Marcus, Leonard S. 1950–
Marcus, Leonard S. 1950–
Born December 11, 1950, in Mount Vernon, NY; son of Frank P. (in business) and Estelle Marcus; married Amy Schwartz (a writer and illustrator), May 20, 1990; children: Jacob. Education: Yale University, B.A. (history; magna cum laude), 1972; University of Iowa, M.F.A. (poetry), 1974. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, traveling.
Home—Brooklyn, NY. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and literary historian. Teacher of seminars at School of Visual Art, 1982-90, and New School for Social Research, 1985-90; coordinator of symposia; exhi-
bition curator. Lion and Unicorn, book review editor, 1986-91; Parenting magazine, children's book reviewer, beginning 1987. Judge of National Book Awards, 1996; creator and director of Parenting magazine annual awards for excellence in children's literature; standing member of Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award committee. Member of board of trustees, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art; member of national board, National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature; member of board of directors, Weston Woods Institute. Featured guest on television and radio programs, including ABC's Good Morning America, BBC Radio 4, C-Span 2 Book TV, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, Fox Network's Good Morning New York Sunday, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's As It Happens, WHYY's Radio Times, and WRECC's The Book Gallery. Speaker at numerous parent and professional groups.
PEN American Center, Nation Book Critics Circle, Authors Guild, Children's Literature Association.
Best Book listee, New York Public Library, 1990, for Mother Goose's Little Misfortunes; Best Books for the Teen Age designation, New York Public Library, 1994, Books of Distinction listee, Hungry Mind Review, 1995, Book of the Year designation, Child Study Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education, 1995, and Notable Book selection, Children's Book Council/National Council for the Social Studies, 1995, all for Lifelines; New York Times Notable Book selection, 1998, and Best Book listee, New York Public Library, 2000, both for Dear Genius; Best Book list, New York Public Library, 1998, Notable Children's Book designation, American Library Association, 1999, and Independent Publishers Association Award in picture-book category, 1999, all for A Caldecott Celebration; Nonfiction Honor List, Voice of Youth Advocates, and Best Book listee, New York Public Library, both 2000, and Best Book designation, Bank Street College of Education, and Orbis Pictus Recommended Book designation, both 2001, all for Author Talk; Best Book listee, New York Public Library, 2001, for Side by Side; Miami Herald Best Book Award, 2003, for Storied City; New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age designation, and CCBC Choice designation for Best Book, both 2007, both for The Wand in the Word; Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, 2007, for Oscar; honorary D.H.L., Bank Street College of Education, 2007.
(Editor and author of introduction) New York Street Cries in Rhyme, Dover (Mineola, NY), 1977.
The American Story Window, Whitney School of Design (New York, NY), 1978.
Petrouchka: A Ballet Cut-out Book, David R. Godine (Boston, MA), 1983.
An Epinal Album: Popular Prints from Nineteenth-Century Prints, David R. Godine (Boston, MA), 1984.
(Editor) Humor and Play in Children's Literature, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1990.
(Editor with wife, Amy Schwartz, and author of introduction) Mother Goose's Little Misfortunes, illustrated by Schwartz, Bradbury Press (Mew York, NY), 1990.
Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon, Beacon (Boston, MA), 1992.
(Editor) Lifelines: A Poetry Anthology, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.
75 Years of Children's Book Week Posters, Knopf (New York, NY), 1994.
Morrow Junior Books: The First Fifty Years, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.
The Making of Goodnight Moon: A Fiftieth Anniversary Retrospective, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
A Caldecott Celebration: Six Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal, Walker (New York, NY), 1998, expanded as A Caldecott Celebration: Seven Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal, 2008.
(Editor) Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Author Talk: Conversations with Judy Blume, Bruce Brooks, Karen Cushman, Russell Freedman, Lee Bennett Hopkins, James Howe, Johanna Hurwitz, E.L.Konigsburg, Lois Lowry, Ann M. Martin, Nicholasa Mohr, Gary Paulsen, Jon Scieszka, Seymour Simon, and Laurence Yep, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Side by Side: Five Favorite Picture Book Teams Go to Work, Walker (New York, NY), 2001.
Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.
Storied City: A Children's Book Walking-Tour Guide to New York City, Dutton (New York, NY), 2003.
(Author of introduction) Make Way for McCloskey: A Robert McCloskey Treasury, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.
(Author of foreword) The Art of Reading: Forty Illustrators Celebrate RIF's 40th Anniversary, Dutton (New York, NY), 2004.
