Schachner, Judith Byron 1951–
Schachner, Judith Byron 1951–
Born August 20, 1951, in Waltham, MA; daughter of Edward (a machinist) and Mary Francis (a homemaker) Byron; married Robert Schachner (a recording engineer), July 7, 1979; children: Emma Rose, Sarah Elizabeth. Education: Massachusetts College of Art, B.F.A. (illustration), 1973.
Home—Swarthmore, PA. E-mail—[email protected]
Freelance illustrator and author. Hallmark Cards, Kansas City, MO, card artist, c. 1975.
Bank Street College Best Children's Book designation, and Carolyn W. Field Notable Book designation, both 1999, both for Mr. Emerson's Cook; Golden Sower Award and Arizona Young Readers' Award, both 2002, both for The Grannyman; Volunteer State Book Award nomination, 2002, for I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie; Georgia Children's Picture Storybook Award nomination, 2003, for How the Cat Swallowed Thunder; E.B. White Read-aloud Award, 2004, Ladybug Picture Book Award, Armadillo Readers' Choice Award, and Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award, all 2005, and Colorado Children's Book Award, 2006, all for Skippyjon Jones.
Willy and May, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.
Mr. Emerson's Cook, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.
The Grannyman, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.
Yo, Vikings!, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.
(Under name Judy Schachner) Skippyjon Jones, Dutton (New York, NY), 2003.
(Under name Judy Schachner) Skippyjon Jones in the Dog-House, Dutton (New York, NY), 2005.
(Under name Judy Schachner) Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble, Dutton (New York, NY), 2006.
(Under name Judy Schachner) Skippyjon Jones Is Ready to Color, Dutton (New York, NY), 2007.
Donna Jo Napoli, The Prince and the Pond: Otherwise Known as De Fawg Pin, Dutton (New York, NY), 1992.
Barbara Baker, Staying with Grandmother, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.
Donna Jo Napoli, Jimmy, the Pickpocket of the Palace, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.
Laura Kvasnosky, What Shall I Dream?, Dutton (New York, NY), 1996.
Alison Jackson, I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.
Lloyd Alexander, How the Cat Swallowed Thunder, Dutton (New York, NY), 2000.
When Judith Byron Schachner was a child going to school in Massachusetts, her artistic talent impressed teachers enough to offset her lack of aptitude for math, her lack of class participation, and her tendency to forget when homework was due. Her artistic talent was also enough for the admissions department of the Massachusetts College of Art where, as Schachner freely admitted on her home page, she was "accepted … as a student despite my poor SAT scores." As a children's book illustrator and author, Schachner now shares her artistic talent, as well as her skill as a storyteller, with children in books that range from Willy and May and Yo, Vikings! to a series of books that feature a young Siamese kitten named Skippyjon Jones. She also brings
her whimsical humor to the works she illustrates for other writers, such as Donna Jo Napoli, Alison Jackson, and Lloyd Alexander. In reviewing her contribution to Alexander's How the Cat Swallowed Thunder, Booklist contributor Lauren Peterson praised Schachner for creating "wildly expressive scenes, executed in bright colors and filled with interesting details."
Published in 1995, Willy and May focuses on the close relationship between a young girl and her wonderfully eccentric Aunt May. Visits to her aunt's home are rare—the rumpled but cozy home May shares with her Victrola and her bright yellow pet canary Willy is many miles away—but special for Schachner's young narrator. When illness in the family and a bad winter snowstorm threaten to cancel the girl's visit, May devises a solution that "will make perfect sense to any child who has missed a loved one at Christmas," according to Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan.
Other books by Schachner include Mr. Emerson's Cook, The Grannyman, and Yo, Vikings! The life of early-nineteenth-century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson may seem like an unlikely subject for a picture book, but in Mr. Emerson's Cook Schachner inspires interest in the quirky visionary and his family. Her story focuses on Emerson's young Irish immigrant cook, Annie Burns, who learns to see the world through a poet's eyes while facing challenges in Emerson's kitchen. Based on memories of Schachner's great grandmother, Mr. Emerson's Cook features what Helen Rosenberg described in Booklist as a "whimsical story filled with imagination and poetic imagery." Schachner's "sketchbook-like drawings with watercolor wash" are "spiced with comic touches," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic.
Inspired by a favorite family pet and Schachner's obvious love of cats, The Grannyman tells a poignant tale about Simon an elderly kitty whose long naps are full of dreams of his far friskier days. Those naps are disrupted, however, when his concerned human family decides that a new kitten will give Simon something to care for. The "expressive watercolor-and-mixed-media artwork mirrors the affection, humor, and warmth of [Schachner's] … finely crafted text," noted Booklist contributor Ellen Mandel, while a Publishers Weekly critic concluded that the author/illustrator's "story of old age revered and rejuvenated is a pleasure from the ends of its whiskers to the tip of its tail."
Another book based on family history, Yo, Vikings! introduces an imaginative girl named Emma who becomes immersed in Viking lore while researching a school report on explorer Erik the Red. Beginning by constructing a Viking helmet from tinfoil, the newly renamed "Emma the Red" hopes to extend her Viking fantasy even further when she learns that someone is selling a scale model of a Viking ship that is large enough to hold Emma and several of her friends. Although the selling price of the ship is far more than the girl has at the ready, a shrewd bargain that involves cash, the tooth of a fox, and a pair of prized baseball cards nets her the craft. Noting the book's "swashbuckling cover" and "clever bits of humor," Julie Cummins added in her Booklist review of Yo, Vikings! that Schachner's tale will "engage children in a story that expressively reflects the exuberance that comes with believing in dreams." A Kirkus Reviews writer wrote that the "collage-style illustrations add a great deal of appeal and interest" to the inspiring story, while a Publishers Weekly contributor predicted that the "buoyant book will likely launch readers on adventures of their own." At the end of Yo, Vikings! Schachner includes a comprehensive Author's Note that collects a number of interesting facts about Viking life and lore.
