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Levine, Gail Carson 1947-

Levine, Gail Carson 1947-

Personal

Born September 17, 1947, in New York, NY; daughter of David (owner of a commercial art studio) and Sylvia (a teacher) Carson; married David Levine (a software developer), September 2, 1967. Education: City College of the City University of New York, B.A., 1969.

Addresses

Home—Brewster, NY.

Career

Children's book author. New York State Department of Labor, New York, NY, employment interviewer, 1970-82; New York State Department of Commerce, New York, NY, administrative assistant, 1982-86; New York State Department of Social Services, New York, NY, welfare administrator, 1986-96; New York State Department of Labor, New York, NY, welfare administrator, 1986—.

Awards, Honors

Best Books for Young Adults designation, and Quick Picks for Young Adults citations, American Library Association (ALA), and Newbery Honor Book, ALA, all 1998, all for Ella Enchanted.

Writings

Ella Enchanted, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

The Wish, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

The Princess Test, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

The Fairy's Mistake, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Dave at Night, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Cinderellis and the Glass Hill, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

For Biddle's Sake, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

The Fairy's Return, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Betsy Who Cried Wolf, illustrated by Scott Nash, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 2002.

The Princess Tales, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, illustrated by David Christiana, Disney Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

The Fairy's Return and Other Princess Tales, illustrated by Mark Elliott, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

Fairest, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand, illustrated by David Christiana, Disney Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Ever, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2008.

Also author of script for children's musical Spacenapped, produced in Brooklyn, NY.

Adaptations

Ella Enchanted was adapted for film by Miramax, 2004; The Two Princesses of Bamarre was optioned for film by Miramax; many of Levine's books have been adapted for audiocassette by Listening Library, including Dave at Night, 2000, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, 2001, and Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, 2005.

Sidelights

While Gail Carson Levine writes fairy tales featuring princesses, dragons, elves, and fairies, hers are modern renditions of traditional themes. Although she sometimes bases her novels on such familiar stories as Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, and adopts characters from J.M. Barrie's childhood classic Peter Pan, the heroes and heroines in books such as Ella Enchanted, The Princess Tales, and Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg are decidedly modern in their outlook.

Levine was raised in New York City, in a family that valued books and reading. As she once told SATA: "My father was interested in writing, and my mother wrote full-length plays in rhyme for her students to perform. Both of them had an absolute reverence for creativity and creative people, a reverence that they passed along to my sister and me."

Levine did not originally intend to be a writer. "It was painting that brought me to writing in earnest for children," she explained. "I took a class in writing and illustrating children's books and found that I was much more interested in the writing than in the illustrating."

The story that would evolve into the Newbery honor book Ella Enchanted actually had its start in a writing class. "I had to write something and couldn't think of a plot, so I decided to write a Cinderella story because it already had a plot! Then, when I thought about Cinderella's character, I realized she was too much of a goody-two-shoes for me, and I would hate her before I finished ten pages. That's when I came up with the curse: she's only good because she has to be, and she is in constant rebellion."

Ella Enchanted focuses on a girl who is cursed at birth: she is unable to disobey the commands of other people, no matter what they are. When the condition becomes too much to bear, Ella runs away in search of the thoughtless fairy who originally cursed her. Her journey leads only to a job as a scullery maid for her new stepmother, where she finally overcomes her curse. Anne Deifendeifer, writing in Horn Book, observed that Levine's "expert characterization and original ideas enliven this novelization of Cinderella."

With the success of Ella Enchanted, Levine realized that she had designed a winning concept that appealed to young fantasy fans. In another early fairy-tale update, The Princess Test, she updates Hans Christian Andersen's "The Princess and the Pea," In Levine's version of Andersen's tale, the familiar tale is turned on its head as a blacksmith's daughter proves that she is as delicate and sensitive as any girl of royal blood. A Horn Book contributor wrote that "fans of funny fairy tales will have some laughs" over Levine's book, while a critic for Publishers Weekly maintained that the author's heroines "defy fairy-tale stereotypes." Levine's "Princess Tales" series continues with The Fairy Mistake, The Fairy's Return, and For Biddle's Sake, the last a reworking of the Rapunzel story that a Kirkus Reviews writer described as containing "deliriously funny and well-wrought prose, [and] full of sly wit and clever asides."

In Dave at Night, Levine turns to her own family history, drawing inspiration from her father's experiences growing up in an orphanage in New York City during the 1920s. Dave Carlos lives at the Hebrew Home for Boys because his father died in an accident and his mother is unable to raise him alone. Each night, the rebellious boy climbs over the orphanage wall and explores the nearby streets of Harlem, where he befriends an elderly fortune teller, listens to jazz music, and learns how to dance the Charleston. Eventually, Dave discovers his artistic talents and, more importantly, the value of his orphan friends. "Dave's excursions into the noise and excitement of long-ago Harlem nights will linger in the memory," predicted a critic for Horn Book.

In The Wish, Levine gives a modern-day story a fairytale twist. Wilma Sturtz is an eighth-grader in New York City. Her two best friends have left her school and Wilma is feeling lonely and unwanted. When she gives up her seat on the bus to an eccentric old woman, the woman grants her one wish: to be the most popular student at her school. Very soon Wilma is invited to parties and dances, but the wish only lasts until the end of the school year. Will anyone still be her friend after that? Renee Steinberg, writing in School Library Journal, called The Wish "an enjoyable, thought-provoking, and absorbing selection." "The fun is watching the nerdy girl, with whom readers will identify, blossom into a self-assured kid," commented Ilene Cooper in Booklist.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre is set in a fairy-tale kingdom where Princess Addie and Princess Meryl live in the castle of their father, the king. While Meryl is an independent girl, Addie is less so. When Meryl comes down with a serious illness called the Gray Death, however, Addie takes it upon herself to discover the cure and save her sister's life. Donna Miller, writing in Book Report, called The Two Princesses of Bamarre "a lively tale with vivid characters and an exciting plot," while Kliatt reviewer Claire Rosser predicted that the "fanciful" story will appeal to "younger YAs who love high fantasy."

