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Sheila Ellen (Sheila Greenwald) Green (1934-) - Sidelights

review rosy cole book

Author and illustrator Sheila Ellen Green, who publishes under the name Sheila Greenwald, has over fifty books to her credit, both self-illustrated and as an illustrator collaborating with other writers. "I can't remember a time when I wasn't drawing," Greenwald wrote on her author's Web site. "Writing came later," she further explained, "and was a lot harder. But I had my literary models from the start." These included Jane Austin and Evelyn Waugh. Light, lively, humorous, and sensitive are the adjectives most often used to describe the work of Greenwald. Her "Rosy Cole" stories trace the adventures and misadventures of the eponymous preteen heroine through the trials of romance, violin playing, and self-beautification schemes. Almost a dozen strong and growing, the "Rosy Cole" books have made Greenwald's name, though she is also well known for her other middle grade readers and young adult novels that deal with contemporary problems—divorce, mental illness, anorexia, unwanted pregnancy—but with a sense of humor. Her characters are thus able, as Maryclare O'Donnell Himmel wrote in Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, "to laugh at themselves and their seemingly hopeless situations." Among other popular non-series titles are Miss Amanda Snap, It All Began with Jane Eyre; or, the Secret Life of Franny Dillman, Blissful Joy and the SATs: A Multiple-Choice Romance, My Fabulous New Life, and Stucksville.


Greenwald's books are marked by an ironic and rather whimsical vision of the world. Her scratchy pen and ink drawings complement her word portraits of characters: slightly offbeat, full of bravado, and just mischievous enough to feel like old friends to the reader. Though she does not necessarily write autobiographically, Greenwald confesses to exploring and expanding with her fiction the situations that touch her life. "My challenge," Greenwald once explained, "is to invent characters, plots, and scenes which will develop and define my feelings and opinions. In fact, my books often begin with strong opinions which I then have to soften and obscure so they aren't boring and polemical."

Born and raised in New York City, Greenwald began doodling at an early age. Drawing and reading comic books and novels soon became her twin loves. She attended Sarah Lawrence College, majoring in English. "I loved the course in creative writing, but was dimly aware of not having much to write about," she noted on her Web site. Instead, she concentrated on her cartooning and doodling, filling the margins of notebooks with her pen-and-ink drawings. Upon graduation, Greenwald collected these doodles into a portfolio and showed them to New York magazines and book publishers. By 1957, she was a professional illustrator, adding artwork to Marie L. Allen's Pocketful of Poems. For the next fourteen years, she made a living from book illustration, working with authors such as Florence Laughlin and M. Jean Craig. She also married and had two sons, and when they started school, Greenwald also made a new start: she began publishing her own self-illustrated titles.

"I write down ideas that appeal to me—some work out, some don't," she once said of her writing method. "The Hot Day was based on an incident from my father's childhood." One of her earliest books, The Hot Day tells the story of a family sweltering in summer heat, before the days of air conditioning, and of their roomer who remains cool because he has the only fan in the house. One night, the kids decide to scare the roomer by blowing talcum powder over themselves in the breeze from the fan, making themselves look like ghosts. Susanne Gilles, writing in Library Journal, had praise for the artwork in this title: "Pen-and-ink drawings on blue and yellow backgrounds add to the fun of the story." Saturday Review contributor Karla Kuskin also commended this early offering, calling it "a gently funny reminiscence."

Much of Greenwald's juvenile fiction depends upon similar mischief. In Miss Amanda Snap, for example, Greenwald tells of a children's book writer whose main character—Kirby the mouse—comes to life, changes into a man, and marries the author. There is no happy ending, however, for the next Kirby-the-mouse book is a flop. Miss Amanda Snap contains "a witty and imaginative plot and pictures," observed a critic for Publishers Weekly. Another animal figures in Mat Pit and the Tunnel Tenants, in which a pet gerbil named Sparky is the sole bright spot in the day for the protagonist, Mat. Distraught when Sparky disappears, Mat soon discovers his whereabouts: he and the other pet rodents in his apartment house have set up their own commune. When an exterminator is called in, these animals get Mat and his friends to save the day. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found this "an agreeable fantasy with some swift surprises and flashes of humor."

