Month: August 2012

Meet the Biographer: Susan Goldman Rubin

Susan Goldman Rubin has introduced young children to fine art through her picture books and written about the Holocaust for various age groups. Her most recent book, Music Was It, is an exuberant young adult biography of legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein. This week, she told Kidsbiographer about the joy of talking to people who knew Bernstein and connecting young people with his music. 

Kidsbiographer:  Can you tell me a bit about your personal experience with music and with Leonard Bernstein in particular? What led you to write about his life for young adults?

SGR: For years, since I was a teenager,  I have loved and enjoyed the exhilarating music of Leonard Bernstein.  Music that he composed such as “Fancy Free,” “Candide,” even his brooding “Age of Anxiety,” and, of course, “West Side Story.” And I responded to the passion with which he conducted works by other composers from Mozart to Mahler. I realized that many young people today might not be familiar with Bernstein’s music, or any classical and theater music because of budget cuts at schools and the impact of pop music in the media.  So when a set of DVD’s of Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts was reissued in 2005, I felt inspired to introduce him to a new generation.

I thought the story of his ongoing conflict with his father Sam Bernstein during Lenny’s childhood and teen years over his dream of becoming  a musician would have universal appeal. Many young people long to do different things than what their parents, though well meaning, want for them.  I partly dedicated the book to my friend Edward Kleban, the lyricist of “A Chorus Line,” because, like Lenny, Ed battled with his dad over his desire to become a composer for the musical theater during the time we were teenage students at the High School of Music & Art in New York, and for some years later as young adults. Ed worked at low paying jobs in the recording industry until he finally made it, and all that time we were friends.

Kidsbiographer: Music Was It concludes with Bernstein’s Carnegie Hall debut at age 25: the end of the book is only the beginning of his career. Thus, it’s a biography of a young adult for young adults. Why did you decide to focus on this period of Bernstein’s life?

SGR: That was exactly my point. I thought (and hoped) that young adults would be engaged by Bernstein’s struggle to become a musician despite his father’s desire to have him go into the family business, The Bernstein Hair Supply Company. And the arc of the story would climax when Lenny, a young adult,  finally succeeds, having overcome so many obstacles. Not only his father’s objection, but the real situation in the world of classical music at that time when a young American, especially a Jew, didn’t stand a chance of breaking through the barriers.

Kidsbiographer: In your acknowledgements page, you recognize the contributions of Bernstein’s family members and friends to the research process. Can you share some of the most interesting insights you gleaned from your conversations with those close to him?

SGR: I loved hearing from his adult children, Jamie and Alexander, how Lenny liked to teach, even at the dinner table. And I found out that he had a terrible singing voice. Jamie told me which recording of “On The Town” to listen to, to hear how bad his singing was in a brief song that is played at the beginning as though from a juke box. And they told me how deeply religious their father continued to be as an adult.  Because of his fame and celebrity, he would attend High Holy Day Services at Temple Emanuel-El by arriving late through a side door, and leaving quickly at the end.

Lenny’s brother Burton told me that their father, Sam Bernstein, was caring, and wanted security for his son. And the idea that he opposed Lenny’s desire to be a musician came from love and a realistic concern.  Burton also reminded me that Lenny paved the way for many young American musicians to become symphony conductors, a field that had been traditionally dominated by older Europeans up till that time.

Kidsbiographer: How has writing Music Was It altered or shaped your perception of Bernstein and his music?

SGR: I have enjoyed his music even more knowing the details of his early years and training. Now when I tune in the radio to my favorite classical music station I can tell by listening if Bernstein is conducting a symphony by another composer or his own work.  And I feel more personally connected with his music, as though I had lived it. When I hear Bernstein conduct a piece by his friend and mentor, Aaron Copland, I feel especially moved because I know about their history together.

Also, curiously, whenever I meet someone who knows I’ve written the book about Bernstein, they tell me an anecdote about him and his relationship with a friend or someone in their family.  Everyone has a Lenny story!  The research never ends.

Kidsbiographer: What’s the most gratifying feedback you’ve received from young readers about the biography? 

SGR: I recently heard from a teacher that her students loved listening to “Mambo” from “West Side Story,” then hearing parts of the book read aloud.

But I’m still waiting (and hoping) to have more feedback from readers.

Kidsbiographer: Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming projects?