Described as a "visionary rendering of the Snow White tale" by a Publishers Weekly contributor, Fairest focuses on Aza, a homely and awkward fifteen year old. Aza cherishes her one beautiful quality: her melodious voice. In fact, Aza is able to throw her voice, and mimic almost anything, and this talent draws the attention of the queen of Ayortha. When the homely girl is hidden behind the throne and her voice used to increase the queen's prestige, the ruse is discovered and Aza is forced to flee, finding her true strength in the process. Noting that Levine's novel probes "the real-life problems of living in an appearance-obsessed society," School Library Journal critic Melissa Christy Buron dubbed Fairest "a distinguished contribution" to Levine's body of work, and the Publishers Weekly reviewer ranked the novel as one that "may … even surpass … Ella Enchanted."

Levine moves to the realm of myth in Ever, which focuses on immortal gods. Olus, the god of the winds, is fascinated by humans and wishes to live among them. On Earth, he meets and falls in love with Kezi, a young rug weaver whose father has bargained with the family god Admat to trade the life of his dying wife for anyone who wishes the family well. Kezi prevents this sacrifice from happening by giving the wish herself, thus dooming herself unless Olus can arrange with the illusive Admat to make her immortal. In the novel, Levine depicts "the classic quest … young people must accomplish in order to live as they choose," according to Kliatt critic Janis Flint-Ferguson, while Horn Book reviewer Anita L. Burkam cited Ever for presenting readers with a "fascinating quandary" about the nature of religious faith.

The rural folk-tale world becomes the backdrop of the picture book Betsy Who Cried Wolf, as Levine turns from the stories of Europe to the simple tales of Aesop. In her variant of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," an eight-year-old girl strives to excel at her task of shepherding. A cagey old wolf named Zimmo, who may have dipped into the pages of Aesop, decides to outsmart the girl by provoking her into raising the alarm, then disappearing without a trace. When Betsy draws nearby farmers two times, with no wolf to be found, she realizes that Zimmo would likely be satisfied with a good meal rather than a tough old ewe, in a story that a Kirkus Reviews critic dubbed "a delightful tale" featuring "especially funny" art by Scott Nash. In Publishers Weekly a critic described the story as a "perky, girl-centric take" on the Aesop classic, and predicted that "kids may well cheer [Betsy's] … courage and can-do spirit."

In both Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg and Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand Levine teams up with Disney, adapting characters from Disney's classic animated versions of Peter Pan, Bambi, and other films into stories for elementary-grade readers. Tinker Bell, the feisty fairy from Peter Pan, is the star of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, which takes readers on a tour of a newly envisioned Never Land. Here Never Land is an island where the mild climate is sustained by a magical bird known as Mother Dove. Mother Dove sits on a magic egg, and her annual molt provides Tink and other Never Land fairies with the valuable fairy dust. When Mother Dove becomes ill, new fairy Prilla must undertake a quest in order to save the magic bird, meeting up with Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and other characters along the way. Another quest, this time for a magic but unpredictable wand, is the focus of Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand, as Tink and others hope to stop a flood that threatens to destroy their island home. While several critics noted that the many characters make the two books difficult to follow, Booklist critic Jennifer Mattson cited the "lavish visual element" created by artist David Christiana as "a major draw of the Disney Fairies series." Reviewing Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, Mattson described it as "the kind of lovable, illustrated chapter book that high production costs have all but driven out of existence."

Levine once told SATA: "As a child I loved fairy tales because the story, the what-comes-next, is paramount. As an adult I am fascinated by their logic and illogic. Ella's magic book gave me the chance to answer a ques- tion that always plagued me about The Shoemaker and the Elves: why the elves abandon the shoemaker. I came up with one answer, but many are possible—and I think the real solution goes to the heart of gratitude and recognition, an example of the depth in fairy tales. Levine goes into greater detail regarding her views of folk and fairy tales in her book Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly, which inspires preteen writer with writing exercises, encouragement, and other useful creative howto's.

Levine's advice to aspiring writers? "Suspend judgment of your work and keep writing. Take advantage of the wonderful community of writers for children, who are always ready with helpful criticism and support in the struggle to succeed. And be patient: writing and glaciers advance at about the same pace!"

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

McGinty, Alice B., Meet Gail Carson Levine, Rosen Publishing (New York, NY), 2003.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 1999, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, p. 627; April 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of The Wish, p. 1462, and Anna Rich, review of Dave at Night, p. 1494; April 15, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 1558; August, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Fairy's Return, p. 1964; August, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, p. 2023; July 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Fairest, p. 56; December 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly, p. 45; January 1, 2008, Jennifer Mattson, review of Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand, p. 76.

Book Report, September-October, 2001, Donna Miller, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 63.

Horn Book, May-June, 1997, Anne Deifendeifer, review of Ella Enchanted, p. 325; May, 1999, reviews of The Fairy's Mistake and The Princess Test, p. 332; January, 2000, review of Dave at Night, p. 78; May, 2001, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 330; May-June, 2008, Anita L. Burkham, review of Ever, p. 319.

Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, November, 2002, review of The Wish, p. 218.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of Betsy Who Cried Wolf, p. 574; September 15, 2002, review of For Biddle's Sake, p. 1393; August 1, 2005, review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, p. 853; August 1, 2006, review of Fairest, p. 790; July 1, 2007, review of Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand; April 1, 2008, review of Ever.

Kliatt, March, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 26; September, 2005, Erin Darr, review of The Wish, p. 28; September, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of Fairest, p. 14; January, 2007, Anthony Pucci, review of Writing Magic, p. 35; May, 2008, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Ever, p. 12.

Publishers Weekly, February 15, 1999, reviews of The Fairy's Mistake and The Princess Test, p. 108; November 1, 1999, review of Dave at Night, p. 58; April 24, 2000, review of The Wish, p. 91; May 7, 2001, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 248; May 6, 2002, review of Betsy Who Cried Wolf, p. 57; August 29, 2005, review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, p. 56; July 24, 2006, review of Fairest, p. 58.

