David Elliott (1952-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1952; Education: School of International Training, M.A.
Office—Department of Humanities, Colby-Sawyer College, 541 Main St., New London, NH03257.
Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH, instructor and director of English language and American culture program.
An Alphabet of Rotten Kids, illustrated by Oscar de Mejo, Philomel (New York, NY), 1991.
The Cool Crazy Crickets, illustrated by Paul Meisel, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.
The Cool Crazy Crickets to the Rescue, illustrated by Paul Meisel, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
Hazel Nutt, Mad Scientist, illustrated by True Kelley, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2003.
And Here's to You!, illustrated by Randy Cecil, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle, illustrated by Andréa Wesson, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Hazel Nutt, Alien Hunter, illustrated by True Kelley, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2004.
Elliott's titles have been translated into German and Italian.
Work in Progress
Evangeline Mudd and the Great Mink Escapade, a sequel to Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle, and Herculese Smith and the Wuv Bunnies from Outers Pace.
David Elliott, an instructor at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire, stumbled into his second career as a children's-book author while at a party. In a conversation with a woman named Amy Ehrlich, he began to discuss ideas for an alphabet book, unaware that Ehrlich was a retired editor from Dial Books. She got him in contact with some other editors, and not long after, Elliott was the author of An Alphabet of Rotten Kids. The title introduces readers to twenty-six naughty children, and, according to some reviewers, the humor is reminiscent of Edward Gorey's macabre alphabet book The Gashlycrumb Tinies. "The humor is silly enough to appeal to kids," commented a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Not all parents appreciated the humor, however, and Elliott's first book was banned in at least one U.S. city on moral grounds. Elliott was disappointed in the book himself; he was surprised that the illustrator had depicted the children as all one race. "I joke that the book should have been banned because it's so bad," he told an interviewer for the Colby-Sawyer College Web site.
The disappointment of his first book did not deter Elliott from further writing, and in 2000, a multi-racial group of kid heroes hit the scene with The Cool Crazy Crickets. In the book four friends decide to form a club, and over the course of the story, decide the club's name, find their clubhouse, vote on a mascot, and put together a reason for their club's existence. The Cool Crazy Crickets contains "Quick-paced dialogue, brief sentences and a generous smattering of art," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who noted that these qualities will make the book appeal to young readers bridging from picture books to chapter books. Booklist reviewer John Peters called the book a "light, good-humored tale."
The friends return in The Cool Crazy Crickets to the Rescue, in which all four club members are looking for ways to earn money. Through responsibilities like babysitting, pet-sitting, and building a lemonade stand, they begin to bring in some money and discuss how they will spend it. Then a sickly cat moves into their clubhouse, and they quickly discover the best way to spend their money: taking their new charge to take her to the vet. Roxanne Burg, reviewing the obok for School Library Journal, called The Cool Crazy Crickets to the Rescue, "An easygoing tale about summer days."
Fast food, science-fiction, and Franz Kafka mix in Elliott's The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle, in which the title character begins to turn into a bug after eating too much food from the ominous restaurant Gussy's. When Roscoe begins to investigate, he discovers that Gussy's may also be the reason that several children from his town have been going missing. Soon it is up to him and vegetarian friend Kinshasa to solve the mystery. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Elliott combines "sassy first-person narration and snappy dialogue" to create a story skewed "a few thoroughly enjoyable degrees off normal." Eva Mitnick, writing in School Library Journal felt that "The wacky plot and quirky details … will appeal to young and reluctant readers," while a Publishers Weekly critic praised the audiobook version, noting that "Elliott spins Roscoe's adventures into a breezy funny whodunit with a happy ending."
Elliott introduces Hazel Nutt in Hazel Nutt, Mad Scientist, a story based on old horror movies and puns. Hazel Nutt is determined to cross a vampire with an opera singer; when she brings her creation to life, she calls it "Dracula-la-la." The townspeople are not thrilled with having a mad scientist in their neighborhood, so they approach with torches, ready to drive her out. Instead, Nutt invites them to a concert where Dracula-la-la is accompanied by a living piano named "Frankensteinway." "Children with a good sense of humor should appreciate this book," recommended Kristin de Lacoste in her review for School Library Journal, while a reviewer for Publishers Weekly quipped that "the transmosterfied piano is a hoot."
