Wishinsky, Frieda 1948-

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WISHINSKY, Frieda 1948-

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "wish-in-ski"; born July 14, 1948, in Munich, West Germany (now Germany); daughter of Herman (originally a pastry chef; became a sculptor) and Mala (a homemaker) Reches; married Solomon W. (Bill) Wishinsky (a family doctor), 1971; children: David, Suzanne. Education: City University of New York, B.A., 1970; Ferkauf Graduate School, Yeshiva University, M.Sc., 1971. Politics: "Independent (but usually Democrat)." Religion: Jewish.


ADDRESSES: Home—292 Horsham Ave., Willowdale, Ontario M2R 1G4, Canada. Agent—Transatlantic Literary Agency, 72 Glengowan Rd., Toronto, Ontario M4N 1G4, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]


CAREER: Montcrest School, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, teacher of children with learning difficulties, beginning 1980; currently full-time writer. Participant in "Writer in the Classroom" program, Borough of North York, Ontario, Canada. Literature and young author's conference speaker and workshop leader at schools and libraries. Has appeared on television and radio, and in a documentary about Frederick Law Olmsted on the Discovery Channel.


MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Canadian Association for Children's Writers and Performers (CANSCAIP).

AWARDS, HONORS: "Pick of the list" citation from American Booksellers' Association, for Oonga Boonga; "outstanding" citation from Parents' Council of the U.S., 1999, for The Man Who Made Parks; "book of the week" citation from Sunday Times (London, England) and "Children's Choice 2001" from IRA/CBC, 2001, for Nothing Scares Us; Governor General nominee, for Each One Special; Blue Spruce and Tiny Torgi nominees, for Give Maggie a Chance.


WRITINGS:

Oonga Boonga, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1990, reprinted with illustrations by Carol Thompson, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998, reprinted with illustrations by Michael Martchenko, Scholastic (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.

Why Can't You Fold Your Pants Like David Levine?, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.

Crazy for Chocolate, illustrated by Jock McRae, Scholastic Canada, 1998.

Each One Special, illustrated by H. Werner Zimmermann, Orca (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 1998.

The Man Who Made Parks: The Story of ParkbuilderFrederick Law Olmstead, illustrated by Song Nan Zhang, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1999.

No Frogs for Dinner, illustrated by Linda Hendry, Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Markham, Ontario, Canada), 1999.

Give Maggie a Chance, illustrated by Ann Iosa, ITP Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999, reprinted with illustrations by Dean Griffiths, Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.

A Quest in Time, illustrated by Bill Slavin, Firefly Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.

Nothing Scares Us, illustrated by Neal Layton, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.

So Long Stinky Queen, illustrated by Linda Hendry, Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.

Just Mabel, illustrated by Sue Heap, Kingfisher (New York, NY), 2001.

What's the Matter with Albert?: A Story of Albert Einstein, Maple Tree Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.

Manya's Dream: A Story of Marie Curie, Maple Tree Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.

Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone, illustrated by Neal Layton, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 2003.

Just Call Me Joe, Orca Books (Custer, WA), 2003.

A Noodle up Your Nose, illustrated by Louise-Andrée Laliberté, Orca Books, (Custer, WA), 2004.

(With Louise-Andrée Laliberté) A Bee in Your Ear, Orca Books (Custer, WA), 2004.

Queen of the Toilet Bowl, Orca Books (Custer, WA), 2005.

Albert Einstein, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 2005.


EDUCATIONAL:

Airplanes, Teacher Created Materials, 1997.

Construction, Teacher Created Materials, 1997.

Farm, Teacher Created Materials, 1997.

Cars & Trucks, Teacher Created Materials, 1997.

Boats & Ships, Teacher Created Materials, 1997.

Nelson Language Arts 5, Supplementary Readings, ITP Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.

Nelson Language Arts 6: Going the Distance, Choosing Peace, Supplementary Readings, ITP Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.

