Books by Liz Rosenberg

HOUSE OF DREAMS by Liz Rosenberg
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 12, 2018

"A kind, thoughtful, nuanced portrayal of one of the icons of children's literature. (Biography. 10-14)"
The first middle-grade biography of Canadian author L.M. Montgomery in over 20 years. Read full book review >
WHAT JAMES SAID by Liz Rosenberg
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 9, 2015

"Perfectly in tune with the charged emotions involved in navigating friendship and trust. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A young girl can't help but be angry when she learns her best friend is talking about her behind her back. Read full book review >
TYRANNOSAURUS DAD by Liz Rosenberg
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 10, 2011

Who knew the favorite topics of baseball, dinosaurs and father-son relationships could come together in such a winning combination? Rosenberg and debut illustrator Myers pull it off in this impressive collaboration. Human boy Tobias eagerly awaits Elmwood Elementary Field Day, when the big game will be played. He would love for Dad—who just happens to be a Tyrannosaurus—to go, but he is always working. In not-so-subtle ways Tobias reminds his hulking father how important this is to him, but the dinosaur remains absorbed in the newspaper, swamped with paperwork and glued to his laptop. Field Day arrives, and Tobias goes alone. All seems well until the dreaded Chickenbone Gang comes, demanding to play ball. Tobias is about to take on the head bully over a rules dispute when "an unexpected voice" thunders, "I'LL UMP!" The reptile's level-headed problem-solving and firm yet fair presence save the day. " ‘What made you come today?' asked Tobias. ‘Family first.' Tyrannosaurus Dad said. ‘Work can wait.' " Rosenberg's well-paced dialogue and succinct descriptions result in a most engaging read. Myers' oil paintings truly amaze. Faces gain an almost three-dimensional expressiveness, and the spreads are rich in scene-setting detail. His reluctantly kind Tyrannosaurus is cleverly portrayed as a larger-than-life creature with a mean countenance but a warm heart. Sounds like many dads out there. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
THIS IS THE WIND by Liz Rosenberg
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

In a "House That Jack Built" format, a gentle verse takes a mother and father to the hospital for the birth of their child and, in a parallel tale, a mouse in from the wind for the birth of her own babies. As the mouse arranges a tiny bed and dresser into a home for herself, the humans drive the icy road to the hospital. In the end, both mothers sit rocking with their children in the now-calm darkness, telling them of that windy night when they were born. Reichert's brilliantly colored pastel illustrations convey a sense of movement as the wind blows throughout, curvilinear design unifying the individual vignettes of human and mouse stories, abetted by text placement that loops about the page. Facial expressions and body language speak volumes. While sweet, however, this just misses the tone and sense of complete package found in Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell (1995) and On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman (2006). (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
17 by Liz Rosenberg
FICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

The story of a teen's sexual coming of age, twinned with her struggles with anorexia and depression, is distinguished from so many of its ilk by an exceptionally fine and precise prose style. Steph is 17, prey to all the usual doubts and insecurities of that age, but her situational angst is compounded by the difficulties attendant upon having a manic-depressive mother. On the days when her artist mother is up, it's "like coming into a room with party lights on where you had extended a hand forward, frightened, expecting to fall into pitch darkness," but in Steph's household, the yawning blackness seems to be much closer to the norm. Absent any real emotional security at home (her father is loving but ineffectual), when Steph begins a romance with the almost frighteningly intellectual Denny, she finds herself becoming more and more unhinged and alone. There is no hint of the cautionary in the deliberate examination of Steph's first sexual experiences—with the possible exception of an almost hilarious scene where she blurts out her fears of an impossible pregnancy to her grandfatherly history teacher—just a celebration of erotic awakening. This celebration, however, is followed almost immediately by a corresponding awareness of a growing emotional void as her relationship with Denny becomes increasingly joyless. The present-tense narration puts the reader almost claustrophobically into Steph's increasingly uncomfortable head; its tendency to refer to her much more as "the girl" than by name emphasizes her growing sense of alienation. Steph's tentative steps back to health are charted as deliberately as her decline. If some subplots—notably a most peculiar one involving Denny's unfaithful, alcoholic father—do not add to the narrative as a whole, neither do they materially detract. As noted, the story itself is not particularly new—but Rosenberg's (We Wanted You, 2002, etc.) of telling it is beautifully, hauntingly effective. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
ON CHRISTMAS EVE by Liz Rosenberg
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

