11 minute read

Elaine Scott (1940-) Biography

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

Born 1940, in Philadelphia, PA; Education: Attended Southern Methodist University, 1957–59, 1979–81, and University of Houston, 1979–81. Religion: Methodist. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, traveling, sailing, teaching.


Agent—Susan Cohen, Writer's House, 21 W. 26th St., New York, NY 10010.


Writer, 1975–. Teacher of workshops for Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, 1978; teacher of writing workshops at Southwest Writer's Conference, Houston, TX, 1979, and at Trinity University, San Antonio, TX, 1980. Volunteer teacher of leadership workshops at United Methodist Church, Houston, 1959–77; volunteer publicity director for Camp Fire Girls of America, 1973–74. Board member and chair of committee on international adoptions, Homes of St. Mark (private non-profit adoption agency), Houston, 1980–89.

Elaine Scott


Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Writer's League of Texas.

Honors Awards

Reading Magic Award, Parenting magazine, and American Library Association Notable Book citation, 1988, both for Ramona: Behind the Scenes of a Television Show; Best Books designation, School Library Journal, and Voice of Youth Advocates nonfiction honor list includee, both 1995, and Children's Literature Choice, and Beehive Award nomination, both 1996, all for Adventure in Space: The Flight to Fix the Hubble; Outstanding Trade Book for Children designation, National Science Teachers Association, and Science Writing Award, American Institute of Physics, both 1999, both for Close Encounters: Exploring the Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope; Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People designation, Children's Book Council/National Center for the Social Studies, and Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice, both 2005, both for Poles Apart.



Adoption, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1980.

The Banking Book, illustrated by Kathie Abrams, Warne, 1981.

Doodlebugging for Oil: The Treasure Hunt for Oil, Warne, 1982.

Oil! Getting It, Finding It, Selling It, Warne, 1984.

Stocks and Bonds, Profits and Losses, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1985.

Ramona: Behind the Scenes of a Television Show, photographs by Margaret Miller, Morrow (New York, NY), 1987.

Could You Be Kidnapped?, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1988.

Safe in the Spotlight: The Dawn Animal Agency and the Sanctuary for Animals, photographs by Margaret Miller, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1991.

Look Alive: Behind the Scenes of an Animated Film, photographs by Richard Hewett, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Funny Papers: Behind the Scenes of the Comics, photographs by Margaret Miller, Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1993.

From Microchips to Movie Stars: The Making of Super Mario Brothers, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1995.

Movie Magic: Behind the Scenes with Special Effects (photo essay), Morrow Junior Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Adventure in Space: The Flight to Fix the Hubble, photographs by Margaret Miller, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1995.

Twins!, photographs by Margaret Miller, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1998.

Close Encounters: Exploring the Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1998.

Friends!, photographs by Margaret Miller, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.

Poles Apart: Why Penguins and Polar Bears Will Never Be Neighbors, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.


Choices (young-adult novel), Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.


Several of Scott's books have been adapted as audio-books by Recorded Books, including Movie Magic, Friends!, Adventure in Space, and Funny Papers.


Texas-based writer Elaine Scott creates children's books that reveal the behind-the-scenes story about how things work. Hearing from her own children the same questions she had once asked her parents, Scott decided to do the investigation necessary to write books that explain the process behind things that interest kids. Scott's daughter's questions regarding her own adoption inspired Adoption, which focuses on what happens when a family takes in a child. Other books by Scott include Oil! Getting It, Finding It, Selling It, Ramona: Behind the Scenes of a Television Show, Poles Apart: Why Penguins and Polar Bears Will Never Be Neighbors, and Adventure in Space: The Flight to Fix the Hubble.

In Ramona Scott follows the progress of a television series based on Beverly Cleary's book series featuring popular pre-teen Ramona Quimby. Illustrated with black-and-white photographs, Ramona covers all aspects of the production cycle, from deciding on a plot and auditioning actors to designing costumes and sets and filming each episode. Commending Scott's ability to clearly explain the technical aspects of television production, a critic for Kirkus Reviews called the book "attractive and engagingly written." Elizabeth S. Watson, writing in Horn Book, remarked on the effective pairing of text and pictures, and added that Ramona is "rich in information" about what goes on behind the scenes in a television show. In the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Zena Sutherland called Scott's text "direct, clear, sequential, and informative."

