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Alice Low (1926-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights

Born 1926, in New York, NY; Education: Smith College, B.A., 1947; attended Columbia University, 1956-58. Hobbies and other interests: "Painting and ceramics were my first interests. I still sing in a local chorus. Travel stimulates, and many a line has come to me on a tennis court."


Agent—Scott Tremel, 434 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10003.


Warren Schloat Productions, Tarrytown, NY, writer and producer of educational filmstrips, 1968-72; Birch Wathen School, New York, NY, teacher of creative writing, 1972-73; freelance reading program editor for Random House and Harcourt Brace, New York, NY, beginning 1975; Scholastic Book Services, New York, NY, editorial consultant to Children's Choice Book Club, 1978-85, co-editor, then editor. Volunteer at Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Authors Guild, Authors League of America, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), PEN, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Honors Awards

Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies selection, Children's Book Council, 1985, and Washington Irving Children's Book Choice Award, Westchester Library Association, 1988, both for The Macmillan Book of Greek Gods and Heroes.


Open up My Suitcase, illustrated by Corinne Malvern, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1954.

Grandmas and Grandpas, Random House (New York, NY), 1962.

Out of My Window, Random House (New York, NY), 1962.

Summer, illustrated by Roy McKie, Random House (New York, NY), 1963.

Taro and the Bamboo Shoot (adaptation of a folk tale), Pantheon (New York, NY), 1964.

A Day of Your Own: Your Birthday, illustrated by Roy McKie, Random House (New York, NY), 1965, girl's edition illustrated by Lisl Weil, 1964.

What's in Mommy's Pocketbook?, Golden Press (New York, NY), 1965.

Kallie's Corner, illustrated by David Stone Martin, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1966.

At Jasper's House, and Other Stories, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1968.

Herbert's Treasure, illustrated by Victoria de Larrea, Putnam (New York, NY), 1971.

Witches' Holiday, illustrated by Tony Walton, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1971.

David's Windows, illustrated by Tomie de Paola, Putnam (New York, NY), 1974.

The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches (also see below), illustrated by Karen Gundersheimer, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1978, illustrated by Jane Manning, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Bernard Stone) The Charge of the Mouse Brigade, illustrated by Tony Ross, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1980.

(Adaptor of verses) Colin McNaughton, If Dinosaurs Were Cats and Dogs, illustrated by McNaughton, Four Winds Press (New York, NY), 1981.

Genie and the Witch's Spells, illustrated by Lady Mc-Crady, Knopf (New York, NY), 1982.

All around the Farm, illustrated by Maggie Swanson, Random House (New York, NY), 1984.

All through the Town, illustrated by Denise Fleming, Random House (New York, NY), 1984.

The Macmillan Book of Greek Gods and Heroes, illustrated by Arvis Stewart, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1985, published as The Simon & Schuster Book of Greek Gods and Heroes, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

Who Lives in the Sea?, illustrated by Rowan Barnes-Murphy, Fisher-Price, 1987.

(Selector) The Family Read-aloud Christmas Treasury, illustrated by Marc Brown, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1989.

Zena and the Witch Circus, illustrated by Laura Cornell, Dial (New York, NY), 1990.

(Selector) The Family Read-Aloud Holiday Treasury, illustrated by Marc Brown, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1991.

The Quilted Elephant and the Green Velvet Dragon, illustrated by Christopher Santoro, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.

(With Zheng Zhensun) A Young Painter: The Life and Paintings of Wang Yani—China's Extraordinary Young Artist, photographs by Zheng, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.

The Popcorn Shop, illustrated by Patricia Hammel, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.

(Author of script and lyrics) The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches (play; based on Low's book of same title), music by Jacob Stern, first produced in New York, NY, 1993.

(Editor) Spooky Stories for a Dark and Stormy Night, illustrated by Gahan Wilson, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1994.

Mommy's Briefcase, illustrated by Aliki Brandenberg, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

Stories to Tell a Five Year Old, illustrated by Heather Harms Mailone, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996.

Stories to Tell a Six Year Old, illustrated by Heather Harms Mailone, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1997.

Aunt Lucy Went to Buy a Hat, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Blueberry Mouse, illustrated by David Michael Friend, Mondo (New York, NY), 2004.

Also contributor to anthologies, including Captain Kangaroo's Read Aloud Book, Random House, 1962, and Captain Kangaroo's Sleepytime Book, Random House, 1963. Author of scripts for filmstrips, including Folk Songs and the American Flag, Folk Songs and the Declaration of Independence, Folk Songs and Abraham Lincoln, and Folk Songs and Frederick Douglas, all for Warren Schloat Productions, 1968-70; "First Things, Social Reasoning" (series of eight filmstrips), Guidance Associates, 1973-74; You Can Be Anything, Teaching Resource Films, 1975; and Bringing Home the Beach, Guidance Associates, 1975. Author of filmstrip scripts and producer of Folk Songs and the Railroad, Cowboys, and Whaling, all for Warren Schloat Productions, 1970-72; and History of the City, Warren Schloat Productions, 1972. Author of operetta for elementary school children, and of material for UNICEF. Contributor of stories to magazines, including Ingenue and Seventeen, and of book reviews to New York Times.

