Richard Michelson (born July 3, 1953) is a poet and a children's book author.

In January 2009, As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March Toward Freedom, was awarded the Sydney Taylor Book Award Gold Medal from the Association of Jewish Libraries, and A is for Abraham, was awarded the Silver Medal. This is the first time in the award's 41-year history that one author has been honored with their top two awards.[1]

Michelson has twice been a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award (2008,[2] 2006[3]) and twice the recipient of the Skipping Stone Multicultural Book Award (2009,[4] 2003[5]). Other recent recognition include a 2009 Massachusetts Book Award Finalist,[6] a 2007 Teacher’s Choice Award from the International Reading Association,[7] and a 2007 Publisher Weekly Best Book Award.[8]

Clemson University named Michelson as the Richard J. Calhoun Distinguished Reader in American Literature for 2008,[9] and he was the featured poet for the 20th Anniversary edition of Image Journal: Art Faith Mystery.[10] Michelson's poetry has been included in many anthologies, including The Norton Introduction to Poetry, Unsettling America: Contemporary Multicultural Poetry, and Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust. His latest collection, Battles & Lullabies, published by the University of Illinois Press, was selected as one of the 12 best poetry books of 2006 by ForeWord Magazine.[11]

Michelson has lectured, and read from his works in India, Eastern Europe, and throughout the United States. He represented the United States at the Bratislava Biennial of Children’s Books in 2005. Michelson has written for the New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, Nextbook and other publications. He is the Curator of Exhibitions at the National Yiddish Book Center and owns R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Personal

Born in Brooklyn, NY; son of a shopkeeper, Maurice, and homemaker, Caroline (Kay); Wife: Jennifer; children: Marisa, Samuel, Nationality: American, Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Theatre. Biking.

Addresses

Office—R.Michelson Galleries, 132 Main St., Northampton, MA 01060. Email—RM@RMichelson.com.

Career

Poet, children's book author, curator, speaker, and gallery owner. R. Michelson Galleries, Amherst and Northampton, MA, owner. National Yiddish Book Center, curator of exhibitions; guest speaker and lecturer throughout the United States and internationally.

Awards and honors

Children’s books:
2010 - New York Times: 10 Best Illustrated Books for Busing Brewster
2010 - Amazon.com 12 Best Children’s Books of the Decade for As Good As Anybody
2009 - Sydney Taylor Award - Gold Medal - Association of Jewish Librarians for As Good As Anybody
2009 - Sydney Taylor Award - Silver Medal - Association of Jewish Librarians for A is for Abraham
2009 - Skipping Stones Multicultural Honor Award for As Good As Anybody
2009 - Massachusetts Book Award Finalist As Good As Anybody
2008 - National Jewish Book Award Finalist As Good As Anybody
2007 - Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2007 for Tuttle’s Red Barn
2006 - National Jewish Book Award Finalist for Across the Alley
2006 - Children's Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Happy Feet
2003 - Skipping Stones magazine Multicultural Honor Award for Too Young for Yiddish
1999 - Jewish Book Council Book of the Month designation for Grandpa's Gamble
1996 - Children's Book Committee Book of the Year for Animals That Ought to Be
1993 - New Yorker Best Book designation, Did You Say Ghosts

Poetry Books:
Felix Pollack Prize in Poetry; New Letters Literary Award; Pablo Neruda Prize finalist; ForeWard Best Poetry Book Award 2006 for Battle and Lullabies.

