Books by Doris Orgel

CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 28, 2008

This retelling of the folktale by the Brothers Grimm is fairly faithful to the original, though the doctor's wife has been replaced by a daughter and his name has been sweetened, not particularly happily, from Crabb to Crayfish. But the satirical bite of the story—doctors don't necessarily know everything and their effectiveness relies as much on chance as experience or wisdom—retains its teeth. Nor has anything been added that would compromise the tightness of the tale's joints, or its quick-footedness. The watercolor artwork satisfactorily dilutes any extra sugar. Boiger conveys a good sense of being in old Europe, but the characters really take the cake. Each is true to his or her circumstance: Crabb and his daughter have a famished, tattered look, the rich man is by turns wheedling and superior, the original doctor is smugly corpulent and the thieving servants are a pack of cowards. Orgel's text unfolds simply and with exquisite pacing, retaining the orality of its folk origins. An entertaining as well as thought-provoking read-aloud. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
THE CAT’S TALE by Doris Orgel
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2008

In this feline retelling of a Chinese tale about how the years were named for 12 different animals, a little girl's cat provides personal perspective. Willow's grandma, Nai Nai, tries to tell her the story of when the Jade Emperor invited his favorite animals to a river race, but forgets to include Cat. Offended, Willow's cat, Mao, spills the real story of how Ox, Rat, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig and Cat competed in the Emperor's river race. According to Mao, clever Rat convinced Cat they should ride on Ox's back, but Rat betrayed Cat by pushing him into the river and leaping ashore first to win. So Jade Emperor named the first year cycle the Year of the Rat with each successive year named for the animals that completed the race, except for Cat, who never finished. So's bright, humorous watercolor illustrations capture the intimacy between Willow and Mao and add punch to the competitive drama of the folktale river race, its sassy storyteller and the intergenerational subtext. (author's note) (Picture book/folktale. 4-7)Read full book review >
CRAZY DIAMOND by David Chotjewitz
FICTION
Released: April 1, 2008

When rising pop star Mira M. is found dead in the aquarium of her producer's on-loan apartment, she leaves the media and her friends to speculate on the true cause of her death, as well as whether her chart-topper was actually written by Melody, a friend and fellow singer. CD tracks instead of chapters delve into the intertwined backgrounds of Mira, spirited into Germany in an amp case from Yugoslavia; Melody, smuggled in a container from Ghana with two other teens; and Kralle, their rescuer. Each year, the friends gather to celebrate the anniversary of Melody and her companions' arrival in Hamburg. This gritty story, translated from German, alternates between the first anniversary party after Mira's death and the singer's memories and observations in the afterlife. As she recalls possible borderline personality disorder and certain industry burnout, readers begin to understand her fall from glory, but may never know all her secrets. Chotjewitz draws upon his work with teen musicians and actors to create an edgy tale of friendship and stardom. (afterword) (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
THE BREMEN TOWN MUSICIANS by Doris Orgel
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

Similar in format to this team's The Lion and the Mouse and Other Aesop's Fables, this handsomely designed collection of retellings of six Grimm stories is distinctive in voice and image. The tales are both familiar and lesser known: The Hare and the Hedgehog, King of the Birds, When the Birds and Beasts Went to War, The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, The Fox and the Geese, and the title tale. Author and artist notes in the front cite each one's approach to Aesop; Orgel worked directly from the German text and updated some language; Kitchen describes how the Grimm tales appeal to the child in all of us. His elegant, finely textured illustrations resonate, setting the boxed text against scenery backdrops. A one-page biography of the Grimm Brothers adds a finishing touch. The retellings flow nicely from one story to the next. A beautiful family gift book. (Folklore. 5-9)Read full book review >
DANIEL HALF HUMAN: AND THE GOOD NAZI by David Chotjewitz
FICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

A young American army officer drives through the ruins of Hamburg in 1945, remembering his childhood there, from his celebration with his best friend of the rise of the Nazi party until his flight with his family after Kristallnacht. Daniel is appalled to discover that his mother is Jewish and that, therefore, he cannot join the Hitler Youth with Armin, but nevertheless the two remain best friends until history and ambition drive them apart. Chotjewitz tells his story deliberately, flashing back and forth from Daniel's post-war first-person narration to a measured third-person narration that moves from 1933 to 1939. Readers will feel Daniel's self-loathing upon learning that he is half-Jewish, his mother's growing hysteria as she realizes her blood damns them all, his lawyer father's increasingly desperate faith in the German capacity for reason, and Armin's conflict as he struggles to be both a good friend and a good Nazi. There are many Holocaust books for children, but this one stands out in its careful dissection of one family's experience before the war, and in its nuanced approach to the complexity of emotions and relationships under stress. (glossary) (Fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
MY MOTHER’S DAUGHTER by Doris Orgel
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2003

First-person narrative in the voices of four Greek goddesses: Leto, Artemis, Demeter, and Persephone. Robbed of their majesty and their role as religion, the mythological Greek pantheon tends to come across as heroic, but self-involved and mean-spirited: Xena: Warrior Princess crossed with soap opera. Leto begins these braided tales. She's the mother of the twins Artemis and Apollo, born of Zeus in one of his many guises. Artemis chooses to remain a maiden and pursue the hunt, although she falls for Orion and he comes to a bad end. The stories of Demeter and Persephone are told first in mother, then daughter, then mother's voices, so the lure of the King of the underworld, the changing of the seasons, and the bond between mother and daughter can be told from both points of view. Orgel (Lion and the Mouse, 2000, etc.) is clearly trying to revitalize the appeal of these goddesses, but the end result falls a bit flat—it's hard to make descriptions of one's own power and beauty convincing. Still, there's a nice list of names and places, and a bibliography. Malone's (Brother Sun, Sister Moon, 2001, etc.) black-and-white drawings have a fresh and lovely line: his goddesses face the viewer with bold insouciance. (Mythology. 10-14)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