SGR: Yes! Thanks for asking.  I am thrilled to be writing a biography for young people, ages 12 to 14, about Stephen Sondheim with his permission and approval.  The book will be published by Neal Porter Books, Roaring Brook Press, a Division of Macmillan, in 2014.  At this time I am conducting interviews with people who know and work with Mr. Sondheim.  One of the themes is collaboration, and as you may know, Sondheim’s first Broadway show was “West Side Story.”  He wrote the lyrics for music composed by Leonard Bernstein so that brings my writing full circle.

I am also finishing work on Everybody Paints, a biography of the Wyeth Family –N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Jamie Wyeth – to be published by Chronicle Books.

And I have co-authored a teen memoir, They Call Me A Hero: A Memoir Of My Youth, by Daniel Hernandez, the young political intern who is credited with saving the life of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords on January 8, 2011.  The book will be published by Simon & Schuster in February 2013.

Wild on the Moors

 

The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne
By Catherine Reef
(Clarion, New York, 2012, $18.99)

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë led lives worthy of their fiction. All the elements present in their novels – cruel teachers, illicit or unrequited passions, the wild beauty of the Yorkshire moors, isolation, madness, early loss, and death – were all realities they or their brother Branwell experienced. Losing their mother and two eldest siblings at a young age, isolated in their father’s Yorkshire parsonage, the children sought refuge in each other and their imaginations, creating fantastic kingdoms and writing stories about these places.  As adults, all three sisters penned poetry and novels now considered masterpieces.

In The Brontë Sisters, Catherine Reef describes the women’s hardships and rich inner lives, which form the backdrop of their novels. She refuses, however, to romanticize her subjects: all three sisters worked as governesses or teachers, and all were difficult employees despite their intellectual gifts. “There could never have been temperaments less adapted to such a position,” observed one of Charlotte’s friends. Neither did the sisters mix well with company. Even Charlotte, the most worldly and conforming of the three, could appear odd and aloof. Emily rarely spoke to or made eye contact with people outside the family. But the very qualities that made the Brontës strange and difficult let them turn an unflinching eye on subjects proper Victorians ignored or accepted: the uneasy position of governesses (Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey), abusive schools (Jane Eyre), domestic violence (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall), human cruelty, revenge, and bitterness (Wuthering Heights), and the general position of women (nearly all of the Brontës’ novels). Despite their inward focus, they wrote vividly about the world outside the parsonage.

The Brontë Sisters is an accessible introduction to the sisters’ writings and their era. It is also a thoughtful meditation on the relationship between a writer’s biography and oeuvre, prose and temperament.

Dorothy A. Dahm

 

Meet the Biographer: Sy Montgomery

(Sy Montgomery, Temple Grandin, and James Birge, President of Franklin Pierce University)

Writer Sy Montgomery has the life some of us dream of living. To research her children’s and adults books about animals, she has studied rare parrots in New Zealand and tigers in  Bangladesh. This year, she published a middle-grade biography of animal scientist and autism advocate Temple Grandin, and her 2009 book Saving the Ghost of the Mountain, about snow leopard research in Mongolia, came out in paperback. This week, Sy Montgomery chatted with Kidsbiographer about training for mountaineering expeditions, developing a close bond with her subject, and using her books to inspire compassion for animals and humans.  

Kidsbiographer: Throughout Temple Grandin, you include information about people with autism experience the world, particularly their heightened sensory awareness. Can you tell me  about the research you did to broaden your understanding of autism for this book?

Sy Montgomery: Before I even agreed to write this book, I had read all of Temple’s  popular works, because of my interest in other minds. My other books are entirely about non-human animals, and for years I have been fascinated by their minds, and by their sensory systems. Birds and sharks sense the magnetism of the Earth. Insects see ultraviolet light. Whales and elephants communicate in infrasound, below the threshold of human hearing. So I began writing this book grounded in the understanding that there are all kinds of minds out there, all of them perceiving and understanding the world in different ways. 

Of course, after I signed on to do this book, I read a number of more technical papers about autism. But also, I am lucky enough to count as friends a number of people on the spectrum. This helped me, too.   

Kidsbiographer:  Unlike most biographers, you wrote about a person who is very much alive: in fact, you worked closely with Temple Grandin  to tell her story. What are the particular challenges – and joys – of collaborating with your subject?

