Recorvits, Helen

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Recorvits, Helen

Personal

Born in RI; married; children: two sons. Education: Graduated from Rhode Island College; also earned M.A. (education).

Addresses

Home—Gloucester, RI.

Career

Author and educator. Taught elementary school for more than twenty-five years.

Awards, Honors

Notable Trade Books for Young People selection, National Council for Social Studies/Children's Book Council, for Goodbye, Walter Malinski; Notable Children's Book selection, American Library Association, for My Name Is Yoon.

Writings

Goodbye, Walter Malinski (novel), illustrated by Lloyd Bloom, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1999.

Where Heroes Hide (novel), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.

My Name Is Yoon, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2006.

Yoon and the Jade Bracelet, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2008.

Sidelights

A former teacher, Helen Recorvits is the author of a number of award-winning books for young readers, including Goodbye, Walter Malinski and My Name Is Yoon. "I love reading and writing stories about interesting characters," Recorvits stated on her home page.

In her debut work, Goodbye, Walter Malinski, Recorvits tells the story of a Polish immigrant family that is struggling to make ends meet during the Great Depression. Set in 1934, the tale is narrated by fifth-grader Wanda Malinski, whose father has lost his job in the town's cotton mill and takes out his frustrations on Wanda's older brother, Walter. When a terrible accident devastates Wanda and her family, the members of their community rally around them. Faith Brautigam, writing in School Library Journal, called Goodbye, Walter Malinski "a firsthand account of the effects of powerlessness and grinding poverty on everyday life and family relationships," and Booklist critic Stephanie Zvirin remarked that the novel "packs quite a devastating punch." "Recorvits encapsulates a full range of human feeling and experience, as she describes the Malinskis' home life, loss and their growing resolve to pick up the pieces," observed a contributor in Publishers Weekly.

Set in the 1950s, Where Heroes Hide concerns Junior Webster, the ten-year-old son of a troubled World War II veteran. Junior's father forbids the youngster from playing with Lenny, a polio survivor, and he becomes enraged when he discovers Junior and his pals playing with a set of toy soldiers. When Junior finds some of his father's wartime mementos, he learns the true story behind his dad's erratic behavior. "Recorvits eschews a nostalgic tone," remarked a Publishers Weekly critic, "instead assuming a fresh voice, resulting in a solid period piece." In the words of Jean Gaffney, writing in School Library Journal, "the problems of being handicapped, surviving a misunderstood disease, and being war scarred are successfully developed in this accessible story."

Recorvits teams up with Polish artist Gabi Swiatkowska on a series of books about a Korean girl adjusting to her new life in the United States. In My Name Is Yoon the young immigrant dislikes the way her name looks in English, so she begins referring to herself in more pleasing terms, such as "bird" and "cupcake." "Yoon's words betray her sadness and insecurity at relinquishing some of her Korean identity," a Publishers Weekly critic observed. Yoon's "simple, first-person narrative stays true to the small immigrant child's bewildered viewpoint," Hazel Rochman stated in Booklist, and a contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that the work "strongly communicates Yoon's feelings in words and pictures both."

When Yoon comes home from school bubbling with tales of reindeers and elves, her mother and father insist that the family must follow Korean traditions instead in Yoon and the Christmas Mitten. "Yoon's perspective is just askew enough to make her a believable outsider as well as a quirky individual: besides calling the big guy ‘Mr. Santa Claus,’ she thinks of one classmate as ‘the freckle boy’ and mistakes a candy cane for a piece of the striped North Pole," noted Gregory Cowles in the New York Times Book Review. "Recorvits tells an affecting story about reconciling cultural identity," Booklist critic Gillian Engberg stated.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Goodbye, Walter Malinski, p. 1596; May 15, 2002, Catherine Andronik, review of Where Heroes Hide, p. 1608; March 15, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of My Name Is Yoon, p. 1333; December 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Yoon and the Christmas Mitten, p. 55.

Book Report, November-December, 2002, Leslie Schoenherr, review of Where Heroes Hide, p. 48.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 2003, review of My Name Is Yoon, p. 328; November, 2006, Elizabeth Bush, review of Yoon and the Christmas Mitten, p. 142.

Horn Book, May, 1999, review of Goodbye, Walter Malinski, p. 338.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of Where Heroes Hide, p. 665; March 1, 2003, review of My Name Is Yoon, p. 396; November 1, 2006, review of Yoon and the Christmas Mitten, p. 1133.

New York Times Book Review, December 3, 2006, Gregory Cowles, review of Yoon and the Christmas Mitten.

Publishers Weekly, March 1, 1999, review of Goodbye, Walter Malinski, p. 69; May 6, 2002, review of Where Heroes Hide, p. 58; January 20, 2003, review of My Name Is Yoon, p. 81.

School Library Journal, June, 1999, Faith Brautigam, review of Goodbye, Walter Malinski, p. 106; May, 2002, Jean Gaffney, review of Where Heroes Hide, p. 158; May, 2003, Teri Markson and Stephen Samuel Wise, review of My Name Is Yoon, p. 128; October, 2006, Eva Mitnick, review of Yoon and the Christmas Mitten, p. 100.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 1, 2003, review of My Name Is Yoon, p. 5; December 3, 2006, Mary Harris Russell, review of Yoon and the Christmas Mitten, p. 7.

ONLINE

Macmillan Web site,http://us.macmillan.com/ (August 1, 2008), "Helen Recorvits."