Catanese, P.W. 1961-

views updated

Catanese, P.W. 1961-


Born April 19, 1961, in Mineola, NY; son of Ralph (a U.S. postal inspector) and Muriel Catanese; married; wife's name Lisa (a writer); children: Kristina, Michael, Andrew. Education: University of Connecticut, B.A. 1983.


Home—CT. Agent—Peter Rubie, The Peter Rubie Literary Agency, 240 W. 35th St., Ste. 500, New York, NY 10001. E-mail—[email protected].


Children's book author and cartoonist. Writer for advertising, beginning 1984.



The Thief and the Beanstalk, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.

The Brave Apprentice, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.

The Eye of the Warlock, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.

The Mirror's Tale, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.

The Riddle of the Gnome, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.


In his novels for children, P.W. Catanese revisits the lives of well-known fairy-tale characters, but focuses on events as they unfold decades after the initial magic has transpired. In his first novel, The Thief and the Beanstalk, for instance, agile young Jack who climbed a beanstalk, outsmarted a giant, and won the goose that lays golden eggs has grown old. In Catanese's tale, Jack becomes the target of a group of thieves who want the riches in his lavish castle. When young Nick is recruited to venture into Jack's castle, he decides to climb the same beanstalk, but what he finds at the top is far more menacing than Jack's giant. The story of Hansel and Gretel is the starting-off point for The Eye of the Warlock, which follows three children on a journey that draws them into a magic world that they hope will yield its treasure. The Brave Apprentice finds another plucky lad determined to fill the shoes of the Brave Little Tailor half a century before, and vanquish a new generation of giants who are not intimidated by old stories. Noting that The Brave Apprentice benefits from "a brave young hero … and some really horrific trolls," School Library Journal contributor Susan L. Rogers added that Catanese's "characters are interestingly depicted." Reviewing The Mirror's Tale, which revisits the Snow White saga, Sue Giffard noted in the same periodical that, with the story's "exciting and action-filled climax," the novel will appeal to readers seeking "fast-paced, easily read adventure fantasy." Also citing the series' appeal to reluctant readers, a Publishers Weekly reviewer explained of The Thief and the Beanstalk that, while "Catanese smartly plumbs this well-known story for all its moral ambiguity," his "plot brims with perilous battles, narrow escapes and truly icky elements."

Catanese told SATA: "I don't know how many writers can tell you the exact moment that led to them becoming an author, but I can. It happened several years ago. I'd been reading a lot of fairy tales to my kids at the time, including Jack and the Beanstalk. I thought it would be interesting to read a vividly descriptive scene of the giant beanstalk erupting from the ground—something that happens ‘off-screen’ in the original story. So, just to entertain myself really, I sat down and started to write it. And then I wanted some human reactions in the scene, so I wrote in a boy and some bad guys, without really knowing who they were or why they were there. And working backwards and forwards from that, I created the whole story around it.

"During that embryonic stage of creating the story, I decided almost immediately that I didn't want to do a retelling of the original fairy tale. Instead, I chose to write about what occurs many years later, because it seemed like a fresher approach. And that became the basis for The Thief and the Beanstalk, and the rest of my first five novels—each tells about what happens forty, sixty, or one hundred years after the events of a classic fairy tale such as Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, or Rumpelstiltskin. I take the loose threads of the original story and use them to weave an exciting, fast-paced new adventure. My characters walk in the footsteps of the original heroes, and the echoes of the old stories are strong, but the stakes are higher, the action is grander, and the emotions run deeper."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Kliatt, November, 2005, Deirdre Root, review of The Brave Apprentice, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, August 8, 2005, review of The Thief and the Beanstalk, p. 235.

School Library Journal, July, 2005, Beth Wright, review of The Thief and the Beanstalk, p. 100; October, 2005, Susan L. Rogers, review of The Brave Apprentice, p. 156; August, 2006, Sue Giffard, review of The Mirror's Tale, p. 117.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 2005, Melissa Moore, review of The Thief and the Beanstalk, p. 144; August, 2005, Melissa Moore, review of The Brave Apprentice, p. 231; April, 2007, Melissa Moore, review of Riddle of the Gnome, p. 62.


P.W. Catanese Home Page, (June 15, 2007).