Orgel, Doris 1929-
ORGEL, Doris 1929-
(Doris Adelberg; Suzanne Altman, a joint pseudonym)
PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "Or-gel"; born February 15, 1929, in Vienna, Austria; immigrated to
the United States, 1940; daughter of Ernest (a textile company manager) and Erna (Ehrmann) Adelberg; married Shelley Orgel (a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst), June 25, 1949; children: Paul, Laura, Jeremy. Education: Attended Radcliffe College, 1946-48; Barnard College, B.A. (cum laude), 1950. Politics: Independent. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Spending time with her children and grandchildren; reading, especially about ancient Greek culture and mythology; bird watching; traveling; swimming; music.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Writers House, 21 West 26th St., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Employed in magazine and book publishing, prior to 1955; writer and translator of children's books, 1955—; Bank Street College of Education, New York, NY, Writer's Lab conductor, 1985-94; Bank Street Publications and Media Group, New York, NY, senior staff writer and editor, 1991-94.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Authors League of America, PEN, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
AWARDS, HONORS: Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1960, for translation of Dwarf Long-Nose; Book World Children's Spring Book Festival first prize in picture book division, 1972, for Little John; Notable Book citation, American Library Association, for A Certain Magic; Golden Kite Honor Book Award, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 1978, Sydney Taylor Book Award, Association of Jewish Libraries, 1979, and Honor Book, Phoenix Award, 1998, all for The Devil in Vienna.
Sarah's Room, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Harper (New York, NY), 1963.
(Under name Doris Adelberg) Grandma's Holidays (poetry), illustrated by Paul Kennedy, Dial (New York, NY), 1963.
(Under name Doris Adelberg) Lizzie's Twins (poetry), illustrated by N. M. Bodecker, Dial (New York, NY), 1964.
The Good-Byes of Magnus Marmalade (poetry), illustrated by Erik Blegvad, Putnam (New York, NY), 1966.
Cindy's Snowdrops, illustrated by Ati Forberg, Knopf (New York, NY), 1966.
Cindy's Sad and Happy Tree, illustrated by Ati Forberg, Knopf (New York, NY), 1967.
In a Forgotten Place, illustrated by James McMullan, Knopf (New York, NY), 1967.
On the Sand Dune, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, Harper (New York, NY), 1968.
Whose Turtle?, illustrated by Martha Alexander, World Publishing (New York, NY), 1968.
Phoebe and the Prince, illustrated by Erik Blegvad, Putnam (New York, NY), 1969.
Merry, Rose, and Christmas-Tree June, illustrated by Edward Gorey, Knopf (New York, NY), 1969.
Next Door to Xanadu, illustrated by Dale Payson, Harper (New York, NY), 1969, published as Next-Door Neighbors, Harper (New York, NY), 1979.
The Uproar, illustrated by Anita Lobel, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1970.
The Mulberry Music, illustrated by Dale Payson, Harper (New York, NY), 1971.
Bartholomew, We Love You!, illustrated by Pat Grant Porter, Knopf (New York, NY), 1973, published as Me, Emily, and the Cat, Scholastic (New York, NY).
A Certain Magic, Dial (New York, NY), 1975.
Merry Merry Fibruary (poetry), illustrated by Arnold Lobel, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1977.
The Devil in Vienna, Dial (New York, NY), 1978.
Risking Love, Dial (New York, NY), 1985.
My War with Mrs. Galloway, illustrated by Carol Newsom, Viking (New York, NY), 1985.
Whiskers, Once and Always, illustrated by Carol Newsom, Viking (New York, NY), 1986.
Midnight Soup and a Witch's Hat, illustrated by Carol Newsom, Viking (New York, NY), 1987.
Crack in the Heart, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1989.
Starring Becky Suslow, illustrated by Carol Newsom, Viking (New York, NY), 1989.
Nobodies and Somebodies, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.
The Mouse Who Wanted to Marry, illustrated by Holly Hannon, Bantam (New York, NY), 1993.
Button Soup, illustrated by Pau Estrada, Bantam (New York, NY), 1994.
(With Ellen Schecter) The Flower of Sheba, illustrated by Laura Kelly, Bantam (New York, NY), 1994.
The Spaghetti Party, illustrated by Julie Durrell, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.
Two Crows Counting (a counting book), illustrated by Judith Moffatt, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.
The Princess and the God, Orchard (New York, NY), 1996.
Don't Call Me Slob-O, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1996.
Friends to the Rescue, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1996.
We Goddesses: Athena, Aphrodite, Hera, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 1999.
