Susan Pearson (1946–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights
Born 1946, in Boston, MA; Education: St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN, B.A., 1968.
Office—c/o Chronicle Books, 86 2nd St., 6th Fl., San Francisco, CA 94105.
Author and editor. Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Columbia, SC, volunteer worker, 1968–69; Quaker Oats Co., Minneapolis, MN, sales representative, 1969–71; Viking Press, New York, NY, assistant editor, 1971–72; Dial Press, New York, NY, editor, 1972–78; Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis, editorial director, 1978–85; freelance editor and writer, 1985–89; Lothrop, Lee & Shepherd, New York, NY, editorial director, 1989–99; Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA, editor-at-large, 2000–.
New York Times Outstanding Books of the Year designation, and Child Study Association Children's Books of the Year designation, both 1975, both for Izzie; International Reading Association Children's Choice selection, 1982, for Saturday I Ran Away.
Izzie, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, Dial (New York, NY), 1975.
Monnie Hates Lydia, illustrated by Diane Paterson, Dial (New York, NY), 1975.
That's Enough for One Day, J.P.!, illustrated by Kay Chorao, Dial (New York, NY), 1977.
Everybody Knows That!, illustrated by Diane Paterson, Dial (New York, NY), 1978.
Monday I Was an Alligator, illustrated by Sal Murdocca, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1979.
Molly Moves Out, illustrated by Steven Kellogg, Dial (New York, NY), 1979.
Karin's Christmas Walk, illustrated by Trinka H. Noble, Dial (New York, NY), 1980.
Saturday I Ran Away, illustrated by Susan Jeschke, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1981.
Happy Birthday, Grampie, illustrated by Ronald Himler, Dial (New York, NY), 1987.
Baby and the Bear, illustrated by Nancy Carlson, Viking (New York, NY), 1987.
The Day Porkchop Climbed the Christmas Tree, illustrated by Rick Brown, Prentice Hall, 1987.
When Baby Went to Bed, illustrated by Nancy Carlson, Viking (New York, NY), 1987.
My Favorite Time of Year, illustrated by John Wallner, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1988.
Porkchop's Halloween, illustrated by Rick Brown, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1988.
(Reteller) Jack and the Beanstalk, illustrated by James Warhola, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.
The Bogeyman Caper, illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.
The Campfire Ghosts, illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.
Eagle-Eye Ernie Comes to Town, illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.
The Tap Dance Mystery, illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.
Well, I Never, illustrated by James Warhola, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.
The Green Magician Puzzle, illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.
The 123 Zoo Mystery, illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.
The Spooky Sleepover, illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.
The Spy Code Caper, illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.
Lenore's Big Break, illustrated by Nancy Carlson, Viking (New York, NY), 1992.
Silver Morning, illustrated by David Christiana, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1998.
(Selector) The Drowsy Hours: Poems for Bedtime, illustrated by Peter Malone, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Squeal and Squawk: Barnyard Talk, illustrated by David Slonim, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2004.
Grimericks, illustrated by Gris Grimly, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2005.
Who Swallowed Harold?, and Other Poems about Pets, illustrated by David Slonim, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2005.
Hooray for Feet, illustrated by Roxanna Baer-Block, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2005.
Slugs in Love, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2006.
Everybody Knows That! was filmed and released as a video, directed by Chris Pelzer, Phoenix Films and Video, 1984.
In addition to serving in an editorial capacity at several major publishing houses, Susan Pearson has written dozens of books for beginning readers. Beginning with the picture book Izzie, she has also produced the highly praised illustrated books Happy Birthday, Grampie and Silver Morning, the second capturing "the magic of a foggy morning" in Person's "evocative text," according to Ilene Cooper in Booklist. A poet since childhood, Pearson has more recently begun to publish rhymes for children, serving as editor of The Drowsy Hours: Poems for Bedtime and serving up her original poems in Who Swallowed Harold? and Squeal and Squawk: Barnyard Talk. In School Library Journal Lee Bock praised Squeal and Squawk as "a clever, quick-reading collection with loads of child appeal," while a contributor to Publishers Weekly deemed the sixteen poems included in The Drowsy Hours "outstanding," citing in particular the collection's "layered, metaphoric language and equally textured illustrations" by artist Peter Malone.
Pearson's love of poetry—and of books in general—began during her "idyllic childhood," as she once described it to SATA. An only child, she was raised in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Minnesota. "Few restrictions were placed on me. I was never expected to play with dolls or to fit into a particular mold, and was encouraged in all my interests," she recalled. She started writing in the second grade, encouraged by a teacher who insisted that she create a booklet for each subject the class studied. "I decided I wanted my own booklet," she related. "The first thing I ever wrote was titled, 'My Booklet.' It consisted of drawings, very short stories, and some poems."
During Pearson's teen years her family moved to Minnesota. During high school she began to approach writing more seriously. "I think adolescence has something to do with that," the author maintained. "Many female writers I know started writing in earnest during their adolescence, when they were too embarrassed to tell people what they were really feeling."
