Margery (Stuyvesant) Cuyler (1948-) Biography
Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights
Born 1948, in Princeton, NJ; Education: Sarah Lawrence College, B.A., 1970.
Atlantic Monthly Press, Boston, MA, assistant to editor of children's books, 1970-71; Walker & Co., New York, NY, editor of children's books, 1972-74; Holiday House, New York, NY, vice president and editor-in-chief of children's books, 1974-95; Henry Holt & Co., New York, NY, vice president and associate publisher, Books for Young Readers, 1996-97; Golden Books Family Entertainment, vice president and director of trade publishing, 1997-99; Windslow Press, New York, NY, vice president and editor-in-chief, beginning 1999; Marshall Cavendish, Tarrytown, NY, currently director of trade publishing. Lecturer on children's book editing, Rutgers University, 1974, New School for Social Research, 1975, and Vassar College, 1984. Board member, Women's National Book Association and Children's Book Council, 1980-82. Library trustee and member of alumnae board, Sarah Lawrence College
Children's Choice designation, International Reading Association/Children's Book Council, for The Trouble with Soap and Witch Poems; New Jersey Institute of Technology Author's Award, 1988, for Fat Santa.
Jewish Holidays, illustrated by Lisa C. Wesson, Holt (New York, NY), 1978.
The All-around Pumpkin Book, illustrated by Corbett Jones, Holt (New York, NY), 1980.
The All-around Christmas Book, illustrated by Corbett Jones, Holt (New York, NY), 1982.
Sir William and the Pumpkin Monster, illustrated by Marcia Winborn, Holt (New York, NY), 1984.
Freckles and Willie, illustrated by Marcia Winborn, Holt (New York, NY), 1986.
Fat Santa, illustrated by Marcia Winborn, Holt (New York, NY), 1987.
Freckles and Jane, illustrated by Leslie Holt Morrill, Holt (New York, NY), 1989.
Shadow's Baby, illustrated by Ellen Weiss, Clarion (New York, NY), 1989.
Baby Dot, illustrated by Ellen Weiss, Clarion (New York, NY), 1990.
Daisy's Crazy Thanksgiving, illustrated by Robin Kramer, Holt (New York, NY), 1990.
That's Good! That's Bad!, illustrated by David Catrow, Holt (New York, NY), 1991.
The Christmas Snowman, illustrated by Johanna Westerman, Arcade, 1992.
Buddy Bear and the Bad Guys, illustrated by Janet Stevens, Clarion, 1993.
The Biggest, Best Snowman, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
From Here to There, illustrated by Yu Cha Pak, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1999.
One Hundredth-Day Worries, illustrated by Arthur Howard, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Road Signs: A Harey Race with a Tortoise: An Aesop Fable Adapted, illustrated by Steve Haskamp, 2000.
Stop, Drop, and Roll: Fire Safety, illustrated by Arthur Howard, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Skeleton Hiccups, illustrated by S. D. Schindler, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2002.
That's Good! That's Bad! In the Grand Canyon, illustrated by David Catrow, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2002.
Ah-choo!, illustrated by Bruce McNally, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Please Say Please!: Penguin's Guide to Manners, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
Big Friends, illustrated by Ezra Tucker, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 2004.
The Bumpy Little Pumpkin, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.
FOR YOUNG READERS
The Trouble with Soap, Dutton (New York, NY), 1982.
Weird Wolf, illustrated by Dirk Zimmer, Holt (New York, NY), 1989.
Invisible in the Third Grade, illustrated by Mirko Gabler, Holt (New York, NY), 1995.
The Battlefield Ghost, illustrated by Arthur Howard, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
FOR CHILDREN; EDITOR, UNDER PSEUDONYM DAISY WALLACE
Monster Poems, illustrated by Kay Chorao, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1976.
Witch Poems, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1976.
Giant Poems, illustrated by Margot Tomes, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1978.
Ghost Poems, illustrated by Tomie De Paola, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1979.
Fairy Poems, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1980.
Several of Cuyler's books have been adapted as audio-books, including That's Good! That's Bad! and One Hundredth-Day Worries.
Writer Margery Cuyler was already an experienced editor of children's books for the publishing firm of Holiday House when she decided to try her hand at writing. While she once admitted to Something about the Author (SATA) that her passion has been for editing children's books, she has come to love writing as well, "since it exercises my imagination in a more personal and introspective fashion." In addition to authoring a wide range of both nonfiction and fiction picture books, including Freckles and Willie, Fat Santa, Skeleton Hiccups, and Daisy's Crazy Thanksgiving, Cuyler has written several popular chapter books for more talented readers.
