Meyers, Susan 1942–
Meyers, Susan 1942–
PERSONAL: Born November 5, 1942, in Brooklyn, NY; daughter of Palmer (a writer) and Helvia (Ostman) Thompson; married Stephen A. Meyers, October 6, 1961 (marriage ended); children: Jessica Lauren. Education: University of California, Berkeley, A.B., 1965.
ADDRESSES: Home—107 Cornelia Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (member, board of directors).
AWARDS, HONORS: Calling All Girls Prize Competition winner in mystery category, Dodd, Mead, 1966, for Melissa Finds a Mystery; Gavel Award certificate of merit, American Bar Association, 1973, for article "Legal Supermarkets"; Outstanding Science Book for Children designation, National Science Teachers Association/Children's Book Council, 1980, for The Truth about Gorillas, and 1981, for Pearson, a Harbor Seal Pup.
Melissa Finds a Mystery, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1966.
The Cabin on the Fjord, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, Doubleday (Garden City, NJ), 1968.
The Mysterious Bender Bones, illustrated by Ib Spang Ohlsson, Doubleday (Garden City, NJ), 1970.
Meg and the Secret Scrapbook, Troll (Metuchen, NJ), 1995.
Cricket Goes to the Dogs, Troll (Metuchen, NJ), 1995.
Puppies! Puppies! Puppies!, illustrated by David Walker, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2005.
This Is the Way a Baby Rides, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2005.
FICTION; "P.J. CLOVER, PRIVATE EYE" SERIES
The Case of the Stolen Laundry, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1981.
The Case of the Missing Mouse, illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi, Dutton (New York, NY), 1985.
The Case of the Borrowed Baby, illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi, Dutton (New York, NY), 1988.
The Case of the Halloween Hoot, illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi, Lodestar (New York, NY), 1990.
The Truth about Gorillas, illustrated by John Hamberger, Dutton (New York, NY), 1980.
Pearson, a Harbor Seal Pup, photographs by Ilka Hartmann, Dutton (New York, NY), 1980.
Insect Zoo, photographs by Richard Hewett, Dutton (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Joan Lakin) Who Will Take the Children?: A New Custody Option for Divorcing Mothers and Fathers, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1983.
(With Denise Saavedra and Paula Radisich) Vinculos, Whittier College (Whittier, CA), 1986.
Contributor of book reviews and articles to magazines. West Coast editor, Enter magazine.
SIDELIGHTS: Unlike some children's-book authors, Susan Meyers insists that she absolutely, positively did not want to be a writer when she grew up. "My father wrote for a living and it looked to me like hard and frustrating work," she once explained. While she set her sights on becoming, in turn, a veterinarian, a zookeeper, an artist, and an actress, family tradition won out and Meyers ended up following in her father's footsteps. With picture books such as Everywhere Babies, Puppies! Puppies! Puppies!, and Meg and the Secret Scrapbook, as well as a series of middle-grade readers featuring budding sleuth P.J. Clover, she weaves action and humor into her stories for young readers. Describing Meyers's nonfiction book Insect Zoo in Booklist, reviewer Leone McDermott called the study of all manner of bugs and other creepy-crawlies "a fun way to learn about the insect world," while Puppies! Puppies! Puppies! was praised by School Library Journal contributor Piper L. Nyman as "a charming tribute to man's best friend" that features a "lively, rhyming text."
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1942, Meyers spent much of her childhood outdoors. "I always had pets—dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, and even a goat," the author remembered. "But until I went to school and until my sister was born—both of which happened at about the same time—I didn't have many playmates. I had to learn to amuse myself and to spend time alone. I don't remember finding this especially difficult. In fact, to this day, I enjoy being by myself—at least part of the time."
Some of Meyers's time alone was spent in the company of a good book, and Heidi, The Swiss Family Robinson, Black Beauty, David Copperfield, The Saturdays, Homer Price, and the "Nancy Drew" mysteries were among her favorites. "Whenever I finished a book I enjoyed, I wanted to read another one exactly like it," she remembered.
Growing up as the daughter of a working writer was useful as Meyers started to pen her own works. "Though I wasn't aware of it at the time," she explained, "I know now that I learned a great deal about writing by listening to my father talk about the plots for the radio and television scripts he wrote." Her mother proved to be influential as well; a wonderful storyteller with a vivid imagination, Meyers's mother is credited by the author as the inspiration behind the imaginative threads woven into Meyers's own stories. "I want … [readers] to find the characters I create so alive and so interesting that they wish they were inside the book living the story with them," the author once commented. "Of course, I don't always succeed,… but I never stop trying."
As is common with many authors, Meyers's books draw on events and other aspects of her own life, although it is sometimes not intentional. "When I visited relatives in Norway," the author once recalled, "the country and the people seemed so interesting that I had to write about them. That was how The Cabin on the Fjord began." Similarly, The Mysterious Bender Bones was inspired by "a true story I heard about an anthropologist who kept valuable fossil bones locked in a suitcase under his bed."
