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Arlene Erlbach (1948-) Biography

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

Born 1948, in Cleveland, OH; Education: Kent State University, B.S. (communications), 1971; Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, M.S. (special education), 1989. Politics: "Liberal." Religion: Jewish (non-practicing). Hobbies and other interests: Animals, gardening, cooking.


Agent—Lettie Lee, The Ann Elmo Agency, Inc., 60 East 42nd St., New York, NY 10165.


Writer. Reading teacher in Chicago, IL, elementary school, and director of young author program.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America, Young Adult Network, Children's Reading Round Table, Society of Midland Authors.

Honors Awards

Golden Medallion for best young adult novel, Romance Writers of America, 1987, for Does Your Nose Get in the Way, Too?; Parent Council selection, for The Best Friends Book, The Families Book, and Worth the Risk; International Reading Association recommended title, for The Best Friends Book; Notable Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, for The Kids' Invention Book and The Kids' Business Book; New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age selection, 2004, for The Middle School Survival Guide.



Does Your Nose Get in the Way, Too?, Crosswinds, 1987.

Guys, Dating, and Other Disasters, Crosswinds, 1987.

Drop out Blues, Crosswinds, 1988.

A Little More to Love, Bantam (New York, NY), 1994.

The Herbie Hummerston Homework Haters' Club, Willowisp, 1995.


Hurricanes, Children's Press, 1993.

Peanut Butter, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1994.

Floods, Children's Press, 1994.

Tornadoes, Children's Press, 1994.

Bicycles, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1994.

Soda Pop, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1994.

The Best Friends Book: True Stories about Real Best Friends, Fun Things to do with Your Best Friend, Solving Best Friends Problems, Long-Distance Best Friends, Finding New Friends, and More!, Free Spirit (Minneapolis, MN), 1994.

Video Games, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1995.

Forest Fires, Children's Press, 1995.

Blizzards, Children's Press, 1995.

Wonderful Wolves of the Wild, Willowisp Press, 1996.

The Families Book: True Stories about Real Kids and the People They Live with and Love, Fun Things to Do with Your Family, Making Family Trees and Keeping Family Traditions, Solving Family Problems, Staying Close to Faraway Relatives, and More!, illustrated by Stephen J. Carrera, Free Spirit (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.

Teddy Bears, Carolrhoda Books, 1997.

Happy Birthday, Everywhere!, illustrated by Sharon L. Holm, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1997.

The Kids' Invention Book, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.

Sidewalk Games around the World, illustrated by Sharon L. Holm, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1997.

The Kids' Business Book, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.

My Pet Rat, illustrated by Andy King, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.

Everything You Need to Know if Your Family Is on Welfare, Rosen Publishing Group (New York, NY), 1998.

The Kids' Volunteering Book, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.

Bubble Gum, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.

Kent State, Children's Press, 1998.

Comic Books, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.

T-Shirts, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.

Worth the Risk: True Stories about Risk Takers Plus How You Can Be One, Too, Free Spirit (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.

Working in Education, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.

Happy New Year, Everywhere!, illustrated by Sharon Lane Holm, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2000.

Christmas—Celebrating Life, Giving, and Kindness, Enslow Publishers (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 2001.

Hanukkah: Celebrating the Holiday of Lights, Enslow Publishers (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 2001.

(With Herb Erlbach) Merry Christmas, Everywhere!, illustrated by Sharon Lane Holm, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2002.

The Middle School Survival Guide, illustrated by Helen Flook, Walker (New York, NY), 2003.

(With Herbert Erlbach) Thanksgiving Day Crafts, Enslow Publishers (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 2004.

(With Herbert Erlbach) Valentine's Day Crafts, Enslow Publishers (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 2004.

(With Herbert Erlbach) Mother's Day Crafts, Enslow Publishers (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 2004.

Also author of Real Kids Taking the Right Risks, for Free Spirit Publishing.


Arlene Erlbach got her publishing start with Does Your Nose Get in the Way, Too,? a teen romance that jump-started a novel teen series by Harlequin and earned its author an award from Romance Writers of America. From this first success, Erlbach has build a successful career that includes fiction and a wide range of nonfiction titles that span everything from how-to books like Valentine's Day Crafts to The Middle School Survival Guide to fact-based books on subjects ranging from blizzards to bubble gum.

"I've always loved to write and make up stories," Erlbach once told SATA. "When I was in grade school I'd make up stories about children while I lay in bed." Written after she finally took those stories seriously, Does Your Nose Get in the Way Too? follows a teenage girl, Henny Zimmerman, through the trials of Highland High School, where her exclusion from fashionable cliques becomes a personal crisis. In a Voice of Youth Advocates review, Joan Wilson complimented Erlbach's "genuine sympathy for the heroine." Henny thinks cosmetic surgery to reduce the size of her nose will solve her problems, but her father refuses to permit her to have the operation. Despite her nose, which she finally realizes isn't bad at all, Henny establishes a romantic relationship which relieves her anxiety.

