Fran Manushkin (1942–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Surname is pronounced "Ma-nush-kin"; born 1942, in Chicago, IL; Education: Attended University of Illinois and Roosevelt University; Chicago Teachers College, North Campus (now Northeastern Illinois University), B.A., 1964. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, travel, travel! Swimming, bird watching, cat watching, reading, book collecting, snorkeling, theatergoing.
Agent—Amy Berkower, Writers House, 21 W. 26th St., New York, NY 10010.
Writer. Elementary teacher in Chicago, IL, 1964–65; Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, New York, NY, tour guide, 1966; Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc., New York, NY, secretary to college psychology editor, 1967–68; Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, secretary, 1968–72, associate editor of Harper Junior Books, 1973–78; Random House Inc, New York, NY, editor of Clubhouse K-2 (student paperback-book club), 1978–80. Mentor to adult writers in Eastern Europe through International Step-by-Step Association.
PEN, Author's League of America, Author's Guild, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, National Audubon Society.
Notable Children's Book citation, Association of Jewish Libraries, 2000, for Come Let Us Be Joyful: The Story of Hava Nagila.
Baby, illustrated by Ronald Himler, Harper (New York, NY), 1972, published as Baby, Come Out!, 1984, reprinted, Star Bright Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Bubblebath!, illustrated by Ronald Himler, Harper (New York, NY), 1974.
Shirleybird, illustrated by Carl Stuart, Harper (New York, NY), 1975.
Swinging and Swinging, illustrated by Thomas DiGrazia, Harper (New York, NY), 1976.
The Perfect Christmas Picture, illustrated by Karen A. Weinhaus, Harper (New York, NY), 1980.
Annie Finds Sandy, illustrated by George Wildman, Random House (New York, NY), 1981.
Annie Goes to the Jungle, illustrated by George Wildman, Random House (New York, NY), 1981.
Annie and the Desert Treasure, illustrated by George Wildman, Random House (New York, NY), 1982.
Annie and the Party Thieves, illustrated by George Wildman, Random House (New York, NY), 1982.
Moon Dragon, illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1982.
The Tickle Tree, illustrated by Yuri Salzman, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1982.
The Roller Coaster Ghost, illustrated by Dave Ross, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1983.
Hocus and Pocus at the Circus, illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes, Harper (New York, NY), 1983.
The Adventures of Cap'n O.G. Readmore: To the Tune of "The Cat Came Back," illustrated by Manny Campana, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1984.
Buster Loves Buttons, illustrated by Dirk Zimmer, Harper (New York, NY), 1985.
Jumping Jacky, illustrated by Carolyn Bracken, Golden Books (New York, NY), 1986.
(With Lucy Bate) Little Rabbit's Baby Brother, illustrated by Diane de Groat, Crown (New York, NY), 1986.
Ketchup, Catch Up!, illustrated by Julie Durrell, Golden Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Beach Day, illustrated by Kathy Wilburn, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1988.
Puppies and Kittens, illustrated by Ruth Sanderson, Golden Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Latkes and Applesauce: A Hanukkah Story, illustrated by Robin Spowart, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.
(Compiler) Glow in the Dark Mother Goose, illustrated by Mary Grace Eubank, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1990.
(With Lucy Bate) Be Brave, Baby Rabbit, illustrated by Diane de Groat, Crown (New York, NY), 1990.
(Adaptor) Walt Disney Pictures Presents: The Prince and the Pauper (based on the film), illustrated by Russell Schroeder and Don Williams, Western Publishing (Racine, WI), 1990.
Hello World: Travel along with Mickey and His Friends, illustrated by Juan Ortiz and Phil Bliss, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1991.
Walt Disney's 101 Dalmatians: A Counting Book, illustrated by Russell Hicks, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1991.
The Best Toy of All, illustrated by Robin Ballard, Dutton (New York, NY), 1992.
My Christmas Safari, illustrated by R. W. Alley, Dial (New York, NY), 1993.
(Compiler) Somebody Loves You: Poems of Friendship and Love, illustrated by Jeff Shelly, Disney Press (New York, NY), 1993.
Let's Go Riding in Our Strollers, illustrated by Benrei Huang, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1993.
Peeping and Sleeping, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas, Clarion (New York, NY), 1994.
The Matzah That Papa Brought Home, illustrated by Ned Bittinger, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.
Starlight and Candles: The Joys of the Sabbath, illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
Miriam's Cup: A Passover Story, illustrated by Bob Dacey, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
Come, Let Us Be Joyful!: The Story of Hava Nagilah, illustrated by Rosalind Charney Kaye, UAHC Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Sophie and the Shofar: A New Year's Story, illustrated by Rosalind Charney Kaye, UAHC Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Daughters of Fire: Heroines of the Bible, illustrated by Uri Shulevitz, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 2001.
