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Lerangis, Peter 1955–

Lerangis, Peter 1955–

(Alison Blair, a house pseudonym, M.E. Cooper, a house pseudonym, Franklin W. Dixon, a house pseudonym, Carolyn Keene, a house pseudonym, A.L. Singer, George Spelvin, Artie Sprengel, Dr. R.E. Volting)

Personal

Born August 19, 1955, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Nicholas P. (a telephone company employee) and Mary (a school secretary; maiden name, Condos) Lerangis; married Cristina L. deVaron (a musician and songwriter), September 4, 1983; children: Nicholas James, Joseph Alexander. Education: Harvard College, A.B., 1977. Hobbies and other interests: Photography, running, singing, piano.

Addresses

Home—7 W. 96th St., New York, NY 10025. Agent—George Nicholson, Sterling Lord Literistic, 65 Bleecker St., New York, NY 10012.

Career

Writer and performer. Actor and vocalist in New York, NY, 1978–89; freelance copyeditor, 1979–85; freelance writer, 1986–. Teacher of copyediting and proofreading at City University of New York Graduate Center, 1985–86. Family Literacy Writer-in-Residence, National Book Foundation, 2004. Presenter to schools and libraries; conductor of writing workshops for Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and Highlights Foundation. Member, Harvard Krokodiloes board.

Member

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, PEN, Actors Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Awards, Honors

American Library Association Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers designation, 1999, and Children's Choice designation, Children's Book Council/International Reading Association, 2000, all for books in "Watchers" series; selected by First Lady Laura Bush to represent U.S. in first Russian book festival, 2003; New York Public Library Best Books for Teens designation, and Bank Street School Best Children's Book designation, both 2006, both for Smiler's Bones.

Writings

FICTION

The Amazing Ben Franklin ("Time Traveler" series), Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.

In Search of a Shark ("Explorer" series), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.

The Last of the Dinosaurs ("Time Machine" series), Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.

World War II Codebreakers ("Time Machine" series), Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Dick Tracy Catch-a-Crook Adventure, Western Publishing, 1990.

The Yearbook, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

Driver's Dead, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

Spring Break (middle-grade novel), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

Spring Fever! (middle-grade novel), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

It Came from the Cafeteria (middle-grade novel), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

Attack of the Killer Potatoes (middle-grade novel), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Antarctica No. 1: Journey to the Pole, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Antarctica, No. 2: Escape from Disaster, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Smiler's Bones, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor of short fiction to anthologies, including Unexpected: 11 Mysterious Stories, edited by Laura E. Williams, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.

"WATCHERS" NOVEL SERIES

Last Stop, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Rewind, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

I.D., Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

War, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Island, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Lab 6, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

"ABRACADABRA" MIDDLE-GRADE NOVEL SERIES

Poof! Rabbits Everywhere, illustrated by Jim Talbot, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Boo! Ghosts in the School!, illustrated by Jim Talbot, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Presto! Magic Treasure!, illustrated by Jim Talbot, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.

Yeeps! Secret in the Statue!, illustrated by Jim Talbot, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.

Yikes! It's Alive!, illustrated by Jim Talbot, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

Whoa! Amusement Park Gone Wild!, illustrated by Jim Talbot, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

"X-ISLE" NOVEL SERIES

X-Isle, Scholastic (London, England), 2003.

Return to X-Isle, Scholastic (London, England), 2004.

"SPY X" NOVEL SERIES

Hide and Seek, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

The Code, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

Tunnel Vision, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.

Proof Positive, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.