Henny also appears in Erlbach's second book, Guys, Dating, and Other Disasters, in which a school assignment dealing with marriage runs a parallel course with the impending marriage of Henny's widowed father. Drop out Blues is about two cousins who drop out of school and move in together. Commenting on her inspirations for writing, Erlbach once related to Something about the Author (SATA): "I get ideas from my childhood, my son's experiences, the news and kids at the school where I teach. In addition to being an author, I teach elementary school. I am in charge of my school's Young Authors' Program. It gives me great joy to encourage children in reading and writing."

Most of Erlbach's work is classified as nonfiction, and she covers everything from natural disasters, in Hurricanes and Blizzards, to food, in Soda Pop and Bubble Gum, to fun, in Bicycles, Video Games, and her series of holiday books. Video Games contains a concise history of the popular pastime, from pinball to the more recent computer innovations, in a book that "should enthrall aficionados," noted Judie Porter in School Library Journal. Also for middle-grade readers is Erlbach's Happy Birthday, Everywhere!, which surveys the birthday customs from countries around the world and appends a related craft or cooking project to each. Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan remarked that both children and adults would find "plenty to interest them here" when planning a party. Jane Claes in School Library Journal made a similar observation, and in conclusion dubbed Happy Birthday, Everywhere! "a solid addition to any collection on a subject that never goes out of fashion."

Along with the increase in freedom (and homework) that middle school brings come a host of questions, which Arlene Erlbach humorously answers in The Middle School Survival Guide. (Illustration by Helen Flook.)

For young adults, Erlbach has written several books containing information on solving problems, including The Best Friends Book and The Families Book, both of which have a section on resolving the problems that arise in relationships; Everything You Need to Know if Your Family Is on Welfare, and Worth the Risk, the latter which teaches young people about predicting the consequences of risky behavior, either positive or negative. In The Families Book the author spotlights the children of numerous families, who describe how they cope with mixed religious and cultural backgrounds, the illness of a family member, and step-siblinghood, among other issues that commonly arise in families. Erlbach includes information on projects that tend to encourage family cohesiveness, such as making a family tree, and offers advice on how to call family meetings and how to deal with annoying relatives. The result is certainly praiseworthy, remarked Jerry D. Flack in School Library Journal, who stated, "There is not a false note here."

Worth the Risk helps young people evaluate risk-taking behavior and emphasizes the positive results that are possible when the risk is worth taking. The book contains interviews with twenty young people who at some personal risk stood up for themselves or others and found themselves called heroes. From investing in a stock in the stock market to making the choice to risk safety to save a friend, to standing up to bullies, the volume supplements its interviews with a list of books and online resources for readers interested in stretching their personal comfort zone. "The narratives are sure to provoke discussion about various types of behavior," predicted Lynn W. Zimmerman in School Library Journal, while Booklist contributor Shelley Townsend-Hudson noted that Erlbach wisely includes a discussion of "the difference between positive and negative risks" and "helps kids weigh the consequences" of choosing the riskier road.

The rocky, uncertain terrain of middle school is more easily navigated with Erlbach's helpful The Middle School Survival Guide, which is "chockablock with advice about peers, home life, and transitions," according to Booklist reviewer Terry Glover. Containing information organized under titles such as "How Much Parents Should Help" and"Why Teachers Give So Much Homework," the book also handles the more pertinent subjects: those related to dating, sex, drugs, sports, clothes, cheating, and friendships.

Noting that Erlbach's "honest, direct tone … will appeal to middle-school students," a Kirkus Reviewer recommended the book to kids who want to fit in and "be part of things while staying true to themselves."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, August, 1995, p. 1944; May 1, 1999, p. 1584; December 1, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of Happy Birthday, Everywhere!, p. 618; May 1, 1999, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of Worth the Risk: True Stories about Risk Takers, plus How You Can Be One, Too, p. 1584; September 15, 2002, Kathy Broderick, review of Merry Christmas, Everywhere!, p. 245; September 15, 2003, Terry Glover, review of The Middle School Survival Guide, p. 233.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2003, review of The Middle School Survival Guide, p. 858.

School Library Journal, September, 1987, Joyce Adams Burner, review of Does Your Nose Get in the Way, Too?, p. 195; October, 1987, pp. 149-150; June, 1995, Judie Porter, review of Video Games, p. 118; August, 1996, Jerry D. Flack, review of The Families Book, p. 153; February, 1998, Jane Claes, review of Happy Birthday, Everywhere!, p. 98; August, 1999, Lynn W. Zimmerman, review of Worth the Risk, pp. 168-169; December 2000, Betsy Barnett, review of Happy New Year, Everywhere!, p. 132; October, 2002, Mara Alpert, review of Hanukkah: Celebrating the Holiday of Light and Merry Christmas, Everywhere!, p. 58; September, 2003, Sheilah Kosco, review of The Middle School Survival Guide, p. 229.

Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1987, Joan Wilson, review of Does Your Nose Get in the Way, Too?, pp. 200-201; June, 1988, p. 85; December, 1987, p. 234.


Arlene Erlbach Home Page, http://hometown.aol.com/niuherb/AErlbach.html (May 3, 2005).

Free Spirit Publishing Web site, http://www.freespirit/com/ (May 3, 2005), "Arlene Erlbach."

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