Books by Richard Michelson

THE LANGUAGE OF ANGELS by Richard Michelson
Released: Feb. 21, 2017

"A lively introduction to the work of a Hebrew language scholar and lover—and his family. (afterword, further reading) (Picture book. 7-10)"
The ancient Hebrew language enters the modern world. Read full book review >
LIPMAN PIKE by Richard Michelson
Released: March 1, 2011

Lipman Pike played "Base" every chance he could get in his Brooklyn neighborhood. His parents were not sure it was the right thing for a Jewish boy to be doing, but they also want him to fit in with his peers. This was post-Civil War America, and the game was still in its infancy, at least in terms of organized play. The first leagues were loosely formed and were for amateurs, although several players were secretly paid. When Lip grew up, he was fast and strong and could hit for distance. He played variously for teams in Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City and Troy, N.Y. He often faced anti-Semitism and distrust, but he won over his teammates and the "cranks" with his outstanding play. He led his league in home runs and even proved he could outrun a racehorse. Michelson adeptly employs fictional conversations interwoven with factual details as he reconstructs a long-forgotten time, managing to bring Pike's story out of obscurity and relate it to modern young readers. Pullen's lively, large-scale, brightly colored illustrations vividly capture the action and the time period. Text pages are augmented with sepia drawings of 19th-century newspapers, baseball scenes and equipment. An insight into baseball and America that is at once historical and timeless. (author's note) (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
BUSING BREWSTER by Richard Michelson
Released: May 1, 2010

Brewster is nervous and excited about starting first grade at Franklin, but, shortly before the big day, he and his brother Bryan find out they are to be bused to Central, the white school. Though Bryan is unhappy about waking up at six o'clock for the long bus ride, his mother is enthusiastic about the indoor swimming pool, special art and music rooms and well-stocked library. A less-than-warm welcome by the adults in the white community confuses Brewster, but Mrs. O'Grady, the white librarian, saves the day. Roth's collage and mixed media work together to create a modern-but-retro feel that clearly shows emotions from fear and anger to pride and hope. The story of busing in the 1970s will likely be a new one for most young readers, and this story provides nothing in the way of context to separate it from the more familiar accounts of the integration of Southern schools; this tale, according to the CIP, is set in Boston. Well-meaning but incomplete. (author's note) (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
ANIMALS ANONYMOUS by Richard Michelson
Released: July 8, 2008

Teenagers are animals, this author/illustrator team cleverly indicate. This collection of poems alphabetically highlights the animal world from A to Z. Some of the sassy, smart-mouthed entries include "The Very Ugly Caterpillar," "Mighty MITE" and "Holy MOLEy." Just like teens themselves, the poems range from hilarious to self-aware to vulnerable; the wordplay, rhythms and dialect recall hip-hop music. The book itself is styled like a graffiti-covered spiral notebook that a high-school student with a penchant for temerity might carry, with intricate, multicolored ballpoint-pen caricatures of animals and notes scribbled every-which-way in the margins. Despite the appealing design, the content will likely appeal to only a small audience of astute poetry readers. To understand the parallels between teens and their animal counterparts requires a degree of wisdom and an ability to step away from the myopia of teenhood. Adults who work with and love teens for what they are will enjoy this volume, but the target teen audience might not appreciate it as much. (Poetry. 14 & up)Read full book review >
Released: May 13, 2008

Two boys, one an African-American, one a Polish Jew, learn from their fathers' pride and self-respect. Martin's father believes in looking up instead of down: "The way things are is not the way they always have to be." Abraham's father tells him to "walk like a prince, not a peasant . . . we are all God's children. You are as good as anybody." Martin experiences the discrimination of his Southern town with "whites only" laws. Abraham witnesses the persecution of his Jewish community as the Nazis rise to power. As adults, Reverend King Jr. and Rabbi Heschel heed their parental guidance, coming together to work for America's struggle in the civil-rights movement in this powerful, fictionalized account of 1965's Selma-to-Montgomery march. Colón's softly textured colored pencil-and-watercolor illustrations render the early Southern scenes in brown/yellow tones and the European settings in blue/green; the colors blend together in the final pages, bringing out the diversity of skin tones in the march for equality. Gentle, powerful and healing. (Picture book. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