Published under the name Judy Schachner, the author has also produced a series of self-illustrated picture books that feature the adventures of tiny Skippyjon Jones. A big-eared, tip-tailed Siamese kitten with an unusual life goal—to be a chihuahua like his doggy friends the Chimichangos—little Skippyjon uses his vivid imagination to do amazing things. In Skippyjon Jones the kitty is sent to his room for a well-deserved time out, but his imagination quickly takes him away for an adventure that finds the tiny kitty transformed into el Skippito Friskito, an amazingly talented Spanish swordsman. An effort to evade Mama Cat finds Skippyjon hiding in a dark closet in Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble, and when the closet transforms into an Egyp- tian tomb the adventure-hungry kitty joins the Chimichangos in exploring the tomb of a different sort of mummy. Again serving a time out in his bedroom, the frisky feline soon finds himself in still more trouble along with the tail-wagging Chimichangos in Skippyjon in the Dog-House. Schachner's "colorful, lively illustrations exaggerate the hilarity" of the Mexican-inspired Skippyjon Jones, according to a Kirkus Reviews writer, while School Library Journal critic Susan E. Murray noted of Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble that the author/illustrator uses pen and ink and acrylics to create "vibrantly colored illustrations [that] add humor to the already silly story." "Spanish-speaking children will be especially delighted by the words and humor," noted Judith Constantinides in a review of Schachner's series opener, and a Kirkus Reviews critic exclaimed "Holy Jalapeño!" in announcing another installment in the adventures of the "devilish, disarming, dog-eared Siamese kitten."
"Illustrating and writing books for children is a dream come true," Schachner once told SATA. "As a child, I would tape great lengths of shelf paper to the walls of our apartment. Soon it would be filled with characters drawn side by side, squeezed together like sardines in a can. I must have drawn hundreds of thousands of these penciled figures over the years, all with their own stories. Years have passed since I began filling those sheets of paper, and only one thing has changed: now I get paid for it."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, March 15, 1995, review of Jimmy, the Pickpocket of the Palace; November 1, 1995, Carolyn Phelan, review of Willy and May, p. 472; September 1, 1997, Stephanie Zvirin, review of I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, p. 139; November 1, 1998, Helen Rosenberg, review of Mr. Emerson's Cook, p. 494; March 15, 2000, Ellen Mandel, review of The Grannyman, p. 1389; July, 2000, Lauren Peterson, review of How the Cat Swallowed Thunder, p. 2037; June 1, 2002, Julie Cummins, review of Yo, Vikings!, p. 1744.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 1995, review of Jimmy, the Pickpocket of the Palace, p. 355; January, 1997, review of What Shall I Dream?, p. 177; November, 1997, review of I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, p. 87; September, 2000, review of How the Cat Swallowed Thunder, p. 4; April, 2005, Timnah Card, review of Skippyjon Jones in the Dog-House, p. 357.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 1994, review of Staying with Grandmother; May 1, 1995, review of Jimmy, the Pickpocket of the Palace; May 15, 2002, review of Yo, Vikings!, p. 740; August 15, 2003, review of Skippyjon Jones, p. 1078; April 1, 2005, review of Skippyjon Jones in the Dog-House, p. 424; September 15, 2006, review of Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble, p. 966.
Philadelphia Inquirer, October 9, 2002, Lini S. Kabada, "New Children's Book Captures One Girl's Wish for a Viking Ship."
Publishers Weekly, June 12, 1995, review of Jimmy, the Pickpocket of the Palace, p. 112; October 6, 1997, review of I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, p. 52; September 7, 1998, review of Mr. Emerson's Cook, p. 95; October 18, 1999, review of The Grannyman, p. 81; July 3, 2000, review of How the Cat Swallowed Thunder, p. 70; June 10, 2002, review of Yo, Vikings!, p. 60.
School Library Journal, May, 1994, review of Staying with Grandmother; June, 1995, Sally Margolis, review of Jimmy, the Pickpocket of the Palace, p. 112; October, 1995, review of Willy and May, p. 40; September, 1996, Judith Constantinides, review of What Shall I Dream?, p. 182; November, 1997, Jackie Hechtkopf, review of I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, p. 84; August, 1998, review of The Prince of the Pond, p. 26; November, 1999, review of The Grannyman, p. 129; February, 2000, review of The Prince of the Pond, p. 41; October, 2000, Catherine T. Quattlebaum, review of How the Cat Swallowed Thunder, p. 110; August, 2002, Grace Oliff, review of Yo, Vikings!, p. 168; January, 2004, Judith Constantinides, review of Skippyjon Jones, p. 106; June, 2005, Kathleen Whalin, review of Skippyjon Jones in the Dog-House, p. 128; November, 2006, Susan E. Murray, review of Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble, p. 168.
Judith Byron Schachner Home Page,http://www.judithbyronschachner.com (April 21, 2007).