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Picture Books Author of the Month
Judith Viorst
Judith Viorst
2 February 1931 -- ???

Judith Stahl was born on February 2, 1931 in Newark, New Jersey to Martin Leonard and Ruth June (Ehrenkranz) Stahl. Her father was an accountant.

Judith says she has always been writing "or at least since I was seven or eight when I composed an ode to my dead parents, both of whom were alive and well and, when they read my poem, extremely annoyed," [6] At that time, Judith said she was writing "terrible poems about dead dogs, mostly." [2]

After finishing high school, Judith attended Rutgers University and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, an honorary academic society, with a Bachelor's Degree (with honors) in history in 1952.

The next year she took a position as a secretary at the magazineTrue Confessions in New York City. She stayed with the magazine until she took a similar position at Women's Wear Daily in 1955.

In 1957, Judith became a children's book editor at William Morrow, a publisher in New York City.

On January 30, 1960, Judith married Milton Viorst, a political journalist. They have had three sons together: Anthony Jacob, Nicholas Nathan, and Alexander Noah. She lives with her husband in Washington, D.C.

Later that year she left her position at William Morrow to take a job as a science book editor and writer for the Science Service in Washington, D.C. It was through this job that she had her first big break as a writer. She was offered a job as a writer of a science book on the NASA space program when another writer backed out of the project. This was the first book she had published. It was entitled Projects: Space, which was published in 1962.

After completing a number of science books, Judith began submitting poems to magazines to have them published. Her first collection of poems The Village Square led to a promotional appearance on a television show. That show was seen by Charlotte Zolotow the well known children's book writer and editor. Zolotow thought Judith would be a natural as a children's author.

Judith broke into the children's literature scene in 1968 with Sunday Morning a book illustrated by Hilary Knight and published by Harper. She quickly became a success in the field while continuing to write for adults as well.

Judith also received an Emmy Award for poetic monologues written for a CBS television special "Annie, the Woman in the Life of a Man." in 1970.

Starting in 1972, Judith was the author of a syndicated column for the Washington Star Syndicate. She continued to write the column until she started another regular column for Redbook.

Judith's youngest son Alexander went off to college in 1980. With the household change, she decided that she might want to go back to school herself. In 1981, she became a graduate of the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute with a degree in clinical psychology. "Going back to school was really one of the great thrilling experiences of my life .. I had originally thought that I would just take everything I was learning and keep doing the same kind of writing ... Psychoanalytic theory made me realize that everything I heard and saw could be better understood with it. And then I knew I wanted to write more directly about it." [6] It was with her new knowledge that she continued to write books for adults.

"Most of my children's books are for or about my own children, and mostly they're written to meet certain needs. For instance, when Anthony was mercilessly persecuting his young brother I decided to write I'll Fix Anthony to cheer up Nick," said Judith in an interview for Something About the Author. [2]

Some adults have expressed a concern that Judith's unruly characters seem to be unsuitable role models for children. Viorst responded in Writer that "kids need to encounter kids like themselves -- kids who can sometimes be crabby and fresh and rebellious, kids who talk back and disobey, tell fibs and get into trouble, and are nonetheless still likable and redeemable." [3]

She believes that children's books "at their best [when] their language, their art, their seriousness of intent measure up to any standards of excellence ... And the beauties and truths and delights that they can offer to our children can meet the deepest needs of the heart and the mind." [3]

Some of Judith's stories have been translated into Dutch, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. Her book Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and Other Stories has been made into a musical originally commissioned by the Kennedy Center. The lyrics were written by Judith while the music was composed by Shelly Markham.

Information for this biography was taken from:
1) Biography: Judith Viorst; http://www.annonline.com/interviews/980112/biography.html.

2) Anne Commire (ed.). Something About the Author, #7; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1975.
3) "Judith Viorst, 1931 -", Gale Literary Databases; http://www.galenet.com.
4) Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast (ed.). St. James Guide to Children's Writers; St. James Press: Detroit, 1999.

5) "Viorst, Judith - Author", Educational Paperback Association; http://www.edupaperback.org/authorbios/Viorst_Judith.html.
6) Jill C. Wheeler. Judith Viorst: A Tribute to the Young at Heart; Abdo and Daughters: Edine, Minn., 1997.

Picture Book Titles
E-Viorst Absolutely Positively Alexander: The Complete Stories (1997) -- This wonderful Alexander-fest features the complete tales of his adventures.

E-VIO Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1979) -- Follow Alexander as he goes through a day in which everything goes wrong.

E-VIO Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday (1972) -- Alexander and his money are soon parted while he learns the many things that can be done with a dollar.

E-Viorst Alexander, Who Is Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move (1995) -- Angry Alexander refuses to move away if it means having to leave his favorite friends and special places.

E-Viorst The Alphabet from Z to A (With Much Confusion on the Way) (1994) -- Verses that take the reader backward through the alphabet while taking note of some of the anomalies of English spelling and grammar.

E-Viorst Earrings! (1992) -- A young girl uses various arguments to convince her parents to let her have her ears pierced.

E-VIO The Good-Bye Book (1988) -- A child, on the verge of being left behind by parents going out for the evening, comes up with a variety of pleas and excuses.

E-Viorst I'll Fix Anthony (1969) -- A little brother thinks of the ways he will someday get revenge on his older brother.

E-VIO My Mama Says There Aren't Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, or Things (1973) -- If his mother has made other important mistakes, can Nick trust her word that there are no goblins and such lurking around in the night?

E-Viorst The Tenth Good Thing About Barney (1971) -- In an attempt to overcome his grief, a boy tries to think of the ten best things about his dead cat.

Biography: Judith Viorst (http://www.annonline.com/interviews/980112/biography.html) - A brief biography of the author can be found at this site.

"Judith Viorst, 1931 -", Gale Literary Databases (http://www.galenet.com) - This site pulls together information collected on the author from the Contemporary Authors Reference series, which is produced by Gale Publications.

"Viorst, Judith - Author", Educational Paperback Association (http://www.edupaaperback.org/authorbios/Viorst_Judith.html) - The Educational Paperback Association has republished this biography written by Judith Viorst for the Fourth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators.

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