Frieda Wishinsky (1948–) Biography
Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Surname is pronounced "wish-in-ski"; born 1948, in Munich, West Germany (now Germany); immigrated to United States, 1949; immigrated to Canada, 1970s; became a sculptor) and Mala (a homemaker) Reches; Education: City University of New York, B.A., 1970; Ferkanf Graduate School, Yeshiva University, M.Sc., 1971. Politics: "Independent (but usually Democrat)." Religion: Jewish.
Special education teacher in New York, NY, Israel, and Canada, for twenty-three years; York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, research assistant for one year; full-time freelance writer. Speaker at workshops on literature and writing for children.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Canadian Association for Children's Writers and Performers, Canadian Writers' Union.
Pick of the List citation, American Bookseller, 1990, for Oonga Boonga; nominee, Governor General's Award, Canada Council, and Tiny Torgi Award for Print Braille Book of the Year, both 1999, both for Each One Special; 100 Best Canadian Children's Books citation, Toronto Public Library, for No Frogs for Dinner; out-standing book citation, Parents Council of the United States, 1999, for The Man Who Made Parks; Book of the Week citation, London Sunday Times, Best of Children's Fiction citation, Yorkshire Libraries, and Children's Choice citation, International Reading Association/Children's Book Council, 2001, all for Nothing Scares Us; Best Book of 2002 citation, Resource Links, 2003, for Give Maggie a Chance; Stock-port Children's Book Award, and Sheffield Children's Book Award, both 2004, and Portsmouth Children's Book Award, all for Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone; Great Book Award, Canadian Toy Council, 2005, for A Noodle up Your Nose.
Queen of the Toilet Bowl (young-adult novel), Orca (Custer, WA), 2005.
Oonga Boonga, illustrated by Suçie Stevenson, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1990, illustrated by Carol Thompson, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998, illustrated by Michael Martchenko, Scholastic Canada (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
Why Can't You Fold Your Pants like David Levine?, illustrated by Jackie Snider, HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1993.
Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone, illustrated by Linda Hendry, HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995, illustrated by Neal Layton, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2003.
Crazy for Chocolate, illustrated by Jock McRae, Scholastic Canada (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
Each One Special, illustrated by H. Werner Zimmermann, Orca Book Publishers (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 1998.
The Man Who Made Parks: The Story of Parkbuilder Frederick Law Olmsted, illustrated by Song Nan Zhang, Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
No Frogs for Dinner, illustrated by Linda Hendry, Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Markham, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
Give Maggie a Chance, illustrated by Ann Iosa, ITP Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999, illustrated by Dean Griffiths, Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Markham, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
Nothing Scares Us, illustrated by Neal Layton, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.
So Long Stinky Queen, illustrated by Linda Hendry, Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Markham, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
A Quest in Time, illustrated by Bill Slavin, Owl Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
What's the Matter with Albert?: A Story of Albert Einstein, illustrated by Jacques Lamontagne, Maple Tree Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
Manya's Dream: A Story of Marie Curie, illustrated by Jacques Lamontagne, Maple Tree Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Just Call Me Joe, Orca (Custer, WA), 2003.
A Bee in Your Ear, illustrated by Louise-Andréé Laliberté, Orca (Custer, WA), 2004.
Just Mabel, illustrated by Sue Heap, Kingfisher (Boston, MA), 2004.
A Noodle up Your Nose, illustrated by Louise-Andréé Laliberté, Orca (Custer, WA), 2004.
(With Janice Weaver) It's Your Room: A Decorating Guide for Real Kids, illustrated by Claudia Davila, Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2005.
Just Imagine ABC, illustrated by Christine Tripp, Scholastic Canada (Markham, Ontario, Canada), 2005.
Dimples Delight, illustrated by Louise-Andréé Laliberté, Orca (Custer, WA), 2005.
Albert Einstein, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 2005.
Airplanes, Teacher Created Materials, Inc., 1997.
Construction, Teacher Created Materials, Inc., 1997.
Farm, Teacher Created Materials, Inc., 1997.
Cars & Trucks, Teacher Created Materials, Inc., 1997.
Boats & Ships, Teacher Created Materials, Inc., 1997.