Hooray for Hanukkah!, Random House (New York, NY), 2001.
The Little Sleepyhead, illustrated by Leonid Gore, Dutton (New York, NY), 2004.
(With George Foreman) George Forman: Let George Do It!, illustrated by Whitney Martin, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
NOVELS; "ANGEL CORNERS" SERIES; FOR CHILDREN
Rachel, Meet Your Angel, Puffin (New York, NY), 1995.
Toby Takes the Cake, Puffin (New York, NY), 1995.
Lulu's Mixed-Up Movie, Puffin (New York, NY), 1995.
Val McCall, Ace Reporter?, Puffin (New York, NY), 1995.
Work in Progress
"BRRR!" Said the Shivers, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky; Grandma Beatrice Brings Sprink to Minsk, illustrated by Holly Berry; and The Tushy Book, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre.
Fran Manushkin is the author of numerous books for young readers. Noted for her whimsical imagination and her lovingly drawn characters, Manushkin's works range from such entertaining picture books as Baby, Moon Dragon, and The Tickle Tree to novels like Lulu's Mixed-Up Movie and Val McCall, Ace Reporter?, both part of her "Angel Corners" series for girls. In addition, she is the author of several books that portray children and their parents celebrating both Jewish and Christian holidays. In a writing career that has spanned over two decades, Manushkin provides young children with a window on a world where even the simplest things are transformed into joyous events.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1942, Manushkin never thought she would grow up to be an author. Instead, upon graduating from high school, she went to college and earned a teaching certificate. After a four-month stint as a substitute teacher, however, Manushkin decided to abandon the idea of a career in teaching. What she really wanted was to live in New York City, and a job at the Illinois pavilion during the 1964 World's Fair got her there. After the fair ended, Manushkin remained in Manhattan and began a new career, this time in publishing. She worked for a series of book publishers, including Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Harper & Row, and Random House, where she met a host of people who inspired her to try her hand at writing books for children.
Manushkin's first book, Baby, was published in 1972; proving perennially popular with readers, it was reissued as Baby, Come Out! in 1984 and has been translated into eight other languages. Baby is the lighthearted story of a not-quite-yet-born baby who decides that Mom's tummy suits her just fine—until Daddy comes home promising kisses that she cannot feel. Horn Book reviewer Sidney D. Long praised Manushkin's first effort as a "special book for mothers-to-be to share with their other children."
"My stories tend to grow from a single image," Manushkin once told SATA. "Baby, for example, blossomed from an image I had in my head of a mother communicating with her newborn baby. That image metamorphosed into a mother communicating with the child she is carrying in her womb. When the child said, 'I don't want to be born,' it just happened. I did not plan it. I didn't have a plot in mind." Before she became a writer herself, Manushkin believed that books "existed in a pure state in author's heads," with their endings perfectly well thought out. "That simply isn't true," she explained. "Books develop according to their own time. You cannot dictate that a book be born; neither can you dictate to a book. Listen," she added, "really listen, and your book will speak."
Baby was the first of many imaginative books that Manushkin has written for children, each one evolving out of an image or idea. In Swinging and Swinging a young girl on a swing soon finds that she has passen-
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gers; first a soft, puffy cloud, then the cheery sun, the moon, and a rain of stars join her. As she drifts into a drowsy half-sleep the moon and stars climb back up into the sky and night falls. In The Tickle Tree a young squirrel in the mood for a belly-grabbing tickle gets his friends to stack up and help him reach the top of a feather-leafed palm tree—which causes such a giggle that the animal tower soon topples like a laughing house of cards.
"Whether you know it or not, every book you write is about yourself," Manushkin explained. "Hocus and Pocus at the Circus, for example, is about my sister and myself—but I'm not telling who the nice sister is!" Geared for beginning readers, Hocus and Pocus at the Circus is about two witches—one mean, the other nice—who are busy laying plans for Halloween night. While Hocus plots to cause havoc at a circus, Pocus misspeaks her spells and ends up adding to the circus-goers' fun by turning rubber balls into puppies and her-self into a squealing baby pig, and ends the evening by shooting her sister out of a cannon (harmlessly, of course!). A world where magic is possible also figures in Moon Dragon, a trickster tale wherein a tiny mouse devises a way to fool a huge, fire-breathing dragon that has eaten everything in sight and now wants the mouse for dessert. Noting that the author's "magic touch invests all her stories," a Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Moon Dragon "is one of [Manushkin's] best."