Safe in the Spotlight: The Dawn Animal Agency and the Sanctuary for Animals focuses on a farm owned by Leonard and Bunny Brook, a couple who rescue abandoned, abused, and neglected animals. After their farm had taken in over seven hundred animals—including camels, elephants, and even lions—private funds could no longer support the sanctuary. To sustain their beneficial venture, the Brookses founded the Dawn Animal Agency, a company that provides animals for use in television commercials and films. Following established guidelines that ensure that animals are treated properly, professionals can film a variety of exotic animals, with the proceeds going to support the farm. In Horn Book, Ellen Fader dubbed the photographs "engaging" and wrote that "Scott's lively reporting is packed with details." Calling Safe in the Spotlight "enticingly formatted," Betsy Hearne wrote in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books that in her text Scott clearly emphasizes the importance "of human respect and responsibility for animal life."

Animals of a different sort are the focus of Poles Apart, as Scott explains how the relatively recent understanding of plate tectonics helps our growing understanding of Earth's two coldest points: the north and south poles. In addition to discussing the movement of Antarctica to its current location, Scott also outlines the history of settlement and exploration in these frigid regions, including the arduous expeditions led by British Captain James Cook along the northern coasts, Norwegian Roald Amundsen to the geographical South Pole, and Robert Peary to the North Pole. In addition to explaining that creatures such as polar bears would not survive the brutal climate south in Antarctica, Scott discusses ongoing research at the poles and includes a useful list of books and Web sites for interested readers. Noting that "Scott writes well, never talking down" to readers, Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan praised Poles Apart as a "handsome, informative book," while in Horn Book Bush cited the "clearly written text" featured in "this attractive geographic history."

Funny Papers: Behind the Scenes of the Comics explores a subject dear to most young readers' hearts: car-toons and comic books. Beginning with a brief history of comic strips and comic books, Scott explains how cartoons are syndicated, printed, and published. She also provides information and commentary on some of the most popular names in the cartoon field, such as Charles Schultz and Hank Ketcham. Kathryn Jennings, writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, claimed that Scott's text read at times like a "well-written but under-researched college research paper," but added that the author describes the printing and distributing process extremely well. "Very readable and lively" was the way School Library Journal reviewer Carol Schene described Funny Papers, the critic adding that Scott's book provides "an entertaining and well-organized introduction" to its subject.

Several of Scott's books focus on behind-the-scenes stories that also take place above the clouds. The details of the space shuttle mission to repair the Hubble telescope are the focus of the award-winning Adventure in Space: The Flight to Fix the Hubble. Scott discusses the problems space scientists discovered in the orbiting space telescope, and then describes the steps taken to solve them. Seven astronauts were sent into space aboard the space shuttle to corrected a defective lens on the Hubble, and Scott provides interesting insight into the personal lives of the men and women involved in this mission, including interviews with the astronauts' Although they share a frigid climate, the two ends of the earth—Arctic and Antarctic—share little else, as Scott explains in Poles Apart, a fascinating exploration of these regions' many differences. (Photograph by Thomas D. Mangelsen.)families. According to a reviewer for the Voice of Youth Advocates, this additional background "enhance[s] a vivid, fact-filled portrayal of an important space mission." Appreciating the "lively text which holds the interest of the reader," a critic in Reading Time applauded Scott's ability to capture the excitement of the mission and recommended the book for children interested in space. The results of the mission are covered in Close Encounters: Exploring the Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope, which contains pictures sent back from the orbiting craft and explains the information scientists have learned about our solar system as a result. Noting the "striking photographs" included in the book, Horn Book contributor Margaret A. Bush added that the volume "extend[s] a marvelous invitation to readers" fascinated by the life cycle of stars, black holes, and the discovery of new planets.

In addition to her nonfiction, Scott authored the young-adult novel Choices. The novel focuses on Beth, a popular high-school senior at Millington High School. Just before an important school football game, students discover that their team mascot has been stolen. Suspecting that students from rival Woodrow Wilson High are to blame, Beth and several friends decide to settle the score by vandalizing the building of their longtime opponent. Although she is only a minor participant in the destruction, Beth is caught by the police and made a scapegoat by the school administration. Placed in a juvenile detention center for six weeks, Beth suffers the consequences of an unfair punishment. Aldor L. Matta, reviewing Choices in Voice of Youth Advocates, highly recommended the novel and stated that Scott "has packed many messages" into her relatively brief text.