NOVELIZATIONS

Young Sherlock Holmes (based on the screenplay by Chris Columbus), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1985.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (based on the screenplay by Steve Meerson), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1986.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) License to Drive (based on the screenplay by Neil Tolkin), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1988.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) The Little Monsters (based on the screenplay by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Sing (based on the screenplay by Dean Pitchford), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Rescuers down Under, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Dick Tracy (based on the screenplay by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr.), Disney Press (New York, NY), 1991.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Disney's Beauty and the Beast, illustrated by Ron Dias and Ric Gonzalez, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1991, mini edition, 1996.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Davy Crockett and the King of the River (based on the television series), Disney Press (New York, NY), 1991.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Davy Crockett and the Pirates at Cave-in Rock (based on the television series), Disney Press (New York, NY), 1991.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Bingo (based on the screenplay by Jim Strain), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Aladdin, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1992.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Home Alone II: Lost in New York, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Robin Hood, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1992.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Young Indiana Jones Chronicles: Safari Sleuth (based on the teleplay by Matthew Jacobs), Random House (New York, NY), 1992.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Little Mermaid, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1993.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Sleeping Beauty, Disney Press, 1993.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Surf Warriors (based on the screenplay by Dan Gordon), Dell (New York, NY), 1993.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) The Swan Princess, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Miracle on Thirty-fourth Street, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Mustafa's Little Instructional Book, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1994.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Jumanji (picture-book; based on the screenplay adaptation of the book by Chris Van Allsburg), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

(Under pseudonym George Spelvin) Jumanji: A Novelization (young-adult novel; based on the screenplay adaptation of the book by Chris Van Allsburg), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) The Amazing Panda Adventure, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Baby-sitters Club, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Anastasia, illustrated by Bob DePew, HarperActive (New York, NY), 1997.

Sleepy Hollow (based on the screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker adapted from the story by Washington Irving), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1999.

The Road to El Dorado, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Batman Begins: The Junior Novel, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.

ONGOING SERIES FICTION

(Under house pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon) The Genius Thieves ("Hardy Boys Casefiles" series), Archway, 1987.

(Under house pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon) The Borgia Dagger ("Hardy Boys Casefiles" series), Archway, 1988.

(Under house pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon) A Killing in the Market ("Hardy Boys Casefiles" series), Archway, 1988.

(Under house pseudonym Carolyn Keene) A Crime for Christmas ("Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Supermystery" series), Archway, 1988.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) The Sultan's Secret ("GI Joe" series), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1988.

(Under pseudonym M.E. Cooper) Falling for You ("Couples" series), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1988.

(Under pseudonym Alison Blair) Campus Fever ("Roommates" series), Ivy/Ballantine (New York, NY), 1988.

(Under house pseudonym Carolyn Keene) Shock Waves ("Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Supermystery" series), Archway, 1989.

(Under house pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon) Danger Zone ("Hardy Boys Casefiles" series), Archway, 1990.

(Under house pseudonym Carolyn Keene) Buried in Time ("Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Supermystery" series), Archway, 1990.

Foul Play ("Three Investigators" series; based on characters created by Robert Arthur), Knopf (New York, NY), 1990.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Blaster Master ("Worlds of Power" series), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Ninja Gaiden ("Worlds of Power" series), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Infiltrator ("Worlds of Power" series), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Bases Loaded II ("Worlds of Power" series), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Danger on Naboo ("Star Wars Episode I" series), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) The Final Battle ("Star Wars Episode I" series), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Also author of over forty books in the "Baby-Sitters Club" and "California Diaries" series by Ann M. Martin, and several books in the "Sweet Valley High" and "Sweet Valley Twins" series by Francine Pascal.

PUZZLE AND GAME BOOKS

Puzzles and Games, Macmillan Educational (New York, NY), 1984.

Mickey's Drill-a-Days: Letters and Words, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1985.

Star Trek Activity Book, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1986.

Star Trek Puzzle Book, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1986.

Super Puzzle I: Going Batty, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1988.

Super Puzzle II: Camp Craziness, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1988.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Star Wars Episode I Adventures Game Book: Danger on Naboo, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Star Wars Episode I Adventures Game Book: Podrace to Freedom, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

(Under pseudonym A.L. Singer) Star Wars Episode I Adventures Game Book: The Final Battle, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

(Under pseydonym Dr. R.E. Volting) Shrek Gag Book, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.

(Under pseudonym Artie Sprengel) Madagascar: Joke Book, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.

NONFICTION

A Kid's Guide to New York City, illustrated by Richard E. Brown, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1988.

Teacher Guide to Square One TV Show, Children's Television Workshop (New York, NY), 1989.

(With Peter Dodson) Dinosaur Bookshelf: Giant Dinosaurs, illustrated by Alex Nino, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.

