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Marissa Moss

Marissa Moss

1959-

INTRODUCTION
PRINCIPAL WORKS
AUTHOR COMMENTARY
GENERAL COMMENTARY
TITLE COMMENTARY
FURTHER READING

American illustrator and author of picture books, activity books, and juvenile fiction.

The following entry presents an overview of Moss's career through 2004.

INTRODUCTION

Author and illustrator Moss has produced several popular picture books, as well as a series of beginning readers featuring a young writer named Amelia. Beginning with Amelia's Notebook (1995), Moss follows her eponymous heroine through her daily adventures in the fourth grade, as the young protagonist changes schools, makes new friends, and copes with an annoying older sister. Hand-lettered and bound in a manner that resembles a black-and-white school composition book, Amelia's Notebook and its companion volumes—Amelia Writes Again (1996) and Amelia Hits the Road (1997)—laid the foundation of Moss' best-selling "Amelia's Notebook" series, which has spawned several spin-off series, activity books, and a selection of animated videos. In addition to her "Amelia" books, Moss has illustrated works for other authors, her own picture books, and two additional juvenile series—the "Young American Voices" series and "Max's Logbook" series—which follow the journal format that she employed in Amelia's Notebook.

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

Moss was born on September 29, 1959, the second daughter of Robert and Harriet Moss. During her adolescence, Moss was an avid reader and kept a journal about her life, experiences, and family. She originally attended San Jose University for an education in fine arts, but transferred to the University of California at Berkeley where she earned a B.A. in art history. Moss later decided to specialize in illustration and enrolled in the California College of Arts and Crafts. Her first published work was One, Two, Three, and Four—No More? (1988) by Catherine Gray, a picture book that Moss illustrated. Less than one year later, Moss published Who Was It? (1989), a picture book that she both wrote and illustrated. She has now authored over thirty-five books for children, including her popular "Amelia's Notebook" series. Moss resides in Berkeley, California, with her husband and their three children.

MAJOR WORKS

Moss's earliest publications are traditional picture books, which she either illustrated for another author or wrote and illustrated herself. Her first self-authored work, What Was It?, examines a child's decision to tell the truth about a misdeed rather than lie. Knick Knack Paddywack (1992) presents a unique rendition of the popular children's rhyme, and But Not Kate (1992) focuses on a young girl who feels like she has nothing she excels at, until she is asked to help a magician onstage. In America (1994) tells the story of a young boy whose grandfather describes his own immigration from Lithuania years earlier. Moss's later picture books continue this trend of highlighting historical events. For example, True Heart (1999), illustrated by C. F. Payne, centers on the story of Bee, who, in the late nineteenth century, works her way to the position of train engineer. Moss presents the stories of other historical women who overcame overwhelming odds in the picture books Brave Harriet: The First Woman to Fly the English Channel (2001) and Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen (2002), both illustrated by C. F. Payne.

Moss is best known for her various journal series, most notably, the "Amelia's Notebook" series, which is written from the perspective of a spunky introspective girl. The books are formatted like normal school composition books and are filled with handwritten text, child-like illustrations, and drawings that simulate photographs a young girl might tape inside her journal. In her journals, Amelia discusses school, her annoying big sister, having to move away from friends, boys, her parents' divorce, and other normative topics associated with a child's adolescence and maturation. The series began with Amelia's Notebook and Amelia Writes Again and now includes over fifteen titles, including Amelia Hits the Road, which discusses an incredibly long road trip Amelia undergoes with her mother and big sister; Amelia Takes Command (1998), which pits Amelia against the school bully; and Amelia's Family Ties (2000), in which Amelia is reunited with her father, meets his new family, and discerns her place in his new life. Moss' "Young American Voices" series features journals of young girls from America's past and focuses on the difficulties and rewards of their eras. The series is comprised of Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl (1998), Emma's Journal: The Story of a Colonial Girl (1999), Hannah's Journal: The Story of an Immigrant Girl (2000), and Rose's Journal: The Story of a Girl in the Great Depression (2001). Though she most commonly employs female protagonists, Moss also writes from the male perspective in her "Max's Logbook" series and the journal Galen: My Life in Imperial Rome: An Ancient World Journal (2002). Galen, the first in a new series, is narrated by a twelve-year-old Greek slave in the palace of Caesar Augustus. Galen explains both Roman and Greek customs and provides historical information to readers. Max's Logbook (2003) and Max's Mystical Logbook (2004) are more contemporary journals featuring young Max, a mechanically inclined boy whose inventions occasionally go awry. In Max's Logbook, Max must come to terms with his parents' dissolving marriage. In Max's Mystical Logbook, Max and his friend try to create a love potion to reunite Max's parents, but his older brother accidentally drinks it first. Like Amelia, Max must deal with the normal pressures of growing up and, in addition, his parents are on the verge of divorce. Max's logbooks include handwritten text and are filled with drawings of new inventions and boyish comic strips.

CRITICAL RECEPTION

Reviewers have applauded Moss' non-traditional use of journal format in her "Amelia's Notebook," "Young American Voices," and "Max's Logbook" picture books. Critics have noted that through her use of the journal-style writing, Moss encourages her young readers to become journal keepers and writers. While reviewing Amelia Takes Command, Carolyn Phelan has commented that, "The freshness of Amelia's voice is reflected in the small ink-and-watercolor illustrations of drawings, pictures, and souvenirs that brighten every page. Capturing the ups and downs of a child's life with sympathy and wisdom as well as humor, this entertaining book makes journal writing look like fun." Some have argued that the handwritten script in Moss' journals is more difficult to read than standard type—suggesting that the format might actually be discouraging to struggling young readers—but, on a whole, critics have praised the look and originality of Moss's handwritten journals and sketches.

PRINCIPAL WORKS

Picture Books

One, Two, Three, and Four—No More? [illustrator; written by Catherine Gray] (picture book) 1988

Who Was It? (picture book) 1989

Mother Goose and More: Classic Rhymes and Added Lines [illustrator; adapted by Dr. Hickey] (picture book) 1990

Regina's Big Mistake (picture book) 1990

Want to Play? (picture book) 1990

But Not Kate (picture book) 1992

Knick Knack Paddywack (picture book) 1992

After-School Monster (picture book) 1993

In America (picture book) 1994

Mel's Diner (picture book) 1994

The Ugly Menorah (picture book) 1996

The Lapsnatcher [illustrator; written by Bruce Coville] (picture book) 1997

G Is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book [illustrator; written by David M. Schwartz] (picture book) 1998

True Heart [illustrations by C. F. Payne] (picture book) 1999

Brave Harriet: The First Woman to Fly the English Channel [illustrations by C. F. Payne] (picture book) 2001

Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen [illustrations by C. F. Payne] (picture book) 2002

"Young American Voices" Historical Journal Series

Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl (juvenile fiction) 1998

Emma's Journal: The Story of a Colonial Girl (juvenile fiction) 1999

Hannah's Journal: The Story of an Immigrant Girl (juvenile fiction) 2000

Rose's Journal: The Story of a Girl in the Great Depression (juvenile fiction) 2001