Oscar: The Big Adventures of a Little Sock Monkey, illustrated by Amy Schwartz, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
(Compiler and editor) The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.
Pass It Down: Five Picture-Book Families Make Their Mark, Walker (New York, NY), 2007.
Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon along the Way, Golden Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children's Literature, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2008.
Editor of special picture-book issue of Lion and the Unicorn, 1983-84. Author of introductions to numerous editions of children's book classics, including The Wind in the Willows, 1994, A Little Princess, 1994, The Original Curious George, 1998, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1998, Mouse of My Heart, 2001, and Corduroy and Company: A Don Freeman Treasury, 2001. Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times Book Review, Horn Book, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Five Owls. Lion and Unicorn, member of editorial board, 1982-91.
Leonard S. Marcus is an acclaimed author and editor who has devoted much of his career to chronicling the history of children's book writing and publishing. His award-winning works encompass biographies and collections of correspondence by authors and respected editors such as Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon and Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, as well as the many profiles and interviews with award-winning writers and artists that are featured in A Caldecott Celebration: Six Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal, Side by Side: Five Picture-Book Teams Go to Work, The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy, and Pass It Down: Five Picture-Book Families Make Their Mark. Marcus designs his large-format, fully illustrated books to appeal not only to young readers, but to any reader interested in the history and business of children's literature. A revered critic, he is also a speaker and exhibition curator.
Both alone and in collaboration with his wife, author and illustrator Amy Schwartz, Marcus has also dabbled in picture-book production first hand. An early work, Petrouchka, is an adaptation of the Russian story that served as inspiration for the ballet by Igor Stravinksy. Accompanied by illustrations that faithfully reproduce set designs and costumes from the 1911 premier of the ballet, Petrouchka "offers absorbing playtime and an introduction to the dance," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, the critic adding that Marcus retells the legend with "clarity and expression." Joining Schwartz, he has also produced Mother Goose's Little Misfortunes, a compilation of lesser-known nursery rhymes dealing bad luck of one variety or another, and Oscar: The Big Adventure of a Little Sock Monkey, which was praised by a Publishers Weekly contributor as "a charming story with a satisfying ending." In Publishers Weekly, a critic noted Marcus's "eloquent introduction" to Mother Goose's Little Misfortunes, adding that the author "emphasizes the importance of playful rhythm and rhyme to the overall effect of these verses."
Marcus was born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York. "I was a very slow reader as a child," he once admitted, "partly because I enjoyed the sound of every syllable and word. This led in time to a love of poetry and picture books." While studying history at Yale University, he first became curious about the history of
children's publishing and literature. As he recalled on his home page, "In college, I'd become curious about the first years of the American republic, and especially about reports that American children in those days were a lot more free-spirited than their European counterparts. I wondered if this could possibly have been so. And I began to wonder whether the books children read back then—or at any time—somehow shaped or reflected their particular experience of childhood." The more Marcus delved into this subject, the more interested he became in all aspects of children's literature, including the illustrations. "I wondered why this often fascinating artwork was almost never exhibited at museums," he added.
Graduating from Yale, Marcus then studied poetry at the University of Iowa's Graduate Writers' Workshop, and this training translated well to his ongoing analysis of children's books. "As I browsed through more and more children's books I realized that the best ones were written in a wonderfully compressed and animated form of poetry," he once observed. "I wondered why children's books weren't discussed more often as the kind of literature they clearly were."
Working throughout the 1980s as book-review editor for the fledgling magazine Lion and the Unicorn, as well for Parenting magazine, Marcus continued to write widely on the subject of children's literature in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. He reviewed books, interviewed authors, and explored the history of children's publishing in these writings. In 1990 he married Schwartz and collaborated with her that same year on Mother Goose's Little Misfortunes.
Increasingly, Marcus felt himself drawn to the work of Margaret Wise Brown, in particular to her classic tale Goodnight Moon and what he referred to on his home page as its "poignant lyricism." "I had read biographies by the armload as a child," he added, "and I now decided to write Brown's biography." Research and writing took ten years, and Margaret Wise Brown appeared in 1992. Brown, one of the best-selling children's authors of all time, is "childhood's poet laureate," according to Marcus. She studied child-development study and teacher training at the Bank Street School, then went on to become a writer and the founding editor of the children's book imprint at William R. Scott publishers. Although she never won a major literary award, Brown was the first to turn picture books into a real art form, and as such is considered a pioneer in the field.