(With Peter Dodson) Dinosaur Bookshelf: Baby Dinosaurs, illustrated by Alex Nino, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.

Work in Progress

Four novels in the "Drama Club" series, for Penguin Putnam, forthcoming, 2007.

Sidelights

Early in his writing career, Peter Lerangis was perhaps the most prolific yet least-known writer for children, but that had changed by 2003 when he was selected, along with Marc Brown and R.L. Stine, to join First Lady Laura Bush in Moscow to represent the United States at the first Russian book festival. Beginning his career writing novels under the long-time house pseudonyms Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene, he published under his own name only briefly before signing on to write three novels in the "Sweet Valley Twins" and "Sweet Valley High" series, all published under the name of series founder Francine Pascal. This led to a contract to write dozens of "Baby-Sitters Club" novels published under the name of series founder Ann M. Martin. By the mid-1990s, with young-adult science-fiction novels such as the "Watchers" series thrillers The Yearbook and Driver's Dead, as well as humorous middle-grade novels like It Came from the Cafeteria to his credit, Lerangis had gained a significant following among middle-grade and older teen readers. In addition to these books, the prolific writer has published novelizations of a number of popular films, such as Walt Disney Studios' Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid, as well as M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense. In his series fiction and novelizations, Lerangis sometimes employs pseudonyms, among them the pen names A.L. Singer (an anagram of "Lerangis") and Artie Sprengel (an anagram of "Peter Lerangis.")

Several of Lerangis's novels have their basis in the history of Earth's polar regions. His two-part "Antarctica" series, which includes Journey to the Pole and Escape from Disaster, follows a secret American expedition led by James Winslow aboard the ship Mystery that travels to Antarctica in 1909, hoping to reach the South Pole. An exciting adventure yarn that parallels the saga of actual Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton in detailing the crew's entrapment in frozen seas and efforts to survive in harrowing and seemingly futile circumstances, the book also includes an appendix detailing the actual history of Antarctic exploration as well as a list of resources for inspired readers.

Lerangis moves from South to North Pole with Smiler's Bones. Based on a true story, the novel focuses on the six Inuit—then called Eskimos—encountered by Arctic explorer Robert Peary during Peary's 1897 journey to Greenland. Included among the explorer's unusual "finds" and brought to New York City to be presented
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before the American Museum of Natural History, the six Eskimos serve as a living exhibit at the museum, impressing dispassionate scientists as well as curious spectators. Lerangis's novel is narrated by nineteen-year-old Minik who recalls the experience, now eleven years in the past. Minik, at the time too young to fully understand the demeaning nature of the situation, watched as four of his older companions—including Minik's father Qisuk, known as "Smiler" due to his facial expression—succumbed to tuberculosis and died. Taken into the home of the museum's compassionate superintendent, Will Wallace, Minik eventually loses his home and strives to return to Greenland, all the while struggling with the emotional conflicts resulting from both adolescence and cultural displacement. He is also haunted by the fact that his father's bones were kept by the museum and that the traditional Eskimo burial they had conducted in his presence on the museum grounds had been a sham. "Minik is an unforgettable character," noted School Library Journal contributor Vicki Reutter, the critic adding that "issues of racism and scientific arrogance will not be lost on readers." Lerangis "succeeds in making Minik and his plight come to life," concluded Paula Rohrlick in Kliatt; Smiler's Bones is "a more sophisticated tale than its brief length might imply." Dubbing the book a "wrenching … novel," Booklist critic Jennifer Mattson wrote that the narrator's "incisive emotions are unforgettable." Praising Lerangis's prose as "vivid" and his descriptions of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Manhattan as "particularly brilliant," a Kirkus Reviewer concluded that the novel relates a "compelling and important story."

"When I was in fourth grade, I used to hide spiral notebooks in my math textbook," Lerangis once told SATA. "My teacher, Ms. Scuderi, thought I was deeply involved in my multiplication tables. I wasn't. I was busy writing stories. My main interest back then was science fiction, and my stories were usually about kids stowing away on rockets to other planets.

