Gail Carson Levine (Who Wrote That?)

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Gail Carson Levine (Who Wrote That?)

Gail Carson Levine WWT-FM-LEVINE.indd 1 11/9/07 4:39:49 PM LOUISA MAY ALCOTT JANE AUSTEN AVI JUDY BLUME BETSY BYARS

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Gail Carson Levine

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LOUISA MAY ALCOTT JANE AUSTEN AVI JUDY BLUME BETSY BYARS BEVERLY CLEARY ROBERT CORMIER BRUCE COVILLE ROALD DAHL CHARLES DICKENS THEODOR GEISEL WILL HOBBS ANTHONY HOROWITZ GAIL CARSON LEVINE C.S. LEWIS ANN M. MARTIN L.M. MONTGOMERY PAT MORA

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SCOTT O’DELL BARBARA PARK GARY PAULSEN TAMORA PIERCE EDGAR ALLAN POE BEATRIX POTTER PHILIP PULLMAN MYTHMAKER: THE STORY OF J.K. ROWLING MAURICE SENDAK R.L. STINE EDWARD L. STRATEMEYER E.B. WHITE LAURA INGALLS WILDER JANE YOLEN

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Gail Carson Levine Dennis Abrams Foreword by

Kyle Zimmer

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Gail Carson Levine Copyright © 2008 by Infobase Publishing All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher. For information contact: Chelsea House An imprint of Infobase Publishing 132 West 31st Street New York NY 10001 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Abrams, Dennis, 1960Gail Carson Levine / Dennis Abrams. p.cm.—(Who wrote that?) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-0-7910-8970-5 (hardcover : acid free paper) ISBN-10: 0-7910-8970-3 (hardcover : acid free paper) 1. Levine, Gail Carlson—Juvenile literature. 2. Authors, American—20th century—Biography—Juvenile literature. 3. Children's stories—Authorship—Juvenile literature. I. Title. PS3562.E8965Z53 2007 813'.54—dc22 [B] 2007019449 Chelsea House books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk quantities for business, associations, institutions, or sales promotions. Please call our Special Sales Department in New York at (212) 967-8800 or (800) 322-8755. You can find Chelsea House on the World Wide Web at http://www.chelseahouse.com Text design by Keith Trego and Erika Arroyo Cover design by Keith Trego and Joo Young An Printed in the United States of America Bang EJB 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 This book is printed on acid-free paper. All links and Web addresses were checked and verified to be correct at the time of publication. Because of the dynamic nature of the Web, some addresses and links may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid.

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Table of Contents FOREWORD BY

KYLE ZIMMER PRESIDENT, FIRST BOOK

1 2 3 4

FAIRY TALES OLD AND NEW

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GROWING UP CREATIVE IN NEW YORK CITY

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GOING AWAY AND FALLING IN LOVE

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I WANT TO BE A WRITER: REAL LIFE CAREER AND CREATIVITY

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5 6 7 8

BREAKTHROUGH

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I AM A WRITER

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BACK TO THE LAND OF ONCE UPON A TIME

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FAIRY TALES DO COME TRUE

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CHRONOLOGY NOTES WORKS BY GAIL CARSON LEVINE POPULAR BOOKS POPULAR CHARACTERS MAJOR AWARDS BIBLIOGRAPHY FURTHER READING INDEX

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102 104 108 109 110 111 112 114 116

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WHO WROTE THAT?

FOREWORD BY

KYLE ZIMMER PRESIDENT, FIRST BOOK

HUMANITY IS POWERED by stories. From our earliest days as thinking beings, we employed every available tool to tell each other stories . We danced, drew pictures on the walls of our caves, spoke, and sang. All of this extraordinary effort was designed to entertain, recount the news of the day, explain natural occurrences — and then gradually to build religious and cultural traditions and establish the common bonds and continuity that eventually formed civilizations. Stories are the most powerful force in the universe; they are the primary element that has distinguished our evolutionary path. Our love of the story has not diminished with time. Enormous segments of societies are devoted to the art of storytelling. Book sales in the United States alone topped $26 billion last year; movie studios spend fortunes to create and promote stories; and the news industry is more pervasive in its presence than ever before. There is no mystery to our fascination. Great stories are magic. They can introduce us to new cultures or remind us of the nobility and failures of our own; inspire us to greatness or scare us to death; but above all, stories provide human insight on a level that is unavailable through any other source. In fact, stories connect each of us to the rest of humanity not just in our own time, but also throughout history.

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FOREWORD

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This special magic of books is the greatest treasure that we can hand down from generation to generation. In fact, that spark in a child that comes from books became the motivation for the creation of my organization, First Book, a national literacy program with a simple mission: to provide new books to the most disadvantaged children. First Book has been at work in hundreds of communities for over a decade. Every year, children in need receive millions of books through our organization, and millions more are provided through dedicated literacy institutions across the United States and around the world. In addition, groups of people dedicate themselves tirelessly to working with children to share reading and stories in every imaginable setting from schools to the streets. Of course, this Herculean effort serves many important goals. Literacy translates to productivity and employability in life and many other valid and even essential elements. But at the heart of this movement are people who love stories, love to read, and want desperately to ensure that no one misses the wonderful possibilities that reading provides. When thinking about the importance of books, there is an overwhelming urge to cite the literary devotion of great minds. Some have written of the magnitude of the importance of literature. Amy Lowell, an American poet, captured the concept when she said, “Books are more than books. They are the life, the very heart and core of ages past, the reason why men lived and worked and died, the essence and quintessence of their lives.” Others have spoken of their personal obsession with books, as in Thomas Jefferson’s simple statement: “I live for books.” But more compelling, perhaps, is

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WHO WROTE THAT?

the almost instinctive excitement in children for books and stories. Throughout my years at First Book, I have heard truly extraordinary stories about the power of books in the lives of children. In one case, a homeless child, who had been bounced from one location to another, later resurfaced — and the only possession that he had fought to keep was the book he was given as part of a First Book distribution months earlier. More recently, I met a child who, upon receiving the book he wanted, flashed a big smile and said, “This is my big chance!” These snapshots reveal the true power of books and stories to give hope and change lives. As these children grow up and continue to develop their love of reading, they will owe a profound debt to those volunteers who reached out to them — a debt that they may repay by reaching out to spark the next generation of readers. But there is a greater debt owed by all of us — a debt to the storytellers, the authors, who have bound us together, inspired our leaders, fueled our civilizations, and helped us put our children to sleep with their heads full of images and ideas. WHO WROTE THAT ? is a series of books dedicated to introducing us to a few of these incredible individuals. While we have almost always honored stories, we have not uniformly honored storytellers. In fact, some of the most important authors have toiled in complete obscurity throughout their lives or have been openly persecuted for the uncomfortable truths that they have laid before us. When confronted with the magnitude of their written work, we can forget that writers are people. They struggle through the same daily indignities and dental appointments, and they experience the intense joy and bottomless despair that

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FOREWORD

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many of us do. Yet, somehow they rise above it all to weave a powerful thread that connects us all. It is a rare honor to have the opportunity that these books provide to share the lives of these extraordinary people. Enjoy.

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British artist Richard Redgrave created the above illustration, called “Cinderella About to Try on the Glass Slipper,” sometime in the 1800s. The fairy tale of Cinderella has endured over time and across cultures; author Gail Carson Levine’s take on it, Ella Enchanted, became a popular book for young girls.

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1 Fairy Tales Old and New FAIRY TALES ARE much more than stories of princes and princesses, ogres and dragons, or loves lost and won. Fairy tales help shape how we see ourselves and the world around us. Children learn how to conquer their own fears and apprehensions by reading about the adversities that the stories’ heroes and heroines must overcome. The reader, just like the characters in the tales, learns how to emerge from childhood to adulthood. In his classic work The Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettleheim argued that fairy tales are an essential part of growing up. He explained:

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE Fairy tales, unlike any other form of literature, direct the child to discover his identity and calling, and they also suggest what experiences are needed to develop his character further. Fairy tales intimate that a rewarding, good life is within one’s reach despite adversity—but only if one does not shy away from the hazardous struggles without which one can never achieve true identity. These stories promise that if a child dares to engage in this fearsome and taxing search, benevolent powers will come to his aid, and he will succeed. The stories also warn that those who are too timorous [lacking in courage] and narrow-minded to risk themselves in finding themselves must settle down to a humdrum existence—if an even worse fate does not befall them.1

In other words, children use the conflicts, troubles, and quests described in the stories as examples of how to live their lives. Of course, this does not apply only to the older, classic fairy tales. Harry Potter is a contemporary example of a character who shows courage and bravery when he faces evil. This illustrates that the themes in such stories are timeless. Historically, fairy tales developed in large part to serve as moral lessons for their readers. Today’s fairy tales originally existed in a much simpler form, as folktales. These versions were not written down because, in the early societies in which many tales originated, very few people knew how to read. Instead, these tales were passed down orally from generation to generation, and they generally became more complex as time passed. Folktales were a popular form of entertainment. Professional storytellers told stories for money, teachers told them to their students, and mothers told them to their children. Folktales were told as stories, recited as poetry, or sometimes even

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FAIRY TALES OLD AND NEW

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performed as songs. In whatever form they were told, they were intended to be both entertaining and informative. Life was difficult then and conditions were rough, so stories of children who starved and parents who had to abandon their children in the woods (as in Hansel and Gretel) “showed the importance of self-reliance and living by one’s own wits.”2 Interestingly, these early tales did not feature passive and fragile women, as many of their later versions did. In these stories, everyone had to be strong in order to survive. In seventeenth-century France, the wealthy aristocracy began to collect and write down these folktales, making them more literary in the process. At the same time, the stories began to reflect the morals and illustrate the qualities that upper-class children were expected to have in that society. French writer Charles Perrault (1623–1703) was the first to write down stories such as Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and Cinderella. As author Jack Zipes explained, these stories were written to teach “proper young girls” how to behave. Similarly, stories like Puss in Boots and Hop O’ My Thumb were written to provide examples for young boys. The lesson of Sleeping Beauty, for example, is that the heroine has to be patient and wait 100 years for a prince to bring her back to life. In Little Red Riding Hood, the reader learns that good girls are pretty, polite, and never talk to strangers; otherwise, a wolf will attack them. (The wolf is a metaphor, a symbolic representation, for male sexual aggression.) In Cinderella, perhaps the most famous fairy tale of all, hard work, sweetness, and kindness are rewarded. It is clear from the story, however, that these attributes are not quite enough: Before she is rewarded, the girl must also be clean and well dressed.

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE The story of Cinderella has been popular throughout time in a wide variety of cultures. In fact, one of the earliest known versions of the tale, written by Tuan Ch’eng-shih in China around A.D. 850–860, is more than 1,000 years old. In his version, the heroine has a magical fish as a helper, and it is a golden shoe, not a glass slipper, that identified her to the prince who wants to marry her. Charles Perrault wrote the version of Cinderella’s story that is most familiar to modern readers. It is believed that when Perrault referred to Cinderella’s shoes, which were used to identify her as the prince’s true love, he confused the French word vair (“fur”) used in the earlier oral versions of the story with the word verre (“glass”). That may be how the tradition of the glass slipper was born. Other versions of the story are slightly different, as well. The Brothers Grimm, German authors who compiled many of the traditional German folktales in their book, Children’s and Household Tales (otherwise known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales), wrote a version that also preaches the values of work, cleanliness, and diligence. Their story was called “Aschenputtel” or “Ash Girl,” but unlike Perrault’s version, there is no fairy godmother. Instead, there is a magic tree planted on the grave of the main character’s mother. Of course, in Walt Disney’s animated version of the story, Cinderella not only has a fairy godmother, but two mice to help her as well! There is a long and honorable line of authors who told and retold the story of Cinderella. Gail Carson Levine joined this tradition with the publication of her first book, Ella Enchanted. In her other books, such as The Fairy’s Mistake, Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, and Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, Levine has taken the plots and themes of other

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FAIRY TALES OLD AND NEW

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Although getting her first book published took several years and many tries, Gail Carson Levine (above) has become one of the most popular authors for children and young adults. Many of her books are modern twists on classic fairy tales, ensuring their lasting appeal.

classic fairy tales and made them relevant to today’s readers. In doing so, she has made them her own. Levine was drawn to the classic fairy tales as a child, so it was natural that she would turn to them for inspiration

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE when she began her career as a writer. When asked in an interview why she wrote about fairy tales, Levine said, Fairy tales are timeless. Their themes touch our cores, which doesn’t seem to change. Hansel and Gretel, for example, is about abandonment. Cinderella is about being unloved and unappreciated. Snow White is about jealousy. Writers write about this primal stuff in every form of fiction—realistic contemporary, historical, mystery, and space-age science fiction. In a way, some fairy tales come close to modern gadgetry. We have jet planes, but fairy tales have seven-league boots that go twenty-one miles in a step. We have micro-wave meals, but fairy tales have tablecloths that set themselves and provide food endlessly. We have genetic engineering that can put a mouse gene into an elephant, but fairies can turn a mouse into an elephant. I love to play with the magical elements, to imagine how it feels to take a step in seven-league boots, or how it feels to turn into a toad or to have snakes slithering out of your throat.3

It is her ability to step into the thoughts and feelings of her characters, even in a fairy tale setting, that sets Levine apart from traditional fairy tale authors. These authors

Did you know... Did you know that, in the original Brother’s Grimm version of Cinderella, the evil stepsisters are horribly punished for their cruelty? Unlike in some tamer versions, at Cinderella’s wedding, doves dive down and peck the stepsisters’ eyes out, leaving them blind for the rest of their lives.

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tended to describe their heroes and heroines from the outside, with very little thought to examining their feelings and motivations. Given Levine’s great success, it is rather difficult to believe that she did not plan to be a writer. Although she was interested in art and drawing from an early age, she earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in college. After college, Levine worked for the government of the State of New York for almost 30 years. She worked for the Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Social Services. During this time, Levine continued to take classes in drawing and painting until she finally realized that writing, for children in particular, was her true calling. Even once she had made the decision to become a writer, success did not come easily. It took Levine years to find a publisher. As she recalled in an interview: It took me nine years to get anything published. At the beginning I mostly wrote picture books, which were rejected by every children’s book publisher in America. The first book of mine to be published was Ella Enchanted and not one, but two publishers wanted it. That day, April 17, 1996, was one of the happiest in my life.4

How did Levine do it? It is extremely difficult for an aspiring writer to be rejected by publishers, to feel unappreciated, or to feel simply not good enough. How did Levine keep going? How did Gail Carson Levine go from being a social services worker to one of the most popular and beloved children’s writers of today? Are there such things as real-life fairy tales?

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When she was a child, Gail became attached to the story of Peter Pan—she even thought of Peter as her first boyfriend. Above, the villainous Captain Hook is surrounded by Peter, Wendy, and the Lost Boys.