Sy Montgomery: Temple is a delight. I like her so much! I never worried one minute  about her autism posing a problem. What I worried about was  her being a celebrity. From previous experience, I know that while some celebrities are perfectly lovely, some can be a big pain in the tail.  They can act like their time is more important than yours.  They can keep you waiting. They sometimes even stand you up. But we  all have just 24 hours in the day.

But I needn’t have worried about Temple. Although she’s a HUGE  celebrity and as busy as any other famous person I know, it doesn’t go to her head. We got along great. She was very thoughtful and thorough. She always did exactly what she said she was going to do. She’s extremely straightforward and direct. I like that.

Also, we had FUN together! Every time we see each other, we end up talking about animals (my favorite thing to talk about) and laughing so hard we almost fall over. Working with her was a joy.     

Kidsbiographer:  Temple Grandin is a very personal biography.   Together you and Temple Grandin reach out to kids who don’t fit into their school’s social structure; Temple herself contributed a foreword in which she addresses such readers directly. For this reason, I imagine many kids must treasure the book. Can you share some of the most moving or gratifying responses you’ve received from young people?

Sy Montgomery: Over and over kids, both on and off the spectrum have told me the book has made a big difference to them, helping them to see their own strengths and the strengths of other kids around them, and to begin to consider how they can use these special strengths to help others. Both kids and adults have told me, too, that they understand their OWN minds better after reading the book! One child with limited speaking skills hugged me and told me “thank you.” Her teacher explained that this little girl read the book over and over again and seemed to feel far more confident thanks to Temple’s example that she, too, could make a difference in the world. 

Kidsbiographer: How have young readers responded to the book’s insights about factory farming in the United States?

Sy Montgomery: Most kids are appalled by factory farming.   An alarmingly large number of Americans have no idea how most of our meat and milk is produced. But tell an adult about factory farming, and he’ll say, “Oh, don’t tell me – I want to enjoy my hamburger!” Tell a child, and she’ll say, “I’m going to change this!” This was a huge motivation for me to write this book. The book is about compassion – not just for kids with autism, but for animals as well. (Of course, it’s absurd to think compassion should be reserved for one species!) 

A lot of kids have written to me that they now want to become vegetarian. I’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years myself.  

Kidsbiographer:  Now for some questions about Saving the Ghost of the Mountain. Your trek in Mongolia with Tom McCarthy and his fellow researchers must have been transformative: an arduous journey, a rich culture, hospitable people, a spectacular landscape, and fascinating animals, not least of all the snow leopard itself. I’m curious to learn how you winnowed the  experience down to a middle-grade book – and to hear about some of the adventures and observations you wish you’d been able to include.

Sy Montgomgery: Yes, it’s sometimes hard to make the whole experience fit into 80 pages. I am in the process of cutting 1800 words out of a draft of a book about out latest expedition, one to Namibia with the Cheetah Conservation Fund right now!

Most of the narrative of the book, though, came from the highlights of each day, directly from my field journal. When I’m in the field, I take notes all day on a little notepad that fits in my hip pocket; I also conduct interviews, which I keep in a larger, separate  notebook; and at night, no matter how tired I am, I force myself to write up what I consider the most important and compelling lessons of each day in my field journal, which is sort of like a diary. But instead of just writing “This happened, and then and then and then…,” I try to make each daily entry a sort of essay about the theme of each day – what that day showed us and taught us, not just an account of all the events.  

My entire field diary from that expedition is online .  

Kidsbiographer: What sort of preliminary research did you do to prepare for your trek?

Sy Montgomery: I did a great deal of reading, including the history and paleontology of Mongolia and two biographies of Genghis Khan, but even more physical training. Our expedition would involve all-day hikes every day up talus slopes at up to 11,000 feet altitude, where breathing is difficult and footing slippery.  On a previous expedition to high altitude (the cloud forest of New Guinea, for  Quest for the Tree Kangaroo) I had developed altitude sickness and hypothermia, and I didn’t want to repeat it. (At one point in New Guinea, when I was sick, I wandered off into the bush in the rain, vaguely aware that something was wrong but too mentally foggy to understand what to do about it. Happily my collaborator, photographer Nic Bishop, noticed I’d gone missing, found me, and stuffed me into a tent with a hot drink. He didn’t want to have to write the book as well as photograph it!)

