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Klise, M. Sarah 1961-

Klise, M. Sarah 1961-

Personal

Born December 31, 1961, in Peoria, IL; daughter of Thomas S. (a writer and film producer) and Marjorie A. (president of Thomas S. Klise Co.) Klise. Education: Marquette University, graduate.

Addresses

Home and office—2830 8th St., Berkeley, CA 94710. Agent—William Corsa, Specialty Book Marketing, Inc., 443 Park Ave. S., Ste. 806, New York, NY 10016. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Illustrator and designer of books. Chinatown Young Artist Program, San Francisco, CA, founder and teacher.

Illustrator

FOR CHILDREN; WITH SISTER, KATE KLISE

Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Letters from Camp, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Trial by Journal, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

Shall I Knit You a Hat?: A Christmas Yarn, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2004.

Regarding the Sink: Where, Oh Where, Did Waters Go?, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.

Regarding the Trees: A Splintered Saga Rooted in Secrets, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2005.

Why Do You Cry?: Not a Sob Story, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2006.

Regarding the Bathrooms: A Privy to the Past, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2006.

Imagine Harry, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

Regarding the Bees: A Lesson, in Letters, on Honey, Dating, and Other Sticky Subjects, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

Little Rabbit and the Nightmare, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2008.

43 Old Cemetery Road: The First Summer, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2008.

Sidelights

M. Sarah Klise and her sister Kate Klise share a love of writing and receiving letters, and this is at the heart of their novels for middle-grade students. In their first book, Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks, the simple job of replacing the drinking fountain at Missouri's Dry Creek Middle School becomes preternaturally complicated once local fountain designer Florence Waters is called in. Flo invites Mr. Sam N.'s fifth-grade class—including Tad Poll, Gil, Lily, and Paddy—to help design the new fountain, and various members of the community must also be consulted and pacified. As Flo moves through the town like a force of nature, the story morphs into a romp told via the letters, memos, faxes, postcards, and newspaper clippings circulating among school principal Walter Russ, members of Mr. Sam N.'s class, school board president Sally Mander, and Mr. D. Eel, owner of the municipal water company. Soon the mystery behind why the town is permanently in a state of drought is revealed, as is the role played by the old, leaky school water fountain in keeping it so.

In Regarding the Fountain "the hilarious shenanigans are unremitting; the puns flow faster than the leaks in the old fountain," observed Nancy Vasilakis in Horn Book. M. Sarah Klise's contribution lies in creating the graphic design of the various items of correspondence that comprise each page. Though the mystery may not be too difficult to unravel, according to Rita Soltan in School Library Journal, "it is still fun to continue reading the diverse pages, all in different fonts with eclectic drawings, just to see how the mystery will be revealed and solved." Susan Dove Lempke, reviewing Regarding the Fountain for Booklist, likewise wrote that while the scheme for the novel is "a trifle gimmicky," author and illustrator "carry it off extraordinarily well," and the graphic presentation of the story will attract even reluctant readers.

Using their unique format, the Klise sisters continue the adventures of Mr. Sam N's class in Regarding the Sink: Where, Oh Where, Did Waters Go?, Regarding the Trees: A Splintered Saga Rooted in Secrets, Regarding the Bathrooms: A Privy to the Past, and Regarding the Bees: A Lesson, in Letters, on Honey, Dating, and Other Sticky Subjects. Dry Creek Middle School has been renamed Geyser Creek Middle School in Regarding the Sink, and in a graphically engaging mix of letters, memos, school announcements, e-mails, and drawings readers follow Flo Waters' efforts to design a new sink for the school cafeteria until her sudden disappearance—and its links to the machinations of the evil Senator Sue Ergass—prompts the members of Sam N.'s sixth-grade class to uncover her whereabouts. In Horn Book Susan P. Bloom had special praise for M. Sarah Klise's "inventive layouts and typography," while in Booklist Francisca Goldsmith noted that "the array of nicely designed documentation" combine with a surprise ending to "keep many young bibliophiles content."

In Regarding the Trees "the puns fall faster than autumn leaves," according to Horn Book contributor Susan P. Bloom. Worried over an upcoming school evaluation, Principal Russ asks Flo to assist in trimming the school trees, sparking student protests, a town uprising, and a cooking face-off between two local chefs. All ends well, however, and romance even blooms. Police reports take their place among letters, newspaper articles, and other communications in Regarding the Bathrooms, as the principal's hope of renovating a basement bathroom during summer session is stalled when several escaped convicts are found hiding in the building, along with a cache of stolen Roman antiquities. The action moves to seventh grade in Regarding the Bees, as budding student romances, stresses over standardized tests, and difficulties surrounding the school mascot's appearance at a regional spelling bee result in a flurry of humorous visual communication.

Calling Regarding the Trees as "filled with humor and whimsical characters," Shelle Rosenfeld added in Booklist that "kids will enjoy the peppy, multiformat read." In her School Library Journal review, Cheryl Ashton noted that "each page" of the book "is painstakingly laid out in scrapbook form," and a Kirkus Reviews writer dubbed Regarding the Trees "consistently clever and often hilarious."

In addition to Regarding the Fountain and its sequels, the Klise sisters use letters, notes, newspaper articles, and other missives to tell the story in Letters from Camp and Trial by Journal. In Letters from Camp, three pairs of siblings suffer from more than a little rivalry. Frustrated, their parents ship them off to Camp Harmony, there to get a lesson in getting along from the Harmony siblings, a former family singing act and now owners of the camp. As the children suffer through endless chores and terrible food, they begin to realize that the Harmonys are secretly trying to kill each other off. Their own squabbling diminishes as the siblings join forces to solve the mystery that lies at the heart of the Harmony family ranch, in the process learning how to get along,

just as the camp brochure promised! Like Regarding the Fountain, Letters from Camp features M. Sarah Klise's graphic art, and "each page is a collage of written evidence through which the story unfolds," according to Connie Tyrrell Burns in School Library Journal. Burns went on to predict that Letters from Camp will appeal most to "students with a wacky sense of humor."