Amelia's Notebook—Elementary School Journal Series

Amelia's Notebook (juvenile fiction) 1995

Amelia Writes Again (juvenile fiction) 1996

Amelia's Are We There Yet, Longest Ever Car Trip (juvenile fiction) 1997

Amelia's Bully Survival Guide (juvenile fiction) 1998

The All-New Amelia (juvenile fiction) 1999; revised edition, 2007

Dr. Amelia's Boredom Survival Guide: First Aid for Rainy Days, Boring Errands, Waiting Rooms, Whatever! (activity book) 1999

Amelia's Family Ties (juvenile fiction) 2000

Madame Amelia Tells All (juvenile fiction) 2001

Amelia's 5th-Grade Notebook (juvenile fiction) 2006

Amelia's School Survival Guide (juvenile fiction) 2006

Amelia's Notebook—Middle School Journal Series

Amelia's Most Unforgettable Embarrassing Moments (juvenile fiction) 2005

Amelia's 6th-Grade Notebook (juvenile fiction) 2005

Amelia's Book of Notes and Note Passing: A Note Notebook (juvenile fiction) 2006

Amelia's Guide to Gossip: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (juvenile fiction) 2006

Amelia's Longest Biggest Most-Fights-Ever Family Reunion (juvenile fiction) 2006

Amelia's Must-Keep Resolutions for the Best Year Ever! (juvenile fiction) 2006

Amelia's 7th-Grade Notebook (juvenile fiction) 2007

Vote 4 Amelia (juvenile fiction) 2007

Other Amelia Titles

Amelia Hits the Road (juvenile fiction) 1997

Amelia Takes Command (juvenile fiction) 1998

Luv, Amelia Luv, Nadia (juvenile fiction) 1999

Amelia's Easy-as-Pie Drawing Guide (activity book) 2000

Amelia Works It Out (juvenile fiction) 2000

Oh Boy, Amelia! (juvenile fiction) 2001

Amelia Lends a Hand (juvenile fiction) 2002

Amelia's Best Year Ever: Favorite Amelia Stories from American Girl Magazine (juvenile short stories) 2003

Other Works

Galen: My Life in Imperial Rome: An Ancient World Journal (juvenile fiction) 2002

Max's Logbook (juvenile fiction) 2003

Max's Mystical Logbook (juvenile fiction) 2004

AUTHOR COMMENTARY

Marissa Moss and Sally Lodge (interview date 31 August 1998)

SOURCE: Moss, Marissa, and Sally Lodge. "Journaling Back through Time with Marissa Moss." Publishers Weekly 245, no. 35 (31 August 1998): 20.

[In the following interview, Moss discusses the success of her "Amelia's Notebook" series of fictional journals and offers details on her new "Young American Voices" series of historical fiction for children.]

The process of recording one's thoughts and daily experiences in a diary has become a popular activity for middle-grade girls, and it seems that the opportunity to read the secrets a peer records in her journal is even more enticing. So one might conclude from the brisk sales reported by Tricycle Press, as well as a handful of retailers polled, for Marissa Moss's series of hand-lettered, playfully illustrated journals penned by a girl named Amelia. Moss followed up the original 1995 title, Amelia's Notebook, with three additional hardcover releases, Amelia Writes Again, Amelia Hits the Road and the just-released Amelia Takes Command, as well as a paperback fill-in book, My Notebook (with Help from Amelia).

Together, the books have sold close to one million copies and recently, according to industry sources, Pleasant Company agreed to buy rights to the series for an eye-opening $3 million (though no one queried would confirm the dollar amount). Now, Moss has given her diary format a historical twist in her latest series, Young American Voices, which Harcourt Brace's Silver Whistle imprint launches in September with Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl.

Moss said that her own childhood inspired her choice of format, characters and subject matter. "I always kept a notebook as a girl and loved to read those of others," she explained. "My memories of being nine or 10 years old are especially vivid, since this is a time when you have a real sense of who you are—before the self-conscious preteen years start. Before I began writing the first Amelia book, I bought a composition book at the drug store and wrote down as much as I could remember about my life at that time. Amelia is very much based on me, and my sister is the model for her older sister, Cleo."

Though a number of publishers turned down the initial draft of Amelia's Notebook, after several reworkings she showed it to her friend Mollie Katzen.

Katzen, author of the book for children published by Tricycle in 1994. She encouraged Moss to show the manuscript to Tricycle's publisher, Nicole Geiger. As Geiger recalled, "Mollie told me that her own son had taken Amelia's Notebook into his bedroom and wouldn't give it back, which struck me as quite a recommendation. And then I, too, instantly fell in love with Amelia's incredibly true voice."

Recreating the Past

"Marissa has an uncanny ability to be an eight- to 12-year-old girl," concurred Paula Wiseman, editorial director of Silver Whistle. Explaining how her company came to publish Young American Voices, Wiseman said, "I was very fond of the Amelia books and I had already signed up a picture book by Marissa, called True Heart. And my eight-year-old daughter was keeping a journal that she was passionate about."

Tackling Rachel's Journal presented Moss with new challenges. Obviously, she had to call on more than childhood memories to shape this heroine, who in 1850 travels with her family along the Oregon Trail from Illinois to California. "I had to make this voice as real, yet I clearly couldn't rely on my life here," Moss said. "Though I began my research by reading some general history on this period, I soon narrowed my focus to reading firsthand accounts written by pioneers at this time—mostly women and children." The author characterized writing historical fiction as "a great deal more intense" than writing the Amelia books, since, in her words, "I didn't want to lose Rachel's voice or the sense of her era. I carried this character around in my head all day long. When I wasn't writing, I had an almost obsessive need to get back to her."

With an initial printing of 25,000 copies, Rachel's Journal has obviously sparked enthusiasm from the publisher. Booksellers, too, noting healthy—and growing—sales for Moss's Amelia notebooks, expressed high expectations for her new series. Among them was Michele Cromer-Poire of Red Balloon Bookstore in St. Paul, Minn. The combination of diary format and historical fiction, she commented, has also helped make Scholastic's Dear America series a hit in her store and others. According to Cromer-Poire, "The diary format grabs the kids and the history angle appeals to parents and teachers."

This is exactly what Moss hopes Young American Voices will achieve. The writer and artist—who receives (and personally answers) an enormous volume of mail from readers who enthusiastically declare "Amelia is me!"—doesn't expect the audience for her new series will identify as completely with her historical heroines as they do with Amelia. "But what I do want them to get from Rachel and the other characters," she said, "is a firsthand sense of another time period, and to discover that learning about history can be cool. Where Amelia has encouraged a lot of kids to write themselves, I hope Rachel makes kids want to learn more about her era."

Marissa Moss and Lynne T. Burke (interview date January-February 2004)

SOURCE: Moss, Marissa, and Lynne T. Burke. "Instructor Interviews: Author/Illustrators: Marissa Moss." Instructor 113, no. 5 (January-February 2004): 29.