Christmas Eve isn't always a time of calm, peace, and perfect plans. Sometimes a family is traveling to another destination and complications ensue, as is the case with this short, touching story by Rosenberg (17: A Novel in Prose Poems, p. 1318, etc.). The unnamed first-person narrator looks back to a snowy Christmas Eve when he was four or five and on the way to his aunt's house with his parents, older brother, and baby sister. A snowstorm forces the family to stop for the night at a roadside motel with a star on its sign (and as luck would have it, there is room at this inn). The moody, dark illustrations, both in colors and in feeling, effectively show the disappointed children and the exhausted parents trying to do their best. Will Santa miss them in their snowbound motel? As the mother in the story says, "He always finds a way." The young narrator wakes in the middle of the night in time to hear the bells, see the reindeer, and meet Santa himself. Clapp's (The Prince of Butterflies, p. 332) stunning illustrations make readers into believers: in one spread that is pure magic, the child's face is lit with joy as Santa flings toys and packages into the room, each gift surrounded by golden light. Another memorable spread shows Santa pointing at the starry sky, where mysterious, misty letters spell out the beginnings of Christmas wishes. The understated text, nighttime setting, and varied perspectives will remind many of Van Allsburg's Polar Express, but this Christmas Eve tale creates a magic all its own. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
ELI’S NIGHT-LIGHT by Liz Rosenberg
BEDTIME BOOK
Released: May 1, 2001

Rosenberg (Roots and Flowers, p. 421, etc.) and Yardley (Edna, 2000, etc.) present what happens when young Eli's night-light burns out. It's too late to wake Mom and Dad, but the dark in his room grows larger: "His bed was as black as a piece of coal. / His closet yawned like a dragon's hole. . . ." That felicitous couplet rhymes, as do many others in this text, which is consistently lyrical rather than completely rhymed. Pastel illustrations expand both the melodious quality of the text and its literal meaning, ably displaying light sources as Eli discovers them—the "small gleam from the crack at the door," the red glow of his clock, the momentary fall of passing headlights' on his soccer ball, and so on, as well as providing for the boy a particularly appealing feline companion. The illumination of these homely, reassuring objects emboldens the boy to peek out the window and discover stars that will be lit for a reliably long time. Eli's independent investigation empowers him to sleep fearlessly, knowing he is able to find light whenever his world needs it—a powerful method of defusing the fear of the dark felt by many children. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
ROOTS & FLOWERS by Liz Rosenberg
POETRY
Released: April 1, 2001

Rosenberg again brings contemporary "adult" poems to a younger audience, in an appealing and intriguing format. A "companion" to The Invisible Ladder (1996), this also introduces the reader to the poets through their commentaries, which precede each selection. A b&w photo of each poet with her or his family accompanies the commentaries, making vividly clear that there are many different kinds of people alive today who happen to be poets. Those that Rosenberg has gathered (40 in all) are all American, of various cultures and experiences. The poems are narrative and lyric in style, bearing on the infinitely diverse relationships in families. Though many of the poems are from a parent's perspective, they are accessible to younger readers, too. Stephen Dobyns writes, of his son, "Far from my house he will open his presents— / a book, a Swiss Army knife, some music. Where / is his manual of instructions? Where is his map / showing the dark places and how to escape them?" Other poets touch on feelings that many kids will relate to instantly: "When I see my father lying in bed, reading / I want to pass by and say, / be my happy father." Robert Bly, Naomi Shihab Nye, Stanley Kunitz, Gary Soto, Linda Pastan, Marie Howe, and Donald Hall are among the well-known poets here, and they are in the excellent company of others that Rosenberg has brought together in this engaging collection. (biographical notes, suggested reading and listening, permissions, index of first lines) (Poetry. 12+)Read full book review >
WE WANTED YOU by Liz Rosenberg
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2001

