TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Susanna Reich

Susanna Reich

A native New Yorker, Susanna Reich has driven big trucks, designed flowers in honor of the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and done graduate work in ancient Hawaiian hula. Her writing career got off to a strong start with Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso (Clarion, 1999), which won an Orbis Pictus Honor from the National Council of Teachers of English, and was an ALA Notable Book, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, among other honors. Susanna's picture book, José! Born to Dance: The Story of José Limón, illustrated by Raúl Colón (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, 2005), received starred reviews in Kirkus and Booklist and went on to win the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award and an International Latino Book Award. José! was also one of Booklist’s Top Ten Arts Books for Youth and one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing.

In 2006 Susanna took the leap into fiction with Penelope Bailey Takes the Stage (Marshall Cavendish, 2006), a novel for readers ages 9-14, set in 1889 San Francisco. It’s the story of Penelope, a girl who wants to be an actress at a time when taking the stage was not an appropriate ambition for proper young ladies. Penelope's strait-laced aunt will do everything in her power to thwart the girl's ambition, but when Penelope is befriended by Isabelle Grey--a character based on the famous dancer, Isadora Duncan--the young actress must decide how far she is willing to go to follow her dream.

“Writing a novel was a new kind of challenge,” says the author. “When you write biography, the plot is a given—you have the person’s life, and you find the threads of your story within that life. But in fiction, you have to create everything from scratch. I found my way in to the process by choosing to write historical fiction and basing one of the characters on someone I knew from dance history, Isadora Duncan. She was one of my heroes when I was young. The novel is set in a time of great change for women. They were throwing away their corsets and marching for the right to vote. It was a time when a spirited girl with a big heart could begin to dream of a life in the theater.”

Recommended for summer reading by the Washington Post, Penelope Bailey Takes the Stage received a 10 out of 10 rating from TIME for

As a former professional dancer and floral designer, the daughter of a music historian, and the wife of a children’s book author and visual artist, Susanna is interested in exploring the lives of all kinds of artists. She is currently working on Painting the Wild Frontier: The Art and Adventures of George Catlin, a biography for kids 8 and up to be published by Clarion.

Susanna holds a B.F.A. in dance from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and a Certificate in Movement Analysis from the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies. As a young dancer she studied at the American Ballet Theatre School, the Royal Academy of Dance in London, and Bennington College. She later performed with several dance companies and was artist-in-residence at the City University of New York.

For ten years Susanna was the proprietor of Flowers by Susanna. Among her best-known designs were flowers for Julia Child’s 80th birthday gala in New York’s legendary Rainbow Room, and a dinner for five Prime Ministers at Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills, New York. Her floral design work was profiled in The New York Times and Bride’s magazine.

As a children’s book author, Susanna enjoys visiting schools and talking with students about writing and books. A member of PEN, she also serves on the Steering Committee of the Metro New York chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Susanna lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Gary Golio--the author of forthcoming picture books on Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix--and their daughter.