Books by Ilene Cooper

CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 7, 2018

"A muscular and admiring profile in moral courage. (photos, timeline, notes, bibliography) (Biography. 10-14)"
This biography of Eleanor Roosevelt portrays her as a tireless champion of the underdog and a high-profile advocate for civil and human rights. Read full book review >
YOUNG ADULT
Released: Oct. 24, 2017

"Inspiring and hopeful if not easy. (author's note, notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12-16)"
The long and troubled history of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and its place in three of the major religions of the world is told in all its complicated glory. Read full book review >
LITTLE LUCY GOES TO SCHOOL by Ilene Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 22, 2014

"Children will likely long to see a dog in their own schools as they decode their ways to reading success. (Early reader. 6-8)"
A curious beagle who gets loose in school sees all sorts of new things in this early-reader tale that has faint echoes of "The Gingerbread Man." Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 11, 2014

"Accessible, erudite, aesthetically appealing: a must-have. (foreword, appendix, endnotes, bibliography, acknowledgments, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)"
It is no small task to create a book that summarizes over a century of U.S. history, gives a crash course in civics, and provides succinct, pithy biographies of numerous women who have served in the legislative and judicial branches of government. Cooper pulls it off. Read full book review >
ANGEL IN MY POCKET by Ilene Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 15, 2011

A good-luck charm exerts a positive effect on the lives of four seventh graders at a Chicago magnet school for the performing arts. Cynical and lonely since her mother's untimely death, 13-year-old Bette feels "empty and still, inside and out" until she finds a charm embossed with an angel. Gradually Bette starts singing again, earns a role in the school musical and addresses her grief. Her angry, disillusioned classmate Joe lives in a small apartment with his overworked, sickly single mom. Lately Joe's resorted to extorting cash from Andy, a timid, wealthier classmate, to supplement his income. Then Joe takes Bette's charm from her desk, and his luck changes as he channels his energy into designing sets for the musical. In a gesture of recompense, Joe gives the talisman to Andy, who passes it to his reclusive, asthmatic sister, Vivi, who dreads returning to school since gaining weight from her medications. Armed with the charm, Vivi recasts her self-image and accompanies Andy in the musical. Tracking the school production from fall tryouts through the final performance, the plot shifts in third-person voice from Bette to Joe to Andy and Vivi as they learn to believe in themselves, one another and the angel in their pockets. As their lives intersect, four credible, contemporary, creative preteens find faith to move forward. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
LOOK AT LUCY! by Ilene Cooper
ANIMALS
Released: June 23, 2009

Bobby and his beagle puppy Lucy are back in this welcome sequel to Absolutely Lucy (2000, illustrated by Amanda Harvey). Lucy has been a big help with Bobby's natural shyness, even helping him to meet his first real friends, Shawn and Candy. But Bobby is afraid of the first day of third grade, speaking up in school and meeting new friends, and Lucy's exuberance sometimes gets out of hand. Once school begins, Lucy misses Bobby and takes to shoe chewing. A contest for a "spokespet" provides an opportunity for Bobby and Lucy to push their social skills—Bobby will have to work with Lucy and perform in public while Lucy will have to focus her wild beagle-energy into more productive activities. Pets and kids are a natural combination, and Cooper gets the nervousness and bravado of third grade just right. New readers will look forward to watching Bobby face the same challenges they do. The familiar characters and Merrell's frequent, detailed black-and-white illustrations will help them face this relatively long chapter book with confidence. Will they want to read more about Bobby and Lucy? Absolutely. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
JAKE’S BEST THUMB by Ilene Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2008

Jake's left thumb is his best thumb, wrinkled from sucking, "a prince among thumbs," according to Jake's uncle. He's gotten very good at doing everything he needs to with only his other thumb: Why stop sucking it? But when he starts kindergarten, bully Cliff teases him mercilessly, until the day Jake discovers that a scrap of blankie has fallen out of Cliff's pocket.…The text, although lengthy, displays endless warmth and compassion for Jake and his thumb, but it's Muñoz's fluid ink-and-watercolor paintings that make this stand out, investing even minor characters with enormous personality. A terrific twist that combines two well-worn plots in one successful tale. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
OPRAH WINFREY by Ilene Cooper
BIOGRAPHY
Released: April 1, 2007

Cooper tackles one of the richest and most famous women in the world, recounting her complicated life and extraordinary history with honesty and clarity. She was poor; she moved between her mother, her father and her grandmother; she was sexually abused; and she bore a child that died. She was also very smart, loved the spotlight—in which she excelled at speaking—and made the most of opportunity. This comfortably sized volume makes excellent use of many quotes from interviews, Oprah's own writing and, of course, her television show. Her personal struggles are not simplified nor are her remarkable public acts of philanthropy and care over-exaggerated: She hosts a talk show indeed, but she also writes, speaks, acts and makes good things happen. Sure to find a rapt audience. (source notes, extensive bibliography) (Biography. 10-14)Read full book review >
THE GOLDEN RULE by Ilene Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2007

