Schotter, Roni 1946-
SCHOTTER, Roni 1946-
PERSONAL: Born May 9, 1946, in New York, NY; son of Alan (a merchandise manager) and Edna (an artist) Goldgerg; married Richard Schotter; children: Jesse. Ethnicity: "Russian/Austrian/Polish/Romanian/American." Education: New York University, B.A., 1968; attended Carnegie Mellon University. Hobbies and other interests: Drawing, tennis, cross-country skiing, gardening, speaking French.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Susan Cohen, Writers House, 21 W. 26th St. New York, NY 10010. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Former editor with publishing houses; has taught writing at Queens College, City University of New York, and at Manhattanville College. Speaker, Vassar College's Summer Institute in Children's Publishing, and at annual conferences of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Jewish Book Award for best children's picture book, 1991, for Hanukkah!; Parents' Choice Award for Captain Snap and the Children of Vinegar Lane; Hungry Mind Review Award for A Fruit and Vegetable Man; Washington Irving Children's Choice Award for F Is for Freedom and Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street; Dreamland and A Fruit and Vegetable Man were cited as Washington Irving Honor Book Awards; Passover Magic and Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street named notable children's books by National Council of Teachers of Social Studies; Dreamland named an Irma Simonton Black Award honor book, Bank Street College of Education.
FOR YOUNG ADULTS
A Matter of Time, Collins (New York, NY), 1979.
Northern Fried Chicken, Philomel (New York, NY), 1983.
Rhoda, Straight and True, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1986.
(With husband, Richard Schotter) There's a DragonAbout: A Winter's Revel, illustrated by R. W. Alley, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1996.
F Is for Freedom, illustrated by C. B. Mordan, DK Ink (New York, NY), 2000.
Efan the Great, illustrated by Rodney Pate, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1986.
Bunny's Night Out, illustrated by Margot Apple, Joy Street Books (Boston, MA), 1989.
Captain Snap and the Children of Vinegar Lane, illustrated by Marcia Sewall, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Hanukkah!, illustrated by Marilyn Hafner, Joy Street Books (New York, NY), 1990, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2003.
A Fruit and Vegetable Man, illustrated by Jeannette Winter, Joy Street Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Warm at Home, illustrated by Dara Goldman, Maxwell (New York, NY), 1993.
When Crocodiles Clean Up, illustrated by Thor Wickstrom, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1993.
That Extraordinary Pig of Paris, illustrated by Dominic Catalano, Philomel (New York, NY), 1994.
Passover Magic, illustrated by Marilyn Hafner, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995.
Dreamland, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Purim Play, illustrated by Marilyn Hafner, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1997.
Captain Bob Sets Sail, illustrated by Joe Cepeda, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.
Missing Rabbit, Clarion (New York, NY), 2002.
In The Piney Woods, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2003.
Captain Bob Takes Flight, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.
Room for Rabbit, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.
The World, illustrated by Susan Gallagher, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2004.
ADAPTATIONS: A Matter of Time was made into a sixty-minute ABC Afterschool Special, written by Paul W. Cooper, directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman, and produced by Martin Tahse, Learning Corp. of America (New York, NY), 1981. The special was awarded an Emmy in 1981 for outstanding children's entertainment special; Captain Snap and the Children of Vinegar Lane, Dreamland, F is for Freedom, and Captain Bob Sets Sail were adapted for the stage by Stages Theatre Company, Hopkins, Minnesota.
WORK IN PROGRESS: When the Wizzy Foot Goes Walking, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, Dutton (New York, NY), 2006; Passover, illustrated by Erin Eitter Kono, Little, Brown (Boston, MA); Doo-Wop Pop, illustrated by Brian Collier, HarperCollins (New York, NY).
SIDELIGHTS: An award-winning writer of fiction and nonfiction for young people, Roni Schotter has written novels for teenagers and picture books for small children.