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2 Growing Up Creative in New York City GAIL CARSON WAS born on September 17, 1947, in New York City. Her father, David Carasso, had changed his name to David Carson, to make it sound like he was a “real American.” David’s mother died as a result of complications from childbirth when he was only a few months old. His father, Abraham, died of gangrene from a cut he had gotten while working as a carpenter. So, David was sent at a young age (Levine was never sure exactly how old he was), along with his older brother, Sam, and his younger half-brother, Leo, to live in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in the Harlem section of New York City. Her

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE father’s childhood would later provide the inspiration for Levine’s novel Dave at Night. As an adult, David Carson owned a commercial art studio, which did the print and mechanical artwork for United Artists Studios, a film-making company. Gail’s mother, born Sylvia Jacobson, was a child prodigy—a genius who graduated from college when she was only 16. While Gail was growing up, her mother taught elementary school; she usually taught sixth-grade classes to what were then called intellectually gifted children. (Today, we might call these enrichment classes.) Gail was lucky to have two kind and loving parents; she was even luckier to grow up in a household that treasured the arts. As she remembered: My father was interested in writing, and my mother wrote full-length plays in rhyme for her students to perform. Both of them had an absolute reverence for creativity and creative people, a reverence that they passed along to my sister and me. My sister, Rani, is a wonderful painter of Jamaican subjects and a professor of the arts.5

It was Rani who inadvertently pushed Gail into her early love of reading and books. Rani was older than Gail, and like a lot of older siblings, “she was not happy to have me around,” Levine remembered years later. As Levine pointed out in an interview, I had to share a room with a sister who is five and a half years older than I am. We didn’t get along very well, and I felt that I had no privacy. So books were my privacy, because no one could join me in a book, no one could comment on the action or make fun of it. I used to spend hours reading in the bathroom— and we only had one bathroom in our small apartment!6

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In this case, unhappiness led to unexpectedly good consequences: A reader was born. As a young girl, Gail’s dream was to be an artist, or maybe even an actor, but her love of books was equally strong. Her parents read to both girls constantly, and Gail was particularly fond of a children’s poem called “Wee Fishy One.” Gail loved the poem so much that, even now, she can still recite parts of it from memory. Another of Gail’s early favorites was the classic Peter Pan. Peter Pan has appeared in many forms. Originally written as a stage play by J.M. Barrie for the sons of Arthur and Sylvia Llewlyn Davies (the 2004 movie Finding Neverland explores this subject), the play was first performed in London, England, in December 1904. It was then published as a novel in 1911. Extraordinarily popular ever since its inception, the story has been told in many versions and adaptations, including a Broadway musical, a ballet, and a Walt Disney animated movie. In all of its forms, though, the basic story remains the same. Peter Pan, the boy “who won’t grow up,” takes Wendy, John, and Michael Darling from their London home to Neverland, where they meet

Did you know... Did you know female actors have traditionally performed the male role of Peter Pan? It’s true! Actresses such as Jean Arthur, Mary Martin, Maggie Smith (who played Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter movies), Sandy Duncan, and Cathy Rigby have performed this classic role on stage and screen.

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE

Although the character of Peter Pan is a young boy, adult women have often performed the role. Here, Mary Martin appears in the role on Broadway during the 1954–1955 season. She also appeared in the well-respected televised movie in 1960.

the Lost Boys and have adventures with the pirate Captain Hook, Indians, a crocodile, and a fairy named Tinkerbell. Underneath its fairy-tale trappings though, the book

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explores an important theme relevant to all readers: the passage from childhood to adulthood. Gail’s love for the story originated in 1954, when her parents took her and her sister to see the musical version of Peter Pan, featuring songs by Moose Charlap, Carolyn Leigh, Jules Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green. It starred the legendary Mary Martin as Peter Pan and Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook. Gail was enthralled. The magic of live theater, the spectacle of the pirate ship, the excitement of Neverland, and beautiful songs like “I’m Flying,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” and “Neverland” all struck a chord in Gail’s imagination. Since she was not content to stop there and wanted to expand on her experience, Gail immediately went on to read Barrie’s novel, as well. Reflecting on her adoration for the story, Levine said: I was in love with Peter. I dedicated myself to him as my first boyfriend. I wanted to be a child forever along with wanting to grow up as quickly as possible. I wanted to fly. I was so disappointed that Wendy went home [from Neverland]. And, it’s been said, that Barrie and Peter Pan invented the modern idea of childhood. And I believe that. He presents children as selfish and heartless. I embrace that description.7

Gail did not limit herself strictly to a diet of Peter Pan; she had other favorite books as well. She loved everything by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys), and L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables). She also loved classics like Heidi, Bambi, and Black Beauty. From an early age, though, Gail found herself drawn to fairy tales. Along with books like Peter Pan, stories like “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” and “Beauty and the Beast” were among her favorites. As Levine pointed out,

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE There wasn’t much fantasy when I was a kid. The traditional tales were it. So I’m sure most of my reading was realistic, was historical. Just because it [contemporary fantasy] didn’t really exist. There was A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, which I adored. And there were books about Merlin [The Once and Future King] but I didn’t come to those until adolescence.8

When Gail was in elementary school, she loved to read and write. She was even president of the Scribble Scrabble club, which was her school’s literary club. The club published two issues of their magazine; Gail’s contributions included stories that were heavily influenced by Little Women. Of her writing, she said, “there was nothing in it to indicate a future as a writer. But . . . I was writing and I loved to do it.”9 From the day she was born until she went to college, Gail lived in New York City, in northern Manhattan, just above Harlem. “When I was a kid, we lived in Washington Heights in Manhattan. When I grew up, it had been Irish, it was becoming a little Hispanic, but it was very much a German/Jewish refugee area,”10 she said in an interview. Gail lived in a neighborhood of German and Jewish refugees who fled Europe to escape the horrors of Nazi Germany. Other famous people, such as former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger, also grew up in the area. Gail’s parents were Jewish, and although they did celebrate the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they were not highly observant or religious. For someone with Gail’s cultural and artistic interests, New York was an ideal place to live. For her and her circle of friends, the city was one big adventure. “We were a pretty cultural bunch. We’d walk up to the Cloisters [a beautiful medieval museum overlooking the Hudson River], and

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GROWING UP CREATIVE IN NEW YORK CITY

This view of northern Manhattan shows one part of the neighborhood in which Gail grew up, Washington Heights. This photograph was taken in 1949, just two years after Gail was born.

walk down to the Indian Museum. We were kids, but we could do that on our own.”11 The world was different then; parents did not have to worry quite so much about the safety of their children and were able to let them explore the city on their own.

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE This was true at least most of the time. When Gail was ready to start high school in tenth grade (in those days, junior high school was seventh through ninth grades), her parents insisted that, instead of going to the local high school, she go to school in a different neighborhood. There had been some ethnic tensions in Gail’s neighborhood between the older Irish residents and the newer Jewish ones. Concerned about Gail’s safety, her parents thought another school would be better. New York City is made up of five different boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. Gail’s parents wanted to her to go to school in the Bronx—not just a different neighborhood, but also a different borough—to attend the Bronx High School of Science, or Bronx Science, as it was commonly called. Gail hated it. She felt alone and isolated there, and she transferred back to her local public high school the next year. Back in her own neighborhood, Gail was much happier. She was active in the drama club, where she had a lead role in the play Androcles and the Lion, by George Bernard Shaw. After her junior year, she worked in a summer theater program. She had spent each summer at a different camp; Gail liked to have the opportunity to try new things. Along with a group of friends, she started a student theater troupe that performed at hospitals and nursing homes. She also continued to study drawing and the arts. Gail and her friends also became involved with the National Ethical Culture Society. This group, called the American Ethical Union today, is an organization founded by Felix Adler in 1876. It has local branches worldwide and promotes the following principles: 1. Every person has inherent worth; each person is unique.

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2. It is our responsibility to improve the quality of life for ourselves and for others. 3. Ethics are derived from human experience. 4. Life is sacred, interrelated, and interdependent.12 In addition, she and her friends traveled around the city, going to as many artistic and cultural events as time and money would allow. They liked to watch the plays of William Shakespeare performed in Central Park, to see Broadway shows, to attend concerts, and to hear “folksinging stuff,”13 as Levine described it. During the early 1960s, folksinging was becoming very popular. Artists like Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan reintroduced traditional folk songs and performed newer protest songs like “We Shall Overcome,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” for eager audiences. Of course, Gail continued to read and study. She was a good student, though as she said later, “not spectacular, but I was good.”14 She continued to be a voracious reader: I was very much more of an intellectual earlier than I am now. I tried Faulkner. I went through a Russian novelist period: I read Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and Turgenev. Catcher in the Rye. Catch-22. Although, Catcher in the Rye wasn’t such an important book to me. Alice in Wonderland too—I just didn’t connect with it. I read popular books as well. Books like Exodus, Hawaii, and Kon-Tiki.15

Gail’s high-school years were good ones. Life in New York City made it possible to explore the arts as well as the world around her. She had friends that she loved and a family that gave her all the love and support she needed. After she graduated from George Washington High School in 1964, however, she would leave all of that behind.

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In 1964, Gail moved away from home for the first time, to attend Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Gail chose Antioch based on photographs of its beautiful campus; the main building is shown above.

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3 Going Away and Falling in Love IN 1964, GAIL Carson left New York City to attend Antioch College. Antioch, founded in 1852, is located in the small, isolated, southern Ohio town of Yellow Springs. Although the school itself was in a relatively quiet and conservative town, the college and its students were politically liberal and active, qualities that complemented Gail’s activities in the Ethical Society. Indeed, Antioch’s motto, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for mankind,” could easily be a statement from the Ethical Society.

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE Antioch interested Gail in other ways, as well. The school was famous for its work/study program. All students were required to take part in this program, in which students studied on campus for one semester per year and worked off-campus during the other semester, anywhere in the country or even overseas, in a job relevant to the student’s course of study. Of course, the job was not always relevant. One of Gail’s favorite jobs was proofreading at a law firm. As she recalled, “The work was boring, but the people were fun. They were theatrical, and we’d do improvisations when there was nothing to proofread.”16 Programs like this do not work well for every student; to be successful, a student must be able to work independently. Choosing a college is one of the first major decisions a teenager makes. Some make the decision based on the curriculum, the sports team, or how close the college is to home. Why did Gail really choose Antioch? She liked the pictures of the campus in the college catalog! Although at first she was unsure of what to study, she decided to major in philosophy. The word philosophy is derived from the Greek words philos (meaning “love”) and sophia (meaning “wisdom”). Thus, philosophy literally means the love of wisdom. In more practical terms, philosophy means a logical investigation into what we know, why we know it, and why it is important that we know it. Philosophers have been studying questions about the meaning of life and existence for centuries. Why did Gail choose to study philosophy, rather than art or literature? It was the influence of one professor. In an interview, Levine explained, “I had a philosophy professor that I thought was wonderful and I loved the subject. But mostly I liked the professor and by the time I realized that philosophy didn’t

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interest me very much, I didn’t want to go back and take extra courses to change majors.”17 Her favorite professor specialized in logical positivism, later referred to as logical empiricism. Logical positivists believe that philosophy, like science, should provide strict criteria for judging sentences true, false, or meaningless.18 In other words, one cannot simply claim to believe that something is true; it must be proven. Gail also liked to read ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato, but she definitely did not like to read Immanuel Kant. She found the eighteenth-century German philosopher so difficult and incomprehensible that she was forced to drop the class. There was, of course, much more to college than schoolwork. Gail went to college in the mid 1960s. The protest movements of this generation were in full swing, and Gail certainly participated in them. She went to marches in favor of civil rights for African Americans, as well as to protests against the ongoing war in Vietnam.

Did you know... Did you know that other famous attendees of Antioch College include the writer and creator of the TV series “The Twilight Zone,” Rod Sterling; scientist Stephen Jay Gould; and Coretta Scott King, civil rights activist and wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE Another popular cause on campus was the women’s liberation movement, which fought for equal rights for women at school, at home, and in the workplace. But Gail did not take part in it. She said, [At least] not in any active kind of way. I never had that much of the baggage that fueled feminism. In other words, I was never made to feel that I should be stupid just because I was a woman. My mother worked. My father admired my mother’s brains a very great deal. And, a lot of the gains that feminism had to make weren’t things I had to earn.19

Years later, in her books, Levine’s heroines also took their equality with men for granted, accepting it as a given. Generally, though, Gail did not enjoy her time at college. “I was anxious to get out. I was anxious to be finished with school.”20 More than that, Antioch really was not the school for her. “I liked the work/study. [But] I think I was a little too young. When I started I was just sixteen. [Levine had skipped a grade when she was younger.] It required some independence that I think I wasn’t ready for. I think I would have been better with a little more structure.”21 Although Gail found herself at a college she did not particularly like, with a major she was no longer interested in, there was one bright spot. She met a fellow student at Antioch, a history major named David Levine, who would become her husband just a year and a half later. They first met, as so many couples do, in the most inauspicious and unpromising of ways. “I went into the cafeteria one night and he was with a bunch of friends. They left and we started talking. And that’s how we met.” 22

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The cause of women’s liberation was popular at Antioch while Gail was a student there, as it was on college campuses across the country. Above, women march through the streets of New York City to protest the Vietnam War and to demonstrate for equal wages and hiring practices, among other issues.

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE At Antioch, the cafeteria was the center of social activities, the place where everybody met, and it served as the location for another, slightly more eventful, meeting: We were in the cafeteria at a later date, and we were talking, and he smoked, and I smoked, and everybody smoked. [Smoking was much more popular then than it is now. People were not nearly as aware then of the health risks caused by smoking.] David had a huge bushy kind of hair, very curly, and seeing that he was being moody and romantic, he flicked his lighter, and stared at me through the flame, and set his hair on fire. I didn’t know him very well at this stage, so I didn’t know if he’d done that on purpose. And he was unaware that his hair was on fire. So that was a real dating experience.23

Despite his flaming hair (or perhaps because of it!), Gail and David soon fell in love and decided to get married. Neither David’s nor Gail’s parents were happy about their decision and would no longer pay their tuition at Antioch. Unwilling to wait two additional years to get married, they both transferred from Antioch College to City University of New York, where the tuition was much lower. Antioch College’s system was unusual, so City University did not accept all of Gail’s Antioch credits. Gail received her Bachelor of Arts from City College of the City University of New York two years later, in 1969, graduating cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa. It had taken her a total of five years to obtain her degree. At age 22, Levine found herself married and living once again in Washington Heights, New York. Her bachelor’s degree in philosophy was an intellectual accomplishment, but it would not open many career doors.

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Unless Levine wanted to teach, there were not a lot of job opportunities for philosophers. What was Levine going to do with her life?

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Demonstrators burn draft cards in New York City’s Central Park on April 15, 1967. Just two years later, by the time Levine had moved back to New York, the anti–Vietnam War movement would be at its peak.

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4 I Want to Be a Writer: Real Life Career and Creativity OBVIOUSLY, LEVINE WOULD have to get a job. So while her husband went to work in the business side of the magazine industry, Levine got her first post-college job with the National Economic Research Association. She kept her job for less than a year. She had been hired to do research for a company on Wall Street. Keep in mind, though, that Levine worked for the National Economic Research Association from 1969 to 1970, when the protests against the Vietnam War were at their peak. Levine was a self-described “hippie” at the time. Wall Street, where Levine

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE worked, was and still is at the very center of the business and money establishment of the United States. The job was not an ideal fit. As Levine put it, “I was a hippie in the stock exchange, so I was very uncomfortable.”24 Fortunately, her next jobs were much more appropriate for someone eager to change the world. After she left the National Economic Research Association, Levine went to work for the New York State Department of Labor as a welfare administrator—or, as some would call it, an employment interviewer. Levine liked the work. She enjoyed having the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, and to help them find work and gain confidence and self-respect. She worked in this department for the next 12 years. As Levine described her job, “I enjoyed . . . helping people find jobs, to find employers who would hire people on welfare. [There is sometimes a stigma attached to people who have been on welfare, which can make employers reluctant to hire them. It was Levine’s job to match employers with prospective employees.] I liked that a lot.”25 Once again, Levine followed the tenets of the Ethical Union: “It is our responsibility to improve the quality of life for ourselves and others.”26 With this job, Levine could and did feel that she was making a difference in people’s lives. During this time, Levine continued to take courses in art and painting. She also took her first tentative steps into the world of writing. In collaboration with her husband, she wrote her first and only play, Spacenapped. As Levine remembered: I got involved with a friend who worked for the Department of Labor who was involved with a community theater in Brooklyn Heights. We lived there at that time. They did adult stuff

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and they did kid’s stuff and they also did original kid’s stuff, and so I thought I could write one, because David had played the piano for a production of theirs of [the play] Apple Tree. They had him write the music for somebody else’s play as well. But those didn’t have a lot of scope. So I thought I could write a play and give him more opportunity to write. So it was more of a vehicle for him.27

Although Levine enjoyed writing the play, she did not think it was very successful: It was . . . set in the future and it was about two kids who are separated from their parents and get kidnapped by these kind of fiendish villains. It was the story of their reunion with their parents and it didn’t work very well because I didn’t know a lot of things that I know now. But, David wrote terrific songs, but I didn’t know how to handle the lyrics, so he wrote terrific lyrics as well. The play did get performed a couple of times, but it was not great. What I did that was wrong in telling the story was that I had the kids escape from

Did you know... Did you know that Gail Carson Levine lived in Brooklyn, which was once the home of other famous writers, including Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, and Arthur Miller? Did you also know that George Washington used the Brooklyn Heights ferry to smuggle troops over to Manhattan to avoid capture by the British during the American Revolution?