Orgel (The Princess and the God, 1996, etc.) focuses on the goddesses, who throughout history have received less attention than their male counterparts. Her lengthy introduction takes on women's roles in ancient Greece (not much better off than slaves), and ancient Greek religion and society. She also maintains that readers are bored by the stiff presentation of mythology collections, and aims for a livelier tone; some may find this disconcerting'similar to reading a modern English translation of the Bible after years of King James. She focuses on Athena, the goddess of wisdom, Aphrodite, goddess of love, and Hera, goddess of marriage, weaving stories of the other gods and goddesses as they relate to these three. Each goddess "narrates" her own section, about her own times, but Orgel also brings in relevant material'sometimes from completely different time periods—that enriches the stories in new ways, e.g., invoking Shakespeare's "Love's spring," while explaining how Aphrodite's arrival is also the arrival of spring. Also present is a more modern take on Hera's traditionally shrewish image. Annotations in the margins provide background information, pronunciations, and cross references. The illustrations and photographs of museum works help resurrect these deities, as does a reader-inclusive play at the end. (map, bibliography) (Folklore. 10+) Read full book review >
THE PRINCESS AND THE GOD by Doris Orgel
FAIRY TALES, FOLKTALES AND MYTHS
Released: April 1, 1996

The Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, retold in novel form: Psyche is a princess so beautiful that she is said to rival Venus, who sends her son Cupid to punish Psyche. Cupid falls in love with her instead, and takes her to his palace as his wife. When she breaks her promise never to try to look at him during his nightly visits, Psyche is subjected to impossible labors by the ever- jealous Venus. With a naked couple making love on the cover and passages that are clearly, though not graphically, sexual, teenagers will snatch this from the YA shelves (if they find it there; the reading level is actually accessible to a middle-grade audience and the publisher pegged the book for ``11-up''). In fact, if the jacket art and implicit sensuality of the book don't get past the censors, readers will miss one of Orgel's most lyrical, compelling works, with an epic love story at its center and adventure running through it like a stream. (Fiction. 13+) Read full book review >
ARIADNE, AWAKE! by Doris Orgel
FICTION
Released: April 1, 1994

A novella-length adaptation of the myth in a large, handsome format that's much enhanced by the arresting perspectives and pellucid Grecian light in Moser's elegantly crafted watercolor portraits. Ariadne describes her role in vanquishing the Minotaur, Theseus's abandoning her on Naxos, and her union with Dionysus. Orgel selects details skillfully, shaping the narrative to a dignity appropriate to the myth. She also gives it emotional coherence by providing Ariadne with compelling reasons to betray her father and her half-brother the Minotaur, and by suggesting that Theseus's inconstancy—which he tells Ariadne is because ``the gods are jealous of our love''—also has to do with an Athenian girl. On the other hand, though she details the remarkable means by which the Minotaur was conceived, Orgel evades some of the implications of Ariadne's ``wedding.'' She's neither priestess nor debauchee here; she and Dionysus simply have ``many children together [and teach] people the arts of cultivating grapes and making wine.'' A note exploring sources and the author's philosophy in creating her version would have been a real plus. Still, a dramatic introduction to a fascinating myth. (Fiction. 9+) Read full book review >
THE FLOWER OF SHEBA by Doris Orgel
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Feb. 1, 1994

The great queen visits King Solomon to ``prove him with hard questions,'' as the Bible says. Here, the questions are riddles, plus a challenge from traditional lore: to pick the one real flower from a mass of artificial ones, which Solomon achieves with the help of a bee, demonstrating that ``to the wise, even small creatures can be great teachers.'' Kelly's art isn't distinguished, but she captures the opulence of the court and the monarchs' retinues and the beauty of the black queen in glowing colors. The text is more accomplished, with a dignity and economy honoring the biblical original while telling a story that will make a diverting change of pace for beginning readers. One lack: a historical source note to enrich the experience for children and adults ``reading together,'' as intended for this Bank Street Ready-to-Read book. (Easy reader. 5-8) Read full book review >
NOBODIES AND SOMEBODIES by Doris Orgel
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 1991

Suddenly finding herself in a new school at midyear because of her dad's transfer, Laura's hopes of making friends are thwarted by her new fifth grade's competing cliques. She's just getting to know nice Janet when she hurts Janet's feelings by courting the ``Supes,'' a rich, talented, snobbish-seeming trio: Beth has famous parents, Liz dances, and Vero ``used to swim with dolphins.'' When a second club forms around Janet, Laura finds herself excluded from both. Two events cause all the girls to reassess what's going on: a sensible teacher requires Janet and Beth to list their real similarities and differences; Vero's mother and stepfather, in all innocence, throw her a surprise swimming party—not realizing that a traumatic boating accident with Jencks, the perpetual-adolescent father with whom Vero lived until a few months ago, has left her terrified of her favorite sport. Orgel, whose best-known book is The Devil in Vienna (1978), raises this above formula with her carefully selected incidents and perceptive characterizations. The alternated narrations of Laura, Janet, and Vero reveal that there are no villains here, just normal children—some with loving families and others who have effectively been neglected, some with new situations to contend with but all both fallible and trying to do the best they can. Easily read, but not simplistic; a satisfying, carefully crafted story. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >