Lorbiecki, Marybeth 1959–
Lorbiecki, Marybeth 1959–
Born August 3, 1959, in Nüremberg, Germany; daughter of Rudolph John (a dentist) and Marilyn (a medical technician; maiden name, Schneider) Lorbiecki; married David Peter Mataya (a creative director and illustrator), November 24, 1990; children: Nadja Marie, Mirjiana, Dmitri Peter. Education: College of St. Catherine (St. Paul, MN), B.A. (English), 1981; Mankato State University, M.A. (English literature), 1985; University of Essex, postgraduate study in philosophy, 1985–86.
Home—Hudson, WI. Office—c/o Publicity Director, Dial Books for Young Readers, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
Freelance writer, editor, teacher, and speaker. Marycrest High School, Denver, CO, theology teacher, 1982–83; Mankato State University, Mankato, MN, composition instructor, 1983–85; Carbil Communications, Inc., Roseville, MN, marketing copy director, 1986–88; Carolrhoda Books, Inc., Minneapolis, MN, children's book editor and author, 1988–93; College of St. Catherine, GRE/GMAT verbal and logic preparatory instructor, 1994–2000; Compass Point Books, Bloomington, MN, creative developmental editor of Picture Window imprint, 2002. Volunteer in youth ministry in Hispanic community in Colorado, 1981–82; past president of Western Wisconsin Prairie Project, 1998–99; board of trustees for Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center.
Boston Globe Best Environmental Picks, and Science Books and Films Best Picks, both 1993, both for "Earth-wise" series; Distinguished Service to History award, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and John Burroughs Nature Book, both 1993, both for Of Things Natural, Wild, and Free; Chicago Tribune, New York Public Library, and American Library Association Pick of the Lists citations, all 1996, and Children's Choice award, 1997, all for Just One Flick of a Finger; Distinguished Service to History Award, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and Minnesota Book Award in Bi-ography and History, both 1996, both for Aldo Leopold: A Fierce Green Fire; Children's Literature Choice listee, 1998, for My Palace of Leaves in Sarajevo; Notable Trade Book for Young People in Social Studies, 1998, for The Children of Vietnam; Notable Trade Book for Young People in Social Studies and in Literary Arts, Best Books of the Year, Bank Street College, and Storyteller World's Award, International Reading Association, all 1999, and Living the Dream Award, Manhattan Country School, 2000, all for Sister Anne's Hands; Ben Franklin Award for Juvenile Literature, International Independent Publishers, 2000, for Painting the Dakota; Parent's Choice Recommended listee, 2002, for Louisa May and Mr. Thoreau's Flute; Learning magazine Teachers Choice Award, 2004, for John Muir and Stickeen.
(With Linda Lowery) Earthwise at School: A Guide to the Care and Feeding of Your Planet, illustrated by husband, David Mataya, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.
(With Linda Lowery) Earthwise at Play: A Guide to the Care and Feeding of Your Planet, illustrated by David Mataya, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.
(With Linda Lowery) Earthwise at Home: A Guide to the Care and Feeding of Your Planet, illustrated by David Mataya, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.
Of Things Natural, Wild, and Free: The Story of Aldo Leopold, illustrated by Kerry Maguire, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.
Just One Flick of a Finger, illustrated by David Diaz, Dial (New York, NY), 1996.
My Palace of Leaves in Sarajevo, illustrated by Herbert Tauss, Dial (New York, NY), 1996.
The Children of Vietnam, photographs by Paul P. Rome, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
Sister Anne's Hands, illustrated by Wendy Popp, Dial (New York, NY), 1998.
Painting the Dakota: Seth Eastman at Fort Snelling, illustrated by Seth Eastman, Afton Historical Society Press, 2000.
(With Julie Dunlap) Louisa May and Mr. Thoreau's Flute, Dial Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Prairie Dogs, illustrated by Wayne Ford, North Word Press (Chanhassen, MN), 2004.
(With Julie Dunlap) John Muir and Stickeen: An Icy Adventure with a No-Good Dog, illustrated by Bill Farn-sworth, Northword Press (Chanhassen, MN), 2004.
Planet Patrol: A Kids' Action Guide to Earth Care, illustrated by Nancy Meyers, Two-Can Publishing (Min-netonka, MN), 2005.
Welcome to Grand Teton National Park, Child's World (Chanhassen, MN), 2006.
Jackie's Bat, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.