Dolls lead to a young girl helping her parents solve money problems in The Secret Museum, a "good, un-pretentious fantasy about talking dolls," according to Jean C. Halloway in School Library Journal. More dolls figure in The Secret in Miranda's Closet; the secret is, in fact, an antique doll given to Miranda by a friend of her recently divorced mother. Yet Miranda has to hide the doll away and the dollhouse she constructs because of her mother's strong feminist beliefs. Finally, when the secret comes out, Miranda's mother realizes that she needs to let her daughter make certain choices for herself. "Miranda and her mother are believable, well-rounded personalities drawn with precision and humor," thought Carolyn Johnson in a School Library Journal review. A critic for Kirkus Reviews also had praise for this title: "the assertiveness that the whole experience brings to the lumpy little girl is heartening." Similarly, a critic for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books wrote that the novel "makes a trenchant case for individual freedom."

Family misunderstandings are at the heart of many novels from Greenwald. In All the Way to Wits' End, Drucilla is upset when the family has to leave their huge ancestral home to move into a suburb where her father can find employment. She does not fit in at her new school: the kids laugh at her hand-me-down clothes and her overlarge front teeth. However, there is no money for new clothes, let alone the orthodontist. Then Drucilla hits on the idea of garage sales, selling off the family's antiques to raise money. Her mother is initially shocked at this but soon joins in the commerce with such a vengeance that Drucilla is suddenly fearful of losing her family's material history. "Among books of the 'family-solves-problems-together' genre," wrote Liza Bliss in School Library Journal, "this one is refreshing in its easy but never irreverent tone." Similarly, a contributor for Kirkus Reviews noted that "Greenwald handles the family's groping toward priorities with a generally light and sympathetic touch."

A similar dilemma is presented in the 1993 title, My Fabulous New Life, in which a young girl must leave her posh suburban home for a small apartment in New York City when her father loses his job and must relocate. Alison is not happy with the change; now a scholarship girl at a private school, she is also forced to share a room with her sister. She tries to remain upbeat, however, attempting to convince both herself and her sister that their new life is "fabulous." Confronted with the new reality of homeless people on the streets, she suddenly begins to take a look at herself; she wants to help out somehow and winds up joining forces with another girl in her apartment building, shunned by the rest of the kids, in projects to help the needy. Susan Patron, writing in Five Owls, noted that "Greenwald's characteristic humor . . . is absent here, but her upbeat, contemporary story should keep readers happily engaged." And with her year 2000 offering, Stucksville, Greenwald creates another tale of New York City apartment life. Emerald's parents are struggling actors, having lived all over the country. Now, a school assignment to discuss "My New York" gets her thinking about this new city and tiny apartment as a real home, and not wanting to leave. A critic for Kirkus Reviews noted that the characters in this novel "are engaging and the plot moves along gently, leading to a satisfying, happy ending." Likewise, a Publishers Weekly critic called the same title "a satisfying story about the meaning of home."

More domestic misunderstandings occur in It All Began with Jane Eyre, a send-up of trendy problem novels for young readers. When Franny Dillman, a great fan of Jane Eyre, gets in trouble thinking that her teacher is perhaps a modern Mr. Rochester, Franny's mother steps in. She figures it is time for her daughter to shift from the classics to contemporary novels with problems young readers can identify with. Franny does indeed identify—far too much. Soon she is imagining that a friend of her older sister is pregnant and that her own father has sired the child. A journal she keeps is filled with such imaginary problems—divorce, abortions, affairs, and other such modern problems. "Greenwald stages her domestic comedy of errors with grace and expert timing," wrote a contributor for Kirkus Reviews. "It's by far her brightest performance to date." A Horn Book critic also enjoyed the book, claiming Franny "offers a much needed antidote to the simpering, self-absorbed teenage heroines of the very books the author parodies."

