As a kid, Amy Koss always wrote and drew, but it wasn’t until a brilliant editor “told me I could” that she began to believe that normal people could become successful authors. After growing up in Detroit, Amy spent several years living and moving throughout the country, working odd jobs, enrolling in and dropping out of no less than two colleges, and finally submitting her drawings and writing to newspapers and literary magazines. Her work eventually found its way into print and she was hooked on writing, subsequently writing and illustrating picture books until taking a break to have children. Sometime after returning from her maternal break she had that fortuitous meeting with the editor, and began working on novels.
Today Amy is the author of numerous books of all sorts. She also teaches writing, although she admits that she doesn’t believe that the craft can truly be taught. She lives in Glendale, California, with her husband, two children, a dog, miniature rabbit, two turtles, and a golfish.
Beautiful and popular Candace calls all the shots. When she picks Maya to join her select group of friends, Maya is on top of the world. Then, bam! She’s dumped as suddenly and inexplicably as she was picked. Koss recreates the joys and cruelties of middle school cliques so convincingly that the reader can hear the giggles and feel the mortification. The story is told from the alternating first-person viewpoints of all five girls who form the clique. Though their voices are similar, their perspectives are not, giving this tale of peer pressure and popularity an interesting twist. Seeing five ways of interpreting the same events endows this version with a more complex psychological involvement than is found in most treatments of this familiar subject. Especially intriguing is the glimpse into the mind of Candace, the controlling queen, whose thoughts and motivations may surprise and enlighten readers. Meanwhile, Maya’s journey to discovering her real friends is engaging and fast-paced. 2000, Dial, $16.99. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Betty Hicks (Children’s Literature).
The high school American Government teacher wants to have a mock trial in class with her students. No one wants to volunteer to be part of it. Nevertheless, one event leads to another and the trial concerning “Poison” Ivy and those that bully her begins. The author has a unique writing style and lets the reader see the firsthand account of each main character in the book by using his or her own words to tell the story. Read how each teen does not want to be part of this trial and voices his opinion about what is going on. Find out what the main character, Ivy, learns about her classmates and teacher. See how each person has their own flaws and how they feel about themselves and their ability in the trial. Read about a scheme that is going on with one of the characters so she can look good in the end. Through the plotting and conspiring, the readers will see if true justice prevails in the end. This attention-grabbing book will keep the reader turning the pages until the end. Children will take pleasure in reading about Ivy and the other characters. They will find that these characters may represent some of their classmates in their own school. 2006, Deborah Brodie Book/Roaring Book Press, $16.95. Ages 12 to 17. Reviewer: Cathi White (Children’s Literature).
Izzy, a tough-talking, churlish fifteen-year-old, is busy navigating the teenage world of phone calls to friends, flirting with the boys, and bullying her mom. Then suddenly her whole world spins out of control. It all begins one morning when she looks in the mirror and sees that her neck is swollen. Immediately she is rushed to the doctor, who confirms that she has lymphoma, a life-threatening illness. She is thrust into a world of “medical weirdness” complete with IVs, cold, sterile hospital regimes, and chemotherapy with its litany of horrific side effects. Izzy brings the reader up close and allows him/her to experience the gamut of emotions that assail her: fear, anger, confusion, and even laughter at times as she pulls out her pen and paper and creates caricatures of the life around her. Izzy shares what it’s like to return to school. Some kids don’t know what to say, others are sappy-friendly, and worst of all, her best friends are “dweebs,” too. If only she could hibernate and escape all the weirdness. This book is a “straight shooter,” telling it like it is, in honest, teen-talk language. Some readers may be offended by Izzy’s foul language, others will find an instant connection. Either way, readers will come away with a new perspective on what it’s like to experience a life-threatening illness. This book is an excellent resource for any parent, teacher, counselor, caregiver, student, etc., who wants to learn more about that place where no one wants to go; the world not only of illness and pain, but of courage and friendship, as seen through a teenager’s eyes. 2006, Roaring Brook Press/Holtzbrinck Publishers, $16.95. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Cheri Stowers (Children’s Literature).
Me and My Books
For her presentations Amy likes to get right in there and mix it up with the kids. She tells them about her life as a writer, including the good, the bad, and the really icky. She answers just about any question they have and explains how it all works for her: her workday, family, publishing history, ideas, successes, and failures. The talk is fun but full of info. Amy’s style is informal, realistic, and friendly…just like her novels! Amy can do up to four presentations per day, with each presentation lasting between 45 minutes and an hour. Her programs are designed for grades 5-8.
For local presentations, it is $500-$800 per day. If travel is required, the prices is $1000-$1200 per day, plus travel expenses.
To learn more about Amy Koss and her publications please visit www.amygoldmankoss.net.