[In the following interview, Moss discusses her "Amelia's Notebook" series and the importance of journal writing for children.]

[Burke]: Where did you get the idea of shaping a picture book around Amelia's notebook?

[Moss]: Notebooks allow for all kinds of record-keeping, and I kept one myself as a kid. I was attracted to mixing up words and pictures freely, since that's how I think. It seems like a natural way for a lot of kids to work, especially boys.

You write different kinds of books. How do you approach different projects?

When I'm working on historical books, I'm much more organized. I usually read about 100 books to get the depth of knowledge I need. As I read, I think about the kind of story I want to write and keep copious notes on index cards.

What do you hope kids will learn from Amelia?

I hope that Amelia shows them how easy it is to keep a journal. They can take anything in their lives and turn it into a story, just like she does. Amelia shows that it's not what happens in life that counts, but rather how you frame it, how you talk about it. Every kid has a story to tell!

GENERAL COMMENTARY

Lynne T. Burke (review date April-May 2001)

SOURCE: Burke, Lynne T. Review of the Amelia's Notebook and Young American Voices series, by Marissa Moss. Reading Today 18, no. 5 (April-May 2001): 32.

[In the following review, Burke offers a brief overview of the format of Moss's "Amelia's Notebook" series and"Young American Voices" series and provides a positive assessment of both series.]

The Amelia Series

This series single-handedly revived the interest in salt and pepper notebooks worldwide! Each of the 11 books in the series contains the musings, rants, and mementos of young Amelia, who suffers, survives, and celebrates everything childhood has to offer, including an older sister. In her latest escapade, Amelia Works It Out, this spunky girl learns about earning money when she has to come up with cash for something she really wants.

Fans who want to start their own black and white library should grab a copy of My Notebook (with Help from Amelia), a guided journal with lots of lined space, color graphics, and ideas to get those brain cells working.

Young American Voices Series

These journals are written by the author of the Amelia series and bear Marissa Moss's unmistakable trademark style: notebook format and detailed color illustrations. The biggest difference is that each of the three titles in this series is the diary of a girl from a different historic period: a pioneer, a colonist, and a turn-of-the-century immigrant (so far).

TITLE COMMENTARY

BUT NOT KATE (1992)

Ilene Cooper (review date 1 March 1992)

SOURCE: Cooper, Ilene. Review of But Not Kate, by Marissa Moss. Booklist 88, no. 13 (1 March 1992): 1287.

[In But Not Kate, e]veryone has something special, except Kate. Alfred can draw, Sara writes the neatest, and everyone brings interesting lunchtime desserts. Kate doesn't feel very good about herself, and when a magician comes to the school, the last thing she wants to do is volunteer to be his assistant on stage. But the magician chooses her, and as Kate makes flowers appear and pulls rabbits out of a hat, she feels magical for the first time in her life. Moss' simple story will have meaning for children who need a little work on the self-esteem front, and her message is nicely tucked into an appealing vehicle. Though the mice children of Kate's class look more like bats, the lively watercolors still have a spontaneity that buoys the tale.

Heide Piehler (review date June 1992)

SOURCE: Piehler, Heide. Review of But Not Kate, by Marissa Moss. School Library Journal 38, no. 6 (June 1992): 100.

PreS-Gr. 1—[In But Not Kate, l]ittle mouse Kate doesn't feel she's the best at anything or special in any way. She's so ordinary and so unspectacular—until the school magic show. Then, a reluctant Kate is chosen to be the magician's assistant. Suddenly, ordinary Kate can make flowers appear, pull rabbits out of a hat, and turn a plain old scarf into a star-spangled streamer. The story, like Kate herself, seems slight and unspectacular at first glance. But like her, it offers hidden charms. Most children will relate to Kate's shrinking-violet feelings and cheer when she finally discovers her own unique talents. Unfortunately, the illustrations don't quite match Kate's blossoming talents. The pencil-and-wash paintings are colorful and animated, but the depiction of the main character and her rodent classmates are of mass-market cartoon quality. Henkes's coterie of mouse characters are a much more attractive and appealing group. This title is similar in theme to his Chrysanthemum (Greenwillow, 1991), but is for a slightly younger audience. Not a must purchase, but a useful and entertaining addition.

KNICK KNACK PADDYWACK (1992)

Publishers Weekly (review date 24 February 1992)

SOURCE: Review of Knick Knack Paddywack, by Marissa Moss. Publishers Weekly 239, no. 11 (24 February 1992): 53.

Cheerful, action-filled pictures and alliterative, tongue-twisting word creations distinguish Moss's (Who Was It? ; Want to Play? ) lighthearted variation on this song favorite [Knick Knack Paddywack ]. An overall-clad, smiling old man—obviously a devoted recycler—collects a variety of materials (one fish in a bowl, two windows, three trash barrels, four rubber tires and so on). Moss's zippy verse playfully ties in with the item in hand: carrying seven flyswatters, "he played slip slap whap and then / With a slip slap rattatap, give a dog a bone." With each spread this re- sourceful fellow's entourage of dogs (and bones) grows as he uses his recycled goods to create a rocket ship. Like the canine onlookers, readers' spirits will be sky-high when—after counting down, of course—"This old man goes soaring off." Ages 2-8.

Jody McCoy (review date May 1992)

SOURCE: McCoy, Jody. Review of Knick Knack Paddywack, by Marissa Moss. School Library Journal 38, no. 5 (May 1992): 92.

PreS-Gr. 2—This new old man has a wonderful time playing with language, building a spaceship, and feeding a hilarious collection of dogs [in Knick Knack Paddywack ]. With toes-a-tappin' and eyes-a-twinklin' he "bip bops," "jig jugs," and "splish splashes" from one to ten, and then counts down to blast off and flies to the moon. Pleasant watercolor washes within playful pen-and-ink sketches create such a lively little man and pack of pups that one suspects they might dance right off the page. The use of language will tickle all but the tongue tied. Practice before a read-aloud or a sing-along is recommended for this classic counting song refurbished to win the hearts and tangle the tongues of yet another generation. Unfortunately, the music is not included.

IN AMERICA (1994)

Hazel Rochman (review date 15 May 1994)

SOURCE: Rochman, Hazel. Review of In America, by Marissa Moss. Booklist 90, no. 18 (15 May 1994): 1683-84.

Ages 5-8—While Grandfather and Walter walk through the busy city streets to the post office, Grandfather talks about why he came to the U.S. from Lithuania as a boy of 10. He tells about the anti-Semitism that made him leave the shtetl, how hard the journey was, and what he left behind. He also celebrates this country as a nation of immigrants. The pictures of Eastern Europe and the immigrant journey [in In America ] are like photographs in an album, pale and slightly blurry. In contrast, the view of the contemporary bright and sharp, a bustling multiethnic community, sunlit with possibility. A good book to use with Say's Caldecott Medal winner Grandfather's Journey (1993), this shows that Grandfather left behind forever the old familiar ways of doing things, even as he found the courage to make his way alone across the sea.