Born in Princeton, New Jersey, Cuyler was raised in a large family and grew up in the oldest house in town. Competing with four siblings and an equal number of cousins who had joined Cuyler's family after their own mother died, she learned early how to fend for herself, as she once told SATA. After graduating from high school, she attended Sarah Lawrence College, earning her bachelor's degree in 1970. From there, it was a quick move to Boston to work for Atlantic Monthly Press before Cuyler returned to New York City and found a job with Holiday House. "I'm a great supporter of the type of small institution that allows the creative spirit to flourish," the author/editor once told SATA. "For example, both Sarah Lawrence and Holiday House value independent thinking, and provide the kind of nourishing environment where new ideas can take seed and ripen naturally." Cuyler found Holiday House to be the perfect fit with her own career aspirations; beginning there in 1974, she served as its editor-in-chief for children's fiction for many years before expanding her career opportunities at other publishers, among them Henry Holt, Golden Books, and Winslow Press.
Cuyler's first self-penned work, 1978's Jewish Holidays, is a book she admits she should never have written because, not being Jewish, she was not completely familiar with her subject matter and had to rely on the generous assistance of Jewish friends to get her facts straight. Still, it was a first step that led to greater successes. Her second picture book, The All-around Pumpkin Book, was written in three days, and was inspired by a dream. "I woke up … at two in the morning and I started writing," she told interviewer Jim Roginski in Behind the Covers: Interviews with Authors and Illustrators of Books for Children and Young Adults. Visualizing all the illustrations in her mind, she quickly made a dummy of the book, sketched out the pictures as she imagined them, and then added the text. Following the entire life span of the typical Halloween jack-o'-lantern, from seed to garden to its ultimate destiny as either scary goblin or pumpkin pie, the book was described by Ethel L. Heins of Horn Book as "a compendium of fascinating and practical facts," as well as a list of nontraditional uses for the fall squash. Pumpkin hamburgers anyone? "Here's a way to stretch Halloween all around the year," commented Barbara Elleman in her Booklist appraisal of The All-around Pumpkin Book.
Cuyler's The All-around Christmas Book uses much the same format as The All-around Pumpkin Book. After presenting the story of the Nativity, Cuyler includes a discussion of folklore, crafts, recipes, games, and other information about the Christian holiday, both in its religious and secular manifestations. The wide variety of celebrations undertaken by many different cultures around the world is explored, with answers to such questions as where the tradition of decorating trees came from and an explanation of the history of advent wreaths. Praising the information presented, a Publishers Weekly reviewer termed the work "a treasure of holiday lore."
Although her earliest books were nonfiction, Cuyler has penned a number of entertaining picture books for pre-schoolers and children in the early grades. In Shadow's Baby, a little dog is determined to take care of the new baby in his house, but when the infant grows older and wants to play with other things, the attentive Shadow gets in the way. Fortunately, the dog's owner realizes that Shadow feels useless with nothing to care for; the introduction of a new puppy into the home provides a ready solution. Ann A. Flowers, reviewing the book for Horn Book, called Shadow's Baby "as warm and affectionate as a puppy," while a Publishers Weekly critic commended Cuyler's "sensitivity to the feelings of all involved" in this warmhearted story.
Although the author admits to being a cat owner, dogs and their human companions figure prominently in several of Cuyler's stories, including her tales about Freckles the dog and Willie, the teenage boy. In Freckles and Willie, Freckles feels forlorn when Willie starts to spend most of his time with a girl named Jane; the girl, for her part, is obviously not a person of character—she dislikes dogs and makes Willie keep Freckles away from her when she's around, which is most of the time. Ultimately, Willie realizes where his true loyalty lies, and boy and dog are once again the best of friends—"a nice lesson in relationships and loyalty," according to a Publishers Weekly critic. However, despite her mistake in bringing a jar of flea powder to Freckles's birthday party, Jane redeems herself in Freckles and Jane, as Freckles gets the stuck-up teen out of a tight situation involving a German shepherd on the loose and finally gains her affection. A Kirkus Reviews commentator dubbed Freckles and Jane "a satisfying 'here and now' story."
With Fat Santa, Cuyler returns to the subject of Christmas. Molly is determined to wait up for Santa's arrival; she settles into a comfortable chair and listens to Christmas carols on her headphones while she waits. Awakened out of a semi-sleep in the wee hours of the morning by a cloud of ash, Molly hears a voice coming from inside her fireplace—Santa has gotten stuck in the chimney! One experience of being stuck in the chimney is enough for the old fellow; he convinces Molly to don his red jacket and make the rest of his gift-giving rounds, which she does. Praising the book's energy, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books contributor Betsy Hearne cited Fat Santa as "a holiday picture book that will be easy for children to listen to, look at, and like." Phillis Wilson of Booklist pointed out that "the open end works in this well-constructed plot," while a Publishers Weekly critic praised Cuyler for "amiably captur[ing]" the spirit of Christmas Eve.
