Strasser, Todd 1950-

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STRASSER, Todd 1950-

(Morton Rhue)

PERSONAL: Born May 5, 1950, in New York, NY; son of Chester S. (a manufacturer of dresses) and Sheila (a copyeditor; maiden name, Reisner) Strasser; children: Lia, Geoff. Education: Beloit College, B.A., 1974. Hobbies and other interests: Fishing, skiing, and tennis.

ADDRESSES: Office—P. O. Box 859, Larchmont, NY 10538. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Freelance writer, 1975—. Beloit College, Beloit, WI, worked in public relations, 1973-74; Times Herald Record, Middletown, NY, reporter, 1974-76; Compton Advertising, New York, NY, copywriter, 1976-77; Esquire, New York, NY, researcher, 1977-78; Toggle, Inc. (fortune cookie company), New York, NY, owner, 1978-89. Speaker at upper elementary schools, middle schools, and at junior and senior high schools, teachers' and librarians' conferences. Lectures and conducts writing workshops for adults and teenagers.

MEMBER: International Reading Association, Writers Guild of America, Authors Guild, Freedom to Read Foundation, PEN.

AWARDS, HONORS: American Library Association's Best Books for Young Adults citations, 1981, for Friends till the End: A Novel, and 1982, for Rock 'n' Roll Nights: A Novel; New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age citations, 1981, for Angel Dust Blues, 1982, for The Wave and Friends till the End, 1983, for Rock 'n' Roll Nights, and 1984, for Workin' for Peanuts; Friends till the End was chosen a Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies by the National Council for Social Studies and the Children's Book Council, 1982; Rock 'n' Roll Nights was chosen for the Acton Public Library's CRABbery Award List, 1983; Young Reader Medal nomination from the California Reading Association, 1983, for Friends till the End; Book Award from the Federation of Children's Books (Great Britain), 1983, for The Wave, and 1984, for Turn It Up!; Outstanding Book Award from the Iowa Books for Young Adult Program, 1985, for Turn It Up!; Colorado Blue Spruce Award nomination, 1987, for Angel Dust Blues; Edgar Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, 1998, for The Accident; Washington Irving Award, 1998, for Abe Lincoln for Class President; Volunteer State Book Award, 1998; New York State Charlotte Award, Rhode Island Teen Book Award, and Washington Irving Children's Choice Book Award, all 2002, all for Give a Boy a Gun.

WRITINGS:

young adult fiction

Angel Dust Blues, Coward, McCann (New York, NY), 1979.

Friends till the End: A Novel, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1981.

(Under pseudonym Morton Rhue) The Wave (novelization based on the television drama of the same title by Johnny Dawkins), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1981.

Rock 'n' Roll Nights: A Novel, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1982.

Workin' for Peanuts, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1983.

Turn It Up! (sequel to Rock 'n' Roll Nights), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1984.

A Very Touchy Subject, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1985.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (novelization based on film of the same title by John Hughes), New American Library (New York, NY), 1986.

Wildlife (sequel to Turn It Up!), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1987.

The Accident (also see below), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1988.

Cookie (novelization based on film of the same title by Nora Ephron), New American Library (New York, NY), 1989.

Moving Target, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1989.

Beyond the Reef, illustrations by Debbie Heller, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1989.

Home Alone (novelization based on film of the same title), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.

The Diving Bell, illustrated by Debbie Heller, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.

Honey, I Blew Up the Kids, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Hocus Pocus, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Disney's "The Villains" Collection, poems by Mark Rifkin, illustrated by Gil DiCicco, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1993.

The Three Musketeers, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Free Willy, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.

Disney's "It's Magic": Stories from the Films, with poems by Richard Duke, illustrated by Philippe Harchy, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1994.

(Adapter) Walt Disney's "Lady and the Tramp," illustrated by Franc Mateu, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1994.

(Adapter) Walt Disney's Peter Pan, illustrated by Jose Cardona and Fred Marvin, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Street Fighter, Newmarket Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Man of the House, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1995.

How I Changed My Life, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.

Girl Gives Birth to Own Prom Date, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.

Hey Dad, Get a Life!, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1996.

How I Spent My Last Night on Earth, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.

Kidnap Kids, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.

Kids' Book of Gross Facts and Feats, Watermill Press, 1998.