Publishers Weekly (review date 16 May 1994)

SOURCE: Review of In America, by Marissa Moss. Publishers Weekly 241, no. 20 (16 May 1994): 63-4.

Looking at an album of photos taken when his grandfather was a child in Lithuania [in In America ], Walter asks why the elderly man came to America. "I wanted to have the same freedom as everyone else, without anybody bothering me," responds Grandpa, who explains that, as his family was Jewish, "we were bothered a lot, because people thought we were different." As the two walk to the post office, Grandpa tells how he made the long sea journey to America alone at the age of 10. Pondering whether he would be brave enough to make such a trip, Walter asserts himself by insisting that he cross a busy street by himself (after the light changes). Though a small step, this feat gives the boy a sense of accomplishment, and enables Moss to tuck yet another worthwhile message into her resonant tale. Her art alternates between rather routine depictions of the walk to the post office and arresting, softly colored simulated photographs of life in a Lithuania of the past. Laced with engaging anecdotes (Grandpa tells Walter that the first time he had a banana—a food unknown in the old country—he ate the peel and threw away the fruit inside), this story has a quiet power. Ages 4-8.

Diane S. Marton (review date June 1994)

SOURCE: Marton, Diane S. Review of In America, by Marissa Moss. School Library Journal 40, no. 6 (June 1994): 112.

K-Gr. 3—As Grandpa and Walter take a long walk to the post office, the elderly man tells his grandson why he left his home in Pikeli, Lithuania, to come to the U.S. alone. America offered opportunity, but more importantly, freedom, which Grandpa, a Jew, did not have in his homeland. He tried to persuade his brother to join him, but the younger boy was afraid to leave his familiar life. Strangely enough, [in In America, ] parents are never mentioned, nor whether any relatives were waiting in the New World; a 10-year-old motivated to emigrate primarily by a desire for freedom seems odd. Line-and-watercolor cartoonlike illustrations alternate with paintings set to look like photos in an old album. The whole recalls Judith Caseley's Apple Pie and Onions (Greenwillow, 1987), although more of that story is devoted to life in the old country.

MEL'S DINER (1994)

Hazel Rochman (review date 1 October 1994)

SOURCE: Rochman, Hazel. Review of Mel's Diner, by Marissa Moss. Booklist 91, no. 3 (1 October 1994): 333-34.

Ages 4-8—Like Loomis' In the Diner [BKL Ap 15 94], [Mel's Diner ] is a warm, lively picture book about an informal neighborhood eating place. Mabel is an African American child who loves helping Mama and Pop in their diner. During early morning breakfast preparations and throughout the day, Mabel welcomes the regular customers, brings menus, serves food, and fills sugar bowls. After school, she and her friend do homework at one of the tables, then dance to the jukebox. And of course, they love to eat. Moss' full-color illustrations show a great diversity of people enjoying themselves in a brightly lit art-deco diner. From ketchup and coffee to Jell-O and french fries, the food is great, and so is the company.

John Peters (review date December 1994)

SOURCE: Peters, John. Review of Mel's Diner, by Marissa Moss. School Library Journal 40, no. 12 (December 1994): 79.

K-Gr. 2—Young Mable outlines a comfortable routine as she helps her parents run their diner—setting up, serving, visiting with the regulars, and hanging out after school with a friend, dreaming of the diner she'll have when she grows up. The narrator and her parents are African Americans, but there really isn't much difference between this story [Mel's Diner ] and Melanie Greenberg's My Father's Luncheonette (Dutton, 1991), in that both show an affectionate, rather generic family working in a clean, well-lit space decorated with ketchup bottles, napkin holders, and other familiar details for readers to pick out. The illustrations lack the intimacy of those found in Anne Shelby's We Keep a Store (Orchard, 1990) or the comic bustle of Christine Loomis's In the Diner (Scholastic, 1994), and Mable uses none of the lingo that makes Alexandra Day's Frank and Ernest (Scholastic, 1988) such a hoot. A conventional supplementary purchase.

AMELIA'S NOTEBOOK (1995)

Publishers Weekly (review date 20 March 1995)

SOURCE: Review of Amelia's Notebook, by Marissa Moss. Publishers Weekly 242, no. 12 (20 March 1995): 61.

Moss (Mel's Diner ) designs [Amelia's Notebook, ] this upbeat, first-person story to resemble a real diary; the cover bears the familiar black-and-white abstract design of a composition book, decorated with color cartoons by Amelia, the book's nine-year-old "author." Inside, on lined pages, Amelia writes about her recent move to a new town, doodles pictures of people she meets and saves such mementos as postage stamps and a birthday candle. She misses her best friend, Nadia, but her moments of sadness are balanced by optimism—she distracts herself by drawing and by writing short stories. In appropriately conversational terms, Amelia complains that her big sister invades her privacy ("So Cleo if you are reading this right now—BUG OFF and STAY OUT"); gripes about cafeteria food ("Henna says they use dog food. I believe it!"); and jokes in classic elementary-school gross-out fashion. Readers will understand Amelia's wish to put her "top secret" thoughts on paper, and they'll notice that even though she's uneasy about attending a different school, she's starting over successfully. An on-target presentation. Ages 7-up.

Carolyn Noah (review date July 1995)

SOURCE: Noah, Carolyn. Review of Amelia's Notebook, by Marissa Moss. School Library Journal 41, no. 7 (July 1995): 79.

Gr. 3-5—Nine-year-old Amelia keeps a lively, funny journal, recording her family's move (a three-day trip) and her feelings about her older sister, her new house and school, and the best friend she's left behind. [Amelia's Notebook ] looks like an unusually well-bound, black-and-white-covered, lined elementary school notebook, and it's chock-full of personal asides and tiny spot drawings. Amelia adorns its pages with artistic experiments (studies of noses and perspective), as well as all kinds of astute observations. Entirely hand-lettered, the narrative rings true with third-grade authenticity. The lettering is black, but the drawings make full use of the 24 color markers that Amelia's friend Nadia has given her as a farewell gift. Moss offers the same immediacy and vividness as Vera Williams's Stringbean's Trip to the Shining Sea (Greenwillow, 1988), though composition is much more informal and less premeditated. In fact, Moss becomes entirely invisible and lets Amelia shine through. Her notebook will be relished especially by young girls who will empathize with many of her emotions, but also by those teaching writing skills, journal-keeping, or helping children adapt to transitions.

THE UGLY MENORAH (1996)

Publishers Weekly (review date 30 September 1996)

SOURCE: Review of The Ugly Menorah, by Marissa Moss. Publishers Weekly 243, no. 40 (30 September 1996): 87.

This wan effort [The Ugly Menorah ] uses the holiday setting to drive home familiar lessons from the beauty-is-in-the-eyes-of-the-beholder school. Spending Hanukkah with her recently widowed grandmother, Rachel thinks her grandmother's menorah is ugly, even after she is told how her grandfather lovingly fashioned it from scraps years ago when he could not afford to buy a fancy one. But after it's lit, Rachel has an (unconvincing) epiphany: "For the first time since Grandpa died, she felt he was with her again." As if to underscore the point about appearances, Moss's illustrations are almost aggressively plain, with stiff, almost gauche figures peopling ill-lit settings. Ages 5-8.