My Mother's Daughter: Four Greek Goddesses Speak, illustrated by Peter Malone, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2003.
stories and fairy tales; reteller
Clemens Brentano, Schoolmaster Whackwell's Wonderful Sons: A Fairy Tale, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Random House (New York, NY), 1962.
Wilhelm Hauff, The Heart of Stone: A Fairy Tale, illustrated by David Levine, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1964.
Richard Wagner, The Story of Lohengrin, the Knight of the Swan, illustrated by Herbert Danska, Putnam (New York, NY), 1966.
Wilhelm Hauff, A Monkey's Uncle, illustrated by Mitchell Miller, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1969.
E. T. A. Hoffman, The Child from Far Away, illustrated by Michael Eagle, Addison-Wesley (Boston, MA), 1971.
Rudolf E. Raspe, Baron Munchausen: Fifteen Truly Tall Tales, illustrated by Willi Baum, Addison-Wesley (Boston, MA), 1971.
Theodor Storm, Little John, illustrated by Anita Lobel, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1972.
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Godfather Cat and Mousie, illustrated by Ann Schweninger, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1986.
Next Time I Will: An Old English Tale, illustrated by Betsy Day, Bantam (New York, NY), 1993.
Ariadne, Awake!, illustrated by Barry Moser, Viking (New York, NY), 1994.
(With Emily Coplon and Ellen Schecter) She'll Be Coming round the Mountain, illustrated by Rowan Barnes-Murphy, Bantam (New York, NY), 1994.
(With Ellen Schecter, under joint pseudonym Suzanne Altman) Worst Days Diary, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.
The Lion and the Mouse and Other Aesop Fables, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2000.
The Bremen Town Musicians and Other Animal Tales from Grimm, illustrated by Bert Kitchen, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), in press.
Also reteller of Clemens Brentano's The Tale of Gockel, Hinkel, and Gackeliah, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, 1961.
Wilhelm Hauff, Dwarf Long-Nose, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Random House (New York, NY), 1960.
Walter Grieder, The Enchanted Drum, illustrated by Walter Grieder, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1969.
Mira Lobe, The Grandma in the Apple Tree, illustrated by Judith Gwyn Brown, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1970.
Elke Heidenreich, Nero Corleone: A Cat's Story, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.
Antije Damm, Ask Me, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2003.
David Chotjewitz, Daniel Half-Human and the Good Nazi, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of reviews to New York Times and Five Owls, and of translations to Cricket. Several of her books have been published in various countries abroad.
ADAPTATIONS: The Disney film A Friendship in Vienna is based on The Devil in Vienna.
SIDELIGHTS: "As the field of children's books becomes increasingly mass-market-driven, gimmicky, and reductive," noted children's author Doris Orgel in the St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, "I feel grateful that it remains possible to write out of inwardness and singularity, and still hope to stir responses in individual children." Orgel's inward and singular work has delighted children since her translation of Wilhelm Hauff's Dwarf Long-Nose was published with illustrations by Maurice Sendak in 1960. Along with her translated books, Orgel has retold stories, like E. T. A. Hoffman's The Child from Far Away and Aesop's fables, and written fanciful original stories for young children, some in verse (like Sarah's Room, Grandma's Holidays, and Lizzie's Twins), some in prose (like Merry, Rose, and Christmas-Tree June). Orgel has also penned perceptive books for older children and young adults, notably her The Devil in Vienna, a thought-provoking novel based on her childhood during Hitler's annexation of Austria, and numerous other novels in which contemporary urban youths face problems involving busy parents, divorce, the death of pets, and first sexual relationships. And for young readers with a passion for Greek mythology, Orgel's fresh approach brings ancient heroines and goddesses alive in such books as Ariadne, Awake!, The Princess and the God (a version of the Cupid and Psyche myth told in Psyche's voice), We Goddesses: Athena, Aphrodite, Hera (in which the goddesses tell their stories), and My Mother's Daughter: Four Greek Goddesses Speak (featuring the tales of Leto, Artemis, Demeter, and Persephone).
Born Doris Adelberg, the author spent the first part of her life in Vienna, where her father worked as the manager of a textile company. Her mother did not work, but, as Orgel noted in her Something about the Author Autobiography Series (SAAS) essay, "her active social life kept her almost as busy as a job would have done." The author told CA, that she "remembers wishing her mother had more time for her, making the times they spent together all the more precious." Other early memories of the author include, "finding a lost, scruffy kitten and being allowed to keep it; feeding lettuce leaves to Ira, my box turtle; playing exciting games with my older sister, Lotte; and always hungering for stories—I could never get enough."