Manushkin has also written a number of well-received picture books for preschoolers, including Let's Go Riding in Our Strollers and Peeping and Sleeping. Featuring a lively, rhyming verse text, Let's Go Riding in Our Strollers presents all of the excitement of the urban outdoors as seen through the eyes of toddlers in strollers on their adventurous trip to the park. Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper praised Manushkin's "exuberant text" in Let's Go Riding in Our Strollers, concluding that the book is "fun to look at and to read." Peeping and Sleeping centers on a peeping noise that is keeping little Barry awake. Barry's father takes the young child out to the pond to investigate, and soon the boy's fears turn to curiosity and wonder at the busy activities of nocturnal creatures. School Library Journal contributor Lisa Wu Stowe praised "Manushkin's wonderfully realistic dialogue and evocative descriptions of a warm spring night's walk" in Peeping and Sleeping. A Publishers Weekly reviewer maintained: "Especially well captured is the trembling mixture of fear and giddiness that accompanies children's nighttime excursions." In another favorable estimation, Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman asserted: "Although rooted in reality, the story with its gentle reversals creates a sense of hidden wonder, of magic and mischief in a hushed nighttime landscape."
Some of Manushkin's books for younger readers are designed as bedtime stories. The Little Sleepyhead features a young troublemaker who, after a day at play, wants to find a soft place to sleep. But grass tickles him, trees are too bumpy, and the bear snores. The child is eventually able to find a bed of feathers, and coaxes a lamb to snuggle with him as he drifts off to sleep. "The last sentence makes it perfect for the last story before bed," noted a critic for Kirkus Reviews. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Manushkin has created "an appealing toddler-size adventure, casting her spell from the opening words."
Manushkin also teamed up with celebrity George Foreman on a book for young readers, Let George Do It!, which recounts misadventures in the real-life Foreman family, where all the boys and their father are named George. "Youngsters will find plenty of laughs in the premise," promised a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
For older readers, Manushkin has created the "Angel Corners" series, which takes place in the town of Angel Corners and also has guardian angels as characters. In
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Rachel, Meet Your Angel, the first book of the series, a lonely fifth grader who finds herself friendless after a move to a new town suddenly finds Merribel, a guardian-angel apprentice, looking over her shoulder. Things soon start to improve for Rachel; she meets three friends and together the girls find a way to raise the money needed to repair the town clock. "Middlegrade girls whose taste in novels runs to the fanciful will find the inaugural novel in the Angel Corners series a fun—if flighty—read," asserted a Publishers Weekly commentator. Other books in the series, each of which feature a different girl and her guardian angel, include Toby Takes the Cake and Lulu's Mixed-Up Movie.
In addition to her purely fictional tales, Manushkin has written several books that weave warm, joyous imagery into tradition-based religious holidays. Although Manushkin grew up in a Jewish home and is, herself, Jewish, her first holiday tales revolved around Christmas, including My Christmas Safari, a retelling of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" using African jungle motifs, and The Perfect Christmas Picture. The latter title, which tells the story of perplexed photographer Mr. Green attempting to get his whole family together for a holiday snapshot, "is about my family—the way I wish my family had been," the author explained to SATA. "I suppose the 'message' in that book has to do with acceptance in a rather odd, madcap family." The Green family is indeed madcap; the picture-taking process
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lasts a full nine months due to the fact that it is constantly thwarted by giggling, pinching, blinking eyes, and countless other minor disasters. Horn Book reviewer Mary M. Burns praised Manushkin for the "pleasant, unhackneyed lilt" she brings to the book's text.
Manushkin has written books about traditional Jewish holidays as well. Among these are The Matzah That Papa Brought Home, Miriam's Cup, and Hooray for Hanukkah! Reviews of The Matzah That Papa Brought Home characterize the favorable critical reception of these works. A cumulative Passover tale for preschoolers and beginning readers, the picture book was dubbed "a unique, lively offering" by School Library Journal contributor Marcia Posner. Stephanie Zvirin, in Booklist, maintained that "what the book actually does best is convey the feeling of closeness and community engendered by the celebration." Miriam's Cup compares a young girl named Miriam to her Biblical namesake in a retelling of the story of Passover. A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that the book is "likely to become a favorite holiday read-aloud." Hooray for Hanukkah! explains the traditions of the winter holiday from the perspective of the family menorah. A School Library Journal reviewer called the book "a sweetly old-fashioned story." Several of Manushkin's other titles also have Jewish themes; Come Let Us Be Joyful: The Story of Hava Nagila explains the history of a popular Jewish song, and Sophie and the Shofar is a tale of family, the High Holy Days, and the traditional blowing of the shofar.