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE the villains too early in the story. And once they escaped, the danger was over. So the kids [in the audience] lost interest. At that time, I didn’t have a clue on how to structure a story to hold the audience’s interest.28

During this period of her life, Levine was still happy with her work at the Department of Labor and still liked to take classes in painting and drawing. It would be several more years before she began to write seriously again. She had enjoyed the experience; even though the play was not a complete success, it had greatly influenced her writing. After 12 years at the Department of Labor, in 1982, Levine changed jobs and moved to the New York State Department of Commerce. Although the work was not quite as fulfilling, in some ways the move was a good one for Levine. “They started laying people off [at the Department of Labor] and I didn’t want to get laid off, so I moved over to the Department of Commerce, which is kind of where I started writing. Because there, they had me do public relations writing for them. Which, as it turns out, I liked doing. A lot.”29 Although Levine’s time at the Department of Commerce brought her one tiny step closer to actually being a writer, the new work was not nearly as satisfying for Levine as her earlier responsibilities at the Department of Labor. She said, “When I was helping people on welfare there were frustrations, for sure, but I felt that I was making a contribution, and I liked that a lot. But when I was working for the Commerce Department, I liked the writing part of the job a lot, but I was bored. They didn’t have enough for me to do.”30 Levine stayed at the Department of Commerce for four years, from 1982 to 1986. In 1986, she changed departments once again, moving to the Department of Social Services,

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where she worked again as a welfare administrator, but in a slightly different, administrative role: When I went to Social Services, we funded programs that helped people on welfare find jobs. I administrated [helped to run] those programs, but it was too far removed for me. [Levine filled out paperwork that helped people get jobs, but she did not work directly with the people.] I wasn’t doing the hands-on stuff myself, and I knew how to do it better . . . so it was frustrating. And I felt less and less that I was making a contribution. So I was frustrated with that.31

Fortunately for Levine, she was about to discover a new artistic outlet. One day, while meditating, Levine realized that, since she loved to read, maybe she should try to tell a story herself. As a result, in 1987, Levine signed up for yet another class, this one about writing and illustrating children’s books. This class would completely change her life. Much to her surprise, she discovered that she loved to write. She said, “I took one course in writing and illustrating [children’s books] and found that I liked the writing assignments much more than the art. I thought I was more capable of handling it than I did the illustrating assignments.”32 The class seemed to release and liberate something in Levine; it was more than simply the pleasure of writing. She explained, “When I was painting, I tended to expect to do something perfect in seconds. I wasn’t as hard on myself as a writer. And I had much more of an idea of stories, drawing on all the reading I’d done as a kid.”33 Although it would take Levine many years to find a publisher for her books, it was far easier for her to write them. In fact, Levine had even written one book before

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Brooklyn, New York, where Levine lived for a time with her husband, has a grand literary tradition. Author Truman Capote (above), most famous for his books Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, lived in Brooklyn in the 1960s.

her breakthrough writing/illustration class. The book, never published, demonstrated her love of both writing and art:

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The first one was called The King’s Cure, and it was an art appreciation book for kids, because at that time, I was straddling both worlds [writing and art]. I used illustrations of famous artwork and it took place in the bird kingdom. I did pencil drawings of birds. This was before the writing and illustration class, but as I did it, I discovered the writing was very interesting in that I could play with it endlessly. There was a published kid’s writer on my block and I showed it to her. She said, “You can’t write.” But for some reason, it wasn’t [hard on me] when she said that.34

Levine was a very busy woman. She continued to take classes on how to write children’s books, and she continued to write. She still had a full-time job at the Department of Social Services, as well as an active life with her husband. Levine also made friends with other writers, both published and unpublished, and became part of the writing community: I continued taking classes. As soon as I took a class, I formed a critique group [a group of other aspiring writers that meet to discuss each other’s work and make suggestions for improvement]. Then my second class was with the kid’s book writer Kate McMullan, and she was very encouraging. I came into class with a story that she thought was just about publishable.35

This was just the kind of encouragement that Levine needed. It is hard to start out as an author. A writer’s work can be rejected for years before a publisher decides to accept it, but sometimes one kind word from another writer can be all that is necessary to keep at it: I joined that Society of Children’s Book Writers, and I kept meeting people who were in the same spot [just starting out

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE and trying to get published] I was in. They were very supportive, and I felt part of a community. Whereas as a painter, I never felt that at all. I never felt part of a community. I loved the sense of community [with other writers], so even though I was getting a lot of rejections, it was a very happy time.36

Levine was happy because she had finally found an outlet for her creativity. Everyone needs a creative outlet of some sort, and while Levine had always enjoyed painting and drawing, she discovered that writing was her true vocation. Regardless of whether or not her work was published, writing made her feel happy and fulfilled. Although Levine liked to take classes and thought they could be enormously helpful, her classes were not always particularly encouraging. Writing classes help teach an aspiring writer to be practical; the classes force a writer to realize that not everyone is meant to be a professional writer, despite how much fun it may be to write. The classes also emphasize how difficult it is for most writers to get their works published. Levine remembers one class in particular: I started taking classes from Margaret “Bunny” Gabel at the New School, which was a very famous class. The year that I won the Newbery Honor, Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff was also a Newbery Honor recipient, and she was a Bunny Gabel alumnus as well. One night, Bunny wasn’t there, and she sent in an editor to talk to us. He said that there only were two ways to get published. One is to write a book about something that nobody else knows about, and I thought, well [I know about] welfare (not necessarily the topic of a great kid’s book) and he said the other way is to write a truly great book. And I thought, well, I won’t be able to do that either.37

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Self-doubt is part of the psychic makeup of almost every person, especially every writer and every artist. How do you know that you are good at what you do? How do you know that others will like what you do? How do you know that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing—that you have chosen the creative outlet, the career that is right for you? Levine, like many aspiring writers, mused over those very questions: Did I really know that this [writing] is what I was meant to do? I don’t know. I knew that it was another creative outlet and what’s always been important to me is to have some kind of creative outlet. And this [writing] was one. And, it was one that I found so interesting, that I could keep exploring and fiddling with. I guess maybe it was that I could find my way better than with painting. I also used to act a little, but I never felt that I knew what I was doing was right. Writing felt more right.38

Even though writing felt “more right,” Levine’s success came slowly. Imagine, for example, what it would be like if you were a baseball player who did not get a single hit for nine whole seasons. Imagine if you were an actor or actress who did not get a part for nine whole years. For the first nine years of her life as a writer, every story and every book Levine sent to a publisher was rejected and sent back to her. Imagine how she must have felt. Imagine how you would feel if you got a rejection letter like this one: Dear Ms. Levine: Thank you for your recent letter. I’m sorry if I haven’t been clear enough in my past letters to you. What I mean when I say that a story is not strong enough to sustain a 32-page picture

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE book is that I don’t feel a young child would be captivated enough to sit through a reading. A story that speaks directly to children, that has a strong plot and interesting characters is perhaps the most successful type of picture book. Sweet Fanopps is an example of a story which in my opinion does not have enough of a plot. The idea is very basic and it’s not very emotionally-charged—I don’t think it has enough substance to be successful. As I’m sure you know, editorial opinion varies widely: I hope you’ll send Sweet Fanoops to other houses. Thanks again for letting me take a look at your work. . . .39

The thing that upset Levine the most about this letter was that the editor could not even get the name of the book right. You will notice that the title is spelled differently in the second and third paragraphs of the editor’s letter. Levine did learn to take the rejections in stride. In fact, she learned something from each one of them. She learned how important it was to revise her work, and she learned how important it was to stick with a story and try to finish it, even if the work is difficult. Indeed, to this day, she still advises young writers to “ . . . suspend judgment of your work . . . and keep writing . . . and be patient. Writing and glaciers advance at the same pace!”40 What she learned most was that each and every rejection has something to teach an aspiring writer. Despite the rejections, Levine’s life was a happy one. She was still working at the New York Department of Social Services, and her husband was moving out of magazine publishing into the rapidly growing field of software development. Money to live on was not necessarily an issue, as it was for so many other beginning writers. Deep in her heart, Levine knew that each day, each week, and

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with each story, she was becoming a better writer. All she needed was the right story, and a little bit of luck. Little did she know that both of those were waiting just around the corner.

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Levine’s first published book, Ella Enchanted, met with great commercial and critical success. The book was well reviewed, sold well, was named a Newbery Honor Book, and was later made into a movie—big achievements for a debut novel.

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5 Breakthrough GAIL CARSON LEVINE took Margaret Gable’s class, at the New School in New York City, for the first time in 1993. The problem for Levine was that, although she thought she wanted to become a writer, she did not know what she wanted to write about for a particular class project. Unable to come up with an original plot, Levine decided to use the plot of Cinderella, a story that she knew very well. Levine could not simply retell the story, however; that would not be enough. She would have to make some major changes: “Then I thought about Cinderella’s character. I realized she was too much of a goody-two-shoes for me, and I would hate her before I finished ten pages.”41

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE What did Levine mean when she said that Cinderella was a “goody-two-shoes?” If you recall the original story, Cinderella always does what her evil stepmother and stepsisters tell her to do, no matter how much she hates it. She obeys quietly, without disagreement, and without standing up for herself. That sort of behavior was considered an admirable trait for girls in the past. Levine would have none of that. She thought (and assumed potential readers would feel the same way) that Cinderella’s behavior would simply not be believable or desirable in a role model for today’s readers. For two weeks, Levine struggled with the problem. Although Levine had her plot, she knew she had to change her main character’s motivations. For the plot to work, Cinderella still had to obey the orders that were given to her, but what if she did not want to obey, but had to obey? That did it. “That’s when I came up with the curse. [In Ella Enchanted, Ella is given the “gift” of obedience by the fairy Lucinda—one person’s gift is another one’s curse.] She’s only good because she has to be, and she’s in constant rebellion.”42 That satisfied Levine. Ella now had a believable motivation, in a fairy tale sort of way. Levine had other questions about the original story, as well. She noted that, in the fairy tale, the only task that Cinderella has to accomplish on her own is to get home before midnight and “and she blows it.”43 This, too, would have to change. In these times, why would you have a modern heroine who cannot do anything for herself? Levine’s Ella would have to be able to take care of herself. Even after resolving these problems, it still took Levine nearly two years to finish Ella Enchanted. As Yvonne Zipp learned in a 2000 interview for the Christian Science Monitor, after Levine had written 200 pages of the book, she was

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The New School in New York City has a reputation for providing excellent continuing education. It was there that Levine first took a writing class with Margaret “Bunny” Gabel, who encouraged Levine greatly in her quest to become a writer.

given some bad news. Her writing teacher and classmates said they liked the idea, but the story was not going anywhere. Levine decided to throw out everything except the first 20 pages and start over. She laughed, “I made mistakes on a very grand scale.”44 You also have to remember that, at this time, Levine still had a full-time job at the New York Department of Social Services as a welfare administrator. So, in addition to her

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE eight-hour workdays, Levine also traveled several hours daily from her home in Brewster, New York, to her office in New York City. It was during this time, while she was on the train, that Levine completed most of the work on the book. When the book was finally finished, though, Levine was certain that she had accomplished what she had set out to do. She had retold the Cinderella story in a way that was true to the basic plot, but still richer and more believable to contemporary readers. How did she do it? How did she, as a writer, achieve her goal? First and foremost, she remade and transformed Ella, as the character is called in the book. No longer the placid, meek girl of the classic tale, she became a vibrant, fullbodied character. Although she is cursed by Lucinda’s gift of obedience, she is also, in every sense of the word, a true heroine. As Levine put it in an interview, “I made Ella a heroine—brave, smart, sure of herself, certain of her opinions, and astonishingly good at languages. She’s so handicapped by Lucinda’s “gift” that she needs many strengths to offset it.”45 Ella not only needs these strengths throughout her adventures, she uses them. Unlike the traditional fairy tale heroine who waits to be rescued or saved by the hero, Ella boldly goes out into the world to save herself, and she desperately tries to find a way to reverse her curse. The story still follows the basic plotline everyone knows, with the same traditional—if more humorous and fully drawn—cast of characters: Ella; Prince Charmont (charmant is the French word for “charming,” so the name is wordplay by Levine); the evil stepmother, who here is named Dame Olga; evil stepsisters Hattie and Olive; and the Fairy Godmother, Mandy, employed in Levine’s version as the household cook. When Levine made Ella an active

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heroine, not someone who waited in the castle or by the fire for “her prince to come,” she altered the dynamic of the traditional Cinderella tale. Ella goes out into the world herself, encounters elves and giants, and even single-handedly defeats a group of eight ogres, known as perhaps the most fiendish creatures in the kingdom. Most important, it is not Prince Charmont who saves Ella from the curse. It is Ella who rescues herself. How does Ella do all this? She uses her intelligence. Ella’s gift for language saves her countless times when she is traveling throughout the kingdom to try to get the curse of obedience lifted. All of the various beings that she encounters—elves, giants, and ogres—speak their own languages, and it is solely through Ella’s gift for language, through the power of words, that she is able to make friends and conquer enemies. The language that Levine gives each creature is quite amusing. For example, “…iqkwo pwach brzzay ufedjeE” is Gnomic for “Until we dig again.” “ahthOOn SSyng!” is Ogrese for “Much eating!” “Aiiiee ooo (howl) bek aaau!” is Abdegi for “I miss you already!” “Porr ol pess waddo” is Elfian for “Walk in the shade.” (Ella Enchanted, p. 43) How did Levine come up with the languages? Which came first, the language or the speaker? Levine explains: [A]spects of some of the languages were inspired by the speakers. The giants are such jovial and emotional creatures that their “hellos” would naturally be lengthy. They’d want to make sure that the depth and sincerity of their welcomes are understood. They have lots of emotive sounds in their languages, and their alphabet is only vowels and percussive [sharp, striking] consonants. Abdegi, the name of the language, is also the first six letters in its alphabet. Ogrese is sneaky and insinuating, just like the ogres. I wanted the

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE languages to look different, so the double letters in Ogrese are capitalized. Gnomic has a lot of guttural sounds, and it’s punctuated and capitalized backwards, with the punctuation at the beginning of the sentence and the capital letter at the end of the word. Elfian is phonetically like English, only nonsense words. I was thinking of Italian when I invented Ayorthaian, and so every word begins with a vowel and ends with the same vowel. I kept a glossary of the words, but I didn’t do much with grammar. If you look closely you’ll find that plurals and tenses are haphazard.46

It is this attention to detail—this ability to create a magical kingdom, a land of gnomes and fairies, centaurs and giants, magic books and curses, and make it seem so right and so real—that helps to make Levine’s books so popular. It is also more than that. In most traditional fairy tales, the heroes and heroines tend to be “cardboard,” one-dimensional, characters. They usually have just one quality; for example, characters are pretty, or courageous, or strong. At the end of the story, they are not real, breathing characters; they are still cardboard. Levine expands the idea of a fairy tale heroine to that of a complicated, real person, one the reader really cares about. By the end of the story, we want her to be happy. We want and need Ella to be able to break the curse. How would it happen? How would Ella escape the curse? According to an article in Scholastic.com, Levine, even after beginning a book, does not always know what the ending will be. For example, while she was writing Ella, Levine was not exactly sure what motivation would force Ella to break the curse. At first, she thought it might happen through her relationship with her stepsister, Hattie. At the end, it turned out to be something completely different.