Tired of pestering grown-ups to read to her, she taught herself to read when she was five, and from then on read avidly. Among her favorite books were Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking, Selma Lagerlof's The Adventures of Nils, and Hugh Lofting's "Dr. Doolittle" books. "My all-time favorite—I read it at least thirty times—was Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (Volume I, not II)," she recalled in SAAS. She also started writing her own stories at quite a young age. Into a book of blank pages her mother gave her, Orgel wrote a "rambling episodic novel about dolls who came alive and had adventures (a subject I revisited in Sarah's Room, Merry, Rose, and Christmas-Tree June, and in A Certain Magic)," she said in SAAS.
In 1938, Hitler and his army entered Vienna. Orgel told SAAS readers how disastrously this event affected Jews in Austria. "Soon after the Nazis took over, notices 'Forbidden to Jews' appeared on benches, drinking fountains, and the entrances to parks and other public places…. The grocer on our corner no longer sold food to us or other Jews when there were 'Aryan' (non-Jewish) customers in the store…. Jewish men, my grandfather among them, were taken from their homes before daybreak, told to bring their toothbrushes, and forced to scrub anti-Nazi slogans off walls and sidewalks while Jew-hating onlookers jeered."
Her father lost his job. Her best friend, Lieselotte, was no longer allowed to play with her. She and her Jewish classmates were thrown out of their school. As the persecution worsened, many Jewish parents sent their children abroad to what they thought were safe havens. But Orgel's parents resolved to keep their family together, come what may. In the summer of 1938, thanks to a ruse, great courage, and good luck, they managed to gain entrance to what was Yugoslavia. "The older I grow," she remarked in SAAS, "the more acutely I am aware of the enormous risk this entailed. I now acknowledge what as an adolescent and young adult I went to great lengths to keep secret from myself: That we got out by a hair's breadth. That we easily might not have."
They stayed in Yugoslavia until the following spring. Orgel attended school in Zagreb, a bewildering experience because everybody spoke Croatian, "of which I couldn't understand a word," she told CA. In April, 1939, they traveled by train and boat to England. For a while, they lived in London, then in the country. "I loved it there," the author said. "I knew enough English to do well at school, make friends, and thrill to a whole new world of reading: Charles Kingsley's Water Babies, George Macdonald's The Princess and the Goblin, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night's Dream."
In December, the family's quota numbers, which allowed them to enter America, came up. Meanwhile, World War II had begun. To avoid being torpedoed by German submarines, the British ship the family sailed on took a zigzag course, making the voyage extra long—twelve days. The author recounted to CA that she was seasick the entire time. They arrived in New York City in January, 1940, almost penniless and faced a difficult time. Her father searched for a job in vain, and her mother, who had once studied Greek, Latin, and law, supported the family, working as a cleaning woman. They lived on the fifth-floor in an apartment with cockroaches and bedbugs. To make matters worse, Orgel was assigned to the ninth grade when she should have been in the fifth. The other students laughed at her clothes and accent, and she could not keep up in math class.
In the fall, the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where they had relatives "who helped us get on our feet," the author recalled to CA. "But living in Missouri was a culture shock. Segregation was still in force. There were separate schools for whites and 'negroes' (as African Americans were called)." As Orgel wrote in SAAS, "It reminded us of Nazism." The family moved back to New York in 1941. Orgel was placed in the eighth grade, where she belonged. A teacher, Mrs. Elmendorf, praised her writing and encouraged her to keep on.
After high school, she entered Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Along with the required courses, she took as many courses in German literature as she could. "In hindsight, I believe I did this in order to win back the language of my childhood, which I'd started to forget," she commented.
In her freshman year at Radcliffe, the author met Shelley Orgel, then at Harvard. They fell in love. At the start of her junior year, she transferred to Barnard College in New York, where Shelley Orgel was at the New York University School of Medicine. The couple married, and Doris Adelberg became Doris Orgel.
After graduating from Barnard, she worked at jobs in book and magazine publishing until the first of her three children was born. From then on, she continued to work at home as a translator, reviewer, and writer. Orgel confided to CA that she has never regretted her decision to leave the world of jobs and stay home. "An unforeseen dividend came of my decision: I'd always known I'd be a writer but was vague about just what I'd write. And now I knew for certain: children's books!"