Paul Bunyan's Sweetheart, illustrated by Renee Graef, Sleeping Bear, 2007.
Also author of eight books for "That's Life" literature series for special-needs students, AbleNet, 2004.
(With Sarah Boehme and Christian Feest) Seth Eastman: A Portfolio of North American Indians, Afton Historical Society Press, 1995.
Aldo Leopold: A Fierce Green Fire, Falcon Press (Guil-ford, CT), 1996
Contributor to Stories from Where We Live: The Great North American Prairie, Milkweed Editions, 2001. Also coauthor, with Kathe Crowley Conn, of script for video documentary Al Leopold: Learning from the Land. Contributor to periodicals, including New Mexico, Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, Pioneer Press, New Mexico Historical Society Review, and Wisconsin Academy Review.
Marybeth Lorbiecki is the author of children's picture books, easy readers, young-adult novels, and nonfiction books that explore themes ranging from the life of naturalist and conservationist Aldo Leopold to profiles of young people living in Vietnam and in war-torn Sarajevo. Lorbiecki's work has been praised for her well-focused research and her ability to write for a variety of age groups. In addition, she has created more entertaining tales, such as Jackie's Bat, a picture book that focuses on African-American baseball player Jackie Robinson's debut season as part of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Told through the eyes of the team's young bat boy, Jackie's Bat was praised as "a thoughtful lesson in tolerance" by School Library Journal contributor Marilyn Taniguchi, while in Publishers Weekly a writer deemed the story a "heartwarming tale." Praising the watercolor illustrations by prize-winning artist Brian Pinkney, the reviewer added that Lorbiecki's text serves as a "straightforward but often moving re-imagining of how an American hero's struggle and achievement helped transform a nation." As the author herself once commented: "Children deserve the full range of literature just as adults do: comedy, tragedy, poetry, information, drama, and adventure (plus more!). If their choices are narrowed solely to quick-to-read, fiberless stories of flash and glitter, they will be cheated…. Sometimes it takes more than 300 or 500 or 800 words to spin magic or spark curiosity or answer questions or touch the heart."
Born in a U.S. Army hospital in Germany, Lorbiecki attended college in Minnesota and worked in Colorado and Minnesota before taking up residence in Wisconsin. A varied career in writing, teaching, editing, and marketing led to her first published books, the "Earthwise" series, illustrated by her husband, David Mataya. In Earthwise at Play: A Guide to the Care and Feeding of Your Planet, Earthwise at School: A Guide to the Care and Feeding of Your Planet, and Earthwise at Home—all with the subhead A Guide to the Care and Feeding of Your Planet—Lorbiecki joins coauthor Linda Lowery in suggesting ideas that can help save planet Earth as well as providing information about various animals and plants that call the planet home. Reviewing the series in School Library Journal, Eva Elisabeth Von An-cken called the "Earthwise" books a "most welcome and valuable set," adding that with their emphasis on "positive attitudes and actions, these books encourage readers to become environmentally aware in all aspects of their lives."
Praised as an "appealing biography" by Carolyn Angus in School Library Journal, Of Things Natural, Wild, and Free: The Story of Aldo Leopold tells the story of pioneering wildlife conservationist Leopold, who is remembered for his book A Sand County Almanac. Lorbiecki "effectively communicates a sense of Leopold's vision and chronicles his achievements and setbacks in an accessible style," Angus noted. Reviewing the same title in Booklist, Sheilamae O'Hara wrote that the book will be "of use in a unit on careers or the environment." Lorbiecki's Aldo Leopold: A Fierce Green Fire focuses on the same individual, this time for an adult readership. Reviewing the book, Nancy J. Moeckel wrote in Library Journal that "those unfamiliar with Leopold will relish this book; those who already know him will enjoy the retelling." In Choice, S.A. Carlson called the same title "well-researched," and concluded that "Lor-biecki successfully examines the more private Leopold and his family as well as his life as a scholar, teacher, hunter, and policy ethicist."