Nelson Language Arts 3, Supplemental Readings, ITP Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.


Author of titles in the "Inforead" series of math and social studies books, published by Thompson Nelson Canada, 2003.


Contributor of reviews, features and profiles to "Books for Young Readers" department, Quill & Quire. Contributor to Parentalk, Canadian Living,Owl Canadian Family, and Publishers Weekly. Writer of author profiles for Books in Canada.


WORK IN PROGRESS: Picture books; nonfiction; novels; easy-to-read works.


SIDELIGHTS: "I love writing probably because I've always loved reading," Frieda Wishinsky once commented. "As an only child, books were some of my best companions. Many of my happiest memories are heading home from the library laden with six books (the maximum you could take out at one time) and opening each one like a treasure. Then would come the hard part; deciding which book to read first. The choice was all mine.


"As a child I had few choices. I had to make my bed, go to school, learn multiplication tables and do my homework. What to read, on the other hand, was up to me. My parents, immigrants from Europe, never censored my reading and so I read everything: fiction, travel books, history. I especially loved books about magic, adventure and biographies. The Mary Poppins series was a particular favorite and as for biographies, I loved reading about scientists who changed the world: people like Louis Pasteur or Madame Curie. In my fantasies, I dreamed about becoming a scientist and perhaps discovering a cure for cancer or a new vaccine. (That all changed when I realized I liked the romance of science a lot more than the reality.)


"Aside from the pleasure I derived from reading, I soon discovered that I liked writing too. In seventh grade I had a teacher who introduced us to some exciting literature and gave lots of creative writing assignments. Rereading some of them now, I realize they were full of flowery phrases and elaborate sentences, but my teacher saw beyond that. On one paper he wrote: 'You know how to use words effectively. Therefore you should attempt to read and write poetry, stories and essays in order to develop your writing talent.' His words have stayed with me all these years.


"I majored in International Relations in university. I loved history and political science and still do, but right before entering graduate school I realized that it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. So I started to hunt for a job. I stumbled into an excellent M.S. program in Special Education and before I could fully think it through, I was headed in an entirely new area. I earned my degree and began teaching. Since then I've taught in three countries and with every age group. Teaching has been rewarding and generally a pleasure. It's also led me back into writing.


"About ten years ago, when I taught in a high school for students with very low reading abilities, I began to search for books at their reading level that would also be fun. At that time, 'hi interest-low vocabulary books' had hit the market, but the kids and I found the stories boring. So I started to introduce them to picture books that I liked and felt were suited for any age. These books delighted me and my students. They were funny and touching and always universal in feeling. I began buying picture books and early novels with a school library budget that had never been used because no one thought these kids would ever read. Soon I was adopted as an honorary librarian by the head librarian of the school board and invited on buying trips. On those trips, I discovered Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, Jean Fritz, Katherine Paterson, the "Narnia" books, The Secret Garden and Tom's Midnight Garden. And then, when I was on a two-month sabbatical with my husband in Eugene, Oregon (where he was doing a family medicine rotation), I started to write. I haven't stopped since.

When asked where she receives inspiration for her stories, the author responded, "I often use my memories and experiences of childhood as a starting point for my writing. I vividly remember what I felt like when I was young. I am also inspired by other writers and how they handle a story. I learn from reading." Wishinsky also remarked that she enjoys creating her stories while out of the house, commenting, "I like writing in coffee shops. I can tune out the noise and concentrate. At home there are too many distractions, phones ringing, chores to be done, bills to be paid, etc."


Frieda Wishinksy's books deal with everyday childhood events such as school crushes and fussy babies, with emphasis on how youngsters can learn to get along with one another. In Oonga Boonga, for instance, baby Louise refuses to be comforted except by her older brother's special brand of baby talk. Why Can't You Fold Your Pants Like David Levine? explores a boy's reaction to his mother's comparisons with another youngster, and Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone! illustrates the ups and downs of a girl-boy crush. In every case Wishinsky leavens her serious ideas with humor. School Library Journal contributor Ellen Fader praised Oonga Boonga for the "warmth and sweetness of a family story touched by just the right sense of silliness." Gwyneth Evans in Quill & Quire felt that the message of friendship in Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone! is "implicit rather than explicit, and the book remains light and funny."