Greenwald is also well known for her young adult novel, Blissful Joy and the SATs. A multi-layered and complex novel, it tells the story of sixteen-year-old Blissful Joy Bowman, who sees herself as a practical person until low scores on the SAT test shake her self-confidence. Befriending a stray dog helps in the process of self-discovery, as do the cast of quirky individuals the dog brings into her well-organized life. Himmel concluded that "Greenwald's expert use of irony and satire is one of the qualities that lifts this novel above other, more mundane 'problem novels.'" A Publishers Weekly critic found that "Greenwald's piquant wit and velvety prose transform stories into delights, although she does not underestimate the dilemmas that teens face." A reviewer for Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books also praised "the sophisticated humor of the writing." A writer for Horn Book similarly drew attention to the "lively and amusing conversation," concluding that Greenwald "maneuvers Bliss through the vicissitudes of adolescence . . . with considerable skill, verve, and sympathy."

Greenwald is not afraid to tackle difficult subjects, as in Will the Real Gertrude Hollings Please Stand Up?, in which the protagonist, Gertrude, suffers from dyslexia. Labeled "Learning Disabled" at school, Gertrude is frustrated and tired of failing. However, when her parents are forced to be away on a business trip and Gertrude goes to stay with her aunt and uncle and their over-achieving son, she learns some truths about her own talents. A reviewer for Horn Book noted that Greenwald is "adept at portraying the predicaments of children overwhelmed by well-meaning adults." The same writer further commented that Greenwald "makes the most of the irony of the situation in a sensitive, humorous book." Micki S. Nevett, writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, thought that "Gertrude . . . is a delight to meet," and that "Greenwald's subtle sense of humor should certainly appeal."

Mischievous young girls play a prominent role in Greenwald's fiction. There is the entrepreneurial Mariah Delany, who makes two appearances, in The Mariah Delany Lending Library Disaster and Mariah Delany's Author-of-the-Month Club. But none of Greenwald's spunky protagonists are better known and loved than Rosy Cole. In the first novel featuring the character, Give Us a Great Big Smile, Rosy Cole, ten-year-old Rosy has the spotlight turned on her by her photographer uncle who wants to create a book of photographs about her. The book will feature Rosy as a violinist. For a time, Rosy enjoys the attention, but she is crushed after hearing a recording of her own terrible violin playing and realizing how bad she really is. She then tries to stop publication of her uncle's book. Kate M. Flanagan, writing in Horn Book, called Rosy "a refreshingly ordinary child whose basic good sense saves her from the foibles of adults." Marilyn Kaye, writing in School Library Journal, found this first "Rosy Cole" adventure "a cheerful, zesty story with a potential for wide appeal." According to a Kirkus Reviews critic, "Rosy wins our sympathy right off and keeps it throughout."

Rosy Cole proved popular enough to spawn a series that has continued for over two decades. In several Rosy adventures, the pre-teen character learns lessons in love and romance. In Valentine Rosy, for example, she is talked into having a Valentine's Day party by her friend Hermione to compete with that of the new girl, Christi. But Rosy is surprised to find that she will have to invite boys to her party, even managing to lure some of them away from Christi's get-together. "Rosy is an exceedingly likable heroine, and her realization that everyone grows up at his or her own pace strikes a reassuring note," commented a critic for Booklist, while a reviewer for Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books found that Greenwald's creation is "shrewdly perceptive on pre-teens." Karen Jameyson, writing in Horn Book, concluded that the author "has created another wholly successful book about her refreshingly down-to-earth heroine." In Rosy's Romance, Rosy and her buddy Hermione become obsessed with romance novels and try to turn Rosy's sisters into the kind of teens they have been reading about. Rosy is so busy trying to get her sisters dates, that she almost misses romance staring her in the Enterprising Mariah Delany arranges for authors to meet her classmates and friends, but the promising idea turns out to be a catastrophe. (Cover illustration by Leanne Franson.) face. Partly a spoof on juvenile series books and their lack of depth, Rosy's Romance might prove the antidote to such books, according to Sylvia S. Marantz in School Library Journal: "If anyone can woo girls from series books to a bit more substantial plotting and character depiction, it will be Rosy." Writing in Booklist, Phillis Wilson concluded that Greenwald's snappy dialogue and pen-and-ink illustrations are "an added enticement in this lively novel featuring an engaging young heroine." And Roger Sutton, writing in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, thought that "paperback daydreams and romantic reality collide most entertainingly."

