Reich, Susanna 1954-

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Reich, Susanna 1954-


Born April 10, 1954, in New York, NY; daughter of Haskell A. (a physicist) and Nancy B. (a musicologist) Reich; married Gary Golio (an artist, children's book author, and social worker), May 26, 1980; children: Laurel. Education: Attended Bennington College, 1971-73; New York University, B.F.A., 1976; Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies, certificate, 1981; studied at American Ballet Theatre School and Royal Academy of Dancing, London; also attended University of Hawaii at Manoa. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, swimming, gardening, travel, art.


Home and office—Ossining, NY.


Dancer, choreographer, and teacher of modern dance at Laban/Bartenieff Institute for Movement Studies and Dance Notation Bureau, between 1977 and 1986; floral designer, 1986-88; Flowers by Susanna, owner and floral designer, 1988-98; children's book author, 1994—. Ossining Schools Arts Advocates, member of executive board, 1996-98; Westchester Dance Council, president, 1981-83; former dance teacher in Westchester County, NY; former member of modern dance companies.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (member of New York regional committee), PEN.


Notices for Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso include Orbis Pictus Honor Book of National Council of Teacher of English, Nonfiction Honor List, Voice of Youth Advocates, Washington Irving Children's Choice Honor Book, and citations among "notable books" and "best books for young adults," American Library Association, "best books of the year," School Library Journal, "100 titles for reading and sharing" and "best books for the teen age," New York Public Library, "best children's books of the year," Bank Street College, and "notable social studies trade book," Children's Book Council and National Council of Social Studies Teachers; International Latino Book Award and citations among "top ten arts books for youth," Booklist, and "100 titles for reading and sharing," New York Public Library, all for José! Born to Dance: The Story of José Limón.


Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso (juvenile), Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1999.

José! Born to Dance: The Story of José Limón (juvenile), illustrated by Raúl Colón, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.

Penelope Bailey Takes the Stage (juvenile novel), Marshall Cavendish (Tarrytown, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Bride's and American Dance Guild Newsletter.


Susanna Reich once told CA: "Writing children's books is my third career in the arts. I was born in New York and raised in Hastings-on-Hudson. I grew up surrounded by music, but my response to music was different from Clara Schumann's: when I heard music, I wanted to dance!

"My passion from an early age was ballet, which I began to study at the age of seven. After stints at the American Ballet Theatre School and the Royal Academy of Dancing in London, England, my focus shifted to modern dance. I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and, after graduation, I danced with several modern dance companies. Later I did graduate work in dance ethnology at the University of Hawaii and studied and taught Laban Movement Analysis.

"In 1986 I stopped dancing, and for the next twelve years I worked as a floral designer, specializing in weddings. My business, Flowers by Susanna, was the official florist for Lyndhurst, the historic estate in Tarrytown that is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Among the special occasions I designed were Julia Child's eightieth birthday party and dinners for five prime ministers and for the emperor and empress of Japan.

"My writing career began in the early nineties with articles on floral design, which were published in national magazines. Later I began experimenting with picture book texts. I learned from librarians, teachers, and editors of the need for biographies of women for children. My mother, a musicologist, suggested Clara Schumann, and I began to work on a book.

"As I learned more about Clara, I became convinced that her story would appeal to children. She was an extraordinary woman, one of the great musicians of the nineteenth century. This was a time when very few women had public lives. Clara was a child prodigy, but her importance went way beyond that. She stood up to her father to marry the man she loved (the composer Robert Schumann), championed Robert's work when he was unknown, and continued her career after his mental illness and death. Imagine being a world-class pianist and a single mother to seven children!

"I believe that dance, floral design, and writing have much in common. The principles of all art forms are the same. If you are creative in one art form, you can use that creativity in other art forms. The same principles of balance and structure, form, and composition apply, and I use the discipline I learned as a dancer every day.

"I am happiest, though, with my latest career. Writing for kids presents a particular kind of challenge. First you have to see with the eyes of a child, to capture a child's sense of discovery, with its wonders, terrors, and excitement. Then you have to find the right word, the perfect sentence structure, the simplest way to express complex thoughts. I love the challenge of it.

"I am interested in writing biographies about artists of all kinds. I am especially drawn to exploring the relationship between an artist's life and his or her creative work."

More recently, Reich added: "I returned to my first love in my picture book, José! Born to Dance: The Story of José Limón. It is a biography (for readers aged five to nine) of the Mexican-American modern dancer and choreographer. In compressing José's story into a picture-book-length manuscript, my aim was to show how the sights and sounds of his childhood in Mexico and his experiences as an immigrant child were shaped into art.

"My first novel is Penelope Bailey Takes the Stage. In taking the leap to fiction, I combined my love of research and interest in nineteenth-century women's history and dance history with an understanding of what it feels like to be a child who yearns for the spotlight. In this book, for kids aged nine to fourteen, set in 1889 San Francisco, Penelope's strait-laced aunt will do everything in her power to thwart the girl's ambition to become an actress. But when Penelope is befriended by Isabelle Grey—a character based on the famous dancer Isadora Duncan—the young actress must decide how far she is willing to go to follow her dream.

"My next book will be a biography of the artist George Catlin. The paintings he did of American Indians in the 1830s are well known; his dramatic life story is not. It will be a tale full of travel and adventure. I call it my ‘boy book,’ but I hope both boys and girls will enjoy it."



Booklist, August, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso, p. 2042; March 15, 2000, review of Clara Schumann, p. 1359; August, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of José! Born to Dance: The Story of José Limón, p. 1965; May 15, 2006, Anne O'Malley, review of Penelope Bailey Takes the Stage, p. 45.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 1999, review of Clara Schumann, p. 326; September, 2005, Maggie Hommel, review of José! Born to Dance, p. 39.

El Paso Times, May 9, 1999, review of Clara Schumann, p. 5F.

Horn Book, March-April, 1999, Susan P. Bloom, review of Clara Schumann, p. 229.

Hungry Mind Review, summer, 1999, review of Clara Schumann, p. 43.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1999, review of Clara Schumann, p. 455; July 1, 2005, review of José! Born to Dance, p. 742; April 1, 2006, review of Penelope Bailey Takes the Stage, p. 355.

Riverbank Review, fall, 1999, review of Clara Schumann, p. 42.

School Library Journal, April, 1999, Carol Fazioli, review of Clara Schumann, p. 154; October, 2005, Susan Oliver, review of José! Born to Dance, p. 144.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2000, review of Clara Schumann, p. 64; August, 2000, review of Clara Schumann, p. 166; April, 2006, Debbie Clifford, review of Penelope Bailey Takes the Stage, p. 50.

Washington Post Book World, July 9, 2006, Elizabeth Ward, review of Penelope Bailey Takes the Stage, p. 11.


Susanna Reich: Children's Book Author, (March 9, 2007).