Bibliography

For Children

Did You Say Ghosts? (verse collection), illustrated by Leonard Baskin, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1993.
Animals That Ought to Be: Poems about Imaginary Pets, illustrated by Leonard Baskin, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
A Book of Flies Real or Otherwise (verse collection), illustrated by Leonard Baskin, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 1999.
Grandpa's Gamble (picture book), illustrated by Barry Moser, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 1999.
Ten Times Better (verse collection), illustrated by Leonard Baskin, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2000.
Too Young for Yiddish (picture book), illustrated by Neil Waldman, Talewinds (Watertown, MA), 2002.
Happy Feet: The Savoy Ballroom Lindy Hoppers and Me (picture book), illustrated by E.B. Lewis, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2005.
Across the Alley (picture book), illustrated by E.B. Lewis, Putnam (New York, NY), 2006.
Oh, No, Not Ghosts! (verse collection), illustrated by Adam McCauley, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2006.
Tuttle's Red Barn, illustrated by Mary Azarian, Putnam (New York, NY), 2007.
As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Towards Freedom, illustrated by Raul Colon, Knopf (New York, NY), 2008.
Animals Anonymous (verse collection), illustrated by Scott Fischer, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY) 2008.
A is For Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet,(Sleeping Bear Press, 2008) illustrated by Ron Mazellan.
Busing Brewster, illustrated by R.G. Roth (Knopf, 2010).

Poems for Adults

Tap Dancing for the Relatives, illustrated by Barry Moser, University of Central Florida Press (Orlando, FL), 1985.
Semblant, illustrated by Leonard Baskin, Gehenna Press (Rockport, ME). 1992.
Masks, illustrated by Leonard Baskin, Gehenna Press (Rockport, ME), 1999.
Battles and Lullabies, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2006.

Poetry included in anthologies, such as The Norton Introduction to Poetry, and published in periodicals such as New Letters and Poetry Northwest. Contributor of book reviews to New York Times Book Review.

Work in Progress

Lipman Pike: First professional Baseball Player and Jewish Home Run King, illustrated by Zak Pullen (Sleeping Bear, 2011)

County Fair, illustrated by Mary Azarian (Putnam, 2012)

Sidelight

In addition to writing, Michelson is the owner of the R. Michelson Galleries, and exhibits the works of numerous contemporary sculptors, painters, and printmakers in his gallery located in Northampton, Massachusetts. His gallery showcases well known artists such as Leonard Baskin (sculptor and printmaker), Leonard Nimoy (photographer, actor), Randall Deihl (painter), Thomas Locker (landscape artist) and more than 50 additional artists. Michelson’s gallery also incorporates a wide range of illustration art, including original works by Theodor Seuss Geisel, Mo Willems, Jane Dyer, Mordicai Gerstein, Trina Schart Hyman, Maurice Sendak, Barry Moser, Tony DiTerlizzi, Mary Azarian, E.B. Lewis, Diane DeGroat, and Jules Feiffer.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Michelson experienced personal tragedy early in life when his father, a shopkeeper, was killed during a robbery. The horrors of the holocaust also figured strongly; Michelson's aunt, recalling her years as a young Jew living in Europe, is haunted by memories of Hitler's Gestapo. While his poetry for adults—published in the collections Tap Dancing for the Relatives and Battles and Lullabies—reflects the serious nature of his reflections on history, racism, and culture, his work for younger readers is inspired by his love of, and respect for family and culture.

In picture books such as Grandpa's Gamble, Too Young for Yiddish, and Happy Feet Michelson depicts close-knit family relationships. Reflecting his own Jewish traditions, Grandpa's Gamble finds a young boy trying to understand why his elderly grandfather spends so much time in prayerful silence. When the boy's question is answered by Grandpa Sam, the boy learns about the persecution of Jews in Poland many years before, and about how his immigrant grandfather had used the opportunities available in America to become a wealthy man before the illness of a child humbled him and caused him to return to his faith. Too Young for Yiddish again finds a boy turning to his grandfather, or Zayde, for guidance, this time with the hope of learning Yiddish. Although the man dismisses the child's request due to the boy's youth, his collection of books create a connection between the two generations as time passes. In Booklist Hazel Rochman deemed Grandpa's Gamble a "moving immigrant Passover story" that brings to life "the intimate bonds of love and faith across generations," while a Publishers Weekly critic wrote that Too Young for Yiddish "possesses both power and pathos" and stands as an "urgent" reminder to readers that the Yiddish language is slowly being lost to time. A Detroit Jewish News critic wrote "One of the best Jewish children's books published in recent memory, and one of the top 25 ever published."

