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Natalie Standiford (1961–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

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(Jesse Harris, a house pseudonym, Emily James)

Personal

Born 1961, in Baltimore, MD; Education: Brown University, B.A., 1983. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, movies, going to the beach, all kinds of music, reading, staying up late.

Addresses

Agent—c/o Sarah Burnes, The Gernert Company, 136 E. 57th St., New York, NY 10022.

Career

Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore, New York, NY, clerk, 1983; Random House, New York, NY, editorial assistant, 1984–85, assistant editor in Books for Young Readers division, 1985–87; freelance writer, 1987–. Member of New York City Author Read-Aloud Program, beginning 1992.

Member

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Authors' Guild, Authors League of America, Authors Support Intellectual Freedom.

Honors Awards

Fifty Books of the Year citation, Federation of Children's Book Groups (United Kingdom), 1992, for Space Dog the Hero; Puffin Award, Alaska Association of School Librarians, 1992, for The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto; American Library Association Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers designation, 2005, for The Dating Game and Breaking up Is Really, Really Hard to Do.

Writings

The Best Little Monkeys in the World, illustrated by Hilary Knight, Random House (New York, NY), 1987.

Dollhouse Mouse (picture book), illustrated by Denise Fleming, Random House (New York, NY), 1989.

The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto, illustrated by Donald Cook, Random House (New York, NY), 1989.

(Adaptor) The Headless Horseman (based on Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"), illustrated by Donald Cook, Random House (New York, NY), 1992.

(Under pseudonym Emily James) Santa's Surprise (picture book), illustrated by Ethel Gold, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.

(Under pseudonym Emily James) Jafar's Curse (chapter book; based on the movie Aladdin), Disney, 1993.

(Under pseudonym Emily James) Aladdin's Quest (chapter book; based on the movie Aladdin), illustrated by Kenny Thompkins and Raymond Zibach, Mega-Books (New York, NY), 1993.

(Under pseudonym Emily James) The Mixed-Up Witch (picture book), illustrated by Stephanie Britt, Bantam (New York, NY), 1993.

(Under pseudonym Emily James) Fifteen: Hillside Live! (middle-grade novel; based on the television series Fifteen), Grosset &Dunlap (New York, NY), 1993.

Brave Maddie Egg, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.

Astronauts Are Sleeping (picture book), Knopf (New York, NY), 1996.

The Stone Giant: The Hoax That Fooled America, illustrated by Bob Doucet, Golden Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Odd Girl In (middle-grade novel), Hyperion (New York, NY), 2007.

Author's books have been translated into Hebrew.

"SPACE DOG" SERIES; FOR CHILDREN

Space Dog and Roy, illustrated by Kelly Oechsli, Avon (New York, NY), 1990, illustrated by Kathleen Collins Howell, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.

Space Dog and the Pet Show, illustrated by Kelly Oechsli, Avon (New York, NY), 1990, illustrated by Kathleen Collins Howell, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.

Space Dog in Trouble, illustrated by Kathleen Collins Howell, Avon (New York, NY), 1991.

Space Dog the Hero, illustrated by Kathleen Collins Howell, Avon (New York, NY), 1991.

The "Space Dog" series has been translated into Dutch; foreign editions feature illustrations by Tony Ross.

"THE POWER" SERIES, YOUNG-ADULT HORROR; UNDER HOUSE PSEUDONYM JESSE HARRIS

The Witness, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.

The Diary, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.

Vampire's Kiss, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.

"DATING GAME" SERIES; YOUNG-ADULT NOVELS

The Dating Game, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.

Breaking up Is Really, Really Hard to Do, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.

Can True Love Survive High School?, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.

Ex-Rating, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.

Speed Dating, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.

Parallel Parking, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.

Series has been translated into Japanese.

"ELLE WOODS" SERIES; YOUNG-ADULT NOVELS; BASED ON FILM "LEGALLY BLONDE"

Blonde at Heart, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.

Beach Blonde, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.

Vote Blonde, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.

Blonde Love, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.