Presented as a conversation between grandfather and grandson, this accessible examination of the Golden Rule and its age-old cross-cultural relevance can't help but wax didactic. The boy, walking with his grandfather, asks what a billboard says. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," the elder responds. "It's golden because it's so valuable, and a way of living your life that's so simple, it shines." As the pair discusses how young and old might live by the rule, which appears in so many religions' "holy books," Swiatowska's full-bleed paintings supply mural-like backdrops. The figures embody an old-world look, with the boy in striped pants, blue jacket and red shoes, and the bearded elder in black suit and hat. The artist incorporates both traditional religious iconography and patterned spreads adorned with birds, flowers and whimsical creatures intentionally disassociated from the text's specificity. Cooper's elegant simplification for young children will appeal to adults seeking ecumenical approaches to values education. (author's note, artist's note) (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
SAM I AM by Ilene Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

Sam's home life and holiday spirit are disrupted when the family dog knocks over the "Hanukkah bush," breaking his mother's childhood Christmas ornaments and triggering a buried religious resentment between his parents. Sam, his sister, and brother have never been given clear direction concerning religious faith or identity, as their non-practicing Jewish father, always uncomfortable with any religion his Christian wife encourages, compromises with combined holiday celebrations. This brings Sam confusion and a need to understand the reasons behind various religions and their customs. Jewish friend Avi—who is studying for his Bar Mitzvah—and a holocaust school assignment provide an eye-opening view to Judaism while the rift between his grandmothers only adds to his feelings of discomfort. Sam's angst is drawn out and lags, even as his concerns are woven with some humor into the life of a typical pre-adolescent boy's first experiences with girls, parties, and school issues. A realistic, unresolved ending allows parents and children of this mixed family to decide their individual religious needs, but the overall conflict overshadows the subplots that could be more intriguing. (Fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Jan. 1, 2003

"Jack Kennedy's life was a gift, but one that was wrapped with many strings." John F. Kennedy was sickly, he was a dreamer, and he was a second son. It was Joe, his older brother, who was groomed to be the first Catholic president of the US. Joe was the responsible one, the one good at school, the one most likely to live his father's dream. Jack was a practical joker, a lackadaisical student, a "boy who doesn't get things done." Cooper (Jewish Holidays All Year Round, not reviewed, etc.) succeeds at portraying Jack as an ordinary boy with concerns that many kids have: conflicts with an older brother, illnesses, trouble in school, competition for parents' attention, and, finally, finding his way in life. Unfortunately, when he finally does begin to buckle down and find his way, the story is over, and the more famous events of Kennedy's later years are sketched in the afterword. Like all good biographies, the subject is the lens through which readers learn about his times. Cooper covers much history here: the Irish potato famine, the arrival of the Fitzgerald and Kennedy families on filthy "coffin ships," the prejudice against Irish Catholics, the Roaring Twenties, and the Great Depression. This is dependable nonfiction writing. Clear prose, numerous photographs, thorough source notes, and a solid bibliography make this a fine biography for young readers and a worthwhile addition to biography collections. (Nonfiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS by Ilene Cooper
BEDTIME BOOK
Released: Aug. 1, 1997

Cooper (The Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 552, etc.) combines just the right amount of romance and mystery in this satisfying suspense story. Karen, 16, meets her dream guy—literally—at the bus stop. She's been dreaming about Mark and his younger brother, Brian, and knows it means trouble: She dreamed about her father's fatal car crash before it happened. Can she save Mark and Brian from disaster? Readers will feel comfortable with the characters—they are easy to relate to and realistic—and the points where Karen's dreams and real life overlap never seem contrived. A smooth, easy read, with a spooky atmosphere and a few surprising plot twists to keep it fresh. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS by Ilene Cooper
RELIGION
Released: April 25, 1997

It's hard to know which is more amazing—that the artifacts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls survived for 2,000 years, or that their reported discovery, reassembly, and translation were accomplished despite the hurdles created by war-torn countries and the uncooperative acts of competing scientists. Cooper (Buddy Love, 1995, etc.) establishes both a timeline and a relative order to the chaotic events surrounding the story of the scrolls' discovery. As the story goes, they were found hidden in a cave by two Bedouin shepherd boys. Their tribe sold the scrolls to several different dealers, and also swept up scraps of the crumbling scrolls from the cave floors: This made the work of the scholars who studied the scrolls extremely tedious and frustrating. Some of the scholars became overzealous and refused to allow others access to the parts they were working on. The finding of the scrolls took place in 1947, but it wasn't until the 1990s that many of the texts became available publicly. Cooper unravels this tangled knot of information, jumping between ancient and more recent historical references, letting readers know when there are conflicting facts, and providing back matter that further reveals the complications of this archaeological enigma. (b&w illustrations, chronology, glossary, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10+) Read full book review >
BUDDY LOVE by Ilene Cooper
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Oct. 30, 1995

