About the Author
I was born and raised in Montclair, New Jersey, a quick bus ride away from New York City. The city’s skyline glistened like Oz from the town’s highest points, always beckoning me. By the time I was twenty-four, I had my own tiny apartment on the Upper West Side. Today I still live in the same neighborhood, halfway between Central Park and Riverside Park, in a somewhat-larger apartment, where I brought up my two children.
I grew up in a multi-generational home, in a big old house with my two younger siblings, my parents, my maternal grandparents and five succeeding boxers, each one named Ducat. Both my mother and father had been born and raised in Poland, and were forced to leave at the start of World War II. Polish was the language of the house, where we practiced many Polish traditions and ate many Polish foods.
From the moment I learned to read, I loved nothing more. My strongest childhood memory is being curled up in my favorite chair in the living room with a book, my father lying on the couch next to me, with his book. It seemed only natural to me that I should create what I so love. I can’t remember a day of my life when I didn’t believe I was, and would always be, a writer.
I studied French, the classics and comparative literature at Brown University and then, more informally, in Aix-en-Provence, France, for a year. I returned home and started a career in publishing. I have been writing, editing and publishing articles, book reviews, magazines and books ever since. In 2008 I became a regular children’s book reviewer for Publishers Weekly magazine; I report on children’s book events and interview children’s book authors and illustrators for the magazine, as well. I’ve also been lucky enough to be a part of several school communities in New York, working in their libraries and teaching writing, reading and even--briefly, and to my astonishment--second-grade math.
Vincent and Me
When I was about twelve years old, I discovered the poem "Renascence" by Edna St. Vincent Millay. As I write in A Girl Called Vincent, the poem “was a very long one—more than 200 lines—but the rhythm of the words, the very clear images and stirring emotions, kept me reading. By the time I had finished it, I was puzzled, moved and intrigued all at once. I started reading it again.
“That poem was Edna St. Vincent Millay’s 'Renascence,' and I have never forgotten the experience of reading it in my attic bedroom, over and over again, feeling chills and heat and fascination. I was a young girl who believed herself a poet, and this poem was deeply inspiring.”
That experience was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with the poet and her poetry. When I started to learn more about Edna St. Vincent Millay, and found out that she was nineteen years old when she wrote this poem, I wasn’t especially amazed. I was sure I could write a poem like that by the time I was nineteen, or sooner. Her life, however, did seem amazing to me. It sounded romantic and exciting, and I could tell that it was the way she wrote about it in her poems that made it so.
Even though I never wrote any remarkable poems, throughout my life, I have continued to find insight and sustenance in Vincent’s. During periods of romantic heartbreak, I nearly memorized her love sonnets (“You all have lied, who told me Time would ease me of my pain!”); when the wanderlust hits me, I think, “There isn’t a train I wouldn’t take/no matter where it’s going.” And on particularly gorgeous days I find myself proclaiming (in my head, that is): “Oh world, I cannot hold thee close enough!”
The publication of A Girl Called Vincent is a dream come true for me, a dream that I have carried since that evening in my attic bedroom, when Vincent’s words first entered my spirit.
Books for Young Readers and Adults
Becoming Emily: The Life of Emily Dickinson, Chicago Review Press, 2019
An Unlikely Ballerina, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2018
Krysia: A Polish Girl's Stolen Childhood During World War II/A Memoir (collaboration with Krystyna Mihulka), Chicago Review Press, 2017
A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, Chicago Review Press, 2016
Dollmakers and Their Stories: Women Who Changed the World of Play, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2004
R. John Wright: The Art of Toys, Reverie Publishing Company, 2004
A Celebration of Steiff: Timeless Toys for Today, Portfolio Press Corporation, 1997
The Doll by Contemporary Artists (co-author with Wendy Lavitt), Abbeville Press, 1995
Books for the Educational Market
Player Profiles: Serena Williams, Black Rabbit Books, 2020
Player Profiles: Carli Lloyd, Black Rabbit Books, 2020
Cutting-Edge Computing with Raspberry Pi, Lerner Books, 2019
The Digestive System, Black Rabbit Books, 2019
The Respiratory System, Black Rabbit Books, 2019
Major Organs, Black Rabbit Books, 2019
Creepy Chicago, Bearport Publishing, 2019
Sea Monsters: From Kraken to Nessie, Lerner Books, 2017
Movie Monsters: From Godzilla to Frankenstein, Lerner Books, 2017
Native Peoples of the Great Basin, Lerner Books, 2017
Native Peoples of the Northwest, Lerner Books, 2017
Native Peoples of the Plateau, Lerner Books, 2017
George Washington’s Presidency, Lerner Books, 2016
What’s Your Story, Paul Revere?, Lerner Books, 2016
What’s Your Story, Susan B. Anthony?, Lerner Books, 2016
What’s Your Story, Wilma Rudolph?, Lerner Books, 2016
A Primary Source History of U.S. Independence, Capstone Press, 2015
Selected Book Reviews and Articles
The 100th Anniversary of Madeleine L'Engle's Death Finds Her Legacy Thriving, Publishers Weekly, February 7, 2018
Q&A with Emily Arnold McCully, Publishers Weekly, July 8, 2014
Q&A with Gabi Swiatkowska, Publishers Weekly, April 29, 2014
‘Firebird’ Lands on the Page, from ABT Soloist Misty Copeland, Publishers Weekly, September 4, 2014
From African Orphanage to the International Stage: A Dancer Recounts Her Journey, Publishers Weekly, September 18, 2014
Lost Love: Rediscovered Madeleine L’Engle Novel Arrives, Publishers Weekly, May 1, 2008
Good Luck Charms: Book Review
The New York Times Book Review, June 16, 2013
A Child of the Blacklist Becomes a Teenage Spy: Book Review
The New York Times Book Review, October 16, 2011
Cup Runneth Over: Book Review