Schick, Eleanor 1942-
SCHICK, Eleanor 1942-
PERSONAL: Born April 15, 1942, in New York, NY; daughter of William (a psychiatrist) and Bessie (a social worker; maiden name, Grossman) Schick; children: Laura, David. Ethnicity: "Jewish." Education: Studied modern dance at the 92nd St. "Y" and with Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, and others. Religion: "Jewish." Hobbies and other interests: Dance.
ADDRESSES: Home—207 Aliso NE, Albuquerque, NM 87108.
CAREER: Author and illustrator of children's books. Writer in residence, Rio Grande Writing Project (a New Mexico site of the National Writing Project), 1986-96; speaker at schools and universities. Former professional dancer and member of Juilliard Dance Theatre and Tamiris-Nagrin Dance Company; has lectured and taught dance at Hofstra College, Bryn Mawr College, and Connecticut College.
Peter and Mr. Brandon, illustrated by Donald Carrick, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1973.
A Surprise in the Forest, Harper (New York, NY), 1964.
The Little School at Cottonwood Corners, Harper (New York, NY), 1965.
The Dancing School, Harper (New York, NY), 1966.
I'm Going to the Ocean!, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1966.
5A and 7B, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1967.
Katie Goes to Camp, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1968.
Jeanie Goes Riding, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1968.
City in the Summer, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1969.
Making Friends, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1969.
Peggy's New Brother, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1970.
City in the Winter, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1970.
Andy, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1971.
Student's Encounter Book for When a Jew Celebrates, Behrman House (New York, NY), 1973.
Peter and Mr. Brandon, illustrated by Donald Carrick, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1973.
City Green, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1974.
City Sun, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1974.
Neighborhood Knight, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1976.
One Summer Night, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1977.
Summer at Sea, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1979.
Home Alone, Dial (New York, NY), 1980.
Rainy Sunday, Dial (New York, NY), 1981.
Joey on His Own, Dial (New York, NY), 1981.
A Piano for Julie, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1984.
My Album, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1984.
Art Lessons, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1987.
I Have Another Language: The Language Is Dance, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Luci Tapahonso) Navajo ABC: A Diné Alphabet Book, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1995.
My Navajo Sister, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Drawing Your Way through the Jewish Holidays, UAHC Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Navajo Wedding Day: A Diné Marriage Ceremony, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 1999.
Mama, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2000.
I Am: I Am a Dancer, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2002.
Jan Wahl, Christmas in the Forest, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1967.
Jeanne Whitehouse Peterson, Sometimes I Dream Horses, Harper (New York, NY), 1987.
Sheldon Zimmerman, The Family Prayerbook, Rossel Books (Dallas, TX), Volume 1: Holidays and Festivals, 1988, Volume 2: The Fall Holidays, 1989, Volume 3: Shabbat, 1989.
ADAPTATIONS: City in the Winter and City in the Summer have been made into filmstrips.
SIDELIGHTS: Eleanor Schick is a prolific writer and illustrator of children's books who focuses on the everyday comings and goings, the first-time experiences, and the daily routines that make up a child's life. Through her books, children have been introduced to the schoolroom, to sleep-away camp, to the arrival of a new sibling, a first trip to the store, the responsibilities of being a latch-key kid, and other milestones. Schick's style, both in writing and in illustration, has often been described as simple and realistic, covering territory familiar to young readers. It is a child's private world that Schick is interested in creating in her books. "Children always excite me," she once commented. "They are always reachable. They are always responsive when an adult makes it clear to them that he or she is interested in listening to them speak, or write, about what really happens in their lives, and how they feel about it."
One of Schick's earliest books, The Little School at Cottonwood Corners, addresses preschoolers' curiosity about what really goes on in a classroom. Elegy Meadows, clutching her teddy bear and visitor's pass in hand, takes a tour of the little school. She gets a look at the various rooms and activities of the kindergarten classes, and that night she confides to her teddy bear that she might like to go to the little school, too. Praising the informative detail of Schick's drawings, Horn Book contributor Virginia Haviland called the tale "refreshing real and childlike." Similarly, a Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books writer remarked that Katie Goes to Camp is "just long enough, simple and realistic, low-keyed and pleasant" in relating how a young girl deals with homesickness during her first sleep-away camp. And Jeanie Goes Riding "must strike a chord" in other young children awaiting their first trip on horseback, according to a Times Literary Supplement reviewer.