In the picture book Just One Flick of a Finger Lorbiecki addresses the topic of school violence. In this story, a young boy named Jack brings his father's gun to school to scare away the school bully, Reebo. During the ensuing confrontation and scuffle, the gun is accidentally discharged, wounding Jack's friend who is trying to intervene. Though no one is seriously hurt, the boys learn a lesson from this near tragedy and become closer because of it. "The issue of adolescents taking guns to school is intensely played out in narrative and depiction," observed Julie Cummins in a School Library Journal review of the book. Cummins pays special attention to the "verse-like text" in the characters' "hip street talk." While noting that "the book ends on a positive note," another reviewer for School Library Journal warned that "the bold, provocative illustrations and disturbing subject matter make this a book to share with an adult." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly dubbed Just One Flick of a Finger a "stark picture book for middle graders," while Booklist reviewer Hazel Roch-man claimed that the "writing is terse, the standoffs dramatic." A critic for Kirkus Reviews found that "both text and images capture the tension and fear of an urban schoolyard menaced by guns; the implied acceptance of the ease of obtaining a firearm is utterly chilling." Bette Ammon, writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, noted that although the message is "somewhat simplistic and moralist, the point is well taken and immediate."
Contrasting views of children around the world are presented in the middle-grade books My Palace of Leaves in Sarajevo and The Children of Vietnam. In the former novel, pen pals in the United States and Sarajevo exchange their hopes, dreams, and fears. Ten-year-old Nadja begins to write to her American cousin, Alex, in 1991, revealing details about her life, particularly the camping and skiing she enjoys. In April, 1992, when her native Sarajevo is bombed by the Yugoslav Army, the tone of the letters changes considerably, and now she describes food shortages, deprivation, and death. Alex, safe in Minnesota, becomes emotionally involved with his cousin's fate, and his dad finally hires a lawyer to try and obtain visas for Nadja and her family. In the novel's introduction and afterword, Lorbiecki summarizes the historical and political setting of the book and brings readers into the contemporary context. "Lor-biecki personalizes the experiences of war in this epistolary novel," wrote a contributor for Publishers Weekly. Reviewing the same novel in School Library Journal, Karen MacDonald concluded that "young readers will be moved by the plight of Bosnians and Alex's determination to help his cousin." Betsy Hearne, writing in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, thought that the "suspense of constant danger" would "draw younger readers," and that overall the book "is informative by virtue of the dramatic situation."
The Children of Vietnam introduces the history, geography, and culture of that Asian country through the daily lives of children who live there. Lorbiecki takes readers on a north-south journey through Vietnam, from the region that is home to the mountain-dwelling Lac Viet people to the land housing the Black Thai, Hmong, and Cham cultures, presenting a kaleidoscope of customs, beliefs, and lifestyles. Shirley N. Quan, writing in School Library Journal, observed that "this photo-essay describes the diversity of the country's population and focuses on the lives of its children" and added: "numerous full-color photographs enhance a text that is rich with historical and cultural details." Quan concluded that, for libraries seeking a "broad overview," Lorbiec-ki's title "will make a welcome addition."
With Sister Anne's Hands Lorbiecki treats the subject of racism from a unique perspective. Seven-year-old Ann gets her first taste of racism in the 1960s when an African-American nun comes to teach at her Catholic school. Sister Anne challenges the preconceptions of children in her second-grade classroom, especially when a note about the nun's skin color written on the wings of a paper airplane literally lands on her desk. Though some of the parents pull their children from the school because of the nun's race, those that remain are introduced by Sister Anne to African-American culture and what it means to grow up black in America. Lorbiecki based the story on an actual incident from her youth. A writer for Publishers Weekly called the picture book "thought-provoking" and one with "considerable emotional appeal." In Booklist Rochman commented that "there is an idyllic quality to the story and the period pictures of the nun and her classroom, but the hurt is there, too, and the message of tolerance grows out of the personal experience, which confronts the racism and gets beyond it." "The story has honesty and integrity," noted Jody McCoy in School Library Journal.
Other nonfiction titles by Lorbiecki include the middle-grade book Painting the Dakota: Seth Eastman at Fort Snelling, an introduction to the work of the soldier-artist who married a Dakota woman and chronicled much of the history of the Dakota people in the territory that became known as Minnesota. In Planet Patrol: A Kids' Action Guide to Earth Care, Lorbiecki helps young readers transform their concerns over the future of their planet into tangible action.