Crazy for Chocolate is an adventure novel for young readers in which Anne Banks travels back through time with the help of a magical CD-ROM given to her by a local librarian in order to research a school assignment. With the help of her computer mouse, Anne clicks in and out of fun and sometimes frightening countries and historical eras in her quest for information on the history of chocolate. "Although the text of the novel is extremely simple, readers will be engaged and intrigued by the situations and difficulties Anne encounters," noted Sheree Haughian in Quill & Quire. Nothing Scares Us deals with "the sensitive topic of fears in a humorous and reassuring manner," to quote Sheila Kosco in School Library Journal. Lucy and Lenny claim to be fearless, but each harbors a secret anxiety: Lucy is terrified of a television monster, Lenny of spiders. When they admit this to one another, their friendship is strengthened.

Wishinsky has also written Each One Special, a story of a pastry chef named Harry who is suddenly laid off from his job, and a youngster named Ben who helps Harry to redirect his talents. Mary Beaty in Quill & Quire declared that the book succeeds "as a work portraying 'special' talents and warm relationships between generations." In Booklist Ilene Cooper cited the work as a "sweet trifle of a tale" notable for its "ebullience of doing a beloved activity well."


The Man Who Made Parks: The Story of Parkbuilder Frederick Law Olmstead won several awards for its melding of pictures and story of a noted landscape architect of the nineteenth century. Olmstead was famous for creating urban parks such as New York City's Central Park, and Wishinsky's book contains illustrations by Song Nan Zhang that convey the beauty and utility of these green zones. Booklist's Carolyn Phelan concluded of the work: "This short, fully illustrated biography makes its statement with style."

Wishinsky once said, "Throughout these years of writing, I've learned that publishing is an iffy business but I've also learned I'm persistent and that there's nothing more satisfying to me than writing for children. It's just what I want to do."

As a writer, Wishinsky noted that she has "learned that each story has its own rhythm and 'life.' It's important to know where you are going, to surprise your reader but make sure everything is believable so that a reader feels it could have happened."

When asked what kind of an effect she hopes her books have, the author concluded, "I hope they will spark an interest and make the reader feel connected. . . . I hope my stories ring 'true,' and I hope I make someone laugh."


BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 1, 1990, pp. 1350-1351; January 1, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of each One Special, p. 892; May 1, 1999, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of Oonga Boonga, p. 1602; August, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Man Who Made Parks: The Story of Parkbuilder Frederick Law Olmstead, p. 2061.

Children's Book News, summer-fall, 1999, p. 7.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1990, p. 588; May 1, 1999.

New York Times Book Review, November 21, 1999, Cynthia Zarin, "A Joyful Noise," p. 54.

Publishers Weekly, February 23, 1990, p. 216; December 14, 1998, review of Each One Special, p. 74; December 2, 2002, review of Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone!, p. 51.

Quill & Quire, September, 1990, Theo Hersh, review of Oonga Boonga, p. 20; January, 1994, p. 37; March, 1995, Gwyneth Evans, review of Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone!, p. 77; May, 1998, Haughian, Sheree, review of Crazy for Chocolate, p. 34; September, 1998, Mary Beaty, review of Each One Special, p. 66.

School Arts, December 1, 1999, Ken Marantz, review of The Man Who Made Parks, p. 48.

School Library Journal, May, 1990, Ellen Fader, review of Oonga Boonga, p. 93; November, 2000, Sheilah Kosco, review of Nothing Scares Us, p. 138; November, 2002, Dona Ratterree, review of What's the Matter with Albert?: A Story of Albert Einstein, p. 151.

Toronto Star, October 17, 1999.