But to make things harder, the spring before our summer expedition to Mongolia, I badly sprained my ankle, and was on crutches for weeks. The minute I could ditch the crutches, I hired two personal trainers and started hiking six miles every day with my dog Sally to prepare me for this trek.  

Kidsbiographer:  Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming  projects?

Sy Montgomery:  I just finished a draft of a new book in the Scientists in the Field (SITF) series with Nic on the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s amazing work in Namibia, and am working on a book for adults tentatively titled The Soul of the Octopus. This coming spring, I have two new titles for kids coming out: Snowball the Dancing Cockatoo, the true story of the internationally famous parrot whose  video rocked the internet (to be published by Bauhan publishers, all author’s proceeds to benefit the bird rescue that adopted Snowball) and another SITF from Houghton Mifflin about a fantastic research project in South America’s largest wetland on its biggest land mammal, the tapir. That one will be the first SITF featuring a Latina scientist, the amazing Brazilian researcher, Pati Medici – again photographed by Nic Bishop.

And this fall, I’m off to Niger for an expedition to the Sahara, looking for desert antelope.

Did I mention I’ll be learning to SCUBA for the octopus book? Nic and I also hope to do an SITF on one of the coolest octo researchers, Canadian psychologist Jennifer Mather.

Wow, life is great!

Little Men, Paper Dolls, and Famous Authors

The Fairy Ring, or Elsie and Frances Fool the World
By Mary Losure
(Candlewick Press, 2012, Boston, $16.99)

While World War I raged across Europe, as almost an entire generation of young men died in the trenches, a group of well-bred, well-educated Londoners researched the existence of fairies. Among them was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, best known for his Sherlock Holmes novels. When two young girls in Yorkshire photographed themselves interacting with ethereal fairies and twee gnomes, Doyle and his fellow enthusiasts proclaimed the photos as proof of the little people’s existence.

In The Fairy Ring, or Elsie and Frances Fool the World, Mary Losure tells the story of the young photographers, nine year old Frances Griffith and her teenage cousin, Elsie Wright. One day, Frances saw “little men” and beautiful fairies by the brook behind the family’s house. When she blurted out her news, the adults teased her. Elsie, a talented painter, came to the rescue: she drew and cut out delicate fairy figures and photographed Frances with them. Before long, the girls found themselves orchestrating more pictures of the little folk and becoming minor celebrities in their own right. What had started as a family dispute became a news item – and one of the twentieth century’s most famous hoaxes.

Losure’s account of the cousins’ adventures reads like a well-paced, thoughtful middle-grade novel. The girls’ photos and enchanting examples of Elsie’s artwork complement her prose. The Fairy Ring raises as many questions as it answers: Did Doyle embrace the pictures because he could not imagine two young, working-class girls sophisticated enough to employ trick photography? Was Doyle a gullible man – or a desperate one? Were Frances’ fairies mild hallucinations, the result of a nervous imagination? Could she see things others could not? Almost a hundred years later, no one has solved these mysteries, but Losure’s book is a fascinating take on the nature of truth and belief and the dangers of underestimating anyone.

Dorothy A. Dahm

 

 

 

 

Meet the Biographer: Candace Fleming

Children’s author Candace Fleming has penned children’s biographies of such varied American icons as Eleanor Roosevelt, P.T. Barnum, and Ben Franklin as well as novels and picture books. Last year, she published Amelia Lost, an Amelia Earhart biography that includes exciting coverage of her disappearance. This week, she chatted with Kidsbiographer about getting lost in research and finding the real Earhart.

Kidsbiographer: I enjoyed how Amelia Lost shifted between a chronological account of Amelia Earhart’s life and a focus on the attempts to locate her on the Pacific Ocean. Can you describe the creative influences – or impulse – that led you to tell Earhart’s story this way?

Candace Fleming: Amelia‘s structure – the juxtaposing of two stories — was dictated by my research. As I delved into Amelia’s life, I discovered another story — that incredible and dramatic tale of the search. And I began to see how the two stories dovetailed; how Amelia’s choices seemed to lead to her fate; how her fate led to her becoming legendary. Once I came to this conclusion, the writing came fairly easily. I didn’t write the stories separately, but rather in the order they appear in the book. Sure, I strived for dramatic effect and cliff-hanging endings. But the breaks themselves — where one story ends and another begins — followed their own course.

Kidsbiographer: What sort of research did you do to write Amelia Lost?

