl living in France during World War II. After the country is occupied by Nazi Germany, all Jews are forced to wear yellow stars, and life for Claudine and her family gradually gets more difficult. Claudine sews a yellow star on her doll's clothing, but she eventually loses her doll after her parents send her to the United States to protect her. Claudine is eventually reunited with her father. Writing in School Library Journal, Teri Markson praised the book as "nicely written and generously illustrated with watercolors." Similarly, a Publishers Weekly contributor noted: "While the prose slips into woodenness at times, the events keep the pages turning, and McDonough's emotional acuity always shines through."

In Anne Frank and Frank Lloyd Wright, McDonough examines two very different personalities and their respective accomplishments. Jeanette Larson, writing in School Library Journal, called McDonough's biography of the American architect Wright "a well-researched, interesting, and balanced biography," and concluded: "McDonough examines her subject's life and discusses both his brilliance and his foibles." Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman and Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books contributor Betsy Hearne agreed that Anne Frank provides a valuable introduction to the young Dutch Jewish girl who died in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, and whose diary has become standard reading in many junior high and high schools. But, stated Rochman, The Diary of Anne Frank tells young readers nothing about the background of Anne Frank's life—about the Holocaust that resulted in the deaths of millions of Jews across Europe. "There is nothing about how most children died—in the ghettos, massacres, transports, camps," Rochman declared. "We can hold on to her uplifting message that she believes that people ‘are really good at heart.’" "With the Holocaust introduced at early stages in the curriculum these days," Hearne added, McDonough's biography "will be helpful in setting the stage for children's inevitable meeting with an international icon." "If there is a demand in your library for books that introduce the Holocaust to younger children" Rochman concluded, "then this is a good place to start."

In a trio of picture books aimed at elementary-school students and illustrated by Malcah Zeldis, McDonough chronicled a Founding Father of America, a famous baseball player, and an iconic African leader. The Life of Benjamin Franklin: An American Original features the early American scientist and statesman, while Hammerin' Hank: The Story of Hank Greenberg examines the life of one of the first Jewish baseball stars in the United States. Ilene Cooper, reviewing the latter book for Booklist, remarked that "the life of baseball star Hank Greenberg deserves to be celebrated, and this solid, chronological telling does just that." In Peaceful Protest: The Life of Nelson Mandela, McDonough tells the story of the South African activist who spent nearly three decades in prison before becoming the country's first black president. Booklist critic Hazel Rochman noted that the book offers "more depth and detail than most biographies on Mandela for this age level." McDonough has also written a series of illustrated biographies for young readers about such figures as Harriet Tubman, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Louis Armstrong, and John F. Kennedy.

Other books by McDonough include The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty, in which she collects a variety of essays by writers including Anna Quindlen, Ann DuCille, Erica Jong, and Carol Shields that span the gamut of opinion about the doll created in 1959 and known to girls everywhere. Calling the authors "well chosen," a Publishers Weekly contributor added that McDonough's book "artfully explores the world that created Barbie, the childhood selves the authors remember and the meaning behind one of our era's most controversial pieces of plastic."

The Four Temperaments is McDonough's first novel for adults. It features Ginny Valentine, a ballerina who has affairs with an older musician, Oscar Kornblatt—and with his son, Gabriel. Two other main characters are Oscar's wife, Ruth, and Gabriel's wife, Penelope. Kristine Huntley, writing in Booklist, commented that "the enthralling narrative pulls the reader in and doesn't let go." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the novel "uneven" but added that "McDonough has a knack for building solid characters."

McDonough followed this novel for adults with another, In Dahlia's Wake: A Novel. Set in Brooklyn, the novel charts the challenges faced by a couple mourning the loss of their only child, a daughter named Dahlia. The girl's parents, Rick and Naomi, react to their heartache in different ways—Rick by having an affair, Naomi by channeling her grief into volunteer work. A Publishers Weekly reviewer criticized the novel's "contrived plotting and stock characters," but Booklist contributor Huntley praised the work as "a gripping, involving read."



Booklist, November 15, 1989, Deanna Larson-Whiterod, review of Tying the Knot: A Couple's Guide to Emotional Well-being from Engagement to the Wedding Day, p. 625; May 15, 1994, Ilene Cooper, review of Eve and Her Sisters: Women of the Old Testament, p. 168; October 1, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of Anne Frank, p. 335; November 15, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Dollhouse Magic, p. 642; March 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Anne Frank, p. 1280; August, 2002, Kristine Huntley, review of The Four Temperaments, p. 1922; November 15, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of Hammerin' Hank: The Story of Hank Greenberg, p. 599; March 15, 2005, Kristine Huntley, review of In Dahlia's Wake, p. 1266; March 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Hammerin' Hank, p. 96.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1998, Betsy Hearne, review of Anne Frank, p. 166.

Library Journal, December, 1989, Mary Ann Wasick, review of Tying the Knot, p. 148.

Publishers Weekly, April 18, 1994, review of Eve and Her Sisters, p. 62; July 28, 1997, review of Anne Frank, p. 73; September 20, 1999, review of The Barbie Chronicles, p. 65; July 8, 2002, review of The Four Temperaments, p. 32; March 7, 2005, review of In Dahlia's Wake, p. 51; December 12, 2005, review of The Doll with the Yellow Star, p. 66.

School Library Journal, February, 1992, Jeanette Larson, review of Frank Lloyd Wright, p. 116; May, 1994, Patricia Dooley, review of Eve and Her Sisters, p. 109; October, 1997, Marcia W. Posner, review of Anne Frank, p. 120; October, 2005, Teri Markson, review of The Doll with the Yellow Star, p. 120.

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McDonough, Yona Zeldis 1957–

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