Sidelights

Natalie Standiford, author of the popular "Space Dog" and "Dating Game" series, has written picture books, nonfiction, chapter books, teen novels, and even horror novels for young adults. Writing under the pseudonym Emily James she has published titles to tie in with Disney movies and television shows, while under the pseudonym Jesse Harris she wrote the teen horror series "The Power," released in both the United States and Great Britain. Standiford's "Dating Game" series, beginning with The Dating Game in 2005, has drawn a loyal following among adolescent girls. Along with her writing career, Standiford also plays bass in the rock band Ruffian.

"I first began to write stories in the third grade, and I've wanted to be a writer ever since," Standiford once recalled to SATA. "I never planned to be a children's writer in particular; in college I, like so many people, looked down on children's books. But now I can see that I'm very lucky to have found my literary niche, and writing for children is it.

"I fell into the world of children's-book publishing a few months after college graduation. I had moved to New York and heard, through an acquaintance, about a job at Random House. It was an editorial assistant position in the juvenile division. I accepted the job, thinking that in six months or a year I'd move into the adult trade division. Needless to say, I never moved.

"I would recommend working in publishing to anyone who wants to write books. Not only do you learn to see things from an editor's point of view, you make a lot of helpful contacts. And in some cases you learn how to write and analyze your writing on the job. It doesn't pay well, but the experience, for me, was more than worth it. Still, I couldn't stand office work for too long. I left to freelance after three years."

It was during this period of freelance work that Standiford began writing children's books. Among her early publications for young readers are the books in the "Space Dog" series. In series opener Space Dog and Roy, Roy is bullied at school and longs for a dog to join him in his daily adventures. Roy's wish is fulfilled when an extraterrestrial hound crashes his spaceship in Roy's backyard. The dog, whose name is Qrxztlq, hails from a planet where dogs lead enlightened lives, speaking, wearing clothes, and walking on their hind legs. Space Dog grudgingly allows himself to be adopted by Roy, and the rest of the story details Roy's humorous attempts to introduce Qrxztlq to the ways of earthbound dogs. "Space Dog has a delightfully sharp tongue," ob-In The Stone Giant Standiford introduces budding readers to a mid-eighteenth-century hoax that tricked people into believing that a giant had been unearthed in upstate New York. (Illustration by Bob Doucet.)served a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who also characterized several of the episodes between Roy and Space Dog as "hilarious." A Booklist reviewer noted the series' potentially appealing "blend of humor and fantasy," and, similarly, a Growing Point critic praised the first book's "notable tangle of comic absurdities."

While the other books in the "Space Dog" series entertain readers with the further escapades of Roy and his so-called "pet" Qrxztlq, an earlier work by Standiford features a real canine character. The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto recounts the tale of a sled dog who led his team across the Alaskan wilderness to deliver a shipment of desperately needed medicine. School Library Journal contributor Sharron McElmeel called the story "proud and heroic," and asserted that it would find a broad audience among young readers.

Astronauts Are Sleeping returns to space, but this time features a trio of real-world astronauts, and imagines what they might see in their dreams. The picture book is in a quiet tone, geared toward bedtime telling for young children, and the language is poetic. "The tranquil cadences of the elegant prose cast a hypnotic spell," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor.

With The Stone Giant: The Hoax That Fooled America, Standiford adds to her nonfiction oeuvre, recounting the story of two men who "discovered" a petrified human giant in 1869. The spectacle was nothing but a hoax, but it was so successful at drawing in a paying crowd that even P.T. Barnum of circus fame followed suit, making a second copy of the stone giant to pass it off as the real thing. Laid out as a chapter book, The Stone Giant is written in short segments to encourage even reluctant readers to delve into the historical event. "This small slice of American history is tantalizing," wrote Mary Ann Carcich in School Library Journal.

