Lisa McCourt (1964-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
(Lisa M. Combs)
Born 1964, in FL; Education: Drew University, B.A., 1986.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Troll Communications, 100 Corporate Dr., Mahwah, NJ 07430.
Children's book author; creative director/owner of Boingo Books, Inc. (book packaging company), beginning 1995.
Literary Marketplace Award finalist in children's editorial category, 1996; Honor Title, International Reading Association/Storytelling World Award, 1998, for The Never-Forgotten Doll; National Parenting Publications Honors Award, 1998, for I Love You, Stinky Face.
I Love You, Stinky Face, illustrated by Cyd Moore, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1997.
The Rain Forest Counts!, illustrated by Cheryl Nathan, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1997.
Raptors!, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1997.
The Long and Short of It, illustrated by Cheryl Nathan, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1998.
Deadly Snakes, illustrated by Allan Eitzen, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1998.
I Miss You, Stinky Face, illustrated by Cyd Moore, Bridgewater Books, 1999.
Candy Counting: Delicious Ways to Add and Subtract, illustrated by Brad Tuckman, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1999.
Love You Until …, illustrated by William Haines, Paulist Press (Mahwah, NJ), 1999.
(Under name Lisa M. Combs) Rocket to the Moon: The Story of the First Lunar Landing, illustrated by Robert F. Goetzl, Bridgewater Books (Mahwah, NJ), 1999.
(Under name Lisa M. Combs) Construction Buddies #1: Dozer to the Rescue!, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 1999.
(With Aimee McCourt) Attitude: How to Be the Coolest Girl You Know: Tips to Help You Deal, Feel, and Be Real, Lowell House (Los Angeles, CA), 2000.
Time for School, Stinky Face, illustrated by Cyd Moore, Troll/Bridgewater Books (Mahwah, NJ), 2000.
(Under name Lisa M. Combs) Construction Buddies #2: Dozer's Wild Adventure, illustrated by Karl Gude, Troll (Mahwah, NJ), 2000.
Weird in the Wild: Wet 'n' Weird, illustrated by Cheryl Nathan, Lowell House/NTC Contemporary (Los Angeles, CA), 2000.
Weird in the Wild: Hairy 'n' Weird, illustrated by Cheryl Nathan, Lowell House/NTC Contemporary (Los Angeles, CA), 2000.
(With Lisa M. Bernstein) Brain Builders: What's inside My Body?, illustrated by Pat Grant Porter, Lowell House/NTC Contemporary (Los Angeles, CA), 2000.
(With Lisa M. Bernstein) Brain Builders: Mysterious Space, illustrated by Cheryl Nathan, Lowell House/NTC Contemporary (Los Angeles, CA), 2000.
Good Night, Princess Pruney Toes, Troll/Bridgewater Books (Mahwah, NJ), 2001.
Merry Christmas, Stinky Face, Troll/Bridgewater Books (Mahwah, NJ), 2002.
The Most Thankful Thing, Troll/Bridgewater Books (Mahwah, NJ), 2003.
A Dream to Fly: The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, Troll/Bridgewater Books (Mahwah, NJ), 2003.
100th Day of Bug School, HarperFestival (New York, NY), 2004.
"CHICKEN SOUP FOR LITTLE SOULS" SERIES
(Adaptor) The Best Night out with Dad, illustrated by Bert Dodson, Health Communications (Deerfield Beach, FL), 1997.
(Adaptor) The Never-Forgotten Doll, illustrated by Mary O'Keefe Young, Health Communications (Deerfield Beach, FL), 1997.
(Adaptor) The Goodness Gorillas, illustrated by Pat Porter, Health Communications (Deerfield Beach, FL), 1997.
Chicken Soup for the Soul Family Storybook Collection (includes The Goodness Gorillas, The Best Night out with Dad, and The Never-Forgotten Doll), Health Communications (Deerfield Beach, FL), 1997.
The Braids Girl, illustrated by Tim Ladwig, Health Communications (Deerfield Beach, FL), 1998.
A Dog of My Own, illustrated by Katya Krenina, Health Communications (Deerfield Beach, FL), 1998.
(Adaptor) The New Kid and the Cookie Thief, illustrated by Mary O'Keefe Young, Health Communications (Deerfield Beach, FL), 1998.
