Marjorie Priceman (1958–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1958. Education: Rhode Island School of Design, B.F.A.; graduate-level writing classes. Hobbies and other interests: Films.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Houghton Mifflin, 222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116-3764.
Author and illustrator.
Top Ten Picture Books of the Year citation, Redbook magazine, 1989, for Friend or Frog; New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book award, 1999, for Emeline at the Circus.
Friend or Frog, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1989.
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, Knopf (New York, NY), 1994.
My Nine Lives: by Clio, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1998.
Emeline at the Circus, Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.
(Reteller) Froggie Went a-Courting: An Old Tale with a New Twist, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000.
It's Me, Marva!: A Story about Color and Optical Illusions, Knopf (New York, NY), 2001.
Little Red Riding Hood (pop-up book), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Princess Picky, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2002.
Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2005.
Amy MacDonald, Rachel Fister's Blister, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1990.
Nancy Van Laan, A Mouse in My House, Random House (New York, NY), 1990.
Jack Prelutsky, selector, For Laughing out Loud: Poems to Tickle Your Funnybone, Random House (New York, NY), 1991.
Jack Prelutsky, selector, A. Nonny Mouse Writes Again! Poems, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.
Nancy Van Laan, The Tiny, Tiny Boy and the Big, Big Cow: A Scottish Folk Tale, Knopf (New York, NY), 1993.
Lloyd Moss, Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
Jack Prelutsky, selector, For Laughing out Louder: More Poems to Tickle Your Funnybone, Knopf (New York, NY), 1995.
Susan Garrison, How Emily Blair Got Her Fabulous Hair, BridgeWater (New York, NY), 1995.
Amy MacDonald, Cousin Ruth's Tooth, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1996.
Elsa Okon Rael, What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Elsa Okon Rael, When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Mary Ann Hoberman, One of Each, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1997.
Wendy Gelsanliter and Frank Christian, Dancin' in the Kitchen, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.
Phyllis Theroux, Serefina under the Circumstances, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1999.
Katie Couric, The Brand New Kid, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2000.
Avi, Things That Sometimes Happen, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2002.
Katie Couric, The Blue Ribbon Day, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2004.
Jacqueline K. Ogburn, The Bake Shop Ghost, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2005.
Phillis Gershator, adaptor, This Is the Day We Give Babies Away, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2006.
Author and artist Marjorie Priceman is an illustrator who, since beginning her career in the late 1980s, has found herself in great demand due to her humorous and energetic artwork. Although she has created art for the texts of a variety of noted writers, including Jack Prelutsky, Amy MacDonald, and Nancy Van Laan, Priceman has found that illustrating someone else's story is not nearly as fun as illustrating her own. After taking an advanced writing course, she has gone on to pen the original picture books My Nine Lives: by Clio, Emeline at the Circus, and Princess Picky, earning an extra dollop of enthusiastic praise from critics. Priceman's books "are rollicking and riotous," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer, adding that "it often seems as though the borders of the pages are unable to contain the energy of her artwork and creations." Praising the illustrator in a profile for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books online, Deborah Stevenson wrote: "There's a delicious artistic gaiety" to the illustrator's work that recalls "earlier styles; the result is not retro effect, but a feeling that something that's been missing has been restored."
Priceman's first published picture book, Friend or Frog, is based on the frog-related experiences of her family and friends. Her parents were concerned about the welfare of neighborhood frogs; in fact, as Priceman explained to Diane Roback in Publishers Weekly, "I'd be talking to my mother, and she'd say, 'Hold on, I have to go save a frog.'" In Friend or Frog, a young girl named Kate meets a green, spotted frog carrying a towel with the word "Hilton" on it. Naming the frog after its towel, Kate takes Hilton home to live with her. The two become best friends and live happily in New York City until Hilton makes an unscheduled appearance in a dinner guest's teacup. When Kate's unreasonable mother insists that the frog must go, Kate advertises for a new owner for her pet. Monsieur Fromage, a chef, wants to cook Hilton; Miss Lavender kisses the frog in hopes that he will turn into a prince; and Donald, a school boy, has a place for the amphibian in a particularly unpleasant science project. Weighing the options, Hilton decides to return to his home in Florida, and Kate enjoys his postcards. Writing in School Library Journal, Marcia Hupp praised the book as a "rollicking romp" told with "exuberance and humor," while Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper wrote that Priceman's watercolor illustrations "energetically glide across the pages" and bring to life "every humorous nuance" of her cold-blooded protagonist.