Reading aloud to her children, Orgel re-experienced her childhood delight in stories. That led to her first translation, Dwarf Long-Nose by Wilhelm Hauff, which her mother had read to her. Dwarf Long-Nose won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award for excellence. Inventive retellings of other favorite stories from her childhood soon followed, among them Clemens Brentano's The Tale of Gockel, Hinkel, and Gackeliah. And before long, she was writing stories of her own. Some of these, In a Forgotten Place for instance, use fantasy elements to offset the realistic events. Others embroider on what she had dreamed up as a child. And many were inspired by her young children—their wishes, fears, and dreams.
Cindy's Sad and Happy Tree and Cindy's Snowdrops are among Orgel's earliest books. In Cindy's Sad and Happy Tree, an elm tree in Cindy's yard has died, and Cindy weeps. When her parents suggest that they plant another tree in its place, Cindy insists on a tree that looks as though it were sad. At the same time, the tree must comfort her. Cindy selects a weeping cherry tree and calls it a "weeping cheery tree." Barbara Gibson noted in Library Journal that Orgel portrays "a child's identification with nature" in a sensitive manner. In Cindy's Snowdrops, Cindy visits a nursery and buys seven snowdrop bulbs to plant. The blossoms appear on Cindy's birthday in March. Horn Book reviewer Mary Silva Cosgrave thought that readers would "share Cindy's pride and joy."
In Merry, Rose, and Christmas-Tree June, illustrated by Edward Gorey, Jane goes to visit her great aunt and misses her beloved dolls Merry and Rose. Given the chance to select any doll at a doll shop, Jane chooses an old doll that was first put up for sale several Christmases ago. The shop owner tells Jane that the newer dolls can do mechanical things, such as walk a few steps or cry a few tears. Even so, Jane chooses the old doll who cannot do any mechanical things but can dance and sing and eat and play and do everything Jane wants her to—via pretend, as all well-loved dolls can do. According to a reviewer in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Orgel "strikes a blow for imaginative play."
Gradually, Orgel's fiction began to portray characters with realistic problems in realistic settings. Many of these books for older readers draw on her own experiences. One of the main events in Bartholomew, We Love You!, in which a young girl trades her kitten for a box of chocolates shaped like spools of thread and other sewing items, comes from Orgel's childhood. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called this book a "gently understated and appealing story with convincing characterizations."
Another book based on Orgel's experiences recalls her life in Nazi Austria. Inge, the narrator and protagonist of The Devil in Vienna, is a combination of Orgel and her older sister. The book is written in the form of entries in a young girl's diary. Inge begins her story in 1938 when Hitler and his troops arrived in Austria and the Jews there faced degradation and persecution. Inge has one non-Jewish person she can count on—Lieselotte, her best friend. Although Lieselotte's father is a Nazi, she remains loyal to Inge. The girls maintain their friendship after their parents forbid them to meet, after Inge is sent to a school for Jews, and even after Lieselotte moves to Germany. When Inge's family confronts overwhelming bureaucratic obstacles to leaving the country, it is Lieselotte's uncle, a Catholic priest, who plays a crucial part in helping them escape.
Throughout the book, in what Virginia Haviland described in Horn Book as a "naturally exuberant, girlish style," Inge tells of joyous moments as well as the anxiety and losses. According to Zena Sutherland in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, The Devil in Vienna is one of the better stories in "depicting the erosion, the tension, and the fear" of Jewish families in German-occupied lands. Matilda Kornfeld observed in School Library Journal that the inclusion of reactions of all kinds of people like teachers and schoolmates to the situations in The Devil in Vienna "makes the evil of the period comprehensible on a preadolescent level."
Orgel offered a different perspective on this same historical milieu with A Certain Magic, in which a contemporary girl, discovering a diary her aunt Trudl kept in the 1930s, learns how hard things were for Trudl when she was young and of the way she fought to overcome her outsider status. On a trip to England with her parents, eleven-year-old Jenny decides to visits the places where her aunt stayed as a refugee before immigrating to the United States. Matilda Kornfeld, writing in School Library Journal, praised the pace of the book and the "individual and believable" characters, but thought that "most interesting are the themes of guilt and evil that motivate the story in terms that children can well understand." Similarly, for Mary M. Burns in Horn Book, the novel was a "suspenseful, contemporary story which explores in childlike terms the unity of past and present as well as the notion of evil."
Whether they are based on her childhood or not, Orgel's novels for children and young adults are convincingly written from the perspectives of her protagonists. In Next Door to Xanadu, Patricia, also known as "Fatsy Patsy," learns—with a little help from her parents—to deal with the loss of best friend Dorothy when that girl moves away. A critic for Kirkus Reviews felt that girls would "like [the book] enormously and there's every reason they should." A reviewer for Horn Book thought that Patricia relates her story "with spontaneity and conviction," while Sutherland, writing in the Saturday Review, found the same book "a completely natural, smoothly written story of two very real girls."