Many of Schick's books take place in an urban landscape, full of interesting buildings and peopled with characters of many races and cultures. Apartment dwellers may recognize the situation of Toby and Sandy in 5A and 7B; each girl longs for a special friend, but the two only meet when a change in routine leads to a chance encounter. Although not dramatic, the story is "satisfying and useful," according to Ruth P. Bull in Booklist, especially for its "wonderfully detailed drawings." City in the Summer and City in the Winter both hinge on the effects of the weather on a young boy's daily existence: one tells of escaping the stifling heat of a city summer day with a trip to the beach at Coney Island; the other is the story of Jimmy's day with his grandmother when a blizzard forces the schools to close. Of the first, George A. Woods noted in the New York Times Book Review that it has the feel of a "documentary," making it "as if the city in summer had sat very still for its portrait." City in the Winter is "a most successful companion," Haviland observed in Horn Book, with the delicate drawings "just right for the little narrative."
The city serves as a setting for imaginative play in other books by Schick. When the other neighborhood children are too busy to play with him in the story Andy, the title character amuses himself around the city block by pretending to be a construction worker and cowboy, among other things. A Booklist reviewer praised the "simplicity and naturalness" with which Schick presents everyday play, as well as the "sharply detailed" drawings. Similarly, Neighborhood Knight is the tale of a young boy whose imagination turns his rundown apartment building into a castle, his mother into a queen, and his sister into a princess. His father, the king, has been "gone a long time." Schick once told CA that Neighborhood Knight is "truly about my son and is directly autobiographical." A critic described the story and illustrations in a Publishers Weekly review as "fine representations of the small boy's private world," while a School Library Journal critic noted that the realistic drawings "run in pleasant counterpoint" to the boy's imaginings. And in 1974's City Green, a young girl named Laura expresses her feelings through a collection of brief poems and observations about the little things in life that affect her and her younger brother, David. Schick's poems have the "same gentle ambience" as her other stories, Nancy Rosenberg observed in the New York Times Book Review, with text and pictures that are "sedate and affectionate."
Many of Schick's books deal with contemporary issues of urban society. Home Alone is the story of a latch-key kid learning about independence and responsibility, as he must come home to an empty house when his mother gets a full-time job. In Joey on His Own, a young boy goes out to the store by himself for the first time when his mother, who must stay at home with his feverish sister, sends him out for bread. On his way to the store, the city streets and buildings appear larger, taller, and more menacing than they ever have before. But in the end, Joey navigates the sidewalks and the supermarket successfully. "The narrative subtly conveys Joey's apprehension," Kate M. Flanagan observed in Horn Book, adding that the "clean, uncluttered" pencil drawings contain "a surprising amount of detail." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly likewise declared that young readers "will feel they're living Joey's anxieties and his exhilaration at mission completed," while a School Library Journal critic hailed Schick's drawings for using "perspective to canny advantage in reflecting Joey's shift in attitude."
In other works, Schick simply tells of how an ordinary, even dismal, situation can be lightened and brightened with a little creativity. In One Summer Night, Laura decides to play a record and dance instead of sleep, leading the entire neighborhood to dance along. Helen Gregory praised Schick's work in School Library Journal for combining "sensuous and dynamic" pictures with a "simple but enjoyable story," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer called it "a lovely tale, with spirited pictures." Schick travels beyond the city for Summer at the Sea, where a young girl spends a happy, magical vacation before returning home. Containing "real emotional weight," as one Kirkus Reviews critic stated, this book will give children "a foretaste of what reading means not as a skill or a pastime but as total involvement." The story of how a girl enlivens a gray and dreary day, Schick's Rainy Sunday similarly demonstrates the power of the imagination. While a reviewer for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books found the book has "little action" and "no humor," Holly Willett noted in Horn Book that the "family's positive approach to a potentially disappointing day" makes for a "pleasant and comforting" work. And Susan Bolotin of the New York Times Book Review stated that this "quiet story" is made "brilliant" by Schick's use of colorful illustrations.
