Roth, Susan L.

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Roth, Susan L.

Personal

Born in New York, NY; married; children: three children. Education: Mills College, B.A. (art), 1965, M.A. (printmaking and art history), 1968. Hobbies and other interests: Art, music, theater, travel, dogs.

Addresses

Home and office—New York, NY. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Collage artist and author. Formerly worked as a teacher. Exhibitions: Work exhibited at Les Cloîtres, Tarascon, France; Elizabeth Stone Gallery, Bloomfield Hills, MI; Society of Illustrators Original Art Show, New York, NY, 1989, 1991, 1993; and Berkeley Store Gallery, 1996.

Member

Children's Book Guild of Washington, DC.

Awards, Honors

Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choice designation, 1984, for Patchwork Tales; New York Times Best Illustrated Book designation, 1988, and 1996, for Fire Came to the Earth People; National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, and American Booksellers Association (ABA) Pick of the Lists inclusion, and Maryland Black-eyed Susan Picture-Book Award, all 1990, all for The Story of Light; ABA Pick of the Lists inclusion, and Aesop Accolade, American Folklore Society, both 1992, both for Ishi's Tale of the Lizard by Leanne Hinton; NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, Maryland Black-eyed Susan Picture-Book Award, and Child Study Children's Book Committee Children's Book of the Year designation, all 1994, all for The Great Ball Game by Joseph Bruchac; CCBC Choice designation, 1995, for How Thunder and Lightning Came to Be; Kentucky Bluegrass Award, and Aesop Accolade, American Folklore Society, both 1998, both for The Biggest Frog in Australia; YALSA Best Book for Young Adults designation, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year, Capitol Choices selection, NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, and Riverbank Review and Smithsonian Notable Book designations, all 1997, and Woodson Elementary Award, American Library Association Notable Book designation, International Reading Association Teachers' Choice, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, and Jefferson Cup Award, all 1998, and several state literature awards, all for Leon's Story by Leon Walter Tillage; New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing designation, 1998, for Cinnamon's Day Out; NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, and National Parenting Publications Gold Award, both 2001, both for Made in Mexico by Peter Laufer; NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, 2002, and Art Director's Club of Metropolitan Washington Certificate of Merit, 2001, for Happy Birthday Mr. Kang; Bank Street College of Education Children's Book of the Year, and Children's Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, both 2004, both for Hard Hat Area.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

(With Ruth Phang) Patchwork Tales, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1984.

(With Ruth Phang) We Build a Climber, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1986.

Fire Came to the Earth People: A Dahomean Folktale, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Kanahena: A Cherokee Story, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1988.

We'll Ride Elephants through Brooklyn, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1989.

Marco Polo: His Notebook, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1990.

The Story of Light, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1990.

Gypsy Bird Song, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1991.

Another Christmas, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Princess, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 1993.

Buddha, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Creak, Thump, Bump!: A Very Spooky Mystery, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.

The Biggest Frog in Australia, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.

Brave Martha and the Dragon, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1996.

My Love for You, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1997, bilingual edition published as Mi amor por ti = My Love for You, 2003.

Cinnamon's Day Out: A Gerbil Adventure, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1998.

Night-Time Numbers: A Scary Counting Book, Barefoot Books (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

Happy Birthday Mr. Kang, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2001.

It's a Dog's New York, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2001.

Grandpa Blows His Penny Whistle until the Angels Sing, Barefoot Books (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

My Love for You All Year Round, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2003.

Hard Hat Area, Bloomsbury Children's Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2004.

(With Angelo Mafucci) Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d'Arezzo, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2006.

Great Big Guinea Pigs, Bloomsbury Children's Books (New York, NY), 2006.

(With Nancy Patz) Babies Can't Eat Kimchee!, Bloomsbury Children's Books (New York, NY), 2007.

ILLUSTRATOR

Ishi, Ishi's Tale of Lizard, translated by Leanne Hinton, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1992.

Cheryl Chapman, Pass the Fritters, Critters, Four Winds Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Joseph Bruchac, The Great Ball Game: A Muskogee Story, Dial (New York, NY), 1994.

Beatrice Orcutt Harrell, How Thunder and Lightning Came to Be, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1995.

Patricia Hooper, How the Sky's Housekeeper Wore Her Scarves, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995.

Leon Walter Tillage, Leon's Story, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1997.

Peter Laufer, Made in Mexico, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2000.

Walt Whitman, Nothing but Miracles: From Leaves of Grass, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2003.