Scott once told SATA: "When I write a book it is important to me to tell all the facts about the subject, but it is equally important to tell these facts in a way that is not boring. After all, a book that bores people usually isn't finished, and every writer wants his books to be read. So I try and include anecdotes about real people and real events in my work. Often boys and girls will ask me if everything in my books is true, and I delight in being able to answer, 'Yes. Everything happened just as I said.'

"I write about subjects I know and care about. I believe that without caring about the subject, the writer is in real danger of becoming nothing but a flesh and blood word processor—spitting out facts and nothing more. I think a writer should share himself, as well as his information, with his reader. It should be his voice that says to the reader, 'Come with me and together we'll explore sensitive issues like adoption, or complicated subjects like banking. Together you and I will visit the remote corners of the world, searching for oil with the doodlebuggers.' For me that is the essence of writing—it's really a dialogue between me and my reader. I'm grateful for the reader, and out of that gratitude comes a willingness to share myself and my experience of life with him."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, December 15, 1981, p. 552; December 15, 1982, p. 568; June 15, 1985, p. 1447; September 15, 1988, p. 165; April 15, 1989, p. 1456; August, 1991, p. 2146; May 1, 1992, p. 1612; September 1, 1992, p. 51; November 15, 1993, p. 621; July, 1995, p. 1897; November 15, 1996, Jeanette Larson, review of Adventure in Space: The Flight to Fix the Hubble, p. 604; May 15, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of Twins!, p. 16; May 15, 2000, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, p. 1746; December 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Poles Apart, p. 670.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1988, Zena Sutherland, review of Ramona: Behind the Scenes of a Television Show, pp. 52-53; July-August, 1991, Betsy Hearne, review of Safe in the Spotlight: The Dawn Animal Agency and the Sanctuary for Animals, pp. 274-275; January, 1994, Kathryn Jennings, review of Funny Papers: Behind the Scenes of the Comics, p. 167.

Children's Book Review Service, May, 1989, p. 116; July, 1989, p. 152.

Horn Book, January-February, 1989, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of Ramona, pp. 92-93; June, 1989, Aldor L. Matta, review of Choices, p. 107; September-October, 1991, Ellen Fader, review of Safe in the Spotlight, p. 615; July-August, 1998, Margaret A. Bush, review of Close Encounters, p. 516; January-February, 2005, Margaret A. Bush, review of Poles Apart, p. 114.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1989, p. 770; July, 15, 1988, review of Ramona, p. 1065; September 15, 2004, review of Poles Apart, p. 920.

New Advocate, spring, 1994, p. 149.

Publishers Weekly, December 11, 1981, p. 63; July 29, 1988, p. 233; May 19, 1989, p. 86; November 9, 1990, p. 59; June 15, 1992, p. 105; May 25, 1998, review of Twins!, p. 91; August 3, 1998, review of Adventure in Space, p. 87; May 22, 2000, review of Friends!, p. 92.

Reading Time, May, 1996, review of Adventure in Space: The Flight to Fix the Hubble, pp. 43-44.

School Library Journal, May, 1981, p. 68; January, 1982, p. 81; January, 1983, p. 79; August, 1985, p. 81; October, 1988, p. 158; April, 1989, pp. 120, 150; August, 1991, p. 194; November, 1993, Carol Schene, review of Funny Papers, pp. 119-120; April, 1995, p. 146; July, 1998, Joy Fleishhacker, review of Twins!, p. 91; July, 1998, review of Adventure in Space, p. 35; May, 1998, John Peters, review of Close Encounters, p. 160; May, 2000, Susan Hepler, review of Friends!, p. 164; December, 2004, Patricia Manning, review of Poles Apart, p. 169

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1985, p. 335; August, 1996, review of Adventure in Space, p. 151.


Elaine Scott Home Page, http://www.elainescott.com (September 17, 2005).

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Paul Anthony Samuelson (1915– ) Biography to Bessie Smith (1895–1937) Biography