AMELIA HITS THE ROAD (1997)

Jackie Hechtkopf (review date November 1997)

SOURCE: Hechtkopf, Jackie. Review of Amelia Hits the Road, by Marissa Moss. School Library Journal 43, no. 11 (November 1997): 95-6.

Gr. 2-5—Amelia creates a travel notebook [in Amelia Hits the Road ] about a family car trip back to California to see Nadia, her best friend since kindergarten, stopping at the Grand Canyon and Yosemite on the way. Amid complaints about big sister, Cleo, Amelia ponders how much her friend has changed in the last year by drawing one picture of Nadia as she remembers her, and one picture of a bald Nadia, labeled with handwritten questions regarding her current hair length. As in the previous books about Amelia, the adorable diagrams that illustrate the child's witty observations will be pored over by readers. The diapers she draws for a mule as a means of keeping the Grand Canyon trails clean are a riot. Her descriptions of the scenery create a sense of being there. When the family stops at the site of Manzanar, the girl draws a barbed-wire fence with a speech bubble saying simply, "I'm mad." The story climaxes with the long-awaited reunion with Nadia. Sweet reminiscences of Amelia's Notebook (Tricycle, 1995) show the girls wearing matching friendship necklaces and doing the experiments from a science kit Nadia promised to save until Amelia's first visit. This book will delight long-time fans and draw new ones. Once again, Moss proves that journal writing is great fun.

Carolyn Phelan (review date 15 November 1997)

SOURCE: Phelan, Carolyn. Review of Amelia Hits the Road, by Marissa Moss. Booklist 96, no. 6 (15 November 1997): 561.

Gr. 3-4, younger for reading aloud—In [Amelia Hits the Road, ] the sequel to Amelia's Notebook (1995) and Amelia Writes Again (1996), Moss sends spunky journal-keeper Amelia and her old-fashioned black-and-white-speckled composition book on a car trip through the Southwest with her mother and older sister. Amelia's mother insists that they "should enjoy the togetherness," but even her patience wears thin after hundreds of miles of listening to backseat bickering and off-key camp songs. The book is a facsimile of Amelia's notebook, in which she records her impressions of the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, as well as her disgust with her sister and her longing to see her old friend Nadia. There's more than enough toilet and car-sickness humor, but Amelia sensitively describes the scenic vistas and new experiences as well. Amelia's drawings brighten every page of this lively journal, which readers will find just as readable and entertaining as the previous two.

AMELIA TAKES COMMAND (1998)

Carolyn Phelan (review date 1 September 1998)

SOURCE: Phelan, Carolyn. Review of Amelia Takes Command, by Marissa Moss. Booklist 95, no. 1 (1 September 1998): 120.

Gr. 3-5—Amelia's many fans will welcome [Amelia Takes Command, ] the latest in the series of fictional journals, in her own handwriting, including Amelia's Notebook (1995), Amelia Writes Again (1996), and Amelia Hits the Road (1997). As fifth grade begins, Amelia struggles with two unexpected problems, an inconstant friend and a constant bully. Spending winter break at Space Camp with her old friend Nadia, Amelia works hard, learns a lot, and develops her skills as a leader. The confidence she gains as commander of a mock shuttle mission gives her the boost she needs to meet the more down-to-earth challenges back at school. The freshness of Amelia's voice is reflected in the small ink-and-watercolor illustrations of drawings, pictures, and souvenirs that brighten ev- ery page. Capturing the ups and downs of a child's life with sympathy and wisdom as well as humor, this entertaining book makes journal writing look like fun.

Faith Brautigam (review date October 1998)

SOURCE: Brautigam, Faith. Review of Amelia Takes Command, by Marissa Moss. School Library Journal 44, no. 10 (October 1998): 108-09.

Gr. 3-5—Amelia's latest journal [Amelia Takes Command ] provides another winning glimpse into the life of a funny and likable contemporary child. In this fourth title in the series, the girl is beginning fifth grade and is the target of the class bully. Through candid notebook entries and lively, captioned drawings, readers share Amelia's frustration and anger at being ostracized and cheer when she gains the necessary confidence at Space Camp to stand up to her intimidator back home. The engaging format resembles a hand-written, blue-lined composition book filled with full-color childlike drawings. Amelia's comments range from typical elementary school humor ("Just pretend Hilary is a giant booger. Then you won't care what she says or does") to the whimsical (fashion rating: "Bad socks, D-") to the more serious. With its hook for the voyeur in us all, a format that keeps the pages turning, and an "every girl" who vanquishes the ubiquitous bully, this satisfying read is right on target.

RACHEL'S JOURNAL: THE STORY OF A PIONEER GIRL (1998)

Publishers Weekly (review date 3 August 1998)

SOURCE: Review of Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl, by Marissa Moss. Publishers Weekly 245, no. 31 (3 August 1998): 86.

Moss extends the format she perfected in Amelia's Notebook and Amelia Writes Again to cover historical fiction in [Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl, ] this solidly researched and wholly captivating illustrated diary "by" a 10-year-old girl who travels with her family along the Oregon Trail in 1850. The excitements and hardships of the seven-month journey spring vividly to life, whether Rachel is crossing the eerie, skeleton-strewn Nevada desert by moonlight, trading her long red braids for an Indian pony, eating flour soup when provisions get low, or awakening one morning to greet a new baby sister. Character sketches—of the shiftless Mr. Bridger; the oh-so-perfect Prudence Elias, bane of tomboy Rachel's days; sourpuss Mr. Henry Sunshine, whose wife, Louisa, providentially drops her dentures during a tense encounter with the Pawnee, frightening them away—are a sheer delight, adding depth, texture and, of course, humor. The language is equally colorful. One of the smaller children in Rachel's wagon party, for example, is "no bigger than a bar of soap after a week's wash." Moss shoehorns in an amazing amount of information, giving readers an excellent understanding of life on the trail. Lined sepia-toned pages give the book the look of an antique diary; and, in the style of the Amelia books, hand-lettered text and cleverly captioned thumbnail illustrations with a childlike sensibility add to the authentic feel. This engrossing glimpse of the westward movement is as good a choice for pleasure reading as it is a valuable classroom resource. Ages 8-12.

Robin L. Gibson (review date September 1998)

SOURCE: Gibson, Robin L. Review of Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl, by Marissa Moss. School Library Journal 44, no. 9 (September 1998): 177.

