Carbone, Elisa 1954-

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Carbone, Elisa 1954-


First name is pronounced "ay-lee-za"; born January 2, 1954, in Washington, DC; daughter of Mauro Gregory (a veterinarian) and Lynn (a homemaker; maiden name, Solar) Carbone; married Jeff Nugent, December, 1973 (divorced, 1987); married Jim Casbarian (a photographer); children: (first marriage) Daniel Micah, Rachel Elisa. Education: University of Maryland, B.A., 1985, M.A. (speech communication), 1988, M.A. (education), 2001. Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Rock climbing, windsurfing, cross-country skiing, white water paddling.


Home and office—1324 Canyon Rd., Silver Spring, MD 20904-1406. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Knopf Delacorte Dell Young Readers Group, 1745 Broadway, 9th Fl., New York, NY 10019. E-mail—[email protected]


Independent consultant and trainer of teaching and communication skills, 1973—; University of Maryland, College Park, lecturer in speech communication, 1985-98; visiting author at public and private schools, 1993-98. Full-time writer, 1998—.


Authors Guild, Authors League of America.

Awards, Honors

Benjamin Franklin Award finalist in psychology category, Publishers Marketing Association, and Young Hoosier Book Award nominee, both 1993, both for My Dad's Definitely Not a Drunk; Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice master list, and Children's Literature Choice List, 1999, both for Starting School with an Enemy; Virginia Jefferson Cup Award citation, Arizona Young Readers Award nominee, Young Hoosier Book Award nominee, Maryland Children's Book Award nominee, Joan Sugarman Award honorable mention, Mark Twain Award Master List selection, and Best Book for Young Adults selection, American Library Association (ALA), all for Stealing Freedom; Kid's Pick of the Lists, American Booksellers Association, for Sarah and the Naked Truth; Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, Best Children's Book designation, Bank Street College of Education, Notable Children's Book selection, ALA, Junior Library Guild selection, and Jefferson Cup Award, Virginia Library Association, all 2002, and Delaware Blue Hen Award nominee, and Virginia Young Readers Middle School List selection, both 2003-04, all for Storm Warriors.


My Dad's Definitely Not a Drunk, Waterfront Books (Burlington, VT), 1992, new edition published as Corey's Story: Her Family's Secret, illustrated by Sally J.K. Davies, Waterfront Books (Burlington, VT), 1997.

Teaching Large Classes: Tools and Strategies, Sage (Thousand Oaks, CA), 1998.

Starting School with an Enemy, Knopf (New York, NY), 1998.

Stealing Freedom, Knopf (New York, NY), 1998.

Sarah and the Naked Truth, Knopf (New York, NY), 2000.

Storm Warriors, Knopf (New York, NY), 2001.

The Pack, Viking (New York, NY), 2003.

Last Dance on Holladay Street, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.

Blood on the River: James Town 1607, Viking (New York, NY), 2006.

Work in Progress

Night Running: How James Escaped with the Help of His Faithful Dog, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, Knopf (New York, NY), expected 2008.


Elisa Carbone writes both contemporary and historical fiction for young adults. An avid rock climber, windsurfer, and white-water paddler, Carbone claimed on her home page that "what those dangerous sports do for me is teach my brain to focus. Then, when it comes time to write, I've got the focus I need to write a good story." As Julia Durango described it in the Ottawa, Illinois Daily Times, "when she's not climbing rocks or windsurfing or paddling through white water rapids, Carbone writes books that are as quick-paced and exciting as her real life adventures."

Carbone was born in Washington, DC, on January 2, 1954, and grew up in Arlington, Virginia. "I wrote my first book before I learned how to write," Carbone declared on her home page. Not yet five years old, she announced to her veterinarian father that she wanted to dictate a story to him, and she did over the course of the following weeks. The finished product was typed up by her mother with illustrations supplied by the precocious junior author. "Between age four and a half and my early thirties, which is when I decided to write my second book," Carbone continued, "I had a few adventures." After high school graduation, Carbone lived with relatives in Italy for a time and learned to speak Italian. Married as a teenager, she had two children early in her life and has worked variously as a piano, guitar, and dance instructor, as well as a professional dancer. As her children grew up, she found time to earn her college degree, and she eventually began a career as a college instructor.

Carbone's first book, My Dad's Definitely Not a Drunk, appeared in 1992. The book tells of Corey, a sixth grader who wishes for a normal family life in which her father does not drink so much alcohol. If he were more like other parents, she reasons, he could hold down a job. Carbone deals with many of the dangerous side effects of a parent's alcoholism, including abusive behavior, drunk driving, and employment problems. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found that the author "believably weaves" such realistic elements into Corey's tale. My Dad's Definitely Not a Drunk was reprinted in 1997 as Corey's Story: Her Family's Secret, and in a Horn Book review of that title, Martha Sibert commented that Carbone's well-executed development of Corey's character "serves to draw readers into her story."