Schotter's first young adult novel, A Matter of Time, was published in 1979. The novel is a "moving" story, according to a Booklist reviewer, that has as its protagonist a high school senior, Lisl Gilbert, whose vivacious, artistic mother is dying of cancer. To complicate the emotional background, Lisl has always felt inferior to her mother; now she realizes that not only is her mother vulnerable, but that her mother has felt unloved and inferior at times. Lisl sorts out her tangled feelings with the help of sympathetic friends, relatives, and a social worker. The Booklist reviewer described Lisl as "believable and appealing" and asserted that the way in which she is depicted as maturing rapidly under tragic circumstances is "convincing." A Horn Book reviewer lauded Schotter's "honest" and "straightforward" handling of the broad and difficult themes of life and death in A Matter of Time. A dissenting opinion came from Cyrisse Jaffee, of School Library Journal, who argued that the resolution of conflicts was too pat and, for adult readers at least, obviously tied to current psychological theories. Nevertheless, Jaffee called the book "reassuring and positive." The book was ultimately adapted for television, being made into an ABC Afterschool Special and winning the Emmy Award for outstanding children's entertainment special.
Schotter's next venture into the young adult market was Northern Fried Chicken, whose heroine, Betsy Bergman, is a shy Jewish girl living in 1962 in Providence, Rhode Island. Northern Fried Chicken traces Betsy's involvement in civil rights protests, detailing the personal growth that results from her participation in the movement. A Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books reviewer, although assessing the pace of the novel as slow and uneven, applauded it for providing "a touching picture of the way in which devotion to a cause can bring a reclusive individual to active participation." The characters and their relationships, the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books critic wrote, were skillfully portrayed. A Booklist reviewer was not enthusiastic about Schotter's characterizations, but praised Northern Fried Chicken as an "effective and true" portrayal of the time and place in which it was set; similarly, a contributor to Horn Book declared that the novel "evokes the era's feeling of hope and of change."
Three years later, in 1986, Schotter followed with another young adult novel, Rhoda, Straight and True, in which the title character, a twelve-year-old girl in Brooklyn in the summer of 1953, realizes that appearances—such as those of a huge family of scruffy-looking neighbors—are not reliable when assessing a person's character. A commentator for Publishers Weekly felt the moral was a bit "heavyhanded," but added, "the sense of locale is nicely drawn, with original characters and humor rounding out a pleasant story." A critic for Booklist praised the "strong, sure characterizations," "careful plotting," and vivid setting in Rhoda, Straight and True.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s the children's book market proved highly successful for Schotter. Her first children's book, Efan the Great, was "[a] touching and unusually substantial Christmas story," in the words of a Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books reviewer. Ten-year-old Efan, who lives in a poor neighborhood, wants to buy a Christmas tree with his life savings of six dollars and sixty-three cents. Finding the prices of trees too high, he agrees to work for a tree-seller, and to be paid with his pick of the trees at the end of the day. When the tree he picks is too big to fit into his apartment, Efan leaves it outside and decorates it for all to see. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the tale "heartwarming" and "jubilantly told." A Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books reviewer asserted that "Efan's emotions are varied, genuine, and set into a context of vividly projected secondary characters." Schotter's 1989 book, Captain Snap and the Children of Vinegar Lane, tells the simple story of a group of children who are initially afraid of an old man, who, at first glance, appears odd and different from everyone else in the neighborhood, but who turns out to be an artist with recycled objects. The children show their courage and independent thinking by befriending him, depsite their narrow-thinking advice of their elders. A New York Times Book Review critic responded favorably to Captain Snap, and a Kirkus Reviews critic offered praise for the book's "engaging detail and the enthusiasm of a compelling storyteller." In 1989 Schotter turned to animals as characters in her work Bunny's Night Out, in which Bunny, who hates bedtime, leaves his room to explore the world. Although Bunny finds the night world busy and full of interesting creatures, he discovers that he prefers his warm, safe bed. A critic for School Library Journal termed Bunny's Night Out a "cheerful morality tale," while Ellen Mandel of Booklist applauded it as "perfect for settling restless youngsters into sweet dreams."