With The Dating Game and its sequels, Standiford targeted a new audience: teen girls. The young-adult novels follow the exploits of tenth-grade classmates Madison, Lina, and Holly, as they deal with school, romance, and their families. In The Dating Game, the girls design an online dating service for their interpersonal human dynamics class, taught by too-cute-to-be-a-teacher Dan. While Dan becomes the object of Lina's affections, Holly's biggest concern is that her large breasts have earned her the nickname "Boobmeister," and Madison longs to go out with senior Sean, the best-looking guy on the swim team. "Overall, readers will probably find enough to laugh about and relate to as the trio plans—and plays—the Dating Game," a Publishers Weekly reviewer commented. Booklist contributor Cindy Welch was unconvinced by the treatment of teen issues in the book, but compared it to two other popular teen series, noting that "Girls waiting for a new 'A List' or 'Gossip Girl,' … will be well pleased." As Kliatt critic Samantha Musher noted, "while it's certainly fluff, it's high quality fluff—the characters are mostly realistic, the dialog is funny and believable, and nothing gets wrapped up too tidily at the end." Nicole Marcucculli Mills, in School Library Journal, called The Dating Game "Easy reading for fans of Francine Pascal's 'Sweet Valley High.'"

With the success of Holly, Lina, and Madison's dating service, the girls' adventures continue in Breaking up Is Really, Really Hard to Do and Can True Love Survive High School? In the former, Holly wonders if her boyfriend Rob is really the guy for her and thinks that breaking up might be the only answer; Lina continues to pine after teacher Dan; and as Madison works on an art project with Sean at the center, she finds herself attracted to a brooding eleventh-grade artist. The third book in the series reveals that Dan is not only dating another teacher at school, he is also planning to leave at the end of the year. Lina is determined not to let him get away without a fight and begins to plot ways to attract his attention outside of school. Meanwhile, Holly makes friend Britta her new project, and is determined to find the shy girl the right guy. Madison begins a diary on the Dating Game Web site, revealing details about her life and the play her mother has written; although she is still dating the boy she started seeing in book two, she cannot help wondering if there is a better match out there for her. The series continues with Ex-Rating, in which a new feature on the Dating Game Web site—being able to rate your ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends—causes a real shake-up at high school. Speed Dating continues the teen saga.

"Whatever led me to work in children's books, I think of it as fate," Standiford once confessed to SATA. "Even in college, when I spent my time writing short stories for adults, my characters were often children. My writing style, no matter who my audience is, tends to be simple and clear, easy words and short sentences. And my memories of childhood have always been strong and vivid and important to me. My brothers and sisters and I still spend a lot of time rehashing the details of our childhood with each other—we enjoy it, and I'm grateful to have other people around me who are as obsessed with those details as I am.

"We had some children's books at home, but mostly we went to the library. My mother took us to the library every week, and we spent hours picking out books. My mother seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. Our local library was modern, well-stocked, and beautiful.

"Humor is, for me, one of the most important elements of any story. My favorite kind of book, whether for children or adults, is sad but funny (or funny but sad), like J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. The humor in that novel makes it so sad, and so memorable, and so much fun to read."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 15, 1990, review of Space Dog and the Pet Show and Spacedog in Trouble, p. 865; March 15, 2005, Cindy Welch, review of The Dating Game, p. 1285.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1997, review of Astronauts Are Sleeping, p. 223.

Growing Point, May, 1991, review of Space Dog and Roy, pp. 5519-20.

Instructor, October, 1996, review of Astronauts Are Sleeping, p. 68.

Kliatt, May, 2005, Samantha Musher, review of The Dating Game, p. 30.

Publishers Weekly, November 9, 1990, review of Space Dog and Roy, p. 58; November 25, 1996, review of Astronauts Are Sleeping, p. 74; February 14, 2005, review of The Dating Game, p. 77.

School Library Journal, February, 1990, Sharron McElmeel, review of The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto, p. 86; December, 1996, John Peters, review of Astronauts Are Sleeping, p. 106; August, 2001, Mary Ann Carcich, review of The Stone Giant: The Hoax That Fooled America, p. 172; August, 2005, Nicole Marcuccilli Mills, review of The Dating Game, p. 136.

ONLINE

Natalie Standiford Home Page, http://www.nataliestandiford.com (March 20, 2006).

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