Rosy and Greenwald deal with adolescent pressure to conform in Rosy Cole's American Guilt Club, in which Rosy organizes a Guilt Club to even out possessions between the haves and the have-nots. Rosy feels she is most definitely in the have-not category when it comes to designer jeans and a second home. A Horn Book critic called this installment a "gentle spoof," while Lyn Littlefield Hoopes, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, felt that the author's "wit precisely captures the ridiculous, making light of everything." The search for ambition and a career drives Write On, Rosy!: A Young Author in Crisis, in which Rosy looks for direction in her life and opts for becoming an investigative journalist. "This fast-paced story, with its message about assumptions and truth, will find a ready audience among Rosy fans," thought Booklist's Ilene Cooper.

Rosy's best friend gets her own title in Here's Hermione: A Rosy Cole Production. Hermione dedicates herself to the cello in this "meatiest yet of the Rosy Cole books," as a Horn Book contributor noted. Rosy investigates her family heritage for a school assignment in Rosy Cole Discovers America!, and is at first chagrined that there are no blue bloods lurking in the family tree but eventually comes to understand that this country needs all kinds of people to make it work. "This is a fast-paced chapter book with characters as individual as their backgrounds," wrote Cheryl Cufari in a School Library Journal review. Rosy seeks a makeover in Rosy Cole: She Walks in Beauty, in hopes of becoming as glamorous as a child model she sees in the city. But at the end of it all, Rosy discovers that being beautiful is not all she expected it to be. "A good time from Greenwald," commented a critic for Kirkus Reviews, "and a painless lesson in the true meaning of beauty." In Rosy Cole: She Grows and Graduates, the heroine comes to a turning point in her life: eighth grade graduation. Now she must decide which high school to go to next year: will she attend the arty school or the high achievement one? Again, Rosy is confronted with the difficulty of choosing for herself and not being pressured by what her friends are doing. Booklist's Stephanie Zvirin thought that though "this sunny, gently comic story may not probe deeply, . . . it still brings the point home." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews noted that "readers will connect with Rosy's troubles and share her contentment when she comes out on top once more." And in the 2003 installment to the ongoing series, Rosy Cole's Worst Ever, Best Yet Tour of New York City, Rosy shows her country cousin, Duncan, around New York and learns something new about her own city from his visit. "Greenwald is in tart, top form," declared Roger Sutton in Horn Book. And a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews thought that the author "delivers her message with a light comic touch that younger readers are sure to enjoy."


Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Silvey, Anita, editor, Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1995, p. 286.

Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994, pp. 259-260.


PERIODICALS

Big Apple Parent, December, 2003, Joe Lugara, "NYC—through Rosy-colored Glasses."