Della Splatnuk, Birthday Girl, illustrated by Pat Grant Porter, Health Communications (Deerfield Beach, FL), 1999.
101 Ways to Raise a Happy Baby, Lowell House (Los Angeles, CA), 1999.
Since publishing her first book in 1997, on the heels of a ten-year career in the publishing industry, Lisa McCourt has established herself as a prolific author of children's books. Her works range in focus from the moralistic "Chicken Soup for Little Souls" series to picture books such as The Most Thankful Thing and Goodnight Princess Pruney Toes, and the exuberant antics detailed in I Love You, Stinky Face and its sequels. Teaming up with illustrator Cheryl Nathan, she has also worked as a book packager, and has also written nonfiction titles, such as A Dream to Fly: The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, Deadly Snakes, and Candy Counting: Delicious Ways to Add and Subtract.
McCourt once told Something about the Author, "When I was in third grade, I heard about a contest for kids. You had to create a bumper sticker with a message about saving the planet. I was thrilled at the idea of writing something that people would stick on their cars! I drew a rabbit, a bird, and a squirrel, and wrote, 'We're not the only ones who live here. Don't ruin their world.' Believe it or not, the other entries must have been worse. It was the first time my writing ever won an award—and the last time my drawing ever won anything.
"I was the oldest kid in my family, so I spent a lot of time babysitting my brother, Michael, and my sister, Aimee. The first stories I ever wrote were for my brother. I made up a bunch of silly characters that lived inside the human body. (I've always thought that body stuff was so cool!) Eye One and Eye Two sat at control stations like pilots in tiny cockpits looking out through the windshield-like eyes. Miss Sneeze lived in the big toe. That's why it took her so long to run all the way up to the mouth once a person felt like he was going to sneeze.
"When I was in fifth grade, my teacher handed out the Arrow Book Club Student News and I found a book that changed my life. It was called the Anything Book and it was just a bunch of blank pages. The Student News said it was the perfect place to write down secret thoughts and ideas, and I had a lot of those! I ordered the Anything Book, but couldn't wait the two weeks for it to come. I was so excited to start writing that I wrote stuff down on scraps of paper, then copied it all into the book when my order finally arrived. Ever since then I've been emptying my head on paper. (You should see my closet—it's full of old journals!)
"In seventh grade, I wrote a lot of stories about boys and girls falling in love. I was totally boy-crazy by then. One was called 'The Last Desk in the Fourth Row' and it was about a boy and girl who found out they liked each other by writing notes and leaving them in a desk that they both sat in during different classes. I tried leaving romantic notes in my own desks at school, but no boys ever answered them! Even when I was writing romantic stories, kids were still my favorite kind of people. Every job I've ever had has involved kids in some way. At twelve I became a camp counselor-in-training, and I loved it so much I kept working for camps until I finished college.
"My first job out of college was for a company I bet you know—Troll Communications. The original owners of Troll taught me all about what makes an awesome kids' book. I was so young when I started that they were kind of like on-the-job parents to me, and I'm forever grateful to them."
Based on stories included in the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series for adult readers, McCourt's "Chicken Soup for Little Souls" presents short stories in a picture-book format. In The Best Night out with Dad a little boy gives up his tickets to the circus when he realizes that a poor boy and his father cannot afford to buy tickets for themselves, while The Goodness Gorillas focuses on a class that dedicates itself to performing good deeds, even to the extent of reaching out to the class bully when the boy's dog is killed. Della Splatnuk, Birthday Girl finds Carrie forced by her mother to attend the birthday party of weird classmate Della; when no one else from their class shows up, the two girls and their mothers have a splendid time by themselves. While some critics expressed concern about the straightforward moral lessons embodied in each story, others viewed the books as useful aids for parents and teachers addressing specific issues concerning the treatment of others. Reviewing several books in the series, Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan wrote in School Library Journal that, "Although they may prove to be a bit too sugarcoated for some, they are sure to provoke discussions about the need for kindness in our all-too-violent world."