The picture book John Muir and Stickeen: An Icy Adventure with a No-Good Dog, co-authored with Julie Dunlap, describes Muir's 1880 expedition to map Alaska's glaciers. During this arduous journey, the dog ultimately proves his worth, earning the noted naturalist's grudging respect in the process. Another collaboration between Dunlap and Lorbiecki, Louisa May and Mr. Thoreau's Flute expands a vignette from the lives of two notable American writers: novelist Louisa May Alcott and essayist Henry David Thoreau. The two were neighbors when Alcott was eight years old—Thoreau was working as a teacher in Alcott's home town of Concord, Massachusetts at the time—and the girl was inspired by the many weekend treks the flute-playing Thoreau organized for his young students. Praising John Muir and Stickeen, Jennifer Mattson wrote in Booklist that Lorbiecki and Dunlap "smoothly blend dialogue and vibrant narrative, while Louisa May and Mr. Tho-reau's Flute "blend[s] historical facts with a lyrical, engaging story line anchored by the spunky Louisa," in the opinion of a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Noting that Mary Azarian's "spectacular" woodcut illustrations "provide a perfect complement to this inspirational story," Lee Bock wrote in School Library Journal that the picture book features a "compelling" narrative.
Lorbiecki continues to juggle projects ranging from picture books to middle-grade novels and nonfiction. Her advice to aspiring writers: "It helps to work on assignments for others. You are always handed projects that seem impossible to do well. Yet, if you push on, you'll find a way through them because you have to. If you take this attitude toward your book or story ideas, you can push through the points of frustration and despair."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, November 1, 1993, Sheilamae O'Hara, review of Of Things Natural, Wild, and Free: The Story of Aldo Leopold, p. 520; June 1, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of Just One Flick of a Finger, p. 1718; April 1, 1997, p. 1308; June 1, 1997, p. 1675; March 13, 1998, p. 1238; October 1, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Sister Anne's Hands, p. 345; September 1, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of Louisa May and Mr. Thoreau's Flute, p. 123; November 15, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of John Muir and Stickeen: An Icy Adventure with a No-Good Dog, p. 588; March 15, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Prairie Dogs, p. 1304; December 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of Planet Patrol: A Kids' Action Guide to Earth Care, p. 168; February 1, 2006, Bill Ott, review of Jackie's Bat, p. 69.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 1996, Janice M. Del Negro, review of Just One Flick of a Finger, pp. 20-21; March, 1997, Betsy Hearne, review of My Palace of Leaves in Sarajevo, p. 252; November, 1998, p. 105.
Choice, May, 1997, S.A. Carlson, review of Aldo Leopold, p. 1520.
Horn Book, September-October, 2002, Mary M. Burns, review of Louisa May and Mr. Thoreau's Flute, p. 549; March-April, 2006, Susan P. Bloom, review of Jackie's Bat, p. 175.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1996, review of Just One Flick of a Finger, p. 826; October 15, 2004, review of John Muir and Stickeen, p. 1005; November 15, 2005, review of Planet Patrol, p. 1235; December 1, 2005, review of Jackie's Bat, p. 1277.
Library Journal, November 1, 1996, Nancy J. Moeckel, review of Aldo Leopold, p. 105.
Publishers Weekly, August 19, 1996, review of Just One Flick of a Finger, p. 67; April 14, 1997, review of My Palace of Leaves in Sarajevo, p. 76; September 21, 1998, review of Sister Anne's Hands, p. 84; September 2, 2002, review of Louisa May and Mr. Thoreau's Flute, p. 76; January 9, 2006, review of Jackie's Bat, p. 53.
School Library Journal, July, 1993, Eva Elisabeth Von An-cken, review of "Earthwise" series, p. 93; November, 1993, Carolyn Angus, review of Of Things Natural, Wild, and Free, p. 117; September, 1996, Julie Cummins, review of Just One Flick of a Finger, p. 204; June, 1997, Karen MacDonald, review of My Palace of Leaves in Sarajevo, p. 122; February, 1998, Shirley N. Quan, review of The Children of Vietnam, p. 120; January, 1999, Jody McCoy, review of Sister Anne's Hands, p. 98; January, 2000, review of Just One Flick of a Finger, p. 43; October, 2002, Lee Bock, review of Louisa May and Mr. Thoreau's Flute, p. 103; October, 2004, Arwen Marshall, review of Prairie Dogs, p. 144; December, 2005, Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, review of Planet Patrol, p. 168; January, 2006, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Jackie's Bat, p. 106.
Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1997, Bette Ammon, review of Just One Flick of a Finger, p. 110.
Children's Literature Network Online, http://www.childrensliteraturentework.org/ (July 1, 2006), "Mary-beth Lorbiecki."