Pressler, Mirjam 1940-
PRESSLER, Mirjam 1940-
Born 1940, in Darmstadt, Germany; divorced; children: Ronit, Gila, Tall (daughters).
Home—Munich, Germany. Agent—c/o Verlag Beltz und Gelberg, Werderstrasse 10, D 69469 Weinheim, Germany.
Author and translator. Has held a variety of jobs including working on an Israeli Kibbutz and running a jeans store.
Oldenburger Youth Prize, 1980, for Bitter Chocolate; Zurich Child Book Prize, 1980, for Stolperschritte, and 1995, for Wenn dad Gluck Kommt, Muss Man ihm einen Stuhl Hinstellen, Neuausg; German Youth Literary Award, 1994, for translation work, and 1995, for Wenn dad Gluck Kommt, Muss Man ihm einen Stuhl Hinstellen, Neuausg.
Novemberkatzen (title means "November Cats"; children's book), Beltz and Gelberg (Weinheim, Germany), 1982.
(Editor, with Peter Grosz) Unter der Steinhaut: Treffen Junger Autoren '93 (title means "Under the Stone Skin: Meet Young Authors '93"), Anrich (Kevelaer, Germany), 1994.
Jola und Nickel in der Schule (title means "Jola and Nickel in the School"; children's book), illustrated by Maria Wissmann, Loewe (Bindlach, Germany), 1994.
The Story of Anne Frank (children's book), translated by Anthea Bell, Macmillan Children's Books (London, England), 1999.
Shylocks Tochter: Venedig im Jahre 1568 (children's book), Alibaba (Frankfurt, Germany), 1999, translation by Brian Murdoch published as Shylock's Daughter, P. Fogelman Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Anne Frank: A Hidden Life (children's book), translated by Anthea Bell, Dutton's Children's Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Malka (children's book), translated by Brian Murdoch, Young Picador (London, England), 2002, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Wenn dad Gluck Kommt, Muss Man ihm einen Stuhl Hinstellen, Neuausg (title means "When Luck Arrives, One Must Offer a Chair"; children's book), Beltz and Gelberg (Weinheim, Germany), 2004.
Also author of books including Bitter Chocolate and Stolperschritte. Contributor to periodicals.
Born in Darmstadt, Germany, author and translator Mirjam Pressler spent part of her childhood in a group foster home, a hardship that is reflected in her writing. Many of Pressler's books are about children facing great difficulties and trials of the spirit, and not all of them provide the comfort of a happy ending. In a speech later published in Bookbird, Pressler stated that "there are people who, for biographical reasons, cannot get over their childhood. Maybe only the unhappy childhoods leave behind such feelings, which influence the whole life."
Pressler has been involved with several books relating to Holocaust victim Anne Frank, including the definitive edition of The Diary of a Young Girl, on which Pressler worked with Otto Frank to restore the numerous entries and clips that had been edited out when the volume was first published. In the Bookbird speech, Pressler noted that "Anne Frank has not only become the symbol for the Jewish people murdered during the Second World War; her diary is above all the description of puberty, and a more open and honest description I have never read. Its accuracy is due to the fact that her report was written at the time when she was entering puberty. Later on she could not correct, not leave out, or add anything anymore." Speaking with an interviewer for Publishers Weekly, Pressler said "the strongest message in Anne Frank's diary for me is: Here was a girl, clever, sensitive, gifted and full of vitality, who wanted to live and wasn't allowed to, just because she was born a Jew. And every time I think about her, I am forced to think about the fact that she was just one of millions of children whom the Nazis murdered."
Anne Frank: A Hidden Life examines both Anne's diary and the eyewitness accounts that provided information on the last days of her life once she and the other occupants of the annex had been taken to concentration camps. Pressler focuses less on Anne's idealism, and more on her observations of the tensions among her family and the others in hiding with them. She also notes that Anne actually kept two diaries and was in the process of editing one version for publication after the war was over. In a review for Publishers Weekly, contributors Diane Roback, Jennifer M. Brown, and Cindi DiMarzo wrote that "incisive and vigorously imaginative in its interpretations, Pressler's work could serve as a model for how to read a subjective narrative." Hazel Rochman, in a review for Booklist, observed that "the eyewitness accounts of a 'broken' Anne before her death in Bergen-Belsen deny forever the upbeat message some have tried to patch onto her story," and Horn Book writer Christine M. Heppermann remarked that Pressler's work "succeeds in conveying both the individuality of the most famous Holocaust victim and the enormity of the tragedy that consumed her."