Cuyler focuses on another holiday in Daisy's Crazy Thanksgiving. Daisy begs to be excused from her parents' busy restaurant to join her grandparents, only to discover pandemonium in a house full of eccentric relatives, a menagerie of pet animals, and an absentminded Granny who has again forgotten to turn on the oven for the turkey. "No getting around the success of the story's wacky humor," observed Booklist reviewer Denise Wilms, the critic going on to dub the book "offbeat and, intermittently, very funny."A more serious story is at the center of From Here to There, which helps young children gain perspective on their role as part of the larger world. Maria Mendoza introduces herself, at first within the context of her role in her family, then to her neighborhood, state, country, and beyond, Cuyler's concept-driven text is enhanced by "gorgeously rendered" watercolor and pastel illustrations by Yu Cha Pak, according to a Publishers Weekly critic. Praising From Here to There as a "heartfelt picture book," the Publishers Weekly reviewer added that, through their book, Cuyler and Pak take readers on an "enlightening journey" that serves as "both a meditation on humanity's small place in the universe and a celebration of each person's immutable individuality."
Skeleton Hiccups also contains a seasonal theme as it relates the efforts of a frustrated skeleton who cannot rid himself of the hiccups. Unfortunately, when you're a skeleton the tried-and-true remedy of getting the hic-cups scared out of you doesn't work; the most frightening "boo!" of Skeleton's best friend Ghost is nothing new, and drinking water while hanging his head upside down just leaks the liquid out of his empty eye sockets. Praising the quirky artwork of S. D. Schindler, Booklist reviewer Jeanette Larson dubbed Skeleton Hiccups "a treat for children who can laugh at the slightly macabre," while in Horn Book Joanna Rudge Long noted that Cuyler's simple text, with its "hic, hic, hic" refrain, is "sure to have kids giggling and joining in."
That's Good! That's Bad!, Cuyler's story of a little boy traveling by balloon in a wild trip over a zoo, successfully combines sound effects, a large format, and plenty of opportunity for audience participation where "kids will enjoy the push-me-pull-me tension," according to Roger Sutton in his review for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. In a sequel, That's Good! That's Bad! In the Grand Canyon the young boy joins his grandmother for a trip to the Grand Canyon, where he again encounters good and bad in a series of adventures. School Library Journal contributor Marian Drabkin noted that the book, with its humorous plot and sing-songey text, "begs to be read aloud" and would be a "natural for storytime."
Cuyler's first novel, The Trouble with Soap, was written after she attended a writer's conference in her capacity as editor. "I sat around for two weeks listening to people read their stuff," she told interviewer Roginski. "Then I started writing." The Trouble with Soap is based on its author's own experiences as a not-so-model child. In the novel, thirteen-year-old Lucinda Sokoloff—a/k/a Soap—is suspended from school due to her excessive zeal in playing practical jokes. After an incident involving Saran Wrap and the toilets in the boys' lavatory cause her to be shipped off to Miss Pringle's Private School for Girls along with partner-in-crime and narrator Laurie Endersby, Soap rejects the snobbish students in favor of her own company. Laurie, on the other hand, desperately wants to be accepted by the in-crowd at her new school, and she ultimately tells a painful secret about her friend's father as a way of gaining that acceptance. A Publishers Weekly writer observed that the novel is completely unlike any of Cuyler's former works and "displays impressive versatility.""I wanted to write about what it is that makes twelve-and thirteen-year-old kids so sensitive to peer pressure," Cuyler explained to Roginski of her decision to write books for older readers. "Why do they care so much about what other kids think of them? They're really imprisoned by collective values—how they think, how they dress, how they look at the world. It's a very conformist way of living. It's hard to be outside the collective spirit at that age and yet my character Soap is. That fascinates me because the whole key of life is to break through the walls that parents and society build around you, to be an individual, to express yourself."
The Trouble with Soap has been followed by several more novels for young people, including Invisible in the Third Grade, Weird Wolf, and The Battlefield Ghost. In Weird Wolf Cuyler's protagonist again has trouble fitting in with his friends. It's not so much that nine-year-old Harry Walpole is unpopular, but he has a terribly embarrassing problem: he turns into a wolf when the moon is full. As inconvenient as this is—it gets increasingly difficult to come up with excuses for being caught running around naked outside at sunrise—Harry is fortunate that his blood lust only extends to hamburgers. A research trip to the library results in several possible cures for his problem, and one of them actually works, in a book critics praised as appropriately seductive for even the most reluctant of readers. Indeed, Weird Wolf is "destined for greatness in the opinion of werewolf-crazy eight year olds," noted Kathryn Pierson in a review for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.