In what has widely been hailed as a pioneering work of original research, Marcus details the professional aspects of Brown's life. He covers her dealings with some of the movers and shakers in the then-nascent field of children's literature, such as editors Ursula Nordstrom and William R. Scott and the founders of Golden Books; illustrators such as Clement Hurd, Garth Williams, Leonard Weisgard, and Esphyr Slobodkina; and influential figures such as the New York Public Library's Anne Carroll Moore and Bank Street College founder Lucy Sprague Mitchell. Marcus also provides insights into Brown's complex personal life. "People interested in children's books and publishing, students in women's studies programs, and a spectrum of Margaret Wise Brown's enthusiastic fans should be interested in this biography," Peggy Sullivan wrote in School Library Journal. In Horn Book, editor Anita Silvey called Marcus's biography "both fascinating and compelling," and concluded: "We can only be thankful that someone with the love of children's books and the insight into the field chose to write such a superb biography."
Margaret Wise Brown received an unusual degree of national media attention for a book about children's literature. Edith Kunhardt Davis, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called Marcus's opus "absorbing," while in USA Today Suzanne Freeman commented that "the overview that Marcus provides gives us a great grasp of just how groundbreaking Brown's work was." Chicago Tribune contributor Liz Rosenberg deemed the book "superb," adding that "Marcus is a fine stylist in his own right, and Margaret Wise Brown is often a work of art."
Marcus revisits his love of poetry in Lifelines: A Poetry Anthology, an edited collection of eighty poems by sixty poets. The work is divided into four stages of life: infancy and childhood, youth, parenting and middle age, and old age and death. In assembling writers ranging from William Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy to twentieth-century wordsmiths such as Eleanor Cameron, "Marcus has judiciously selected poems whose complementary epiphanies make this one of those fine anthologies whose whole is greater than the sum of its excellent parts," concluded a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. In Booklist Hazel Rochman called Lifelines a "splendid anthology," but suggested that it would appeal to adults more than to children, while a Publishers Weekly critic found the work "challenging and thought-provoking," with a "gracefully written preface."
A collection of the visual sort is presented in 75 Years of Children's Book Week Posters, a chronicle of the annual Book Week celebration from its modest beginnings in 1915 up to 1994. "Marcus sets the event in context," wrote Mary M. Burns in Horn Book, "thus enlarging its significance as an arbiter of taste and as a mirror of change." In addition to providing what Burns described as a "penetrating introduction," Marcus also includes annotations to the sixty-nine posters featured in the book, presenting "an overview of the history of children's books and the development of the publishing industry," as Sally Estes observed in Booklist. M. Jean Greenlaw, writing in the New Advocate, called 75 Years of Children's Book Week Posters "much more than a coffee table book for bibliophiles," and added that Marcus's "fascinating essay" present a history of children's book publishing in the United States. To Burns, the work serves both as a "visual feast" and "a fascinating piece of social history."
Dear Genius presents the work of pioneering editor Ursula Nordstrom through her letters. Nordstrom edited the works of such luminaries as Margaret Wise Brown, Maurice Sendak, E.B. White, Russell Hoban, Ruth Krauss, and Shel Silverstein, among others. The director of Harper's children's books, she ruled over New York City's children's publishing for three decades. "The vibrant letters collected here," wrote Booklist critic Donna Seaman, "preserve Nordstrom's wry wit and unfailing integrity, her tireless pursuit of factual and emotional accuracy, and her demanding standards and deep affection for writers and illustrators." Burns, reviewing the collection in Horn Book, noted that, "thanks to Marcus, we can now eavesdrop on history-in-the-making through [Nordstrom's] correspondence." The book's informative footnotes and "an extensive list of sources transform a beguiling compendium into an exemplary reference and scholarly resource as well," the critic added.
Turning from editor to publisher, Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon along the Way leads readers on a nostalgic, sixty-five-year journey back through childhood, as they recognize The Pokey Little Puppy among the many gold-edged cardboard Golden Book covers reproduced in Marcus's opus. A treasure of information on one of the most active publishers in the children's-book field, Golden Legacy follows the publishing company's early years, marketing strategies, and ultimate impact upon several generations of young children. Featuring the work of noted artists and writers, Golden Books was often ahead of traditional publishers in responding to trends in subject matter and aesthetics. "As Marcus ably shows," wrote Horn Book writer Joanna Rudge Long, while mainstream publishers "were prone to dismiss Golden Books as derivative, commercially driven mass-market titles, there was value aplenty within those familiar covers." Calling Marcus's text "painstakingly researched but nonetheless sprightly," a Kirkus Reviews writer cited the many interviews, photographs, and notes that enrich the volume. Golden Legacy serves up "an irresistible feast," the critic added, one that is "especially catnip-like for children's-book history buffs."