Manushkin confessed in an interview with Kathleen O'Grady on the Women's Studies Resources at the University of Iowa Web site that she was, at first, nervous about writing picture books about Judaism; her anxieties came to a head when she began working on Daughters of Fire. "I was terrified to do this book," she told O'Grady. "I thought only men with grey beards were allowed to write Jewish books." Unlike Manushkin's previous stories of Jewish tradition, Daughters of Fire collects the stories of ten women of the Hebrew Bible, revealing for young readers the history of Judaism as told from a feminine point of view. The tales of Eve, Miriam, Hannah, Queen Esther, and others are fleshed out by combining scripture with Jewish legends and folklore, giving them "the richness and complexity of the wider Jewish traditions," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. "This is the longest book I've ever written," Manushkin told O'Grady, and explained, "It took me so long to realize that I had as much right to write these stories as so many other people." Amy Lilien-Harper noted in School Library Journal that "the author's lyrical, slightly old-fashioned writing fits her topic," while GraceAnne A. DeCandido, writing for Booklist, felt that in Daughters of Fire Manushkin "adds a spirited freshness to the tales."
Manushkin once offered to SATA her advice for young writers-to-be: "In my years as a writer and editor I have learned a few things I would like to pass on: don't give up on a book even if lots of editors reject it, keep sending it around … and don't be nervous if you've started writing something but don't know where it is going—be willing to discover the book as it evolves."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, June 1, 1993, Ilene Cooper, review of Let's Go Riding in Our Strollers, p. 1858; July, 1993, p. 1971; June, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of Peeping and Sleeping, p. 1841; January 15, 1995, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Matzah That Papa Brought Home, p. 937; December 15, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Daughters of Fire: Heroines of the Bible, p. 726; May 1, 2004, "Good Night, Sleep Tight," p. 1563.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April 1972, p. 127; September 1980, p. 16; September 1982, p. 16; February 1983, p. 113; November 1990, pp. 64-65; January, 2002, review of Daughters of Fire, p. 178.
Horn Book, June, 1972, Sidney D. Long, review of Baby, p. 261; December 1980, Mary M. Burns, review of The Perfect Christmas Picture, p. 626.
Junior Bookshelf, August, 1978, p. 188.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1972, p. 321; May 1, 1974, p. 476; August 15, 1982, p. 935; October 15, 1993, p. 1332; July 15, 1995, p. 1028; September 1, 2001, review of Daughters of Fire, p. 1296; May 1, 2004, review of The Little Sleepyhead, p. 445; May 1, 2005, review of Let George Do It!, p. 538.
Publishers Weekly, April 30, 1982, review of Moon Dragon, p. 59; July 25, 1986, p. 186; September 14, 1990, p. 123; September 20, 1993, p. 34; April 25, 1994, review of Peeping and Sleeping, p. 77; February 6, 1995, review of Rachel, Meet Your Angel!, p. 86; December 22, 1997, review of Miriam's Cup: A Passover Story, p. 54; August 27, 2001, review of Daughters of Fire, p. 81; September 24, 2001, review of Hooray for Hanukkah!, p. 48; May 31, 2004, review of The Little Sleepyhead, p. 73; May 23, 2005, review of Let George Do It!, p. 77.
Quill & Quire, December, 1990, p. 19.
Reading Teacher, April, 1999, review of Miriam's Cup, p. 762.
School Library Journal, November, 1976, p. 50; June, 1992, p. 99; October, 1992, p. 46; June, 1994, Lisa Wu Stowe, review of Peeping and Sleeping, p. 110; February, 1995, Marcia Posner, review of The Matzah That Papa Brought Home, p. 76; February, 1998, Susan Pine, review of Miriam's Cup, p. 88; October, 2001, Amy Lilien-Harper, review of Daughters of Fire, p. 188; October, 2001, review of Hooray for Hanukkah!, p. 67; January, 2002, Linda R. Silver, review of Sophie and the Shofar: A New Year's Story, p. 106; September, 2004, Shelley B. Sutherland, review of The Little Sleepyhead, p. 173.
Social Education, May, 1999, review of Miriam's Cup, p. 14.
Fran Manushkin Home Page, http://www.franmanushkin.com (December 1, 2005).
Women's Studies Resources at the University of Iowa Web site, http://bailiwick.lib.uiowa.edu/wstudies/ (September 15, 2004), Kathleen O'Grady, interview with Manushkin.
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