Several of Low's works have been translated into French and Japanese.


The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches was made into an animated film, Learning Corporation of America.


In addition to her work as a writing teacher and an editor of several book clubs for New York City-based publishing houses, Alice Low has authored a wide selection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books for children and young adults. Her writings, especially those geared for younger readers, are known for their humorous plots and fanciful characters. In addition, Low has compiled several selections of short stories and verse for some highly regarded anthologies, and has produced a well-received volume compiling the traditional myths of the ancient Greeks. Born in New York City in 1926, Low earned her bachelor's degree at Smith College, and in 1949 married Martin Low, a film studio owner, with whom she had three children. She published her first children's book, Open up My Suitcase, in 1954, then took a break from writing to undertake further college study at Columbia University between 1956 and 1958. She began her career as a children's book author in the early 1960s, supplementing that with work as a teacher at the Birch Wathen School during the 1972-73 school year before moving into a series of editorial positions within the publishing industry. One of Low's earliest successes as a writer came with her 1966 book Kallie's Corner, the story of a new girl at a private school who does not fit in with the popular group. When Jane, one of the girls in the group, tentatively befriends Kallie, they discover they do not need the group's arbitrary approval. The book garnered praise for its lively prose, engaging setting and characters, and its satisfying conclusion.

Low scored another success with At Jasper's House, a collection of short stories for young adults. "Candy for Oriana" tells the story of a young black girl at camp who encounters racism but ultimately gets her needs met by a camp counselor. The title story was commended for its tender depiction of a thirteen-year-old girl's transition from child to young adult. Max Steele, reviewing Low's short-fiction collection for the New York Times Book Review, stated that "the reader wishes some of these stories, such as 'A Real Country Christmas,' had been the first chapters of novels. Others, such as 'The Naked Spot,' are complete in themselves—and completely amusing."

Frequently turning her attention to younger readers, Low has produced a number of picture books and easy readers. Herbert's Treasure is the story of a boy who collects junk, much to his mother's dismay. One day he finds a key that fits a lock and builds himself a shack out of all the "useless" things he had been collecting. While some reviewers wrote that the story lacks the exaggeration necessary for a truly tall tale, Susanne Gilles remarked in her review for School Library Journal that as "a fantasy without a moral," Herbert's Treasure "will be especially enjoyed by other young treasure collectors." In The Quilted Elephant and the Green Velvet Dragon she examines jealousy and sibling rivalry between two stuffed animals brought along on a sleep-over. Her 1995 picture book, Mommy's Briefcase, is an interactive book in which children can explore pockets within the story's pages, pulling Mommy's address book, glasses, and even a cardboard sandwich from their hiding places. Through Mommy's tasks at the Stuft Bear Company, as explained by Low in simple, rhyming couplets, youngsters gain a "playful introduction to the working world," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor who dubbed Mommy's Briefcase a "candidate for repeated readings."

The adventures—and misadventures—of witches have been featured in several of Low's works. Witches' Holiday is a rhyming tale for young children that depicts a group of witches who pop out of a closet on Halloween night to fingerpaint on the ceiling, roller-skate throughout the house, and eat up all the Halloween candy before flying away. A picture book that Low also adapted as a play produced in New York City in 1993, The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches tells the story of Wendy, whose older, more powerful sisters make her stay at home on Halloween. When a young boy comes trick-or-treating and invites Wendy along, the young witch gains self-confidence and finds her own witch power during their adventures. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called this parable of sibling rivalry "an irresistible way to add joy to the scarey fall holiday."

In Genie and the Witch's Spells two little girls having trouble in school strike a bargain to help each other out, only to find the improvement in their grades was due to their own efforts rather than magical spells. A Booklist critic remarked that while "the pat ending is telegraphed far too early, … Genie and her magical counterpart are engaging enough to lure some into the mixture of magic and reality." Zena and the Witch Circus is the humorous tale of a young witch who is prevented from participating in the witch circus because she can't perform magic. Zena gains self-confidence and self-esteem when she saves the witch circus from disaster with the help of a friendly cat she rescues in the woods. While some reviewers found the plot a bit confusing, Julie Corsaro, writing in Booklist, called the work "an entertaining and challenging romp."