School Library Journal, May, 2000, Renee Steinberg, review of The Wish, p. 173; May, 2001, Kit Vaughan, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 155; June, 2002, Grace Oliff, review of Betsy Who Cried Wolf, p. 98; September, 2002, Eva Mitnick, review of For Biddle's Sake, p. 198; October, 2005, Elizabeth Bird, review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, p. 119; September, 2006, Melissa Christy Buron, review of Fairest, p. 209; February, 2007, Beth Gallego, review of Writing Magic, p. 142; November, 2007, Pat Leach, review of Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand, p. 94.

ONLINE

Cynthia Leitich Smith Web site,http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/ (May 6, 2005), interview with Levine.

HarperCollins Web site,http://www.harperchildrens.com/ (November 26, 2008), "Gale Carson Levine."

OTHER

Good Conversation!: A Talk with Gail Carson Levine (video), Tim Podell Productions, 2001.

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Levine, Gail Carson 1947–

Levine, Gail Carson 1947

Personal

Born September 17, 1947, in New York, NY; daughter of David (owner of a commercial art studio) and Sylvia (a teacher; maiden name, Jacobson) Carson; married David Levine (a software developer), September 2, 1967. Education: City College of the City University of New York, B.A., 1969.

Addresses

Home Brewster, NY. Agent c/o Author's Mail, HarperCollins Children's Books, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.

Career

Children's book author. New York State Department of Labor, New York, NY, employment interviewer, 197082; New York State Department of Commerce, New York, NY, administrative assistant, 198286; New York State Department of Social Services, New York, NY, welfare administrator, 198696; New York State Department of Labor, New York, NY, welfare administrator, 1986

Awards, Honors

Best Books for Young Adults, and Quick Picks for Young Adults citations, American Library Association (ALA), and Newbery Honor Book, ALA, all 1998, all for Ella Enchanted.

Writings

Ella Enchanted, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

The Wish, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

The Princess Test, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

The Fairy's Mistake, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Dave at Night, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Cinderellis and the Glass Hill, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

For Biddle's Sake, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

The Fairy's Return, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Betsy Who Cried Wolf, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

The Princess Tales, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Also author of script for children's musical Spacenapped, produced in Brooklyn, NY.

Adaptations

Ella Enchanted was filmed by Miramax and released in 2004; The Two Princesses of Bamarre was optioned for film by Miramax; many of Levine's books have been adapted for audio.

Sidelights

While Gail Carson Levine writes fairy tales featuring princesses, dragons, elves, and fairies, hers are modern renditions of traditional themes. Although she sometimes bases her novels on such familiar stories as Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, the characters in books such as Ella Enchanted and The Princess Tales are decidedly ultramodern in their outlook.

Levine was raised in New York City, in a home that valued books. She once told Something about the Author (SATA) : "My father was interested in writing, and my mother wrote full-length plays in rhyme for her students to perform. Both of them had an absolute reverence for creativity and creative people, a reverence that they passed along to my sister and me.

"I didn't plan to be a writer, even though I started writing early. In elementary school I was a charter member of the Scribble Scrabble Club, and in high school my poems were published in an anthology of student poetry, but my ambition was to act or to be a painter like my older sister.

"It was painting that brought me to writing in earnest for children. I took a class in writing and illustrating children's books and found that I was much more interested in the writing than in the illustrating."

Levine's Newbery Medal-winning book Ella Enchanted actually had its start in a writing class. "I had to write something and couldn't think of a plot, so I decided to write a Cinderella story because it already had a plot! Then, when I thought about Cinderella's character, I realized she was too much of a goody-two-shoes for me, and I would hate her before I finished ten pages. That's when I came up with the curse: she's only good because she has to be, and she is in constant rebellion."

Ella Enchanted tells of a girl who is cursed at birth: she is unable to disobey the commands of other people, no matter what they are. When the condition becomes too much to bear, Ella runs away in search of the thoughtless fairy who originally cursed her. Her journey leads only to a job as a scullery maid for her new stepmother, where she finally overcomes her curse. Anne Deifendeifer, writing in Horn Book, found that Levine's "expert characterization and original ideas enliven this novelization of Cinderella."

The Princess Test is a story based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Princess and the Pea." In Levine's version, the familiar tale is turned on its head, with a blacksmith's daughter proving that she is as delicate and sensitive as any girl of royal blood. A Horn Book contributor wrote that "fans of funny fairy tales will have some laughs" over Levine's book, while a critic for Publishers Weekly maintained that Levine's heroines "defy fairy-tale stereotypes."

In Dave at Night, Levine draws her inspiration from her father's own experience growing up in an orphanage in New York City during the 1920s. Dave Carlos lives at the Hebrew Home for Boys because his father died in an accident and his mother is unable to raise him alone. Each night, the rebellious boy climbs over the orphanage wall and explores the nearby streets of Harlem, where he befriends an elderly fortune teller, listens to jazz music, and learns how to dance the Charleston. Eventually, Dave discovers his artistic talents and, more importantly, the value of his orphan friends. "Dave's excursions into the noise and excitement of long-ago Harlem nights will linger in the memory," predicted a critic for Horn Book.

In The Wish, Levine tells a story set in the modern world but with a fairy tale twist. Wilma Sturtz is an eighth-grader in New York City. Her two best friends have left her school and she is feeling lonely and unwanted. When she gives up her seat on the bus to an eccentric old woman, the woman grants her one wish.
[Image Not Available]
Wilma wishes to be the most popular student at her school. Very soon she is being invited to parties and dances, but the wish only lasts until the end of the school year. Will anyone still be her friend after that? Renee Steinberg, writing in School Library Journal, called The Wish "an enjoyable, thought-provoking, and absorbing selection." "The fun is watching the nerdy girl, with whom readers will identify, blossom into a self-assured kid," commented Ilene Cooper in Booklist.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre is set in a fairy-tale kingdom where Princess Addie and Princess Meryl live in the castle of their father, the king. While Meryl is an independent girl, Addie is less so. When Meryl comes down with a serious illness called the Gray Death, however, Addie takes it upon herself to discover the cure and save her sister's life. Donna Miller, writing in Book Report, found The Two Princesses of Bamarre to be "a lively tale with vivid characters and an exciting plot."

