Born in Albuquerque, NM; married; children: Leo, Jeremy, Dylan, Valerie.
Author. Editor of Storyworks magazine.
Taking Off: Extraordinary Ways to Spend Your First Year out of College (nonfiction), Fireside (New York, NY), 1989.
Kate: The Katharine Hepburn Album (nonfiction), Perigee (New York, NY), 1993.
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree (middle-grade novel), Dial (New York, NY), 2007.
Although Lauren Tarshis is the author of both nonfiction titles and a novel, she was not always a reader. "I had learning problems when I was in elementary school, and didn't really start to read well until high school," she told an interviewer for the Barnes & Noble Web site. As an adult, Tarshis took a job as the editor of Storyworks magazine, which is aimed at young readers. In this new position, she realized that she needed to catch up on much of the fiction for that age group that she had missed as a child. While doing this reading, Tarshis decided to attempt writing a novel of her own, and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree was born.
Emma-Jean is a seventh-grade pragmatist who views her illogical classmates like an anthropologist might: she holds herself aloof from them, perplexed by their behavior. However, when Emma-Jean discovers a nice classmate named Colleen crying in the school's girls' bathroom, she helps her friend tackle her problem with logic and common sense. Emma-Jean's success encourages her, and she begins to tackle increasingly more complex problems. Eventually, the helpful preteen realizes that she is in the middle of the very messiness of life she had always sought to avoid. "Tarshis pulls off a balancing act, showing the child's detachment yet making her a sympathetic character," wrote Faith Brautigam in School Library Journal. According to a Publishers Weekly contributor, the book's young protagonist is "an eccentric seventh-grader who will quickly win over readers." Also commenting on Emma-Jean, a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that the girl's "evolution from analyst to actor makes for a captivating, highly satisfying read." As Martha V. Parravano wrote of Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree in Horn Book, "This gently probing book tackles some tween-relevant issues with sensitivity and skill."
Although Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree is entirely fictional, Tarshis discussed the real-life historical figures that inspired the story on her home page. Emma-Jean's namesake, Emma Lazarus, was a poet from the 1840s, and her words are engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty. Jules Henri Poincaré, the fictional Emma-Jean's role model and her late father's hero, was a French mathematician noted for his works in logic, as well as for his understanding of being human. "He was a brilliant mathematician but he understood that people and life are not logical," Tarshis explained to the Barnes & Noble Web site interviewer.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 2007, Ilene Cooper, review of Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree, p. 49.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 2007, Deborah Stevenson, review of Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree, p. 269.
Horn Book, March-April, 2007, Martha V. Parravano, review of Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree, p. 205.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2007, review of Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree, p. 81.
Publishers Weekly, February 5, 2007, review of Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree, p. 60.
School Library Journal, April, 2007, Faith Brautigam, review of Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree, p. 148.
Barnes & Noble Web site,http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ (January 30, 2008), interview with Tarshis.
Lauren Tarshis Home Page,http://www.laurentarshis.com (January 30. 2008).