From the subject of alcoholism, Carbone moves on to the problem of school bullies in Starting School with an Enemy. Sarah has just moved with her family from Maine to Maryland. When she saves a small boy on a tricycle from being hit by a truck, the boy's older brother, Eric, misinterprets the event and assumes Sarah pushed his brother over to bully him. Consequently, when school starts, Sarah has an enemy, and as Eric begins to pick on her the fighting escalates. A contributor for Publishers Weekly praised the book, commenting that "readers will cheer rather than pity spunky Sarah." A critic for Kirkus Reviews found that Carbone "delivers a difficult lesson in an exciting tale."

Sarah makes a reprise in Sarah and the Naked Truth. After she undergoes a bubblegum mishap, Sarah's hair is cut so short that she is mistakenly accepted on the boys' basketball team at her church. As the team approaches the finals, Sarah is faced with a decision: either tell the coach the truth and sink the team's chances to win, or lie to the coach and help her team win the championship. Meanwhile, Sarah's friend Christina has been chosen to participate in the Mexican pageant at school, even though she is from El Salvador. Angry but scared, Christina also wonders whether to tell the truth. School Library Journal contributor Linda L. Plevak remarked that "readers will enjoy some of the lighter moments" in Carbone's novel, while Hazel Rochman wrote in Booklist that "there's humor and humanity in the friendship depicted."

With Stealing Freedom, Carbone presents a novel based on the actual life of teenaged Maryland slave Ann Maria Weems. Ann managed to escape to Canada, disguised as a boy, in the 1850s via the Underground Railroad. Rochman, again writing in Booklist, observed that the novel "combines the appeal of exciting escape adventure with authentic details of time and place." A contributor for Publishers Weekly praised Stealing Freedom as "dramatic" and "often poignant." "This is a fine piece of historical fiction with a strong, appealing heroine," declared Peggy Morgan in a School Library Journal review.

Set in the 1890s, Storm Warriors is another piece of historical fiction dealing with African-American themes. When fourteen-year-old Nathan's mother dies, the boy, his father, and his grandfather go to live on Pea Island off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Working as fishermen, the three encounter the Pea Island surfmen, a rescue station manned by freed black slaves as part of the U.S. Government's Life-saving Service. Nathan becomes enamored with the work the surfmen do to save shipwrecked sailors off the treacherous coast. His dream to become a surfman eventually grows into a desire to be a doctor, something the local black community desperately needs. According to Keith Sorenson in Kliatt, "the book deals well with racism and realizing one's dreams." Horn Book reviewer Mary M. Burns noted that Carbone's story "combines historical figures with created characters in the best traditions of the historical novel," while a critic for Book Report called Storm Warriors "a wonderful novel for young adults." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that "suspenseful descriptions of the rescue crew's feats, and the affecting passages between Nathan and his loving grandfather are the novel's greatest strength."

Carbone presents a bit of fantasy in her 2003 novel, The Pack. The book tells the story of a strange new boy, Akhil Vyas, who enrolls at a suburban high school. Akhil is covered with scars, would rather sit on the floor than on a chair, and walks out of class whenever something bothers him. Fifteen-year-old Becky and her friend Omar befriend Akhil, and eventually learns that he was raised by a wolf pack in India. Together, the three school friends work against another student, Kyle, who seems to be plotting a dramatic act of violence. "While Akhil's character is not entirely believable, this is a highly entertaining story," Bruce Anne Shook noted in School Library Journal. While Paula Rohrlick, writing in Kliatt, characterized Carbone's novel as an "effective if melodramatic story of school violence," Todd Morning, reviewing the title for Booklist, noted that the story, "told in Becky's first-person narrative, effectively captures the voice of an intelligent, insecure teenager."

With Last Dance on Holladay Street, Carbone returns again to historical fiction. This time her story is set in the American West and finds thirteen-year-old Eva Wilkins travelling to Denver to find her birth mother after the deaths of both her stepparents. Eva learns that her mother works as a prostitute in one of Denver's brothels on Holladay Street. More than that, she finds that her mother is white, while Eva has darker skin. She also finds that she has an older, white half-sister who works at the brothel as well. Reuniting with her birth family, Eva is put to work dancing with customers, but she fears she will eventually be put to work "upstairs." The strong-willed teen must now search for a way to allow her mother, half-sister, and herself to earn a decent livelihood and independence from prostitution. Anna M. Nelson, reviewing Last Dance on Holladay Street for School Library Journal, wrote that Carbone's novel "works well on two levels: it is a good historical picture of life in the city and the country of the late 1800s, and it is also a triumph of the female spirit over the oppressive choices women sometimes face."

As Carbone explained home page, she was inspired to write Last Dance on Holladay Street after doing historical research: "When I first learned about the brothels in the 1800s and how young women and girls were coerced and pressured into working there, I was struck by the parallels with what is going on today, with young girls often being pressured into sexual activity when they are much too young. I wanted to write a story that would be empowering to young readers, that would help them see the value in sticking up for themselves, being strong and being true to themselves, and most importantly, NOT giving in to peer pressure."