Priceman's 1994 work, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, introduces a young girl who wants to make an apple pie but does not have what she needs at home. Though the stores are closed, the young baker refuses to give up; instead, she travels around the world to gather the necessary ingredients. She journeys to Italy to find wheat for the flour, to France to get a chicken's eggs, to Sri Lanka for cinnamon from the bark of a tree, to England for the milk of a cow, to Jamaica for sugar cane, and to Vermont for tart, ripe apples. The book includes a recipe, enabling ambitious readers to make a pie along with the story's protagonist. A reviewer for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books described How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World as a "delightful contrast to more sober-sided narratives of food origins."
Clio the cat is introduced to readers through the faux autobiography My Nine Lives, by Clio. Beginning her nine incarnations in Mesopotamia in 3000 B.C., the precocious puss names the constellations, invents the alphabet, catches a ride with explorer Leif Eriksson, and makes Mona Lisa smile while living out nine lives. While noting that the story has more appeal for adults than younger readers due to its historic references, Michael Cart noted in his Booklist appraisal that "Priceman's hand-lettered text and illustrations rendered in various period-appropriate styles are engaging and witty." "This beguiling spoof is the cat's meow," added a Publishers Weekly contributor, praising the feline narrator's inclusion of several interesting and accurate historical facts.
In Emeline at the Circus, Priceman serves up what a Horn Book reviewer called "a rambunctious parody of earnest and over-serious teaching" in the person of second-grade teacher Ms. Splinter. Even a trip to the circus is drained of all fun by Ms. Splinter, who drones on about significant factoids. Young student Emeline is treated to a more interesting learning experience when she is picked up by a peanut-hungry elephant and made a part of the show under the big top. "Priceman captures the show's frenzied grace in freely painted forms that dance and swirl," noted the Horn Book critic, while Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman praised the illustrator's "wildly exuberant style." Calling Emeline at the Circus "one of Priceman's most intriguing picture books," a Publishers Weekly contributor noted that each scene of "controlled chaos—as animals and performers in all manner of glitzy costume tumble, prance and parade about—attests to why this is called the greatest show on earth."
Other books Priceman has both written and illustrated include Froggie Went a-Courting, a modernized rendition of a Scottish folk tune that finds a lovestruck amphibian hopping a cab to visit the object of his affections—Ms. Mouse. The engagement and the wedding go smoothly, but during the reception a feline party crasher spoils the fun by making off with Auntie Rat. Priceman "more than matches [her] story's zip with gouache and cut-paper compositions in kicky color," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor of the light-hearted tale, while in School Library Journal Faith Brautigam praised the "inventive design and engaging details." Readers are transported skyward, along with a duck, a sheep, and a rooster in Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride, which details a little slice of history that makes a perfect subject for the whimsical author/illustrator. Based on the first successful test flight of eighteenth-century French in-
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ventors Etienne and Joseph Montolfier, the book follows the adventures of three animals who, with no say in the matter, suddenly find themselves airborne, riding the winds over the king's palace in a wicker basket connected to the first hot-air balloon. Noting the "slapstick" quality of Priceman's story, Roger Sutton wrote in Horn Book that Hot Air "has a sort of charm-run-amok extravagance that keeps it aloft," while in Booklist Julie Cummins praised the "buoyant artwork full of swirls and clever details" that brings to life the book's brief text.
Described as "a playful and painless exploration of optical-illusion concepts," It's Me, Marva!: A Story about Colors and Optical Illusions introduces readers to a somewhat confused inventor whose innovations generate surprising and usually unintended consequences. When Marva decides to adjust her Ketcho-matic machine, a sudden eruption of tomato red colors her blonde hair a vibrant orange (red plus yellow). A trip to the beauty parlor and a dose of bleach generates another lesson about the color wheel: when the beautician doses Marva's bleached-white hair with
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red, it turns pink! The transformations continue as Marva makes her way through a color-filled day full of surprises that ultimately result in a budding romance highlighted by Priceman's spunky collage-and-ink artwork. In Publishers Weekly a reviewer praised the author/illustrator's "snappy, humorous" text and added that her "vibrant, kinetic artwork keep readers sailing through an optical wonderland," while Horn Book reviewer Lolly Robinson praised It's Me, Marva! as "an excellent introduction to color theory and optical illusion."