In Schotter's 1993 book, Warm at Home, Bunny has a cold and complains that there is nothing to do. By using his imagination, Bunny eventually creates a long list of things to do (mostly involving vegetables). A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Warm at Home "a total charmer," elaborating, "An especially endearing tone . . . permeates all of Schotter's tale, which along the way celebrates a particularly active imagination and a quietly accepting mother." Karen James of School Library Journal called Bunny "the embodiment of any young child looking for amusement." Schotter returned to human characters in A Fruit and Vegetable Man in which longtime grocer Ruby Rubinstein, who has been tending his stand for fifty years, falls ill, and is aided by young Asian immigrant Sun Ho and his family. Reviewing a Fruit and Vegetable Man, a Publishers Weekly reviewer responded favorably, praising the "sweet sense of continuity" in the story's portrayal of generational and cultural transition in immigrant businesses. The book was, she asserted, "[a]s irresistible as a ripe peach." School Library Journal reviewer Cynthia K. Richey also applauded this "satisfying story about taking pride in one's work and helping others," and Hazel Rochman of Booklist praised the "unaffected" writing.
The end of 1993 saw the publication of When Crocodiles Clean Up. The story is about a crocodile mother who gives her four little crocodile children thirty minutes to clean up their room. They begin playing instead and when they hear their mother returning, they frantically and successfully begin cleaning, which includes gobbling down their very last toy before their mother appears. A School Library Journal reviewer called When Crocodiles Clean Up "full of laughs" and theorized that "children will recognize their own behavior as they enjoy the antics of the crocodile kids."
That Extraordinary Pig of Paris features Monsieur Cochon, a vegetarian pig with a more-than-healthy appetite, especially for pastries. He loves to eat, and becomes so fat that he is slated for slaughter by the evil butchers. Fortunately, he is saved by a variety of animal friends. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called That Extraordinary Pig "a pleasing romp." The book contains a glossary of French words, which, in Booklist reviewer Rochman's view, helped create a sense of "world." Ann W. Moore for School Library Journal responded negatively to the book, faulting what she termed a "tedious, wordy," and humorless narrative. Moore also felt that Schotter's use of French words would be difficult for the intended audience.
Beginning with the 1990 Hanukkah!, Schotter wrote a series of books about Jewish holidays. Hanukkah! contains "free and occasionally rhyming verse," according to a reviewer in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, and further described one family's celebration of the winter festival that commemorates the victory of the Maccabees against their Greek rulers. James Howe of the New York Times Book Review faulted the inconsistency of the verse form, assessing the text as "cheerful," but imperfectly crafted. The book received the National Jewish Book Award for best children's picture book on a Jewish theme. Schotter returned to the topic of Jewish holidays in 1995 with Passover Magic, a portrayal of one family's seder dinner. The emphasis of the story is on colorful characters, such as amateur magician Uncle Harry, as well as on holiday lore. The result, in the view of a Publishers Weekly reviewer, was a warm, original story filled with "intricate, often amusing details," and engagingly recounted by its narrator, daughter Molly. Stephanie Zvirin of Booklist held similar views, calling the book "very charming." Schotter's third book on Jewish holidays was the 1997 Purim Play. Like Hanukkah! and Passover Magic, it was illustrated by Marilyn Hafner, whose pictures for Schotter's stories have garnered considerable praise.
Schotter's 1996 book, titled Dreamland, was also well received. The tale revolves around a family of tailors, some of whom possess an abundance of common sense and some who do not. Among the latter group are young Theo, who sketches plans for fantastic machines, and his uncle Gurney, who moves out west to seek his fortune. At a time when the family business is failing, Gurney writes back to Theo, asking him for exact instructions on how to build his machines. Gurney turns the machines into an amusement park. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that the story was "both fantastic and credible," and praised its "eloquent, image-studded prose." Carolyn Phelan for Booklist noted a lack of credibility in the narrative, but characterized the story as appealing to "dreamers who long for a brighter reality." A New York Times Book Review critic applauded Dreamland as a "splendid" book, asserting that "Schotter deftly builds suspense to a wondrous climactic scene in which Theo's family sees Uncle Gurney's project." Pointing out, as well, that Schotter is the granddaughter of a tailor, the reviewer observed that "her engaging phrases . . . spring from a tailor's world."