Carbone retained the historical emphasis with Blood on the River: James Town 1607, published in 2006. In this novel, she recounts the founding of the Jamestown, Virginia settlement as seen through the eyes of Samuel Collier, a teenaged page to colony leader Captain John Smith. In addition to Smith, other real-life historical figures make appearances in Carbone's narrative, including Pocahantas, whom Samuel encounters during his stay at the fort. Though Samuel's story is the focus, Carbone also provides readers with a greater sense of the conflict between the settlers and the native Powhatan tribe; as well as between Captain Smith and the men he leads. Booklist critic Gillian Engberg commented that Carbone's extensive research enhances the story, although the level of historical detail "may tire readers who demand high-action plots." Beth L. Meister, writing in School Library Journal, remarked that Carbone's inclusion of "details about food and daily life add realism to the story," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor called Blood on the River "lively historical fiction at its best."

Speaking with Julie Durango of the Ottawa, Illinois Daily Times, Carbone noted that work on historical novels is much more labor-intensive than on lighter fiction, such as the "Sarah" books. "I researched and wrote the ‘Sarah’ books in about six months each," she told Durango, "while Storm Warriors and Stealing Freedom each took nearly three years to research and write." However, Carbone maintains that each book has the same technical requirements. "Whether I'm writing historical or contemporary [fiction], I still have to solve problems with the plot, make characters real, make sure my writing flows in that way; neither type of book is really ‘easier.’ And both types are wonderfully fun to write, just in different ways."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, September 15, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Starting School with an Enemy, p. 226; January 1, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Stealing Freedom, p. 855; February 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Stealing Freedom, p. 1068; March 15, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Sarah and the Naked Truth, p. 1376; January 1, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of Storm Warriors, p. 956; February 15, 2003, Todd Morning, review of The Pack, p. 1064; February 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of Last Dance on Holladay Street, p. 954; April 15, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Blood on the River: James Town 1607, p. 58.

Book Report, September-October, 2001, Deborah Hopkinson, review of Storm Warriors, p. 59.

Buffalo News, April 23, 2003, Jean Westmoore, review of The Pack, p. N12.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 1998, Deborah Stevenson, review of Starting School with an Enemy, pp. 276-277; January, 1999, Elizabeth Bush, review of Stealing Freedom, p. 162.

Daily Times (Ottawa, IL), August 6, 2002, Julia Durango, "The Amazing Adventures of Elisa Carbone."

Denver Post, June 15, 2003, Claire Martin, review of The Pack, p. EE2; April 17, 2005, Claire Martin, review of Last Dance on Holladay Street, p. F12.

Horn Book, July-December, 1997, Martha Sibert, review of Corey's Story: Her Family's Secret, p. 69; July- December, 1998, Henrietta M. Smith, review of Stealing Freedom, p. 63; May-June, 2001, Mary M. Burns, review of Storm Warriors, pp. 319-320.

Journal of Further and Higher Education, February, 1999, Phyllis Creme, review of Teaching Large Classes, pp. 134-136.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1998, review of Starting School with an Enemy, p. 809; April 1, 2003, review of The Pack, p. 531; February 1, 2005, review of Last Dance on Holladay Street, p. 174; April 1, 2006, review of Blood on the River, p. 343.

Kliatt, March, 2003, Paula Rohrlick, review of The Pack, p. 9, and Keith Sorenson, review of Storm Warriors, p. 20; March, 2005, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Last Dance on Holladay Street, p. 8.

Potomac Review, fall, 2000, John Goodspeed, "Hostages of History," p. 112.

Publishers Weekly, October 12, 1992, review of My Dad's Definitely Not a Drunk, p. 80; June 8, 1998, review of Starting School with an Enemy, p. 60; December 7, 1998, review of Stealing Freedom, p. 61; April 3, 2000, review of Sarah and the Naked Truth, p. 81; December 18, 2000, review of Storm Warriors, p. 78; January 8, 2001, review of Stealing Freedom, p. 69; March 17, 2003, review of The Pack, p. 77.

Reading Today, February, 2001, Lynne T. Burke, review of Storm Warriors, p. 32.

School Library Journal, November, 1992, Jacqueline Rose, review of My Dad's Definitely Not a Drunk, p. 116; July, 1998, Eva Mitnick, review of Starting School with an Enemy, p. 92; February, 1999, Peggy Morgan, review of Stealing Freedom, p. 105; April, 2000, Linda L. Plevak, review of Sarah and the Naked Truth, p. 130; March, 2003, Bruce Anne Shook, review of The Pack, p. 228; April, 2005, Anna M. Nelson, review of Last Dance on Holladay Street, p. 129; July, 2006, Beth L. Meister, review of Blood on the River, p. 98.


Cynsations, (March 28, 2005), Cynthia Leitich Smith, interview with Carbone.

Elisa Carbone Home Page, (October 6, 2002).