Books by Susie Morgenstern

IT HAPPENED AT SCHOOL by Susie Morgenstern
Released: July 1, 2005

In the first of two short stories about school life in France, Claudette, an aspiring cellist, brings in an autograph of her hero, a famous cello player. In response, Mademoiselle Dupont, her inspired and inspiring teacher, has all the children bring in (faux) autographs of their heroes, as a prism through which to see history. It's a sweet story that's both gently humorous and lightly touching. The second story, which the reader knows is supposed to be lighthearted and adorable, is instead troubling. In a bow to modernity, a tiny two-classroom school in France gets a phone and a fax machine that is set up in the principal/teacher's classroom. Her boyfriend immediately begins calling and faxing, declaring his love vociferously throughout the school day and the days that follow, annoying the teacher and distracting the students. Although it ends happily for the teacher (after a brief breakup she decides to marry her boyfriend), to American eyes, he comes off like a slightly crazed stalker rather than a charming and benign lover. (Short stories. 9-12)Read full book review >
SIXTH GRADE by Susie Morgenstern
Released: April 1, 2004

First American edition of an early work by the author of Book of Coupons (2001), and inspired by her own daughter's experiences, this episodic tale of a young go-getter triumphing despite dreadful teachers and indifferent classmates will strike multiple chords of recognition in young readers. As junior high looms, then starts, Margot's anxiety expresses itself in panic attacks at home—to which her distracted mother's mantra, "You'll get used to it," becomes a running joke—and a compulsive, though ultimately frustrated, urge to organize her fellow students in school. The setting is French, and therefore mildly exotic, but Margot's year includes plenty of all-too-familiar features, from September's feeding frenzy in the store's school-supply section to the daily lunchroom stampede, from minor pranks merry or hurtful, to a post-Christmas plague of MP3 players (an obvious bit of updating). While the lazy, clueless, arbitrary faculty takes a drubbing, Margot's peers display a realistic mix of cruelty, confusion, and kindness—a crowd-pleasing combination that should make this as popular in English as its award-winning progenitor has been across the pond. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
Released: May 20, 2002

In a double dose of puckishness from Morgenstern (Three Days Off, 2001, etc.), two spirited young princesses tackle personal issues. First, after bored, lonely Princess Yona, scion of impoverished royalty, finally discovers where all the other children are going every morning, she drags her moping parents out into the world to enroll her in school and to buy her a suitable wardrobe. Then bookish Princess Emma, afflicted by a maddeningly elusive itch on her back, rejects an array of shy, sly, and misguided suitors before realizing that, even though unpretentious Prince Ray can't find the itch either, she likes the way he scratches. With Bloch's (A Book of Coupons, 2001, etc.) small, freely drawn ink sketches to press tongue even more firmly into cheek, these episodes, originally published separately and in French, are sure pleasers for fans of James Thurber's Many Moons (1990) or the princess tales of Gail Carson Levine. (Fiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
THREE DAYS OFF by Susie Morgenstern
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

Suspended for telling a teacher that he'd like to see what's under her skirt, an apathetic teenager gets a wake-up call in this purposeful short novel. Used to drifting through existence on auto pilot, head down, William is as surprised as anyone is when he blurts out what he's thinking. Serves Mademoiselle March right for getting on his case, he avows. But after three days of aimless drifting and salutary encounters with people who demonstrate some unappealing options for dropouts, he discovers that he does care about some things, and concludes that life (including school) is, after all, worth making an effort for. The story is set in an economically depressed French suburb, but Morgenstern adds universal teen appeal with sarcastic comments about the narrowness of William's existence—"Boredom is so heavy to carry around"—and some mild sexual comedy on the third day, when he cluelessly decides to try getting laid. Every high school has its share of Williams, and though this isn't likely to inspire many epiphanies, it may spark a bit of uneasiness in the more complacent versions. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
A BOOK OF COUPONS by Susie Morgenstern
Released: May 1, 2001

A sourpuss principal successfully forces a beloved teacher into retirement in this sketchy, unsatisfying import. So fond of giving presents that he's nicknamed "Santa," Hubert Noël starts the school year by passing out a set of coupons, each of which can be redeemed for skipping a day of school, eating in class, clowning around, refusing to go to the chalkboard, or some like gift. This goes over like a lead balloon with his new principal, Madame Incarnation Perez, who repeatedly calls him on the carpet, and at last hands him walking papers. Not even getting her own book of coupons ("One coupon for a smile . . . one coupon to make up a poem," etc.) softens her attitude, so Noël finishes the year and quietly goes off, with a coupon from his students, "for a happy and well-deserved retirement." The point of view shifts erratically from various children to Perez or Noël, and the plot is little more than a string of teachable moments. Readers hoping for the emotional depth of Secret Letters From 0 To 10 (1998) or an effervescent classroom environment à la Gregory Maguire's Seven Spiders Spinning (1994) and its sequels, will be disappointed. Occasional, freely drawn cartoons add little to the atmosphere or humor. (Fiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
SECRET LETTERS FROM 0 TO 10 by Susie Morgenstern
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

This charming translation of a French award-winner is certain to enchant readers on this side of the Atlantic. Ernest is ten, and his life is utterly predictable. He lives with his ancient grandmother and her equally ancient housekeeper in a silent house without television or telephone, populated with memories of the dead. Ernest knows his mother died when he was born, and his father disappeared thereafter. Into his completely ordered life breezes Victoria, a new classmate with 13 brothers and a decidedly unimpeded view of life. She introduces Ernest to everything from chocolate to her baby brother, and her exuberant, hugely entertaining family welcomes him. Before he knows it, Ernest has convinced his grandmother to go out one Sunday, and he begins to ask her, ever so tentatively, about his life, and hers. It is at Victoria's home that he catches a glimpse on television of a man who looks just like him—could it be his father? All this is presented in a spritely and sweet style, occasionally eccentric and intensely French. Ernest's father has written him a letter every day of Ernest's life, and his first gesture is to send these, the "0 to 10" letters of the title, to him. A novel to cherish. (Fiction. 9-14) Read full book review >