Kraft, Erik P.
Kraft, Erik P.
Male. Education: Vermont College, M.F.A., 2000.
Home—Box 230508, Astor Station, Boston, MA 02123. E-mail—[email protected]
Chocolatina, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, BridgeWater Books (Mahwah, NJ), 1998.
(And illustrator) Lenny and Mel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
(And illustrator) Lenny and Mel's Summer Vacation, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
(And illustrator) Lenny and Mel: After-School Confidential, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
Miracle Wimp (young-adult novel), Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2007.
Children's book reviewer for Boston Book Review.
"I always wanted to be a writer, once I realized that was even a possibility," author and illustrator Erik P. Kraft told an online interviewer for the Powells Web site. Although it took some time for Kraft to reach his chosen profession—including a stint working as a vacuum-cleaner salesman—he now works as a writer and illustrator of books for children and young adults, as well as serving as an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University.
With Lenny and Mel, Kraft introduces two recurring characters in his chapter books. Twin brothers, Lenny and Mel get summer odd jobs, celebrate holidays with wacky antics, and investigate after-school clubs for their middle-school paper. Lenny and Mel follows the pair through the American holiday cycle, introducing concepts like the "Leftover Fairy" who visits after Thanksgiving. While describing the chapters as uneven, Shannon R. Pearce noted in her School Library Journal review that in Lenny and Mel "there are moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity." Calling the pair descendants of characters from books by Jon Scieszka or James Marshall, Roger Sutton wrote in Horn Book that Kraft's "humor is absurd and unashamedly obvious," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor observed that "the author goes more for droll humor than cheap laffs or grossness." Recommending Lenny and Mel to students more prone to pulling pranks than reading, a Publishers Weekly contributor added that "Kraft's deadpan cartoon-panel drawings … may well get even nonreaders in on the laughs."
In Lenny and Mel's Summer Vacation the twins are busy looking for part-time work during the summer while also hoping to avoid writing book reports for their mother. Eventually, the boys wind up on a family vacation to a ramshackle cabin. Anne Knickerbocker, writing in School Library Journal, compared Kraft's book to Dav Pilkey's "Captain Underpants" series and called Lenny and Mel's Summer Vacation "light summertime fare." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author's illustrations heighten "the caper's goofy good fun."
The twins' adventures continue in Lenny and Mel: After-School Confidential, as they take on an assignment to write an article about after-school clubs. Mel hopes to uncover a conspiracy, but the twins are limited by their assignment to stick with facts. Ultimately, the boys find little to interest them in reality, and "their pithy reports, reproduced along with Kraft's evocatively unambitious line drawings, reflect [their attitude] to a tee," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor.
In Miracle Wimp Kraft leaves behind the middle-school setting of Lenny and Mel and introduces high-school sophomore Tom Mayo, a nerd planted squarely at the bottom of the social ladder. To make matters worse, Tom is accidentally enrolled in wood shop instead of his preferred computer animation class, and his counselor refuses to fix his schedule. As the teen navigates the perils of dating and driver's ed, he manages to survive high school one day at a time. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Miracle Wimp "as sly and dry as [Kraft's] Lenny and Mel series." Discussing Tom's first-person narrative in Miracle Wimp, Booklist contributor Kathleen Isaacs noted that the teen "perfectly captures the
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insecurity and self-consciousness of his age." A contributor to Publishers Weekly felt that while Miracle Wimp might not appeal to girls, boys who enjoy stories "infused with slapstick and sarcasm … will find [Kraft's] … virtually plotless book a quick and entertaining read."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, June 1, 2007, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Miracle Wimp, p. 58.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 2003, review of Lenny and Mel's Summer Vacation, p. 408.
Horn Book, May-June, 2002, Roger Sutton, review of Lenny and Mel, p. 333.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2002, review of Lenny and Mel, p. 48; June 15, 2004, review of Lenny and Mel: After-School Confidential, p. 578; July 15, 2007, review of Miracle Wimp.
Kliatt, July, 2007, Myrna Marler, review of Miracle Wimp, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, January 21, 2002, review of Lenny and Mel, p. 90; August 20, 2007, review of Miracle Wimp, p. 70.
School Library Journal, February, 2002, Shannon R. Pearce, review of Lenny and Mel, p. 107; August, 2003, Anne Knickerbocker, review of Lenny and Mel's Summer Vacation, p. 135.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 29, 2003, review of Lenny and Mel's Summer Vacation, p. 5.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 2007, David Goodale, review of Miracle Wimp, p. 332.
Columbia University Web site, http://www.app.cc.columbia.edu/ (October 6, 2008), "Erik P. Kraft."
Erik P. Craft Home Page,http://www.erikpkraft.com (October 6, 2008).
Powells Web site,http://www.powells.com/ (October 6, 2008), interview with Kraft.