Low explores the myths and legends of ancient Greece in The Macmillan Book of Greek Gods and Heroes, a highly praised introduction to this topic for young readers. While some reviewers found that these shortened, simplified versions lack animation, many have agreed that this attractive collection is ideal for presenting complex ancient myths to a young audience. Reviewing The Macmillan Book of Greek Gods and Heroes, a Booklist critic complimented the volume's "broad scope" and "useful index," noting as well that the tales are "clearly told" by Low. The volume was re-released in 2002 as The Simon & Schuster Book of Greek Gods and Heroes.

Together with writer and photographer Zheng Zhensun, Low presents another work of nonfiction in A Young Painter: The Life and Paintings of Wang Yani—China's Extraordinary Young Artist. A prodigy who uses traditional Chinese rice papers and ink, Wang began painting monkeys at age three, and by the time she was ten years old solo exhibitions of her works had been staged in galleries throughout the world. In addition to describing her talent, A Young Painter also provides readers with a profile of Wang as a somewhat reclusive but pleasant person, and opens a window into the famous young artist's simple day-to-day life. "Budding artists will find a wealth of inspiration" in Low and Zhensun's biography, noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer who added that the text "leads readers to admire [Wang] from a respectful distance."

In addition to her writing, Low has selected works by others for two well-received anthologies, The Family Read-aloud Christmas Treasury and The Family Read-aloud Holiday Treasury. These anthologies mix well-known with lesser-known pieces and have been commended for their inclusion of tales and poems from other cultures. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly praised the selection of stories by such writers as Langston Hughes, Beverly Cleary, Russell Hoban, and Eleanor Farjeon, calling The Family Read-aloud Holiday Treasury "richly diverse" and "exuberant;" while another contributor to the same periodical applauded the "well-chosen collection" of "cheery stories, songs, and poems" found in The Family Read-aloud Christmas Treasury.

Tales of a different nature are collected in Low's Spooky Stories for a Dark and Stormy Night. Featuring illustrations by Gahan Wilson, the volume presents nineteen tales drawn from a variety of cultures and countries. Folk tales retold by Alison Lurie and Isaac Bashevis Singer, classic stories by Washington Irving and Charles Dickens, as well as contemporary tales by Penelope Lively, Bruce Coville, and Laurence Yep round out a volume in which, according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, "the quality of the storytelling is consistently high." Noting the book's appealing design, Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan praised Low's choice of "eclectic and occasionally macabre" tales, and noted that Wilson's quirkily characteristic pen-and-ink drawings "effectively" highlight each selection.

Other anthologies edited by Low include Stories to Tell a Five Year Old, which presents over twenty tales "with surefire appeal for youngsters," according to Booklist reviewer Susan Dove Lempke. Classic characters such as Mary Poppins and Dr. Doolittle make a brief appearance in selections from longer works, and a parade of folk characters also are introduced in tales that focus on humor. Low's follow-up volume, Stories to Tell a Six Year Old, continues the formula, including folk tales, short stories, picture-book excerpts, and chapters from popular novels. Noting the inclusion of works by such popular writers as Margery Williams, Astrid Lindgren, Nicolasa Mohr, and Beverly Cleary, Booklist critic John Peters predicted that Low's "compact" compendium "should be a hit for travel and bedtime reading both."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, April 1, 1982, review of Genie and the Witch's Spells, p. 1019; November 15, 1985, review of The Macmillan Book of Greek Gods and Heroes, p. 497; September 15, 1990, Julie Corsaro, review of Zena and the Witch Circus, p. 177; October 1, 1994, Carolyn Phelan, review of Spooky Stories for a Dark and Stormy Night, p. 321. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1967, p. 94; May, 1971, p. 140; October, 1974, p. 32; June 1, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Stories to Tell a Five Year Old, p. 1735; March 1, 1998, John Peters, review of Stories to Tell a Six Year Old, p. 1144.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1968, p. 1226; May 1, 1974, p. 475.

Library Journal, May 15, 1971, Susanne Gilles, review of Herbert's Treasure, p. 1798; January 15, 1972, p. 275.

New York Times Book Review, November 3, 1968, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, September 4, 1978, review of The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches, p. 114; December 8, 1989, review of The Family Read-aloud Christmas Treasury, p. 53; September 20, 1991, review of A Young Painter, p. 132; October 18, 1991, review of The Family Read-aloud Holiday Treasury, p. 60; September 19, 1994, review of Spooky Stories for a Dark and Stormy Night, p. 26; August 28, 1995, review of Mommy's Briefcase, p. 112.

Saturday Review, November 12, 1966, p. 51.

School Library Journal, December, 1978, p. 45; November, 1981, p. 80; May, 1991, p. 81; December, 1991, p. 96; January, 1992, p. 92.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Al Loving Biography - Loved Painting from Early Age to Alice McGill Biography - Personal