Adaptations

Nothing but Miracles: From Leaves of Grass and Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d'Arezzo were both adapted as choral productions by Victoria Bond and produced, respectively, in Baltimore, MD, 2004, and Arezzo, Italy, 2006.

Sidelights

Armed with only a camera, scissors, paste, tape, and tweezers, Susan L. Roth has gained reknown as an artist specializing in cut-and torn-paper collages as well as woodcuts. Combining her highly textured, mixed-media art with detailed research and original stories, she has created a niche for herself, captivating young children with both nonfiction and fictional books that include the popular counting book My Love for You as well as Cinnamon's Day Out: A Gerbil Adventure, Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah, Happy Birthday Mr. Kang, Hard Hat Area, and Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d'Arezzo. Praising My Love for You, Ilene Cooper cited in particular Roth's characteristic use of a "pithy yet endearing text and eye-catching illustrations," while a Kirkus Reviews writer dubbed Do Re Mi "a sublime blend of education and entertainment." As an illustrator, Roth frequently collaborates on texts by other writers. Among these titles is the award-winning Leon's Story, the autobiography of school custodian Leon Walter Tillage, who Roth was introduced to by her twelve-year-old daughter. A quiet but direct account of a black man whose life experiences included growing up amid racism and the predations of the Ku Klux Klan as the son of poor Southern sharecroppers, Leon's Story was transcribed by Roth and illustrated with what a Publishers Weekly contributor described as "dramatic black and-white collages [that] pay homage to the power of Leon's story."

Roth's first self-illustrated picture books were written in collaboration with Ruth Phang. The first of these, Patchwork Tales, features woodcut art shaded in tones of red, yellow, blue, and green that brings to life the stories Grandma tells her young granddaughter at bedtime. The book includes instructions on how to make a quilt, augmenting what School Library Journal reviewer Nancy Kewish called a "charming and thoughtfully put together" work. In The Story of Light Roth retells a porquoi tale based on a Cherokee myth. The story describes how, when the larger creatures Possum and Buzzard fail to bring light to Earth, it is up to tiny Spider—called "too small," "too old," and "a woman"—to complete the job. Mary Harris Veeder, reviewing the work for the Chicago Tribune, dubbed the unity of story and pictures in Roth's picture book "remarkable."

Roth brings to life traditional folk tales in several other books, among them The Biggest Frog in Australia, in which she retells a tall tale about a frog that drinks all the water on the continent. In How Thunder and Lightning Came to Be: A Choctaw Legend she illustrates a story from Native American mythology, while How the Sky's Housekeeper Wore Her Scarves explains, in mythical terms, how a rainbow forms. Roth's illustrations for The Great Ball Game: A Muskogee Story bring to life a stickball game between animals with wings and animals with teeth. Drawing from the Christian faith, Brave Martha and the Dragon depicts how St. Martha, after seeing her brother Lazarus rise from the dead, voyages to France to tame a dragon that is frightening villagers.

From tall tales, Roth turns to tall buildings in Hard Hat Area, and uses torn-photo collages to "take … readers into the clouds," according to Horn Book reviewer Bridget T. McCaffrey. Here she focuses on Kristen, a female ironworker-in-training, as she arrives on the construction site and assists the more-experienced workers construct a skyscraper's iron skeleton. Drawing on research that included climbing into the scaffolding of a

New York City construction site, Roth "brings alive the ironworkers' sense of community, and how they embrace anyone willing to start at the bottom and work their way up," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. A Kirkus Reviews critic predicted that "kids who are intrigued by construction sites and equipment will find this unusually structured book a solid hit."

Roth turns her attention to slightly older children in her fictionalized picture-book biographies Marco Polo: His Notebooks, Buddha, and Do Re Mi. Formatted as a series of fictional journal entries dictated by the explorer to a writer, the book follows Polo's trek through Jerusalem, Iran, and Afghanistan. According to Five Owls critic Mary Lou Burket, the work presents children with "a tantalizing peek at distant places that currently dominate world affairs" and serves "as a visually unified and lively introduction to a large subject." In a review for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, a critic noted the omission of captions and other explanatory notes but went on to write that the story "has a romantic allure … and Roth is good about providing the details that give evidence to the wonder." In Buddha Roth recounts the transformation of Siddhartha into Buddha, while Do Re Mi focuses on the medieval Italian monk who developed the first musical notation system. Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper called Buddha an "ambitious offering" and praised Roth's handmade, torn-paper collage illustrations as "extraordinary." Noting that the story of Guido d'Arezzo "is certain to capture the imagination of any budding musician," a Publishers Weekly critic praised Do Re Mi for its "carefully researched prose" and "marvelous" collage accompaniment. The book, written in collaboration with Maestro Angelo Mafucci, was a special labor of love for Roth. In addition to being adapted as a musical composition by Victoria Bond and staged by Mafucci's Children's Choir of Arezzo, Italy, in 2006, Do Re Mi was presented by Roth to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican the following year.