In Trial by Journal twelve-year-old Lily Watson faces a difficult choice: either attend summer school or become a jury member in a murder trial and write a report about the experience. (Because of a fictional state law in Missouri, juveniles can participate on juries in cases where a juvenile was the victim of the crime.) Lily decides to take the second option and help decide the fate of Bob White, a zoo employee accused of killing eleven-year-old Perry Keet. Using their trademark puns and humor, the Klises create what a Publishers Weekly critic called a "three-ring circus" that "will set in motion readers' flights of fancy from beginning to end." According to a Horn Book reviewer, in Trial by Journal "Klise matches her sister's sense of fun with outrageous layouts and sketches throughout the text."

While most of their books are geared toward middle-grade readers, the Klise sisters also turn their attention to younger children in the picture books Shall I Knit You a Hat?: A Christmas Yarn and Why Do You Cry?: Not a Sob Story. In Shall I Knit You a Hat? Mother Rabbit decided to knit a warm blue hat to cover Little Rabbit's ears. The bunny loves his hat so much that he wants all his friends to have one to, and his doting mother begins a flurry of knitting that results in custom-made caps for horse, goose, and others, all in time for Christmas. Little Rabbit turns five in Why Do You Cry?, and when he decides to invite only friends too big to burst into tears, the bunny learns that crying can be appropriate at certain times, no matter what one's age. Calling Shall I Knit You a Hat? "a promising picture-book debut," Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper wrote that M. Sarah Klise's "acrylic artwork glows with humor and radiates warmth," while in Kirkus Reviews a contributor praised the artist for "incorporat[ing] … clever, whimsical details into her paintings." The "warm acrylic illustrations" she contributes to Why Do You Cry? "have a retro quality and are full of humor and detail," noted Robin L. Gibson in a School Library Journal review of the picture-book collaboration, while in Publishers Weekly a critic wrote that M. Sarah Klise "sidesteps preciousness" in bringing to life her sister's gentle story "by virtue of her crisp shapes and radiant, saturated colors."

Klise once told SATA: "As a child, I wondered if adults were paid to work or if one was required to pay for the opportunity TO work. I never could remember which way it went. Many years later, I sometimes feel the same way. It is such an honor to be able to draw pictures for children's books that I think I would PAY to do it—please don't tell our publisher this. I have to feed my three cats! I get to be part-architect, part-inventor, part-designer, and part-just-about-anything-else-you-can-think-of.

"I am also lucky to get to collaborate with my sister, Kate Klise, author. Because there are four states in between our homes, we rely on letters, packages, e-mail, phone calls, and visits to create our books. We have collaborated on books since we were children, knowing early on that Kate had a knack for telling funny stories and that I could draw pictures that sort of looked how they were supposed to. In a pinch, she would write a short story for me and I would illustrate research papers for her.

"Over the years we became great pen pals. These many, many letters and the many letters from our parents and siblings became the framework for our books. Everyone loves to get a piece of mail. Correspondence can be secret and very personal. We both hope that writing letters, like making valentines and Christmas cards and sending postcards from across town, never becomes a thing of the past but remains a part of our daily lives."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks, p. 2006; September 1, 2001, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Trial by Journal, p. 106; September 1, 2004, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Regarding the Sink: Where, Oh Where, Did Waters Go?, p. 124; December 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Shall I Knit You a Hat?: A Christmas Yarn, p. 659; November 1, 2005, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Regarding the Trees: A Splintered Saga Rooted in Secrets, p. 47; May 1, 2006, Kathleen Odean, review of Why Do You Cry?: Not a Sob Story, p. 92; September 1, 2006, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Regarding the Bathroom: A Privy to the Past, p. 129.

Horn Book, May-June, 1998, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Regarding the Fountain, p. 345; May-June, 2001, Susan P. Brabander, review of Trial by Journal, p. 328; September-October, 2004, Susan P. Bloom, review of Regarding the Sink, p. 588; September-October, 2005, Susan P. Bloom, review of Regarding the Trees, p. 582.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2004, review of Regarding the Sink, p. 688; November 1, 2004, review of Shall I Knit You a Hat?, p. 1051; July 15, 2005, review of Regarding the Trees, p. 792; May 15, 2006, review of Why Do You Cry?, p. 519; July 15, 2006, review of Regarding the Bathrooms, p. 725.

New York Times Book Review, December 19, 2004, J.D. Biersdorfer, review of Shall I Knit You a Hat?, p. 26.

Publishers Weekly, April 30, 2001, review of Trial by Journal, p. 78; September 27, 2004, review of Shall I Knit You a Hat?, p. 61; May 1, 2006, review of Why Do You Cry?, p. 62.

School Library Journal, June, 1998, Rita Soltan, review of Regarding the Fountain, p. 147; June, 1999, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of Letters from Camp, p. 132; June, 2001, Sharon McNeil, review of Trial by Journal, p. 152; October, 2004, Jean Gaffney, review of Regarding the Sink, p. 170; November, 2005, Cheryl Ashton, review of Regarding the Trees, p. 138; July, 2006, review of Why Do You Cry?, p. 80; August, 2006, Wendy Woodfill, review of Regarding the Bathrooms, p. 123.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), July 16, 2006, Mary Harris Russell, review of Why Do You Cry?, p. 7.

ONLINE

Kate and M. Sarah Klise Home Page,http://www.kateandsarahklise.com (May 10, 2007).

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