Levine once told SATA: "As a child I loved fairy tales because the story, the what-comes-next, is paramount. As an adult I am fascinated by their logic and illogic. Ella's magic book gave me the chance to answer a question that always plagued me about The Shoemaker and the Elves: why the elves abandon the shoemaker. I came up with one answer, but many are possibleand I think the real solution goes to the heart of gratitude and recognition, an example of the depth in fairy tales.

"My advice to aspiring writers is: suspend judgment of your work and keep writing. Take advantage of the wonderful community of writers for children, who are always ready with helpful criticism and support in the struggle to succeed. And be patient: writing and glaciers advance at about the same pace!"

Levine and her husband David live in Brewster, New York, in a 200-year-old farmhouse that they share with their Airdale, Jake.

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

McGinty, Alice B., Meet Gail Carson Levine, Rosen Publishing (New York, NY), 2003.

PERIODICALS

ALAN Review, fall, 1997.

Booklist, April 15, 1997, p. 1423; November 15, 1999, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, p. 627; April 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of The Wish, p. 1462; April 15, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 1558; September 1, 2001, Jean Hatfield, review of The Wish (audiobook), p. 128; August, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Fairy's Return, p. 1964.

Book Report, September-October, 2001, Donna Miller, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 63.

Daily Variety, September 30, 2003, Jonathan Bing, "'Princesses' Enchant Miramax," p. 5.

Horn Book, May-June, 1997, Anne Deifendeifer, review of Ella Enchanted, p. 325; May, 1999, reviews of The Fairy's Mistake and The Princess Test, p. 332; January, 2000, review of Dave at Night, p. 78; May, 2001, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 330.

Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, November, 2002, review of The Wish, p. 218.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1997, p. 225; April 15, 2002, review of Betsy Who Cried Wolf, p. 574; September 15, 2002, review of For Biddle's Sake, p. 1393.

Kliatt, May, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 26; March, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 26.

Publishers Weekly, March 31, 1997, p. 75; June 30, 1997, p. 28; February 15, 1999, reviews of The Fairy's Mistake and The Princess Test, p. 108; November 1, 1999, review of Dave at Night, p. 58; April 24, 2000, review of The Wish, p. 91; May 7, 2001, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 248; May 6, 2002, review of Betsy Who Cried Wolf, p. 57.

School Library Journal, April, 1997, p. 138; May, 2000, Renee Steinberg, review of The Wish, p. 173; May, 2001, Kit Vaughan, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 155; June, 2002, Grace Oliff, review of Betsy Who Cried Wolf, p. 98; September, 2002, Eva Mitnick, review of For Biddle's Sake, p. 198.

ONLINE

Cynthia Leitich Smith Web site, http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/ (May 6, 2005), interview with Levine.

HarperCollins Web site, http://www.harperchildrens.com/ (May 6, 2005), "Gail Carson Levine."

OTHER

Good Conversation!: A Talk with Gail Carson Levine (video), Tim Podell Productions, 2001.

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Levine, Gail Carson 1947-

Levine, Gail Carson 1947-

PERSONAL:

Born September 17, 1947, in New York, NY; daughter of David (owner of a commercial art studio) and Sylvia (a teacher) Carson; married David Levine (a software developer), September 2, 1967. Education: City College of the City University of New York, B.A., 1969.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Brewster, NY.

CAREER:

Children's book author. New York State Department of Labor, New York, NY, employment interviewer, 1970-82; New York State Department of Commerce, New York, NY, administrative assistant, 1982-86; New York State Department of Social Services, New York, NY, welfare administrator, 1986-96; New York State Department of Labor, New York, NY, welfare administrator, 1986—.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Best Books for Young Adults designation, and Quick Picks for Young Adults citations, American Library Association (ALA), and Newbery Honor Book, ALA, all 1998, all for Ella Enchanted.

WRITINGS:

Ella Enchanted, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

The Wish, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

The Princess Test, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

The Fairy's Mistake, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Dave at Night, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Cinderellis and the Glass Hill, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

For Biddle's Sake, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

The Fairy's Return, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Betsy Who Cried Wolf, illustrated by Scott Nash, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

The Princess Tales, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, illustrated by David Christiana, Disney Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

The Fairy's Return and Other Princess Tales, illustrated by Mark Elliott, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

Fairest, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand, illustrated by David Christiana, Disney Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Ever, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2008.

Also author of script for children's musical, Spacenapped, produced in Brooklyn, NY.

ADAPTATIONS:

Ella Enchanted was adapted for film by Miramax, 2004; The Two Princesses of Bamarre was optioned for film by Miramax; many of Levine's books have been adapted for audiocassette by Listening Library, including Dave at Night, 2000, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, 2001, and Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, 2005.

SIDELIGHTS:

While Gail Carson Levine writes fairy tales featuring princesses, dragons, elves, and fairies, hers are modern renditions of traditional themes. Although she sometimes bases her novels on such familiar stories as Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty and adopts characters from J.M. Barrie's childhood classic Peter Pan, the heroes and heroines in books such as Ella Enchanted, The Princess Tales, and Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg are decidedly modern in their outlook.

Levine was raised in New York City, in a family that valued books and reading. As she once commented: "My father was interested in writing, and my mother wrote full-length plays in rhyme for her students to perform. Both of them had an absolute reverence for creativity and creative people, a reverence that they passed along to my sister and me."

Levine did not originally intend to be a writer. "It was painting that brought me to writing in earnest for children," she explained. "I took a class in writing and illustrating children's books and found that I was much more interested in the writing than in the illustrating."

The story that would become her Newbery Medal-winning novel Ella Enchanted actually had its start in a writing class. "I had to write something and couldn't think of a plot, so I decided to write a Cinderella story because it already had a plot! Then, when I thought about Cinderella's character, I realized she was too much of a goody-two-shoes for me, and I would hate her before I finished ten pages. That's when I came up with the curse: she's only good because she has to be, and she is in constant rebellion."