Booklist, July 1, 1978, Barbara Elleman, review of The Atrocious Two, p. 1678; October 15, 1979, Barbara Elleman, review of All the Way to Wits' End, pp. 352-253; March 1, 1985, review of Valentine Rosy, p. 982; February 1, 1989, Irene Cooper, review of Write On, Rosy!: A Young Author in Crisis, p. 939; August, 1989, Phillis Wilson, review of Rosy's Romance, p. 1976; December 1, 1990, Ilene Cooper, review of Mariah Delany's Author-of-the-Month Club, p. 742; January 15, 1993, review of Rosy Cole Discovers America!, p. 908; December 15, 1994, Lauren Peterson, review of Rosy Cole: She Walks in Beauty, p. 753; November 1, 1997, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Rosy Cole: She Grows and Graduates, p. 470; July, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Rosy Cole's Worst Ever, Best Yet Tour of New York City, p. 1890.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1972, review of The Hot Day, p. 56; July, 1974, review of The Secret Museum, p. 177; September, 1977, review of The Secret in Miranda's Closet, p. 15; February, 1978, review of The Mariah Delany Lending Library Disaster, p. 93; September, 1978, review of The Atrocious Two, p. 9; December, 1979, review of All the Way to Wits' End, p. 70; September, 1980, p. 10; July, 1981, p. 193; April, 1982, review of Blissful Joy and the SATs: A Multiple-Choice Romance, p. 148; December, 1983, review of Will the Real Gertrude Hollings Please Stand Up?, pp. 67-68; January, 1985, review of Valentine Rosy, pp. 84-85; January, 1986, review of Rosy Cole's Great American Guilt Club, p. 86; January, 1988, Betsy Hearne, review of Alvin Webster's Surefire Plan for Success, p. 90; January, 1989, Roger Sutton, review of Write On, Rosy!, p. 121; July, 1989, Roger Sutton, review of Rosy's Romance, p. 276; September, 1991, Deborah Stevenson, review of Here's Hermione: A Rosy Cole Production, p. 11; January, 1993, Deborah Stevenson, review of Rosy Cole Discovers America!, p. 146; January, 1995, Deborah Stevenson, review of Rosy Cole: She Walks in Beauty, p. 165; November, 1997, Deborah Stevenson, review of Rosy Cole: She Grows and Graduates, p. 86; January, 2001, Fern Kory, review of Stucksville, p. 182.

Christian Science Monitor, November 8, 1972, Dorothy H. Kelso, review of Mat Pit and the Tunnel Tenants, p. B4; May 1, 1974, David Willis, review of The Secret Museum, p. F3; October 15, 1980, Elizabeth Muthur, review of It All Began With Jane Eyre, pp. B1, B6-B7; November 1, 1985, Lyn Littlefield Hoopes, review of Rosy Cole's Great American Guilt Club, p. B7.

Five Owls, November, 1990, review of Mariah Delany's Author-of-the-Month Club, p. 37; May, 1993, Mary Lou Burket, review of Rosy Cole's Great American Guilt Club, p. 106; November, 1993, Susan Patron, review of My Fabulous New Life, pp. 38-39.

Horn Book, February, 1978, review of The Mariah Delany Lending Library Disaster, p. 45; February, 1980, Ann A. Flowers, review of All the Way to Wits' End, p. 55; August, 1980, review of It All Began With Jane Eyre, p. 407; August, 1981, Kate M. Flanagan, review of Give Us a Great Big Smile, Rosy Cole, pp. 421-422; August, 1982, review of Blissful Joy and the SATs, p. 412; August, 1983, review of Will the Real Gertrude Hollings Please Stand Up?, p. 443; January, 1985, Karen Jameyson, review of Valentine Rosy, p. 50; January, 1986, review of Rosy Cole's Great American Guilt Club, p. 58; March, 1988, review of Alvin Webster's Surefire Plan for Success, p. 201; March, 1989, review of Write On, Rosy!, p. 233; September, 1989, review of Rosy's Romance, p. 647; July, 1990, Pat Scales, review of Mariah Delany's Author-of-the-Month Club, p. 77; November, 1991, review of Here's Hermione, p. 735; July-August, 2003, Roger Sutton, review of Rosy Cole's Worst Ever, Best Yet Tour of New York City, pp. 457.

Journal of Reading, December, 1982, M. Jean Greenlaw, review of Blissful Joy and the SATs, pp. 274-277.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1971, review of Willie Bryant and the Flying Otis, p. 365; March 15, 1972, review of The Hot Day, p. 320; August 1, 1972, review of Miss Amanda Snap, p. 856; September 15, 1972, review of Mat Pit and the Tunnel Tenants, p. 1098; March 1, 1977, review of The Secret in Miranda's Closet, p. 223; March 15, 1978, review of The Atrocious Two, p. 305; December 15, 1979, review of All the Way to Wits' End, p. 1430; June 1, 1980, review of It All Began with Jane Eyre, p. 717; July 1, 1981, review of Give Us a Great Big Smile, Rosy Cole, p. 800; November 15, 1987, review of Alvin Webster's Surefire Plan for Success, p. 1627; December 15, 1988, review of Write On, Rosy!, p. 1811; August 1, 1991, review of Here's Hermione, p. 1010; November 15, 1993, review of My Fabulous New Life, p. 1461; December 15, 1994, review of Rosy Cole: She Walks in Beauty, p. 1569; October 15, 1997, review of Rosy Cole: She Grows and Graduates, p. 1581; October 15, 2000, review of Stucksville, p. 1485; July 1, 2003, review of Rosy Cole's Worst Ever, Best Yet Tour of New York City, p. 910.

