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Eileen Spinelli (1942-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights

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Born 1942, in Philadelphia, PA; Education: Attended high school in Rose Valley, PA. Religion: Christian. Hobbies and other interests: "I love country things: flea markets, garage sales, and gardening. I collect old items including teapots, kitchen utensils, crockery, teddy bears, and toys. I have traveled though New England, which I love, especially Maine."

Addresses

Agent—c/o Author Correspondence, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

Career

Writer, 1960—. Creative writing teacher. Also worked as a secretary.

Member

Children's Reading Roundtable, Philadelphia Writers Organization, Writers Club of Delaware County.

Writings

The Giggle and Cry Book, illustrated by Lisa Atherton, Stemmer House (Owings Mills, MD), 1981.

Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's, illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1982, new edition illustrated by Megan Lloyd, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Animals of the North, illustrated by Laura D'Argo, New Seasons, 1990.

Teddy Bear and His Friends, illustrated by Mike Muir, New Seasons, 1990.

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, illustrated by Paul Yalowitz, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Boy, Can He Dance!, illustrated by Paul Yalowitz, Four Winds Press (New York, NY), 1993.

If You Want to Find Golden, illustrated by Stacey Schuett, A. Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 1993.

Lizzie Logan Wears Purple Sunglasses, illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.

Naptime, Laptime, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Cartwheel Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Where Is the Night Train Going?: Bedtime Poems, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1996.

Lizzie Logan Gets Married, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

Lizzie Logan, Second Banana, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.

Sophie's Masterpiece: A Spider's Tale, illustrated by Jane Dyer, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.

Sadie Plays House: A Really Messy Sticker Book!, illustrated by Margeaux Lucas, Little Simon (New York, NY), 1998.

When Mama Comes Home Tonight, illustrated by Jane Dyer, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.

Coming through the Blizzard: A Christmas Story, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.

Tea Party Today: Poems to Sip and Savor, illustrated by Karen Dugan, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1999.

Night Shift Daddy, illustrated by Melissa Iwai, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2000.

Song for the Whooping Crane, illustrated by Elsa Warnick, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2000.

Six Hogs on a Scooter, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2000.

In My New Yellow Shirt, illustrated by Hideko Takahashi, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2001.

A Safe Place Called Home, illustrated by Christy Hale, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2001.

Kittycat Lullaby, illustrated by Anne Mortimer, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2001.

Summerbath, Winterbath, illustrated by Elsa Warnick, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2001.

Summerhouse Time, illustrated by Emily Lisker, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.

Here Comes the Year, illustrated by Keiko Narahashi, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2002.

Inside Out Day, illustrated by Michael Chesworth, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Rise the Moon, illustrated by Raúl Colón, Dial Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Wanda's Monster, illustrated by Nancy Hayashi, Albert Whitman (New York, NY), 2002.

Bath Time, illustrated by Janet Pederson, Cavendish Children's Books (New York, NY), 2003.

The Perfect Thanksgiving, illustrated by JoAnn Adinolfi, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2003.

Polar Bears and Arctic Hares, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2003.

Moe McTooth: An Alley Cat's Tale, illustrated by Linda Bronson, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2003.

What Do Angels Wear?, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Three Pebbles and a Song, illustrated by S. D. Schindler, Dial Books (New York, NY), 2003.

City Angel, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker, Dial Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Feathers: Poems about Birds, illustrated by Lisa McCue, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2004.

I Know It's Autumn, illustrated by Nancy Hayashi, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 2004.

In Our Backyard Garden, illustrated by Marcy Ramsey, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

Something to Tell the Grandcows, illustrated by Bill Slavin, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2004.

While You Were Away, illustrated by Renée Graef, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2004.

Do You Have a Hat?, illustrated by Geraldo Valerio, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2004.

Now It Is Winter, illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2004.

The Best Time of the Day, illustrated by Bryan Langdo, Harcourt, Brace (Orlando, FL), 2005.

Contributor of more than three hundred poems to magazines and newspapers. Some of Spinelli's work has been translated into Spanish.

