Montes, Marisa 1951-
MONTES, Marisa 1951-
PERSONAL: Born November 5, 1951, in San Juan, Puerto Rico; daughter of Ruben Edmundo (in the U.S. Army) and Maria Baldomera (a homemaker) Montes; married David Neal Plotkin (a data administration manager), June 20, 1976. Education: Attended University of Puerto Rico—Rio Piedras, 1969-70; University of California—Santa Cruz, B.A., 1973; University of California—Hastings College of the Law, J.D., 1978. Religion: Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, humor, art, traveling, watching movies, swimming.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Barbara S. Kouts Literary Agency, P.O. Box 560, Bellport, NY 11713.
CAREER: Practiced law in San Francisco, CA, 1980-84; Matthew Bender & Co., Inc., Oakland, CA, legal writer and editor-manager of publishing operations, 1984-94; writer, 1987—.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
AWARDS, HONORS: Willa Literary Award, Women Writing the West, 2003, for A Circle of Time.
Something Wicked's in Those Woods (middle-grade suspense), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2000.
Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folktale, illustrated by Joe Cepeda, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Egg-Napped! (picture book), illustrated by Marsha Winborn, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
A Circle of Time (young-adult mystery), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.
"GET READY FOR GABÍ" SERIES
A Crazy Mixed-up Spanglish Day, illustrated by Joe Cepeda, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
Who's That Girl?, illustrated by Joe Cepeda, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
No More Spanish!, illustrated by Joe Cepeda, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A fourth book in the "Get Ready for Gabí" series for Scholastic, tentatively titled Please Don't Go!; Gatos Black on Halloween, a rhyming, bilingual picture book, for Henry Holt, 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Marisa Montes's published works reflect her varied tastes in literature. One of her first books, Something Wicked's in Those Woods, is a middle-grade novel that highlights the author's love of spooky mysteries. In this book, two orphaned boys move from their home in Puerto Rico to live with their aunt in Northern California. Apart from mourning their lost parents, the boys, Javi and Nico, are having trouble adjusting to their new lives—the language and culture are so very different. Soon, however, little Nico finds an imaginary friend who helps him feel less lonely and teaches him English. Indeed, this imaginary friend is not so much imaginary as ghostly, for Javi finds that Nico's new friend is the ghost of a little boy kidnapped and murdered seventy years earlier. Then, the family becomes subject to a number of malicious tricks that lead Javi to suspect that there is more than one poltergeist dwelling in the nearby forest. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly thought the book's "slow pace may deter some readers," while "those who persevere will be rewarded with a spooky climax." A Kirkus Reviews critic found the author's smooth incorporation of the boys' culture clash to be an exciting addition to a genre novel. This reviewer concluded by calling Something Wicked's in Those Woods "at once a perceptive look at how regional differences in the American culture can either mesh or clash, and a rippingly good ghost story." Montes has published another genre novel in A Circle of Time, a time-travel mystery in which a girl in a coma is pulled back in time to help save another girl's life.
For Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folktale Montes adapts a well-loved Puerto Rican story centering on a character familiar to folktale lovers throughout the world. Juan Bobo is a hapless fellow who is sent off to find work by his harried mother and returns home every day empty-handed. Juan cannot get anything right, whether working for the grocer or the farmer. However, when the foolish antics that have gotten him in so much trouble make a sick girl laugh, her wealthy father rewards Juan with the promise of a ham every Sunday. Grace Oliff, who reviewed the book for School Library Journal, noted the author's graceful inclusion of Spanish words and phrases, identified in a glossary at the book's end, yet concluded that while "Montes tells her story well, … Cepeda's illustrations steal the show." Indeed, illustrator Joe Cepeda was awarded the Pura Belpré Honor Book Award for Illustration by the American Library Association for his work on Juan Bobo Goes to Work. Linda Perkins, who reviewed the book for Booklist, likewise praised Montes and Cepeda's humorous collaboration, and concluded by stating, "an obvious candidate for multicultural units, this will be popular wherever children love to laugh."
Montes teamed up with illustrator Marsha Winborn for her next picture book, Egg-Napped!, a romp in which a goose pair called the Gabblers stage a celebration when their first egg arrives only to be so distracted by the well-wishers that they miss seeing the egg roll away. Their conclusion is that the egg has been "eggnapped!" Reviewers predicted that preschoolers will enjoy seeing the egg slip from the grasp of one animal to another while the Gabblers frantically chase after it. Told in rhymes that occasionally falter, according to a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews, the text "generally clips along at a lively pace, and by its nature the story enthralls," this critic allowed. Other reviewers, however, held other opinions about Montes's verse. Judith Constantinides, writing in School Library Journal observed that "the verses scan well and suit the nature of the story, making a sparkling read-aloud." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that some educators and parents may object to the goose parents' way of solving their problem, which involves yelling and kicking in true slapstick fashion, but "children will cheer on the antics of the forest dwellers and chuckle at [illustrator] Winborn's cartoon-bubble asides," this critic concluded. A reviewer for the Worcester, Massachusetts Sunday Telegram likewise concluded by calling Egg-Napped! "a nutty story, with just enough adventure to keep everyone involved."
Montes told CA: "Although I was born in Puerto Rico, I began the traveling life of an "army brat" at the age of four as my family moved to Missouri, to France, and finally to California. My family and my Hispanic culture are an important part of my life. My father instilled in me pride in my Puerto Rican heritage; my mother taught me the importance of learning languages, especially the language of the country in which one lives.
"Most of the characters in my new third-grade series 'Get Ready for Gabí' are based on a mixture of real-life people. And almost all the characters have a little of me in them. Gabí is based partly on myself, but mostly on the person I'm still striving to be. Because of my travels, at Gabí age, I was fluent in Spanish, English, and French. I've always wanted to have lots of friends like Gabí does. But as an army brat, I moved around a lot, and it was hard to leave old friends and make new friends. As I grew up, I became more comfortable with making friends. Now I have many friends at home and around the world.
"Like Gabí, I love boots. I started wearing boots when I was around three, and I wear them still. Like Gabí, I'm pretty short. But also like Gabí, that didn't stop me from being feisty, strong-willed, and from standing up for myself even against bullies. Also like Gabí, I had to learn to control my temper and my spunky feet. So I went to law school and fought bullies in the courts. Now I fight bullies in the pages of my books.
"At Gabí's age, I began reading biographies about famous women who were strong-willed, outspoken, and stood up for their beliefs in times when women were supposed to be weak, quiet, and 'in their places.' I also thought it would be very cool to have superhuman strength and be able to keep the world safe from evil just by changing clothes. That's why Gabí wants to be like Annie Oakley, Iviahoca, and Dragon-ella.
"Tippy the cat was my very first pet. When he died, I vowed I would write about him someday so that the world would know that he once lived and that he was loved. I didn't even know then that I would be a writer."
"Everything I write about has a special meaning to me," wrote Montes on her Web site. "My passion is writing scary, creepy mysteries, with a twist. But in between, I write picture books—folktales and silly, rhyming stores—to relax. I'll never get bored because if I'm tired of mysteries and ghost stories, I can write humor. If I'm tired of rhyme, I turn to prose. If I'm tired of long complicated plots, I can work on a short story or a picture book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2001, Linda Perkins, review of Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folktale, p. 1057; February 15, 2002, Lauren Peterson, review of Egg-Napped!, p. 1021.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 2003, Janice M. Del Negro, review of A Crazy Mixed-up Spanglish Day.
Horn Book Guide, spring, 2001, Elena Abos Alvarez Buza, review of Juan Bobo Goes to Work, p. 101; fall, 2001, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Something Wicked's in Those Woods, p. 311.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2000, review of Something Wicked's in Those Woods; December 1, 2001, review of Egg-Napped!, p. 1688; March 15, 2003, review of A Crazy Mixed-up Spanglish Day.
Publishers Weekly, August 21, 2000, review of Something Wicked's in Those Woods, p. 74; December 24, 2001, review of Egg-Napped!, p. 63; April 7, 2003, review of A Crazy Mixed-up Spanglish Day, p. 66.
School Library Journal, October, 2000, Grace Oliff, review of Juan Bobo Goes to Work, p. 150; March, 2002, Judith Constantinides, review of Egg-Napped!, p. 198; August, 2002, Nicole M. Maruccilli, review of A Circle of Time, p. 195.
Science Fiction Chronicle, May, 2002, review of A Circle of Time, p. 37.
Sunday Telegram (Worcester, MA), March 10, 2002, review of Egg-Napped!
Tribune & Times (Tampa, FL), March 24, 2002, review of Egg-Napped!
Voice of Youth Advocates, May, 2002, review of A Circle of Time.
Marisa Montes Home Page,http://www.marisamontes.com (June 21, 2003).