Orgel's four-book series about Becky Suslow, the daughter of a divorced and busy physician-mother, presents a convincing portrait of a young city girl with contemporary problems. Orgel introduces seven-yearold Becky in My War with Mrs. Galloway. Becky dislikes Mrs. Galloway, her family's new sitter and housekeeper, from the start. Mrs. Galloway is strict, takes precious time away from Becky's mother, and does not seem to respect Becky's beloved, pregnant cat, Whiskers. Becky finds ways to show her discontent—she draws an unkind picture of the woman and uses vanishing cream to try to make her disappear. She remains hostile to Mrs. Galloway until the woman helps Whiskers with the birth of her kittens and accepts one of the three for herself. In Becky, Charlotte W. Draper wrote in Horn Book, "Orgel has created another unmistakably contemporary child." Sutherland, writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, noted that the "light humor and controlled writing make pleasant reading."
In Whiskers, Once and Always, Becky's cat Whiskers dies after a bad fall. Consumed with grief and anger, Becky blames her mother's boyfriend, a veterinarian who could not save the cat. Becky gets into trouble at school and even shuns her mother. To make things worse, after a friend tells Becky that at least her mother did not die, Becky keeps visualizing her mother dead. Becky's problems begin to subside only after the school principal helps her deal with her feelings, and she stops worrying about her mother. According to Horn Book reviewer Karen Jameyson, Orgel's "handling of the subject … is quite perceptive"; a Publishers Weekly critic commented that "[Becky's] complex feelings are sensitively portrayed." Similarly, a contributor for Kirkus Reviews called the novel a "brief story … packed with feelings and thoughts familiar to children who have experienced the death of a cherished pet." And Ginny McKee recognized in a School Library Journal review of Whiskers, Once and Always, "Orgel is a skillful writer."
Midnight Soup and a Witch's Hat presents Becky's relationship with her father. When Becky, who is almost nine years old, arrives to visit him in Oregon, she is surprised to find that Hope, the six-year-old daughter of her father's girlfriend, is also visiting. From Becky's perspective, Hope steals time away from her father. The "plot's resolution … should leave readers satisfied and hopeful," remarked Katharine Bruner in School Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly critic felt that the book's strength was "a gently probing style and Becky's spirited methods for working out things herself." "Orgel has a light touch and smooth narrative flow in her writing," noted Sutherland in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. A critic for Kirkus Reviews also commended this continuation of the series, noting that the author "presents realistic, contemporary concerns and experiences with understanding, humor, and affection."
According to a critic in Kirkus Reviews, readers who enjoyed Orgel's previous books about Becky "will be delighted with this sequel," Starring Becky Suslow. The book begins as Becky and her best friends, Kyra and Melanie, enter fourth grade, and Rainbow Rothstein, who has acted in commercials, joins their class. After Rainbow's mother, a talent scout, invites Becky to audition for a television commercial, Becky's relationship with Kyra and Melanie begins to sour. Although Becky's first audition is a success, it takes the realization that the crayons she is endorsing are of poor quality and her failure at the callback to restore peace among the four girls. As Carrol McCarthy noted in School Library Journal, Orgel develops each character "as an individual, with a unique personality, problems, and expectations."
Risking Love, for high school readers, features Dinah Moskowitz in her first year of college at Barnard. When Dinah meets Gray, a senior biology major, she begins her first sexual relationship and later announces her plan to abandon college for a year and follow Gray to a job in the Everglades. At her father's suggestion, Dinah begins to see a psychotherapist, Dr. Schneck, and realizes that her parents' divorce taught her a haunting lesson: love may not be forever. Critical opinion of Risking Love varied. As School Library Journal contributor Rita S. Padden pointed out, the therapy sessions "comprise the major portion of the story," and even though the presentation of psychotherapy is accurately portrayed, she felt that readers will become impatient with some of the "pretentious and verbose conversations." Nancy C. Hammond, however, concluded in Horn Book that "the girl comes alive through her psychological vulnerability." A critic in Publishers Weekly described Risking Love as a "very good and potentially enlightening story."
