(Orel Odinov Protopopescu)
Born in Hempstead, NY; daughter of a lawyer and an elementary school teacher; married; children: two daughters.
Home and office—P.O. Box 709, Miller Place, NY 11764.
Author, educator, and poet. Has also worked as a storyteller and a writer and producer of educational films.
New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, 2003, for A Thousand Peaks; poetry prize, Oberon magazine, 2006.
(Under name Orel Odinov Protopopescu) Since Lulu Learned the Cancan, illustrated by Sandra Forrest, Green Tiger Press (New York, NY), 1991.
(Under name Orel Odinov Protopopescu) The Perilous Pit, illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast, Green Tiger Press (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Siyu Liu) A Thousand Peaks: Poems from China, illustrated by Liu, Pacific View Press (Berkeley, CA), 2001.
Metaphors and Similes You Can Eat and Twelve More Great Poetry Writing Lessons, Scholastic Teaching Resources (New York, NY), 2003.
Two Sticks, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of poems to periodicals, including Spoon River Poetry Review.
Orel Protopopescu, a poet and educator, is the author of a number of humorous books for young readers, including The Perilous Pit and Two Sticks. Protopopescu, who was named after a city in her father's homeland, Russia, credits her parents with nurturing her interest in literature. As she noted on the Farrar, Straus & Giroux Web site, "My mother was a dedicated third-grade teacher in an inner-city school. I devoured all the books she brought me. My father, a lawyer who preferred bridge and backgammon to the law, taught me chess and told stories that made me laugh." Protopopescu now shares her love of the written word with students of all ages by training at writing teachers and conducting prose and poetry workshops.
A former storyteller and film producer, Protopopescu began writing for children after the birth of her daughters and her debut work, Since Lulu Learned the Cancan, was published in 1991. The tale concerns a lively young ostrich who dances wherever and whenever she pleases, much to the consternation—and sometimes the delight—of her family. In the author's next work, The Perilous Pit, a youngster carelessly discards a peach pit, starting a chain of events involving a frightened cat, an out-of-control automobile, a gushing fire hydrant, a daredevil skateboarder who is swept out to sea, and rescue teams from the Navy, the Coast Guard, and the Air Force. Michele Landsberg, writing in Entertainment Weekly, praised the author's "witty, energetic prose," and a contributor in Publishers Weekly stated that "Protopopescu's story, a run-on sentence separated into unrhymed stanzas, leaves readers breathless."
In A Thousand Peaks: Poems from China, Protopopescu and coauthor Siyu Liu—who also illustrated the work— offer thirty-five poems spanning 2,000 years of Chinese history. Each poem is presented in Chinese characters as well as in a pinyin transliteration, a literal English translation, and a "poetic" English interpretation. "This unique collection invites readers to get into the act by comparing the Chinese original with this [poetic] version, and perhaps exercising their own poetic skills," observed Margaret A. Chang in School Library Journal. A Washington Post contributor similarly noted that "the real beauty of this book is that it gives readers the chance to peek behind" the original works of Chinese literature. Reviewing A Thousand Peaks in Booklist, Gillian Engberg described Protopopescu and Liu's work as "an unusual, informative resource for cross-curricular use."
An energetic youngster's love of percussion is the subject of Two Sticks, a work told in verse. When Little Maybelle's parents can no longer tolerate their daughter's nonstop drumming, they ask Maybelle to play outdoors in the surrounding bayou. Maybelle taps so forcefully, however, that she shatters a log bridge and falls into a swamp full of alligators. Instead of devouring the young girl, the gators are charmed by Maybelle's talents and follow the pied piper of the bayou back to her home. "Protopopescu weaves whimsical sense and nonsense into the bouncing rhymes," Engberg commented, and Nicholas A. Basbanes, writing in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, stated that the author "writes with a fresh, tongue-twisting vitality."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, June 1, 1993, Julie Corsaro, review of The Perilous Pit, p. 1860; March 15, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of A Thousand Peaks: Poems from China, p. 1250; February 15, 2007, Gillian Engberg, review of Two Sticks, p. 86.
Entertainment Weekly, July 23, 1993, Michele Landsberg, review of The Perilous Pit, p. 72.
New York Times Book Review, June 20, 1993, review of The Perilous Pit, p. 23.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 18, 2007, Nicholas A. Basbanes, review of Two Sticks.
Publishers Weekly, May 24, 1993, review of The Perilous Pit, p. 84.
School Library Journal, September, 1993, Anna DeWind, review of The Perilous Pit, p. 218; February, 2002, Margaret A. Chang, review of A Thousand Peaks, p. 147; March, 2007, Nancy Kunz, review of Two Sticks, p. 184.
Washington Post Book World, February 24, 2002, review of A Thousand Peaks.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux Web site,http://www.fsgkidsbooks.com/ (December 20, 2007), "Orel Protopopescu."