Excerpt From
Something About The Author
Ed. Donna Olendorf. Vol. 69. Detroit: Gale Group, 1992. pages 187-193.


Husband-and-wife team Alvin and Virginia B. Silverstein have formed a successful writing partnership, producing almost one hundred scientific information books for young people. Their works cover a wide spectrum, from contemporary issues like bionics, recycling, robotics, and genetics to detailed studies of various animals, foods, body systems, and diseases.

Both authors bring an extensive knowledge of science to their collaborations -- Virginia is a former chemist and Alvin is a biology professor -- and they deal with complex issues in a comprehensible manner. Their books are accessible to young audiences and are often praised as straightforward, detailed, and authoritative. Their "work is carefully organized and written in a clear, direct style, and is dependably accurate," according to Zena Sutherland and May Hill Arbuthnot in Children and Books. "The more complicated subjects are not always covered in depth, but they are given balanced treatment, and the Silversteins' writing usually shows their attention to current research and always maintains a scientific attitude."

Both Alvin and Virginia enjoyed similar interests throughout their childhoods. Alvin grew up an avid reader, sometimes even reading the encyclopedia for fun, and found he was particularly fond of scientific literature. "I began a lifelong hobby of 'science watching' practically as soon as I learned to read," he revealed in Fifth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators. "My first love was astronomy, but I also was crazy about animals." Virginia, too, remembers herself as an enthusiastic reader, who especially loved books about animals. "When I was seven or eight," she recalled in Fifth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, "I used to total up my money saved in terms of how many Thornton Burgess [a prolific animal writer] books it would buy." In time she discovered an aptitude for chemistry and languages and was attracted to both fields. Ultimately, though, she decided to study chemistry, as did Alvin. The couple met at the University of Pennsylvania during the late 1950s-in a chemistry lab.

Nearly ten years after their marriage in 1958, Alvin and Virginia collaborated on their first children's book, Life in the Universe. "That book was quickly signed up," Virginia related in Fifth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, "and we plunged happily into children's science writing. Then followed twenty-three straight rejections. We would probably have given up if we hadn't already had a manuscript accepted." The duo persisted, however, and went on to complete more than ninety books, many of which have been named outstanding science books for children, awarded children's book of the year citations, and recognized by the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the New York Academy of Sciences. Among these are works like Gerbils, which includes a history of the animals as well as information about their intelligence and behavior, and Aging, which encompasses such areas as senility, retirement, and the role of the elderly in families. Other Silverstein books examine topics of high interest to many adolescents, such as eating disorders, braces, acne, or glasses, while still others delve into subjects like dreams, chemicals, allergies, or cancer.

Both Silversteins are content with their working relationship. Virginia once told SATA that she and Alvin "have an almost perfect meshing of minds." Alvin agrees that he and his wife work well together. "I was fortunate to find a marriage that has been both emotionally satisfying and a successful professional partnership," he told SATA in 1976. That partnership was expanded in 1988, when the Silversteins' eldest son, Robert, joined the writing team full time.

"Since Bob joined us, it seems as though our ideas have grown exponentially," Alvin recently told SATA. "We even tried a brief venture into the publishing end and loved the experience of having complete control of a book project from its conception to the finished product. We're proud of the results, and the books were very well reviewed, but we discovered that the profits weren't good enough to compensate for the time and headaches involved in production, promotion, and marketing. Now we're back to just writing, but Bob and I are seriously exploring the possibilities of doing some of the illustrations for new Silverstein books." Virginia adds, '"We'd also like to expand the scope of our books, doing more for younger children, books with a lighter touch, and perhaps some imaginative fiction. We get the feeling sometimes that our editors have us a bit too stereotyped."

Silverstein, Alvin, and Virginia B. Silverstein, Fifth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, edited by Sally Holmes Holtze, H. W. Wilson (New York, NY), 1983.

Sutherland, Zena, and May Hill Arbuthnot, "Informational Books," Children and Books, 5th edition, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1977.