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In Ella Enchanted, as in the traditional tale, Prince Charmont identifies Ella with the glass slippers that fit only her feet. Of course, there is a twist. Prince Charmont, or “Char” as he is called, then says “Marry me, Ella.” To Ella, this is an order that she must obey. Ella knows, though, that her curse of obedience makes her unable to marry Char. If one of the kingdom’s enemies were to find out her weakness, she could be made to reveal state secrets. She could even be ordered to kill the prince! With that, Ella struggles against the curse: Say yes and be happy. Say yes and live. Obey. Marry him. I began to rock in my chair. Forward, the words were about to come. Back, I reeled them in. Faster and faster. The legs of the chair thudded on the tiles and pounded in my ears. Marry him. I won’t. Marry him. I won’t. Then I lost sense of all of it. I went on rocking and crying, but my thought burrowed within, concentrated in a point deep in my chest, where there was room for only one truth: I must save Char. For a moment I rested inside myself, safe, secure, certain, gaining strength. In that moment I found a power beyond any I’d had before, a will and a determination I would never have needed if not for Lucinda, a fortitude I hadn’t been able to find for a lesser cause. And I found my voice. “No,” I shouted. “I won’t marry you. I won’t do it. No one can force me!” I swallowed and wiped my mouth on my filthy sleeve. I leaped up, ready to defy anyone. (Ella Enchanted, p. 226)

With that, the curse was lifted: “You’re free. The curse is over, love.” Mandy was at my side, hugging me. “You rescued yourself when you rescued the prince. I’m that proud and glad, sweet, I could shout.” (Ella Enchanted, p. 228)

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE With the curse lifted, Ella was free to decide for herself. Of course, she married her prince. With that one move, Gail Carson Levine had written a Cinderella tale with a happy ending appropriate for our time. No longer merely obedient, no longer waiting to be rescued, Ella learned to look within herself, to her own strength to be rescued. Ella still got her prince, but they are both on equal footing: two strong and intelligent people genuinely and realistically in love. Levine had her completed manuscript. She knew just how good it was. Now, she just needed to find a publisher: I decided at that point that I was going to send out query letters with sample chapters, and sent them to a bunch of editors. And I also sent them to an agent I’d met at a conference years before. And, the agent asked me to send her the whole book, which I did, and then she called me at work, in desperation, and said that I’d neglected to send her page 222, and would I send it right away? So, I knew that she would represent me. And one of the editors that responded asked me to send the whole manuscript and to send it quickly, so that she could read it before she went on maternity leave and Ginger (my agent), came on the act and we sent it immediately. She went on maternity leave and we heard nothing. Finally, she wrote something like six months later saying that they were interested, but weren’t ready to offer a contract. She wanted to send an editorial letter with suggestions, and if I wanted to do them, they’d give me what they called a development fee, and then if they liked it after I made the changes, they would offer me a contract. So we said “great” and the editorial letter didn’t come. And didn’t come and didn’t come. It’s a very complicated story, but ten months later, it came. At that point, Ginger had also sent [the manuscript] to HarperCollins. And after they had it for two weeks

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they said they were also not ready to offer me a contract, but they were very interested. And I had to decide whether to go with the development letter or go with HarperCollins. The development letter seemed closer so I said I was going to work on that, and I called the editor to tell her, and just as we started to talk HarperCollins called, and when they heard that I was going to do the other thing, they offered me a contract. Then, when the other publisher heard that Harper offered me a contract, they offered me one as well. So there was a little bidding war . . . but I went with Harper because the other publisher wanted me to cut a third of the book. And so it was a really pretty easy decision.47

Ella Enchanted was published in 1997 to rapturous reviews. In one such “starred” review, The School Library Journal called it “a thoroughly enchanting novel that deepens and enriches the original tale.”48 Publisher’s Weekly said that Ella was “a winning combination of memorable characters and an alluring fantasy realm.”49 Kirkus Reviews raved, “This refreshing take on one of the world’s most popular fairy tales preserves the spirit of the original and a spunky intelligent lead.”50 Ilene Cooper, in her Booklist review, showed her understanding of what Levine was trying to do:

Did you know... Did you know that the original title of Ella Enchanted was Charmont and Ella? Levine changed it to Ella before her publisher, HarperCollins, suggested Ella Enchanted, to which Levine happily agreed.

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE The canon of retold fairy tales encompasses some distinguished titles, among them, Robin McKinley’s Beauty (1978) and Donna J. Napoli’s Zel (1996). Now room must be made for Levine’s superbly plotted and thoroughly enjoyable retelling of the Cinderella story. Ella is blessed by a fairy at birth with the gift of obedience. But the blessing is a horror for Ella, who must literally do whatever anyone tells her. . . . As finely designed as a tapestry, Ella’s story both neatly incorporates elements of the original tale and mightily expands them, not only with the myriad consequences of the curse, but also with a heroine so spirited that she wins reader’s hearts.51

Levine was delighted with the response, even if she did not quite realize what it all meant. “I was totally brainless. I didn’t appreciate how important a starred review is. I didn’t. I just thought ‘Oh, OK, I got starred reviews. That’s nice.’ Now, if I get a starred review, I go to Paris for the weekend to celebrate. But then, I didn’t understand it. So it was lovely.”52 In addition to the great reviews, there was more extraordinary news to come; Levine was to receive one of the top honors in children’s literature. Started in 1922, the John Newbery Medal is one of the highest honors given in American children’s literature. Indeed, it was the first children’s book award ever created. Administered by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, the award was created to encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. The purpose of the medal was stated as follows: “To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field.”53 Only one book out of the thousands of children’s books published per year is given

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this prestigious honor, with the runners up named “honor books.” To be named an honor book is also a great honor to any writer; any book named by the Newbery group is considered an instant classic. In fact, the list of Newbery Medal and honor winners reads like an honor roll of children’s literature, including such classics as The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle, M.C. Higgins the Great, Charlotte’s Web, and Ramona and her Father. The list goes on and on. First-time writers are rarely given such an honor. There were rumors, however, that Levine would be named. She still remembers exactly what happened the day the awards were given: People kept saying the “N” word to me. But of course, I thought that was crazy. But the day of the Newbery honors I got out of the house because I couldn’t stand it. And when I came back from the supermarket they called. [Ella Enchanted was named a Newbery honor book.] The whole committee was on the phone, and they told me and they cheered, and they said that they didn’t know if they could reach me at home or on my job, and I said that I had quit my job and I was a full-time writer and they cheered again. It was just amazing. I did appreciate it. Maybe I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of the Newbery, but I had more of a sense of it than a starred review.54

With that phone call, Levine’s life was forever changed. The years of struggle were over. She was now an established and famous writer. She had a small piece of literary immortality: She would always be known as a Newbery Honor winner. Although she no longer had to worry about having a book published, there were new things to be concerned about. Her first book was an award winner. What would she do for a follow-up?

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Dave at Night, Levine’s second published novel, is her re-imagining of what her father’s life could have been like. Levine did a lot of research to make the book accurate, and incorporated many details about New York life in the 1920s.

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6 I Am a Writer EVEN BEFORE ELLA Enchanted was in bookstores, Levine was hard at work thinking about her next book. Fortunately, nine years of rejected manuscripts had given Levine a large amount of material with which to work. Levine is a firm believer in the old adage that a writer should never throw anything out, because you never know what you will be able to use. One story in particular was close to Levine’s heart. Dave at Night, which would be the second of her books to be published, is a fictional look at her own father’s childhood experiences in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. The book itself went through many changes; it shows that, during the writing process, a book might start as one thing

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE and end up as something completely different. Years before HarperCollins had accepted Ella for publication, Dave at Night had already made the rounds: Dave at Night was the first novel that I ever wrote. It started out as an eight-page picture book. An editor then asked me to expand it into a chapter book, and then rejected it. But it was in expanding it that I discovered that I really am a novelist [rather than a picture book writer]. It was very clear. And even though it was rejected, I was very grateful to him. And I kept revising it and sending it out, and it kept getting rejected. And then after Ella Enchanted got published, my editor at Harper rejected it, and when I went back to it, I revised it completely. It was a completely different book.55

The writing process can be a long one. Ella Enchanted took two years and numerous starts, stops, and revisions before Levine was satisfied with it. Dave at Night began its journey as a picture book in the late 1980s; it was a very different book at that stage compared to what it was to become when it was published in 1998. Levine describes her original Dave at Night: The picture book was about a boy who is an orphan and is sent to an orphanage. There, he dreams about a childless couple, and they have magical dreams about him. There they meet at the orphanage, and they fall in love with each other. They adopt him, and they live happily ever after. And that’s what the book was like when Harper rejected it.56

The book became something entirely different. The new version was more complicated and involved, more deeply personal, and magical in its own way. It became a rich, fictional version in which she imagined what her father’s childhood might have been like, or more accurately, what it could have been like.

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In Dave at Night, after the death of his father, 11-year-old Dave Caros is sent to the Hebrew Home for Boys (HHB), otherwise known as the Hebrew Home for Brats. The character was, of course, modeled after Levine’s father, whose name was originally Dave Carasso and who lived at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. In the book, life at the home is not easy for Dave. The conditions are poor, the food is bad, and older bullies make his life even more difficult. Life at the HHB is not entirely bad for Dave, either. He makes friends, and he learns that all the 11-year-olds stick by each other. He also learns that he has a talent for art. He has more than just a talent, as his art teacher, Mr. Hillinger, explains to him. In the following example, Levine offers loving tribute to her father’s love of art: “Dave, would you . . . On Thursdays . . . It would mean missing school, just an afternoon. Everyone is talented, but…” I wouldn’t mind missing the whole week, but what did he mean? “A few . . . Such ability . . . I teach a few boys . . . It’s a special . . .” I started nodding. If he was saying he had a special drawing class, I wanted to be in it. “Yes,” I said. “For drawing? I’d like to . . . ” I sounded as jumbled as he did. He smiled broadly. “Wonderf . . . It’s not just . . . We paint too. Oils, watercol . . . You’re very . . . I’m so glad. You have . . . ” He opened the HHB door. Finish the sentence, I thought. Finish it! What do I have? “. . . a gift.” He left. A gift! I didn’t just have the beginnings of an eye, I had a gift! (Dave at Night, pp. 224–225)

For Dave, who arrived at the Hebrew Home for Boys just wanting to get out and escape, his new friends, as well as an art teacher who believes in him, help to make his life at

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE the HHB almost bearable. There is life for Dave outside the walls of the Hebrew School for Boys as well. The fictional HHB, as the real-life Hebrew Orphan Asylum was, is located at 136th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, in the heart of Harlem in New York City. The year is 1926, and the Harlem Renaissance is in full swing. The Harlem Renaissance is a rich and fascinating part of American history. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia describes it as a flowering of African-American social thought and culture based in the African-American community forming in Harlem in New York City. This period, beginning with 1920 and extending roughly to 1940, was expressed through every cultural medium—visual art, dance, music, theatre, literature, poetry, history and politics. Instead of using direct political means, African-American artists, writers, and musicians employed culture to work for goals of civil rights and equality. For the first time, African-American paintings, writings, and jazz became absorbed into mainstream culture and crossed racial lines, creating a lasting legacy.57

Indeed, many of the most famous African Americans of that time came out of the Harlem Renaissance. Famous examples include novelists Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright; poets Langston Hughes and Claude McKay; writers such as W.E.B. DuBois; and musicians Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald. They, together with countless others, took part in this renaissance, this “rebirth” of the arts. As the Wikipedia article points out, one of the more notable aspects of the Harlem Renaissance was that it did, to a surprising degree for the time, transcend racial lines. Sophisticated white people traveled “up” to Harlem

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In Dave at Night, Levine explored the Harlem Renaissance, a period when art by African Americans flourished, centered in the Harlem section of Manhattan. Above, the famed Buddy Johnson Orchestra performs at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. The Savoy was unusual in that it was racially integrated: Whites and blacks mingled at events like the orchestra’s performance.

to hear the music and take part in what was considered its exotic nightlife. African-American writers achieved a new popularity nationwide among both white and African-American readers. In Dave at Night, Dave is able to participate in the renaissance as well; he visits the homes

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE and goes to fashionable parties to which few other white people were invited. After Dave breaks out of the HHB at night to explore his neighborhood, he meets Solomon Gruber, known as Solly, an elderly Jewish gentleman who makes his living telling fortunes. Through Solly, Dave meets Irma Lee, a young African-American girl who is his age and an orphan as well. Irma Lee and Dave become friends, and Dave meets Irma’s adoptive mother, Odelia, a wealthy African-American woman. At her house, he sees such leading figures of the day as the poet Langston Hughes and author and civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois. It is also at Odelia’s house that Dave hears jazz for the first time. Jazz music was just becoming popular at that time, and David is amazed by what he hears. In a marvelous passage, Levine, through Dave, describes what the music sounds like, what it feels like, and interestingly, since both Levine and Dave are artists, what the music would look like: It was wide awake music, nothing like the waltzes Papa used to whistle. If I could have painted it, I would have used bright colors and short straight lines. The music was the opposite of the HHB. It was warm and happy and you couldn’t hold it in. This music didn’t know about locks and iron fences—it would blast through anything. I closed my eyes to hear better. Sometimes the piano was on top, and sometimes the trumpet was, and sometimes it sounded like they were talking to each other. The pianist had to have a hundred fingers to play the way he did. And it was a good thing we were in New York City, not Jericho, because with Martin playing the trumpet those walls wouldn’t have had a chance. (Dave at Night, p. 88)

With its mixture of real and fictional characters, and its realistic setting in a true historical past, Dave at Night stands

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alone among Levine’s books. It is also unique because it is not solely a work of the imagination. Dave’s fictional life on the Lower East Side of New York before moving to the HHB gave Levine the opportunity to write about and explore her Jewish identity. The Harlem Renaissance and everything about the period had to be carefully researched. This research, it turns out, was something that Levine did not particularly enjoy: I didn’t like the research. I had avoided going very much into the history [in the earlier versions of the story] when I was working full-time because I didn’t think I had time. And then I did feel that I had time. And I knew that it would have more appeal [with the additional research]. So I started reading about the Harlem Renaissance. It’s such an interesting time that it was wonderful to read about. But I was very worried that I’d get it wrong. For example, the book takes place in the year 1926. When I was reading books about it, the moment I’d hit 1927, I stopped reading. Whereas I think if I was a real history type, I would have kept reading.58

The research did pay off in one interesting and unexpected way, however, in the character of Solly: There is a book about the Italian part of Harlem, which really went on into the 1960s [in one small section of east Harlem]. There was a church festival held in Harlem every year, and there was this Yiddish man [a Jewish man of Eastern European descent], with a parrot telling fortunes, who came to that festival every year. It was just one sentence that mentioned him. But the moment I saw him, I knew he had to go into the book. And that’s where he came from.59

It is interesting to realize that sometimes just one unimportant sentence, just one short reference, can be the inspiration for one of the most unforgettable characters in a book.

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE Dave at Night, for all its grounding in historical facts, is still a fantasy at heart. What are the chances that a Jewish orphan and an elderly fortuneteller with a parrot on his shoulder would meet and mingle with Harlem’s elite? This is a question that Levine considered: Of course, that part of the book is, in a way, total fantasy, because there wasn’t that kind of contact as far as I know. And I doubt very much that there was a lot. But, I thought, I did read things [on how] “the white world left Harlem” when it became African-American, but it was the Jews who were the last to leave. So I thought, OK, maybe that’s a little wedge of truth.60

In the early 1900s, the population of Harlem was largely German, Eastern European, or Jewish in the west, and Italian in the east. After 1910, large numbers of African Americans moved to New York City looking for work and began settling in Harlem. As they did, the earlier immigrant residents began moving out, until by the 1920s, central Harlem was almost exclusively African American. Dave at Night was published in 1999 to mostly excellent reviews. Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review, described it as a “poignant and energetic novel, inspired by the author’s father’s childhood [that] comes with an all’s-well-thatends-well conclusion that brings a sense of belonging to Dave and his orphan friends.”61 Todd Dunkelberg, writing for the School Library Journal, praised Levine for “doing an excellent job bringing various characters to life without missing a beat, from a journeyman jazz player to Solly, a Yiddish spouting ‘gonif.’”62 The word gonif is a Yiddish term for a dishonest person, and Yiddish is a language, based largely on German and Hebrew, which was spoken by Jews in Eastern Europe.

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Although Ilene Cooper thought that “Levine shows off her considerable writing skills . . . especially when she describes the orphanage and the almost Dickensian characters who inhabit it,” she felt that “less successful is the recreation of the jazz world of Harlem, which never seems quite as real or rich as life in the home,” Still, she concluded, “this is a book that stretches and takes a chance, and one whose central character, a feisty and fearless kid, jumps off the pages.”63 Kirkus Reviews disagreed with Booklist though, arguing that “Levine’s writing is believable and personable; historical details ring true, especially the energy among African Americans during the 1920s artistic flowering, and the particulars of Jewish and Yiddish culture.”64 This is part of the reality of being a published author: Not everyone loves all of your books, all of the time. To this day, Dave at Night remains Levine’s favorite among her books. Unfortunately, though, Levine’s father, David, died in 1986 and never had the opportunity to read his daughter’s loving and imaginative tribute to him and to his life. My father grew up in an orphanage. I knew this when I was a kid, but he wouldn’t talk about it, which made me curious. So I made up my own version of my father’s childhood. It’s entirely fiction, but I think the character of Dave is somewhat like my father. And I think the friendship, the intense bonding, among the boys must be close to what happened. My father was a very happy man, the most joyous person I’ve ever known, and to be that happy, I think there had to have been people who cared about him and about whom he cared. Dave at Night is my favorite of my books, because of its connection to my family and because of the fascinating things I learned when I researched the period, which was

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE important to New York City history and to African-American history.65

If Dave at Night stands alone among Gail Carson Levine’s books with its factual historical setting, The Wish, published in 2000, stands alone as well, as her only title that takes place in a contemporary setting. Ironically, though, setting a book among today’s teenagers required nearly as much research for Levine as did the Harlem Renaissance. Levine spoke of that research, saying, “I don’t have kids, and I rarely watch TV, and it’s been a long time since I was fourteen, so I had to research being an eighth grader. I spent a day following an eighth grade class around, and I asked a lot of questions. I also interviewed several kids about their hobbies, their classes, their opinions on popularity.”66 There was more to it than just the research involved in making the book feel “real,” as she revealed in an interview with HarperCollins, I was never certain about getting it right. For example, I used the telephone in the book, and phone technology changes so much. All the music at their grad night is oldies, which is just as well because whatever is playing now is also going to [become] an oldie. Working in the real world is very hard, for me anyway. For other people, it’s not.67

Levine drew partially on her own experiences as a student in The Wish; friendship and the desire to be popular are at the heart of this book. Remember Levine’s year at Bronx Science? “The Wish is a little based on 10th grade when I was at Bronx Science,” Levine remarked. “There’s a scene at the beginning of the book where Wilma is alone and on her way to school and surrounded by kids who are all friends. That was also my experience in the morning. I felt lonely and isolated, and I think the book came out of that.”68 In The Wish,

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Levine’s narrator describes a similar experience, “I once read that in some primitive tribe or other, they punished people by ignoring them. If you were being punished, nobody would talk to you. They’d look through you, they’d pretend you didn’t exist. It wouldn’t take long for this treatment to kill you. I mean, you’d actually die. Dead.” (The Wish, p. 3) In The Wish, 14-year-old Wilma Sturtz is an eighth grader at Claverford Middle School in New York City. Her two best friends have moved away, which leaves her alone and friendless, with the exception of her beloved dog, Reggie. One day, on the subway on her way to school, Wilma gives her seat to an old lady. In return, the old lady grants Wilma one wish. “I want to be the most popular kid at Claverford” (The Wish, p. 2), Wilma replies; she does not realize that the woman actually has the power to make her wish come true. Before she knows it, Wilma is the most popular kid at school. She hangs out with the most popular girls. Boys are bombarding her with invitations to the Grad Night dance. At home, her phone rings constantly. She soon realizes, however, that there is a catch. She asked to be the most popular kid at Claverford; but in just a matter of days, she will graduate and move on to high school. Will she remain popular when she is no longer at Claverford? In a scene at the end of the book, Wilma is with her new girlfriends shortly after the Claverford graduation ceremonies. When the spell ends, her new friends are furious when they find out they were compelled to like Wilma, and for a few moments, their friendships lie precariously in the balance. This scene, in particular, troubled Levine a lot. “The ending, amongst the girls, where they become reconciled, that was enormously difficult to write.”69 The scene may have been difficult, but it turned out to be one of the most effective and moving scenes of the book. Wilma realizes

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For The Wish, her third published novel, Levine had to do a lot of research of a different kind: she had to learn what life is like for a teenager today!

that being popular is fun, but having real friends is what really matters. At the end, the reader is left with the hope that at least some of the friendships would last. Nobody said anything. I wanted to be sure of them, but I couldn’t be. Without a spell, I couldn’t be. The friendship

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would have to be their wish as well as mine. It would have to keep on being what each of us wanted, or it would end. Which was right, I supposed. Which was right, even if I wanted more certainty than that. (The Wish, p. 185)

Levine liked the finished book a lot, as did the critics. Renee Steinberg, writing for the School Library Journal raved, “through the use of fantasy, Levine allows her readers to explore the qualities of true friendship and the very need for approval and acceptance. An enjoyable, thought-provoking and absorbing selection.”70 Ilene Cooper at Booklist commented that “[t]he fun is watching the nerdy girl, with whom readers will identify, blossom into a self-assured kid who lucks out the most by learning what it takes to be a friend, not just have friends.”71 Kirkus Reviews lauded the book, saying, “This is a highly entertaining, funny, poignant modern fairy tale. . . . Levine captures the day-to-day lives of tortured teens, their language, their anxieties, and their joys while spinning a light tale with deeper meaning.”72 Levine’s days as an aspiring writer were over. She had written three novels, each completely different in style and genre, and had achieved both critical and commercial success beyond her expectations. Levine was ready to return to the genre she loved.

Did you know... Did you know that the scene in The Wish where Wilma’s dog, Reggie, pees on the sculpture is based on a real-life incident? Levine’s dog at the time, an Airedale terrier named Archie, peed on the leg of an antique dining room table owned by Levine’s friend.

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Levine is best known for her fairy tales, especially her series, “The Princess Tales.” The Fairy’s Return, above, was published in 2002.

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7 Back to the Land of Once Upon a Time ALTHOUGH GAIL CARSON Levine had written books outside the genre, such as Dave at Night, she is best known and loved for her fairy tales. Between 1999 and 2002, Levine published six such short novels, in the series called “The Princess Tales.” It all began with one of Levine’s earliest picture books, one that had failed to find a publisher: The Fairy’s Mistake is an expansion of a picture book that, initially, my husband gave the title “Talk is Cheap.” [After Ella Enchanted was published] I’d sent it off to HarperCollins. On the day that my

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE husband and I were meeting with two financial planners to see if I [could afford to] quit my job [at the New York Department of Social Services], I got a letter from Harper saying that they wanted me to expand “Talk is Cheap” into a chapter book, and do two more and make it a series. Then they asked me to do another, and I proposed the final two.73

Needless to say, shortly after receiving this letter, in 1997, Levine was no longer working for the New York State Department of Social Services. In “The Princess Tales,” as in Ella Enchanted, Levine takes classic fairy tales and makes them her own; sometimes she uses lesser-known fairy tales, such as “Puddocky.” She expands these tales, twists them, and gives them entirely new and previously unimagined dimensions. When Levine rewrites the classic tales, it also gives her the opportunity to answer some of the questions that she, and doubtless other readers as well, had while reading them in their original forms. Perhaps most important of all, Levine’s love of these tales helps to bring them alive to a new generation of readers: I’ve always loved fairy tales. I read lots of them when I was a kid, and I own many of the volumes in Andrew Lang’s series. The Green Fairy Tale Book, The Blue Fairy Tale Book, The Brown Fairy Tale Book. . . . There’s never a dull moment in a fairy tale, and they’re always about important stuff—greed, jealousy, death, love, courage, kindness. Sometimes I like to twist them. For example, the fairy tale “Toads and Diamonds” didn’t get it right, in my opinion. I don’t think the prince would fall in love at first sight with the kind sister. I think he’d be much more likely to fall in love with the jewels coming out of her mouth, so that’s the way I wrote it in The Fairy’s Mistake.

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Sometimes I just open the story up and expand it without doing much twisting. In Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, which is a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” I wondered what it would feel like to be a baby and receive a fairy gift. And I wondered what kind of person would brave a wicked-looking hedge to find a princess he’s never met.74

It is this ability to get into the skin of her characters, to imagine and flesh out what in the original tales is left unsaid, that makes Levine such a valuable writer. Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep is a fine example of Levine’s unique way of telling a tale. This version of the classic Sleeping Beauty begins, as does the original, when the Princess receives gifts from the fairies. Arabella gives her the gift of beauty. “The baby began to change. Her scrawny arms and legs became plump, and her blotchy yellow skin turned pink. Her pointy head became round. Honey colored ringlets appeared on her scalp. Ouch! It hurt to have your body change shape and to grow hair on your head in ten seconds. Sonora wailed.” (Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, p. 1) Allegra gives her the gift of a loving heart. Adalissa gives her gracefulness. Annadora gives her good health, and Antonetta makes her the smartest human in the world. Unfortunately, that was the gift that Aurora was going to give, but she quickly comes up with an improvement: Sonora would be brilliant, ten times as smart as anyone in the world. Then, of course, comes the curse from the uninvited fairy, Belladonna. Sonora will prick herself with a spindle and die. Fortunately for Sonora, the fairy Adriana still has not given her gift. Although she cannot reverse another’s fairy’s gift, she can alter it. Sonora will not die when she pricks her finger, but she will fall asleep for 100 years, along with everyone else in the castle.

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE With the exception of a few unfamiliar gifts and the demonstration of what it feels like to receive those gifts, this is close to the classic tale, but Levine is ready with a few new twists. Sonora is unspeakably smart because of Aurora’s gift. “The Royal Nursemaids couldn’t get used to Sonora. It was so strange to change the diaper of a baby who blushed and said, “ ‘I’m so sorry to bother you with my elimination.’ ” (Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, p. 20) Sonora is so smart and eager to share her knowledge that she tells far more than most people want or need to hear; as a result, a proverb sweeps the kingdom: “Princess Sonora knows, but don’t ask her.” When Sonora is of age, the traditional fairy tale prince comes to court her. In Levine’s world, he turns out to be a bit of a dolt with nothing to offer a princess as intelligent as Sonora. He presents the princess with the following letter: My Dear Princess: My father, King Stanley CXLIV says I’m going to marry you. I believe him. He always tells the truth, so I believe him. If he were a liar, I wouldn’t. I believe in honesty. The fairies made me Honest when I was born. Besides, I do what my father tells me. If he says to marry someone, I marry her. I’m traditional. The fairies made me that too when I was born. Below is a list of all the other things they made me. 1. Brave. 2. Handsome. 3. Strong. 4. A Man of Action. (I used to be a Baby of Action.) 5. A Good Dancer. 6. Tall.

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7. Plus Honest and Traditional, as shown above. I trust you will find me as described. Honestly, Prince Melvin XX (Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, pp. 40–41)

Sonora eventually pricks her finger, and everyone in the castle, including Prince Melvin XX, falls into a deep sleep; a huge hedge grows around the castle, sealing it off from the outside world. Fortunately, a second prince makes his appearance. Prince Christopher is as curious as Princess Sonora is knowledgeable. He is always asking questions. When the sheep in his kingdom all become bald, he hopes that Sonora will know the cure and leaves his castle to search for her. He makes his way through the hedge and finds her, but she has been asleep for nearly 100 years and is covered with dust and spider webs and “ook and yuch and vech” (Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, p. 92), as well as a sign that says, “I am Princess Sonora. Kiss me Prince, and I shall be yours forever” (Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, p. 91). Christopher is at first hesitant and repulsed to think that he has to kiss her. “What was that on her cheeks and in the corner of her mouth? Spit? Bird droppings? Ugh!” (Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, p. 92) When she begins to talk in her sleep and shows how intelligent she is, even when she is unconscious, he has to kiss her. Everything ends happily. Besides the obvious humor, Levine adds much to the original story. She adds a sense of what the characters are going through, a sense of reality in an essentially unreal situation, and, perhaps most important to Levine, a new set of motivations. In the original tale, the Prince is drawn

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE to the Sleeping Beauty for her physical perfection. In this version, Sonora’s beauty is covered up with 100 years of dust, spider webs, and bird droppings. Prince Christopher is drawn to her intelligence. As Levine pointed out in an interview, “One of my missions it to put the kibosh on [put a stop to] beauty as a sufficient reason for love—in my versions there has to be more to it than that.”75 It is not just the opportunity to get a message across that draws Levine to fairy tales. It is their sense of fun, as she discussed in an interview with Scholastic magazine: The breakneck pace (of fairy tales) often covers grave gaps in logic. Fairy tales are often supremely goofy. For example, “The Princess and the Pea” presents a completely nutty way to find a future ruler. Or take love at first sight—in “Sleeping Beauty” the prince falls in love with the princess while she’s still asleep. They haven’t said a single word to each other! All he knows about her is that she’s pretty and doesn’t snore. In “Snow White,” the prince falls in love with a maiden he thinks is dead. This wacky stuff is enormous fun to work with. Another thing is the rich detail: cloaks of invisibility, jewels or snakes and insects coming out of a maiden’s mouth, purses that fill themselves, tablecloths that deliver food endlessly, princes turned into toads, seven-league boots. In fairy tales this super stuff flies by. You don a cloak of invisibility and— poof!—you’re invisible. But what does it feel like? What does it feel like to turn into a toad or a deer or a stone statue? I love to slow down the fairy tales and help the reader experience these extraordinary events.76

The six “Princess Tales” (The Fairy’s Mistake, The Princess Test, Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, Cinderellis and the Glass Hill, For Biddle’s Sake, and The

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Fairy’s Return) are showcases for Levine’s abiding love of fairy tales. They show her sensitivity, her sense of humor, her ability to make these classic tales relevant to today’s readers. Along with audiences, critics, too, adored the books. School Library Journal said about the series, “Gail Carson Levine combs the fairy tale archives for raw material, then weaves her own sly versions, producing retellings shot through with farcical wit, role-reversal, and empowered heroines. Levine . . . captivates both voracious and reluctant readers with these lively retellings.”77 In her discussion of For Biddle’s Sake (Levine’s favorite book of the series) and The Fairy’s Return, Eva Mitnick said, Eccentric and misguided characters abound; Robin’s father, who fancies himself a genius poet, comes up with non-rhyming gems like, “Royalty and commoners must never mix./ Remember this or you’ll be in a predicament.” Kids will love figuring out what word should be used in each poem, they’ll cheer for the plucky heroines, and they’ll relish the fairy tale endings.78

Levine loved to transform old tales into new ones. For her next project, Levine planned to rewrite another classic tale, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” The following is the beginning of the story as written in Grimm's Fairy Tales: There was once a King who had twelve daughters, each more beautiful than the other. They all slept together in one chamber in which their beds stood side by side, and every night when they were in them the King locked the door and bolted it. But in the morning when he unlocked the door, he saw that their shoes were worn out with dancing, and no one could find out how that had come to pass. Then the King caused it to be proclaimed that whosoever could discover where they danced

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE at night, should choose one of them for his wife and be King after his death, but that whosoever came forward and had not discovered it within three days and three nights, should have forfeited his life. It was not long before a King’s son presented himself, and offered to undertake the enterprise. He was well received, and in the evening was led into a room adjoining the princesses’ sleeping-chamber. His bed was placed there, and he was to observe where they went and danced, and in order that they might do nothing secretly or go away to some other place, the door of their room was left open. But the eyelids of the prince grew heavy as lead, and he fell asleep, and when he awoke in the morning, all twelve had been to the dance, for their shoes were standing there with holes in the soles. On the second and third nights it fell out just the same, and then his head was struck off without mercy. Many others came after this and undertook the enterprise, but all forfeited their lives.79

As the tale progresses, a poor wounded soldier is on his way to the king to help solve the mystery when he runs into an old woman who tells him not to drink the wine, which is drugged by the eldest princess, and gives him a cloak of invisibility. Thus armed and ready, he is able to trick the 12 princesses into thinking he is asleep, and is able to watch the eldest’s bed sink into the ground and all twelve princesses walk into the opening. His cloak of invisibility allows him to follow and observe them. They enter a kingdom where the leaves are made of silver, gold, and diamonds. There, the princesses meet 12 princes, who are under an enchantment, and they dance and drink the night away, returning home to their beds at three o’clock in the morning. After he observes this for three nights, the soldier reports to the king what has been

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happening; he is given the hand of the eldest princess in marriage, and is promised the kingdom itself upon the king’s death.