Ella Enchanted focuses on a girl who is cursed at birth: she is unable to disobey the commands of other people, no matter what they are. When the condition becomes too much to bear, Ella runs away in search of the thoughtless fairy who originally cursed her. Her journey leads only to a job as a scullery maid for her new stepmother, where she finally overcomes her curse. Anne Deifendeifer, writing in Horn Book, observed that Levine's "expert characterization and original ideas enliven this novelization of Cinderella."

With the success of Ella Enchanted, Levine realized that she had designed a winning concept that appealed to young fantasy fans. In another early fairy-tale update, The Princess Test, she updates Hans Christian Andersen's "The Princess and the Pea." In Levine's version, the familiar tale is turned on its head, with a blacksmith's daughter proving that she is as delicate and sensitive as any girl of royal blood. A Horn Book contributor wrote that "fans of funny fairy tales will have some laughs" over Levine's book, while a critic for Publishers Weekly maintained that Levine's heroines "defy fairy-tale stereotypes." Levine's "Princess Tales" series continues with The Fairy Mistake, The Fairy's Return, and For Biddle's Sake, the last a reworking of the Rapunzel story that a Kirkus Reviews writer described as containing "deliriously funny and well-wrought prose, [and] full of sly wit and clever asides."

In Dave at Night, Levine turns to her own family stories, drawing inspiration from her father's experiences growing up in an orphanage in New York City during the 1920s. Dave Carlos lives at the Hebrew Home for Boys because his father died in an accident and his mother is unable to raise him alone. Each night, the rebellious boy climbs over the orphanage wall and explores the nearby streets of Harlem, where he befriends an elderly fortune teller, listens to jazz music, and learns how to dance the Charleston. Eventually, Dave discovers his artistic talents and, more importantly, the value of his orphan friends. "Dave's excursions into the noise and excitement of long-ago Harlem nights will linger in the memory," predicted a critic for Horn Book.

In The Wish, Levine gives her modern-day story a fairytale twist. Wilma Sturtz is an eighth-grader in New York City. Her two best friends have left her school, and Wilma is feeling lonely and unwanted. When she gives up her seat on the bus to an eccentric old woman, the woman grants her one wish: to be the most popular student at her school. Very soon Wilma is invited to parties and dances, but the wish only lasts until the end of the school year. Will anyone still be her friend after that? Renee Steinberg, writing in School Library Journal, called The Wish "an enjoyable, thought-provoking, and absorbing selection." "The fun is watching the nerdy girl, with whom readers will identify, blossom into a self-assured kid," commented Ilene Cooper in Booklist.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre is set in a fairy-tale kingdom where Princess Addie and Princess Meryl live in the castle of their father, the king. While Meryl is an independent girl, Addie is less so. When Meryl comes down with a serious illness called the Gray Death, however, Addie takes it upon herself to discover the cure and save her sister's life. Donna Miller, writing in Book Report, called The Two Princesses of Bamarre "a lively tale with vivid characters and an exciting plot," while Kliatt reviewer Claire Rosser predicted that the "fanciful" story will appeal to "younger YAs who love high fantasy."

A "visionary rendering of the Snow White tale," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Fairest focuses on Aza, a homely, awkward fifteen-year-old. Aza cherishes her one beautiful quality: her melodious voice. In fact, Aza is able to throw her voice and mimic almost anything, and this talent draws the attention of the queen of Ayortha. When the homely girl is hidden behind the throne and her voice used to increase the queen's prestige, the ruse is discovered and Aza is forced to flee, finding her true strength in the process. Noting that Levine's novel probes "the real-life problems of living in an appearance-obsessed society," School Library Journal critic Melissa Christy Buron dubbed Fairest "a distinguished contribution" to Levine's body of work, and the Publishers Weekly reviewer ranked the novel as one that "may … even surpass … Ella Enchanted."

Levine moves to the realm of myth in Ever, which focuses on immortal gods. Olus, the god of the winds, is fascinated by humans and wishes to live among them. On Earth, he meets and falls in love with Kezi, a young rug weaver whose father has bargained with the family god Admat to trade the life of his dying wife for anyone who wishes the family well. Kezi prevents this sacrifice from happening by giving the wish herself, thus dooming herself unless Olus can arrange with the illusive Admat to make her immortal. In the novel, Levine depicts "the classic quest … young people must accomplish in order to live as they choose," according to Kliatt critic Janis Flint-Ferguson, while Horn Book reviewer Anita L. Burkam cited Ever for presenting readers with a "fascinating quandary" about the nature of religious faith.

The rural folk-tale world becomes the backdrop of the picture book Betsy Who Cried Wolf, as Levine turns from the stories of Europe to the simple tales of Aesop. In her variant of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," an eight-year-old girl strives to excel at her task of shepherding. A cagey old wolf named Zimmo, who may have dipped into the pages of Aesop, decides to outsmart the girl by provoking her into raising the alarm, then disappearing without a trace. When Betsy draws nearby farmers two times, with no wolf to be found, she realizes that Zimmo would likely be satisfied with a good meal rather than a tough old ewe, in a story that a Kirkus Reviews critic dubbed "a delightful tale" featuring "especially funny" art by Scott Nash. In Publishers Weekly a critic described the story as a "perky, girl-centric take" on the Aesop classic, and predicted that "kids may well cheer [Betsy's] … courage and can-do spirit."

In Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg and Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand, Levine teams up with Disney, adapting characters from Disney's classic animated versions of Peter Pan, Bambi, and other films into stories for elementary-grade readers. Tinker Bell, the feisty fairy from Peter Pan, is the star of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, which takes readers on a tour of a newly envisioned Never Land. Here Never Land is an island where the mild climate is sustained by a magical bird named Mother Dove. Mother Dove sits on a magic egg, and her annual molt provides Tink and other Never Land fairies with the valuable fairy dust. When Mother Dove becomes ill, new fairy Prilla must undertake a quest in order to save the magic bird, meeting up with Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and other characters along the way. Another quest, this time for a magic but unpredictable wand, is the focus of Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand, as Tink and others hope to stop a flood that threatens to destroy their island home. While several critics noted that the many characters make the two books difficult to follow, Booklist critic Jennifer Mattson cited the "lavish visual element" created by artist David Christiana as "a major draw of the Disney Fairies series." Reviewing Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, Mattson described it as "the kind of lovable, illustrated chapter book that high production costs have all but driven out of existence."