Star Wars Episode One, Journal, Anakin Skywalker, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Give a Boy a Gun, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.

Con-Fidence, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2002.

Thief of Dreams, Putnam (New York, NY), 2003.

Can't Get There From Here, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

"help! i'm trapped" series

Help! I'm Trapped in the First Day of School, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

Help! I'm Trapped in My Teacher's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

Help! I'm Trapped in Obedience School, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

Help! I'm Trapped in Santa's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Help! I'm Trapped in My Sister's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Help! I'm Trapped in My Gym Teacher's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Help! I'm Trapped in the President's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Help! I'm Trapped in Obedience School Again, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Help! I'm Trapped in the First Day of Summer Camp, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Help! I'm Trapped in an Alien's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Help! I'm Trapped in a Movie Star's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Help! I'm Trapped in the Principal's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Help! I'm Trapped in My Lunch Lady's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Help! I'm Trapped in the Camp Counselor's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Help! I'm Trapped in a Professional Wrestler's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Help! I'm Trapped in a Vampire's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Help! I'm Trapped in a Supermodel's Body, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

"wordsworth" series

Wordsworth and the Cold Cut Catastrophe, illustrated by Leif Peng, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Wordsworth and the Kibble Kidnapping, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Wordsworth and the Roast Beef Romance, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Wordsworth and the Mail-Order Meatloaf Mess, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Wordsworth and the Tasty Treat Trick, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

The Lip-Smacking Licorice Love Affair, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.

"camp run-a-muck" series

Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Mutilated Monkey Meat, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Chopped-Up Birdy's Feet, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

"against the odds" series

Shark Bite, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Grizzly Attack, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Buzzards' Feast, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Gator Prey, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1999.

"here comes heavenly" series

Here Comes Heavenly Litebody, Pocket (New York, NY), 1999.

Dance Magic, Pocket (New York, NY), 1999.

Pastabilities, Pocket (New York, NY), 1999.

Spell Danger, Pocket (New York, NY), 1999.

"don't get caught" series

Driving the School Bus, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

In the Teacher's Lounge, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Wearing a Lunch Lady's Hairnet, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

In the Girl's Locker Room, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

"impact zone" series

Take Off, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

Cut Back, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

Close Out, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

other

The Complete Computer Popularity Program, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1984.

The Mall from Outer Space, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.

The Family Man (novel for adults), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Over the Limit (teleplay based on Strasser's The Accident), ABC Afterschool Special, American Broadcasting Company (New York, NY), 1990.

Super Mario Bros., Hyperion (New York, NY), 1993.

Also contributor to periodicals, including New Yorker, Esquire, New York Times, and Village Voice.

ADAPTATIONS: Workin' for Peanuts was adapted for cable television as a Home Box Office "Family Showcase" presentation, 1985; A Very Touchy Subject was adapted for television as an "ABC After-School Special" titled Can a Guy Say No?, 1986. The Accident was adapted for television as an ABC After-School special called Over the Limit. How I Created My Perfect Prom Date was released as a Twentieth Century-Fox major motion picture called Drive Me Crazy.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Series about teenage surfers.

SIDELIGHTS: Todd Strasser writes critically recognized realistic fiction for preteens and teenagers. In works ranging from Friends till the End, the story of a young man stricken with leukemia, to Wildlife, a study of the breakup of a successful rock group, Strasser blends humor and romance with timely subjects to address various concerns of teens: drugs, sex, illness, popularity, music. Lacing his work for younger readers with a vein of humor, Strasser has also tantalized even the most reluctant reader to open books with titles like Hey Dad, Get a Life!, Help! I'm Trapped in My Gym Teacher's Body, and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts. In addition to his many original works of fiction, Strasser has also written novelizations of many popular motion pictures, including some from the Disney Studios. His understanding of the feelings of children and adolescents has made his works popular with young people.

Angel Dust Blues appeared in 1979 and won Strasser critical acclaim. The story itself is about, Strasser told Nina Piwoz in Media and Methods, "a group of fairly well-to-do, suburban teenagers who get into trouble with drugs." It was based on actual events Strasser had witnessed when he was growing up. Two years later, he published another young-adult novel, again based on his own experiences. "My second book, Friends till the End, is about a healthy teenager who has a friend who becomes extremely ill with leukemia," he explained to Piwoz. "When I moved to New York, I had a roommate … an old friend of mine. Within a few weeks, he became very ill. I spent a year visiting him in the hospital, not knowing whether he was going to live or die."