Levine set out to write a story based on a lesser-known fairy tale recorded by the Grimm Brothers: “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Instead, the story turned into the novel The Two Princesses of Bamarre, a completely original fairy tale.

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE This was the story Levine wanted to use as the basis for her next book. Things, however, did not work out quite as she had planned. Instead, the book became The Two Princesses of Bamarre, a wholly original story. In the following interview excerpt, Levine offers a rare and intriguing look into the mind, the thoughts, the very work, and creative processes of an author: I was hoping to write “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” and I couldn’t get it right, and I tried and I tried and it morphed into [something else]. It was one of those that took a billion turns and it just slowly became a different book. It started out with the twelve dancing princesses going to be [only] three dancing princesses because twelve is an impossible number. And I thought [about] a sorcerer. There’s the old lady who gives the soldier the cloak of invisibility, and you never know why she does it. So I decided there wouldn’t be an old lady and that the soldier could be a sorcerer, and he’s already got a cloak of invisibility. And then I had an idea that the father was trying to bring back his dead wife who’d died of the Gray Death, and they were searching for the Philosopher’s Stone. I think it’s very lucky that I didn’t go that way [given the popularity of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the United Kingdom]. Also, I could not figure out the twelve princes underground and I spent most of the time wondering about why they were there. And then there’s the princesses— their father says that anybody who comes around who cannot figure out why they’re going through their dancing shoes is going to die. So every time the prince fails it’s because of the princesses, who were supposed to be my heroines, let this poor schmo [Yiddish for “jerk”] die, which doesn’t make them very

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nice. So I had a lot of trouble with it for all those reasons. And so it morphed into what it is.80

It became perhaps Levine’s strongest and most original novel. The Two Princesses of Bamarre tells the story of two princess sisters: Meryl, who is brave and courageous and dreams of leaving home and slaying dragons, and Addie, shy and fearful, who would be happy to remain at home forever, safely within the walls of the castle. When Meryl becomes fatally ill with the Gray Death, Addie is forced to leave the safety of the castle in search of a cure for her beloved sister. As in Ella Enchanted, it is love for another that forces the heroine to go beyond her normal life and capabilities. Addie leaves the security of the castle and enters a kingdom filled with specters, ogres, and dragons, armed only with four special items. The first is a pair of seven-league boots, which allow the owner to travel seven leagues in only one step (one league is equal to three miles). She also has a magic spyglass, an enchanted tablecloth that magically produces a never-ending amount of

Did you know... Did you know that there was a real-life version of the Gray Death described in The Two Princesses of Bamarre? Unlike its fictional counterpart, the real-life Black Death, which was called the Plague, was a horribly painful way to die. It killed nearly 34 million people, almost one-third of Europe’s population, in the years 1347–1350.

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE food, and a cloak. As Levine explains about the cloak, “It’s not a cloak of invisibility. But if you’re in shadow, even in daylight—under a tree, perhaps—and if you stay still, you won’t be noticed. At night no one will see you. The shadow will seem deeper where you are, that’s all.” (Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 80) Together with those things, Addie also has her determination and a growing sense of courage. Interspersed throughout the novel are excerpts from a long epic poem, similar to the classic epic poem, Beowulf. Entitled “Drualt,” the poem tells the story of the first hero of Bamarre. After a bit of trepidation, Levine relished the opportunity to tell a second story within a story, in verse form. This is the opening stanza of “Drualt”: Out of a land laid waste To a land untamed, Monster ridden, The lad Drualt led A ruined, ragtag band, In his arms, tenderly, He carried Bruce, The child King, First ruler of Bamarre. (Two Princesses of Bamarre, p. 1)

It was a new adventure for Levine to write the poetic saga: I’m not a poet, and I hardly ever write verse. But I wanted the poem to be in the book and there was no one else to write it. I told myself that I didn’t know what I was doing, so I should just mess around and have fun. That’s what I did, and the verses were what I most enjoyed writing. When I say to myself, “Gee Gail, you’ve written other books, so how come you’re having so much trouble?” that’s when the going gets tough.81

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As always, Levine enjoyed playing with the magical elements in the tale. The seven-league boots in particular seemed to tickle her imagination, and in an interview, Levine discussed whether it would actually be practical to own them: I’d do most of my traveling in them. It would take some calculating, though. A league is three miles, so seven-league boots go twenty-one miles in a single step. Suppose I wanted to go to New York City, to an address in lower Manhattan, which would be sixty-five miles from where I live. If I took three steps right from home, I’d still have two more miles to go when I got there. So I’d get in my car and drive two miles toward the city. Then I’d put on the boots and step. I’d do it the same way if I was going to California. No more trains. No more planes. No more delays. No more worries about terrorists! The only destinations the books wouldn’t work for would be overseas, because I’d drown! Luggage might be a problem too. But if Addie could pull an ogre, I guess I could pull a suitcase.82

With the publication of Two Princesses in 2001 to strong critical and audience acclaim, and the continued success of each of the “Princess Tales,” Levine solidified her claim as one of the most popular current children’s writers. Each new book added to her popularity. Her fame and popularity were soon to grow to even greater proportions, and Levine would not have to write a single word.

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In 2004, Levine’s novel Ella Enchanted was made into a movie starring Anne Hathaway. The movie was quite different from the novel, but Levine was a fan of Hathaway’s performance, saying, “If I’d had the choice of anyone in the world to play Ella, I don’t think I could have chosen better.”

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8 Fairy Tales Do Come True LIFE HAS BEEN good for Gail Carson Levine. After a nineyear struggle to find a publisher, she became established as one of the most beloved and respected of today’s children’s book authors. Her happiness extends beyond her professional life, too; she has been happily married to David Levine since 1967, and they live and work contentedly in a large 200-year-old farmhouse in Brewster, New York, with their beloved Airedale terrier, Baxter. Apparently, fairy tale endings do happen in real life, not just in her stories. Levine has not been content to sit back and rest on her considerable laurels, however. She is still traveling, writing, and

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE working as hard as ever. In 2002, her first children’s picture book, Betsy Who Cried Wolf, was published. This book, a slight rewriting of one of Levine’s early attempts, is based on the classic tale, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” but with a slight “girl-power” twist. Grace Oliff of School Library Journal described the book best: In this amusing retelling of the classic fable, eight-year-old Betsy has just taken the Shepherd’s Oath. “She was going to be the best shepherd in Bray Valley history. And any wolf who tried to eat her sheep had better watch out!” However, Zimmo, the last wolf left on the mountain comes up with a plan. He appears to Betsy, causing her to blow her whistle and seek aid, but then disappears when the farmers arrive, destroying her credibility, and sending her back to Shepherd’s School. When she returns to the job and he tried his ruse again, no farmers come when Betsy calls, but she is determined to defend her flock. When she goes to hurl her plate of Shepherd’s pie at Zimmo, she suddenly realizes how skinny he is and gives him the food to eat instead. Grateful, he helps the child rescue some of the sheep that are dangling over a precipice, and eventually he, too, takes the Shepherd’s Oath and joins her on the hillside. The irony of the fact that the sheep are being saved from wolves so that they may be eaten by people will probably be lost on the intended audience (Kindergarten to 2nd grade), but the running commentary on events made by the sarcastic and silly sheep will not.83

This book was yet another success for Levine. Two years later, in 2004, Levine was to see her fame and popularity grow even more with the release of the movie version of Ella Enchanted. Although Levine did not have much to do with the movie, the publicity from the movie version translated into publicity and increased sales for the book,

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as well as for the rest of Levine’s titles. In an interview with Kidsreads.com, Levine discussed how the movie was filmed, as well as her contributions to the film: I had what are called “consulting rights,” which meant that the producer had to send me the script. I had the opportunity to comment, but the producer and director had no obligation to act on my comments. The script is very different from the book, and so is the movie. My comments about plot weren’t acted on. But my comments about obedience were. I said there had to be consistency in the way Ella responds to orders. She could follow commands figuratively or literally, but it needed to be the same throughout. In my book, Ella follows the meaning of commands [figuratively]. If she were told to hold her tongue, she’d be silent. In the movie, Anne Hathaway [the actress playing Ella], grabs her tongue and holds it [literally following the command]. So it goes the other way in the movie, but it is consistent. My husband and I were given the opportunity to go to Ireland and watch three days of shooting. We were just observers, although Miramax [the studio that made the film] did have my very own director’s chair ready for me! The filming was fascinating, and I’ll never watch a movie in exactly the same way again. They only shoot the tiniest pieces at a time, and only a few lines, which they film over and over until the director is satisfied. We were told that the director and producer were happy if they got a minute of usable film out of a whole day of shooting. And, since it was Ireland, the film crew had to stop frequently in the middle of scene, to wait for the weather to go back to what it had been at the beginning!84

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE As Levine mentioned, the movie is very different from the book: [I]t’s hard to compare them. There are new characters. For example, Char’s parents are dead in the movie, and he has an evil uncle who has a talking snake as a sidekick. [On the other hand, some] of the changes made me remember some of the choices I’d made when I wrote the book. For example, I’d thought of adding a political dimension. I’d thought of having Kyrrian policies towards the exotic creatures inhumane, but ultimately I decided not to. Interestingly, the movie does just that.85

Usually authors are not entirely happy with the movie version of their books. Imagine that you have spent years writing a book, which eventually becomes a success, and then the movie makers change the movie to make it the way they want it, or to help make it more marketable. How do you think you would feel? By and large, though, Levine was pleased with the movie. “The movie is fun, and the book is fun. I wouldn’t have wanted a somber interpretation, so I’m glad about that, and I love Anne Hathaway’s performance. If I’d had the choice of anyone in the world to play Ella, I don’t think I could have chosen better.”86 What Levine hopes, though, is that viewers of the movie and readers of the book will treat them as two creative acts that are completely separate. She would like to regard them as different experiences and not necessarily compare the two, or at least not to determine which one is better. She does hold out one hope. “Maybe someday, somebody will make another movie, and it will be truer to the book.”87 In 2005, Gail Carson Levine’s next book, Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, was published. The book, a

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beautifully illustrated fairy tale aimed at readers aged 9 to 12, brings Levine back to her childhood. Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg takes place in Neverland, the home of Peter Pan, the ageless hero of Levine’s favorite book when she was a girl. In fact, Levine dedicated the book to James M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, and to her own first “boyfriend,” Peter Pan! The book itself came about in a different manner than that of Levine’s earlier books. First of all, Disney Press published this book, instead of her usual publisher, HarperCollins. Second, the people at Disney came to Levine and asked her to write the book for them: Three editors from Disney took me to lunch and told me they wanted to do a series about the fairies of Neverland, and said they’d like me to write the first book, and set up the world! [This was interesting, because once, years before] I’d been invited to write a sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a modern day sequel, which I thought was a fabulous idea. But I reread the original Alice and it still wasn’t a book that I cared about, and I just couldn’t do it. But this one was a book that I loved, so I reread it, and I still loved it, so I was very eager to do it. Disney has commissioned a bunch of other books [for the same series] that are smaller in scope and focus on just one fairy, and I’ve contracted to write a second book as well.88

In Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, a new fairy named Prilla arrives at Neverland, but she does not quite fit in. In Neverland, everybody has a particular talent or a particular role to fill, but Prilla cannot figure out what her special talent is. This quickly becomes unimportant when Mama Dove’s egg, the source of all magic and eternal youth on Neverland, is destroyed in a hurricane. Prilla and two

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE other fairies are sent out on a quest to save the egg, and with it, Neverland itself. Levine loved writing about Neverland, the fictional place that she had loved so much as a child, and critics enjoyed the book, as well. Jennifer Hubert at Amazon.com raved: While Fairy Dust is unabashedly based on Disney’s Peter Pan, Levine’s companion version feels wonderfully fresh and original. The charming maxims of Levine’s fairy world (fairies say “Fly with you” instead of “Pleased to meet you,” and need dust from Mother Dove’s feathers to fly) along with David Christiana’s sumptuous illustrations breathe new life into a beloved classic.89

It is interesting to note that, despite all of Levine’s success as a writer, it has not gotten any easier for her to sit down and write the actual book. As Levine pointed out: I go through the same process (as I did with Ella Enchanted) to this day. I just go in the wrong direction. I wake up and I realize how stupid I’ve been. And over and over and over again. It’s not always the case with me every time. Some of “The Princess Tales,” Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, they were pretty straightforward. Others like Two Princesses of Bamarre, like . . . [Fairest] from HarperCollins, like the second one I'm working on for Disney now are just . . . what happens is I get involved in the thing I’m doing, and I don’t see what I’m doing.90

For Levine, writing continues to be a lifelong learning process. One of the things about writing that Levine learned to appreciate is the importance of getting input and criticism from other writers: For me, feedback is essential. I learned to write by taking classes, joining critique groups, and acting on almost all the

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criticism that came my way. For years, I took the same class over and over at the New School in New York City because it was so helpful. The teacher tended to concentrate on making the story exciting, keeping readers worrying and turning pages, which I think is the number one issue in writing for kids. I hope I’ve internalized this by now. These days, I have a critique buddy, the marvelous young-adult writer Joan Abelove [author of Saying It Out Loud and Go and Come Back]. Joan is perfect, because she’s a peer. I take her criticism very seriously, but I can evaluate it objectively and ignore it when it doesn’t seem right to me.91

Years of experience have also helped Levine learn how to evaluate her own writing: [The writing process] is not always so happy. I’ve recently started a new novel, and I couldn’t get the voice [how the narrator or character thinks and speaks] right. I think I’ve got it now, but till I did I was pretty miserable. When the writing isn’t going well, I’m not happy. . . . I’m not too hard on myself when I write. My criticisms of my work tend to be specific and useful. Like I know when a bit of dialogue isn’t right, and I know how to approach making it better. When I surprise myself or write something funny or pull something off that I wasn’t sure I could do, then I’m elated. Still, I’m a bit uneasy till I’ve written a whole first draft. Then I’m deliriously happy, and I love to revise. All I have to do then is to make things better—it’s heaven.92

Since Levine knows firsthand just how difficult writing can be, she believes it is important to pass on what she has learned and to encourage other young writers in the same way that other writers assisted her. Of course, this goes back to her involvement with the American Ethical Union and its emphasis on the importance of helping to improve

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE the lives of others. To do so, she offers writing workshops in her hometown of Brewster, New York: I do them during the summer at the local library. And I used to do it weekly at the middle school. So it depends, and each summer I do something different. [During the] summer of 2005, the problem that I gave my students to work on was that a bunch of kids are going on some kind of excursion (and I left it up to them what the excursion might be) with some adult chaperones, and at a certain point in the story, everyone over eighteen disappears. So what happens? And then every week I brought exercises to do, that had to do with the story. Like, I had them explore . . . one week I had them write three alternative endings that would explore different aspects of the story. Or, I’d do a characterization exercise, and in that I’d do a point of view, where they would have to write the story from somebody else’s point of view, other than the main character. So each week I’d bring them a different aspect to work on. I never expected them to finish the story, though I think one or two of them did. I just expected to use it as a way to get to certain of the issues that come up with writing. But what I do changes from year to year. For example, the year before, I did a different thing every week and every other week we did poetry.93

The writing workshops are not a one-way learning experience; Levine does not simply teach, and the participants in the workshops do not simply learn. As with most teachers, Levine has found that she learns nearly as much from her students as they learn from her: I’ve developed lots of exercises for the kids, and because of the experience of teaching them, I’ve written a book for kids about writing. I always do the exercises with the kids, and I’ve