Nelson Language Arts 5, Supplementary Readings, ITP Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
Nelson Language Arts 6: Going the Distance, Choosing Peace, Supplementary Readings, ITP Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
Nelson Language Arts 3, Supplementary Readings, ITP Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
My Dog Kam, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Moving Away, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Picnic Plans, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Grandpa Moves In, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
First Day, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
A Trip by Train, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Ten Blue Things, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
A Hat for Me, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
All about Miss Miller, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
My Little House, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
(With Sharon Siamon) Canada Day, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Family Night, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Around the World in a Day, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
The Worrywart, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Breakfast in the Bathtub, Thomson Nelson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
David Thompson: Map-Maker, Pearson Education Canada (Don Mills, Ontario, Canada), 2005.
Alexander Graham Bell: Man of Ideas, Pearson Education Canada (Don Mills, Ontario, Canada), 2005.
Contributor of reviews, features, and profiles to "Books for Young Readers" department, Quill & Quire; contributor to other periodicals, including Books in Canada, Parentalk, Canadian Living, Owl Canadian Family, and Publishers Weekly.
Work in Progress
A Frog in Your Throat.
Frieda Wishinsky found success as a children's book author with her first effort, the picture book Oonga Boonga, which earned positive reviews for its warmhearted depiction of the havoc wrought on a young family by a fussy baby. Nothing and no one seems able to make baby Louise happy until older brother Daniel steps in to whisper the magic words of the title, bringing smiles all around. The author "adeptly captures the ordinary but magical relationship between an older and younger sibling," commented Theo Hersh in Quill & Quire, praising the "rhythmic cadence" of Wishinsky's prose. School Library Journal contributor Ellen Fader observed that the story's elevation of the older sibling to the role of hero would be a comfort to those feeling pushed out of the way by the birth of a new family member, and called the book "fun for all who enjoy the warmth and sweetness of a family story touched by just the right sense of silliness."
For early readers, Wishinsky wrote Why Can't You Fold Your Pants like David Levine?, a humorous tale about a boy who feels unappreciated at home because his mother always compares his accomplishments unfavorably with those of a neighborhood boy. When the harried child runs away from home, however, he quickly meets up with another boy, who is fleeing his mother for the same reason. The two decide to switch places, whereupon they discover that their parents really do miss them. Wishinsky returns to the picture-book genre with Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone!, in which a little girl's love for a little boy provides ample fodder for teasing from the boy's friends. When Jennifer goes away for a while, the boy discovers he misses her after all, and decides to show his true feelings to Jennifer, despite what his friends might say. The book's "message about friendship and feelings is implicit rather than explicit, and the book remains light and funny," remarked Gwyneth Evans in Quill & Quire. Indeed, Carolyn Cutt declared in Resource Links, this "delightful story, written in rhyme, will make every reader smile."
Crazy for Chocolate is an amusing adventure novel for young readers in which Anne Banks travels back through time with the help of a magical CD-ROM given to her by a local librarian in order to research a school assignment. With the help of her computer mouse, Anne clicks in and out of fun and sometimes frightening countries and historical eras in her quest for information on the history of chocolate. "Although the text of the novel is extremely simple, readers will be engaged and intrigued by the situations and difficulties Anne encounters," attested Sheree Haughian in Quill & Quire. The inclusion of Anne's report at the end of the book provides appropriate closure for Wishinsky's imaginative story.
Wishinsky is also the author of Each One Special, a picture-book story about young Ben, whose friend Harry the baker is laid off from his job. Harry quickly falls into depression until he and Ben start a new venture molding sculptures out of clay. "As a work portraying 'special' talents and warm relationships between generations, the book succeeds," concluded Mary Beaty in Quill & Quire. Nothing Scares Us, another picture book, tells the story of two seemingly fearless friends, Lucy and Lenny. As they play, they fight make-believe aliens, alligators, pirates, and monsters without batting an eye, yet they both share one fear: admitting to the other that there are real-life things that scare them. In Lenny's case, he is afraid of spiders, while Lucy avoids watching scary television shows like Lenny's favorite, The Creature. "The story successfully illustrates that it is normal to have some fears, and that it's OK to share them with your friends," Sheilah Kosco noted in School Library Journal. Wishinsky also manages to "inject a heavy dose of humor into a common childhood anxiety," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
In Give Maggie a Chance the title character is a shy little kitten who is just starting school. Maggie is good at reading and wants to prove that to her teacher, Mrs. Brown, but every time she stands up in front of the class to read she freezes. Meanwhile, unkind schoolmate Kimberly jumps up and reads with no problem at all; in fact, Kimberly can read while teasing Maggie at the same time! Only when Kimberly turns her mean streak on another student and refocuses her verbal torments does Maggie find the confidence to stand up to the bully. "Give Maggie a Chance would be a great opening to a discussion about bullying or teamwork with a primary class," noted Resource Links reviewer Joanne de Groot.