Attending St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, Pearson majored in English. Lacking just a few credits for graduation, she convinced her advisors to let her write and illustrate a children's book as an independent study project. When she completed the book, which was illustrated with silkscreens, her professor was so impressed that he sent it out to several publishers. Though this early effort never saw print publication, Pearson once explained to SATA that its positive reception helped her believe that she could make writing her career. Her senior year "instilled in me a real feeling of confidence, a feeling that, 'Gee, maybe I really could….'"
Following graduation, Pearson worked at a variety of office jobs. Each time she saved about 1,000 dollars, she would quit her job and concentrate on writing. She learned a great deal about the publishing industry while working as an editor at Dial Press in New York City, and it was during her tenure there that her first book, Izzie, was published in 1975. Three years later Pearson became editor-in-chief of Carolrhoda Books in Minneapolis, where she remained until leaving for several years in the late 1980s to write full time. Returning to publishing in 1989, she served as editorial director for Lothrop before moving to San Francisco-based Chronicle books as an editor-at-large in 2000.
Pearson received critical praise for her book Happy Birthday, Grampie, published in 1987. Every Sunday after church, young Martha accompanies her family to the nursing home to visit her beloved grandfather. She remembers Grampie when he was strong enough to push her on the swings, but now he is frail and blind and has reverted to speaking only his native Swedish. When his eighty-ninth birthday arrives, Martha makes a special card with raised letters that spell out "I love you, Grampie," hoping through her card to reconnect with him. A writer for Kirkus Reviews called Happy Birthday, Grampie "a lovely, realistic evocation of the American family at its best," while in Horn Book Hanna B. Zeiger noted that "this story of a strong Swedish-American family is a welcome addition to book collections."
Among Pearson's books for children are a series of books featuring child detective Ernestine Jones—nicknamed Eagle-Eye Ernie. In Eagle-Eye Ernie Comes to Town Ernie has just moved to Minnesota from Virginia and started classes at the local school. Several of Ernie's new classmates make fun of her clothes and the
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way she talks, and they are quick to blame the new student when food mysteriously disappears from their lunches. Determined to solve the mystery, Ernie discovers that William, one of the nicest boys in her class, has been taking the food because an older bully has been stealing his lunch. A proactive girl, she helps William get revenge on the bully and earns her classmates' respect in the process. Lisa Smith, in a review for School Library Journal, predicted that "children will relate to both the situations and the characters, who are realistic and well drawn."
In Lenore's Big Break Pearson uses the plight of an unpopular adult to show children that there are positive aspects to being different. Nerdy Lenore is the object of much ridicule at her office job, but the only thing important to her is her secret dream of training birds. Every night she returns to her small apartment with bread, insects, worms, and small fish to feed the variety of birds who live with her. Among her many amazing feats, Lenore trains pelicans to tap dance, puffins to walk a tightrope, and flamingoes to perform a ballet. Before long, she appears with her performing feathered friends on television, gets her big break into show business, and becomes famous, leaving the snide remarks of her former co-workers far behind. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that "Pearson's snappy text skillfully holds the reader's attention as Lenore's double life unfolds." Ilene Cooper, writing in Booklist, added that "there is a real message here for children who may need encouragement to follow a different drummer."
Describing her writing process, Pearson once told SATA: "I usually write in the morning. I have a separate room, and everything is there. It's a very cheerful room and I enjoy the sunlight and the company of my cats." She had the following advice for hopeful young writers: "To be a writer, you have to 'write.' You must believe that you can do it. If you want it badly enough, you can do it. But there is no point in wanting it for the glamour because writing isn't glamorous, it's a lot of hard work, and if you don't love words there's not much point in getting involved."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, January 15, 1989, p. 874; February 1, 1989, p. 936; June 15, 1989, p. 1826; November 15, 1990, p. 667; April, 1991, p. 101; January 15, 1992, Ilene Cooper, review of Lenore's Big Break, p. 949; March 15, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Silver Morning, p. 1250; October 15, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of The Drowsy Hours: Poems for Bedtime, p. 402.
Horn Book, May-June, 1987, Hanna B. Zeiger, review of Happy Birthday, Grampie, pp. 333-334.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1987, review of Happy Birthday, Grampie, p. 475; January 1, 1988, p. 59; August 15, 1990, p. 1178; May 15, 2002, review of The Drowsy Hours, p. 739.
Publishers Weekly, February 27, 1987, p. 161; January 15, 1988, p. 94; May 19, 1989, p. 82; December 13, 1991, review of Lenore's Big Break, p. 55; May 13, 2002, review of The Drowsy Hours, p. 69; March 8, 2004, review of Squeal and Squawk, p. 74.
School Library Journal, April, 1987, p. 88; March, 1989, p. 168; February, 1991, p. 73; April, 1991, Lisa Smith, review of Eagle-Eye Ernie Comes to Town, p. 101; December, 1991, p. 99; February, 1992, p. 76; March, 1992, p. 223; June, 1992, p. 100; April, 1998, Martha Topol, review of Silver Morning, p. 108; June, 2002, Kathleen Whalin, review of The Drowsy Hours, p. 124; June, 2004, Lee Bock, review of Squeal and Squawk, p. 131; April, 2005, Linda Staskus, review of Who Swallowed Harold?, p. 124.
Wilson Library Bulletin, April, 1987, pp. 54-55.
Balkin Buddies Web site, http://www.balkinbuddies.com/ (August 1, 2005), "Susan Pearson."
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