Another children's story, Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, focuses again on the importance of imagination, and encouraging children to write their own stories. Facing a writing assignment for school, Eva, the main character, sits outside her house in the city and watches the people on her street. She receives advice from several neighbors and witnesses some extraordinary events, including a bicycle accident, in which a ballerina falls in love with a pizza delivery man. A New York Times Book Review critic enjoyed the "clever sprinkles" of characters to create a "spicy ethnic stewpot." A critic for Publishers Weekly observed that Schotter has "a knack for creating dramatic situations filled with romantic characters."
With Captain Bob Sets Sail and Captain Bob Takes Flight, Schotter recounts the adventures of a young boy with a vivid imagination. In Captain Bob Sets Sail, he pictures himself as a pirate captain within the confines of his bubble-filled bathtub, while in Captain Bob Takes Flight, he is a pilot whose mission is to clean up his room. Bob's pirate adventures are "a series of vignettes energetically describing Bob's bath play from start to finish," Tim Arnold in Booklist explained. These adventures make for an "irresistible bathtime book," as a Publishers Weekly critic noted. In Captain Bob Takes Flight, Bob imagines himself as a pilot soaring around his room, cleaning up the mess along the way. Diane Foote of Booklist remarked that Schotter makes "cleaning one's room seem less of a chore in this colorfully illustrated story." A critic for Kirkus Reviews found Captain Bob Takes Flight to be "even more delightful than the first" book, as well as being "refreshingly clever."
Schotter's Missing Rabbit concerns a young girl whose parents have divorced. Young Kara is shuttled between the two parents, living with each of them for a time under a joint custody arrangement. When she decides to leave her toy rabbit at her father's house to ease the pain of goodbye, she finds that she begins to miss her rabbit once she is at her mother's house. Leaving the rabbit at her mother's house, she misses him once she is back at her father's. The rabbit begins to wonder: "Where do I live?" The book raises the disturbing question, as a critic for Kirkus Reviews put it, of "just where one does belong in a divorced family of two households." Susan Weitz in School Library Journal believed that, "for young children dealing with divorce—and their parents—this book is a winner." In Room for Rabbit, the sequel to Missing Rabbit, Kara's father has remarried and she and rabbit wonder if there will be room for them in Kara's father's home and heart. Kathleen Kelly Macmillan in School Library Journal wrote, "In this delightful follow-up, Schotter again explored issues related to divorce and remarriage. . . . Children will find this tale reassuring." Gillian Engberst in Booklist commented, "As in Missing Rabbit Schotter and Moore explore the complicated sadness of divorce within a story that's as reassuring and snug as a favorite blanket. . . . A good read aloud for children who are struggling with their own feelings of displacement."
Schotter's F Is for Freedom, for young children, recounts the story of ten-year-old Manda who upon investigating strange noises in her house at night, learns that her home is a stop on the underground railroad. Manda's precious time with Hannahm, the ten-year-old escaped slave who hides out in Manda's home, teaches her much about both friendship and the power and value of literacy.
Schotter told CA: "I've always felt filled with wonder at the world. Inside, I feel very much like a child. In fact, I often feel like I'm only pretending to be a grown up and that if I'm not careful, the real grown ups will find me out. So, it's less of a stretch for me to write about adults and how they feel. In addition, I've always been shy. My shyness, though at time exhausting, is helpful. It keeps me ever watchful, which helps my writing and often gives me ideas for my stories. Writers, after all, are spies—eavesdropping on conversations, carefully observing the details of what someone is wearing, or noticing how the wrinkles under that old woman's eyes look—like lace? Or maybe a spider's web? I love paying attention to the details of life—noticing how something smells or tastes or feels—and then just jotting it all down in my notebook. I also spend a lot of time daydreaming—using my imagination (like many of my characters do) wondering about people, life, the world, trying to make up answers to the many questions I have about everything. I'm always wondering how things would be if . . . and also, if only. . ."
