PERSONAL: Born in Furth, Germany; daughter of Saul (owner of a children's hat factory) and Bernice (a homemaker) Morgenstern; married Karl Roy (an engineer) Dommert, 1990; children: Chelsea Troy, Brandon Kyle. Education: City College of the City University of New York, B.S. (biology), 1968; Long Island University, M.S. (biology), 1971; Fordham University, Ph.D. (biology), 1977; University of Florida, M.S. (geology), 1985; Louisiana State University, Ph.D. (geology and geophysics), 1993. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, exercising, traveling, photography, scrapbooking.
CAREER: Former college instructor; children's author.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Southern Sisters in Crime, Chattanooga Writers' Guild.
AWARDS, HONORS: Children's Choice Award finalist, and Outstanding Science Trade Book selection, National Science Teachers Association/Children's Book Council, both 2002, both for ABC Science Riddles.
"GIFTED AND TALENTED" SERIES
Science Questions and Answers: The Human Body, for Ages Six to Eight, illustrated by Jack Keely, Lowell House Juvenile (Los Angeles, CA), 1998.
Science Questions and Answers: The Ocean, for Ages Six to Eight, illustrated by Kerry Manwaring, Lowell House Juvenile (Los Angeles, CA), 1999.
Science Experiments, for Ages Six to Eight, illustrated by Leo Abbett, Lowell House Juvenile (Los Angeles, CA), 1999.
Science Questions and Answers: Dinosaurs, for Ages Six to Eight, illustrated by Neal Yamamoto, Lowell House Juvenile (Los Angeles, CA), 2000.
Kitchen Science Experiments, for Ages Six to Eight, Lowell House Juvenile (Los Angeles, CA), 2000.
Backyard Science Experiments, for Ages Six to Eight, illustrated by Leo Abbett, Lowell House Juvenile (Los Angeles, CA), 2000.
ABC Science Riddles, illustrated by Jennifer Johnson Haywood, Peel Productions (Columbus, NC), 2001.
Polar Exploration Adventures, Capstone Books (Mankato, MN), 2001.
Mexico ("Countries and Cultures" series), Bridgestone Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.
Kenya ("Countries and Cultures" series), Bridgestone Books (Mankato, MN), 2002.
Jesse James, Chelsea House Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.
The California Gold Rush, Mason Crest Publishers (Broomall, PA), 2003.
Life on the Reservation, Mason Crest Publishers (Broomall, PA), 2003.
Harry S Truman, Mason Crest Publishers (Broomall, PA), 2003.
Smallpox, Lucent (San Diego, CA), 2003.
Anthrax, Lucent (San Diego, CA), 2004.
Contributor of articles, poems, and puzzles to children's magazines, including Cricket, Odyssey, U.S. Kids, Boys' Quest, and Hopscotch.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Two mystery series for children, titled "Shannon Holmes" and "Nikki Roman."
SIDELIGHTS: Born in Germany, Barbara Saffer grew up in New York City. After earning doctorates in biology and geology, and teaching college courses, she delved into children's literature. Since the mid-1990s she has produced a steady stream of nonfiction articles and books, including a handful of science question-and-answer and hands-on experiment books for Lowell House's "Gifted and Talented" series. Among the other topics she has tackled are explorations, diseases, and country studies.
Saffer incorporates her background in the sciences and her experience in teaching with science books geared toward elementary-school-aged children. She is able to engage students with activities and puzzles, such as the riddles in ABC Science Riddles, which Freida F. Bostian described as "generally clever" in her Horn Book Guide review. However, in School Library Journal, Louise L. Sherman expressed some reservations about the riddle book, centering on the possibility that readers old enough to solve the riddles might find the format childish. Readers can judge for themselves by accessing Saffer's Web site, where she offers a plentiful selection of science riddles.
Though many of Saffer's "Gifted and Talented" titles are geared toward young students, they may interest readers and teachers of older students as well, particularly Science Questions and Answers: Dinosaurs, for Ages Six to Eight because these extinct creatures generally appeal to a wide variety of youngsters. According to a Science Activities contributor, this dinosaur volume "will inspire teachers and students to engage in fascinating discussions, lively debates, and meaningful research." With Backyard Experiments Saffer provides hands-on experiments in a variety of scientific fields. While noting that parents may have trouble determining the level of difficulty of the experiments provided, Al Staropoli wrote in Science Books and Films that "the idea for the book—to present challenging experiments to students—is good."
Mexico and Kenya, part of Bridgestone Books' "Countries and Cultures" series, represent Saffer's exploration of foreign lands. Each five-chapter book treats the geography, climate, wildlife, history, culture, government, and economy of the country under study in what Book Report critic Stephanie L. Dobson called "an interesting and readable format." In separate reviews of Mexico and Kenya, Horn Book Guide's Anita L. Burkam suggested that students would find the books helpful for report writing.
Saffer has written a handful of biographies, including works about outlaw Jesse James, explorer Henry Hudson, and U.S. President Harry S Truman. Combining biography and exploration is her 2002 title Henry Hudson: Ill-fated Explorer of North America's Coast, which forms part of the "Explorers of New Worlds" series. In Henry Hudson, Saffer provides a "colorful portrayal" of the explorer and in a "particularly lively" way, chronicles his 1609 journey to what eventually became Staten Island and New Jersey, according to William McLoughlin of School Library Journal. Similarly, her Polar Exploration Adventures introduces young readers to historic explorations of the North and South Poles, and The California Gold Rush introduces middle-grade readers to John Sutter and the ensuing boom in mining for gold. About the later, School Library Journal's Linda Beck remarked that "the text is simple but not dull" and suggested that it would appeal to reluctant readers.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Book Report, March, 2002, Stephanie L. Dobson, review of Kenya and Mexico, pp. 61-62.
Horn Book Guide, fall, 2001, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Polar Exploration Adventures, p. 423; spring, 2002, Frieda F. Bostian, review of ABC Science Riddles, p. 164; spring, 2002, Anita L. Burkam, reviews of Kenya, p. 199, and Mexico, p. 201.
School Library Journal, February, 2002, Louis L. Sherman, review of ABC Science Riddles, p. 126; March, 2002, William McLoughlin, review of Henry Hudson: Ill-fated Explorer of North America's Coast, p. 257; April, 2002, Linda Beck, review of The California Gold Rush, p. 171.
Science Activities, fall, 2001, review of Science Questions and Answers: Dinosaurs, for Ages Six to Eight, p. 45.
Science Books and Films, July, 2001, Al Staropoli, review of Backyard Science Experiments, pp. 165-166.
Barbara Saffer Home Page,http://www.barbarasaffer.com (July 30, 2003).