Work in Progress

Children's books and poetry.

Sidelights

A poet and teacher of creative writing, Eileen Spinelli has produced numerous books for young children that combine the author's love of rhyme with her understanding of how children view the world. The mother of seven children and an experienced bedtime story reader, Spinelli has a good idea of what works and what doesn't in children's picture books. Among her own picture book contributions are Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, Boy, Can He Dance! and poetry collections that include The Giggle and Cry Book, The Perfect Thanksgiving, Rise the Moon, Here Comes the Year, and Where Is the Night Train Going? Spinelli has also authored a series of books for older readers featuring a spunky young protagonist named Lizzie Logan.

Born in Philadelphia in 1942, Spinelli was raised in nearby Rose Valley, Pennsylvania. Always an enthusiastic reader, she counts among her favorite authors Marguerite de Angeli. Publishing her first work of poetry in 1950 when she was eighteen, she would continue writing poetry for adults during the few free hours she could find while raising her seven children. "Teachers and our public library played a big part in my growing interest in books and writing," Spinelli once told SATA.

Spinelli began writing for a younger audience in 1979, after her children had grown old enough to allow her some free time. Her first book, a rhyming list book titled The Giggle and Cry Book, was published two years later. The Giggle and Cry Book would be followed by two other books of poetry—Naptime, Laptime and Where Is the Night Train Going? In Naptime, Lap-time, Spinelli portrays a variety of animals indulging in a mid-day snooze—from field mice to Arctic seals to a young child's own stuffed animal. In Booklist, contributor Carolyn Phelan praised Spinelli's text for being "simple enough to suit a toddler's attention span" while also containing enough humor to keep older listeners interested. School Library Journal critic Rosanne Cerny dubbed the book a "poetic paean to the perfect spot" for an afternoon nap. Sleep also serves as the focus of Where Is the Night Train Going?, as Spinelli collects poems about sleeping. Calling the author's verse "consistently sweet and gentle, rather than distinguished or splashy," Liza Bliss commented in her School Library Journal review that the volume's words and pictures are perfectly matched in their expression of "a mild sense of humor" and ability to recognize "young children's sensibilities."

Spinelli's first prose work for children, Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's, reached bookstore shelves in 1982. In an offbeat portrayal of the Turkey Day tradition, the Tappletons start the day hungry and watch as, one by one, the courses of their evening meal sidestep the dining room table. The salad has been fed to the school rabbits; the baker is out of pies by the time Mr. Tappleton has a chance to stop by, and the Thanksgiving turkey winds up floating in a pond in the backyard. "For a Thanksgiving book without pilgrims and Indians, this one just might 'talk turkey,'" quipped School Library Journal contributor Betty Craig Campbell of Spinelli's humorous story, while Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper deemed it "appetizing fare." Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's has since been re-issued with new illustrations, depicting the Tappleton family as wolves who are no less baffled than the former human Tappletons when their meal goes awry.

Other picture books by Spinelli include Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, the story of a retiring bachelor who seems to lead a monotonous life until he receives a mysterious package—a Valentine box filled with candy from a mysterious admirer. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews called the picture book "charming," containing "a real plot" and an "amiable tone" that should appeal to young listeners. "Children will recognize the Mr. Hatch in themselves," maintained Horn Book reviewer Nancy Vasilakis, "and will appreciate his tentative forays into society as well as the happy result." In another book by Spinelli, If You Want to Find Golden, a young boy and his mother spend a day together in the city where they live—and find a rainbow of color mixed in with their everyday activities. "From the white sugar-frosted doughnut at the diner to plump purple grapes at the grocery store … young readers will enjoy this dawn to dusk catalogue of colors," claimed Lisa Dennis in a School Library Journal review.