Candace Fleming: I’m one of those writers who tend to get lost in their research.  In fact, I WANT to get lost in the research. It’s the only way to uncover those overlooked tidbits of truth.  With Amelia, I spent weeks at the Purdue University Library shifting through the vast George Putnam Collection.  I visited historical societies in Kansas and New Mexico and California (places with connections to Amelia), and I talked with experts at the National Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.  Best of all, I had the pleasure of working with Ric Gillespie, executive director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR).  He and his organization are the ones who are out on former Gardner Island right now searching for Amelia’s plane.  Ric gave me unlimited access to TIGHAR’s primary documents, archival photographs, and scientific articles.  He even fact-checked the completed manuscript.  I could never have reconstructed the day-to-day events of the search without his help and knowledge.  And then I did things like fly Amelia’s route over South East Asia (in a commercial airplane!), walked Atchison, Kansas and sort of felt the air, and prowled through vintage airplanes (a Canuck, an Electra, etc.)   I even considered taking flying lessons, but… research has to stop somewhere, right?

Kidsbiographer: You paint a nuanced portrait of Earhart. On one hand, she shows an awareness of the measures she must take to protect and advance her image; on the other hand, she seems sincere about inspiring other women to take risks and follow their dreams. During your research, which new fact or insight about Earhart surprised you most?

Candace Fleming: What I found most surprising was the level of mythologizing Amelia did on her own behalf. What I mean is, she told stories about herself –wrote them in her memoirs –  that were totally untrue. She created them out of whole cloth. For example, in her book The Fun Of It, she relates this absolutely charming anecdote about her first glimpse of an airplane. It was 1908, she wrote, and a “thing of wire and wood” was giving demonstrations at the Iowa State Fair. But eleven year old Amelia wasn’t the least bit interested. She was entirely too taken with “an absurd little hat made of a… peach basket” that she’d bought for fifteen cents. It’s a charming story. But it’s not true. Aviation history (as well as the Iowa Historical Society) bears that out. And that wasn’t the only fib Amelia told. At first, I was frustrated by all the lies. I began telling people I was going to title the book “Flyer, Flyer Pants On Fire.” Then I realized that this was an opportunity to get beyond the mythologized Amelia — a chance to strip away the heroic mask in order to make her a living, breathing woman who did extraordinary things.

Kidsbiographer: In my review of Amelia Lost, I compared the biography to an exciting documentary film: informative, yet moving and suspenseful. Like many middle-grade and young adult biographers, you use textboxes to communicate background information without disrupting the human narrative. Where, in this project, did you find balancing your storytelling and educational objectives particularly challenging?

Candace Fleming: Recently, someone called my use of sidebars a “third story.”  I really like that.  As for the balance between narrative and sidebar, my choice is determined by two questions: 1) Will including this information in the text slow the story down and 2) Is the information just so fascinating that I simply can’t leave it behind. If the answer is “yes” to either one of those, then I know I have a sidebar. But I also know they need to be brief, so I try to keep them to two or three paragraphs. I try, but I’m not always successful.  My goal in all of this, of course, is to be entertaining.  I think of myself as a storyteller, not a fact teller and my hope is kids will read the book for pleasure, not just to write a report.  Thus, I don’t really have an eye out for educational objectives.  I just want to convey to my readers the joy and passion I find in my particular subjects.

Kidsbiographer: What’s the most gratifying feedback you’ve received from young readers about Amelia Lost? How have young girls responded to the book and to Earhart as a biographical subject and potential role model?

Candace Fleming: A few months ago, I was working with 7th graders at the Singapore American School.  I was there to work with them on their nonfiction writing, and in advance of my arrival they read my biographies.  My first day at the school, one of the students raised his hand, and after I called on him, he flipped open his copy of Amelia Lost and read the passage about Dana Randolph.  Dana, in case you don’t remember, was the teenaged boy in Wyoming who claimed he’d picked up Amelia calling for help on his wireless radio.  Anyway, the student read the passage and then looked at me.  “So,” he said, his voice full of challenge.  “how can you call that nonfiction?”  I confess I was confused by the guess.  “It’s nonfiction,” I verified.  “How can it be?” he persisted.  And he proceeded to point of the details and the dialogue.  He hadn’t realized good nonfiction uses the same storytelling elements as fiction.  He’d obviously experienced nonfiction as dull, an encyclopedic recitation of facts and dates and events.    But I had bucked that notion.  I was thrilled.