Meyers's nonfiction works have also been inspired by her wide-ranging interests, particularly her love of nature. For instance, the photo essay titled Pearson, a Harbor Seal Pup, which Meyers created with the help of photographer Ilka Hartmann, compassionately documents the efforts of the staff of the California Marine Mammal Center to return a seven-month-old orphaned seal to its natural coastal habitat. Meyers's narrative describes "the valuable work of the Center [and] sheds light on harbor seals in general," asserted Barbara Elleman in a review for Booklist. A contributor to the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books praised the pairing of Meyers's "crisp, straightforward text" and Hartmann's "good quality photographs."
The Truth about Gorillas was inspired by the film King Kong, which concerned Meyers because the film portrays gorillas as fearsome and dangerous to humans. She set about writing the book in "an attempt to set the record straight"; based on her own research, gorillas have been "much maligned and misunderstood." Meyers's book portrays the creatures as gentle vegetarians, and documents in detail their physique, forager habits, and life cycle. Designed for young readers, The Truth about Gorillas explains such things as the gorilla's "fearsome" look—the result of a protruding browbone—and the fact that some gorillas have shown signs of an advanced intelligence, as evidenced by their ability to learn sign language. The Truth about Gorillas was characterized as "an informative, easy-to-read book" by Horn Book contributor Nancy D. Lyhne, while a Kirkus Reviews contributor found the work "a personable introduction" to the species.
While Meyers's nonfiction titles are guided by their author's personal interests, her fiction is limited only by her imagination. Popular with middle-grade readers, her "P.J. Clover, Private Eye" books feature fifth-grade amateur sleuths P.J. and Stacy as they set to the task of solving puzzle after puzzle. The Case of the Borrowed Baby finds P.J. Clover and sidekick Stacy spending their free time looking into a local jewelry-store robbery while a doll also goes missing. Inanimate objects also seem to disappear in The Case of the Halloween Hoot. In this case, a costly Russian urn that has been brought to school suddenly winds up missing, and P.J. and her friend quickly set about clearing the name of the janitor who has been accused of taking the antique. Praising Meyers's "spunky duo," Booklist reviewer Kay Weisman noted that in The Case of the Halloween Hoot the author "keeps her pace brisk and drops plenty of hints" for readers willing to pay attention. A critic for Kirkus Reviews added that with its concentration on "brainwork" rather than violence, the book serves as an "entertaining entry in one of the better mystery series for middle-grade readers."
Everywhere Babies is one of several books Meyers has penned for the storyhour set, and according to a Horn Book reviewer, the book "belongs in every library, and every lap." In a rhyming text, the author shows that babies are constantly popping up every-where, more each and every day. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and races, and are part of loving families that, while diverse, tend to their youngest members in very similar ways. Enhanced by Marla Frazee's gentle illustrations, the book presents "sunny portraits and vignettes celebrating babies in all their multiplicity," wrote the Horn Book reviewer, while in Booklist Carolyn Phelan noted that the "rhythmic, rhyming text hums along pleasantly." School Library Journal contributor Rosalyn Pierini commented that Meyers's "lilting text" captures the "habits of a winsome cast of multicultural tykes," and concluded that Everywhere Babies reassuringly "impresses on readers how much they are loved."
"Working with words gives me great pleasure," Meyers once explained, describing her work as a professional writer. "I enjoy making sentences, deciding which should be long and which should be short, and where the commas should go. I like searching for words and phrases that say exactly what I mean. What is more, I've discovered that when you are a writer, life is rarely boring. Characters and stories are everywhere. There is always some new and fascinating subject to explore. The boundaries of your world expand and life seems full of possibilities."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 15, 1980, p. 1540; April 1, 1981, Barbara Elleman, review of Pearson, a Harbor Seal Pup, p. 1156; February 15, 1990, Kay Weisman, review of The Case of the Halloween Hoot, p. 1170; September 15, 1991, Leone McDermott, review of Insect Zoo, p. 144; March 1, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of Everywhere Babies, p. 1288.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 1981, review of Pearson, a Harbor Seal Pup, pp. 176-177; June, 2001, review of Everywhere Babies, p. 380.
Horn Book, August, 1980, Nancy D. Lyhne, review of The Truth about Gorillas, p. 429; May, 2001, review of Everywhere Babies, p. 312.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1980, review of The Truth about Gorillas, p. 835.
Publishers Weekly, March 19, 2001, review of Everywhere Babies, p. 98.
School Library Journal, September, 1980, p. 61; August, 1981, p. 69; July, 1990, Ruth Sadasivan, review of The Case of the Halloween Hoot, p. 77; October, 1991, Karey Wehner, review of Insect Zoo, p. 140; May, 2001, Rosalyn Pierini, review of Everywhere Babies, p. 129; August, 2005, Piper L. Nyman, review of Puppies! Puppies! Puppies!, p. 103.