Wishinsky draws on her childhood love of science and scientists with the books What's the Matter with Albert?: A Story of Albert Einstein and Manya's Dream: A Story of Marie Curie. Both books contain stories about the struggles these two famous scientists faced as children and had to overcome in order to make their great discoveries. In Einstein's case, he struggled to overcome others' opinions of him as stupid: he learned to talk relatively late, causing some people to think he was not bright, and was labeled a poor student because of his tendency to daydream. For Marie Curie, born Maria "Manya" Sklodowska, the challenge was learning a new language and adapting to life as an immigrant after she moved from Poland to France as a young woman. "Both of these books are very reader friendly for a young person who is just beginning to be interested in reading biographies," Karen MacKinnon commented in a Resource Links review of Manya's Dream. In both cases, the scientists' stories are framed with those typical of children who are struggling with similar issues, helping young readers to draw the connections between these famous people and their own lives. "Perhaps the most important aspect of the whole book," MacKinnon wrote in her review of What's the Matter with Albert?, "is that it encourages the reader to believe in himself as Einstein himself did even when others found him to be rather odd."
A Bee in Your Ear is another beginning chapter book. In this title, Kate is stressed out over an upcoming school spelling bee. She thinks she can win, but she struggles with homonyms; her friend Jake, also a good speller, has trouble with silent vowels. They start studying together, but their newfound competitiveness strains their friendship, and in a moment of frustration Kate yells at Jake. Now, Kate thinks, she has lost her friend, and she has nobody to partner with to beat Violet, the school bully and another spelling bee challenger. Reviewers praised the realism of this story; Carolyn Phelan wrote in Booklist, that "most children will feel right at home in the elementary-school setting realistically depicted here," while Resource Links contributor Carolyn Cutt commented that "the dialogue is natural and flows easily. The conversations and thoughts ring true of any student."
Queen of the Toilet Bowl is written for a slightly older audience than many of Wishinsky's works. This book tells the story of Renata, a ninth grader and Brazilian immigrant. Renata's new best friend, Liz, convinces Renata to audition for the school's upcoming production of The Sound of Music, and to shy Renata's surprise she is cast as Maria Von Trapp—the lead. However, Karin, a bully accustomed to being the center of attention, is jealous and sets out to make Renata miserable. Her plan to frame Renata for stealing her watch fails, but Karin then succeeds in striking a harsh, humiliating blow, posting on the Internet a picture of Renata's mother, who works as a maid, cleaning a toilet. Somehow, Renata must overcome her embarrassment and have enough confidence in herself to show her face in school and on stage. "The straightforward, uncomplicated plot is told in short chapters, moving the story along at a fast clip" and helping to make it a good choice for reluctant readers, Amanda MacGregor noted in Kliatt.
"I love writing probably because I've always loved reading," Wishinsky once told SATA. "As an only child, books were some of my best companions. Many of my happiest memories are heading home from the library laden with six books (the maximum you could take out at one time) and opening each one like a treasure. Then would come the hard part; deciding which book to read first. The choice was all mine.
"As a child I had few choices. I had to make my bed, go to school, learn multiplication tables, and do my homework. What to read, on the other hand, was up to me. My parents, immigrants from Europe, never censored my reading and so I read everything: fiction, travel books, history. I especially loved books about magic, adventure, and biographies. The 'Mary Poppins' series was a particular favorite and as for biographies, I loved reading about scientists who changed the world: people like Louis Pasteur or Madame Curie. In my fantasies, I dreamed about becoming a scientist and perhaps discovering a cure for cancer or a new vaccine. (That all changed when I realized I liked the romance of science a lot more than the reality).
"Aside from the pleasure I derived from reading, I soon discovered that I liked writing, too. In seventh grade I had a teacher who introduced us to some exciting literature and gave lots of creative writing assignments. Rereading some of them now, I realize they were full of flowery phrases and elaborate sentences, but my teacher saw beyond that. On one paper he wrote: 'You know how to use words effectively. Therefore you should attempt to read and write poetry, stories, and essays in order to develop your writing talent.' His words have stayed with me all these years.