Although the family is African American, Happy Feet is similar in theme to Michelson's Jewish-themed picture books because it centers on a strong family. Focusing on the parent-child relationship, the story is narrated by a young boy whose father runs a business across the street from Harlem's Savoy ballroom, where the family has a front-row seat to the parade of culture, swing music, dance, and celebrity that passes through the dance palace's doors. Showcasing the rich culture that flowered in that New York neighborhood during the early twentieth century, Happy Feet serves as "a valentine to the renowned Savoy" as well as a "tribute [that] will take young readers back to Harlem-as-it-was," according to a Kirkus Reviews writer. The "beautifully lit, expressive watercolor" illustrations by Caldecott Medal-winning artist E.B. Lewis add to the book's magic, according to Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan, and in School Library Journal Nina Lindsay deemed Happy Feet a "charming" story in which Michelson presents "a dramatic read-aloud introduction" to the Jazz Era. Across the Alley,is about Abe and Willie, next door neighbors. During the day they don't play together, because Abe is Jewish and Willie is black. But at night, when nobody is watching, they're best friends. The Kirkus Review says “Set during the time of segregation, the story lends hope for a future without racism... A beautiful blend of story and art." This book was runner up for the National Jewish Book Award 2007. As Good As Anybody is also about the friendship between blacks and Jews. In a starred review, Booklist (American Library Association)said “In this powerful, well-crafted story about a partnership between two great civil rights leaders, Michelson shows how the fight for human rights affects everyone... Michelson writes in poetic language that gracefully uses repetitive sentence structures and themes to emphasize the similarities between the two men’s lives. Also admirable is Michelson’s ability to convey complex historical concepts, such as segregation, in clear, potent terms that will speak directly to readers:...an exceptional title for sharing and discussion.

Biographical & Critical Sources

  1. ^ Book on King-Heschel Bond Wins Children’s Lit Award-JTA
  2. ^ 2008 Nat’l Jewish Book Awards
  3. ^ 2006 National Jewish Book Awards
  4. ^ The 2009 Skipping Stones Honor Awards
  5. ^ The 2003 Skipping Stones Honor Awards
  6. ^ Recommended Reading from the 9th Annual Massachusetts Book Awards
  7. ^ Teachers' Choices for 2007
  8. ^ Publisher’s Weekly Best Children's Books of 2007
  9. ^ Feature Author Biography — Clemson Literary Festival
  10. ^ Image Journal Artist of the Month: March 2009
  11. ^ New Poetry that Defies Formula

Booklist, September 1, 1993, Ilene Cooper, review of Did You Say Ghosts?, p. 69;
October 15, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of Animals That Ought to Be: Poems about Imaginary Pets, p. 427;
March 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Grandpa's Gamble, p. 1333;
October 1, 2000, Michael Cart, review of Ten Times Better, p. 343;
November 1, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of Happy Feet: The Savoy Ballroom Lindy Hoppers and Me, p. 60.
Daily Hampshire Gazette (Amherst, MA), May 3, 2006, Bonnie Wells, "Poetry That Speaks of Everyday Cruelties and Love."
Horn Book, March–April, 1994, Lolly Robinson, review of Did You Say Ghosts?, p. 192;
November–December, 1996, Mary M. Burns, review of Animals That Ought to Be, p. 754;
September, 1999, Mary M. Burns, review of A Book of Flies Real or Otherwise, p. 620.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2002, review of Too Young for Yiddish, p. 106;
November 1, 2005, review of Happy Feet, p. 1186.
New Yorker, December 13, 1993, review of Did You Say Ghosts?, p. 117.
Publishers Weekly, August 2, 1993, review of Did You Say Ghosts?, p. 81;
September 23, 1996, review of Animals That Ought to Be, p. 76; March 22, 1999, review of Grandpa's Gamble, p. 90;
August 2, 1999, review of A Book of Flies Real or Otherwise, p. 82;
July 31, 2000, review of Ten Times Better, p. 94;
January 14, 2002, review of Too Young for Yiddish, p. 60.
School Library Journal, October, 2000, Nina Lindsay, review of Ten Times Better, p. 190;
March, 2002, Linda R. Silver, review of Too Young for Yiddish, p. 198;
November, 2005, Nina Lindsay, review of Happy Feet, p. 100.