Levine once commented: "As a child I loved fairy tales because the story, the what-comes-next, is paramount. As an adult I am fascinated by their logic and illogic. Ella's magic book gave me the chance to answer a question that always plagued me about The Shoemaker and the Elves: why the elves abandon the shoemaker. I came up with one answer, but many are possible—and I think the real solution goes to the heart of gratitude and recognition, an example of the depth in fairy tales." Levine goes into greater detail regarding her views of folk and fairy tales in her book Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly, which inspires preteen writer with writing exercises, encouragement, and other useful creative how-to's.

Levine's advice to aspiring writers? "Suspend judgment of your work and keep writing. Take advantage of the wonderful community of writers for children, who are always ready with helpful criticism and support in the struggle to succeed. And be patient: writing and glaciers advance at about the same pace!"

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

McGinty, Alice B., Meet Gail Carson Levine, Rosen Publishing (New York, NY), 2003.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 1999, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, p. 627; April 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of The Wish, p. 1462, and Anna Rich, review of Dave atNight, p. 1494; April 15, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 1558; August, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Fairy's Return, p. 1964; August, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, p. 2023; July 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Fairest, p. 56; December 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly, p. 45; January 1, 2008, Jennifer Mattson, review of Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand, p. 76.

Book Report, September-October, 2001, Donna Miller, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 63.

Horn Book, May-June, 1997, Anne Deifendeifer, review of Ella Enchanted, p. 325; May, 1999, reviews of The Fairy's Mistake and The Princess Test, p. 332; January, 2000, review of Dave at Night, p. 78; May, 2001, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 330; May-June, 2008, Anita L. Burkham, review of Ever, p. 319.

Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, November, 2002, review of The Wish, p. 218.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of Betsy Who Cried Wolf, p. 574; September 15, 2002, review of For Biddle's Sake, p. 1393; August 1, 2005, review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, p. 853; August 1, 2006, review of Fairest, p. 790; July 1, 2007, review of Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand; April 1, 2008, review of Ever.

Kliatt, March, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 26; September, 2005, Erin Darr, review of The Wish, p. 28; September, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of Fairest, p. 14; January, 2007, Anthony Pucci, review of Writing Magic, p. 35; May, 2008, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Ever, p. 12.

Publishers Weekly, February 15, 1999, reviews of The Fairy's Mistake and The Princess Test, p. 108; November 1, 1999, review of Dave at Night, p. 58; April 24, 2000, review of The Wish, p. 91; May 7, 2001, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 248; May 6, 2002, review of Betsy Who Cried Wolf, p. 57; August 29, 2005, review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, p. 56; July 24, 2006, review of Fairest, p. 58.

School Library Journal, May, 2000, Renee Steinberg, review of The Wish, p. 173; May, 2001, Kit Vaughan, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 155; June, 2002, Grace Oliff, review of Betsy Who Cried Wolf, p. 98; September, 2002, Eva Mitnick, review of For Biddle's Sake, p. 198; October, 2005, Elizabeth Bird, review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, p. 119; September, 2006, Melissa Christy Buron, review of Fairest, p. 209; February, 2007, Beth Gallego, review of Writing Magic, p. 142; November, 2007, Pat Leach, review of Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand, p. 94.

ONLINE

Cynthia Leitich Smith Web site,http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/ (May 6, 2005), interview with Levine.

HarperCollins Web site,http://www.harperchildrens.com/ (November 26, 2008), "Gale Carson Levine."

OTHER

Good Conversation! A Talk with Gail Carson Levine (video), Tim Podell Productions, 2001.

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Levine, Gail Carson 1947-

Levine, Gail Carson 1947-

PERSONAL:

Born September 17, 1947, in New York, NY; daughter of David (an owner of a commercial art studio) and Sylvia (a teacher) Carson; married David Levine (a software developer), September 2, 1967. Education: City College of the City University of New York, B.A., 1969.

ADDRESSES:

Home and office—Brewster, NY. Agent—Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd., 10 Astor Pl., New York, NY 10003. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

New York State Department of Labor, New York, NY, employment interviewer, 1970-82; New York State Department of Commerce, New York, NY, administrative assistant, 1982-86; New York State Department of Social Services, New York, NY, welfare administrator, 1986-96; New York State Department of Labor, New York, NY, welfare administrator, 1986-97. Freelance writer.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Best Books for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Young Adults citations, American Library Association (ALA), and Newbery Honor Book, ALA, 1998, Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, 1999, all for Ella Enchanted; Notable Book and Best Books for Young Adults citations, ALA, 100 Books for Reading and Sharing, and Books for the Teen Age Lists, New York Public Library, and Publishers Weekly Best Books of 1999, all 1999, all for Dave at Night.

WRITINGS:

Ella Enchanted (young adult novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

Dave at Night (young adult novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

The Wish (young adult novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Betsy Who Cried Wolf (for children), illustrated by Scott Nash, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

For Biddle's Sake (for children), illustrated by Mark Elliott, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg (for children), illustrated by David Christiana, Disney Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Fairest (novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly (nonfiction), Collins (New York, NY), 2006.

Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand (for children), illustrated by David Christiana, Disney Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of the script for the children's musical Spacenapped, produced in Brooklyn, NY.

