Schnur, Steven 1952-

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SCHNUR, Steven 1952-

PERSONAL: Born April 8, 1952. Education: Sarah Lawrence College, B.A., 1974; Hunter College of City University, M.A., 1980.

ADDRESSES: Home—19 Montrose Rd., Scarsdale, NY 10583.

CAREER: Bernard M. Baruch College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, instructor, 1977; Union of American Hebrew Congregations, New York, NY, editor, 1981-92; Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, Writing Institute faculty, 1990—; Reform Judaism (magazine), literary editor, 1994-98; writer. Mercy College, adjunct professor, 1991-92.

MEMBER: Author's Guild.

AWARDS, HONORS: Washington Irving Book Award, Westchester Library Association (WLA), for Daddy's Home! Reflections of a Family Man; Sydney Taylor Book Award, Association of Jewish Libraries, 1994, Best Children's Book Award, Women's Zionist Organization, 1996, Premio Verghereto (Italy), 1999, and Washington Irving Children's Choice Award, WLA, all for The Shadow Children; Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies citation, National Council for the Social Studies/Children's Book Council, 1995, for The Shadow Children, and 1996, for The Tie Man's Miracle: A Chanukah Tale; Washington Irving Children's Choice Award, WLA, 1998, for The Tie Man's Miracle; Washington Irving Children's Choice Honor Book, WLA, 1998, and Best Books for Young Adults citation, American Library Association, both for Beyond Providence; Young Adult Choice selection, International Reading Association, 1999, for The Koufax Dilemma.



The Narrowest Bar Mitzvah, illustrated by Victor Lazarro, Union of American Hebrew Congregations (New York, NY), 1986.

The Return of Morris Schumsky, illustrated by Victor Lazarro, Union of American Hebrew Congregations (New York, NY), 1987.

Hannah and Cyclops, Bantam (New York, NY), 1990.

The Shadow Children, illustrated by Herbert Tauss, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1994.

The Tie Man's Miracle: A Chanukah Tale, illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Beyond Providence, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1996.

The Koufax Dilemma, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic, illustrated by Leslie Evans, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic, illustrated by Leslie Evans, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Spring Thaw, illustrated by Stacey Schuett, Viking (New York, NY), 2000.

Night Lights, illustrated by Stacey Schuett, Frances Foster Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Summer: An Alphabet Acrostic, illustrated by Leslie Evans, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Winter: An Alphabet Acrostic, illustrated by Leslie Evans, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2002.

(Adapter) Henry David Thoreau, Henry David's House, illustrated by Peter M. Fiore, Charlesbridge (Watertown, MA), 2002.


Daddy's Home!: Reflections of a Family Man, illustrated by Cheryl Gross, Crown (New York, NY), 1990, published as Father's Day, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1991.

This Thing Called Love: Thoughts of an Out-of-Step Romantic, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.

9/11, Acorn Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, Reform Judaism, Christian Science Monitor, Woman's Day, New Woman, Moxie, First for Women, Twins, Denver Quarterly, Commentary, and Real People.

SIDELIGHTS: Steven Schnur began his writing career with family stories for young readers featuring Jewish themes in books such as The Narrowest Bar Mitzvah and The Return of Morris Schumsky, which deal with family traditions and ceremonies, and The Shadow Children and The Tie Man's Miracle: A Chanukah Tale, which treat the Holocaust. Since then, Schnur has branched out to write more wide-ranging material for both beginning readers and older children as well as essays for adults. His later picture books, including a quartet of acrostics arranged around the seasons, often deal with nature or human interactions with the natural world.

Among his Jewish family works are his first book, The Narrowest Bar Mitzvah, and The Return of Morris Schumsky. The former tells of how Alex's bar mitzvah is almost ruined when a water main break the night before the event swamps the synagogue and ruins the refreshments. After some quick planning by Alex's family, the celebration is moved to Grandpa's six-foot-wide house. As noted by reviewer Ruth Shire in School Library Journal, Alex's grandparents have a "starring role and a very special relationship with their grandchildren" in this family story, which also features Grandfather's unusual house. In the second novel, Grandpa disappears on the morning of his granddaughter's wedding, only to reappear in the nick of time for the event with some friends from a local nursing home. The book was described as a "charming and evocative" story by a Publishers Weekly reviewer and praised by Ruth Shire in School Library Journal for its "strong characterizations" and "good portrayal of positive values."

