Schlitz, Laura Amy

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Schlitz, Laura Amy

Personal

Female. Education: Goucher College, B.A. (aesthetics). Hobbies and other interests: Theatre, reading, music, crafts.

Addresses

Home—Baltimore, MD. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Librarian, storyteller, and author. Park School, Baltimore, MD, lower school librarian; professional storyteller.

Awards, Honors

Great Lakes Good Books Award for Nonfiction, for The Hero Schliemann; Judy Lopez Honor Book designation, 2006, and Cybils Award for Children's Literature in Middle-School Fiction Category, 2007, both for A Drowned Maiden's Hair; Cybils Award for Poetry nomination, School Library Journal Best Books designation, and Booklist Editor's Choice designation, all 2007, and Newbery Medal, Association for Library Service to Children, 2008, all for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

Writings

A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.

The Hero Schleimann: The Dreamer Who Dug for Troy, illustrated by Robert Byrd, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village (monologues), illustrated by Robert Byrd, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.

(Adaptor) The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brothers Grimm (based on "Der Bärenhäuter"), illustrated by Max Grafe, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.

Also author of short plays for children that have been produced throughout the United States.

Sidelights

Laura Amy Schlitz made a name for herself in 2006, when her first two books were published to widespread critical acclaim. A librarian at Park School in Baltimore, Maryland, Schlitz had been writing for many years when Candlewick Press decided to release her novel A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama as well as her nonfiction title The Hero Schleimann: The Dreamer Who Dug for Troy. Described by Horn Book contributor Kathleen Isaacs as an "irreverent" look back at the life of the German who, in 1870 rediscovered the ancient city of Troy by following the directions set down in Homer's epic Iliad, The Hero Schleimann "attempts to disentangle" the legends from the facts surrounding Heinrich Schleimann's colorful life, Isaacs added, writing that the cartoon illustrations provided by Robert Byrd "add to the appeal of the gently humorous text." Noting Schlitz's inclusion of information regarding archeological techniques of a past era, Gillian Engberg predicted that The Hero Schleimann will likely "spark interesting class discussions about how history is made and slanted over time."

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As its subtitle unabashedly pronounces, A Drowned Maiden's Hair is an old-fashioned melodrama in which an unsuspecting heroine finds herself in the clutches of a ne'er-do-well until, despite the odds, she ultimately escapes. In Schlitz's story, which is set in 1909, the heroine is an eleven-year-old orphan named Maud Flynn. Headstrong Maud is considered a troublesome child by the staff at the Barbary Asylum for Orphans, so no one is more surprised than she when she is selected to be adopted by three unmarried sisters of obvious financial means. Moving to the Hawthorne sisters' large home, she is given pretty dresses and good food. Oddly, though she must remain hidden from the many people who come to visit. Soon Maud realizes why: the sisters make their living as spiritualists, performing mechanically orchestrated séances in order to tap into the bank accounts of sad, lonely, and grieving people. Because of her resemblance to the recently deceased daughter of a wealthy widow, Maud is expected to join in their plan to con the woman of her money. Although her gratitude for her material comforts and her desire for love motivate Maud to willingly join in the scheme, as events progress she begins to have second thoughts. Ultimately, a taste of freedom and her growing friendship with the sisters' deaf housemaid, Muffet, inspires the girl to take her life into her own hands.

"Schlitz's well-written narrative … captures melodrama at its best," concluded a Kirkus Reviews writer in a review of A Drowned Maiden's Hair, the critic commenting in particular on the author's detailed account of how the fake spiritualists created optical illusions during their pretend séances. Calling Maud a "charismatic, three-dimensional character" whose moral battle is believable, Melissa Moore added in her School Library Journal review that the novel "will find an audience with fans of gothic tales," and Horn Book reviewer Anita L. Burkham maintained that "Schlitz realizes both characters and setting … with unerring facility." "People throw the word ‘classic’ about rather a lot, but A Drowned Maiden's Hair genuinely deserves to become one," concluded Meghan Cox Gurdon in her review for the Wall Street Journal, and Elizabeth Spires wrote in the New York Times Book Review that Schlitz's "delightful" debut novel "provides a satisfying, if slightly creepy, look behind the scenes at how spiritualists accomplished some of their haunting effects. But it is also about love in all of its guises, deceptions and disappointments."

A storyteller and playwright as well as a fiction writer, Schlitz has also published a selection of her short dramas. In Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village she brings to life a roster of fascinating characters ranging in age from ten to fifteen. By adopting the persona of the leading role in "Jack, the Half-wit," "Mariot and Maud, the Glassblower's Daughters," or "Hugo, the Lord's Nephew," a performer gains an intimate understanding of what life was like on an English manorial estate during the thirteenth century. Writing that Schlitz's book "gives teachers a refreshing option for enhancing the study of the European Middle Ages," Deirdre F. Baker added in Horn Book that Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! also features "pristine, elegant" watercolor art by Robert Byrd. "Bolstered by lively asides and unobtrusive [author's] notes," Schlitz's twenty-two monologues successfully "bring to life a prototypical English village in 1255," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

Discussing her work as a writer during an online interview for the Cybils Award Web site, Schlitz noted of the vivid characters she creates: "I'm not sure why, but I almost never write about people I know. On those rare occasions that I use real people as models, they're people that I don't understand. I think in order to write about something, you have to find it mysterious. Too much knowledge leaves the writer at a disadvantage."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of The Hero Schleimann: The Dreamer Who Dug for Troy, p. 100; December 15, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama, p. 43.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 2006, Elizabeth Bush, review of The Hero Schleimann, p. 93; November, 2006, Elizabeth Bush, review of ADrowned Maiden's Hair, p. 144; September, 2007, review of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, p. 51.

Horn Book, July-August, 2006, Kathleen Isaacs, review of The Hero Schleimann, p. 469; November-December, 2006, Anita L. Burkam, review of A Drowned Maiden's Hair, p. 725; November-December, 2007, Deirdre F. Baker, review of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, p. 699.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2006, review of The Hero Schleimann, p. 730; October 15, 2006, review of A Drowned Maiden's Hair, p. 1079; July 15, 2007, review of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

Magpies, March, 2007, Rayma Turton, review of A Drowned Maiden's Hair, p. 40.

New York Times Book Review, December 3, 2005, Elizabeth Spires, review of A Drowned Maiden's Hair, p. 66.

Publishers Weekly, August 27, 2007, review of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, p. 90.

School Library Journal, September, 2006, Rita Soltan, review of The Hero Schleimann, p. 236; October, 2006 Melissa Moore, review of A Drowned Maiden's Hair, p. 170; August, 2007, Alana Abbott, review of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, p. 138.

Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2006, Meghan Cox Gurdon, review of A Drowned Maiden's Hair.

ONLINE

Cybils Award Web site,http://dadtalk.typepad.com/cybils/ 2007/ (March 12, 2007), interview with Schlitz.

Park School Web site,http://www.parkschool.net/ (August 29, 2007), "Laura Amy Schlitz, Librarian, Receives National Attention for A Drowned Maiden's Hair.

School Library Journal Online,http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/ (November 5, 2007), Elizabeth Bird, interview with Schlitz.

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