In addition to writing and illustrating her own stories, Priceman also collaborates with other children's book authors by matching picture book texts with her humorous illustrations. In Phyllis Theroux's Serefina under the Circumstances Priceman's "bright gouache … pictures are packed with witty details that extend the story and show a magical world," noted Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman, echoing praise by other critics. In School Library Journal, Miriam Lang Budin dubbed Priceman's paintings "clever, colorful, and energetic," and noted that they "add another dimension" to the story.
Several stories by author Elsa Okon Rael also benefit from Priceman's entertaining illustrations. What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street finds seven-year-old birthday girl Zeesie learning the spirit of giving when she attends a "package party" whereby money was raised to help newly arrived immigrant families. When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street finds Rael explaining the Jewish holiday of Simchas Torah by depicting a girl and her grandfather sharing the solemn holiday celebration. The book's illustrations were praised by Booklist reviewer Rochman for "captur[ing] the Jewish immigrant neighborhood in New York City in the 1930s," while a Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the Priceman's artwork reflects "the sacredness and beauty of religious symbolism" while also reflecting the illustrator's characteristic "playful, deceptively casual style."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 15, 1989, Ilene Cooper, review of Friend or Frog, p. 1470; April 15, 1994, review of How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, p. 1532; May 15, 1995, Julie Yates Walton, review of Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, p. 1650; October 1, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street, p. 324; November 1, 1997, review of One of Each, p. 466; October 15, 1998, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Dancin' in the Kitchen, p. 416; November 15, 1998, Michael Cart, review of My Nine Lives: by Clio, p. 591; April 1, 1999, H. Rochman, review of Emeline at the Circus, p. 1408; September 1, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Serefina under the Circumstances, p. 144; April 1, 2000, Gillian Engberg, review of Froggie Went a-Courting: An Old Tale with a New Twist, p. 1463; July, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of Red Riding Hood, p. 2014; October 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Things That Sometimes Happen: Very Short Stories for Little Listeners, p. 332; July, 2005, Julie Cummins, review of Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride, p. 1928.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July, 1989, p. 281; February, 1994, review of How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, p. 199.
Horn Book, May-June, 1989, p. 363; November-December, 1993, review of A. Nonny Mouse Writes Again!: Poems, p. 750; September-October, 1994, p. 581; May, 1999, review of Emeline at the Circus, p. 320; July, 2001, review of It's Me, Marva!: A Story about Color and Optical Illusions, p. 443; September-October, 2004, Roger Sutton, review of Hot Air, p. 567.
Publishers Weekly, December 22, 1989, Diane Roback, "Flying Starts: New Faces of 1989," pp. 26-32; April 11, 1994, p. 64; February 19, 1996, review of Cousin Ruth's Tooth, p. 215; June 16, 1997, review of When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street, p. 59; August 10, 1998, review of My Nine Lives, p. 386; July 5, 1999, review of Serefina under the Circumstances, p. 20; March 8, 1999, review of Emeline at the Circus, p. 68; March 20, 2000, review of Froggie Went a-Courting, p. 91; June 4, 2001, review of It's Me, Marva!, p. 80; July 23, 2001, review of Little Red Riding Hood, p. 75; August 12, 2002, review of Princess Picky, p. 299; June 15, 2005, review of Hot Air, p. 689.
School Library Journal, July, 1989, Marcia Hupp, review of Friend or Frog, p. 75; May, 1996, Anne Parker, review of Cousin Ruth's Tooth, p. 94; May, 1996, Sabrina L. Faunfetter, review of For Laughing out Louder: More Poems to Tickle Your Funnybone, p. 107; December, 1996, Barbara Kiefer, review of What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street, pp. 103-104; October, 1997, Susan Scheps, review of When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street, p. 108; September, 1999, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Serefina under the Circumstances, p. 207; November, 1999, Veronica Schwartz, review of Zin! Zin! Zin!, p. 59; May, 2000, Linda R. Skeele, review of My Nine Lives, p. 64; June, 2000, Faith Brautigam, review of Froggie Went a-Courting, p. 135; February, 2001, Martha Topol, review of The Brand New Kid, p. 93; July, 2001, Carol Ann Wilson, review of It's Me, Marva!, p. 87; December, 2002, Marian Creamer, review of Princess Picky, p. 106.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Online, http://bccb.lis.uiuc.edu/ (July, 1999), Deborah Stevenson, "Marjorie Priceman."
StorybookArt.com, http://www.storybookart.com/ (February 24, 2006), "Marjorie Priceman."
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