"I love working with words. I love playing with them and making discoveries while I'm playing with them—like the delicious way certain words sound when they rub up against each other, and the particular, wonderful things they can mean. I love the power of words and how powerful I feel when I use them well. Often, I don't know exactly how I feel about something until after I've read what I've written. Like my character Eva in Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, I even get to change reality simply by asking 'what if?' and making up a story by way of explanation."
"When I speak to children about how I write, I show them my notebooks so they can see how much I struggle when I write. I start with a small notebook in which I take notes—my ideas, feelings, and observations. When I'm ready to begin a book, I buy a large notebook and begin writing by hand. I love to show children how messy my notebooks are—how much I change, delete, add. My first drafts are usually pretty bad, but once I have something down it gives me great pleasure to adjust, alter, tinker, add, and subtract. In other words, I love rewriting! That's where I start to feel proud of myself—as I polish and sharpen my words and improve the storytelling. When my handwritten manuscript becomes too difficult to read, I type it on the computer, then print up a hard copy, then continue the writing process. With a crisp sheet of freshly-typed words I can usually see what doesn't work even more clearly, and so I continue to rewrite. Then I retype and the process continues through many, many revisions. As my work improves, I feel prouder and prouder of myself."
"Most of my ideas come from events or occurrences that echo inside my heart. I have to feel something intensely in order to write. As I've said, I'm always paying attention to the world. When something resonates inside me in a particular way, I find I have an idea. The characters in my books and the situations they find themselves in could be me."
"I love writing for children. I love the fact that I'm forced to use my imagination on a daily basis. I treasure the various components of what I do—children, imagination, words, books. I am fortunate."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 1979, review of A Matter ofTime, p. 495; November 1, 1983, review of Northern Fried Chicken, p. 404; October 1, 1986, p. 275; October 15, 1986, pp. 356-357; April 15, 1989, p. 1471; September 1, 1993, p. 71; January 15, 1994, pp. 938-939; March 1, 1995, pp. 1249-1250; April 1, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of Dreamland, p. 1374; March 1, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, p. 1173; February 1, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Purim Play, p. 923; July, 2000, Tim Arnold, review of Captain Bob Sets Sail, p. 2043; March 1, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of Room for Rabbit, p. 1204; March 15, 2003, Diane Foote, review of Captain Bob Takes Flight, p. 1334.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1984, review of Northern Fried Chicken, p. 117; December, 1986, p. 75; November, 1990, review of Hanukkah!, pp. 69-70.
Horn Book, February, 1980, review of A Matter ofTime, pp. 65-66; February, 1984, review of Northern Fried Chicken, p. 65; January, 1991, p. 95.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1989, p. 554; February 15, 2002, review of Missing Rabbit, p. 265; February 1, 2003, review of In the Piney Woods, p. 238; March 15, 2003, review of Captain Bob Takes Flight, p. 478.
New York Times Book Review, September 17, 1989, p. 39; December 9, 1990, James Howe, review of Hanukkah!, p. 31; April 13, 1997; August 3, 1997.
Publishers Weekly, August 22, 1986, p. 99; September 26, 1986, pp. 75-76; March 8, 1993, p. 77; September 20, 1993, p. 71; April 11, 1994, p. 64; March 20, 1995, pp. 60-61; March 11, 1996, review of Dreamland, p. 64; February 3, 1997, review of Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, p. 106; February 23, 1998, review of Purim Play, p. 67; May 8, 2000, review of Captain Bob Sets Sail, p. 220; January 21, 2002, review of Missing Rabbit, p. 88; November 25, 2002, review of In the Piney Woods, p. 67; February 24, 2003, review of Captain Bob Takes Flight, p. 74.
School Library Journal, December, 1979, Cyrisse Jaffee, review of A Matter of Time, p. 92; July, 1989, p. 76; June, 1993, pp. 88-89; October, 1993, p. 112; December, 1993, p. 93; July, 1994, pp. 88-89; March, 1997, John Peters, review of Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, p. 166; April, 1998, Libby K. White, review of Purim Play, p. 110; December, 2000, William McLoughlin, review of F Is for Freedom, p. 125; April, 2002, Susan Weitz, review of Missing Rabbit, p. 122.