Lizzie Logan is introduced to readers in Lizzie Logan Wears Purple Sunglasses. A ten-year-old with a formidable imagination, Lizzie proves to be a loyal friend to neighborhood newcomer Heather, despite the incredible lies she sometimes tells. While noting that the novel is not a true-to-life portrait of young people, a Kirkus Reviews critic noted that Spinelli's debut novel "buoyantly addresses the 'problem' of a great imagination in someone who is sensitive." Horn Book critic Vasilakis noted that the book would "provide newly fluent readers with plenty of chuckles and a few anxious moments." Spinelli furthers Lizzie Logan's imaginative adventures in two more books, Lizzie Logan Gets Married and Lizzie Logan, Second Banana.

Since 1998 Spinelli's output of picture books has been nothing less than prolific. She has released as many as four titles a year some years, books ranging widely in theme from humorous stories based on animal characters to rhyming bedtime lullabies meant to soothe the most fractious youngster. Spinelli earned warm reviews for her animal tales, including Three Pebbles and a Song, a re-telling of the old "ant and grasshopper" fable, using mice in the title roles. Moses the mouse is encouraged to help his family gather food and nesting materials for the coming winter. Instead he sings and dances. During the colder winter months, he profits from his family's industry—and they, in turn, are entertained by his singing and dancing. A Publishers Weekly reviewer liked the way the story celebrates "art's power to invigorate and to sustain." In Moe McTooth: An Alley Cat's Tale, Moe enjoys prowling the city streets—until the cold weather sends him in search of a warm home. Adopted into an apartment by a friendly human, he is happy for the winter. When spring rolls around, he wants to resume his street life, but not at the expense of losing his new friend. Booklist correspondent Kathleen Odean called the tale "a special treat for cat lovers."

Some of Spinelli's books are meant to be read at bedtime. In When Mama Comes Home Tonight, a toddler anticipates reunion with his or her working mom, and all the fun they will have in the hours they will spend between dinner and bedtime. Inevitably, of course, the rhyming book ends with lullabies. Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin called the title "tender" and "… the perfect book for lap sharing." Night Shift Daddy puts a new spin on the bedtime story. The dad in this rhyming tale tucks his daughter in and then goes out the door to work. In the morning he returns and listens to his bedtime story before the girl goes off for a day of activities. In Rise the Moon, poems celebrate people and creatures who welcome the soothing light of the moon as it rises and bathes the world in its own special glow. A Publishers Weekly critic praised the work as a "poetic tribute to the moon and the many magical and mysterious ways it influences and inspires." In her Booklist review of Rise the Moon, Gillian Engberg concluded by calling it "a beautiful, reassuring celebration of night."

In addition to writing, Spinelli enjoys conducting workshops for children and adults interested in fine-tuning their own writing. Through her speaking engagements to groups of students, she also tries to spark interest in reading and writing among young people. "My husband, who is also a writer, is very supportive, as are my children," Spinelli told SATA. "Our house is overflowing with books and papers and manuscripts and typewriters."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 15, 1982, Ilene Cooper, review of Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's, p. 569; December 1, 1995, Carolyn Phelan, review of Naptime, Laptime, p. 641; July, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of When Mama Comes Home Tonight, p. 1879; January 1, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of Rise the Moon, p. 88; April 15, 2003, Kathleen Odean, review of Moe McTooth: An Alley Cat's Tale, p. 1479; November 1, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of What Do Angels Wear?, p. 506.

Horn Book, September-October, 1995, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Lizzie Logan Wears Purple Sunglasses, p. 605.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1991, review of Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, p. 1985; June 1, 1995, review of Lizzie Logan Wears Purple Sunglasses, p. 787.

Publishers Weekly, May 8, 2000, review of Night Shift Daddy, p. 221; December 16, 2002, review of Rise the Moon, p. 66; August 23, 2003, review of Three Pebbles and a Song, p. 63.

School Library Journal, March, 1983, Betty Craig Campbell, review of Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's, p. 167; January, 1994, Lisa Dennis, review of If You Want to Find Golden, pp. 99-100; February, 1996, Rosanne Cerny, review of Naptime, Laptime, p. 90; April, 1996, Liza Bliss, review of Where Is the Night Train Going?, pp. 130-31; April, 2003, Marge Loch-Wouters, review of Moe McTooth: An Alley Cat's Tale, p. 138.*

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