In addition to writing original stories and novels, Orgel continues to retell traditional and ancient tales. Instead of just revisiting the usual versions of these stories, Orgel makes neglected characters come to life with their own personalities, desires, and concerns. In Ariadne, Awake!, for example, Orgel takes a character heretofore marginal to the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur and transforms her into the heroine of her own story. In a prologue, Orgel tells how Ariadne's father, King Minos, offended Poseidon, and how Poseidon caused his wife to fall in love with a bull. After giving birth to a half-human, half-bull offspring, the Minotaur, Ariadne's mother dies. The Minotaur survives to demand an annual meal of young Athenian men. In the body of the book, Ariadne narrates her story, beginning with her attempt and failure to be-friend her half-brother the Minotaur as a child. She then reveals how, at fifteen, she falls in love with one of the young men to be sacrificed, Theseus, and helps him escape from the Minotaur's labyrinth. Theseus kills the Minotaur and abandons Ariadne on the island of Naxos. There she goes through a time of mourning her lost love and ultimately wins a new love—the great god Dionysus whom she marries. In Horn Book, Mary M. Burns wrote that the story's "style is contemporary in feeling, reinforcing the concept that ancient tales have universal applications." Likewise, Patricia Dooley, writing in School Library Journal, thought that "the emotional heroine, and the romantic and sexual themes, may make this myth material more than palatable to middle-school readers." Other reviewers also praised the accessibility of Orgel's retelling. A critic for Kirkus Reviews called the book a "dramatic introduction to a fascinating myth," and Booklist's Hazel Rochman concluded, "Orgel shows that the young woman's perilous journey is also a personal one of leaving home and transforming herself."
Orgel tackles another Greek myth in The Princess and the God, a retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche—from Psyche's point of view. In the myth, the beautiful Venus sends her son, Cupid, to punish Psyche, a young princess of such renowned physical beauty that she is said to rival even Venus. Cupid, of course, falls in love with the young beauty; far from punishing her, he takes her for his wife with one stipulation: she must promise not to look at him when he comes to visit her at night. Unable to resist, however, Psyche gazes on her lover, and is thereby sentenced to terrible drudgery by the groom's mother, Venus. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews thought this novel was "one of Orgel's most lyrical, compelling works, … an epic love story at its center and adventure running through it like a stream." Hazel Rochman, writing in Booklist, elaborated on the theme of the tale: "Orgel makes it clear that this is a story about growing up and leaving home. Above all, it's about the transforming power of love." For Cheri Estes, writing in School Library Journal, "Psyche's quest is grippingly related." And reviewing the novella in the New York Times Book Review, David Sacks felt that Orgel "describes with dignity Psyche's experience of marriage," and went on to comment that the book "succeeds because it interprets Psyche's heart."
Orgel continues to breathe new life into Greek myth with We Goddesses and the 2003 My Mother's Daughter. Described as a "feminist perspective on the Greek myths" by Elaine Williams in the Times Literary Supplement, We Goddesses presents first person narratives from three different goddesses, Hera, wife of Zeus, Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Aphrodite, goddess of love. This "original approach to Greek mythology," as a contributor for Publishers Weekly called the book, has the goddesses in question presenting personal stories that bring their meanings in Greek culture to life for modern readers. Orgel also includes a pronunciation guide as well as an ongoing explanation of historical events and Greek locations, such as Mount Olympus. Booklist's Carolyn Phelan felt that "this handsomely designed book" with "Orgel's rousing interpretations" would appeal to young "mythology fans."
Orgel employs the same first-person narrative in My Mother's Daughter, this time relating stories of two mother-daughter teams, the Titaness Leto and her daughter, Artemis, goddess of wild creatures and hunting, and the grain goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone, who was carried off by Hades to be the queen of the underworld. For a critic writing in Kirkus Reviews, the result was "Xena: Warrior Princess, crossed with soap opera." The same reviewer, while noting that Orgel was attempting to "revitalize the appeal of these goddesses," thought that the result of her efforts "falls a bit flat." Similarly, Angela J. Reynolds, writing in School Library Journal, found that the "storytelling is stilted," but also commented that Orgel's "characters do come to life."
Speaking on the Children's Book Council Web site, Orgel explained the sources of her inspiration: "The ancient Greeks believed the Muse, a goddess of the arts, inspired (literally, breathed) words, whole songs into a poet's ear. For us now, inspiration comes from many sources. Encouragement can bring it on. Or someone we admire, an agent or an editor, suggests a topic, the topic catches on fire…. Andfora blessed interval, before I face up to the problems and sheer hard work ahead, I bask in feeling certain that I'm in to something I was born to write."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Children's Literature Review, Volume 48, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 19, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1995, pp. 193-209.
