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Schubert, Leda 1945–

Schubert, Leda 1945–

Personal

Born 1945, in Washington, DC; father an academic, mother a business owner; married Bob Rosenfeld. Education: Brandeis, B.A.; Harvard University, M.A.T. (English); Vermont College, M.F.A. (writing for children and young adults).

Addresses

Home—Plainfield, VT. Agent—Steven Chudney, Chudney Agency, 72 N. State Rd., Ste. 501, Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Author and educator. Cabot School, Cabot, VT, librarian, beginning 1980; also librarian at Kellogg-Hubbard Library, Montpelier, VT, and Uniondale, NY, public schools; formerly worked as a teacher, librarian, and preschool director. Vermont Department of Education, school library consultant, 1986-2003. Former member of award committees for Caldecott, Arbuthnot, Boston Globe/Horn Book, and Vermont state book awards.

Member

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Authors Guild, American Library Association, Association of Library Services for Children.

Awards, Honors

Book Sense Winter Pick, 2005, for Here Comes Darrell; New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing designation, and New York Times Editors' Choice title, both 2006, both for Ballet of the Elephants.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

Winnie All Day Long, illustrated by William Benedict, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Winnie Plays Ball, illustrated by William Benedict, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Here Comes Darrell, illustrated by Mary Azarian, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2005.

Ballet of the Elephants, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, Roaring Brook Press (New Milford, CT), 2006.

Donna and the Robbers, illustrated by Ken Stewart, Vermont Folklife Center (Middlebury, VT), 2007.

Feeding the Sheep, illustrated by Andrea U'Ren, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2008.

Also author of six-part serialized novel Nathan's Song published in Boston Globe Online as part of spring, 2007, Newspapers in Education project. Contributor to periodicals, including Horn Book and School Library Journal.

Sidelights

Children's book author Leda Schubert lives in Vermont, and her stories for young children are inspired by her personal curiosity as well as by her colorful New England surroundings. Although she has enjoyed writing since childhood, Schubert viewed it as a hobby for many years while working as a teacher, librarian, and library consultant. Working as a librarian allowed Schubert to learn what kinds of books her young patrons liked, and her subsequent job as a library consultant for the Vermont Department of Education gave her a familiarity with almost every book published for children. With this background, it is not surprising that Schubert's picture books, which include Here Comes Darrell, Ballet of the Elephants, and the beginning readers Winnie All Day Long and Winnie Plays Ball, have received critical accolades as well as awards.

"I was lucky that all of my jobs involved reading to children," Schubert explained of her background to Seven Days Vermont online interviewer Margot Harrison. "I started writing a little bit, but I had no idea what I was doing. I never gave up this dream." Her "Winnie" books, which were written while Schubert worked as a library consultant, were designed to fill what she saw as a specific need: "more trade books for kids that they could buy at the bookstore that would encourage reading, but that were funny and not didactic." Based on Schubert's own dog, Winnie All Day Long introduces large, rambunctious Winnie and her human playmate Annie, and follows the interaction between the two as Winnie's high spirits, napping, mealtimes, and desire for attention affect Annie and her family throughout the day. The oversized pooch celebrates a birthday in Winnie Plays Ball, and the toy balls she receives generate several games with Annie. After her "Winnie" stories were accepted for publication by Candlewick Press as part of the publisher's "Brand New Readers" series, Schubert "got more and more convinced that [writing for children] … was what I had to do." She left her job in education and turned to writing.

Schubert's collaboration with Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator Mary Azarian on Here Comes Darrell is also based on the author's life: in this case a generous neighbor who plowed driveways in her town so that local working folk could be on the job on time following snowstorms. Set amid the northern New England seasons that both author and illustrator know so well, the story focuses on a man who takes time to help out neighbors with backhoe work and snowplowing, and shares his supply of wood, instead of spending all his time on his own property. When a severe storm hits the area and destroys the roof of his barn, Darrell's kindness is returned, "celebrat[ing] … a way of life in a rural community where neighbors help each other through the year," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. Calling the collaboration between author and illustrator "delightful," School Library Journal contributor Teresa Pfeifer cited Azarian's "distinguished, detailed woodcuts and concluded that Here Comes Darrell "will be a pleasure to pair with many other books on the seasons, neighbors, and communities" during story hours.

Inspired by a television special Schubert watched about the life of renowned twentieth-century ballet choreographer George Balanchine, Ballet of the Elephants was written after the author completed her M.F.A. degree in writing for children and young adults at Vermont Col- lege. The book follows the efforts of Balanchine and circus promoter John Ringling North to stage North's dream of a "Circus Polka," a dance involving fifty elephants and fifty ballerinas. Set to music by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, the mammoth undertaking premiered in 1942 as part of the famous Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It starred the famous elephant Modoc and prima ballerina Vera Zorina. In her fact-filled text, Schubert brings to life the international proportions of the undertaking, as well as the daunting task of costuming fifty rotund pachyderms in fluffy pink tutus and glittering tiaras. Another true story involving animals is brought to life in her book Donna and the Robbers, which transports readers to turn-of-the-twentieth-century Maine and the horse who foiled the robbery of a small town during a blizzard. In Booklist, Hazel Rochman praised Schubert's "simple and lyrical" text in Ballet of the Elephants, as well as her inclusion of an afterword that answers the questions of more curious readers. Robert Andrew Parker's ink and water color images "capture the movement and vitality of this creative undertaking," added Carol Schene in her School Library Journal review of the same book, the critic concluding that Schubert's "clearly written" story "provides a unique introduction to … a curious moment in musical history." "Schubert's deft, incisive way of telling the incredible story will set young minds spinning," announced Jed Perl, hailing the picture-book history in the New York Times Book Review. "Woven through this casually opulent volume is an inspiriting idea," Perl added: "that boys and girls will be tantalized by the works … of geniuses like Balanchine and Stravinsky, men whose achievements our dumb-it-down era sometimes regards as too demanding even for adults."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 1, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of Here Comes Darrell, p. 66; April 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Ballet of the Elephants, p. 46.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2005, Elizabeth Bush, review of Here Comes Darrell, p. 155; May, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of Ballet of the Elephants, p. 421.

Horn Book, July-August, 2006, Betty Carter, review of Ballet of the Elephants, p. 469.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2005, review of Here Comes Darrell, p. 1146; March 15, 2006, review of Ballet of the Elephants, p. 299.

New York Times Book Review, May 14, 2006, Jed Perl, "The Big Dance," p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, October 31, 2005, review of Here Comes Darrell, p. 55; April 10, 2006, review of Ballet of the Elephants, p. 70.

School Library Journal, November, 2005, Teresa Pfeifer, review of Here Comes Darrell, p. 107; April, 2006, Carol Schene, review of Ballet of the Elephants, p. 132.

ONLINE

Cynsations,http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/ (February 22, 2006), Cynthia Leitich-Smith, interview with Schubert.

Leda Schubert Home Page,http://www.ledaschubert.com (August 15, 2007).

Seven Days Vermont Online,http://www.sevendaysvt.com/ (September 13, 2006), Margot Harrison, interview with Schubert.

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