When John Tuttle arrived in Dover, N.H., in the 1600s, cleared some land and built a cabin, he had no way of knowing how many future Tuttles would benefit from his actions. So far, 12 generations have lived on what became America's oldest family farm, and each learns, grows and adds their experiences in this chronicle of a farm and family. In tracing the history of the land and people—each generation receives a minimum of one spread each—Michelson also relates American history as it affects each set of occupants through their eyes, covering tension between the settlers and Indians, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the Underground Railroad, the changing economy, the appearance of the first automobile and the development of the current store. Azarian's signature woodcut prints add an appropriately warm and folkloric touch. Perhaps more information about Indians and how they did not generally instigate conflict could be included, but otherwise a flawless work—recommended for both home and school reading. (Nonfiction. 5-8)Read full book review >
ACROSS THE ALLEY by Richard Michelson
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

Jewish Abe and African-American Willie are best friends, but only secretly at night, through the windows of their city apartment buildings. Abe's grandfather, a brilliant violinist in the old country, wants young Abe to follow in his shoes. Willie's dad was a starter in the Negro Leagues and wants his son to be a baseball pitcher. At night, the boys trade hobbies. It quickly becomes apparent that Willie is a natural musician while Abe is a natural athlete. Their bond strengthens when they discover that racism affected both their ancestors. Willie and his dad scandalize the neighborhood when they accompany Abe and his grandfather to Temple, where Willie plays violin beautifully. Clearly set during the time of segregation, the now-open friendship of the boys lends hope for a future without racism. Lewis's watercolor illustrations are as beautiful as ever, with lovely swathes of light and use of soft, dark colors. Lewis makes the point of subtly depicting the boys at night in such a way that their races are not easily identified. A beautiful blend of story and art. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
OH NO, NOT GHOSTS! by Richard Michelson
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

It's a dark and creepy night, and a boy and girl are supposed to sleeping. Their father is already asleep, and they are not to wake him! When the wind howls, the girl grows alarmed, and her brother calms her down—sort of. He tells her it's the wind, not a ghost, which naturally brings to mind ghosts. ("Ghosts? Oh no, not ghosts!") The girl shouldn't worry about ghosts, though, because her brother says he would dress up like a werewolf to frighten the ghosts away. ("Werewolves? Oh no, not werewolves!") And he'd bellow like a giant. A Giant? Well, giants can be frightened by demons, of course. Demons? They can be turned to cats by witches. No worries, though, because witches skedaddle when they see skeletons. When the girl is older, she'll realize that there's nothing to be afraid of, her brother explains. Except—uh oh—who's that at the top of the stairs? Repetitive text makes this a strong read-aloud, and the dark pictures have just the right amount of spookiness. A straightforward, humorous tale, perfect for Halloween. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2005

A valentine to the renowned Savoy, narrated by a lad born on the day it opened in 1926 and illustrated with eye-filling watercolors featuring sharply dressed hep cats and hot, high-steppin' crowds. Young Happy Feet loves to hear his father, owner of a shoeshine shop just across the street, tell about the night he was born, when "all of Harlem togged out in their finest threads," and "even the rich white dukes came flying in from Hollywood" to swing and fly in the "hottest, coolest, most magnificent, superdeluxe dancing palace." Closing with a roster of renowned Lindy Hoppers, from Leroy "Stretch" Jones to Big Bea, this tribute will take young readers back to Harlem-as-it-was as persuasively as Debbie Taylor's Sweet Music in Harlem (2004), illustrated by Frank Morrison or Amy Littlesugar's Tree of Hope (1999), illustrated by Floyd Cooper. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
TOO YOUNG FOR YIDDISH by Richard Michelson
Released: Feb. 1, 2001