Booklist, October 15, 1977, Barbara Elleman, review of Merry Merry Fibruary, pp. 379-380; October 1, 1984, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Risking Love, p. 212; March 15, 1986, Irene Cooper, review of Godfather Cat and Mousie, p. 1086; December 1, 1986, Barbara Elleman, review of Whiskers, Once and Always, p. 581; November 15, 1987, Phillis Wilson, review of Midnight Soup and a Witch's Hat, p. 572; December 15, 1989, Denise Wilms, review of Starring Becky Suslow, pp. 843-844; January 15, 1990, Hazel Rochman, review of Crack in the Heart, p. 991; July, 1991, Leone McDermott, review of Nobodies and Somebodies, pp. 2045-2046; December 1, 1993, Hazel Rochman, review of Next Time I Will, p. 702; February 1, 1994, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Flower of Sheba, p. 1012; May 1, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of Ariadne, Awake!, p. 1599; October 1, 1995, April Judge, review of Two Crows Counting, p. 329; January 1, 1995, Hazel Rochman, review of The Spaghetti Party, p. 828; February 1, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of The Princess and the God, p. 926; January 1, 1997, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of Don't Call Me Slob-O, p. 860; September 15, 1997, John Peters, review of A Cat's Story, p. 235; October 15, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of We Goddesses: Athena, Aphrodite, Hera, p. 429; October 1, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Lion and the Mouse, p. 343; April 1, 2003, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Ask Me, p. 1400.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1969, review of Merry, Rose, and Christmas-Tree June, pp. 62-63; January, 1970, review of Phoebe and the Prince, p. 86; November, 1970, pp. 46-47; December, 1970, review of The Uproar, p. 64; January, 1972, review of The Mulberry Music, pp. 77-78; July-August, 1973, review of Bartholomew, We Love You!, p. 174; December, 1978, Zena Sutherland, review of The Devil in Vienna, p. 70; February, 1985, review of Risking Love, p. 114; April, 1985, Zena Sutherland, review of My War with Mrs. Galloway, pp. 153-154; October, 1986, Betsy Hearne, review of Whiskers, Once and Always, p. 34; July-August, 1987, Zena Sutherland, review of Midnight Soup and a Witch's Hat, p. 216; July, 1991, Roger Sutton, review of Nobodies and Somebodies, p. 270; June, 1994, p. 330.
Horn Book, February, 1967, Mary Silva Cosgrave, review of Cindy's Snowdrops, p. 62; February, 1970, review of Next Door to Xanadu, pp. 42-43; April, 1972, Virginia Haviland, review of The Mulberry Music, p. 147; August, 1976, Mary M. Burns, review of A Certain Magic, p. 400; February, 1978, review of Merry Merry Fibruary, p. 62; February, 1979, Virginia Haviland, review of The Devil in Vienna, p. 70; March-April, 1985, Nancy C. Hammond, review of Risking Love, p. 187; May-June, 1985, Charlotte W. Draper, review of My War with Mrs. Galloway, pp. 312-313; January-February, 1987, Karen Jameyson, review of Whiskers, Once and Always, pp. 56-57; July, 1989, Carolyn K. Jenks, review of Starring Becky Suslow, p. 75; November-December, 1991, review of Nobodies and Somebodies, pp. 737-738; September-October, 1994, Mary M. Burns, review of Ariadne, Awake!, pp. 589-590; March, 2001, review of The Lion and the Mouse, p. 220.
Journal of Reading, October, 1979, M. Jean Greenlaw, review of The Devil in Vienna, p. 88; April, 1986, Jan Lieberman and Alice Stern, review of Risking Love, p. 689.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1969, review of Phoebe and the Prince, p. 852; December 1, 1969, review of Merry, Rose, and Christmas-Tree June, and Next Door to Xanadu, pp. 1258-1259; July 1, 1970, review of The Uproar, p. 678; September 15, 1986, review of Whiskers, Once and Always, p. 1451; August 15, 1987, review of Midnight Soup and a Witch's Hat, p. 1243; October 15, 1989, review of Starring Becky Suslow, pp. 1533-1534; February 1, 1994, review of The Flower of Sheba, p. 148; April 15, 1994, review of Ariadne, Awake!, pp. 561-562; January 15, 1996, review of The Princess and the God, p. 140; April 1, 2003, review of My Mother's Daughter: Four Greek Goddesses Speak, p. 538.
Language Arts, January, 1986, Janet Hickman, review of My War with Mrs. Galloway, pp. 89-90; December, 1986, Janet Hickman, review of Godfather Cat and Mousie, p. 826.