More serious themes are dealt with in his 1994 offering, The Shadow Children, the story of eleven-yearold Etienne, who is spending the summer on his grandfather's farm in the French countryside after World War II. One day Etienne encounters the ghosts of Jewish children who had been sheltered on the farm during the war—until Etienne's grandfather and the other villagers, confronted by the Nazis and fearing for their own lives, let the children be taken away in cattle cars. In a review for Horn Book, Nancy Vasilakis singled out the book as a "thought-provoking novel." While noting that the book's theme of "unredeemed guilt" might prove difficult for middle graders, she affirmed that "there is no mistaking the book's importance" and its "power to grip the imagination and the conscience." Describing the author's narrative as "spare and beautiful," Booklist's Hazel Rochman predicted that upon completion of The Shadow Children, "Readers will be moved to ask: what would I have done."

Schnur again undertakes the challenge presented by the topic of the Holocaust in The Tie Man's Miracle, a picture book for ages five and up. A Holocaust survivor who sells neckties door to door is invited to join young Seth's family for a Chanukah seder. Seth's baby sister Hannah reminds the old man of one of the five children he lost, along with his wife, in World War II. During the meal, Mr. Hoffman, the old man, describes a Chanukah belief in his village that if the nine candles on the menorah all burn out at the same instant, the smoke from them will carry a holiday prayer "straight to the ear of God." After Mr. Hoffman leaves, Seth silently prays that the old man will get his family back. At that moment smoke rises from all nine columns, and the boy sees a vision of light and hears laughter and voices calling, "Papa, Papa." The reader never learns what happens to the tie man, but every year Seth and Hannah make their prayers on the eighth night of Chanukah. Writing in Horn Book, reviewer Hanna B. Zeiger found The Tie Man's Miracle a "touching tale that links remembrance of the Holocaust with . . . Hanukkah in a sensitive and accessible way." While noting that Schnur has introduced a "delicate topic" carefully, a Publishers Weekly critic still found the Chanukah setting an "uncomfortable backdrop for a discussion of an ugly period in history." School Library Journal contributor Jane Marino, however, praised how the author "effectively weaves together the elements of miracle, mystery, and faith" in a story that explores the "mystery" of Chanukah.

In Beyond Providence, the setting features a rundown farm in upstate New York around the turn of the century. Nat Burns, the twelve-year-old narrator, and his older brother Eric, who wants to be an artist, both suffer at the hands of their embittered father, whose temper and bad leg just exacerbate the situation. The boys' mother has run away from the contentious household, only to die in a boating accident, and their father's thirty-year-old niece Kitty has come to help out around the house. Later they are joined by Nat's Uncle Zeke, who brings a badly needed sense of humor to the household. Kitty, who refuses to let the family become antisocial, falls in love with a much younger man from a neighboring farm. Eventually the family works out its problems, and when Nat turns sixteen, his father presents him with his piece of land and a summer cabin. Booklist reviewer Francis Bradburn found Beyond Providence "an exceptional book for that special group of readers that enjoys introspective, superbly crafted fiction." A Kirkus Reviews writer similarly noted the book's "lyrical prose" and concluded, "it's a novel that grows on readers with each turn of the page."

Like his hero Sandy Koufax, the Dodger pitcher who refused to pitch in a World Series game because it fell on Yom Kippur, fifth-grader Danny is also a pitcher who happens to be Jewish. In The Koufax Dilemma, Danny must decide whether baseball is more important than celebrating the first night of Passover with his mom, who is divorced from his dad, and her new boyfriend. Schnur has put several potential conflicts into play here, and in resolving them, according to School Library Journal reviewer Jack Forman, Danny relies "less on Koufax's model than on the unusually understanding adults in his life." Writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Amy E. Brandt stated that "the moral dilemma suggested by the title is reduced to adult lectures," but admitted that "readers may well relate to Danny's frustrations." Forman similarly observed that Danny is a "winning character . . . appealing, even in his childish obstinacy." As Stephanie Zvirin concluded in Booklist: "Danny's responses ring true: overdramatic and sometimes illogical, they are right on target."