Gr. 3-5—Ten-year-old Rachel records her family's trip west from Illinois to California in 1850 [in Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl ]. The girl's voice is fresh and enthusiastic; for her, the journey is filled with exciting new experiences. She learns to drive the wagon and crack the whip, climbs Courthouse Rock and views the sunset, and even cuts off her long red braids and trades them for an Indian pony. She does have occasional moments of contemplation, thinking about faraway relatives and friends. Overall, however, her journal paints a rosy picture of this dangerous voyage: there are some injuries but no serious illnesses or deaths, encounters with different Native Americans are all friendly, and Rachel's new baby sister arrives safely at the end. An author's note explains that the narrative is based on numerous children's diaries from the period, and that many of the writers viewed the trek as "one long adventure." The hand-lettered script and yellowed, lined-paper background create the look of a diary. Watercolor illustrations and notes in the margins add to the personal look of the book and often provide helpful supplementary information. Rachel's Journal is a good choice for those readers not quite ready to tackle the "Dear America" series (Scholastic) and for Laura Ingalls Wilder fans who want to read more about pioneer life.

EMMA'S JOURNAL: THE STORY OF A COLONIAL GIRL (1999)

Carolyn Phelan (review date 15 September 1999)

SOURCE: Phelan, Carolyn. Review of Emma's Journal: The Story of a Colonial Girl, by Marissa Moss. Booklist 96, no. 2 (15 September 1999): 261.

Gr. 3-5—Like Moss' popular Amelia series, these books in the Young American Voices series are first-person handwritten accounts told in journal form through words and childlike illustrations. The difference is Amelia is modern day, whereas the American Voices are historical. Emma's Journal records events in Boston from 1774 to 1776 from the point of view of 10-year-old Emma, who has been sent away from the family farm to help her Aunt Harmony and ends up helping the Revolutionary cause. Fresh and readable, the text offers a simple introduction to the times, while colorful, informal little drawings add visual appeal to the hand-lettered pages. The Young American Voices series, which includes Rachel's Journal (1998), will attract Amelia's fans as well children who have read the American Girl books. A prelude to longer, more challenging historical fiction.

Susan Hepler (review date December 1999)

SOURCE: Hepler, Susan. Review of Emma's Journal: The Story of a Colonial Girl, by Marissa Moss. School Library Journal 45, no. 12 (December 1999): 108.

Gr. 3-5—Caught in the British blockade of Boston from 1774 to 1776 and separated from her family, young Emma describes the events she witnesses or overhears [in Emma's Journal: The Story of a Colonial Girl ]. While she works at her elderly aunt's boarding house, she meets or hears about such famous figures as Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, George Washington, and Dr. Joseph Warren, as well as British General Burgoyne, Governor Gage, and others. The story unfolds with secret messages, spying, snippets of rude songs printed in the margins that are sure to provoke giggles, and Emma's trials with the vain young Tory boarder, Thankful, who is in love with a British soldier. Emma's final entries tell of the reunion with her family and of the stirring reading of the "Proclamation of Independence" in July of 1776. As in Moss's "Amelia" journals (Tricycle) and her Rachel's Journal (Harcourt, 1998), information appears in tiny drawings or souvenir bits "pasted" in the margins. The handwritten text is eye-catching and printed on aged, lined yellow paper. An author's note separates fact from fiction, provides extra information on women spies in the Revolution, and reveals the author's sources. All in all, a seductive introduction to the period, especially for readers who remain neutral to textbook accounts.

TRUE HEART (1999)

Publishers Weekly (review date 1 March 1999)

SOURCE: Review of True Heart, by Marissa Moss, illustrated by C. F. Payne. Publishers Weekly 246, no. 9 (1 March 1999): 69.

Moss (Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl ; Amelia's Notebook ) uses her flair for capturing girls' voices to tell a remarkable and exhilarating story [in True Heart ]. A turn-of-the-century photograph of an all-women work crew for a railroad inspired this tale of a teenager's first time driving a train, an experience that launches her career as an engineer. Newly orphaned in 1893, 16-year-old Bee takes a job loading freight on the railways to support her eight siblings. Moss evokes the love of trains that keeps Bee in the engineer's cab every spare moment, watching and asking questions, and her joy at driving for the first time, when an injured engineer and a train full of impatient passengers pressure the station manager to give her a chance. On the final spread, Bee recalls that inaugural experience: "I felt so free and strong, galloping across whole states in my iron horse, blowing my whistle for all the sky to hear." For his first children's book, Payne uses mixed media in a crisp, realistic style. He so meticulously defines the action that the illustrations seem frozen in time, oddly tranquil: unexpected angles and tight close-ups create arresting compositions. This book will be welcomed by a wide audience: train lovers, frontier buffs, all girls—and any adult who, like Bee, can "remember wanting something so much you can't think of anything else." Ages 5-9.

Nina Lindsay (review date April 1999)

SOURCE: Lindsay, Nina. Review of True Heart, by Marissa Moss, illustrated by C. F. Payne. School Library Journal 45, no. 4 (April 1999): 106.

Gr. 2-4—[In True Heart, a]n engineer for the Union Pacific at the turn of the century reminisces about the event that made the dream of driving trains become a reality. As a freight loader, Bee took every opportunity to sit in the cab and watch the engineers work, and was occasionally offered a chance to drive from one station to the next. One day on a run from San Francisco to Chicago, a group of bandits shot and injured the engineer at the controls. Bee volunteered to complete the run and the station manager agreed, marking that day as the start of a new career for Bee. This comfortably paced story has a familiar feel to it and a secret that will disclose itself to attentive readers: Bee is a woman. The use of nicknames throughout and an avoidance of gender pronouns draw the attention to the heart of the story—Bee's dream—rather than her sex. Accompanying the author's note at the end of the book is a black-and-white photograph of a group of female freight loaders that inspired this book. The mixed-media illustrations are realistic but softened with sepia tones, as if with age; and except for a couple of double-page spreads, full-page illustrations on the right face text on faux-stained parchment backgrounds. Visually and textually, this quiet story is a treasure.

Hazel Rochman (review date 1 April 1999)

SOURCE: Rochman, Hazel. Review of True Heart, by Marissa Moss, illustrated by C. F. Payne. Booklist 95, no. 15 (1 April 1999): 106.

Gr. 2-4, younger for reading aloud—A young girl takes over the wheel, proves herself a hero, and saves the day in two stories set a century ago. […]

Moss' hero [in True Heart ], Bee, tells her own story of working on the railroad since she was 16 in 1893, loading freight with her buddies for the Union Pacific in Cheyenne, Wyoming, always dreaming of being an engineer. She watches the drivers closely, asks lots of questions, badgers them to let her drive—and then one day she gets her chance when the engineer is wounded by bandits, and the station manager allows Bee to drive the train. Since then she has driven trains across the continent, "joining together the two ends of this great nation." Bee's first-person narrative expresses the rhythm and excitement of the railroad, how she loves to hear the clatter and roar of the trains. With extraordinary depth, Payne's brown-tone, full-page paintings combine realism and romance, showing long views of the trains steaming through the prairie, close-ups of the amazing machinery, pictures of Bee and her grinning crew, and then the triumphant scene of Bee proud and strong when at last she climbs into the cab in an engineer's cap. In an afterword, Moss says her story was inspired by a museum show, Women and the American Railroad, and by women's journals of the time.

