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Rish, David 1955–

Rish, David 1955–

PERSONAL: Born March 5, 1955, in London, England; son of Raphael Foner (a lecturer in engineering) and Jean (an artist; maiden name, Cameron) Rish; married Carmel Denholm (a librarian); children: Olive, Jacob. Education: University of Tasmania, B.A. (honors), 1977, diploma in education, 1979.

ADDRESSES: Home—609 Huon Rd., South Hobart, Tasmania 7004, Australia.

CAREER: Tasmanian Education Department, Tasmania, Australia, guidance officer and teacher, 1978–88; writer, 1988–.

AWARDS, HONORS: Family Award for Children's Literature, for Mongrel; Ian Reed Award for Radio Drama, 1986;

WRITINGS:

FOR CHILDREN

Sophie's Island, illustrated by Wendy Corbett, Angus & Robertson (North Ryde, New South Wales, Australia), 1990.

Detective Paste, Angus & Robertson (North Ryde, New South Wales, Australia), 1991.

Portrait of a Dog, Angus & Robertson (North Ryde, New South Wales, Australia), 1993.

A Dozen Eggs, Angus & Robertson (North Ryde, New South Wales, Australia), 1993.

Targett, Angus & Robertson (North Ryde, New South Wales, Australia), 1994.

Mongrel, Angus & Robertson (North Ryde, New South Wales, Australia), 1995.

Casey's Case, illustrated by Margaret Power, Mimosa Publications (Melbourne, Australia), 1995.

Extraordinarily Ordinary, Scholastic (Sydney, Australia), 1998.

Stars for Stewie, Longman (Melbourne, Australia), 2004.

Work represented in anthologies, including Tales from the Dark Side, edited by Paul Collins and Meredith Costain, Longman (New York, NY), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: David Rish writes novels for older elementary school students that often combine elements of mystery with character studies that lend his simple plots an intriguing depth. His first book, Sophie's Island, lacks the element of mystery but replaces it with "a powerful and moving story" of a year in the life of ten-year-old Sophie, as Albert Brgoc described it in Magpies. Sophie pins her hopes for the repair of the relationships in her family on the birth of a new sibling, but when the child dies at birth, her hopes are destroyed. Sophie is sent to grieve with relatives and there draws strength from the warm family atmosphere. Brgoc praised Rish's writing style, which moves the story along through the use of short, descriptive paragraphs and strong characterizations. Further, Rish "clearly depicts the psychological trauma that a death can place on a child," and thus, though Sophie's Island is well written, it may be difficult to convince his target audience to pick the book up, Brgoc concluded.

Rish again centers on a female protagonist in Detective Paste, in which Melissa, who often escapes into her imagination to avoid the pain of being taunted by her peers for her poverty, unwittingly witnesses some suspicious behavior on the part of a local businessman that leads her to believe a murder has been committed. The pace of the novel accelerates as Melissa gathers clues and presents them to the doubting authorities; "few, if any, readers will guess the nature of the crime," suggested Magpies reviewer Kevin Steinberger. Detective Paste is "a very satisfying, light read" that also functions well as a "convincing" portrait of a poor girl and the pressures she is under from her single mother and her jeering classmates, according to Steinberger.

Like Detective Paste, Portrait of a Dog is both a mystery and a psychological study of its two protagonists, cautious Rob and a daredevil girl named Dog, who helps propel Rob onto a less cautious, but more authentic path in pursuit of his love of art. The friendship struck up between Rob and Dog "is brilliantly described through terse dialogue where there isn't a remark which doesn't ring entirely true," commented Moira Robinson in Magpies. "David Rish is definitely an author to watch," Robinson concluded.

Rish once told CA: "I live in the island state of Tasmania, one of the most—I'm not biased!!!—stunning places on Earth. My writing and life are influenced by its slightly exotic beauty. I particularly love the coastline: the beaches and cliffs; the moods of the ocean; the beach folk; the flora and fauna—a banksia really does something to the imagination!"

"I find I'm often drawn to using clever but slightly troubled and lonely protagonists (also, probably not coincidentally, the type of student I most enjoyed working with in a former incarnation as an infant school teacher). Although I occasionally write for older children (e.g., A Dozen Eggs) I usually aim for a ten-to twelve-or thirteen-year-old audience, a time in my own life which I really enjoyed. Much of my thinking is done while walking on Mount Wellington, Hobart's ever-present sentry. On these walks I jot down notes and ideas on discarded library file cards (courtesy of my librarian partner) and these mobile musings are later refined with the help of too many cups of strong black coffee. The jottings form the backbone of the eventual completed story, so for me writing is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle that takes at least a year to complete.

"My book Extraordinarily Ordinary throws together the Zebras, a vibrant trio of life-loving eleven-year-olds, and Emily, who is their almost pathologically shy classmate. Through their interaction, Emily slowly grows in confidence and the Zebras learn about the value of friendship. I really like all my characters and often feel a bit of grief when I say goodbye to them at the end of a project. This book is my first comedy and the jokes were road tested on Olive and Jacob, my children, and their friends. (Although I find I need times of isolation, I also love to work in the bustle and warmth of an active family.) They—offspring and pals—seemed to particularly enjoy a clever bit of verbal abuse and hence the Zebras (Simon, Jess, and George) attempt to turn the good-natured non-hurtful put-down into an art form. One of the good things about being a writer is that you're constantly learning how to write. Each new book is a new Everest to conquer and I'm hopeful that I'll keep on looking for new Everests until the day I breathe my last."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Magpies, July, 1991, Albert Brgoc, review of Sophie's Island, p. 31; November, 1991, Kevin Steinberger, review of Detective Paste, p. 29; November, 1998, Moira Robinson, review of Portrait of a Dog, p. 6.

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