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 Picture Books Author of the Month
Marjorie Sharmat
Marjorie Sharmat
28 November 1928 -- ???

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat was born on November 12, 1928 in Portland, Maine to Nathan and Anna (Richardson) Weinman. Sharmat's father was a wholesaler and manufacturer of dry goods and men's furnishings. She has one sister named Rosalind.

Sharmat grew up in Portland and has fond memories of living in her parents' white house with green shutters. She especially enjoyed nongroup activities such as reading, playing the piano, and drawing. She spent a great deal of time reading fiction. "I was deeply drawn to the imaginary world, and I found it in good supply in books as well as movies." [3]

Even as a little girl, Sharmat had wanted to be a writer. Either that or a lion tamer. She decided to become a writer when she was 8 years old. She published a newspaper called "The Snooper's Gazette" with a friend, which had a circulation of about four: her friend's parents and her own. She also wrote her first poem at about that time. It was about a neighborhood dog and it appeared years later in her book The Lancelot Closes at Five. From that point on, Sharmat wrote as much as possible. She wrote diaries, music, poetry, stories, and even a chapter to a mystery novel. Sometimes, she even drew illustrations to accompany the things she wrote.

Her parents always expressed a great deal of encouragement in her writing. In fact, her mother provided the last line to the poem she wrote about the neighborhood dog when she was eight. That was one of the reasons she continued to write as much as she did. Besides writing for her own pleasure, she would write for school magazines and newspapers.

It was not until she started sending her stories to national magazines during her high school years that she realized she needed to fine tune her writing skills. Often the magazines would send the stories back with notes saying that they could not publish the stories, but that did not keep her from continuing to submit stories from time to time.

After graduating from high school in 1946, she went on to Lasell Junior College in Auburndale, Massachusetts. In 1947, she transferred to Westbrook Junior College in Portland, Maine where she graduated from the following year with a degree in merchandising. She had chosen that major because she "thought that it was practical." [3]

When she graduated from college, Sharmat took a position with a department store, but left to take a position in the Circulation Department at the Yale University Library in New Haven, Connecticut in 1951, a position she held until 1954. At that time she transferred to join the circulation staff of the Yale Law Library, where she stayed until 1955.

Sharmat's first published "work" was a national advertising slogan for the W.T. Grant Company for their spring promotion. It was four words long. "I used to enjoy walking into Grant stores and reading my four words. She also wrote greeting card copy for a time, a career path that brought in a little more than $50 for her.

She published her first story while she was working at the library at Yale University. It was a short story for adults. Her second story was an article about Yale. It ended up becoming part of the Yale Memorabilia Collection.

On February 24, 1957 she married her husband Mitchell Brenner Sharmat, who was a realtor at the time and is now an investor and children's writer. The couple had two sons named Craig Lynden and Andrew Richard. It was through her sons that Sharmat found her interest in writing for children. She became interested in children's books when she started to read them to her sons. It can be of no surprise then that she draws upon her family life in her tales.

Finally in 1967, Sharmat's first book Rex was published by Harper and Row. While this did well, it was her third book Nate the Great, which was published in 1972 that really made her a writing success. Nate the Great has become a popular series of chapter books for beginner readers. Nate, who is named after her father, solves mysteries.

Sharmat and her family moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1975, which gave her a beautiful view of the nearby mountains out of her window.

In 1982, Sharmat broke onto the young adult writing scene with her first book, a novelization published by Dell of the CBS-TV sitcom, Square Pegs. Her first young adult novel, I Saw Him First, was published in 1989. She has since continued to write a number of novels for that age group.

Through the years, Sharmat would ask her husband Mitchell for comments about her work because they proved to be both helpful and objective. After a while she realized that he was not just making basic comments about adjustments, but he would even supply lines for her when she was stuck. As a result, Sharmat suggested that her husband write his own books, which he has started to do part-time. Sharmat and her husband have even written a number of books together.

When asked what it is like to work on a book with his wife, Mitchell once responded, "In fact, it's a little hard to tell when we collaborate and when we don't. In any project that either of us does, there is always some consultation and advice tossed back and forth between us ... In the case of our official collaborations, the input is equally divided. The physical work is not, however. Because I'm a poor typist and Marjorie is a good one, the burden of putting the words onto the page falls to her. We take turns suggesting ideas and lines." [3]

"I've named many of my book characters after my family, and readers will find the names (and variations of them) of my parents ... my sister Rosalind, my Uncle Harry, my husband Mitchell, our sons Craig and Andrew, and our faithful dog Fritz Melvin ... I have also used the names of real places in my books, such as Sycamore Lane, which is the title of my first novel and was the address of our house when we lived in Irvington, New York. [6]

"Parts of my real life are mirrored in my books, sometimes subconsciously. But I guess it shows. A woman once rushed up to me at a convention and told me that I look just like my characters. She dashed off without revealing which characters inspired this marked resemblance. I was left wondering whether it was the mouse, the hippo, the wolf, the rat, the monster, etc." [6]

Sharmat has written over sixty books, which have been translated into eleven different foreign languages. Besides writing, Sharmat enjoys drawing, playing the piano, singing, eating pizza, drinking iced coffee, and soliciting favorable comments abour her work-in-progress from her dog.

Information for this biography was taken from:
1) Tracy Chevalier (ed.). Twentieth Century Children Writers; St. James Press: New York, 1989.
2) Anne Commire (ed.).  Something About the Author, #4; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1973.
3) Anne Commire (ed.).  Something About the Author, #33; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1983.
4) "Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Mitchell Sharmat Papers", USM de Grummond Collection; http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum/findaids/sharmat.htm.
5) "Maine Wrtiers: S", Waterboro Public Library; http://www.waterboro.lib.me.us/maineaut/s.htm.
6)"Sharmat, Marjorie Weinman", Educational Paperback Association; http://www.edupaperbacthk.org/authorbios/sharmat.html.

