Scrimger, Richard 1957–
Scrimger, Richard 1957–
PERSONAL: Born April 5, 1957, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; son of Dan and Nicki Scrimger; married Bridget Campion (a professor of moral theology), 1985; children: Thea and Sam (twins), Imogen, Ed. Education: Attended University of Toronto. Politics: "No." Religion: "Yes."
CAREER: Writer, 1996–. Worked as waiter and maitre d', 1987–96; Humber College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, teacher at Humber School for Writers, 1998–, and member of Humber College advisory committee.
MEMBER: Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers, Writers' Trust of Canada (member of author committee), Northumberland Players, Victorian Operetta Society, Lakeshore Recorder Quartet, Born Yesterday, Cobourg YMCA Squash Ladder.
AWARDS, HONORS: City of Toronto Book Award shortlist, for Crosstown; Mr. Christie Award, and Kid's Pick of the List citation, American Library Association (ALA), both 1999, both for The Nose from Jupiter; Silver Birch Award nominations, 1999, for The Nose from Jupiter, 2000, for The Way to Schenectady, 2001, and 2002, for A Nose for Adventure; ALA Notable Book List citations, 1999, 2000; Pacific Northwest Readers' Choice Honor Book, 2000; Globe and Mail Notable Book citation, 2001; Quill & Quire Book of the Year citation, 2001; Red Cedar Award nomination, 2001, for The Nose from Jupiter, and 2002, 2004, and 2005; Hackmatack nomination, 2002, for A Nose for Adventure, and 2004, for The Boy from Earth.
Still Life with Children, HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997.
The Way to Schenectady (book one of "Peeler Chronicles"), illustrated by Linda Hendry, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1998.
Of Mice and Nutcrackers (book two of "Peeler Chronicles"), illustrated by Linda Hendry, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2001.
From Charlie's Point of View, Dutton (New York, NY), 2005.
"NORBERT NARRATIVES" SERIES
The Nose from Jupiter, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1998.
A Nose for Adventure, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2000.
Noses Are Red, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2002.
The Boy from Earth, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2004.
Bun Bun's Birthday, illustrated by Gillian Johnson, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2001.
Princess Bun Bun, illustrated by Gillian Johnson, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2002.
Eugene's Story, illustrated by Gillian Johnson, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2003.
Crosstown, Riverbank Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996.
Mystical Rose, Doubleday (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
SIDELIGHTS: Richard Scrimger began making readers laugh beginning with his very first efforts at writing. In an interview with Tundra Books, he described his first piece of writing: "An eighth-grade poem entitled 'A Pebble Grew into a Rock' (I never studied geology). My friend John laughed so hard I didn't write another poem for fifteen years." From the unintentional laughter of his eighth-grade friend to the intentional comedy of his books about an alien from Jupiter who lives in a boy's nose, Scrimger has become well known for his humor. Along with his comedic novels for young readers, he is also the author of three picture books and two adult novels. Praising Scrimger's novel From Charlie's Point of View, about a blind teen determined to find the masked bank robber who has put his dad in jail, School Library Journal reviewer Emily Rodriguez wrote: "With a fast-paced plot, witty dialogue, and compelling characters," Scrimger's "mystery is riveting all the way to its exciting and surprising conclusion."
Scrimger started his writing career with a successful adult novel, Crosstown, which gained recognition and an award nomination when it was released in 1996. It was not until his children's novel The Nose from Jupiter was published in 1998 that Scrimger began to gain critical acclaim. Winner of the Mr. Christie Award and nominated for several others, The Nose from Jupiter tells the story of Alan, a normal thirteen-year-old kid with normal thirteen-year-old problems. In Alan's case, however, his typical life is turned upside-down when an alien named Norbert takes up residence in Alan's nose. While the teen is afraid to tackle the mundane problems popping up at every turn in his life, Norbert charges into everything, taking on tormenting bullies, chatting with Alan's divorced mom, and talking to Miranda, a classmate Alan likes. On the Red Cedar Awards Web site, Scrimger explained that the theme of The Nose from Jupiter is tackling problems without fear. "That all sounds very deep and meaningful," he noted. "Mostly I want people to laugh as they read the book."