To honor the sixtieth anniversary of the Caldecott Medal, Marcus chose one medal winner from each of those six decades to profile in A Caldecott Celebration. Readers meet Robert McCloskey, Marcia Brown, Maurice Sendak, William Steig, Chris Van Allsburg, and David Wiesner through brief biographical sketches, interviews, and detailed descriptions of each artist's illustration technique. "Marcus' chatty, conversational style stays on topic …, while his copious quotes allow the artists to speak for themselves," wrote a reviewer in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Burns, reviewing the title in Horn Book, felt that the "text is remarkable for the smooth integration of explanatory material with overall commentary, and selective detail creates a sense of intimacy and understanding." "With Marcus's sure hand guiding this tour," declared a Publishers Weekly critic "readers will find cause for celebration." The volume was updated in 2008 and the subtitle changed to note the addition of another Caldecott Medal winner.
Marcus continues his insightful examination of the creators of children's books in a number of books, among them Author Talk: Conversations with Judy Blume, Bruce Brooks, Karen Cushman, Russell Freedman, Lee Bennett Hopkins, James Howe, Johanna Hurwitz, E.L. Konigsburg, Lois Lowry, Ann M. Martin, Nicholasa Mohr, Gary Paulsen, Jon Scieszka, Seymour Simon, and Laurence Yep, Side by Side, and The Wand and the Word. In Author Talk he conducts fifteen conversations with children's book authors that reveal details not only about their work but also their lives. Each entry begins with a page of biographical information, followed by questions and answers dealing with the author's childhood, interests, and method of writing. Marcus also provides a bibliography for each author. "Children researching or just reading about their favorite author will find this attractive book insightful as well as quite readable," wrote Carolyn Phelan in her Booklist review of Author Talk. Calling the work "an excellent choice for aspiring writers and avid readers," a Publishers Weekly reviewer added that by using a similar set of questions for each interview, Marcus "offers a sense of the diversity of approaches to the writing life and balances his queries between those pertaining to the writers' childhoods and to their current careers."
Side by Side explores the chemistry between author and artist in the making of picture books. Here Marcus goes behind the book-making scenes with five famous collaborative teams: Arthur Yorinks and Richard Egielski; Alice and Martin Provensen; Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith, and Molly Leach; Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney; and Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen. By focusing on the production of one specific title for each team, he unlocks some of the secrets of book production in general, from conception to dummy to finished book. Marcus's combination of interviews and examples of works in progress serves as a primer of sorts for those interested in the rudiments of picture-book publishing. In School Library Journal Steven Engelfried dubbed Side by Side a "fascinating look at the collaborative process," and Phelan praised Marcus's tone throughout. "Clearly, Marcus isn't talking down to his audience," the critic added. "He's just telling them interesting stories and making them accessible to young people."
Marcus focuses on the family side of book writing and illustrating in Pass It Down by profiling works by Donald Crews and Ann Jonas and daughter Nina Crews; Clement and Edith Hurd and son Thacher Hurd; Walter Dean Myers and son Christopher Myers; illustrator Jerry Pinkney and son Brian Pinkney; and Harlow and Anne Rockwell and daughter Lizzy Rockwell. Although noting the benefit of growing up in a family where creativity is valued and encouraged, Marcus also reveals that, for each of the children profiled, hard work and a unique creative vision have made them successful in the publishing field. Citing Marcus's characteristic "tight but lively" writing, School Library Journal contributor Grace Oliff predicted that Pass It Down will win an appreciative audience from "readers who enjoy getting behind the scenes of the books they love." The author's "engaging style" gives the profiles "clarity and immediacy," according to a Kirkus Reviews writer, and highlights "the connections between parents and children, editors and artists and readers and writers." In Booklist Phelan characterized Pass It Down as "very readable and perceptive," adding that Marcus shines an "intriguing light on growing up within a successful family and choosing a career path."
Turning to the fantasy genre, Marcus follows a characteristic interview/profile format in his award-winning The Wand in the Word. The insights of writers such as Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Brian Jacques, Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones, and Jane Yolen are among the riches to be discovered by fans of the genre, as Marcus successfully probes for insights into literary inspirations, writing habits and spaces, revision tech- nique, and views on the role of fantasy. Praising the book as "elegantly designed," Susan Hepler noted in her School Library Journal review that Marcus's "well-focused questions" make The Wand in the Word a "lively and highly readable" work that serves as an "essential volume for fantasy readers of all ages."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Belles Lettres, fall, 1992, Linda Hamalian, "The Dark Side of the Moon," pp. 10-11.
Booklist, September 1, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of Lifelines: A Poetry Anthology, pp. 32-33; October 15, 1994, Sally Estes, review of 75 Years of Children's Book Week Posters, p. 418; February 1, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, p. 893; June 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of Author Talk: Conversations with Judy Blume, Bruce Brooks, Karen Cushman, Russell Freedman, Lee Bennett Hopkins, James Howe, Johanna Hurwitz, E.L. Konigsburg, Lois Lowry, Ann M. Martin, Nicholasa Mohr, Gary Paulsen, Jon Scieszka, Seymour Simon, and Laurence Yep, p. 1883; November 15, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of Side by Side: Five Favorite Picture Book Teams Go to Work, p. 573; May 15, 2006, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Oscar: The Big Adventures of a Little Sock Monkey, p. 52; December 15, 2006, Carolyn Phelan, review of Pass It Down: Five Picture-Book Families Make Their Mark, p. 45.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 1998, review of A Caldecott Celebration: Six Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal, p. 117; May, 2007, review of Pass It Down, p. 377.
Chicago Tribune, March 29, 1992, Liz Rosenberg, "Margaret Wise Brown: Masterly Writer for Children."
Horn Book, May-June, 1992, Anita Silvey, review of Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon, p. 260; January-February, 1995, Mary M. Burns, review of 75 Years of Children's Book Week Posters, pp. 73-74; March-April, 1998, Mary M. Burns, review of Dear Genius, pp. 239-240; November-December, 1998, Mary M. Burns, review of A Caldecott Celebration, p. 756; January-February, 2002, Mary M. Burns, review of Side by Side, p. 104; January-February, 2008, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon along the Way, p. 120.
Kirkus Reviews, December, 1991, review of Margaret Wise Brown, pp. 1577-1578; June 15, 1994, review of Lifelines, pp. 848-849; October 1, 2001, review of Side by Side, p. 1428; May 1, 2003, review of Storied City, p. 629; May 15, 2006, review of Oscar, p. 523; November 15, 2006, review of Pass It Down, p. 1176; September 15, 2007, review of Golden Legacy.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 28, 1992, Jane Resh Thomas, "Writers for Children Have Great Influence on Cculture."
New Advocate, winter, 1995, M. Jean Greenlaw, review of 75 Years of Children's Book Week Posters, p. 46.
New Yorker, October 6, 1997, Louis Menand, review of The Making of Goodnight Moon, p. 116.
New York Times Book Review, March 22, 1992, Edith Kunhardt Davis, "Between Fur Covers"; November 11, 2007, review of Golden Legacy.
Publishers Weekly, August 19, 1983, review of Petrouchka, p. 79; August 10, 1990, review of Mother Goose's Little Misfortunes, p. 441; December 20, 1991, review of Margaret Wise Brown, p. 72; June 13, 1994, review of Lifelines, p. 64; February 3, 1997, review of The Making of Goodnight Moon, p. 108; October 12, 1998, review of A Caldecott Celebration, p. 75; July 17, 2000, review of Author Talk, p. 197; November 19, 2001, review of Side by Side, p. 69; June 26, 2006, review of Oscar, p. 50.
San Francisco Chronicle, March 22, 1992, Linda Perkins, "The Laureate of the Nursery."
School Library Journal, December, 1990, Amy Spaulding, review of Mother Goose's Little Misfortunes, p. 84; March, 1992, Peggy Sullivan, review of Margaret Wise Brown, p. 178; October, 1994, Sharon Korbeck, review of Lifelines, p. 155; January, 1998, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Dear Genius, p. 45; December, 1998, Barbara Scotto, review of A Caldecott Celebration, p. 140; August, 2000, Barbara Scotto, review of Author Talk, p. 203; November, 2001, Steven Engelfried, review of Side by Side, p. 182; July, 2003, JoAnn Jonas, review of Storied City, p. 144; May, 2006, Susan Hepler, review of The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy, p. 152; June, 2006, Wendy Lukehart, review of Oscar, p. 126; January, 2007, Grace Oliff, review of Pass It Down, p. 153
USA Today, March 5, 1992, Suzanne Freeman, "Complex Life of a Simple Children's Storyteller."
Leonard S. Marcus Home Page,http://www.leonardmarcus.com (February 15, 2008).