The Battlefield Ghost marks a bit of a departure for Cuyler, because the story mixes historical fact with fiction. Actually, the book was inspired by the author's interest in her home town of Princeton, where she lives in the same colonial-era house where she grew up. In the story, John and his sister move into what their new Princeton neighbors claim is a house haunted by the spirits of the 1777 Battle of Princeton. After a series of uncanny but not terribly frightening hauntings, the children learn that their home is haunted by a Hessian mercenary soldier who was killed while fighting for the British. When they discover that the soldier is wandering in search of his horse, John and his sister figure out how to put the spirit to rest in a novel that Booklist reviewer Jean Franklin praised as a "fast read" that "offers a nice blend of realism and the supernatural." A Publishers Weekly contributor also praised Cuyler for presenting the history of the battle in an entertaining fashion, noting that in addition to providing historical notes, The Battlefield Ghost ends with a "vivid, ghostly reenactment on the battlefield."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Behind the Covers: Interviews with Authors and Illustrators of Books for Children and Young Adults, Libraries Unlimited (Littleton, CO), 1985, pp. 51-58.
Seventh Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, H. W. Wilson (Bronx, NY), 1996, pp. 73-74.
Booklist, July 15, 1980, Barbara Elleman, review of The All-around Pumpkin Book, p. 1674; November 1, 1987, Phillis Wilson, review of Fat Santa, p. 474; October 1, 1990, Denise Wilms, review of Daisy's Crazy Thanksgiving, p. 338; December 1, 1991, Deborah Abbott, review of That's Good! That's Bad!, pp. 702-703; December 15, 1998, Lauren Peterson, review of The Biggest, Best Snowman, p. 754; June 1, 1999, Susan Dove Lempke, review of From Here to There, p. 1838; November 1, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Hundredth-Day Worries, p. 537; November 15, 1999, Jean Franklin, review of The Battlefield Ghost, p. 626; December 1, 2000, Michael Cart, review of Roadsigns: A Harey Race with a Tortoise, p. 717; September 15, 2002, John Peters, review of Skeleton Hiccups, p. 245.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1979, Zena Sutherland, review of Jewish Holidays, p. 77; November, 1982, p. 45; October, 1984, p. 22; February, 1986, pp. 105-106; November, 1987, Betsy Hearne, review of Fat Santa, p. 46; January, 1990, Kathryn Pierson, review of Weird Wolf, pp. 107-108; November, 1990, p. 57; December, 1991, Roger Sutton, review of That's Good! That's Bad!, p. 87; April 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Big Friends, p. 1445.
Horn Book, October, 1980, Ethel L. Heins, review of The All-around Pumpkin Book, p. 534; April, 1982, pp. 162-163; January, 1990, Ann A. Flowers, review of Shadow's Baby, p. 50; November, 1990, p. 718; September-October, 2002, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Skeleton Hiccups, p. 549; May-June, 2004, Christine M. Hepperman, review of Please Say Please!: Penguin's Guide to Manners, p. 310.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1989, review of Freckles and Jane, p. 602; March 15, 2002, review of That's Good! That's Bad! In the Grand Canyon, p. 408; April 1, 2004, review of Skeleton Hiccups, p. 327.
New York Times Book Review, October 26, 1980, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, May 28, 1982, review of The Trouble with Soap, p. 72; September 17, 1982, review of The All-around Christmas Book, p. 115; April 25, 1986, review of Freckles and Willie, p. 78; October 13, 1989, review of Shadow's Baby, p. 51; October 30, 1987, review of Fat Santa, p. 70; November 9, 1998, review of The Biggest, Best Snowman, p. 75; March 15, 1999, review of From Here to There, p. 56; September 27, 1999, review of The Battlefield Ghost, p. 106; December 13, 1999, review of One Hundredth-Day Worries, p. 81; July 10, 2000, review of Roadsigns, p. 62; September 23, 2002, review of Skeleton Hiccups, p. 22; April 19, 2004, review of Please Say Please!, p. 59.
School Library Journal, January, 1979, Joan C. Feldman, review of Jewish Holidays, p. 41. December, 1984, p. 69; April, 1986, p. 69; April, 1990, p. 116; February, 1990, p. 72; November, 1991, p. 92; September, 2000, Louise L. Sherman, review of Roadsigns, p. 193; April, 2001, Teresa Bateman, review of One Hundredth-Day Worries, p. 74; October, 2001, Roxanne Burg, review of Stop, Drop, and Roll: Fire Safety, p. 113; June, 2002, Marian Drabkin, review of That's Good! That's Bad! In the Grand Canyon, p. 92; October, 2002, Piper L. Nyman, review of Skeleton Hic-cups, p. 100.
Margery Cuyler Web site, http://www.margerycuyler.com/ (December 2, 2004).*
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