"To me, the best thing about writing was this: I could completely escape my house, my town, my family, my body, everything. I could fly, burrow, travel in time; I could create people and creatures, tell them what to say, give them powers, kill them off, make them grow old—and when I was done, there'd still be dinner on the table and a nice cozy bed to sleep in. Why did I want to escape? I had a pretty happy, normal life on the outside. Inside, though, things weren't so great.

"I grew up in Freeport, New York, a suburb. Until high school I was a pretty fat kid (87 pounds in second grade). I was horrible in gym class. When it came time to pick teams, I tried to be invisible. It never worked. Inevitably someone would say, 'You got Lerangis,' as if 'Lerangis' were some kind of annoying condition, like the flu. One time, as I was ducking a fly ball that dropped for a hit, a classmate screamed out, 'Lerangis,
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you're the worst athleek I ever saw.' I took comfort in the fact that I knew how to say athlete. Even spell it.

"When I was reading or writing, I didn't have to worry about other kids' opinions. Not that my life was so awful. I did have fun as a kid. I could make people laugh. I did good imitations, which sometimes grew into shows (and sometimes got me into big trouble). Between eighth and ninth grade, things changed a lot. I grew about five inches and didn't look so fat anymore. I started getting bad grades on purpose to be cooler (not a great idea, in retrospect). I began playing sports a little and got more involved in drama and music—and girls. My first girlfriend was the sports editor of the high-school newspaper. When she read a poem I'd written, she got me a spot on the school newspaper right away.

"Newspaper writing taught me a lot about organizing my thoughts concisely. But even though fiction writing was my real love, I was hardly doing it at all. I somehow managed to finish first in my high-school class, and a lot of colleges accepted me, so I felt major pressure to do something noble, upstanding, and respectable. Writing was not one of those things. Acting? For-get it. The immigrant ethic was strong in my family. My grandparents had come from Greece with no education or money (my grandfather's last name was Lirantzis, which became 'Lerangis' at Ellis Island). My parents grew up poor and worked hard to rise into the American middle class. Me? I was the first-born in my generation, which was expected to be chock-full of doctors, lawyers, and tycoons.

"Well, I didn't want to be any of those things. But everyone insisted that a life in writing, theater, or music would be full of despair and wasted effort. I went to Harvard College and majored in biochemistry. I guess I thought if I forced the issue, I might magically become interested in medicine after all. Guess what became of that idea?

"After college lots of my friends were going to law school, so I thought I might try that. I applied, got in, sent a deposit, even got a job as a paralegal for a few months. I became pretty miserable and left to be a singing waiter in Nantucket for a summer. That fall I chucked law school and went to New York to try to be an actor. I did that for eight years, performing in musical theater. I was even in a Broadway show. In between acting jobs, I waited on tables, but I kept getting fired. In desperation, I tried freelance copyediting, which means checking authors' manuscripts for grammar, spelling, and accuracy. It was flexible work and I could go to auditions and classes. I ended up reading an awful lot of books—some of them quite awful! I figured, 'I can do better than that!' So I tried my hand at writing again. It had been over ten years since I'd done any creative writing at all, and I was nearly thirty. By 1986 I was writing full-time. I found out that (1) it's never too late to start doing something you love, and (2) everything you've done in life makes your writing rich and unique."

"In writing, the possibilities are endless," Lerangis added to SATA. "If you have a little talent and a lot of passion for it, then the only remaining necessary ingredient is discipline. And that is something anyone can learn, even a horrendous procrastinator like me!"

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 1999, review of Last Stop, p. 1316; April 1, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Smiler's Bones, p. 1354.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2005, review of Smiler's Bones, p. 354.

Kliatt, May, 2005, Paula Rohlick, review of Smiler's Bones, p. 15.

Publishers Weekly, November 23, 1998, review of Last Stop, p. 67.

School Library Journal, June, 2005, Vicki Reutter, review of Smiler's Bones, p. 161.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1995, review of Driver's Dead, p. 144; August, 2005, Kimberly Paone, review of Smiler's Bones, p. 220.

ONLINE

ThreeInvestigatorsBooks.com, http://www.threeinvestigatorsbooks.com/ (May 26, 2006), Mark Zahn, interview with Lerangis.

Scholastic Web site, http://books.scholastic.com/ (May 26, 2006).

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