Something About The Author
Ed. Donna Olendorf.
Vol. 69. Detroit: Gale Group, 1992. pages 187-193.
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
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."
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.
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,
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.
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.
Zena, and May Hill Arbuthnot, "Informational Books," Children and
Books, 5th edition, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1977.