In addition to his books dealing with Jewish themes, Schnur has also written other well-received works for youngsters. Between 1997 and 2002, Schnur and illustrator Leslie Evans published four picture books about the seasons. Beginning with Autumn, each book title carries the subtitle "an alphabet acrostic," that is, a poem in which the first letter of each line spells out a word when viewed vertically. After the first picture book made its debut, Horn Book Guide contributor Peter D. Sieruta favorably commented on Schnur's "evocative prose," which went on to be a hallmark of the quartet. Booklist's Carolyn Phelan claimed the author's "best acrostics are fresh and imaginative," describing Spring overall as an "attractive" picture book with good classroom applications. School Library Journal critic Grace Oliff also dubbed Spring "innovative and lovely." Several reviewers appreciated Summer, including Steven Engelfried of School Library Journal, who praised the rhythm and "sheer inventiveness" of these poems that are composed within such a strict form, and Hazel Rochman of Booklist, who predicted that children and crossword puzzle enthusiasts would be "caught by the word game." A Kirkus Reviews critic also applauded Summer, dubbing it "another tour de force" for its technical virtuosity and evocative illustrations. With their final volume, Winter, the duo "produc[es] another visually and verbally entrancing title" to complete "a most satisfying quartet" concluded a Kirkus Reviews contributor.

The picture books Spring Thaw, Night Lights, and Henry David's House also deal with nature, particularly people's interactions with it. Spring Thaw, which Booklist's Carolyn Phelan described as "more a lyrical mood piece than a story," shows the advent of spring through small events in the countryside. In Night Lights, Melinda "counts" the lights she can see as she prepares for bed, beginning with one nightlight on her wall and ending up with the million stars up above. While the literal-minded child might become frustrated as the numbers get larger, counting is not really the point after reaching fifty, Phelan noted in Booklist. Instead, this "beautiful" book in rhyming text would be a "satisfying choice" for readers and listeners needing a quiet bedtime book. Indeed, according to Marlene Gawron of School Library Journal, in "this lovely picture book," the theme of broadening one's perspective "is intriguing and well captured." And as the title suggests, Henry David's House is about Henry David Thoreau's life in the woods at Walden Pond. For this picture book adaptation of Thoreau's 1854 book, Walden, or Life in the Woods, Schnur selected highlights of Thoreau's book, which were then illustrated in pastel watercolor and oil paintings. According to Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan of School Library Journal, Henry David's House "will be particularly useful to teachers of art and science" as well as to English teachers wishing to introduce Thoreau's work.



Schnur, Steven, The Tie Man's Miracle: A Chanukah Tale, illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1995.


Booklist, November 14, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of The Shadow Children, p. 603; April 1, 1996, Frances Bradburn, review of Beyond Providence, pp. 1356-1357; March 15, 1997, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Koufax Dilemma; April 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic, p. 1418; March 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of Spring Thaw, p. 1252; May 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of Night Lights, p. 1680; July, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of The Tie Man's Miracle: A Chanukah Tale, p. 2027; March 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Summer: An Alphabet Acrostic, p. 1393; April 1, 2002, John Peters, review of Henry David's House, p. 1340.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 1997, Amy E. Brandt, review of The Koufax Dilemma.

Horn Book, January-February, 1995, Nancy Vasilakis, review of The Shadow Children, p. 61; November-December, 1995, Hanna B. Zeiger, review of The Tie Man's Miracle, p. 730.

Horn Book Guide, spring, 1998, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic, p. 151.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1994, pp. 603, 1543; April 1, 1996, review of Beyond Providence, p. 536; December 15, 1999, review of Spring Thaw, p. 1963; February 1, 2001, review of Summer, p. 189; February 1, 2002, review of Henry David's House, p. 190; October 1, 2002, review of Winter: An Alphabet Acrostic, pp. 1479-1480.

Publishers Weekly, August 14, 1987, William Griffin, review of The Return of Morris Schumsky, p. 73; November 14, 1994, p. 69; September 18, 1995, review of The Tie Man's Miracle, p. 92; March 29, 1999, review of Spring, p. 106; October 7, 2002, "Encore Performances," review of Winter, p. 75.

School Library Journal, April, 1987, Ruth Shire, review of The Narrowest Bar Mitzvah, p. 104; May, 1988, Ruth Shire, review of The Return of Morris Schumsky, p. 101; October, 1995, Jane Marino, review of The Tie Man's Miracle, p. 41; April, 1996, p. 158; May, 1997, Jack Forman, review of The Koufax Dilemma; April, 1999, Grace Oliff, review of Spring, p. 124; February, 2000, Kathleen M. Kelly MacMillan, review of Spring Thaw, p. 103; July, 2000, Marlene Gawron, review of Night Lights, p. 86; April, 2001, Steven Engelfried, review of Summer, p. 135; May, 2002, Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, review of Henry David's House, p. 178.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1996, p. 101.