"PRINCESS TALES" SERIES; FOR CHILDREN

The Fairy's Mistake, illustrated by Mark Elliott, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

The Princess Test, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, illustrated by Mark Elliott, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Cinderellis and the Glass Hill, illustrated by Mark Elliott, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

The Fairy's Return, illustrated by Mark Elliott, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

The Princess Tales, Volume 1, illustrated by Mark Elliott, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

ADAPTATIONS:

The Wish was adapted for cassette by the Listening Library, 2000, read by Ari Meyers; The Two Princesses of Bamarre was adapted for cassette by HarperCollins, 2001, read by Lynn Redgrave; Dave at Night was adapted for cassette by Listening Library, 2002, read by Jason Harris; Ella Enchanted was adapted as a feature film starring Anne Hathaway, Miramax Films, 2004.

SIDELIGHTS:

Gail Carson Levine is an author of books for children and young adults. Her works often incorporate aspects from fairy tales, as in The Fairy's Mistake and The Two Princesses of Bamarre. Levine has earned numerous honors for her books, including a Newbery Honor Book citation for Ella Enchanted, a retelling of the Cinderella tale.

Levine was brought up in a household that treasured the arts. As she once recalled: "I grew up in New York City. My father was interested in writing, and my mother wrote full-length plays in rhyme for her students to perform. Both of them had an absolute reverence for creativity and creative people, a reverence that they passed along to my sister and me. My sister, Rani, is a wonderful painter of Jamaican subjects and a professor of fine arts.

"I didn't plan to be a writer, even though I started writing early. In elementary school I was a charter member of the Scribble Scrabble Club, and in high school my poems were published in an anthology of student poetry, but my ambition was to act or to be a painter like my older sister." Levine married in 1967, and after college she began working for the New York State Department of Labor and Department of Social Services. She worked for the state for nearly three decades, but all the while she was continuing a rich and creative life after work: "My interest in the theater led to my first writing experience as an adult. My husband, David, wrote the music and lyrics, and I wrote the book for a children's musical, Spacenapped, and that was produced by a neighborhood theater in Brooklyn."

She also continued painting, taking classes and working in oils and watercolors. As Levine once noted: "It was painting that brought me to writing in earnest for children. I took a class in writing and illustrating children's books and found that I was much more interested in the writing than in the illustrating. Before Ella Enchanted, I wrote several picture books and a novel loosely based on my father's childhood in an orphanage in Harlem in the 1920s.

"Ella Enchanted began in another class. I had to write something and couldn't think of a plot, so I decided to write a Cinderella story because it already had a plot! Then, when I thought about Cinderella's character, I realized she was too much of a goody-two-shoes for me, and I would hate her before I finished ten pages. That's when I came up with the curse: she's only good because she has to be, and she is in constant rebellion."

Looking back, Levine believes she wrote Ella Enchanted as a lesson to herself. "The meaning of what one writes is rarely transparent. Many people are cursed with obedience and with attending too much to other people's expectations. We are cursed with constraints on our freedom to act as we wish, even uncertainty about what we wish. I know I am!"

Levine was fifty years old when she published Ella Enchanted. After the work received universally positive critical reviews and garnered several awards, the author's world changed dramatically. Having already left her job as a welfare administrator by the time Ella Enchanted was named a Newbery Honor Book, Levine began receiving invitations to speak to students, teachers, and parents alike. Foreign rights to the book were sold, as was a movie option, and new book contracts flowed in.

Levine's next work, Dave at Night, is based on her father's boyhood and also received critical acclaim and several awards. The eleven-year-old protagonist of this tale, an orphan in New York's brutal Hebrew Home for Boys, climbs over the walls at night to experience the excitement and freedom of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. Among other adventures, he becomes involved with a group of avant-garde painters, writers, and musicians. Dave also befriends an African American girl whose adoptive mother is a well-known New York socialite. A Publishers Weekly contributor observed: "In describing 1920s Harlem from a child's perspective, Levine articulates what it might have been like for anyone exposed to such innovation in art or the sounds of jazz for the first time." A reviewer in Horn Book stated that "the first-person narrative is unusually fluid as it depicts Dave's journey along two parallel tracks," adding that "there is a tall-tale-like quality to this story."

Following these successes, Levine published a stream of popular children's books in her "Princess Tales" series, many putting a new spin on old fairy stories. The Fairy's Mistake, for example, is based on "Toads and Diamonds"; The Princess Test is Levine's look at "The Princess and the Pea"; Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep is her retelling of "Sleeping Beauty"; and Cinderellis and the Glass Hill updates the relatively unknown "The Princess and the Glass Hill."

Other stories are fairy tales of Levine's own creation and, though she prefers not to restrict herself to one major theme, most of Levine's published works contain fairy tale motifs. Levine once noted: "As a child I loved fairy tales because the story, the what-comes-next, is paramount. As an adult I am fascinated by their logic and illogic. Ella's magic book gave me the chance to answer a question that always plagued me about The Shoemaker and the Elves: why the elves abandon the shoemaker. I came up with one answer, but many are possible—and I think the real solution goes to the heart of gratitude and recognition, an example of the depth in fairy tales."

Carolyn Phelan, who reviewed The Fairy's Return for Booklist, commented of "The Princess Tales" series in general: "The real draw of these attractively designed books is the inventive use of folkloric elements woven into charming original stories." In The Wish, for instance, the protagonist, a nice but unpopular New York eighth grader, wishes to be the most popular girl in school. She discovers, however, who her true friends are only after her magic wish wears off. "A flesh-and-blood supporting cast … will offer readers much to ponder in their own lives," wrote a critic for Publishers Weekly.

In The Two Princesses of Bamarre Levine creates a fantasyland of dragons, elves, and fairies, where sorcerers and magic are commonplace. Twelve-year-old Princess Addie is the antithesis of her strong, fearless, and protective older sister, Princess Meryl. The girls live in Bamarre Castle with their father, their mother having died of the always-fatal Gray Death. When Meryl develops the disease, Addie determines to find the cure, which is known only to fairies and dragons. She discovers the prophecy that the plague can only be cured "when cowards find courage and rain falls over all Bamarre." Addie also finds a mentor in a sorcerer, who develops a crush on her and helps her discover—through numerous adventures—that strength comes only when one looks within. A critic for Publishers Weekly explained that Levine "plants clues to [the outcome of Addie's mission] with a Beowulf-like poem interspersed throughout the novel." Kit Vaughan noted in School Library Journal that the story is a "slow starter that speeds up slightly at the end."

