TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Paula Danziger

Paula Danziger

Paula Danziger was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in various towns including Arlington, Virginia, and Metuchen, New Jersey. She always loved books and knew from the time she was in second grade that she wanted to be a writer. An early and strong influence on her life and work was the poet John Ciardi. She graduated from college with a degree in English and later earned an M.A. in reading. Danziger spent many years teaching and counseling students in junior high, high school, and college, and her books are concerned with such adolescent issues as social and family relationships, personal development, obesity, and first love.

Although the critical reception to her books has been at times mixed--they have been accused of lacking depth or fresh insight--their immense popularity affirms teenagers' appreciation of Danziger's portrayals of some of the more difficult aspects of growing up. Danziger's first book, The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, in which Marcy, a teenage girl, emerges from struggling with a weight problem and a controversy over her favorite teacher with greater self-confidence, was hailed by the Journal of Reading as "a thoroughly enjoyable, tightly written, funny/sad tale of an unglamorous but plucky girl who is imaginative, believable, and worthy of emulation." It was named a Children's Choice book of 1980 by a joint committee of the International Reading Association and the Children's Book Council.

The Pistachio Prescription, in which thirteen-year-old Cassie learns that liking herself is the answer to her problems, and not the pistachio nuts she nervously pops, was highly praised by Zena Sutherland in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books: ". . .this is unusually well done; the characterization and dialogue are strong, the relationships depicted with perception, and the writing style vigorous." It was a Junior Literary Guild selection and was named a Children's Choice book for 1979 by the I.R.A. and the C.B.C. joint committee.

In Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice?, fourteen-year-old Lauren decides that between her parents, her two sisters, and school she has no rights at all, and poses the question that may well become a watchword for teens in the 1980s. Jane Langton, writing in the New York Times, called it ". . .clever and funny. The chapters rush by in a catapulting present tense. Adolescent and preadolescent girls, and even chubby children who might otherwise be reading Winnie-the-Pooh, will giggle and pass it from hand to hand." It was named a Children's Choice book for 1980, by the I.R.A. and the C.B.C. joint committee.

In There's a Bat in Bunk Five, the sequel to The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, a slimmer, more confident Marcy returns in triumph as a counselor in Ms. Finney's creative arts camp. Barbara Elleman, writing in Booklist, said, "Danziger's ability to create believable, funny dialogue and to capture the feelings and thoughts of a 14-year-old is highly evident. . . .Readers will be captivated by the natural flow and breezy style." It, too, was a Children's Choice book, for 1981. The Divorce Express, in which fourteen-year-old Phoebe experiences the problems of divorce and joint custody as she commutes between her parents' homes on a bus she calls the Divorce Express, was acclaimed by Booklist: "Danziger's light style, laced with humor will . . .attract readers, both ardent and reluctant."

In 1982, Danziger was named Read-a-Thon Author of the Year by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In the past, she has logged as many as 50,000 miles touring the country speaking to parents, children, educators, and librarians about her writing, but more recently she has managed to stay closer to her two homes in New York City and Woodstock, New York, taking acting lessons and playing lots of video games. She said of her writing, "Most important to me is that writing allows me to use my sense of humor and sense of perspective. I hope that my books continue to help me grow and to help others grow."