E-SHA A Big, Fat Enormous Lie (1978) -- A child's simple lie grows to enormous proportions.

E-SHA Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport (1980) -- A New York City boy's preconceived ideas about life in the West make him very apprehensive about the family's move there.

E-SHA Gladys Told Me to Meet Her Here (1970) -- Irving waits for Gladys at the zoo, but she is nowhere to be seen.

E-Sharmat The Green Toenails Gang (1991) -- Wealthy Olivia Sharp, secret agent, uncovers several secrets on a trip to Carmel, California to help a friend become a member of an exclusive club.

E-SHA Hooray for Father's Day (1987) -- Father Mule's two loving children spend Father's Day showering him with lively gifts that leave him exhausted, when the gift he really wanted was peace and quiet.

E-Sharmat Hooray for Mother's Day (1986) -- Alaric Chicken is looking for the perfect gift to give his mother for Mother's Day, but it is not easy because he is very particular.

E-SHA I Am Not a Pest (1979) -- Alicia explains all the ways that she is not a pest -- and besides, her family will think she is sick if she changes her behavior.

E-Sharmat I Am Not Oscar's Friend Anymore (1975) -- Oscar's "former friend" relates all the reasons as to why they are no longer friends.

E-Sharmat Little Devil Gets Sick (1980) -- Little Devil unsuccessfully tries all sorts of nasty things to help him get well. His cure eventually comes about, but the reason for it is controversial.

E-SHA One Terrific Thanksgiving (1985) -- Irving Morris, who loves to eat, learns an important lesson about Thanksgiving from his friends.

ABC-SHA Mooch Is Messy (1976) -- Only for love does a very messy young rat clean up his hole to make his father's visit happier.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great (1972) -- Nate the Great solves the mystery of the missing picture.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great and the Boring Beach Bag (1987) -- Nate the Great finds mystery at the beach when Oliver's beach bag vanishes.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great and the Lost List (1975) -- Nate the Great interrupts his backyard vacation to find his friend's lost grocery list, but it has to be done before lunch.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great and the Missing Key (1981) -- Nate the Great and his dog Sludge look for Annie's housekey, which has mysteriously disappeared.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great and the Mushy Valentine (1994) -- Nate the Great investigates two cases that may be connected. One involves a missing valentine, and the other a valentine that came from nowhere.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great and the Musical Note (1990) -- When Rosamond turns a phone message from Pip's mother into a musical lesson with a secret meeting, Nate the Great steps in to solve the mystery.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great and the Phony Clue (1977) -- When he finds a torn piece of paper with only one word on it, the boy detective sets out to find the missing pieces.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great and the Snowy Trail (1982) -- When Rosamond's birthday gift for Nate disappears from her sled, the boy detective decides to unravel the mystery.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great and the Sticky Case (1978) -- Nate the Great and his dog Sludge try to track down Claude's missing stegasaurus stamp.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great and the Stolen Base (1992) -- Nate the Great investigates the mysterious disappearance of the purple plastic octopus that his baseball team uses for second base.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great and the Tardy Tortoise (1995) -- As more and more of his flowers display the bite marks of a tortoise, Nate sets out to uncover the mystery of the reptile's origins.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great Goes Down in the Dumps (1989) -- When Rosamond looks into her crystal ball to to read Nate the Great's future, she sees a new case for him to solve. Her money box is missing, and she wants him to find it.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great Goes Undercover (1974) -- Nate the Great takes on his first night case and tries to solve the mystery of the garbage snatcher.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great Saves the King of Sweden (1997) -- As Nate the Great sets to work on his first international case, he searches for a lost "something" and saves the King of Sweden from a troublesome traveler.

ABC-Sharmat Nate the Great Stalks Stupidweed (1986) -- Nate the Great searches for a missing weed after it disappears from a pot on Oliver's porch.

ABC-SHA Sophie and Gussie (1973) -- Join the everyday adventures of two squirrels as they go on a visit, write a poem, wear pretty hats, and receive an invitation.

ABC-SHA The Trlp and Other Sophie and Gussie Stories (1976) -- Two squirrel friends prepare for a trip, clean house, listen to the rain, and care for a flower.

J-P-SHA Mysteriously Yours, Maggie Marmelstein (1982) -- Named as mystery column writer for the school newspaper, Maggie revels in the power she can exert.

J-P-SHA The Pizza Monster (1988) -- Wealthy secret agent Olivia Sharp helps depressed Duncan find a friend.

J-P-SHA School Bus Cat (1990) -- When Charlie finds a cold, wet cat hiding under her seat in the school bus, she and her best friend Max decide to find it at home.

J-P-SHA A Spy in the Neighborhood (1971) -- Convinced that the new neighbor is a spy, a young boy persuades his two friends to help him investigate.

"Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Mitchell Sharmat Papers", USM de Grummond Collection (http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum/findaids/sharmat.htm) -- While this site focuses on USM special collection of materials relating to the Sharmats, it does provide some great informatin about their lives and works.

"Maine Wrtiers: S", Waterboro Public Library (http://www.waterboro.lib.me.us/maineaut/s.htm) -- Waterboro Public Library has pulled together great biographies of some Maine writers.

"Sharmat, Marjorie Weinman", Educational Paperback Association (http://www.edupaperbacthk.org/authorbios/sharmat.html) -- At this site, visitors will find a brief biography of Sharmat as well as places to look for more information and a list of her works. 

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