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discovered that if an exercise works for me, it works for them, and if it doesn’t work for them, it doesn’t work for me either. I don’t mean that the kids write at an adult level. They don’t, but it seems that writing is writing, no matter how old you are. The kids are game for anything, and school has taught them to be able to perform at the drop of a hat. When I give out an exercise, they start right out. They don’t agonize and tear their hair. I’m always impressed by that, and when I’m with them, I write more spontaneously than I do in my office at home. And even at home I may be better at plugging right in than I would be without the experience of working with the kids. [One year, for example] I gave them this story starter: Erica goes to sleep over at her friend Josie’s house. When Erica gets there, Josie takes out her collection of shrunken animal heads. I started to work on it along with the kids. Shortly thereafter, I was invited to submit a short story for an anthology [a published collection] of mysterious stories, and that short story starter was the genesis [the beginning] of the story I submitted, which was accepted by the editor. But mostly I love being with the kids, watching them grow and become better writers. I’m also often surprised and delighted by the stuff they come up with. The workshop is the best part of my week.94

Levine’s weeks are, as you can imagine, extremely busy. In addition to the all-encompassing work of writing and revising her books, her favorite part of the process, Levine spends a great deal of time traveling and visiting schools nationwide. She has to answer fan mail, look over contracts, and consider new projects. The writer’s life is a busy one. Levine still has to make time for a personal life as well. She likes to spend time with her husband (they both work from their home in Brewster, New York, which certainly helps),

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE

One of Levine’s favorite things to do besides writing is walking her dog, an Airedale named Baxter. Above, Baxter sniffs around in Levine's backyard.

meditate whenever possible, and take their Airedale terrier, Baxter, for long walks as often as she can. Of course, for Gail Carson Levine’s legion of fans, her books matter the most. Her latest books include one about writing, intended for children as young as eight, called Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly. Fairest, published in 2006, is a retelling of Snow White featuring Aza, who is convinced that she is physically ugly; nevertheless, her kind heart and magical voice attract the attention of a

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handsome prince—and a dangerous new queen. In addition, a hardcover omnibus (collection) of all “The Princess Tales” was published, which includes the complete series in one convenient volume entitled The Fairy’s Return and Other Princess Tales. Levine is considering future projects, as well, including a possible historical novel, which would be her first since Dave at Night. It is a novel that will once again give her the opportunity to explore her Jewish roots: I’m thinking about a historical novel about the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. [In 1492, King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I ordered that all the Jews and Muslims must stop practicing their religions and convert to Catholicism, or they must leave the country.] I don’t know if I’ll do it. I may do it as a fantasy, because I think I might be able to touch on religion in a way that people will be able to take in more if I do it as fantasy. But I don’t know. If I did, the protagonist would almost certainly be a boy, because I think a girl would have had too little freedom [in those days] to operate.95

Indeed, if the book does come to be written, it will be the first book Levine has written since Dave at Night to have a male lead. Although several of “The Princess Tales”

Did you know... Did you know that Levine’s newest Airedale terrier, named Baxter, was a rambunctious puppy who, before the age of one and a half, had eaten socks, a pen, and two pairs of eyeglasses?

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GAIL CARSON LEVINE have both male and female leading roles, the male does not operate as a “solo hero.” Levine discussed this in a recent interview, as well as the reasons most of her books feature female heroes: [And although it’s true] that fairy tales are more girl-oriented, I do enjoy writing from a boy’s point of view. In fact, when I started writing, that was the point of view I always wrote from. I think I may have been pushed in that direction [writing from a girl’s point of view] by publishers who feel that it’s largely girls who read books and girls who buy books and that boys do much less of both. But I don’t think I’m uncomfortable in writing from a boy’s point of view.96

Regardless of the audience, Gail Carson Levine has reached a level of success that she never dreamed of when she was a little girl reading fairy tales in Washington Heights. She has become a successful writer as a result of natural talent, long years of study, hard work, and perseverance. She refused to be defeated by failure and is a firm believer in the American ethic of hard work. Levine has one piece of advice that she gives to all beginning writers: My advice is to keep writing! Writing is deceptively hard, unlike learning a musical instrument, which is obviously hard. With writing, you know how to read, you know how to recognize a good story, you know how to form words and sentences. Writing a story should be a snap. But it’s not. It takes a lot of practice, but you’ll get better. You may abandon most of your stories before you finish them. But if you keep writing, you’ll still get better. You may hate the stuff you write. But if you keep writing, you’ll get better. My success has come as a huge surprise to me. I wish someone had said to me that anything can happen, and that I

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should take risks. There’s more to lose by being overly cautious than by taking a few chances.97

Like the heroine in a fairy tale, Gail Carson Levine discovered her talent, risked failure, and won it all: a successful career and a happy marriage with her prince. Fairy tales can come true, even in real life.

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CHRONOLOGY 1947 Gail Carson is born September 17. 1961 She attends Bronx Science High School for one year; hates it; transfers back to neighborhood high school, George Washington High School, the following year. 1964–1967 She attends Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. 1967 She marries David Levine and transfers to City University of New York. 1969 Gail Carson Levine receives Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from City College, City University of New York. 1969–1970 Levine works for National Economic Research Association. 1970–1982 Levine works for New York State Department of Labor. 1982–1986 Levine works for New York State Department of Commerce. 1986–1997 Levine works for New York State Department of Social Services. 1987 Levine takes first class in writing children’s books. Over the next nine years, she will continue to take classes and write dozens of books before she finds a publisher. 1993 Levine moves from New York City to Brewster, New York. 1997 Ella Enchanted is published. 1997 Levine quits work at the New York State Department of Social Services so she can write full time. 1998 Ella Enchanted is named a Newbery Honor Book. 1999 Dave at Night is published. 1999 The Wish is published. 1999 The Fairy’s Mistake, the first book in “The Princess Tales” series, is published. The Princess Test, Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, Cinderellis and the Glass Hill, For Biddle’s Sake, and The Fairy’s Return, follow over the next three years. 2001 Two Princesses of Bamarre is published. 2002 Betsy Who Cried Wolf is published.

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CHRONOLOGY 2004 The movie version of Ella Enchanted is released. 2005 Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg is published. 2006 Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly is published. Fairest and The Fairy’s Return and Other Princess Tales are published. 2007 Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand is published.

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NOTES 10 Ibid.

Chapter 1

11 Ibid.

1 Bruno Bettleheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York: Vintage Books, 1977, p. 24.

12 Pat Hoertdoerfer, “A Brief History of the Ethical Culture movement.” American Ethical Union. www .aeu.org/hist1.html.

2 Barbara Lazar, “Young Adolescents Re-visit Cinderella or What Do Fairy Tales Have to Do With ME?!” University of New Mexico. http://www.unm .edu/~abqteach/fairy_tales/02-0310.htm. 3 "An Interview With Gail Carson Levine,” harpercollins.co.uk. http://www.harpercollins. co.uk./Authors/Interview .aspx?id=449&aid=959.

13 Abrams, Phone interview, December 15, 2005. 14 Ibid. 15 Ibid.

Chapter 3 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid.

4 Cynthia Leitich Smith, “Interview With Children’s and YA Author Gail Carson Levine, December 2000.” http://www .cynthialeitichsmith.com/authillGailCarson Levine.htm.

18 “Logical Positivism,” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/Logical_positivism. 19 Abrams, Phone interview, December 15, 2005. 20 Ibid.

Chapter 2

21 Ibid.

5 “Biography of Gail Carson Levine,” Contemporary Authors. Thomson Gale, 2004. 6 Smith, “Interview with Gail Carson Levine.”

22 Ibid. 23 Ibid.

Chapter 4 24 Ibid.

7 Dennis Abrams, Phone interview with Gail Carson Levine, December 15, 2005.

25 Ibid. 26 American Ethical Union. http://www.aeu.org/hist1 .html.

8 Ibid. 9 Ibid.

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NOTES 27 Abrams, Phone interview, December 15, 2005. 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid. 30 Ibid. 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid. 34 Ibid. 35 Ibid. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid. 38 Ibid. 39 Dennis Abrams, E-mail interview with Gail Carson Levine, December 17, 2005. 40 “Gail Carson Levine on Writing,” Scholastic.com. www.scholastic .com/kids/homework/pdfs/Ella_ Enchanted_pt5.pdf.

Chapter 5 41 “Biography of Gail Carson Levine,” Contemporary Authors. 42 Ibid. 43 “Gail Carson Levine on Writing.” Scholastic.com. 44 Yvonne Zipp. “An Interview with Gail Carson Levine,” The Christian Science Monitor. January 11, 2000. 45 “Gail Carson Levine on Writing.” Scholastic.com. 46 Ibid. 47 Abrams, Phone interview, December 15, 2005.

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48 School Library Journal. http://www.amazon.com/ Enchanted-Trophy-NewberyCarson-Levine/dp/productdescription/0064407055. 49 Publishers Weekly, Reed Business Information, 1998. http://www .amazon.com/Enchanted-TrophyNewbery-Carson-Levine/dp/ product-description/0064407055. 50 Kirkus Reviews. Kirkus Associates LP, 1997. http:// www.amazon.com/ Enchanted-Trophy-NewberyCarson-Levine/dp/productdescription/0064407055. 51 Ilene Cooper, Booklist. http://www.amazon.com/ Enchanted-Trophy-NewberyCarson-Levine/dp/productdescription/0064407055. 52 Abrams, Phone interview, December 15, 2005. 53 American Library Association, http://www.ala.org/ala/alsc .awardscholarships/literaryawds/ newberymedal/aboutnewbery/ aboutnewbery.htm. 54 Abrams, Phone interview, December 15, 2005.

Chapter 6 55 Ibid. 56 Ibid. 57 “Harlem Renaissance.” Wikipedia. http.//en.wikipedia .org/wiki/Harlem_Renaissance. 58 Abrams, Phone interview, December 15, 2005. 59 Ibid.

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106 60 Ibid. 61 Publishers Weekly. 62 Todd Dunkelberg, School Library Journal. Cahner’s Business Information, 2001. 63 Ilene Cooper, Booklist. 64 Kirkus Reviews. 65 Smith, “Interview With Gail Carson Levine.” 66 Ibid. 67 “An Interview With Gail Carson Levine,” harpercollins.com. http://www.harpercollins.com/ global_scripts/product_catalog/ author_xml.asp?author=12. 68 Abrams, Phone interview, December 15, 2005. 69 Ibid.

NOTES 79 Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Household Tales, trans. Margaret Hunt. London: George Bell, 1884. http://www.surlalunefairytales .com. 80 Abrams, Phone interview, December 15, 2005. 81 “An Interview With Gail Carson Levine,” Harpercollins.co.uk. http://www.harpercollins .co.uk/Authors/Interview .aspx?=id=449&aid=959. 82 Ibid.

Chapter 8 83 Grace Orliff, School Library Journal. Reed Business Information, 2002.

71 Cooper, Booklist.

84 “An Interview With Gail Carson Levine,” April 2004. Kidsreads.com. http://www .kidsreads.com/authors/ au-levine-gail-carson.asp.

72 Kirkus Reviews.

85 Ibid.

70 Renee Steinberg, School Library Journal. Reed Business Information, 2000.

Chapter 7 73 Abrams, Phone interview, December 15, 2005. 74 Cynthia Leitich Smith, “Interview With Gail Carson Levine.” 75 “About Gail Carson Levine.” Scholastic.com. http://www .scholastic.com/kids/homework/ pdfs/Ella_Enchanted_pt1.pdf. 76 Ibid. 77 Mary Burkey, School Library Journal. Reed Business Information, 2003. 78 Eva Mitnick, School Library Journal. Reed Business Information, 2003.

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86 Ibid. 87 Abrams. Phone interview, December 15, 2005. 88 Ibid. 89 Jennifer Hubert, “Review of Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg.” http://www.amazon.com. 90 Abrams, Phone interview, December 15, 2005. 91 “About Gail Carson Levine.” Scholastic.com. http://www .scholastic.com/kids/homework/ pdfs/Ella_Enchanted_pt1.pdf. 92 Ibid. 93 Abrams, Phone interview, December 15, 2005.

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107

NOTES 94 “About Gail Carson Levine.” Scholastic.com.

97 “About Gail Carson Levine.” Scholastic.com.

95 Abrams. Phone interview, December 15, 2005. 96 Ibid.

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WORKS BY GAIL CARSON LEVINE 1997 1999 1999 1999 1999 1999 2000 2001 2002 2002 2002 2005 2006 2006 2006

Ella Enchanted (HarperCollins) Dave at Night (HarperCollins) The Wish (HarperCollins) The Fairy’s Mistake (HarperCollins) The Princess Test (HarperCollins) Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep (HarperCollins) Cinderellis and the Glass Hill (HarperCollins) The Two Princesses of Bamarre (HarperCollins) Betsy Who Cried Wolf (HarperCollins) For Biddle’s Sake (HarperCollins) The Fairy’s Return (HarperCollins) Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg (Disney Press) Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly (HarperCollins) Fairest (HarperCollins) The Fairy’s Return and Other Princess Tales (HarperCollins)

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POPULAR BOOKS ELLA ENCHANTED This delightful book retells the story of Cinderella and features Ella of Frey. Cursed by the “gift” of obedience, Ella must survive an evil stepmother and stepsisters, ogres, and even giants in her quest to break the curse and earn the love of Prince Charmont. “THE PRINCESS TALES” SERIES The Fairy’s Mistake The Princess Test Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep Cinderellis and the Glass Hill For Biddle’s Sake The Fairy’s Return These six tales are retellings of famous classic fairy tales such as “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Princess and the Pea,” as well as lesser-known tales such as “Puddocky.” Humorous as well as touching, happy endings abound, but only for the right reasons. TWO PRINCESSES OF BAMARRE When shy and fearful Princess Addie’s brave older sister Meryl becomes ill with the Gray Death, Addie must leave the safety and security of the castle to go alone into a dangerous world of specters and dragons in a race against time to find a cure. FAIRY DUST AND THE QUEST FOR THE EGG Prilla, a new arrival at Neverland, has to discover her talent. Trouble arises though, when Mother Dove’s egg, which is the source of Neverland’s magic, is destroyed in a hurricane. Prilla is sent out on a dangerous quest to find a solution.

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POPULAR CHARACTERS ELLA OF FREY The heroine of Ella Enchanted, Levine’s modern version of the story of Cinderella. Ella is cursed with the “gift” of obedience. To have any chance of happiness, she must find a way to get the curse reversed and, along the way, win the love of Prince Charmont. DAVE CAROS The hero of Dave at Night, Dave is a smart, brash, and lively orphan living at the Hebrew Home for Boys. The book explores both the Jewish Lower East Side of New York City, as well as the Harlem Renaissance. Dave is based on Levine’s own father, who was an orphan. ETHELINDA A somewhat flawed fairy, she made her first appearance in The Fairy’s Mistake, giving out rewards and punishments that did not work out quite as well as she had imagined. She made a return appearance in The Fairy’s Return. After she avoided humans for seven years in fear of making another mistake, she has to figure out a foolproof way to help Robin earn his true love’s hand in marriage. PRINCESSES ADDIE AND MERYL Heroines of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Meryl is as brave and courageous as Addie is timid and scared. When Meryl becomes ill with the Gray Death, Addie must venture out to find a cure for Meryl before it is too late.