While many of Roth's books include factual information, some keep all the focus on fun. Break, Thump, Bump!: A Very Spooky Mystery finds three children and a dog bumping around in the dark while attempting to discover the sources of some odd sounds, while Cinnamon's Day Out finds a frisky gerbil taking a holiday in the house. Far more weighty rodents take to the pages of Great Big Guinea Pigs, which couches facts about the rampages of prehistoric Venezuelan guinea pigs within a fictional bedtime story. "Who can resist a title like this?," queried Ilene Cooper in Booklist, the critic adding that in "typically super" torn-paper collages the author/illustrator "make[s] her guinea pigs look equally adorable (in the present) and ferocious (in the past)."

Early on in her career, Roth adopted a rule she has only veered from once: "No pencils, pens nor paints." Each book project is a unique work in which she adapts her collages to suit the needs of the particular story. For example, in Cinnamon's Day Out, wood shavings, fluff, and corrugated paper can all be found in the mixed-media collages that accompany the text, providing children with "an engaging but safely vicarious adventure," according to Carol Ann Wilson in School Library Journal. In Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah she incorporates the lace and nuts evocative of a special holiday, and a close look at the illustrations of Do Re Mi reveal sheet music, foil, and handmade papers from throughout the world. Asked where she gets her ideas, Roth explained on her home page: "World, universe, New York Times, friends, family, sky, head, dogs, traveling, museums, libraries, walks, good coffee, cooking, looking out the window, listening…."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Morgan, Margaret, Susan L. Roth, Harcourt (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2007.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 1988, review of Kanahena: A Cherokee Story, p. 83; September 15, 1988, Ilene Cooper, review of Fire Came to the Earth People: A Dahomean Folktale, p. 165; December, 1991, review of Gypsy Bird Song, p. 768; September, 1992, review of Another Christmas, pp. 156-157; June, 1993, review of Pass the Fritters, Critters, pp. 1852-1853; October 1, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of Leon's Story, p. 332; April 1, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of Grandpa Blows His Penny Whistle until the Angels Sing, p. 1479; December 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of My Love for You All Year Round, p. 584; September 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Sing the Season, p. 130; November 1, 2004, Karin Snelson, review of Hard Hat Area, p. October 15, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Great Big Guinea Pigs, p. 47; December 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d'Arezzo, p. 55.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1985, review of Patchwork Tales, pp. 93-94; October, 1988, review of Kanahena, pp. 51-52; February, 1991, review of Marco Polo: His Notebook, pp. 153-154; September, 1998, Elizabeth Bush, review of Cinnamon's Day Out: A Gerbil Adventure, pp. 28-29; April, 2001, review of Happy Birthday Mr. Kang, p. 314; January, 2005, Elizabeth Bush, review of Hard Hat Area, p. 225.

Chicago Tribune, November 11, 1990, Mary Harris Veeder, review of The Story of Light, pp. 6-7.

Five Owls, March-April, 1991, review of Marco Polo, pp 78-80; September-October, 1991, Susan Stan, review of Marco Polo, p. 5.

Horn Book, March, 1990, Ethel Twichell, review of We'll Ride Elephants through Brooklyn, p. 194; November, 1990, Ellen Fader, review of The Story of Light, p. 754; November, 1992, Ellen Fader, review of Another Christmas, p. 713; fall, 1996, Nancy Vasilakis, review of The Biggest Frog in Australia, p. 273; November-December, 1997, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Leon's Story, p. 699; January, 1999, Susan L. Roth, transcript of Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards speech, p. 46; October 1, 2001, review of Grandpa Blows His Penny Whistle until the Angels Sing; November-December, 2004, Bridget T. McCaffrey, review of Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah, p. 663; January-February, 2005, Betty Careter, review of Hard Hat Area, p. 110.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1989, review of We'll Ride Elephants through Brooklyn, p. 1753; June 15, 1990, review of The Story of Light, p. 884; June 1, 1994, review of Buddha, p. 781; September 15, 1995, review of Creak, Thump, Bonk!, p. 1357; May 15, 1996, review of The Biggest Frog in Australia, p. 750; June 1, 1996, review of Brave Martha and the Dragon, p. 829; December 15, 1996, review of My Love for You, p. 1808; October 1, 1999, review of Night-Time Numbers: A Scary Counting Book, p. 1586; April 1, 2001, review of Grandpa Blows His Penny Whistle until the Angels Sing; November 15, 2003, review of My Love for You All Year Round, p. 1363; August 15, 2004, review of Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah, p. 1053; November 15, 2006, review of Do Re Mi, p. 177; December 1, 2006, review of Babies Can't Eat Kimchee!, p. 1224.