AMELIA'S FAMILY TIES (2000)

Carolyn Phelan (review date 15 February 2000)

SOURCE: Phelan, Carolyn. Review of Amelia's Family Ties, by Marissa Moss. Booklist 96, no. 12 (15 February 2000): 1113.

Gr. 3-5—In the latest volume of the Amelia's Notebook series [Amelia's Family Ties ], Amelia records her experiences and feelings when she receives a letter from her father (who divorced her mother and left when she was a baby) and visits him in Chicago. Amelia's adjustment to her father and stepmother is realistically portrayed, with the good intentions, false starts, and awkwardness inherent in the situation. Toward the end of the visit, Amelia is able to ask her father the questions she's been asking herself for years and hear answers that begin to heal the hurt that her father's absence and silence caused. Jaunty ink-and-watercolor illustrations, purportedly Amelia's work, decorate every page of this highly readable book. The voice is consistently Amelia's, but the points of view of other characters, from her sister to her stepmother, come through as well. A fine addition to a popular series.

BRAVE HARRIET: THE FIRST WOMAN TO FLY THE ENGLISH CHANNEL (2001)

Publishers Weekly (review date 16 July 2001)

SOURCE: Review of Brave Harriet: The First Woman to Fly the English Channel, by Marissa Moss, illustrated by C. F. Payne. Publishers Weekly 248, no. 29 (16 July 2001): 180.

The creators of True Heart once again laud a historical heroine with gentle restraint [in Brave Harriet: The First Woman to Fly the English Channel ]. Here they give pilot Harriet Quimby just the right note of quiet confidence: "I hadn't grown up wishing to be a pilot, because there were no planes when I was a girl, but once I saw one, I knew where I belonged—there, at the controls, with blue sky all around me." Harriet wins her license from a skeptical board ("No woman has ever received a license to fly," a licensing official says), works as a barnstormer, then conceives the idea of crossing the English Channel. Her pilot friend Gustav Hamel tries to dissuade her, offering to fly for her in disguise; Harriet refuses. She completes her mission, but the sinking of the Titanic on the same day overshadows news of her success. "But it didn't matter, because I knew I had done it," she says. Payne's spreads resemble period photographs—stop-action shots of wood-framed airplanes taken from striking angles, a newsboy reading the headlines about the Titanic and Harriet looking wistfully across the Channel, her skirt billowing in the wind. Pair this with Julie Cummins's Tomboy of the Air (Children's Forecasts, July 2) for a complete picture of the first women pilots. Ages 6-9.

Elizabeth Bush (review date January 2002)

SOURCE: Bush, Elizabeth. Review of Brave Harriet: The First Woman to Fly the English Channel, by Marissa Moss, illustrated by C. F. Payne. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 55, no. 5 (January 2002): 179-80.

In this imagined narrative, [Brave Harriet: The First Woman to Fly the English Channel, ] early twentieth century pilot Harriet Quimby tells of her love-at-first-sight affair with aviation and her daring flight from England to France, guided only by a compass, intuition, and intense determination to be the first woman to complete the journey. Opening pages focus on Quimby's mastery of the "rattletrap, gum-and-spit contraption" and on her defiance of social norms to earn the license and backing to become a professional aviatrix. Her channel crossing is, of course, the signal event here, and although the journey is relatively brief, it packs its share of adventure: "The plane was tilting sharply, and the steep pitch caused the engine to misfire. The motor began to sputter. There was no time to think, only time to act." Obviously her mission ends in success, but the triumph she hoped for never materialized, because "it was April 16, 1912, and for that day—and for days afterward—there was other news that eclipsed mine." In the penultimate spread, a newsboy hawks the London Times whose headline blares "TITANIC DISASTER." Whether the often dreamy tone of this fictionalized Quimby accurately reflects the pilot's real expression is impossible to ascertain from the appended notes, and with the narrow focus on Quimby's Channel flight, exciting details of her barnstorming career and tragic death never emerge. The mixed-media art is sometimes too earthbound, but there's enough dramatic use of sweeping perspective and swooping aircraft to evoke sympathy for Quimby's fascination with the air. Children who'd prefer wings to feet will delight in the story, and teachers planning a unit on flight can encourage comparisons with Blériot's crossing in Provensen's The Glorious Flight.

OH BOY, AMELIA! (2001)

Carolyn Phelan (review date 1-15 January 2002)

SOURCE: Phelan, Carolyn. Review of Oh Boy, Amelia!, by Marissa Moss. Booklist 98, nos. 9-10 (1-15 January 2002): 859.

Gr. 2-5—[In Oh Boy, Amelia!, ] Amelia is intrigued, but not entirely pleased, when older sister Cleo, who has a crush on a boy and actually invites him over to work on a science project. At school, Amelia's new life-skills class, teaching sewing, carpentry, cooking, and bicycle repairs, brings up issues of gender expectations. As she copes with Cleo's newfound femininity and her preference for woodwork over needlework, Amelia expresses her thoughts and feelings in her own inimitable way, in her diary-like notebook. Childlike drawings with colorful washes brighten every blue-lined page of the book. The light, but sympathetic treatment of Amelia's concerns will appeal to many girls. An entertaining addition to a popular series.

GALEN: MY LIFE IN IMPERIAL ROME: AN ANCIENT WORLD JOURNAL (2002)

Publishers Weekly (review date 21 October 2002)

SOURCE: Review of Galen: My Life in Imperial Rome: An Ancient World Journal, by Marissa Moss. Publishers Weekly 249, no. 42 (21 October 2002): 76.

Ably balancing fact and fiction, Moss (the Amelia's Notebook and Young American Voices series) uses her signature notebook-style jottings and drawings to launch the Ancient World Journal series [with Galen: My Life in Imperial Rome ]. The fresh, diverting first-person account of fictitious 12-year-old Galen, an aspiring artist, describes life as a slave in the palace of Emperor Augustus. As the tale opens, Galen is living with his artist father and brother as slaves of Pollio, a pompous equestrian who bought Galen's father to have him decorate his villa. A dramatic incident occurs while the emperor Augustus visits the villa on his way home to Rome: Pollio threatens to kill Galen's brother when the boy accidentally breaks a treasured wine cup. Augustus, outraged by Pollio's cruelty, buys the family and takes them to Rome with him. The chatty narrator recounts the goings-on in the busy household (which includes Augustus's cold wife, Livia, and his scheming, bullying grandson, Agrippa) while providing a clear, intriguing portrait of ancient Roman life, with such customs as gladiator fights, chariot races and celebrations of the Saturnalia and the feast of Liberalia. Moss's marginal notes in Galen's engaging voice plus his sketches offer insight about food, dress ("Togas are impossible to drape by yourself") and hairstyles. Moss caps this account with Galen's climactic discovery of a plot to poison Augustus so that Tullus Antonius can become emperor. Youngsters will be so drawn into the story that they might not realize how much history they're learning along the way. Ages 8-12.

Deborah Stevenson (review date December 2002)

SOURCE: Stevenson, Deborah. Review of Galen: My Life in Imperial Rome: An Ancient World Journal, by Marissa Moss. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 56, no. 4 (December 2002): 168.