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MAJOR AWARDS ELLA ENCHANTED Newbery Honor Book, 1998; School Library Journal Best Book; ALA Notable Children’s Book; ALA Quick Picks for Young Adults; Publisher’s Weekly Best Book; California Young Reader Medal; Indiana Young Hoosier Medal; Rebecca Caudill Young Reader Award (Illinois); Dorothy Canfield Fisher Masterlist (Vermont); Black-Eyed Susan Medal (North Dakota); Master Lists: Texas, California, Florida, Colorado, Connecticut, and Utah DAVE AT NIGHT School Library Journal Best Book; ALA Best Book for Young Adults; New York Public Library; Best Children’s Books of the 20th Century; Master Lists: Indiana, Connecticut THE TWO PRINCESSES OF BAMARRE Booksense Children’s 76; Children’s Choice Award, Pennsylvania

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BIBLIOGRAPHY “Author: Gail Carson Levine.” Kidsreads.com. 2005. Available online. URL: www.kidsreads.com/authors/au-levine-gail-carson.asp. “Author Interview: Gail Carson Levine.” HarperCollins. 2005. Available online. URL: www.harpercollins.com/global_scripts/product_catalog/ author_xml.asp?authorid=12385. “Biography—Levine, Gail Carson.” In Contemporary Authors. Farmington Hills, Mich., Thomson Gale, 2004. Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm. Household Tales. Trans. by Margaret Hunt. London: George Bell, 1884. “Harlem Renaissance.” Wikipedia. Available online. URL: http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlem_Renaissance. “An Interview With Gail Carson Levine.” 2005. Available online. URL: http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/Authors/Interview .aspx?id=4498aid=959. “An Interview With Gail Carson Levine.” In Scholastic Book Files, A Reading Guide to Ella Enchanted. Available online. URL: http:// www.scholastic.com/kids/homework/pdfs/Ella_Enchanted.pdf. Lazar, Barbara. “Young Adolescents Re-visit Cinderella or What Do Fairy Tales Have to Do With ME?!” Available online. URL: www .unm.edu/~abqteach/fairy_tales/02-03-10.htm. Levine, Gail Carson. Betsy Who Cried Wolf. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. ———. Cinderellis and the Glass Hill. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. ———. Dave at Night. New York: Harper Trophy, 2001. ———. Ella Enchanted. New York: Harper Trophy, 1998. ———. E-mail interview by Dennis Abrams. December 17, 2005. ———. Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg. New York: Disney Press, 2005. ———. The Fairy’s Mistake. New York: HarperCollins, 1999. ———. The Fairy’s Return. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. ———. For Biddle’s Sake. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

113

———. Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep. New York: HarperCollins, 1999. ———. The Princess Test. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. ———. The Two Princesses of Bamarre. New York: Harper Trophy, 2003. ———. The Wish. New York: Harper Trophy, 2001. McGinty, Alice B. Meet Gail Carson Levine. New York: PowerKids Press, 2003. Smith, Cynthia Leitich. “Interview With Children’s and YA Author, Gail Carson Levine, 2000, www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/auth-ill/ GailCarsonLevine.htm. Zipes, Jack. “Setting Standards for Civilization Through Fairy Tales: Charles Perrault and His Associates.” In Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Classic Genre for Children and the Process for Civilization, New York: Routledge, 1991. Zipp, Yvonne. “Writing Tips: Ask Questions, Don’t Give Up.” The Christian Science Monitor (January 11, 2000).

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FURTHER READING Bettleheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York: Vintage Books, 1977. Zipes, Jack. The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World (2nd ed.). Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Zipp, Yvonne. “An Interview with Gail Carson Levine,” The Christian Science Monitor (January 11, 2000).

Web Sites Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books http://www.mythfolklore.net/andrewlang/ “Drop Me Off in Harlem” http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/exploring/harlem/ Gail Carson Levine http://www.harperchildrens.com/hch/author/author/levine/ SurLaLune Fairytales http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/

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PICTURE CREDITS page:

10: Victoria & Albert Museum, London/Art Resource, NY 15: Photo by David Levine, courtesy Gail Carson Levine 18: Image Select/Art Resource, NY 22: Photofest 25: Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images 28: Courtesy of Antiochiana, Antioch College 33: AP Images 36: AP Images 42: AP Images, John Lent 48: Photo by SMGraphics, Cover art © 2007 by Larry Rostant, used by permission of HarperCollins 51: Matthew Sussman, © 2005 The New School

60: Photo by SMGraphics, Cover art © 2006 by Patrick Faricy, used by permission of HarperCollins 65: AP Images 72: Photo by SMGraphics, Cover art © 2001 by Michael Koelsch, used by permission of HarperCollins 74: Photo by SMGraphics, Cover art © 2006 by Larry Rostant, used by permission of HarperCollins 83: Photo by SMGraphics, Cover art © 2007 by Larry Rostant, used by permission of HarperCollins 88: © Miramax Films Photographer: David Appleby 98: Photo by David Levine, courtesy Gail Carson Levine

Cover: 53475998: Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

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INDEX Abelove, Joan, 95 acting, 26, 30 Adler, Felix, 26 Airedale terrier “Archie,” 73 “Baxter,” 89, 98, 99 Alcott, Louisa May, 23 “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” 23 Alice in Wonderland (Carroll), 27 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 93 American Ethical Union, 26–27, 95–96 American Library Association, 58 American Revolution, 39 Androcles and the Lion (Shaw), 26 Anne of Green Gables (Montgomery), 23 Antioch College, 17, 29–34 reason for choice, 30 Armstrong, Louis, 64 Arthur, Jean, 21 artistic pursuits, 21, 42–43 attendance at events, 27 drawing and the arts, 26, 38, 41, 44 illustrating children’s books, 41, 42 Association for Library Service to Children, 58 award. See Newbery Honor Bambi, 23 Barrie, James M., 21, 23, 93 Beauty (McKinley), 58 “Beauty and the Beast,” 23 Beowulf, 86 Betsy Who Cried Wolf (Levine), 90 Bettleheim, Bruno Uses of Enchantment, The, 11–12 Black Beauty, 23 Black Death, 85 Blue Fairy Tale Book, The (Lang), 76 Booklist, 57, 69, 73 “Boy Who Cried Wolf, The,” 90 Bronx High School of Science, 26, 70 Brothers Grimm, 14, 16, 81–82 Brown Fairy Tale Book, The (Lang), 76

Capote, Truman, 39 Carasso, David, 19, 63, 69. See also Carson, David Carson, David, 19. See also Dave at Night characterization, 52, 77 exercises in workshops, 96 motivations of character, 49–50 thoughts and feelings, 16–17 Charlotte’s Web, 59 Ch’eng-shih, Tuan, 14 Children’s and Household Tales. See Grimm’s Fairy Tales Christian Science Monitor, 50 Christiana, David, 94 chronology, 102–103 Cinderella (Perrault) fame and popularity of, 13 theme of, 16 versions, other cultures, 14, 16 Cinderellis and the Glass Hill (Levine), 80 City University of New York, 34 college days, 29–34 Bachelor of Arts received, 34 cafeteria, social center, 32, 34 discontent at, 32 extracurricular activities, 29, 32 honor society award, 34 philosophy major, 30–31 protest marches and movements, 31–32 work/study program, 31 Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Twain), 24 “consulting rights” for film, 91 contract with publisher, 56–57 Cooper, Ilene, 57, 69, 73 creative outlet. See acting; artistic pursuits; writing Dave at Night (Levine), 61–70, 99 African Americans in, 64–65, 68, 69 as author’s favorite, 69–70 Harlem Renaissance in, 64–67 Hebrew Home for Boys in, 63–64, 66, 69

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INDEX inspiration for, 20 Irma Lee in, 66 jazz music in, 66 Mr. Hillinger in, 63 Odelia in, 66 picture book original version, 62 publication of, 68 real and fictional characters in, 66 Solomon (“Solly”) Gruber in, 66, 67, 68 starred review of, 68 Yiddish culture in, 67, 68, 69 Davies, Arthur and Sylia Llewlyn, 21 Disney Press, 93, 94 DuBois, W.E.B., 64, 66 Duncan, Sandy, 21 Dunkelberg, Todd, 68 education writing classes, 41, 43, 44, 96–97 See also college days; high school Ella Enchanted (Levine) award for, 58–59 cast of characters, 52 creatures’ languages in, 53–54 Dame Olga in, 52 Ella in, 50, 52–53, 55–56, 91 Lucinda in, 50, 52, 55 Mandy (Fairy Godmother) in, 52, 55 movie version of, 90–92 original title of, 57 Prince Charmont (“Char”) in, 52, 53, 55 publication of, 17, 57 as retelling of Cinderella, 14, 49, 52, 58 starred review of, 58, 59 stepsisters in, 52, 54 writing process of, 62 Ellington, Duke, 64 Ethical Society. See National Ethical Culture Society Fairest (Levine), 94, 98 Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg (Levine), 14–15, 92–94 dedication of, 93 Neverland in, 93–94 Prilla in, 93–94 fairy tales favorites, 23 heroes and heroines, 32, 52, 54, 85, 100 lesser-known, 76 lessons in, 11–12

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love of, 76, 81 one-dimensional characters in, 54 retold, 14, 49, 52, 58, 76, 77, 81, 94, 98 themes in, 16 on writing about, 16 See also magic in fairy tales; specific fairy tale Fairy’s Mistake, The (Levine), 14–15, 75–76, 80 Fairy’s Return and Other Princess Tales, The (Levine), 99 Fairy’s Return, The (Levine), 80–81 fans and fan mail, 97, 98 Finding Neverland (movie), 21 Fitzgerald, Ella, 64 folk singers and folk songs, 27 folktales, 11–13 For Biddle’s Sake (Levine), 80, 81 Gabel, Margaret (“Bunny”), 44, 49 George Washington High School, 26 Giff, Patricia Reilly, 44 Go and Come Back (Abelove), 95 Gould, Stephen Jay, 31 government jobs. See State of New York departments Green Fairy Tale Book, The (Lang), 76 Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Brothers Grimm), 14, 81–82 Hansel and Gretel, 13, 16 Harlem Renaissance, 64–67, 70 HarperCollins, 56–57, 62, 70, 75–76, 93, 94 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 84 Harry Potter (character), 12 Harry Potter (movie), 21 Hathaway, Anne, 91, 92 Hebrew Orphan Asylum, 19, 61, 63, 64, 69 Heidi, 23 high school, 26, 70 “hippie” self description, 37–38 historical novel, 99 “honor books,” 59 Hop O’ My Thumb, 13 Hubert, Jennifer, 94 Hughes, Langston, 64, 66 Hurston, Zora Neale, 64 Jacobson, Sylvia, 20 Jewish heritage

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118 High Holy Days, 24 historical novel idea, 99 identity and, 67 jobs. See work and job titles John Newbery Medal, 44, 58–59 Jo’s Boys (Alcott), 23 Kant, Immanuel, 31 King, Corretta Scott, 31 King, Dr. Martin Luther, Jr., 31 King’s Cure, The (Levine), 43 Kirkus Reviews, 57, 69, 73 Kissinger, Henry, 24 Lang, Andrew, 76 Levine, David, 32, 34, 39, 89, 101 Levine, Rani, 20 Levine family, 19–20, 63 life-changing phone call, 59 Lily’s Crossing (Giff), 44 Little Men (Alcott), 23 Little Red Riding Hood (Perrault), 13 Little Women (Alcott), 23, 24 magic in fairy tales curses, 50, 52, 54–56, 58, 77 giftedness, 77–78 seven-league boots, 16, 80, 85, 87 wishes and spells, 71–73, 82 Mailer, Arthur, 39 Martin, Mary, 21, 23 M.C. Higgins the Great, 59 McKay, Claude, 64 McKinley, Robin, 58 McMullan, Kate, 43 Merlin, 24 Miller, Arthur, 39 Miramax, 91 Mitnick, Eva, 81 Montgomery, L.M., 23 Napoli, Donna J., 58 National Economic Research Association, 37–38 National Ethical Culture Society, 26–27, 29, 38 Nazi Germany, 24 Neverland in Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, 93–94 in Peter Pan story, 21–23 New School, 44, 49, 95 New York City, 34

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INDEX Brooklyn, 26, 39 Central Park, 27 cultural attractions in, 24–25, 27 five boroughs of, 26 Harlem, 19–20, 64–65, 67–68 Lower East Side, 67 Manhattan, 24, 26, 39 Wall Street, 37–38 Washington Heights, Manhattan, 24 See also State of New York departments Newbery Honor, 44, 58–59 Oliff, Grace, 90 Once and Future King, The (White), 24 Perrault, Charles, 13, 14 Peter Pan (Barrie), 94 characters in, 21–22 musical, 23 versions and adaptations, 21 Peter Pan (character), 23, 93 female actors in role of, 21 picture books Betsy Who Cried Wolf, 90 Fairy’s Mistake, The, 75–76 novel beginning as, 62 rejected by publishers, 17, 45–46 Plague, the, 85 Plato, 31 poem, 81 childhood favorite, 21 “Drualt,” 86 Princess and the Pea, The, 80 Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep (Levine), 14–15, 77–80 fairies in, 77 Prince Christopher in, 80 Prince Melvin XX in, 78–79 Royal Nursemaids in, 78 Sonora in, 77–78, 79–80 “Princess Tales, The” (Levine), 75–81, 87, 94, 99–100 Princess Test, The (Levine), 80 protest marches and movements, 31–32, 37 publisher difficulty getting published, 17, 44, 89 locating a, 41, 56–57 rejection by, 17, 45–46, 61, 62 See also HarperCollins Publisher’s Weekly, 57, 68 Puddocky (fairy tale), 76 Puss in Boots, 13

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INDEX Ramona and her Father, 59 reading and books, 23 favorite books and authors, 23, 27 “honor books,” 59 love of, 15–16, 20–21, 27, 41 story ideas from, 41 rejection letter. See under publisher residences Brewster, New York, 89, 96, 97 Brooklyn, 39 Washington Heights, Manhattan, 24, 34, 100 Yellow Springs, Ohio, 29 Rigby, Cathy, 21 Ritchard, Cyril, 23 Saying It Out Loud (Abelove), 95 Scholastic magazine, 80 School Library Journal, The, 57, 68, 73, 81, 90 Scribble Scrabble club, 24 Shakespeare, William, 27 Shaw, George Bernard, 26 short story in anthology, 97 Sleeping Beauty (Perrault), 13, 77, 80 Smith, Maggie, 21 Snow White, 16, 80, 98 social services work. See under State of New York departments Society of Children’s Book Writers, 43–44 Spacenapped (Levine), 38 State of New York departments Commerce, 17, 40 Labor, 17, 38, 40 Social Services, 17, 40–41, 43, 46, 51, 76 Steinberg, Renee, 73 Sterling, Rod, 31 story. See fairy tales; story or book title “Toads and Diamonds,” 76 Twain, Mark, 24 Twelve Dancing Princesses, The (Grimm), 81–84 “Twilight Zone, The” (Sterling), 31 Two Princesses of Bamarre, The (Levine), 14–15, 84–87 Addie in, 85–86 “Drualt” poem in, 86 Gray Death in, 84, 85 Meryl in, 85 publication of, 87 writing process for, 94

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United Artists Studios, 20 Uses of Enchantment, The (Bettleheim), 11–12 Vietnam War, 31, 37 Voyages of Dr. Doolittle, The, 59 Walt Disney (company), 14, 21 Washington, George, 39 “Wee Fishy One,” 21 Wikipedia, 64 Wish, The (Levine), 70–73 Reggie (dog) in, 71, 73 Wilma Sturtz in, 70–73 work and job titles full-time writer, 59 National Economic Research Association, 37 proofreading, 30 welfare administrator, 38, 41, 51–52 See also State of New York departments Wright, Richard, 64 writing advice, 61, 100–101 attention to detail, 54, 80 classes and workshops, 41, 43, 44, 96–97 community, 24, 43–44 critique group, 43, 94–95 difficulty of, 95, 100–101 genres, 73, 75, 86 influences, 24 love of, 24, 41, 42–43 missions and, 80 playwright, 38–40 research for, 67, 70 revisions, 46, 62, 94, 95, 97 rewritten classic tales, 49, 76 as “right” creative outlet, 45 self-doubt and, 45 story starter, 97 Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly (Levine), 98 Zel (Napoli), 58 Zipes, Jack, 13 Zipp, Yvonne, 50

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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR DENNIS ABRAMS is the author of numerous titles for Chelsea House, including biographies of Anthony Horowitz, Hamid Karzai, the Beastie Boys, and Ty Cobb. He attended Antioch College, where he majored in English and Communications. A voracious reader since the age of three, Dennis is a freelance writer in Houston, Texas, where he lives with his partner of 18 years, along with their two dogs and three cats.

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