Daughter of Samuel and Anna Smith Stickle; married Morris Sachs, 1947; children: Anne, Paul
Marilyn Sachs spent her childhood in harsh surroundings, in a poor neighborhood where the strong victimized the weak. After graduating from Hunter College (B.A. 1949), she took a job as a children's librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. While working, she attended Columbia University (M.S.L.S. 1953). Sachs and her husband, a sculptor, have two children. She lives in San Francisco.
With her first books, Amy Moves In (1964), Laura's Luck (1965), and Amy and Laura (1966), Sachs established herself as a favorite among preteens. Her characters' conversations ring true, and the situations are humorous.
In 1968 Sachs began to break from the traditional settings and themes of children's literature with Veronica Ganz. Sachs once said, "Veronica was a composite of all the kids who tormented me while I was growing up in the Bronx," yet the heroine is sympathetically portrayed. The daughter of a broken marriage, Veronica is one of the main characters in two other books, Peter and Veronica (1969) and The Truth About Mary Rose (1973).
Sachs deftly portrays young girls in their struggles toward self-identity. Since Veronica Ganz, she has continued to probe the psychological traumas that can create or destroy a personality. The Bears' House (1971) is a convincing story about an impoverished young girl whose father deserted the family and left them at the mercy of the welfare authorities. The Truth About Mary Rose describes the effects of Mary Rose's death on her sister Veronica, her brother, and her young daughter. This story, unlike The Bears' House, has an optimistic ending.
The setting of A Pocket Full of Seeds (1973) is France in World War II. This short novel is a chilling picture of Nazi terrorism and the ramifications of Jewish refusal to believe Hitler's power and tyranny could sweep through all the occupied lands. The story of one French family's extermination is only slightly softened by the heroine's survival.}
Sachs continues to write good, realistic fiction for children. Her female characters are depicted as spirited young people squarely facing their emotional problems. Usually the heroine wins her battle over her environment. In The Bears' House and A Pocket Full of Seeds, however, society's impact is devastating.
Critics have complained Sachs's plots are too slick and that her aloofness from the characters sometimes makes the portrayals cold and analytical. Although the literary quality of Sachs's work may be controversial, her contributions in the field of children's literature are not. Sachs leads young readers into a world of uncertainty and demands that they themselves consider questions of society's responsibilities.
Throughout her long career, which has spanned more than 35 years, Sachs has provided young adult readers with enjoyment and lessons, and though not all critics appreciate her skills she has won several awards. The aforementioned The Bears' House (1971) won the Australian Children's Book prize in 1977 as well as the George C. Stone Center's Recognition of Merit award; The Truth About Mary Rose (1973) won the Silver Slate Pencil award in 1974; A Pocket Full of Seeds (1973) won the Jane Addams Children's Book Honor award in 1974; Dorrie's Book (1975) won both the Silver Slate Pencil and the Garden State Children's Book award; Call Me Ruth (1982) was given an award by the Association of Jewish Libraries in 1983; Underdog (1985) won the Christopher award for 1986; Fran Ellen's House (1987) was given the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association award in 1988 and Sach's second Recognition of Merit award from the George C. Stone Center for Children's Books; and The Big Book of Peace (edited with A. Durrell, 1990), won both the California Children's Book award and the Jane Addams Children's Book prize in 1991. Sachs is a longtime member of the ACLU, PEN, the Sierra Club, the Author's Guild, and the Society of Children's Bookwriters; she continues to review books for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Marv (1970). Matt's Mitt (1975). A December Tale (1976). A Secret Friend (1978). A Summer's Lease (1979). Bus Ride (1980). Class Pictures (1980). Fleet Footed Florence (1981). Hello…Wrong Number (1981). Beach Towels (1982). Fourteen (1983). The Fat Girl (1984). Thunderbird (1985). Baby Sister (1986). Almost Fifteen (1987). Just Like a Friend (1989). At the Sound of the Beep (1990). Circles (1990). What My Sister Remembered (1992). Thirteen Going on Seven (1993). Ghosts in the Family (1995). Another Day (1997). Surprise Party (1998). Jo Jo and Winnie (1999).
CA (1968, 1999). SATA (1972). WW in America (2000).
PW (8 Jan. 1973).
—JILL P. MAY,
UPDATED BY SYDONIE BENET