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Sheldon Oberman (1949-2004) Biography

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for SATA sketch: Born May 20, 1949, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; died of cancer March 26, 2004, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Educator, artist, and author. Oberman, a diverse talent whose interests included creating found-art objects and song writing, composed books for all ages but was best known for his award-winning children's books, a number of which drew on his experiences growing up in a Jewish family. After studying literature at the University of Winnipeg, where he earned a B.A. in 1972, and at the University of Jerusalem, he completed a B.Ed. at the University of Manitoba and started a career as a high school English and drama teacher at Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate in Winnipeg. His routine of telling bedtime stories to his children evolved into an interest in writing his own stories, which include award-winning works such as The Lion in the Lake/Le Lion dans le Lac (1988), This Business with Elijah (1993), and The Always Prayer Shawl (1994). Oberman enjoyed performing these stories live in front of young audiences, and to keep his acting talents honed he took on small movie roles; he also wrote screenplays and directed short films. In addition, he wrote lyrics for the popular Canadian children's entertainer Fred Penner, and five of the albums released by Penner featuring Oberman's songs received Juno nominations. More recently, Oberman gained critical acclaim for his 1999 title, The Shaman's Nephew: A Life in the Far North, written with Simon Tookoome, which was shortlisted for the Governor-General's Award and won the Norma Fleck Award, and 2000's The Wisdom Bird: A Tale of Solomon and Sheba. Though he developed inoperable cancer in his throat, Oberman continued working in his last months, publishing Island of the Minotaur in 2003 and completing a two-volume set of Jewish folk tales, which will be published posthumously. Other honors earned by Oberman include the National Jewish Book Award and the Sydney Taylor American Librarians Awards; after his death, the Manitoba Writers' Guild named their writing program for emerging authors after Oberman.



Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), May 25, 2004. Winnipeg Free Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), June 10, 2004.

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