Several of Pressler's children's books recount stories of girls affected by the World War II. Malka, based on true events, follows a seven-year-old Jewish girl as she flees Poland with her mother and older sister. Warned of an impending Nazi round-up by a kind neighbor, Malka's mother, Hannah, attempts to escape with her daughters by walking through the mountains into Hungary. Shortly before they reach the border, Malka becomes too ill to travel, and Hannah is forced to leave her behind with a family that promises to watch over her. Instead, they turn her out to care for herself. The rest of the book alternates between Malka as she struggles to survive and Hannah as she attempts to find her child. Horn Book contributor Martha V. Parravano wrote that "the audience for Malka is problematic … but those who can put themselves in either of these characters' places will be riveted."
Halinka, set seven years after the end of World War II, tells the story of a twelve-year-old girl who lives in a German children's home. Pressler dips into autobiographical territory, drawing on her own childhood to explore Halinka's emotions regarding her plight: words such as "neglect" make her stomach hurt, and bring her close to tears. Pressler, in the Bookbird speech, said "until I wrote this book, I had the same reactions toward the word neglect. I only had to hear … about neglected children and, right away, tears came to my eyes." As a character, Halinka is understandably tough, but with soft edges that indicate there is hope that she will overcome her childhood. Though she refuses to cry and steals if given the opportunity, she still ends up making friends with a younger girl. A contributor to Publishers Weekly wrote that "what is remarkable is Halinka's complexity: she doesn't trust people but essentially likes them." In Horn Book, a reviewer observed that the novel "joins the ranks of treasured works in translation … that we celebrate for their contribution to the diversity of our literature, but read because they're just so good."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bookbird, 2001, Mirjam Pressler, award acceptance speech translated by Ingrid M. May as "Take Your Childhood and Run, You Will Not Get Another One," pp. 25-32.
Booklist, October 15, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Halinka, p. 413; April 15, 2000, Rochman, review of Anne Frank: A Hidden Life, p. 1537.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July-August, 2001, Deborah Stevenson, review of Shylock's Daughter, p. 420; June, 2003, Betsy Hearne, review of Malka, p. 418.
Dimensions, May, 2001, Rebecca Rabinowitz, review of Anne Frank, p. 51.
Horn Book, January, 1999, review of Halinka, p. 70; May-June, 2000, Christine M. Heppermann, review of Anne Frank, p. 337; May-June, 2003, Martha V. Parravano, review of Malka, p. 355.
New Republic, December 4, 1995, Robert Alter, review of The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition, p. 38.
New Statesman, April 2, 1999, Martyn Bedford, "Frozen in Childhood," review of The Story of Anne Frank, p. 47.
New York Times Book Review, March 5, 1995, Patricia Hampl, "The Whole Anne Frank," p. 1.
Publishers Weekly, February 13, 1995, review of The Diary of a Young Girl, p. 70; November 2, 1998, review of Halinka, p. 83; February 14, 2000, Diane Roback, Jennifer M. Brown, and Cindi DiMarzo, review of Anne Frank, p. 201; February 14, 2000, "PW Talks with Mirjam Pressler," p. 201; June 25, 2001, review of Shylock's Daughter, p. 74; May 5, 2003, review of Malka, p. 222.
School Library Journal, January, 1999, Cheri Estes, review of Halinka, p. 130.
Spectator, May 8, 1999, Byron Rogers, "Hitler's Most Potent Enemy," p. 36.
Times Literary Supplement, May 23, 1997, Rosemary Dinnage, "Heaven and Hell"; June 4, 1999, Adam Hochschild, "Anne's Afterlives."
Goethe Institute Web site,http://www.goethe.de/ (August 27, 2004), "Mirjam Pressler."
Stuttgart Web site,http://www.stuttgart.de/ (August 27, 2004), "Mirjam Pressler."*