Critics continued to laugh as further "Norbert Narratives" appeared: A Nose for Adventure, Noses Are Red, and The Boy from Earth. In A Nose for Adventure Alan makes a trip to New York from Canada to visit his father. On the plane, he makes friends with Frieda, a New Yorker about his age who uses a wheelchair. Unknown to Frieda, her chair has been used to smuggle ancient artifacts, and when the pair arrive at the airport, the crooks after Frieda's chair try to kidnap her. Alan and Frieda flee, unsure of what to do, when Norbert shows up, having taken up residence in the nose of an abandoned dog. "The humour of the situation, the wordplay and fast paced action all work well," noted a reviewer for Resource Links. Noting that the book's "pacing is lively and the dialogue is brisk and humorous," Elaine E. Knight added in a School Library Journal review that "Norbert's sarcastic comments add … spice" in A Nose for Adventure. Also enthusiastic about the book, Booklist reviewer Ellen Mandel wrote that Scrimger's "snappy dialogue, humor, and clever plotting provide a rollicking adventure."
In Noses Are Red Alan's mother convinces him to go on a camping trip with her new boyfriend, Charlie, and Alan's friend Victor manages to snag an invitation as well. The two teens are quickly left on their own when they reach the camp site, however, as Charlie wants very little to do with them. As the boys wander in the woods, they encounter everything from Amazons to quicksand to eclectic artists to, of course, Norbert, who once again takes up residence in Alan's nose. Calling Noses Are Red "an excellent outdoor adventure," John Dryden noted in Resource Links that the book is "packed with laughs." Carolyn Phelan, writing for Booklist, commented on the novel's successful combination of "entertaining characters, witty dialogue, and wry observations."
Alan visits Norbert's home world in The Boy from Earth. Norbert is actually a prince on Jupiter, and he needs Alan's help to rescue his girlfriend, Princess Nerissa. On Jupiter, Alan encounters beings that remind him of toys, and also runs into the villain Black Dey. Although K.V. Johannsen wrote in Resource Links that The Boy from Earth is a relatively weak entry in the series, "readers who enjoyed the earlier books in the series will no doubt find Alan's continuing adventures entertaining." School Library Journal contributor Caitlin Augusta enjoyed the novel, writing that Scrimger's tale contains enough "alien details and slapstick quips to keep even reluctant readers going."
Along with the "Norbert Narratives," Scrimger is the author of the "Peeler Chronicles," which feature Jane Peeler and her grumpy, chain-smoking grandmother, as well as a series of picture books featuring siblings Bun Bun (or Barbara), Eugene, and Winifred. In Bun Bun's Birthday Winifred has trouble dealing with the idea that even though her birthday has always come next after Eugene's, Bun Bun's birthday is now in the middle. After her mother brings out pictures of Winifred's first birthday party, which Winifred does not remember, the older sister realizes that the family party is almost as much for her as it is for Bun Bun, and she will be able to tell the little girl all about it when Bun Bun gets older. School Library Journal contributor Sue Sherif considered the picture book to be a "homey little story," while Heather Farmer, reviewing the book for Resource Links, wrote that "Scrimger paints a very realistic picture of family life."
The adventures of Winifred and her siblings continue in Princess Bun Bun. On a visit to their uncle's condominium in Castle Apartments, Bun Bun wanders into an elevator on her own and Winifred dashes after her, too late to stop the elevator from climbing to various floors. Convinced that her uncle actually lives in a castle, Winifred calms her panic by imagining that each resident of the complex they meet on the elevator is a castle resident: a monster, a witch, a princess, and finally a knight, who is their uncle come to rescue them. "Scrimger effectively creates a realistic scenario of family life," noted Linda Berezowski in her Resource Links review, while a Kirkus Reviews contributor dubbed the story "a light but involving read that nicely portrays how a child can affect her environment." School Library Journal reviewer Adele Greenlee commented that "the story and illustrations evoke warm family relationships."
Brother Eugene, the middle child of the family, takes center stage in Eugene's Story. Winifred will not stop interrupting her brother while he is trying to tell his story, so finally he just imagines her away. A Publishers Weekly contributor viewed the tale as "a safe and empowering outlet" for younger and middle siblings. "Second kids, even older ones, will want this," Hazel Rochman predicted in her Booklist review. Catherine Threadgill, writing in the School Library Journal, considered Eugene's Story "a therapeutic glimpse into the frustrating world of a younger sibling."
Discussing his feelings about being an author on the Tundra Books Web site, Scrimger explained: "The best thing about being an author is playing God, and wearing pyjamas all day long…. There is no bad thing, unless you count button fronts." Scrimger lives and continues to write in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada, the small town where, coincidentally, Alan of the "Norbert Narratives" lives.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 1998, Helen Rosenberg, review of The Nose from Jupiter, p. 1882; May 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Way to Schenectady, p. 1596; February 15, 2001, Ellen Mandel, review of A Nose for Adventure, p. 1138; January 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Noses Are Red, p. 893; December 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Eugene's Story, pp. 684-685; May 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of From Charlie's Point of View, p. 1542.
