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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 of Iowa.

After years of printing etchings and making her stories and pictures into handmade books, she decided to pursue a career in children’s books. Her illustrations have also appeared in children’s 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 Michelle’s work reveals that she is a caring, observant, sensitive artist with a wide range of interests.

Her books reveal themes of family and friendship, including the importance of intergenerational connections, of preserving one’s 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 Children’s 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.

Michelle’s presentation/slide show entitled “The Jackson Friends and the Legacy of Lois Lenski” highlights her new series of easy-reader chapter books. In connecting Lenski’s 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 Edwards

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, grandmothers.

Papa’s Latkes. (scheduled to be released in September 2001). Illustrated by Adam Gustavson.
Related topics include: Hanukkah, single-parent families, fathers, Jews.

Meera’s 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 Shepard Books.

Zero Grandparents (2001). San Diego: Harcourt, Inc. Jackson Friends Book Two. Junior Library Guild Selection.
Related topics: Fiction, grandmothers, schools, multigenerational families.
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 Lia’s First Day (1999). San Diego: Harcourt Brace, Inc. Jackson Friends Book One. Junior Library Guild Selection. Parent’s Guide to Children’s 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 for him.

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, juvenile literature.
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 religion.
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 Baker’s Portrait. (1991). NY: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books. Children’s 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 baker’s family.

Chicken Man (1991). NY: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books. National Jewish Book Award. Hungry Mind Review Book of Distinction. Children’s Book of the Year - Bank Street College.
Related topics: Kibbutzim, fiction, occupations, chickens, Israel, farm animals.
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!

Dora’s 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.

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