Language Arts, November, 1977, Ruth M. Stein, review of The Secret in Miranda's Closet, p. 947; January, 1979, Ruth M. Stein, review of The Atrocious Two, p. 51; December, 1993, review of Rosy Cole Discovers America!, p. 681.

Library Journal, June 15, 1971, Cary M. Ormond, review of Willie Bryant and the Flying Otis, p. 2130; June 15, 1972, Susanne Gilles, review of The Hot Day, p. 2230; November 15, 1972, review of Miss Amanda Snap, p. 3796.

Publishers Weekly, August 7, 1972, review of Miss Amanda Snap, p. 50; December 4, 1972, review of Mat Pit and the Tunnel Tenants, p. 62; March 25, 1974, p. 56; March 19, 1982, review of Blissful Joy and the SATs p. 71; July 19, 1991, review of Here's Hermione, p. 56; August 23, 1993, review of My Fabulous New Life, p. 72; October 16, 2000, review of Stucksville, p. 76.

Saturday Review, August 19, 1972, Karla Kuskin, review of The Hot Day, p. 61.

School Librarian, August, 1989, Gillian Gross, review of Will the Real Gertrude Hollings Stand Up?, p. 104; May, 1990, Derek Lomas, review of The Mariah Delany Lending Library Disaster, p. 64.

School Library Journal, May, 1974, Jean C. Halloway, review of The Secret Museum p. 55; May, 1977, Carolyn Johnson, review of The Secret in Miranda's Closet, p. 61; November, 1977, Christine McDonnell, review of The Mariah Delany Lending Library Disaster, p. 56; December, 1979, Liza Bliss, review of All the Way to Wits' End, pp. 85-86; March, 1981, p. 108; September, 1981, Marilyn Kaye, review of Give Us a Big Smile, Rosy Cole, p. 125; August, 1983, p. 65; December, 1984, Phyllis Graves, review of Valentine Rosy, p. 80; January, 1986, Ruth Semrau, review of Rosy Cole's Great American Guilt Club, p. 67; January, 1988, Susan L. Rogers, review of Alvin Webster's Surefire Plan for Success, pp. 74-75; January, 1989, David Gale, review of Write On, Rosy!, p. 77; August, 1989, Sylvia S. Marantz, review of Rosy's Romance, pp. 139-140; November, 1991, Jana R. Fine, review of Here's Hermione, p. 96; December, 1991, Joy Fleishhacker, review of Mariah Delany's Author-of-the-Month Club, p. 114; January, 1993, Cheryl Cufari, review of Rosy Cole Discovers America!, p. 98; October, 1993, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of My Fabulous New Life, p. 124; January, 1995, Maggie McEwen, review of Rosy Cole: She Walks in Beauty, p. 106, 108; November, 1997, Anne Knickerbocker, review of Rosy Cole: She Grows and Graduates, p. 82; October, 2000, Ashley Larsen, review of Stucksville, p. 125; November, 2003, JoAnn Jonas, review of Rosy Cole's Worst Ever, Best Yet Tour of New York City, p. 95.

Voice of Youth Advocates, January, 1982, Susan B. Madden, review of Blissful Joy and the SATs, p. 33; October, 1983, Micki S. Nevett, review of Will the Real Gertrude Hollings Please Stand Up?, p. 202; June, 1994, Susan Dunn, review of My Fabulous New Life, p. 82.


ONLINE


Sheila Greenwald Home Page, http://www.sheilagreenwald.com/ (January 12, 2004).

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