Books in Canada, November, 1996, Eva Tihanyi, review of Crosstown, pp. 35-36, July, 2001, review of Mystical Rose, pp. 36-37; November, 2002, review of Noses Are Red, p. 41.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 2004, Karen Coats, review of Eugene's Story, p. 244; September, 2005, Deborah Stevenson, review of From Charlie's Point of View, p. 42.
Canadian Book Review Annual, 1997, reviews of Still Life with Children, p. 112, and Crosstown, p. 197; 2001, reviews of Bun Bun's Birthday, p. 467, and Of Mice and Nutcrackers, p. 513; 2002, reviews of Princess Bun Bun, p. 469, and Noses Are Red, p. 515.
Canadian Children's Literature, winter, 2001, review of A Nose for Adventure, p. 62; spring-summer, 2002, reviews of Of Mice and Nutcrackers, pp. 159-161, and Bun Bun's Birthday, pp. 174-176; fall-winter, 2003, "Giggling Helplessly in the Middle Years," pp. 134-139.
Canadian Forum, September, 1996, Nadia Halim, review of Crosstown, pp. 43-44; October, 1997, Misao Dean, review of Still Life with Children, p. 41.
Canadian Review of Materials, September 21, 2001, review of Bun Bun's Birthday; March 29, 2002, review of Of Mice and Nutcrackers; September 5, 2002, review of Noses Are Red; April 25, 2003, review of Princess Bun Bun.
Children's Book News, spring, 1998, review of The Nose from Jupiter, p. 25.
Children's Book Review Service, spring, 1998, review of The Nose from Jupiter, p. 140.
Children's Book Watch, May, 1998, review of The Nose from Jupiter, p. 5.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), June 3, 2000, review of Mystical Rose.
Publishers Weekly, February 4, 2002, review of Princess Bun Bun, p. 78; November 17, 2003, review of Eugene's Story, p. 67; October 10, 2005, review of From Charlie's Point of View, p. 62.
Quill and Quire, June, 1996, Hal Niedzviecki, review of Crosstown, p. 51; April, 1998, Paul Kropp, review of The Nose from Jupiter, p. 35; December, 1998, Hadley Dyer, review of The Way to Schenectady, pp. 38-39; May, 2000, review of Mystical Rose; December, 2001, review of Of Mice and Nutcrackers, p. 24
Resource Links, October, 1998, review of The Nose from Jupiter, p. 7; February, 2001, review of Nose for Adventure, p. 19; April, 2001, Heather Farmer, review of Bun Bun's Birthday, p. 6; April, 2002, Linda Berezowski, review of Princess Bun Bun, pp. 9-10; October, 2002, John Dryden, review of Noses Are Red, pp. 14-15; December, 2003, Liz Abercrombie, review of Eugene's Story, p. 9; February, 2005, K.V. Johansen, review of The Boy from Earth, pp. 21-22; October, 2005, Gail Lennon, review of From Charlie's Point of View, p. 36.
School Library Journal, June, 1999, Cyrisse Jaffee, review of The Way to Schenectady, p. 137; April, 2001, Elaine E. Knight, review of A Nose for Adventure, p. 149; June, 2001, Sue Sherif, review of Bun Bun's Birthday, p. 129; July, 2002, Adele Greenlee, review of Princess Bun Bun, p. 98; December, 2002, John Peters, review of Noses Are Red, p. 150; March, 2004, Catherine Threadgill, review of Eugene's Story, p. 181; April, 2005, Caitlin Augusta, review of The Boy from Earth, pp. 140-141; August, 2005, Emily Rodriguez, review of From Charlie's Point of View, p. 135.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2001, review of A Nose for Adventure, pp. 14, 56; February, 2003, review of Noses Are Red, p. 492; April, 2005, Deborah Risher, review of The Boy from Earth, p. 61.
Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers Web site, http://www.canscaip.org/ (September 14, 2005), 'Richard Scrimger.'
Norbert's Home Page, http://www.norbert.ca (September 14, 2005).
Red Cedars Awards Web site, http://redcedar.swifty.com/ (December 15, 2005), 'Richard Scrimger."
Tundra Books Web site, http://www.tundrabooks.com/ (September 14, 2005), interview with Scrimger.