Susan Katz (1945-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1945, in Reading, PA; Education: Drexel University, B.S. (English), 1966; University of Michigan, M.A. (English language and literature), 1967; Goddard College, M.F.A. (poetry), 1978. Hobbies and other interests: Powwows, walking, botanizing, animals.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Greenwillow Books, 13500 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.
Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, adjunct instructor, c. 1970s; Community College of Philadelphia, instructor and writing specialist; teacher at poetry workshops. Member, Philadelphia Children's Reading Roundtable; volunteer at Lenni Lenape Historical Society.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, National Museum of the American Indian, Rainforest Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife.
Woodrow Wilson fellow, 1967; Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellow in poetry, 1982, 1985, 1990. Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers, 1999; Mark Twain Award nomination, 2000; named to West Virginia Children's Book Award master list, 2001.
Snowdrops for Cousin Ruth, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
Mrs. Brown on Exhibit, and Other Museum Poems, illustrated by R. W. Alley, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
The Revolutionary Mrs. Brown, and Other Poems of Colonial America, illustrated by R. W. Alley, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
Looking for Jaguar, and Other Rain Forest Poems, illustrated by Lee Christiansen, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of poetry and articles to periodicals, including American Scholar, Intro, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pennsylvania Review, Shenandoah, Ladies' Home Journal, American Baby, Woman's World, Family Circle, and Bird Watcher's Digest.
In addition to seeing her poetry published in a wide range of periodicals, Susan Katz is the author of several books of verse for young readers. In Mrs. Brown on Exhibit, and Other Museum Poems she introduces the intrepid mastermind of amazing field trips, Mrs. Brown, who shuttles her fortunate class to museums ranging from the traditional to the whimsical to the downright crazy. Comprised of twenty poems, the book has been followed by The Revolutionary Mrs. Brown, and Other Poems of Colonial America, in which the energetic educator leads her class in a host of activities designed to introduce them to life during the mid-1700s. Both books are narrated in the voices of Mrs. Brown's class participants, and poems range from blank verse to rhyme, and humorous to thoughtful. "Whether lyrically crystallizing an observation or reporting on the antics of the class cut-ups, the poems convey the excitement of kids on an adventure," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor in reviewing Mrs. Brown on Exhibit. Noting that Katz's 2005 collection, Looking for Jaguar, and Other Rain Forest Poems, is "as useful in the science classroom as in language arts units," Booklist reviewer Jennifer Mattson added that the poet's evocative text contains "child-friendly metaphor, affable humor, and plenty of mind-boggling facts."
Katz was raised in Shillington, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, and shares her hometown with noted writer John Updike. As a child she worked on the school newspaper, played clarinet in the school band, explored the woods near her home, and read every book she could get her hands on. As Katz explained to Something about the Author (SATA), she feels fortunate that, in college, she studied poetry with Pulitzer Prizewinning poets Lisel Mueller and Louise Glück. While writing adult poetry for several years, Katz shifted to writing for children when her son, Demian, at age two, started poems but lost interest after line three and asked his mother to finish them. Katz feels confident about her qualifications as a children's author because, in addition to being a child once herself, she also has spent considerable time with younger people through her work as a "camp counselor, a 4-H club leader, a YMCA volunteer, a summer school teacher, a visiting poet, and a mother with a certain tolerance for snakes, noise, wet sneakers, and assistant cooks who drop the eggs on the floor."
Katz's first book, the prose work Snowdrops for Cousin Ruth, was inspired by a real person in the author's life. As the author readily admitted to SATA, Cousin Ruth "is the only character [I have] … ever lifted from life and put directly into a story exactly as she was, right down to her favorite expression, 'Sufferin' mackerals!'" In the book, a family saddened by the loss of a seven-year-old son and brother are heartened by the arrival of eighty-two-year-old Cousin Ruth, who helps each family member deal with their grief and move on. In Horn Book Susan P. Bloom praised the voice of the story's narrator, nine-year-old Joanna, as "believably sensitive and poetic" and dubbed Cousin Ruth as "a contemporary Mary Poppins." Citing Katz for her "extraordinary sensitivity," a Publishers Weekly critic added that the author "deftly weaves a story of love and rejuvenation" around the lives of her realistically drawn characters, while in Booklist Shelle Rosenfeld described Snow-drops for Cousin Ruth as "beautifully written, thoughtful, and touching."
Regarding her favored technique for writing, Katz explained to SATA that, on days when she has the time at home, she stays at her desk "from early morning until mid-afternoon, squinting out a second-story window at a row of lilac bushes, hoping worlds will rush into [my] … head."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, July, 1998, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Snow-drops for Cousin Ruth, p. 1878; February 15, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Looking for Jaguar, and Other Rain Forest Poems.
Horn Book, May-June, 1998, Susan P. Bloom, review of Snowdrops for Cousin Ruth, p. 345.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2004, review of The Revolutionary Mrs. Brown: Poems of Colonial America, p. 493; February 1, 2005, review of Looking for Jaguar, and Other Rain Forest Poems.
Publishers Weekly, June 1, 1998, review of Snowdrops for Cousin Ruth, p. 48; June 3, 2002, review of Mrs. Brown on Exhibit, and Other Museum Poems, p. 88.
School Library Journal, August, 2002, Susan Scheps, review of Mrs. Brown on Exhibit, p. 177.
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