Programs - 2001
Introduction of Michelle Edwards
by Kaye Anderson, Ph.D.
Department of Teacher Education
California State University, Long Beach
It is indeed a pleasure and an honor to introduce to you
today our featured speaker Michelle Edwards, an extremely talented author
and illustrator whose work has received many awards for excellence.
Michelle was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1955 and grew up in Troy,
New York, where she delighted in reading, writing, and listening to stories.
Very early she wanted to be an artist, and she began collecting stories
in earnest when she lived on a Kibbutz in Israel.
She graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude from the State University
of New York at Albany; she studied at the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem,
and earned her Masters of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking from the University
After years of printing etchings and making her stories and pictures into
handmade books, she decided to pursue a career in childrens books.
Her illustrations have also appeared in childrens magazines, and her
paintings have been used as cards and logos.
From the work, one knows the worker. From the covers of her books displayed
here as well as the annotated bibliography in the handout [see
Books by Michelle Edwards below], you can see that Michelles work
reveals that she is a caring, observant, sensitive artist with a wide range
Her books reveal themes of family and friendship, including the importance
of intergenerational connections, of preserving ones memories, and
of finding ways to honor those one cares deeply about.
She often focuses on literacy studies with traditional topics such as the
alphabet, language study, and Hebrew while simultaneously intuitively embracing
the broadened definition of literacy which includes the arts, as she depicts
artists, paintings and illustrations, as well as dance and drama.
Cultural and religious traditions are celebrated, revealing fascinating
aspects of Judaism, Jewish traditions, and even life on a kibbutz.
Appreciation for diversity is honored with myriad settings in the United
States from the rural Midwest to decidedly urban schools, extending internationally
to Costa Rica and Israel, and with protagonists ranging from the youngest
children to the very elderly and including both the healthy and the handicapped.
Her new Jackson Friends series provides chapter books for newly fluent readers
which portrays children in a school milieu struggling with integrity amid
anxious and ambivalent feelings, new experiences, and experimentation with
human relationships and problem solving to resolve the very traumatic yet
often extremely mundane conflicts with which children can relate.
We are grateful to Victoria Tisch and Harcourt Childrens Books for
sponsoring her visit, and we are glad that she was persuaded to temporarily
leave her husband and three daughters in St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as
her big green Barcalounger in her lively studio where she often sits to
create ideas for her stories so that she could be with us today.
Michelles presentation/slide show entitled The Jackson Friends
and the Legacy of Lois Lenski highlights her new series of easy-reader
chapter books. In connecting Lenskis books to her philosophy and ideas,
she pays tribute to the inspiration she received from Lois Lenski. Following
the session Michelle is willing to respond to the questions of participants.
Please join me in extending a very warm welcome to Michelle Edwards.
Books by Michelle
Alex and the Night Noises
(scheduled to be released in June 2002).
The Talent Show. (scheduled to be released in April, 2002).
San Diego: Harcourt, Inc. Jackson Friends Book Three.
Related topics include: Fiction, stage fright, talent shows, schools,
Papas Latkes. (scheduled to be released in September
2001). Illustrated by Adam Gustavson.
Related topics include: Hanukkah, single-parent families, fathers,
Meeras Blanket (date for release not set). NY: Lothrop,
Lee and Shepard Books.
Related topics: Blankets, fiction, babies, mother and child, families.
Onion Boy (date for release not set). NY: Lothrop, Lee and
Zero Grandparents (2001). San Diego: Harcourt, Inc. Jackson
Friends Book Two. Junior Library Guild Selection.
Related topics: Fiction, grandmothers, schools, multigenerational
When all the second graders are excited about bringing their grandparents
to school for Grandparents Day, Calliope James is distraught because her
grandparents are no longer living. After considering several alternatives,
she reaches an ingenious solution to her emotional dilemma.
Pa Lias First Day (1999). San Diego: Harcourt Brace,
Inc. Jackson Friends Book One. Junior Library Guild Selection. Parents
Guide to Childrens Media Award.
Related topics: Juvenile fiction, changing schools, making friends,
emotions and feelings.
Anxious over the first day at her new magnet school, Pa Lia gets two of
her classmates and herself in trouble when she passes a humorous note.
They so admire her courage in accepting responsibility for the incident
publicly that she wins their admiration and secures a friendship which
launches the new Jackson Friends easy chapter book series.
Eve and Smithy (1994). NY: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books.
Minnesota Book Award.
Related topics: Friendship, fiction, gardening, artists, Iowa.
Each gardening season Smithy shares his farming know-how with his neighbor
Eve who paints a thank-you picture for him for the bountiful harvest.
After many years, Smithy finds a simple but meaningful gift to express
his appreciation for the windows on the world Eve has provided
Alef-Bet (1992). NY: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books. Jewish
Book Club Award. BCCB Blue Ribbon Book.
Related topics: Hebrew language, alphabet, language study, Judaism,
The twenty-two characters of the Hebrew alphabet are depicted alone and
in a noun written in Hebrew script, translated in English, and illustrated
with celebrative portrayals of a family with a handicapped child enjoying
various aspects of life.
Blessed Are You: Traditional Everyday Hebrew Prayers. (1992).
NY: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books.
Related topics: Jewish children, prayer-books and devotions, English,
Hebrew, Judaism, Juvenile nonfiction, children 4-8, Judaism, preschool
Thirteen traditional prayers are depicted in Hebrew characters, transliterated
into a version more readable to Westerners, skillfully translated for
a broad audience, and illustrated with daily activities of three youngsters
to portray that an attitude of gratitude for creation and the creator
can be an habitual experience touching all aspects of life.
A Bakers Portrait. (1991). NY: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard
Books. Childrens Book of the Year - Bank Street College.
Related topics: Portraits, fiction, artists, Jews.
Her too-honest paintings of the mayor and his family puts Michelin out
of work until she finds a way to combine both artistic integrity and her
customers vanity when painting the bakers family.
Chicken Man (1991). NY: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books.
National Jewish Book Award. Hungry Mind Review Book of Distinction. Childrens
Book of the Year - Bank Street College.
Related topics: Kibbutzim, fiction, occupations, chickens, Israel,
Rody, the Chicken man, loves his work on the Kibbutz so much
that others are convinced that his job -- keeping his beloved chickens,
gardening, doing laundry, etc. -- is the greatest job of all!
Doras Book. (1990). Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books.
Related topics: Children, picturebooks, fiction.
To preserve her childhood memories of growing up in northern Minnesota,
grandmotherly Dora enlists her friend the printer to print and bind her
writing and illustrations into a real book. The resulting humorous tale
sheds light on early book production.
And Sunday Makes Seven by Robert Baden. (Illustrations
only). (1990). Niles, IL: Albert Whitman & Co. Published simultaneously
as Y Domingo, Sieto (the same illustrations in a Spanish
version translated by Alma Flor Ada).
Related topics: Days, folklore, Costa Rica, week, juvenile literature,
Spanish language material.
In a Costa Rican folk tale, Carlos is rewarded handsomely by a group of
singing witches when he adds a verse to their song. His greedy cousin
Ricardo, vying for the same prize, gets a just payoff.
Misha the Minstrel. (1985). Iowa City, IA: Holy Cow!
Related topics: Minstrels, fiction, Jews.