Pielichaty, Helena 1955-
PIELICHATY, Helena 1955-
PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "Pierre-li-hatty"; born September 11, 1955, in Stockholm, Sweden; daughter of Boris and Joyce Rojinsky; married Peter Pielichaty; children: Hanya, Joe. Education: Breton Hall College, B.Ed. (with honors), 1978.
ADDRESSES: Home—21 Dykes End, Collingham, Newark, Nottinghamshire NG23 7LD, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer. Worked as a teacher, 1978-2000. Chair of local history club.
AWARDS, HONORS: Book Trust's Top 100 Books of 1998 selection, for Vicious Circle; Carnegie Medal nomination, for Simone's Letters; Sheffield Children's Book Award shortlist, 2000; third place in Askew's Children's Book Award, 2002; World Book Day Super Read nomination, 2002, for Simone's Diary.
Vicious Circle, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1998.
Getting Rid of Karenna, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1999.
Simone's Diary, illustrated by Sue Heap, Oxford University Press (London, England), 2000.
Jade's Story, Oxford University Press (London, England), 2000.
There's Only One Danny Ogle, illustrated by Glyn Goodwin, Oxford University Press (London, England), 2001.
Never Ever, Oxford University Press (London, England), 2001.
Simone's Website, illustrated by Sue Heap, Oxford University Press (London, England), 2002.
Starring Sammie ("After School Club" series), Oxford University Press (London, England), 2003.
Starring Brody ("After School Club" series), Oxford University Press (London, England), 2003.
Pielichaty's work has been translated into German, Dutch, and Lithuanian.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Other books in the "After School Club" series; researching the British education system in the 1950s for a novel called The Diary Keepers.
SIDELIGHTS: In Helena Pielichaty's young-adult novels, her characters frequently confront problems that are familiar to many teenagers. Thus, in There's Only One Danny Ogle, a boy who loves soccer moves to a town that is so small it lacks a sports program.
In Jade's Story, the mental breakdown of a girl's father leads her into a more perceptive relationship with him. As Robert Dunbar noted in Books for Keeps, Pielichaty examines their evolving relationship "with subtlety and originality," aided by an effective use of setting and interesting secondary characters. For Alison A. Smith, writing in School Librarian, Pielichaty has done young people a service in presenting a realistic, carefully researched, fictional account of a scenario that is not uncommon among the families of contemporary young people.
Separated parents and a divided household are the issues at the heart of Simone's Diary, Pielichaty's first sequel to the successful Simone's Letters. Here again, Simone's young voice narrates the story of her life, this time aided by the questionnaires she completes for a researcher interested in young people's transition to secondary school. School life, friends, and quirky teachers are the subject of Simone's diary entries, "written in a lively style, with plenty of humour," according to Jan Cooper in School Librarian. Cooper concluded by appraising the likely popularity of Simone with young readers by describing Pielichaty's character as a more upbeat and realistic version of Adrian Mole, another popular young-adult character in British literature.
Pielichaty told CA: "I did not become a writer until after my first child was born in 1985. I gave up teaching full-time and wanted to do something stimulating so I attended a creative writing course. The course folded after a few weeks, but I was hooked. I attended a couple more weekend courses on how to write for children, but apart from those, I was on my own. Owing to the endeavours of my agent at the time, Oxford University Press accepted my first book, Vicious Circle, in 1996. They have been my sole publishers ever since.
"As I had several pieces of work already written, my second and third books were published quite rapidly after Vicious Circle, allowing a momentum to build up. My second book, Simone's Letters, took me by surprise by selling so well I was asked to write a sequel—Simone's Diary—and another one after that—Simone's Website! The "Simone" series is my most successful in terms of books sold.
"I write real-life stories, set in the present, similar to those by Paula Danziger, Judy Blume, and Beverly Cleary. I use a lot of humour to carry through some tough subjects, such as mental illness, poverty, and feeling different. Sometimes these are labelled as 'issues' books, which always sounds dreary but I must be doing something right as they have been translated into German, Dutch, and Lithuanian!
"I think teaching has definitely helped my writing. Reviewers often comment on my 'insight' into children's language and behaviour. This comes from many years of standing in a cold playground on playground duty observing children, counselling them, and so on. My teaching experience also helps when I meet children. I am often invited into schools and libraries to meet groups, and I know how to pace a session and how to fully engage them. I have performed at the Edinburgh Literary Festival three years in a row now, and I think the reason I am invited back is partly because I am not scared to perform and risk making a fool out of myself!
"Advice to aspiring children's writers? Don't make the mistake of thinking writing for children is easier than writing for adults. Read contemporary fiction. Be prepared to discuss the J. K. Rowling phenomenon with people ad infinitum!"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books for Keeps, July, 2001, Robert Dunbar, review of Jade's Story, p. 25.
School Librarian, summer, 2001, Jan Cooper, review of Simone's Diary, p. 90; autumn, 2001, Alison A. Smith, review of Jade's Story, pp. 145-146; winter, 2001, Mary Crawford, review of There's Only One Danny Ogle, p. 192.
Helena Pielichaty's Web site,http://www.helenapielichaty.com (May 19, 2003).