I was also thrilled when I received an email from a 6th grade girl that ended with this sentence, “It was history I could feel.”  Isn’t that lovely?

Kidsbiographer:  Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming projects?

Candace Fleming: This fall (2013) I have two new books being published by Schwartz & Wade.  The first is a novel called On The Day I Died.  It’s a ghost story.  The second is a picture book illustrated by incredibly talented, Caldecott medalist Eric Rohmann called Oh, No!  And currently I’m in the throes of a new biography, this one about Anastasia Romanov.  In fact, I’m off to Russia next month to work in the National Archives, as well as visit the Imperial Family’s homes and haunts.  I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about the project.  I’m writing it in the style of a “true crime” book – a real challenge, but an exhilarating one.

Meet the Biographer: Bonnie Christensen

Bonnie Christensen has written and illustrated over eight children’s books and illustrated ten more. Last year, she published Fabulous! , a picture-book biography of Andy Warhol. This week, she chatted with Kidsbiographer about telling Warhol’s story in words and images.

Kidsbiographer: In your author biography, you mention working with Warhol stars in New York theatre. What was that experience like, and how did it contribute to your decision to write about Warhol for young readers?

Bonnie Christensen: Working with Warhol stars was entirely fun. Taylor Meade, who directed the production, wrote the play as we rehearsed. He’d say, “Oh, why don’t you impersonate Katherine Hepburn now?” and I’d do it. It reminded me of making up plays when I was child, traveling wherever the imagination led. Maybe the experience had a subconscious effect, but I didn’t consciously have it in mind when I decided to write about Warhol.

Kidsbiographer: In Fabulous, Andy Warhol emerges as a fascinating contradiction: self-contained, independent, introvert yet attracted to fame and celebrity. During your research, what piece of information about Warhol most astonished you or altered your perception of him as an artist or man?

Bonnie Christensen: The aspect of Andy’s character that amazed me most was his work ethic. When he was first in New York, working as an illustrator, he’d be given an assignment to do one illustration and he’d produce ten so that the art director would have options. He wanted to please people and make a good impression. From my reading, I got the sense that he always felt like an outsider, even when he was famous, and that pleasing people was a coping strategy.

Kidsbiographer: What sort of research did you do to illustrate Fabulous?

Bonnie Christensen: My research mainly consisted of reading adult Warhol biographies as well as watching films and documentaries. I also visited a wonderful exhibition about Warhol at the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont, where I learned that Andy worked in soup kitchens on Thanksgiving. The museum was also kind enough to give me access to all the research they used to prepare the exhibit.

Kidsbiographer: One of my favorite illustrations in Fabulous shows young Andy, portfolio in hand, mesmerized by the stained glass windows in church. The portraits of various religious icons are startling: they seem to appear and reappear at different levels with varying degrees of clarity. Can you tell me how you achieved this effect?

Bonnie Christensen: All the illustrations began as paper collage in black and white. The collages were photocopied and transferred to canvas, then painted in transparent oil. The idea was to mimic Warhol’s style of painting, but to try not to copy it. I only had a certain number of icons, so I enlarged and reduced them to fit the niches in the church, the actual church Warhol attended in Pittsburgh. The idea was to foreshadow the repeated portrait painting Warhol eventually created.

Kidsbiographer: What’s the most gratifying feedback you’ve received about Fabulous from young readers – or from parents and educators, for that matter?

Bonnie Christensen: The most gratifying feedback came from a starred review in School Library Journal. I hadn’t considered this aspect when writing the book since I was focused on the story of Warhol’s life, so I was delighted to learn that “Warhol’s artistic triumphs despite his social difficulties will prove inspirational for young readers who feel as if they don’t quite fit in.” I certainly didn’t fit I “fit in” during most of my school life, a sentiment shared by a large percentage of the population, I’d guess. It’s gratifying to think the book will lift some children’s spirits, showing them the future contains unimaginable possibility.

Kidsbiographer: Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming projects?

Bonnie Christensen: I’m currently working on a picture book biography of Elvis Presley, whose life, in some respects, mirrors Warhol’s. From these two subjects, one might conclude that I’m focused on American pop icons, so I’ll point out that in between Warhol and Elvis, I published a book about Galileo, I, Galileo – not pop, not American, and certainly not at all insecure.