New York Times Book Review, December 23, 1984, review of Patchwork Tales, p. 20; December 6, 1992, review of Another Christmas, p. 91; April 18, 1993, review of Ishi's Tale of Lizard, p. 25; September 8, 1997, review of Leon's Story, p. 77; February 15, 1998, review of Leon's Story, p. 25; March 11, 2001, review of Happy Birthday Mr. Kang, p. 26; May 19, 2002, Beth Gutcheon, review of It's a Dog's New York, p. 27.

Publishers Weekly, September 28, 1984, review of Patchwork Tales, p. 112; June 24, 1988, Kimberly Fakih, review of Kanahena, p. 113; November 24, 1989, review of We'll Ride Elephants through Brooklyn, p. 70; November 15, 1999, review of Night-Time Numbers, p. 64; May 28, 2001, review of Grandpa Blows His Penny Whistle until the Angels Sing, p. 85; November 3, 2003, review of Nothing but Miracles, p. 72; December 15, 2003, review of My Love for You All Year Round, p. 75; September 27, 2004, review of Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah, p. 59; November 1, 2004, review of Hard Hat Area, p. 61; December 11, 2006, review of Do Re Mi, p. 69.

School Librarian, spring, 2000, Rebecca Taylor, review of Night-Time Numbers, p. 20.

School Library Journal, January, 1985, Nancy Kewish, review of Patchwork Tales, p. 68; October, 1986, Constance Mellon, review of We Build a Climber, p. 165; December, 1988, Karen Litton, review of Fire Came to the Earth People, p. 101; February, 1990, Leda Schubert, review of We'll Ride Elephants through Brooklyn, p. 78; February, 1991, Carolyn Polese, review of The Story of Light, p. 80, Jean McGrath, review of Marco Polo, p. 91; December, 1991, Anna Biagion Hart, review of Gypsy Bird Song, p. 100; June, 1993, Christian Moesch, review of Pass the Fritters, Critters, p. 72; January, 1994, Bambi Williams, review of Princess, p. 97; June, 1994, Jane Gardner Connor, review of Buddha, p. 141; June, 1995, Lauralyn Persson, review of How the Sky's Housekeeper Wore Her Scarves, p. 87; August, 1995, Donna Scanlon, review of How Thunder and Lightning Came to Be, p. 134; December, 1995, Lauralyn Persson, review of Creak, Thump, Bonk!, p. 90; June, 1996, Ellen Fader, review of The Biggest Frog in Australia, p. 108; August, 1996, Wendy Lukeharat, review of Brave Martha and the Dragon, p. 141; February, 1997, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of My Love for You, p. 84; December, 1997, Marie Wright, review of Leon's Story, p. 148; July, 1998, Carol Ann Wilson, review of Cinnamon's Day Out, p. 81; October, 1999, Sarah O'Neal, review of Night-Time Numbers, p. 124; February, 2000, Selene Vasquez, review of Made in Mexico, p. 141; May 1, 2001, Linda M. Kenton, review of Grandpa Blows His Penny Whistle until the Angels Sing, p. 133.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1998, review of Leon's Story, p. 39.

Wilson Library Bulletin, April, 1995, Donnarae McCann and Olga Richard, review of The Great Ball Game: A Muskogee Story, p. 111.

ONLINE

Children's Book Guild of Washington, DC Web site,http://www.childrensbookguild.org/ (July 13, 2007), "Susan L. Roth."

Childrenslit.com,http://www.childrenslit.com/ (August 10, 2007), Marilyn Courtot, interview with Roth.

Susan L. Roth Web site,http://www.susanlroth.com/ (September 10, 2007).