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Mack, Tracy 1968-

Mack, Tracy 1968-

Personal

Born February 3, 1968, in Mount Vernon, NY; daughter of Stephen Jay and Elaine Mack; married Michael Citrin (an attorney), June 30, 2001; children: two children. Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A.; also attended Queen Mary College London. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Yoga, traveling, hiking, reading.

Addresses

Home—Great Barrington, MA. Office—Scholastic, 555 Broadway, New York, NY 10012. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Novelist and editor. Scholastic, Inc., New York, NY, executive editor, 1992—.

Member

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Adirondack 46R Club.

Writings

Drawing Lessons (young-adult novel), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

Birdland (young-adult novel), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

(With husband, Michael Citrin) The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas (for children; part of the "Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars" series), illustrated by Greg Ruth, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2006.

(With Michael Citrin) The Mystery of the Conjured Man (for children; part of the "Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars" series), illustrated by Greg Ruth, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Adaptations

Birdland was adapted as an audiobook, read by Dion Graham, Blackstone Audio, 2005.

Sidelights

Tracy Mack began her career as a children's novelist while working as an editor at Manhattan-based publisher Scholastic, Inc. Her debut young-adult novel, Drawing Lessons, was released in 2001 and was followed three years later by the critically acclaimed Birdland. Together with her husband, Michael Citrin, Mack also coauthors the "Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars" series, which includes the "Case Book" installments The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas and The Mystery of the Conjured Man.

In Drawing Lessons an artistic seventh grader finds that her creativity abandons her in the wake of her father's marital infidelity. Aurora has developed her artistic talent under the wing of her stay-at-home dad, an artist himself, and when he abandons the family in disgrace, Aurora's own artistic spirit is crushed. Ultimately, the preteen must reexamine her relationship to her father and recognize that her talent as an artist exists independent of her dad. Aurora's struggle over emotionally separating from a parent is "carefully and realistically portrayed," Frances Bradburn noted in a Booklist review of Drawing Lessons. The critic went on to call Mack's novel "a simple book of surprising beauty and depth."

Described by Booklist reviewer Bill Ott as a "rigorously unsentimental novel about a family in crisis," Birdland focuses on Joseph Diamond, an eighth grader who is burdened by a speech impediment. Joseph is also burdened by something else: the death of his older brother. Zeke, a diabetic, has died as a result of insulin shock after drinking vodka, and Joseph is haunted by feelings of guilt because he was not there to help. Now Joseph's entire family is haunted by the question of whether Zeke's death was accidental or the result of suicide. As part of a school project, Joseph decides to capture the

last days of Zeke's life in a video film. He retraces Zeke's path throughout their Manhattan neighborhood, and this path leads Joseph to a troubled homeless girl. In the growing friendship that results, the preteen may find the answers to his questions that will allow him to move on. In Kirkus Reviews a critic noted that Mack's drama unfolds "in a beautifully subtle manner," highlighted by "loss, compassion, and forgiveness." A "realistic" depiction of a family in crisis, Birdland is "full of characters who struggle on, despite both personal tragedies and the aftereffects of September 11," explained a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

Mack's collaboration with Citrin on the "Baker Street Irregulars" series was inspired by Citrin's lifelong interest in the stories of Sherlock Holmes, the famed detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. "Michael and I had wanted to collaborate on a novel, and we tried for a while to come up with an idea for a mystery or a mystery series that we intrigued us both," Mack recalled to Publishers Weekly interviewer James Bickers. "We passed different ideas back and forth, none of which felt quite right." It was Citrin who suggested that the couple focus on the Baker Street Irregulars, a group of street urchins who appear in Holmes' fiction debut, 1887's A Study in Scarlet. Combing Doyle's Sherlockian oeuvre for any and all mentions of the Baker Street Irregulars, and doing substantial research into life as it was lived on the streets of Victorian London, Mack and Citrin eventually created the characters and storyline of their first collaboration, The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas.

Published in 2006, The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas introduces the Baker Street Irregulars, who under the leadership of street-smart orphan Wiggins and with the memorization skills of asthmatic young forger Ozzie, are able to ferret out important facts. The series debut follows the Irregulars' efforts to assist Holmes and famous sidekick Dr. Watson in an investigation of the theft of jewels from Buckingham Palace as well as help solve the untimely deaths of three tightrope walkers in a traveling circus. The Fall of the Conjured Man follows the ragamuffin band as they help Holmes resolve the mystery surrounding the death of spiritualist Greta Berlinger during a seánce. Reviewing The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas, School Library Journal critic B. Al-

lison Gray praised Mack and Citrin for introducing several "memorable characters," adding that "Holmes and Watson are extremely well defined" in the novel. A Kirkus Reviews writer described the novel as a "fast-paced, authentically styled caper," and Booklist reviewer Shelle Rosenfeld cited Greg Ruth's "vintage-style" illustrations in ranking The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas as "an entertaining, suspenseful read for youthful crime buffs."

Mack once told SATA: "I have been writing for as long as I can remember. The first story I ever wrote and carefully bound between two construction-paper-blue covers was about a girl whose family moved to Minnesota. When I wrote the story, I had never been to that lush, cold state; I just fantasized about living in a place with such a beautiful name.

"I am very influenced by beauty. The house I grew up in was surrounded by trees: towering oaks, beeches, and maples. There was even a tree growing right through the deck of our house. Because it was in front of a large window, it looked as if the tree were standing in our living room. I spent the summers of my childhood and adolescence at a wilderness camp in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York State, where we lived in tiny wooden cabins with no electricity, nestled in pine and birch groves.

"My love for trees was (and still is) deep and all-encompassing. I climbed them, swung from their branches, made projects from their pine cone and acorn and needle offerings. From them, like Rory, the young artist in my novel Drawing Lessons, I learned to find solace and inspiration in the world around me.

"I am passionate about words and images, their power to heal and transform and affirm. I love describing things and trying to get at their essence. I love challenging myself to see the beauty in an object or situation that might otherwise be written off as ugly, inconsequential, or mundane.

"I'm also fascinated by the world of emotions and how we can use our feelings to create beauty. If I'm feeling angered or confused or hurt by someone, I try to explore those strong feelings within the landscape of my novel, within my characters. My aim is to reach a point of illumination—to bring out those dark, churning feelings inside me and turn them into something else, compassion, understanding.

"I hope my books illuminate for kids the strength of their internal resources and the possibility of using their feelings to create something beautiful, something uniquely their own."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 2000, Frances Bradburn, review of Drawing Lessons, p. 1376; November 15, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Drawing Lessons, p. 631; October 15, 2003, Bill Ott, review of Birdland, p. 409; November 1, 2006, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas, p. 54.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2003, Karen Coats, review of Birdland, p. 114; December, 2006, Elizabeth Bush, review of The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas, p. 179.

Childhood Education, winter, 2000, Lucille Fanger, review of Drawing Lessons, p. 108.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2003, review of Birdland, p. 1178; September 1, 2006, review of The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas, p. 907.

Kliatt, March, 2000, Paula Rohrlick, review of Drawing Lessons.

Publishers Weekly, March 13, 2000, review of Drawing Lessons, p. 85; November 17, 2003, review of Birdland, p. 66; August 31, 2006, James Bickers "The Kids Who Did Holmes' Dirty Work"; October 9, 2006, review of The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas, p. 56.

School Library Journal, March, 2000, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Drawing Lessons, p. 240; October, 2003, Hillias J. Martin, review of Birdland, p. 172; January, 2007, B. Allison, Gray, review of The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas, p. 132.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 2004, Deborah Fisher, review of Birdland, p. 494.

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