I Love You, Stinky Face has been praised for its simple yet reassuring message regarding a common childhood fear. In McCourt's picture book readers find themselves in a child's bedroom as his mother tucks him in for the night and gently reassures him that even if he became a slimy green monster, a cyclops, or a stinky skunk, she would still love him and care for him without question. "McCourt's sweet yet effective game sends a soothing message," observed a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Several reviewers also praised Cyd Moore's green and purple illustrations for playfully exaggerating the child's fearful imaginings, while Hazel Rochman wrote in Booklist that McCourt's text offers "absolute" reassurance.
Similar storylines are featured in I Miss You, Stinky Face and Merry Christmas, Stinky Face, in which McCourt plays out a similar scenarios based on common childhood fears. In I Miss You, Stinky Face, the little boy and his mother are separated and talking on the phone. Each time the little boy expresses the fear his mother will not be able to get home to him, she dreams up a fantastic solution to the problem. Rochman, reviewing the book for Booklist, concluded that "Kids will welcome the reassurance as they laugh at the wild exaggeration and recognize their fears."
Another dose of "what if" scenarios is served up in Merry Christmas, Stinky Face, as the boy begins fretting about all the things that might delay Santa's delivery and put the kibosh on the Christmas holiday. Rochman praised the volume for its depiction of a "tender family bond," while in Kirkus Reviews a contributor noted that readers can, like Stinky Face himself, rely on the boy's mother to devise "a quick-witted, soothing solution for any worry."
Other books for young readers include The Rainforest Counts!, a counting book that uses the exotic plants and animals of the tropical rainforest to count from one to ten. The author's rhyming text concludes with factual information about the flora and fauna presented in the illustrations, creating "a book that can be enjoyed on several levels," in the opinion of Kathy Piehl in School Library Journal.
McCourt returns to her focus on the family in The Most Thankful Thing, which finds a daughter looking through her mother's scrapbook, asking of each photograph or memento, "Was that your most thankful thing?" The answer is always negative, until the girl reaches images of herself in a book that a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted avoids sentimentality due to "McCourt's crisp text, dominated by dialogue." In Kirkus Reviews a writer commented that "the many fun details" illustrator Cyd Moore packs into each page will also fascinate young readers, while Carolyn Phelan predicted in a Booklist review that youngsters' first realization that "mothers have lives before parenthood" will be one likely outcome of McCourt's "breezy picture book."
In addition to her own writing, McCourt has continued her involvement in publishing by founding the book-packaging company Boingo Books. As she explained, "Being a packager means publishing companies hire me to create each book as a whole package—including not just the story but the art, the design, the cover, the kind of type, and where the words go on each page." As encouragement to aspiring writers, McCourt advised: "Go get your journal, a notebook, a napkin, or the back of last week's homework—and start writing!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, October 15, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of I Love You, Stinky Face, p. 403; December 15, 1997, p. 704; February 1, 1999, p. 981; April 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of I Miss You, Stinky Face, p. 1536; May 1, 1999, p. 1600; September 15, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of Merry Christmas, Stinky Face, p. 246; September 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of A Dream to Fly: The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, p. 118; November 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Most Thankful Thing, p. 502.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of Merry Christmas, Stinky Face, p. 1622; October 15, 2004, review of The Most Thankful Thing, p. 1010.
Publishers Weekly, August 25, 1997, review of I Love You, Stinky Face, p. 70; February 5, 2001, review of Good Night, Princess Pruney Toes, p. 88; November 3, 2003, review of The Most Thankful Thing, p. 73; December 1, 2003, review of Taking Flight, p. 59; December 6, 2004, review of The Most Thankful Thing, p. 58.
School Library Journal, November, 1997, Kathy Piehl, review of The Rain Forest Counts!, pp. 91-92; January, 1998, Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, review of The Best Night out with Dad, The Goodness Gorillas, and The Never-Forgotten Doll, p. 80; August, 1998, p. 143; December, 1998, p. 86; May, 1999, Linda Ludke, review of I Miss You, Stinky Face, pp. 92-93; May, 2001, Susan Marie Pitard, review of Good Night, Princess Pruney Toes, p. 129; October, 2002, Maureen Wade, review of Merry Christmas, Stinky Face, p. 61; August, 2003, Deborah Rothaug, review of The Most Thankful Thing, p. 138; October, 2003, Grace Oliff, review of A Dream to Fly, p. 154.
Lisa McCourt Web site, http://www.boingobooks.com (April 2, 2005).
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