Rock 'n' Roll Nights, Strasser's third novel under his own name, was a change of pace from the serious themes of his first two works. "It's about a teenage rock and roll band—something with which I had absolutely no direct experience," he told Piwoz. "However, I grew up in the 1960s when rock and roll was really our 'national anthem.' I relate much better to rock stars than to politicians. I always wanted to be in a rock band, as did just about everybody I knew." "I think the kind of music teens listen to may change, or what they wear may change," Strasser continued, "but dealing with being popular, friends or the opposite sex, or questions of morality and decency … [I don't think] those things really ever change. I hate to say this, but I think authors tell the same stories—just in today's language and in today's settings." Strasser continued the story of the band "Coming Attractions" in two sequels, Turn It Up! and Wildlife.

In his more recent works, Strasser continues to write hard-hitting, realistic stories about teenagers and their problems. For example, The Accident, which Strasser adapted for ABC-TV's After-School Special under the title Over the Limit, deals with a drunken-driving incident in which three of four high-school swimming stars are killed. The surviving teen commits himself to understanding what actually happened the night of the accident, in a novel that, in the opinion of Horn Book reviewer Margaret A. Bush, "reads well and competently uses the troublesome occurrence of drunk driving and teenage death to provoke thought and discussion on multifaceted issues."

Strasser has also produced a large number of lighthearted books for middle graders. The Mall from Outer Space is about aliens who have chosen, for mysterious reasons of their own, to construct shopping centers on Earth. Hey Dad, Get a Life! finds twelve-year-old Kelly and younger sister Sasha haunted by their deceased father. Ghostly Dad proves to be a great help around the house—he makes the girls' beds, tidies their room, does their homework, and even helps out on the soccer field. Booklist contributor Debbie Carton called the work a "lighthearted and occasionally poignant ghost story" that features "appealing, believable characters and a satisfying plot." Equally laudatory in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Deborah Stevenson described Hey, Dad, Get a Life! as "touchingly yet surprisingly cheerful," and called it "a compassionate and accessible tale of a family's adjustment to loss."

Several novels reveal Strasser's more quirky, humorous side. Girl Gives Birth to Own Prom Date finds ardent environmentalist Nicole taking time off from saving the world to transform her grungy next-door neighbor Chase into the perfect prom date. Praising the novel's "goofy plot twists" and "effervescent dialogue," a Kirkus Reviews critic noted that Strasser's "high humor doesn't detract" from his "understated message about nonconformity and self-acceptance." The author's "Help! I'm Trapped …" books position their young protagonists in everything from the unwieldy body of Santa Claus to the summer camp from hell. In Help! I'm Trapped in Obedience School, for example, Jake's dog, Lance, switches bodies with Jake's friend Andy, and while Andy excels at most things doggy—although he never quite acquires a taste for dog food—Jake spends his time in human form chasing squirrels and barking during school. Calling Strasser's tale "briskly paced," Booklist contributor Chris Sherman wrote that the "easy, breezy" story would appeal to reluctant readers. School Library Journal contributor Cheryl Cufari predicted that readers will relate to the "predicaments in which Strasser's energetic boys find themselves and enjoy this light entertaining read."

Strasser once told CA: "Since I've written [many] books about teenagers, people often ask me how I know what today's teens are like. It's true that almost twenty years have passed since I qualified for that age group, so I suppose the question has some merit. I think the single most important thing I do to keep up with teens is accept invitations to speak at junior high and high schools all over the country. This year, for instance, I visited schools in Alaska, Iowa, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Colorado. Thus I'm not only able to keep up with teens, but with teens from all over the country.

"Another question I'm often asked is why I concentrate solely on books for teens. Well, actually, I don't. In the next few months I will publish a juvenile as well as an adult novel. I guess I originally wrote a lot of books for teens because that was where I had my first success and felt the most confident. But as I grow older, I find my interests widening not only towards writing books for older people, but for younger ones as well. I'd like to think that the day will come when I will write books for people of all ages, from three to eighty-three.