This is a sweet story about a language that, like the Jews themselves, manages to survive despite the effects of extermination and assimilation. A boy named Aaron implores his beloved Zayde to teach him Yiddish, but Zayde maintains that Aaron is too young. Zayde has moved into a small room in his son's (Aaron's father) house, where the only place for his collection of Yiddish-language books is his dresser, with the poetry books taking pride of place in the top drawer. These books represent all that is left of a once-vibrant Yiddish culture. When Zayde finally must move to a nursing home, he piles his books on the curb to be collected with the trash. Aaron, now a college student, rescues the books and begins to learn Yiddish. Eventually, Aaron becomes a father and begins teaching his own young son the language of his Zayde, saying, "you're never too young for Yiddish." Michelson (Ten Times Better, 2000, etc.) avoids taking the already didactic text over the top by leaving the history of Yiddish and its disappearance to a note, while an afterword tells of current efforts to save Yiddish books and thereby Yiddish culture. Waldman's sensitive, if dull, illustrations capture the love between boy and elderly grandfather as well as the flavor of life in the shtetl. Too Young for Yiddish is printed so it opens on the left like a Yiddish book and the text employs many Yiddish words. There is a glossary of words used in the text. (Picture book. 6-12)Read full book review >
TEN TIMES BETTER by Richard Michelson
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Paintings full of freshness and spirit, poems whimsical and sly, and yes, even a bit of mathematics all make this book irresistible. Starting with the elephant: "My favorite number's number ONE. / When I was ONE, I weighed ONE ton. / When I get hot, my ONE big schnoz'll / double as a shower nozzle." but the response comes from the squid, who says TEN tentacles are TEN TIMES BETTER for cleaning and counting. The bactrian camel praises TWO as the coolest number, but the male sage grouse retorts with his TEN TIMES BETTER twenty tail feathers, and so on. The ants' six legs are trumped by the crocodile's sixty teeth, nine armadillo bands by ninety zebra stripes, and after getting to the ten toes and fingers of the chimps and the one hundred bumblebees, another series of mathematical questions are posed. These accompany some simple descriptions, illustrated by the splendid animals just met. The answers are not only given, but offered with explications that make kid-sense: how many words the chimp Washoe learned by the time she was five—the answer is 130, "about how many different words are in the poetry part of this book." The wordplay is completely engaging, and artist Baskin, who has been delighting generations of children at least since Hosie's Alphabet, triumphs again with evocative and often startling animal images in a muted palette. (Picture book. 5-10)Read full book review >
GRANDPA'S GAMBLE by Richard Michelson
Released: March 1, 1999

A young brother and sister can't understand why their grandfather prays all the time, instead of telling them exciting stories about his past. When he finally explains his habits, they hear Grandpa Sam's riveting tale, of the poverty and discrimination that forced him to leave his family and Poland, of emigrating to the US to find a new life, of scarce jobs, and of his decision to gamble for a living. He bought a home and raised a family, doing well until the day his wife became ill. The fear of losing her prompted his last bet—with God, to save his wife's life—to trade in gambling for a life of prayer. Michelson's story is both personal and universal, highlighting the discovery of family histories and hidden lives in people who are so much a part of every day. Moser's skilled sepia illustrations add an intimate touch to this poignant tale. (Picture book. 7-10) Read full book review >
ANIMALS THAT OUGHT TO BE by Richard Michelson
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

A collection of 14 jaunty poems about unusual pets, for ``sometimes when I lie in bed/fantastic creatures fill my head./Animals you never see./Animals that ought to be.'' Michelson and Baskin (the team behind Did You Say Ghosts?, 1993) introduce readers to the Nightnoise Gladiator, who fends off things that go bump in the night; the I'm-All-Ears, to eavesdrop on and pass along conversations normally out of earshot; the Talkback Bat, who says everything children would if they weren't sure they'd be punished. Students will especially appreciate the Backpack Snacker, who specializes in homework assignments: ``She gobbled up my grammar/and I can't believe she ate/the last page of my book report,/but believe me, it was great.'' The poems have a delightful musical quality, the lilt punctuated by an occasional twist of the unexpected—the Nightmare Scarer terrifies the one he came to save, the Sweeteater ``burped and ate my dad.'' Each clever poem is accompanied by watercolor interpretations that swing from a gargoyle effect to faunal mug shots. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
DID YOU SAY GHOSTS? by Richard Michelson
Released: Sept. 30, 1993

An anything-but-soothing bedtime rhyme for two voices: ``Everything will be all right./There aren't any ghosts in sight...'' ``GHOSTS! DID YOU SAY GHOSTS?'' ``There's no such thing as spooks or ghosts./I guarantee it...well, almost...'' In dark, thick colors and broad strokes, Baskin renders an array of supernatural creatures—witch, demon, gorgon, ghoul, even a ``slithy tove''—as shadowy shapes, not as ferocious as those in Imps, Demons, Hobgoblins, Witches, Fairies and Elves (1984), but larger and more melodramatically posed. Some are done up in ways that are almost comically crude, which, together with Michelson's teasing tone, gives young readers the option of laughing or shivering. (Picture book. 6-8) Read full book review >