Eight-year-old David Bernstein discovers life is much more exciting when he calls himself Ali Baba Bernstein. Only Ali Baba would have dared to grab the class snail and escape to the boys' room for his own magic experiment. David would never have invited every David Bernstein in the phone book to his birthday party -- or find himself hailed as a great detective -- or discover adventures and misadventures everywhere he went. But Ali Baba Bernstein does!
Eight-year-old David is convinced that his life will be more adventurous when he changes his name to Ali Baba.
Johanna Hurwitz is the author of over five dozen books for young readers. She is the recipient of many state awards, including the Texas Bluebonnet Award, the Kentucky Bluegrass Award, and the Garden State Children's Choice Award. She lives in Great Neck, NY.
Johanna Hurwitz always knew she wanted to be a writer. She started by telling stories to her brother, who is six years her junior, and she's been making up stories ever since. Born and raised in New York City, she earned her B.A. degree from Queens College and went on to receive a master's in library science from Columbia University. She embarked on a career as a children's librarian, but she never forgot that one day she wanted to write books, too.
She worked at the New York Public Library and in a variety of other public and school library positions. She also taught graduate courses in children's literature and storytelling at Queens College. When she and her husband, Uri -- a college teacher and writer -- and their children, Nomi and Beni, moved to Long Island, she continued her library work.
Although she had told original stories to her children, it was not until they were well along in school that Mrs. Hurwitz actually began to write down her stories. That's why, when children ask her how long it takes to write a book, she replies that her first, Busybody Nora, took her whole life.
But since then she has been writing with regularity, portraying with humor and sympathy the everyday incidents that are so important to children. She is particularly fond of seven- to nine-year-olds, because they are "so very open and get excited about small things," and she enjoys writing realistic fiction for and about them.
That these youngsters are equally fond of Mrs. Hurwitz's books is obvious. She has received many child-chosen state awards, including the Texas Bluebonnet Award, the Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Award, the Kentucky Bluegrass Award, the Garden State Children's Choice Award, the West Virginia Children's Book Award, and others.
In recent years, Johanna Hurwitz has crisscrossed the United States from Juneau, Alaska, to Jackson, Mississippi, and from San Diego, California, to St. Albans, Vermont. She has even spoken abroad, from Morocco to Mozambique and from Portugal to Nicaragua. On these trips she has met and spoken to schoolchildren, teachers, librarians, and parents. She has made many new friends and has often brought home new ideas for her next book.
In her own words...
I've been writing ever since I was a youngster. I told stories to my little brother and I wrote stories in blank notebooks that I kept under my bed. I've saved one of my early stories because a classmate illustrated it for me. Looking at it now, I see all my spelling mistakes and repetitious writing style. Luckily, my writing improved as I grew older.
When I was ten, I wrote a poem that was published in a Connecticut newspaper.
For me to read a book is still
And always will be quite a thrill.
For me to read a book is like
A boy when he rides his new two wheel Pike.
And when a bird comes north in spring
It's natural for him to sing.
I like to read books of science, fiction and mystery,
Books of poems, nature, and history.
And what is more, I'll read until I'm grown,
And then I'll write books of my own.
I was paid 50 cents. And my writing career had officially begun.
My parents told me that I should plan a second career as well. I decided to become a children's librarian. That way I was surrounded by books at work as well as at home.
BUSYBODY NORA was published in 1976. Since then, I've been writing one or two books a year. My ideas come from everywhere: my husband, children and cats have all given me ideas even when they aren't aware of it. But I also get ideas from keeping my eyes open: when I worked as a school librarian, I discovered that the third graders were studying about the food chain. That gave me the idea to write MUCH ADO ABOUT ALDO about Aldo Sossi who becomes a vegetarian to protest the consumption of crickets by the chameleons in his classroom; on vacation in Vermont, I met a woman who owned a llama and I began writing about Adam Fine who had A LLAMA IN THE FAMILY. My son was in a class with several boys named David and I wrote about David Bernstein who changed his name to Ali Baba Bernstein. My daughter started babysitting and I wrote about TOUGH-LUCK KAREN and her babysitting experiences. THE RABBI'S GIRLS is based on stories my mother told me about her childhood as one of a family with seven sisters. ("Seven sisters? No one Will believe that," my editor said. And so to make my story more realistic, I lopped off one of my aunts when I wrote the book.) An acquaintance told me that her two grandchildren were coming to spend the summer with her in our community and I got the idea for THE HOT &COLD SUMMER.
I never thought my stories would develop into so many series of books. However, once I create a new character they take on a life of their own. I find them talking to me in my imagination and telling me things that I should write about them. That's why after I wrote FARAWAY SUMMER, I suddenly felt the need to write DEAR EMMA. And now still another book about Dossi Rabinowitz and her friend Emma Meade is taking shape in my head. What's going to happen? What will the book be called? Those are surprises waiting for me to discover.