In [Galen: My Life in Imperial Rome, ] this new addition to the burgeoning genre of historical faux-journals, a young Greek slave describes his life at the palace of Augustus, where he, his brother, and his artist father moved after Augustus bought them all from a provincial knight. There Galen broadens his worldview as he learns the wonders of Rome, makes friends, and hopes eventually to free himself and become a Roman citizen. En route, however, he must evade the anger of bullying young Postumus Agrippa, Augustus' grandson, and alert Augustus to a plot against his life. There are definitely some glitches in the book, both in usage (four years past 2 B.C. isn't actually "the second century A.D.") and in history (the text wrongly states that Caligula killed his own mother), but there's also a lot of accurate detail; Moss is particularly good at conveying the Greek/Roman cultural divide and the way Roman slavery functioned. Though there's some meandering in the text (and the framework of Galen's grandson's discovery of this narrative is unnecessary), Galen's drive to please Augustus and to become a man in Roman style are sufficient to drive the story, and there's nothing like a good old murder plot (especially a fact-based one) for narrative impact. The hand-lettered font is a little harder going than type, but the plethora of interpolated thumbnail sketches and sidebar notes makes the square cream pages inviting and more accessible. An author's note provides information on sources; some additional historical background, a glossary, and some useful period maps are included.

MAX'S LOGBOOK (2003)

Publishers Weekly (review date 14 July 2003)

SOURCE: Review of Max's Logbook, by Marissa Moss. Publishers Weekly 250, no. 28 (14 July 2003): 76.

Hand-lettered on graph paper, infused with childlike drawings and collages, Moss's (the Amelia's Notebook series) paper-over-board facsimile of a boy's journal [Max's Logbook ] ostensibly spotlights his experiments and inventions (these range from classroom exercises to microwaving marshmallows in order to create "Godzilla Puff" in his kitchen and devising an alarm that will sound when someone enters his bedroom). But the underpinnings of Max's musings are more emotional than scientific (despite the periodic table of elements on the inside front cover). Upset by his parents' frequent arguments, Max fears they are headed toward divorce. He imagines inventing such solutions as a "Prevent-a-Divorce Machine," an "Instant Happiness Robot" and "Hypnodisks" that will force his mother and father to behave as he wishes. There are some silly, irrelevant asides here, e.g., Max's comic strips featuring "Alien Eraser," which imagine the exploits of a pencil-top eraser confiscated by Max's teacher, and Moss doesn't always trust readers to interpret Max's behavior ("I can make my army and alien erasers do whatever I want, but not my parents," Max explains). Even so, the boy's anguish and anxiety will resonate with kids who have faced similar situations, and his gradual acceptance of his parents' eventual separation may well provide solace. Ages 7-10.

MIGHTY JACKIE: THE STRIKE-OUT QUEEN (2004)

Publishers Weekly (review date 19 January 2004)

SOURCE: Review of Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen, by Marissa Moss, illustrated by C. F. Payne. Publishers Weekly 251, no. 3 (19 January 2004): 76.

Delivered with the force of a hard fastball, [Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen, ] the true story of athlete Jackie Mitchell makes a strong addition to Moss's (Amelia's Notebook ) library of brave girl tales. Payne (Casey at the Bat) sets the stage with photo-real, fish-eye-distorted spreads of Jackie as a child, hurling baseballs long after nightfall and getting tips from Dodgers pitcher Dazzy Vance. Moss relays the details of then-17-year-old Jackie's April 2, 1931, game against the two best hitters of the day—Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig—with the blow-by-blow breathlessness of a sportscaster and the confidence of a seasoned storyteller: "Jackie held that ball like it was part of her arm, and when she threw it, she knew exactly where it would go." Payne's pictures mirror the text's immediacy. Close-ups show Ruth's face as he awaits Jackie's first pitch, then later his expression of dismay and outrage as the umpire calls "Strrrrike three!" Jackie disposes of Gehrig even more expeditiously, and the story ends as she basks in the cheers of fans who had jeered her only moments before. The wind seeps out of this jubilant moment when readers old enough to understand the end note discover that Jackie was immediately removed from her team and banned from baseball (the commissioner claimed his decision was for her own protection, as baseball was "too strenuous" for women, according to an author's note). Yet the drama of her two memorable strike-outs has a mythic dimension, and girls with sporting aspirations will be thrilled by Jackie's legacy. Ages 5-8.

Elizabeth Bush (review date March 2004)

SOURCE: Bush, Elizabeth. Review of Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen, by Marissa Moss, illustrated by C. F. Payne. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 57, no. 7 (March 2004): 289.

Power pitcher Jackie Mitchell may have been short-changed by the major leagues, but she's getting her due in children's books. The chapter-book crowd was introduced in Jean L. S. Patrick's The Girl Who Struck Out Babe Ruth (BCCB 6/00), and now the picture-book audience makes Jackie's acquaintance with an account that delves further back into her childhood [in Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen ], depicting her practicing tirelessly with her father and a bull's-eye painted on the siding, learning some tricks from Dazzy Vance, and advancing her dream of "playing in the World Series." As Moss points out in her concluding note, Jackie never made it that far. After one triumphant game in which the young woman struck out both the Babe and Lou Gehrig, she was banned from major and minor league ball and only played on the sly for small teams. There are some important questions left unanswered, such as how an eight-year-old came to be coached by a star pitcher and how she made her break in signing with the Chattanooga Lookouts in the first place. The focus here, however, as in Patrick's work, is on Mitchell's day of fame, and Payne's heroic mixed-media illustrations do their subject full justice. Payne, who's worked the diamond in Bildner's Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy (BCCB 2/02) and Thayer's Casey at the Bat (2/03), knows just how to zero in on a player's attitude. Jackie, with the slightly elongated shoes that root her to the mound and delicately detailed fingers caressing the ball, glares determinedly into the distance in a pose that begs to be cast in bronze, while a close-up of Babe Ruth, equally determined, presents a man who, in that moment, believes himself to be incapable of defeat. This is a tale worth telling, and there's every reason to acquire another angle on the story.

FURTHER READING

Criticism

O'Hara, Sheilamae. Review of Knick Knack Paddywack, by Marissa Moss. Booklist 88, no. 21 (July 1992): 1941.

Compliments Moss's verse and illustrations in Knick Knack Paddywack.

Phelan, Carolyn. Review of The All-New Amelia and Luv, Amelia Luv, Nadia, by Marissa Moss. Booklist 96, no. 5 (1 November 1999): 530.

Offers a positive assessment of two additions to Moss's "Amelia" series—The All-New Amelia and Luv, Amelia Luv, Nadia.

Weisman, Kay. Review of Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl, by Marissa Moss. Booklist 95, no. 3 (1 October 1998): 330.

Evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl.

Additional coverage of Moss's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Gale: Contemporary Authors, Vol. 171; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 130; Literature Resource Center; and Something about the Author, Vols. 71, 104, 163.

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