Buddy has fairly ordinary problems: a family that to him seems boring, an older sister who is boy-obsessed and snotty, one friend he has betrayed and another he follows slavishly. When given a school assignment to find out about his past and his family's history, he does so with their newly acquired video camera, beginning a chain of discoveries that help him to see what's really important in life. Cooper (Stupid Cupid, p. 223, etc.) avoids laying the morals on too thick, and what emerges is a likable story with enough familiar events to keep young readers hooked, as well as to get them thinking about their own lives. Like the view through Buddy's camera, this novel makes the everyday interesting; Cooper's ear for the dialogue of early adolescents and her understanding of their problems keeps things entertaining. (Fiction. 10+) Read full book review >
STUPID CUPID by Ilene Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 1995

The Valentine installment of the ``Holiday Five'' series demonstrates once more Cooper's grasp of the concerns of young teens. The focus is on Maddy, whose mother would like her to lose a few pounds; Maddy feels as if every bite of food she takes is scrutinized. But when new boy Tony hits town, Maddy severely restricts her diet, to the detriment of her own good humor. Out of sorts from the diet, she is doubly devastated when Tony is more interested in Lia, Maddy's friend from camp, than he is in her. The few pointers on nutrition are quietly worked into the story, as are some lessons on the challenges of friendship. All of it is a generous cut above usual series fare, and refreshingly wholesome. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
TRICK OR TROUBLE? by Ilene Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 1994

From popular YA author Cooper comes the first in a series about five camp friends who agree to meet on the holidays throughout the coming year. Lia Greene hated leaving camp, where she was voted best all-around camper, and returning home, where she has no girlfriends and is considered a nerd. She longs for the reunion with her camp pals, scheduled to take place at her house on Halloween weekend, but dreads it at the same time because she has not confided in them about her social problems at school. Things come to a head at the community center's Halloween party, where Lia is unable to prevent her friends from finding out about her problems at school. They rally to her side, of course, and she learns that true friends are those who are there for the bad times as well as the good. Cooper captures the social dilemmas and injustices without sounding preachy or sentimental. Even the parents are nicely drawn—seemingly obtuse at first, but with the right amount of sympathy and understanding when it counts. The conclusion leaves plenty of room for the next adventure in the series. A skillful and sensitive treatment of pubescent angst. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
THE NEW, IMPROVED GRETCHEN HUBBARD by Ilene Cooper
FICTION
Released: Oct. 19, 1992

In a new, improved entry in the ``Kids from Kennedy Middle School'' series, Cooper takes a formulaic idea—the ugly duckling makeover—and gives it plenty of zip. Before she lost weight and got a great new haircut, Gretchen was accustomed to unflattering names. Now, without her old looks as camouflage, others are suddenly aware of her in ways she finds hard to grasp. Formerly mean and (realistically) still slightly snotty Veronica actually appears to be jealous; others start looking to Gretchen for leadership; most surprisingly, an older boy is asking her out. Gretchen wobbles through this muddled new terrain with the gentleness readers have come to expect of her; as the story unfolds, she grows into her beauty and exhibits new maturity about school, family, and friends, without ever leaving her ``nice'' old self behind. The other children are as refreshingly complex as she is (and Veronica is really trying!) in this fine continuing saga. (Fiction. 9+) Read full book review >
FRANCES DANCES by Ilene Cooper
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 3, 1991

An entry in the ``Frances in the Fourth Grade'' series, which begins in a companion volume when the heroine's best friend moves away in Frances Takes a Chance (also 7/3/91). Here, Frances is thrilled that a dancing school is opening; a shy girl who usually toils quietly in the background, she dreams of pirouettes and the lead in Swan Lake. She persuades gregarious new friend Polly to join up with her; in return, Polly makes Frances join the basketball team. However, when Frances's stage debut occurs it's not as a ballerina but as last-minute substitute in a class skit. Since Frances never really does dance, balletomanes may feel cheated; and, though lively, much of this seems like a rehash of familiar elements and stories: ballet, stage fright, divorce (Polly's family), friends at odds (Polly and Frances hate each other's activities). Mixed into all this are subplots about relatives, a class bully, an ill sister, and the town's economic troubles, with no idea explored to a satisfying end. Pleasant enough, but nothing for readers to sink their teeth into. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 9-11) Read full book review >
MEAN STREAK by Ilene Cooper
FICTION
Released: May 20, 1991

This installment about ``The Kids From Kennedy Middle School'' features nasty sixth-grader Veronica Volner, whose family life is not the spun-sugar vision she shares with her contemporaries. Veronica's divorced father is seriously ga-ga over a new girlfriend; after classmate Gretchen discovers and reveals the depths of Veronica's unhappiness, Veronica's revenge is precise: she humiliates Gretchen and an unrequited love- interest named Billy in one drawn-out prank. The final paragraph leaves the question of Veronica's mean streak unresolved—maybe she'll change (readers can finish the thought: maybe she won't). A pivotal interview with the father's girlfriend is hastily narrated, though the book has built to that scene from the outset, and Veronica's sudden last-minute insights seem less than sincere; still, every other character here is both believable and fully realized. (Fiction. 9+) Read full book review >