Schick has also communicated her love for the fine arts in her works, introducing children to music, art, and dance. In A Piano for Julie, a young girl listens to her father play the piano at her grandmother's house and wishes to learn how to play herself. School Library Journal contributor Kathy Piehl praised the author's text for creating "a soft verbal melody," while a Kirkus Reviews writer hailed Schick's gentle illustrations, calling the book "an exceptional here-and-now over-all—with delicacy, involvement, and depth." Art Lessons similarly shows a young boy taking lessons in drawing from Adrianne, a neighboring artist. By showing the two talking about art, Schick takes a "provocative" approach in teaching children how to draw through "ideas instead of technique," commented a critic in Publishers Weekly. The way art can express emotion is also highlighted in I Have Another Language: The Language Is Dance, as a young girl prepares for her first dance recital. The girl's feelings before, during, and after her performance are "skillfully woven into her dance expression," Kay McPherson stated in School Library Journal. The author, a former dancer herself, "conveys the joy a dancer feels at successfully celebrating her emotions," Maeve Visser Knoth concluded in Horn Book, and Schick's pencil illustrations, with their creative use of line, shading, and perspective, "create the excitement and tension of a new situation."
A long-time resident of New York City, which set the backdrop for many of her urban picture books, Schick eventually moved to New Mexico, and desert landscapes and Native Americans fittingly became fodder for her stories and art. Beginning with Navajo ABC: A Diné Alphabet Book, Schick teamed up with Luci Tapahonso and created a children's book that introduces contemporary Navajo life to non-Native Americans. Most of the letters are paired with English words but the culture of T'aa Diné (how the Navajo call themselves) is emphasized throughout. Booklist reviewer Karen Hutt remarked that Schick and Tapahonso's approach, which underscores the particularities of Navajo language and culture, "is a welcome change from works that clump all Indians together."
This work was followed by My Navajo Sister, "a gentle story of boundless sisterhood," according to Claudia Cooper in School Library Journal. Here, a Navajo girl shares her life on the reservation with her friend, introducing the reader to the ways in which contemporary Navajos maintain their cultural heritage in everyday life while highlighting the affection shared by the girls. This is "a fine picture book to read aloud, particularly to children studying Native Americans," observed Carolyn Phelan in Booklist.
In Navajo Wedding Day: A Diné Marriage Ceremony, another book featuring a Native people of the Southwest, a girl guides the reader through all the preparations for celebrating a Navajo wedding. Although Julie Corsaro, who reviewed the book for Booklist, complained that "there's too much explanation of events" for the fictional framework to hold up well, this reviewer added that the scarcity of books on the life of contemporary Native Americans, and Schick's "realistically detailed colored-pencil drawings" help the book overcome this flaw. School Library Journal reviewer Darcy Schild, on the other hand, praised the writing as "clear and simple" and the illustrations as "beautiful and informative." Navajo Wedding Day is "a good choice for all collections," Schild concluded.
As Bolotin noted in the New York Times Book Review, Schick's work often "describes a child's emotional response to an all-too-real situation." This is especially true of Mama, a book that deals head-on with the death of its young protagonist's mother. Through first-person narrative and softly shaded watercolor illustrations, Schick "neither evades nor minimizes the feelings that a child in this situation might have," remarked Marian Drabkin in School Library Journal.
Schick herself is pleased that writers are listening to children more than they used to. "We write with more sensitivity to what children really do think, and see, and feel," she once noted. "There is a true literature developing which speaks to children. It speaks to their thoughts, dreams, and yearnings. It addresses some of the experiences that they do have, which were not dealt with some fifteen or twenty years ago. I have witnessed, and surely been a part of, the development of 'children's books' from being vehicles of didactic adult teaching to a true literature which includes very deep and poetic expressions of childhood experience. This is very meaningful to me, and I feel deeply gratified to have been a part of this growth."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Schick, Eleanor, Neighborhood Knight, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1976.
Booklist, May 15, 1967, Ruth P. Bull, review of 5A and 7B, pp. 997-998; May 15, 1970, p. 1163; May 15, 1971, review of Andy, p. 800; April 1, 1984, p. 1122; September 15, 1987, p. 153; May 1, 1992, p. 1610; December 15, 1995, Karen Hutt, review of Navajo ABC: A Diné Alphabet Book, p. 706; December 1, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of My Navajo Sister, p. 669; April 15, 1999, Julie Corsaro, review of Navajo Wedding Day: A Diné Marriage Ceremony, p. 1537; February 15, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of Mama, p. 1122.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 1965, p. 49; March, 1969, review of Katie Goes to Camp, pp. 117-118; October, 1970, p. 33; March, 1971, p. 114; July, 1981, review of Rainy Sunday, p. 217; June, 1982, p. 197.
Childhood Education, June, 1987, p. 364.
Christian Science Monitor, May 2, 1968, p. 83; November 12, 1970, p. 86; June 5, 1971, p. 21.
Horn Book, October, 1965, Virginia Haviland, review of The Little School at Cottonwood Corners, p. 495; February, 1971, Virginia Haviland, review of City in the Winter, p. 44; June, 1973, p. 261; June, 1976, p. 284; October, 1980, p. 516; June, 1981, Holly Willett, review of Rainy Sunday, p. 297; August, 1982, Kate M. Flanagan, review of Joey on His Own, p. 397; July, 1992, Maeve Visser Knoth, review of I Have Another Language: The Language Is Dance, pp. 446-447.
Horn Book Guide, spring, 1997, Debbie A. Reese, review of My Navajo Sister, p. 47; fall, 1999, Debbie A. Reese, review of Navajo Wedding Day, p. 284.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 1967, p. 194; March 15, 1970, p. 318; April 1, 1979, review of Summer at the Sea, p. 387; March 1, 1984, review of A Piano for Julie; August 15, 1987.
Language Arts, March, 1982, p. 269; October, 1982, p. 746.
New York Times Book Review, June 29, 1969, George A. Woods, review of City in the Summer, p. 26; October 26, 1969, p. 44; May 5, 1974, Nancy Rosenberg, "A Tree Grows in Print," review of City Green, p. 38; May 3, 1981, Susan Bolotin, review of Rainy Sunday, pp. 40-41.
Publishers Weekly, March 1, 1976, review of Neighborhood Knight, p. 94; March 14, 1977, review of One Summer Night, p. 95; April 16, 1982, review of Joey on His Own, p. 71; July 24, 1987, review of Art Lessons, p. 186; November 30, 1984, p. 92; March 9, 1992, p. 57; July 5, 1999, review of Navajo ABC, p. 73.
School Library Journal, May, 1976, review of Neighborhood Knight, p. 75; May, 1977, Helen Gregory, review of One Summer Night, p. 55; May, 1982, review of Joey on His Own, p. 80; May, 1984, Kathy Piehl, review of A Piano for Julie, p. 72; December, 1984, p. 76; November, 1987, p. 96; July, 1992, Kay McPherson, review of I Have Another Language, p. 64; December, 1995, Lisa Mitten, review of Navajo ABC, p. 100; December, 1996, Claudia Cooper, review of My Navajo Sister, p. 105; April, 1999, Darcy Schild, review of Navajo Wedding Day, p. 108; May, 2000, Marian Drabkin, review of Mama, p. 154; January, 2003, Dorian Chong, review of I Am: I Am a Dancer, p. 111.
Times Literary Supplement, December 4, 1969, review of Jeanie Goes Riding, p. 1392.
New Mexico Culture Net,http://www.nmcn.org/artsorgs/writersguide/ (March 5, 2003), "Eleanor Schick."