Married; husband's name Roger; children: Melissa Broker. Hobbies and other interests: Music, theatre, reading, writing, swimming, boating, walking the beach.
Home—FL. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Lerner Publications/Millbrook Press, 1251 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis, MN 55401. E-mail—[email protected]
Children's book author. Former children's librarian; former educator in New York. Worked as a director of children's theatre.
International Reading Association, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (Florida affiliate), Authors Guild, Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, Florida Reading Association, Florida Association of Media Educators.
North American Publishing Company Gold Ink Award, Pewter Award, 2002, for Seashells by the Seashore; Florida Reading Association (FRA) award, 2004–05, and Science Books and Films Best Books designation, both for Marsh Morning; Math and Science Teachers' Choice Gold Award, 2006; National Parenting Publications Gold Award, 2006; Benjamin Franklin Silver Award; Blue Hen Picture Book Award; FRA Best Children's Picture Books nomination, 2007, for Over in the Ocean, in a Coral Reef.
Marsh Music, illustrated by Robert Noreika, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2000.
Seashells by the Seashore, illustrated by Robert Noreika, Dawn Publications (Nevada City, CA), 2002.
Marsh Morning, illustrated by Robert Noreika, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2003.
Over in the Ocean, in a Coral Reef, illustrated by Jeanette Canyon, Dawn Publications (Nevada City, CA), 2004.
Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme, illustrated by Jeanette Canyon, Dawn Publications (Nevada City, CA), 2007.
Work in Progress
Over in the Universe: A Far-out Rhyme, forthcoming 2008.
Children's book author Marianne Berkes was an early-childhood educator in New York state prior to moving south in 1990 and becoming a children's librarian in Florida. Since retiring from this job, Berkes now divides her time between writing and speaking at schools, libraries, and conferences where she describes the publishing process and reads from her award-winning children's picture books.
Berkes' Marsh Music and Marsh Morning are both inspired by the cacophony of sounds the author heard emanating from the pond in the backyard of her Florida home. As the author stated on her home page: "I enjoy writing about things that interest me.… And I love to do the research. For example, I have always been fascinated with frogs, and when I moved to Florida, I couldn't believe the variety of sounds that came from the pond in the back of my home. I recorded them. Then, of course, I needed to find out which frog was making which sound; that required a lot of research." Both books utilize a rhyming text and are accompanied by lush watercolor illustrations by Connecticut artist Robert Noreika.
In Marsh Music Berkes transports readers to a Florida marsh at nighttime, as a hefty bull frog named Maestro oversees "a symphony of frogs plunking spider webs, playing pod instruments, and making sounds" that teach children the basics of musical tempo, according to Booklist contributor Connie Fletcher. In similar fashion, Marsh Morning focuses on dawn in the marsh lands. In the latter book Berkes uses both music and metaphor to illustrate the rustling that starts each day for the varied wildlife in this natural setting, moving her focus from frogs to birds. For curious young naturalists, she includes a glossary of terms and a list of the bird varieties depicted in Noreika's illustrations. Booklist reviewer Julie Cummins called Marsh Morning "great … for budding young birders," while Nancy Cull, writing in School Library Journal, dubbed the book "excellent."
In Seashells by the Seashore Berkes once again utilizes a rhyming text. This time she focuses on a young girl named Sue as she collects a dozen shells to give to her grandmother as a birthday present. Watercolor illustrations by Noreika depict Sue as, together with her brother and a friend, scavenges along the beach in search of colorful shells. As readers turn each page, a sidebar depicts the collection of shells as it grows, each new addition including a descriptive label. School Library Journal critic Gay Lynn Van Vleck noted that "Berkes offers ample facts in her rhymes, and gives a short paragraph of information on each type of shell on a spread at the end," creating a book that departs lessons to "young beachcombers."
In Over in the Ocean, in a Coral Reef the reef is teeming with parents and their children, and children count and clap to the rhythm of "Over in the Meadow" while pufferfish "puff," gruntfish "grunt," and seahorses flutter. The colorful art by Jeanette Canyon is constructed entirely from polymer clay, and in a review for Kirkus Reviews, a contributor dubbed Canyon's illustrations "eye-popping."
Berkes told SATA: "Music, nature, and the sea have always been a constant in my life. My parents were both very musical and loved nature. My father was a boat builder and I grew up on the Long Island Sound. In the summer, we would often spend a few weeks in the Catskill Mountains, so I had the best of both worlds. I always loved the outdoors and wished more kids today could have the opportunities I had growing up—to really get out and play in nature. I would ride my bike for hours or hike through the woods with my friends until it was time to come home for supper. I think those experiences really inspired me to write about nature in a lyrical kind of way!
"I love reading the stories in my books to children. However, I also want them to get inside the storybook, as they discover even more, and eventually experience the real thing!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, December 1, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of Marsh Music, p. 716; March 1, 2002, Ellen Mandel, review of Seashells by the Seashore, p. 1137; March 15, 2003, Julie Cummins, review of Marsh Morning, p. 1328.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2004, review of Over in the Ocean, in a Coral Reef, p. 860.
School Library Journal, April, 2002, Gay Lynn Van Vleck, review of Seashells by the Seashore, p. 100; April, 2003, Nancy Call, review of Marsh Morning, p. 116.
Marianne Berkes Home Page,http://www.marianneberkes.com (September 10, 2006).