Library Journal, June 15, 1967, p. 2454; January 15, 1968, Barbara Gibson, review of Cindy's Sad and Happy Tree, p. 284; October 15, 1968, p. 3958; October 15, 1969, review of Merry, Rose, and Christmas-Tree June, pp. 3848-3851; December, 15, 1969, Eleanor Glaser, review of Phoebe and the Prince, p. 4597; September 15, 1970, Sada Fretz, review of The Uproar, p. 3041; November 15, 1971, Rose S. Bender, review of The Mulberry Music, pp. 3903-3904; May 15, 1973, Linda Johnson, review of Bartholomew, We Love You!, p. 1683.
New Statesman, June 2, 1972, John Fuller, review of Sarah's Room, p. 762.
New York Times Book Review, May 20, 1973, review of Bartholomew, We Love You!, p. 10; December 17, 1978; p. 26; October 14, 1984, Marilyn Kaye, review of Risking Love, p. 16; August 4, 1985, review of My War with Mrs. Galloway, p. 21; June 16, 1996, David Sacks, review of The Princess and the God, p. 33.
Publishers Weekly, September 1, 1969, review of Merry, Rose, and Christmas-Tree June, p. 52; March 5, 1973, review of Bartholomew, We Love You!, p. 83; August 28, 1978, review of The Devil in Vienna, p. 394; January 4, 1985, review of Risking Love, p. 69; May 30, 1986, review of Godfather Cat and Mousie, p. 65; November 28, 1986, review of Whiskers, Once and Always, pp. 75-76; November 13, 1987, review of Midnight Soup and a Witch's Hat, p. 71; November 24, 1989, review of Crack in the Heart, p. 73; June 7, 1991, review of Nobodies and Somebodies, p. 66; October 18, 1991, review of Sarah's Room, p. 65; November 15, 1991, review of Starring Becky Suslow, p. 74; April 22, 1996, review of The Princess and the God, pp. 72-73; November 29, 1999, review of We Goddesses, p. 72; August 14, 2000, review of The Lion and the Mouse, p. 354.
Reading Teacher, March, 1995, review of Ariadne, Awake!, p. 513.
Saturday Review, September 13, 1969, Zena Sutherland, review of Phoebe and the Prince, pp. 36-37; May 9, 1970, Zena Sutherland, review of Next Door to Xanadu, p. 45.
School Library Journal, May, 1976, Matilda Kornfeld, review of A Certain Magic, pp. 62-63; February, 1978, Annabelle R. Bernard, review of Merry Merry Fibruary, p. 50; November, 1978, Matilda Kornfeld, review of The Devil in Vienna, p. 66; December, 1984, Rita S. Padden, review of Risking Love, p. 93; September, 1985, Louise L. Sherman, review of My War with Mrs. Galloway, p. 138; May, 1986, Liza Bliss, review of Godfather Cat and Mousie, p. 83; December, 1986, Ginny McKee, review of Whiskers, Once and Always, p. 107; October, 1987, Katharine Bruner, review of Midnight Soup and a Witch's Hat, p. 128; December, 1989, Carrol McCarthy, review of Starring Becky Suslow, p. 102; August, 1993, Gale W. Sherman, review of Next Time I Will, p. 160; June, 1994, Patricia Dooley, review of Ariadne, Awake!, p. 152; February, 1995, Sharon McElmeel, review of Button Soup, pp. 78-79; February, 1996, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Two Crows Counting, p. 88; April, 1996, Cheri Estes, review of The Princess and the God, p. 157; July, 1996, Blair Christolon, review of Friends to the Rescue, pp. 85-86; March, 1997, Cheryl Cufari, review of Don't Call Me Slob-O, p. 162; October, 2000, Ginny Gustin, review of The Lion and the Mouse, p. 151; March, 2003, Liza Graybill, review of Ask Me, p. 191; May, 2003, Angela J. Reynolds, review of My Mother's Daughter, p. 158.
Spectator, April 22, 1972, Ruth Marris, review of Sarah's Room, p. 624.
Teacher Librarian, June, 2000, Jessica Higgs, review of We Goddesses, p. 55.
Times Educational Supplement, November 10, 2000, Elaine Williams, review of We Goddesses, p. 23.
Times Literary Supplement, April 28, 1972, review of Sarah's Room, p. 483.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1990, Rosemary Moran, review of Crack in the Heart, p. 32.
Washington Post Book World, December 21, 1969, Polly Goodwin, review of Merry, Rose, and Christmas-Tree June, p. 8.
Children's Book Council Web site, http://www.cbcbooks.org/ (January 14, 2004).