Meet Authors & Illustrators

Susan Heyboer O'Keefe

Susan Heyboer O'Keefe

   Susan Heyboer O'Keefe is passionate about reading and writing. As a preschooler, she lived for the day she could get her library card. " I was reading and writing before I started kindergarten," said Susan, "but I wasn't allowed to get a library card till I was in the first grade. Not fair! When the day finally came, I was told I could take out only one book at a time. I finished it in the car on the way home but my parents refused to turn around and go back for another."

   Susan went on to graduate from Ramapo College of New Jersey with honors in literature. In 1977, she received her MA in creative writing from City College of New York, earning a Goodman Award for a work in progress. She continues to enjoy reading and writing. She has produced an impressive body of work that includes thirteen children's titles, hundreds of magazine articles, and a newsletter and two books for office professionals. Susan has written extensively on career advancement, management techniques, personal communication skills and other professional topics.

   The author is married to a mental health counselor and lives in New Jersey. They have a teenage son "who prefers to remain anonymous" and two parrots, Gromit and Wallace, who serve as book critics.
"One other thing," Susan added, "when I was young, I used to read so much that my mother would trick me into going outside, then she would lock the door behind me so I'd be forced into getting a little fresh air."

   Susan's lead character in MY LIFE AND DEATH BY ALEXANDRA CANARSIE gets plenty of fresh air. Protagonist Allie is a fourteen-year-old discipline problem who likes to hang out in cemeteries and attend the funeral of strangers. When one of the funerals is for a boy her own age and in whom she thinks she would finally have found a friend, she becomes overly involved in the circumstances of his death, with disastrous consequences. Allie's voice shines through with such credibility that adolescents will immediately identify with it.

   If you would like to learn more about Susan Heyboer O'Keefe, you can visit her at her website www.susanheyboerokeefe.com

 

Reviews

Angel Prayers: Prayers for All Children
Susan Heyboer O'Keefe
Illustrated by Sofia Suzán
   In this concept book, O'Keefe pulls phrases and ideas from the Holy Scriptures to use as the basis for her twelve prayer texts. She then stretches them according to her own speculations about guardian angels--that children are part-angelic in form, angels are intercessors for humans, and children can seek to be like angels to others. This may be a confusing yet poetic mixture of part-fairy tale and part-reality to young minds. Bold, acrylic angelic illustrations, outlined in black (and looking like doll cut-outs), stand apart from--but not in the same "realm" with--the opposing white pages with big type. Parents may expect questions from their children during and following the reading of this book. 1999, Boyds Mills Press, $15.95. Ages 3 to 8. Reviewer: Patricia Timbrook
ISBN: 1563976838

Good Night, God Bless
Susan Heyboer O'Keefe
Illustrated by Hideko Takahashi
   This is a nice bedtime book that celebrates family homes, portraying them as "treasure chests." The soothing, rhyming words and the warm illustrations can provide a springboard for a delightful bedtime ritual. 1999, Henry Holt and Company, $15.95. Ages 3 mo. to 5.A. Reviewer: Braga (Parent Council)
ISBN: 0805060081

Love Me, Love You
Susan Heyboer O'Keefe
Illustrated by Robin Spowart
   From the dust jacket we read, "Join Mother Rabbit and Baby Rabbit as they go through their busy day, loving each activity--and each other." And that is just what this picture book does--in two paler-than-pastel colors and more detail than I found endearing. Some noted activities being, playing with "my bear," getting "oatmeal in my hair," and "drawing on the wall." (Here O'Keefe spared our sensibilities by showing "my drawing" tacked onto what I infer to be an inside wall). Nothing is spared with, "Love me, love my potty. Big-kid pants all polka-dotty." These lines indicate the quality of the poetry that appears as one or two lines per page. The two characters, mother and child, are white rabbits. 2001, Boyds Mill Press, $15.95. Ages 6 mo. to 4. Reviewer: Carolyn DCL Michaels
ISBN: 1563978377
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2002 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States

My Life and Death, by Alexandra Canarsie
Susan Heyboer O'Keefe
   The small town of Nickel Park and a shabby rented trailer seem to be the last chance for fifteen-year-old Allie and her divorced mother to find a secure, happy life. Coming to terms with her father's desertion, a new town and high school proves very difficult for embittered, nonconformist Allie, and she deals with her feelings by attending the funerals of perfect strangers in nearby Evergreen cemetery. This realistic-problem novel becomes a mystery when Allie attends the funeral of fifteen-year-old Jimmy, a boy whom she believes would have been her soul mate, and she becomes obsessed with investigating his untimely drowning. The author does a good job of interweaving elements of mystery with Allie's problems relating to her family, her new school, and her new friend, Dennis, the best friend of dead Jimmy. Written in the first person, from Allie's point of view, many adolescent readers may find her feisty, outspoken character appealing. 2002, Peachtree, $14.95. Ages 11 up. Reviewer: Gisela Jernigan
ISBN: 1561452645

One Hungry Monster: A Counting Book in Rhyme
Susan Heyboer O'Keefe
Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
   Monsters that somewhat resemble those in Sendak's classic Where the Wild Things Are populate the pages of this board book. It is a counting book in rhyme. A young boy is awakened by a hungry monster under his bed. The number of monsters increases until all ten are seated at the kitchen table demanding to be fed. In another counting sequence, the youngster brings out an interesting variety of foods. The monsters gorge themselves on bread, pumpkins, pizza and peanut butter while our young friend enjoys an apple muffin that he liberated from its secret hiding spot behind the toaster. It is silly fun and a great way to count from one to ten. 2001, Little Brown, $5.95. Ages 2 to 4. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
ISBN: 0-316-60804-1

 

Added 9/27/02

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If you're interested in reviewing children's and young adult books, then send a resume and writing sample to marilyn@childrenslit.com.

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