Kutner, Merrily 1948-
Kutner, Merrily 1948-
Home—Yorba Linda, CA. E-mail—[email protected]
Author and writing instructor. Worked as a dental hygienist for ten years. Member of advisory board, Writing for Children curriculum, California State University Fullerton Extended Education Service. University of California, Los Angeles Writer's Extension program, online instructor in children's writing.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
International Reading Association/Children's Book Council Children's Choice citation, 2000, for Z Is for Zombie; 20 Best Picture Books for Ages 2 to Grade 2 citation, Texas Library Association, 2005, for Down on the Farm.
Z Is for Zombie, illustrated by John Manders, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 1999.
Down on the Farm, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2004.
The Zombie Nite Café, illustrated by Ethan Long, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2007.
"I never thought I would ever become a writer … who me? … the one who hated writing compositions in school," Merrily Kutner told blogger Tina Nichols Coury in an online interview. "Back then, writing felt like a chore!" It was only after Kutner could not find a
book to hold her son's attention that she began writing for fun. "I became inspired to write a book with monsters and rhymes just for him," she explained. "Whatever the reason, after I began making up stories, I was hooked! I did like to write … when it was something I felt passionate about."
After years of rewriting and polishing, Kutner's first children's story was published under the title Z Is for Zombie. In the book, each letter of the alphabet introduces a different creepy scenario, each featuring a scary (but not too scary) monster. Kutner's text is full of "clever couplets," as Lauren Peterson described them in Booklist. While the book is suitable for Halloween, the critic concluded, Z Is for Zombie is "great for reading aloud anytime."
Kutner's Down on the Farm lets young readers tour a farm with a young goat. Here her simple text encourages participation, as Kid visits several other farm animals and they all make sounds. "Rhythmically, each four-line ‘verse’ solidly hits its mark, creating a natural, bouncy read-aloud," a Kirkus Review critic noted, while Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan called Down on the Farm a "buoyant picture book" that provides "an amusing romp for young children." "Listeners will delight in following Kid's adventures," Wendy Woodfill wrote in School Library Journal, the critic deeming Kutner's story "perfect for the toddler set."
Kutner revisits spooky themes in The Zombie Nite Café. In this story, a boy takes his dog on a late-night walk and discovers an unusual restaurant. The customers turn out to be monsters of all kinds, among them ghouls, aliens, and vampires. The menu of the restaurant is even stranger, with selections such as scrambled brains, eyeballs, "malformed meat patties," and "Chicken McMaggots." With the help of his dog, the boy escapes, thereby avoiding having to sample—or become part of—the menu. "Readers will definitely be tempted to linger," a Kirkus Reviews writer noted of the picture book.
"An author has three minutes to hook kids or they're ‘out of there!’" Kutner noted on the UCLA Extension Writers' Program Web site. "If your book grabs their attention, they'll devour it. There's no need to ‘dumb down’ writing. Kids will learn ‘big words’ if they're written in an exciting way. A great book gives children a gift—the desire to read more. Current books address universal truths we knew; but today's kids are different from the way we were. Writing books that first grab an editor's attention and have kid appeal is like performing magic. Learning your craft, giving yourself permission to fail, and fueling your motivation to continue writing is essential."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 1, 1999, Lauren Peterson, review of Z Is for Zombie, p. 149; April 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Down on the Farm, p. 1369.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2004, review of Down on the Farm, p. 135; August 1, 2007, review of The Zombie Nite Café.
Publishers Weekly, March 22, 2004, review of Down on the Farm, pp. 84-85.
School Library Journal, March, 2004, Wendy Woodfill, review of Down on the Farm, p. 172; September, 2007, Judith Constantinides, review of The Zombie Nite Café, p. 168.
Tina Nichols Coury Blog,http://www.tinanicholscouryblog.com/ (October 29, 2007), Tina Nichols Coury, interview with Kutner.
UCLA Extension Writers Program Web site,http://www2.uclaextension.edu/ (December 29, 2008), Merrily Kutner, "Instructor Statement."