"The other day, someone who didn't know me well said that because I was a writer I must be a 'free spirit' and lead a wonderful life. At first I wanted to tell him he was completely wrong, but then I thought about it and decided he was only half wrong. In a way I am a free spirit, in that I am free to pick any idea or topic and write about it. That, indeed, is a wonderful freedom and I am grateful to have it. Along with that freedom, however, comes an awful lot of hard work. Unless you are fortunate enough to be one of the handful of perpetual best-selling writers in this world, you really cannot make a living writing a book every two or three years. My work is about as close to 'nine-to-five' as my schedule allows. Being a writer is great, but I can't say it's easy."

More recently, Strasser told CA: "Writing has basically become the default activity of my life. If the waves aren't rideable, and I'm not doing something with a friend or loved one, then I'm probably writing. I feel as if I have many more ideas for books than I will ever have time to write. I hope the overall contribution of my books will be to encourage, in some very small way, people to love and tolerate each other.

"Two summers ago, at the age of fifty-two, I went surfing for the first time. It is now the great passion of my life, and something both my teenage children love to do as well. This past year we surfed in Hawaii, California, and up and down the East coast from New York to Florida. I am currently writing a series about teenage surfers as well as an adult mystery starring a detective who surfs."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

books

Children's Literature Review, Volume 11, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.

Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Kenneth L. Donelson, Literature for Today's Young Adults, 2nd edition, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1985.

Roginski, Jim, Behind the Covers: Interviews with Authors and Illustrators of Books for Children and Young Adults, Libraries Unlimited (Littleton, CO), 1985.

St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

periodicals

Best Sellers, May, 1983, p. 75; June, 1984, p. 118.

Booklist, May 1, 1995, p. 1564; October 1, 1996, p. 344; October 1, 2000, Michael Cart, review of Give a Boy a Gun, p. 337.

Book Report, November, 1993, Annette Thorson, "Author Profile: Todd Strasser," p. 30.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1980, p. 120; June, 1995, p. 361; February, 1999,p. 219.

English Journal, September, 1982, p. 87; January, 1985; December, 1985; December, 1986; November, 1987, p. 93; March, 1988, p. 85.

Horn Book, April, 1980, p. 178; April, 1983, p. 175; May-June, 1985, p. 321; March/April, 1986, Todd Strasser, "Stalking the Teen," pp. 236-239; January, 1990, p. 90.

Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, March, 2002, Devon Clancy Sanner, review of Give a Boy a Gun, p. 547.

Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, fall, 1988, pp. 64-70.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1992, p. 676; September 1, 1998, p. 1293; December 1, 2002, review of Con-Fidence, p. 1775; March 1, 2003, review of Thief of Dreams, p. 399.

Library Journal, January, 1988, p. 100.

Media and Methods, February, 1983.

New Yorker, January 24, 1977, p. 28.

New York Times, October 2, 1983; June 19, 1985.

Publishers Weekly, November 27, 1981, p. 88; April 24, 1987, p. 73; December 4, 1987, p. 63; November 25, 2002, review of Con-Fidence, p. 69; February 24, 2003, review of Thief of Dreams, p. 73.

School Library Journal, January, 1980, p. 81; March, 1982, p. 160; August, 1983, p. 80; August, 1984,p. 87; April, 1985, p. 100; February, 1988, p. 75; June-July, 1988, p. 59; September, 1989, p. 278; January 1, 2000, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Here Comes Heavenly, p. 906; August, 2000, Jane Halsall, review of Pastabilities, p. 190; September, 2000, Vicki Reutter, review of Give a Boy a Gun,p. 237; February, 2002, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Give a Boy a Gun, p. 75.

Teacher Librarian, February, 2003, Teri S. Lesesne, "Surfing for Readers: An Interview with Todd Strasser," p. 48.

Variety, March 22, 1990, p. 14.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1981, p. 32; December, 1982, p. 36; October, 1983, p. 209; June, 1984, p. 98; June, 1985, p. 136; December, 1986; December, 1988, p. 242; October, 1989, p. 217; October, 1995, p. 224; April, 1997, pp. 22, 33.

Wilson Library Bulletin, May, 1981, p. 691; April, 1983, p. 692; March, 1985, p. 485.

Writer's Digest, December, 1979.

online

Todd Strasser's Home Page, http://www.toddstrasser.com/ (April 10, 2003).