"I majored in international relations in university. I loved history and political science and still do, but right before entering graduate school I realized that it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. So I started to hunt for a job. I stumbled into an excellent M.S. program in special education and before I could fully think it through, I was headed in an entirely new area. I earned my degree and began teaching. Since then I've taught in three countries and with every age group. Teaching has been rewarding and generally a pleasure. It's also led me back into writing.
"About ten years ago, when I taught in a high school for students with very low reading abilities, I began to search for books at their reading level that would also be fun. At that time, 'high-interest/low-vocabulary books' had hit the market, but the kids and I found the stories boring. So I started to introduce them to picture books that I liked and felt were suited for any age. These books delighted me and my students. They were funny and touching and always universal in feeling. I began buying picture books and early novels with a school library budget that had never been used because no one thought these kids would ever read. Soon I was adopted as an honorary librarian by the head librarian of the school board and was invited on buying trips. On those trips, I discovered Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, Jean Fritz, Katherine Patterson, the "Narnia" books, The Secret Garden, and Tom's Midnight Garden. And then, when I was on a two-month sabbatical with my husband in Eugene, Oregon (where he was doing a family medicine rotation), I started to write. I haven't stopped since.
"Throughout these years of writing, I've learned that publishing is an iffy business, but I've also learned I'm persistent and that there's nothing more satisfying to me than writing for children. It's just what I want to do."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, March 1, 1990, pp. 1350-1351; January 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of What's the Matter with Albert?: A Story of Albert Einstein, p. 886; December 15, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Manya's Dream: A Story of Marie Curie, p. 750; March 15, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of A Bee in Your Ear, p. 1296.
Children's Book News, summer-fall, 1999, p. 7.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1990, p. 588; May 1, 1999; December 15, 2002, review of Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone, p. 1860.
Kliatt, July, 2005, Amanda MacGregor, review of Queen of the Toilet Bowl p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, February 23, 1990, Diane Roback, review of Oonga Boonga, p. 216; November 6, 2000, review of Nothing Scares Us, p. 90; December 2, 2002, review of Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone, p. 51.
Quill & Quire, September, 1990, Theo Hersh, review of Oonga Boonga, p. 20; January, 1994, review of Why Can't You Fold Your Pants like David Levine?, p. 37; March, 1995, Gwyneth Evans, review of Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone!, p. 77; May, 1998, Sheree Haughian, review of Crazy for Chocolate, p. 34; September, 1998, Mary Beaty, review of Each One Special, p. 66.
Resource Links, April, 2000, review of Each One Special, p. 51; October, 2000, review of Quest in Time, p. 12; December, 2000, review of So Long Stinky Queen, p. 15; February, 2001, review of Nothing Scares Us, p. 51; October, 2002, Joanne de Groot, review of Give Maggie a Chance, p. 10; December, 2002, Karen MacKinnon, review of What's the Matter with Albert?, p. 43; December, 2003, Karen MacKinnon, review of Manya's Dream, p. 35; April, 2004, Carolyn Cutt, review of Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone, p. 56; June, 2004, Linda Irvine, review of A Noodle up Your Nose, p. 11; December, 2004, Carolyn Cutt, review of A Bee in Your Ear, p. 24.
School Arts, December, 1999, Ken Marantz, review of The Man Who Made Parks: The Story of Park Builder Frederick Law Olmstead, p. 48.
School Library Journal, May, 1990, Ellen Fader, review of Oonga Boonga, p. 93; November, 2000, Sheilah Kosco, review of Nothing Scares Us, p. 138; November, 2002, Dona Ratterree, review of What's the Matter with Albert?, p. 151; December, 2002, Linda M. Kenton, review of Give Maggie a Chance, p. 113; February, 2003, Susan Marie Pitard, review of Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone, p. 124; May, 2004, Christine E. Carr, review of Just Call Me Joe, p. 127; October, 2005, Lynn Evarts, review of Queen of the Toilet Bowl, p. 178.
Toronto Star, October 17, 1999.
Yes Mag, March-April, 2004, review of Manya's Dream, p. 28.
Canadian Association for Children's Writers and Performers Web site, http://www.canscaip.org/ (May 28, 2005), "Frieda Wishinsky."
Canadian Review of Materials Online, http://www.umanitoba.ca/cm/ (October 3, 2003), review of What's the Matter with Albert?; (November 6, 2005) Dave Jenkinson, "Profile: Frieda Wishinsky."
Transatlantic Literary Agency Web site, http://www.tla1.com/ (November 6, 2005), "Frieda Wishinsky."
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