In Betsy Who Cried Wolf Levine puts a gender twist on "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," continuing her penchant for creating strong female protagonists. When Betsy must protect the sheep from the howling wolf all alone, she realizes the wolf is not evil; he is simply hungry. Betsy feeds him her shepherd's pie and the wolf, like her, takes the Shepherd's Oath to protect the sheep. Grace Oliff wrote in School Library Journal that, although the irony of sheep being protected from hungry wolves only to grace the table of humans "will probably be lost on the intended audience," the "cunning commentary on events made by the sarcastic and silly sheep will not."

Levine's penchant for drawing upon traditional and classic fairy tales continues in books such as For Biddle's Sake and Fairest. With the former, the author creates a variation of The Frog Prince in a story about Parsley. Parsley, as her name implies, loves to eat parsley so much that she asks her father to steal some from the fairy Bombina. Bombina, however, catches him at it, and as punishment takes Parsley to raise as her own. One day, however, Bombina accidentally turns Parsley into a frog. In this amphibian form, she sets out to help Prince Tansy, with whom she is in love, on a quest.

Fairest, Levine's take on the story of Snow White, received considerable critical attention. The author turns the theme of obsession with beauty on its head, making her heroine, Aza, very homely. Aza, however, has a beautiful voice, which is an asset in the magical kingdom of Ayortha, where everyone sings in ordinary conversation. Aza is insecure about her appearance, but she enjoys a happy childhood with a loving family until she is summoned by the young Queen Ivi to serve her in court. The queen has come to power after the king is injured and put in a coma. Ivi, meanwhile, has become abusive of her power, but is frustrated by her inability to sing. She learns of Ava's ability to throw her voice and uses her subject's talent to make it look as if she can sing. Ava, however, is caught at the subterfuge and must flee the kingdom and go into hiding. She journeys to the land of gnomes, where she comes to discover her true identity and importance.

Many reviewers were charmed by Fairest, with Norah Piehl, on the Kids Reads Web site, complimenting the author for creating "a wholly original and utterly extraordinary fantasy world, as well as a heroine readers won't soon forget." Fellow author Naomi Wolf, however, wrote a scathing review in the New York Times, stating that the work has "heavy narrative flaws" and features a heroine who is "unattractive … because of her personality, which is mopey and self-absorbed. Consequently, it is hard to feel excited and engaged while seeing the world through her eyes." Many other critics, though, compared the work favorably to Ella Enchanted. For instance, a Publishers Weekly contributor asserted that Fairest is "an alluring companion novel that some readers may argue even surpasses Ella Enchanted." "Inventive and original, readers who like Ella Enchanted will be primed to try this fairy tale as well," Claire Rosser similarly concluded in Kliatt.

With Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg Levine began a new series for Disney Press that features fairy characters. In this first work, the heroine is Tinker Bell from the popular Peter Pan tale that Disney made into a classic animated feature. In this story, Tink helps fellow fairy Prilla, who is trying to figure out what her special talent is. This becomes even more important as the fairies set out on a quest to save Neverland. Their magical island has become imperiled when Mother Dove, whose feathers provide pixie dust, is injured in a hurricane and her egg is damaged as well. Tinkerbell and Prilla seek the help of the dragon Kyto, who can restore the egg. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book a "flighty and confusing fantasy" with "overly precious descriptions" and characters whose "qualities come off as cloying." On the other hand, School Library Journal contributor Elizabeth Bird felt that the "story is exciting, the characters accessible if stock."

By now a seasoned author, Levine has become used to the occasional criticisms she receives, and in her Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly she tells aspiring writers how to handle such rejection. She also advises her audience how to harness their creativity and details the steps involved in getting published in a book that Ilene Cooper asserted in a Booklist review "will inspire the most serious in the audience." Even with all of her success, Levine takes her own advice to keep working on her skills. She still takes writing classes, participates in a writing group, and volunteers at schools teaching children creative writing.

Levine once stated: "Take advantage of the wonderful community of writers for children—who are always ready with helpful criticism and support in the struggle to succeed. And be patient—writing and glaciers advance at about the same pace!"

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 1999, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, p. 627; August, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Fairy's Return, p. 1964; August 1, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, p. 2023; July 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Fairest, p. 56; December 15, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly, p. 45.

Horn Book, May, 1999, review of The Princess Test, p. 332; January, 2000, review of Dave at Night, p. 78; May, 2001, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 330; July 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Fairest, p. 56.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of Betsy Who Cried Wolf, p. 574; September 15, 2002, reviews of The Fairy's Return and For Biddle's Sake, p. 1393; August 1, 2005, review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, p. 853; August 1, 2006, review of Fairest, p. 790.

Kliatt, September 1, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of Fairest, p. 14.

New York Times, November 12, 2006, Naomi Wolf, "The Plain Truth," review of Fairest.

Publishers Weekly, February 15, 1999, review of The Fairy's Mistake and The Princess Test, p. 108; August 30, 1999, review of Dave at Night, p. 84; April 24, 2000, review of The Wish, p. 91; May 7, 2001, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 248; May 6, 2002, review of Betsy Who Cried Wolf, p. 57; April 29, 2005, review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, p. 56; July 24, 2006, review of Fairest, p. 58.

School Library Journal, May, 2001, Kit Vaughan, review of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 155; June, 2002, Grace Oliff, review of Betsy Who Cried Wolf, p. 98; September 1, 2002, Eva Mitnick, review of For Biddle's Sake, p. 198; October 1, 2005, Elizabeth Bird, review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, p. 119; September 1, 2006, Melissa Christy Buron, review of Fairest, p. 209; February 1, 2007, Beth Gallego, review of Writing Magic, p. 142.

ONLINE

Kids Reads,http://www.kidsreads.com/ (May 9, 2007), Joy Held, review of Writing Magic, Norah Piehl, review of Fairest.

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