Rosenberg (Roots and Flowers, 2001, etc.) and Catalanotto (The Dream Shop, 2002, etc.) team up to create a love letter from a mother and father as their adopted son heads off to college. Unfortunately, while the sophisticated blend of words and images may spark discussion, it is likely to present more questions than it answers, especially for younger children. To begin with, Catalanotto's realistic illustrations, which add a back-story not evident in Rosenberg's spare text, are disorienting. The title spread shows a teenager in cap and gown; the final spread shows the young man in a college dorm in front of a banner that reads "Welcome Freshmen." And it's only in the end that the child's name and ethnicity are clearly revealed: a party scene shows the proud white parents holding the brown-skinned infant; behind them, a sign reads, "We Love You, Enrique!" Interior illustrations, presented in reverse chronological order, portray memorable moments in the child's life. Along the way, Rosenberg conveys the parents' longing, the anticipation and preparation that precedes the child's arrival, and the events that unfold when the baby is finally born. After a phone call delivers news of the baby's birth, Rosenberg writes, "And so we came. We flew! / Because that's how much we wanted you." Then, addressing the birth parents: "Somewhere in the world a / mother gave birth to you / a father gave life to you / We weren't your first father/ and mother." Considering the title, this unassuming passage carries insensitive undertones and flies in the face of positive adoption language. An unsatisfactory addition to the adoption oeuvre. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1999

Establishing roots in a new country is hard for Iksander and his family, who had to flee their war-torn homeland. As the family adjusts, Iksander knows that something is missing, that there is something he left behind. Each of his family members tries to appease his homesickness, but it's Iksander's grandfather who shows him how to appreciate his new country, and helps him locate a place where there are similarities to the silence found in the mountains of home. This heartwarming tale, with its simple, meditative narrative, will comfort any child who has left a special place behind. Soentpiet's landscapes—which vary from the majestic mountains and olive trees of Iksander's homeland, to the bustle of the city, to the peaceful green hills of an American farm—are breathtaking. His work also captures tender gestures and stirring subtleties such as the vague image of the Statue of Liberty as seen from an airplane window. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
HEART AND SOUL by Liz Rosenberg
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: May 1, 1996

The world of Willie Steinberg, 17, is colorless, peopled with wraiths like her mother, who spends her days in a vodka-and-tonic haze while waiting for Willie's father to return from the business trip that has so far lasted two years. Willie has lost her scholarship at a music school and no longer finds any joy in the music itself; even her beloved Beethoven and Mozart have failed her. The only person who refuses to accept her anomie is her former classmate Malachi Gelb, who offers readers a whole new meaning of the word eccentric. Another classmate from music school, also living in Richmond, invites both Willie and Malachi to her coming-out party, which proves to be a disaster for both of them. Their shared trauma, however, and the sad truths it evokes lead to an epiphany for them and give Willie a point of reentry into the business of living. From the author of several picture books, Rosenberg's first novel is not intended to keep readers on the edge of their seats, but its measured, dreamlike pace bears comparison to the malaise that is destroying Willie. As a study in depression, the book is sensitive and incisive, enhanced by a poetic writing style and skill in characterizing two teenagers at the very precipice of madness. (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >
MONSTER MAMA by Liz Rosenberg
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1993

Mama may be a "monster" who lives in a cave in back of the house and frightens neighbors with her moods, but she also paints (her true calling, it seems), gardens, bakes cookies, and has "the sweetest touch in the world" when her son is ill. Like her, Patrick Edward is fearless: When bullies taunt him ("Your mother wears army boots") and tie him up, he bursts his bonds and breaks their baseball bat. His mighty roar summons Mama, who chases the bullies home to make a new cake to replace the one they've just destroyed. The cake is shared; Mama gives Patrick Edward a hug ("I am your mother, even if I am a monster—and I love you"); and the admiring boys depart, remarking, "Your mother is something else." Sendak's Wild Things embody a child's inner life; here, parents' mysterious, often scary vagaries are personified by an extraordinary mother who is unpredictable, even fierce, but also creative, nurturing, and the source of her child's strength. Gammell's vibrant, freely rendered paintings magnify the ambivalence: clouds of dark lurk behind pervasive splashes of brilliant color; unkempt Mama, with hairy arms and pointy, multicolored fingernails, is almost terrifyingly bizarre; but the sturdy boy with his shock of tangerine hair is clearly a secure little person who can handle whatever life brings. This is not for the literal-minded: those who read the thematic title as an oxymoron may also feel challenged by the gorgeous, if unconventional, art. A splendid book that reaches deep into truth, not all of it cozy, and comes up smiling. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
THE SCRAP DOLL by Liz Rosenberg
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

There's no money for a store-bought doll, so Lydia's mother gives her a doll that her dad made long ago. Sarah is in such sorry shape that Lydia calls her ``Ugly Old Thing''; still, step by step, she fixes her up, eventually responding to her own improvements by loving the doll and restoring the name her mother first gave her. Ballard's spare, fine-line illustrations with minimal detail are just right for this gentle, understated story concerning the sources of affection. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >