Perl, Erica S.

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Perl, Erica S.


Married Michael P. Sewell (an architect), 1995; children: two daughters. Education: Hampshire College, B.A.; Tulane University, J.D.


E-mail—[email protected]


Attorney, picture-book author, and writer for television. Louisiana Supreme Court, New Orleans, former central-staff law clerk; Harvard Children's Initiative, attorney; Legal Aid Society, New York, NY, attorney. Television-program developer, Powderhouse Productions; WGBH, Boston, MA, writer for television series Peep and the Big Wide World. Writer's Center, Bethesda, MD, writing teacher; freelance writer and editor; presenter in schools.

Awards, Honors

Reuben Award for best illustrated book, Book Sense Pick, and Best Books designation, all 2006, all for Ninety-three in My Family.


Chicken Bedtime Is Really Early, illustrated by George Bates, Harry Abrams (New York, NY), 2005.

Ninety-three in My Family, illustrated by Mike Lester, Harry Abrams (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times and Slate.


Although she grew up to become an attorney, Erica S. Perl really wanted to be a writer. Her first published work, a poem, appeared in the pages of Cricket magazine while she was still in elementary school, and her writing destiny seemed increasingly assured after she won writing contests and was accepted into Breadloaf's New England Young Writers' Conference as a high school student. Fortunately for young readers, the birth of her first child renewed Perl's interest in writing, and entertaining picture books such as Chicken Bedtime Is Really Early and Ninety-three in My Family have been the result. In addition to her writing for preschool-and elementary-school-aged children, Perl also writes for middle-grade and teen readers, and she has contributed scripts to the Emmy award-winning animated television series Peep and the Big Wide World. She teaches creative writing to adults and children and has done interactive workshops and performances based on her books on stage and in school settings. Writing in Washingtonian magazine, Wendi Kaufman dubbed Perl "a writer to watch."

Illustrated by George Bates, Chicken Bedtime Is Really Early addresses the universal reluctance of children to go to bed while there are still things happening on Earth. In her rhyming text with its arch wordplay, Perl focuses on chicks, fish, hamsters, bunnies, and other creatures, all of which attempt to wrangle a few more hours of play-time from their respective parents. The rudiments of time-telling are woven into Perl's "perfectly pitched" text, resulting in a concept book that mixes "puns …, simple rhymes, silly words and repetition to achieve a satisfying snappiness," according to a Publishers Weekly critic. Describing the text as "a charming countdown to bedtime in a barnyard" recounted in "infectious, bouncing rhymes," Gillian Engberg added in her Booklist review that Chicken Bedtime Is Really Early also benefits from Bates's acrylic art, which "capture[s] the delicious chaos and tumble of toddler bedtime."

A household of pet-lovers is the focus of Ninety-three in My Family. In the story, Perl's young narrator is quizzed by a skeptical teacher and must describe, in detail, the menagerie that shares his family home. Brought to life in comic cartoon art by Mike Lester, the boy's household members range from five humans and various dogs and cats to gerbils, goldfish, frogs, and even owls, lions, and armadillos. Perl cleverly frames her story in such a way as to incorporate addition and subtraction, as readers keep up with the jaunty text with their own mental tally. Ninety-three in My Family serves as a "rib-tickling romp with many counting opportunities for young listeners," according to a Kirkus Reviews writer. While admitting that Perl "begins with an outlandish premise," Susan Weitz concluded in her School Library Journal review of the books that the combination of text and "visual jokes" combine to produce "a comic masterpiece."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Dell'Antonia, K.J., and Susan Straub, Reading with Babies, Toddler, and Twos, Sourcebooks, 2006.


Booklist, March 15, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Chicken Bedtime Is Really Early, p. 1287.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2006, review of Ninety-three in My Family, p. 794.

Publishers Weekly, February 21, 2005, review of Chicken Bedtime Is Really Early, p. 173.

School Library Journal, April, 2005, Joy Fleishacker, review of Chicken Bedtime Is Really Early, p. 108; October, 2006, Susan Weitz, review of Ninety-three in My Family, p. 123.

Wondertime, February-March, 2007, Daniel Pinkwater, "Picture Books That Teach Numbers," p. 110.

Washingtonian, May, 2006, Wendi Kaufman, "Author, Author," p. 83.


Erica S. Perl Home Page, (March 15, 2008).

Erica S. Perl Web log, (March 15, 2008).