Hazel Nutt goes through a career change for her next adventure, Hazel Nutt, Alien Hunter. When Nutt and her crew land their spaceship directly on top of the leader of planet Wutt, much confusion ensues, from an Abbott-and-Costellolike discussion about the planet's name to Hazel giving the aliens a ladder. When the ship leaves, the Wuttite leader is miraculously revived. "Elliott's story is nonsensical goofiness," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor, while Lisa Gangemi recommended that Hazel Nutt, Alien Hunter "will be a hit with younger fans" of other goofy authors, including Dav Pilkey (author of Captain Underpants ) and Jon Scieszka (author of the "Timewarp Trio" series).
A young girl raised by primatologists is the heroine of Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle. Evangeline's parents raised her as the golden-haired apes raise their young, and the result is that the girl can use her toes to eat, swing from tree to tree, and complete other daring tasks. When Evangeline is eight years old, her parents leave on a research trip. She stays with her mink rancher uncle, a man who is unkind to animals and the environment and is also possibly plotting against Evangeline's parents! When Dr. Aphrodite Pikkaflee comes to find Evangeline to tell her that her parents have vanished, it is up to Evangeline and her new friend to save the day. The "madcap adventures will appeal to kids with a taste for silliness," noted a Publishers Weekly critic, while B. Allison Gray wrote in School Library Journal that in Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle "Everything is sorted out neatly, but not facilely, in the end."
Although most of his books are beginning readers, Elliott has also penned the picture book And Here's to You! In rhyming text, he raises a toast to creatures of land and sea, from birds to bugs to fish to humans. Andrea Tarr deemed the book "a powerful package," while a critic for Kirkus Reviews noted that the work "will have young readers and listeners calling for another round."
While Elliott's books are lighthearted and zany, their genesis is not necessarily instantaneous; sometimes takes months for an idea to arrange itself as a story. However, Elliott continues to be inspired, and has plans to write a sequel to Evangeline's first adventures, as well as dream up adventures of a new character, Hercules Smith, who discovers a spaceship in his back yard. When not writing, he continues to teach and is the director of Colby Sawyer's English language and American culture program.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 15, 2000, John Peters, review of The Cool Crazy Crickets, p. 240; October 15, 2003, Todd Morning, review of Hazel Nutt, Mad Scientist, p. 418.
Children's Bookwatch, October, 2004, review of Hazel Nutt, Alien Hunter.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2004, review of Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle, p. 132; March 15, 2004, review of And Here's to You! p. 268; August 15, 2004, review of Hazel Nutt, Alien Hunter, p. 805.
People, August 26, 1991, review of An Alphabet of Rotten Kids! p. 31.
Publishers Weekly, May 24, 1991, review of An Alphabet of Rotten Kids! p. 58; June 25, 2000, review of The Cool Crazy Crickets, p. 75; May 7, 2001, review of The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle, p. 247; July 9, 2001, p. 21; October 13, 2003, review of Hazel Nutt, Mad Scientist, p. 77; March 15, 2004, review of Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle, p. 75.
School Library Journal, August, 2000, Kate McLean, review of The Cool Crazy Crickets, p. 154; June, 2001, Eva Mitnick, review of The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle, p. 112; July, 2001, Roxanne Burg, review of The Cool Crazy Crickets to the Rescue!, p. 75; March, 2004, Kristin de Lacoste, review of Hazel Nutt, Mad Scientist, p. 156, B. Allison Gray, review of Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle, p. 156; May, 2004, Andrea Tarr, review of And Here's to You!, p. 109; October, 2004, Lisa Gangemi, review of Hazel Nutt, Alien Hunter, p. 112.
Colby-Sawyer College Web site, http://www.colby-sawyer.edu/(July 29, 2005), "David Elliott."*
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