Growing up in New Jersey, Ellen Schwartz wanted to be a dancer. She majored in French at the University of Chicago (1967-1969) and studied special education, with a major in learning disabilities, at the University of Wisconsin (1969-1971). She lived briefly on a commune in Pennsylvania before going 'back to the land' at Galena Bay, near Revelstoke, B.C., in 1972. She and her husband moved to Vancouver with their two daughters, after which she took a creative writing course at UBC called "Writing for Children." She eventually earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from UBC in 1988. "It was sometime during my first year as a graduate student that I began to realize that writing was something I couldn't live without, something I would do for the rest of my life." She works as a corporate writer, a freelance writer and as an instructor of writing for children courses. Most of her books are written for children, including her Starshine series about Starshine Bliss Shapiro who would have liked her parents to have given her a more conventional name. Born in a cabin in the woods to idealistic parents, she grows up as a vegetarian and spider collector. Initially Schwartz was reticent to accept the workshop approach to writing. "Then I realized I was learning to write through the critiquing process. That works whether you're a student or a teacher." Schwartz transferred some of her appreciation of the craft of writing to her appreciation of seven Canadian female singer-songwriters in Born A Woman, a non-fiction appreciation of Sylvia Tyson, Ferron, Rita MacNeil, Connie Kaldor, Heather Bishop, Lucie Blue Tremblay and Marie-Lynn Hammond. Her juvenile novel Stealing Home concerns a nine-year-old baseball player of mixed black and white heritage in Brooklyn in 1947 when Jackie Robinson is making his famous baseball debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers (after he played professionally for the Montreal Royals in the International League). Her historical novel Yossi's Goal is a follow-up to Jesse's Star about a Russian Jewish immigrant family in Montreal in the 1890s.

The Case of the Missing Deed is a culinary mystery for kids aged 8 to 13 that incorporates recipes into the story. Recipes were provided by Schwartz's daughter, a professional pastry chef. In 2013 it was accorded the Rocky Mountain Book Award Gold Medal in Alberta.

Prior to the internment of Japanese Canadians in British Columbia, in 1942, two young friends named Michiko (Michi) and Esther are both hankering to own the most popular dolls on display in a Vancouver storefront window--the Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret dolls, in keeping with the British Empire's idealization of its royal family as heroic figures. The two friends share a birthday so they are simultaneously hoping their wished-for sister dolls might be able to play together. Esther's grandmother, who is deeply concerned about the fate of Jewish relatives in Europe, gives the Elizabeth doll to Esther. When Michi doesn't receive the Margaret doll, jealousy arises and the friendship falters; then it's almost severed when Michiko's family must close their corner store, then they are interned away from the coast. That's the premise for Ellen Schwartz's The Princess Dolls (Tradewind, 2018), illustrated by Mariko Ando. For readers aged 9-12. It was shortlisted for the Diamond Foundation Prize for Children/Youth (Western Canada Jewish Book Awards) in 2020.

An urban girl who grew up in the suburbs of New York, Ellen Schwartz later studied French at the University of Chicago. Not exactly the career route to becoming a back-to-the lander but that is what Schwartz did in the 1970s, moving to a remote BC area in the Kootenays as she describes in her memoir Galena Bay Odyssey: Reflections of a Hippie Homesteader (Heritage House, 2023). In her new surroundings, Schwartz learned to log, build a cabin, garden, and keep chickens and bees on a communal farm. Eventually, Schwartz moved with her husband and two children to Vancouver where she established herself as an award-winning writer best-known for children’s book.

CITY/TOWN: Burnaby, BC

DATE OF BIRTH: June 7, 1949

PLACE OF BIRTH: Washington, DC



EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Teacher (creative writing)


Galena Bay Odyssey: Reflection of a Hippie Homesteader (Heritage House, 2023) $26.95 9781772034455

The Princess Dolls (Tradewind Books, 2018) $19.95 9781926890081

Heart of a Champion (Tundra, 2016) 9781770498808

The Case of the Missing Deed (Tundra, 2011) $17.99 9780887769597

Avalanche Dance (Tundra, 2010) 9780887769580

Cellular (Orca Books, 2010) 9781554692965

Yossi's Goal (Orca Books, 2006) 9781551434926

Abby's Birds (Tradewind Books, 2006) 9781896580333. Illustrated by Sima Elizabeth Shefrin.

Stealing Home (Tundra Books, 2006) 9781770490413

I Love Yoga: A Guide for Kids and Teens (Tundra Books, 2003) 9781770490611

I'm a Vegetarian (Tundra Books, 2002) 9780887765889

Starshine and the Fanged Vampire Spider (Raincoast Books, 2000) 9781896095608

Jesse's Star (Orca Books, 2000) 1551431432

Mr. Belinsky's Bagels (Tradewind Books, 1997) 1896580149. Illustrated by Stefan Czernecki.

Starshine on TV (Polestar Books, 1996) 1896095135

Starshine at Camp Crescent Moon (1994) 0919591027

Born a Woman (Polestar Books, 1988) 0919591256

Starshine! (Polestar Books, 1987) 0919591248

Dusty (Solstice Books, 1983) 0919560021

AWARDS: Canadian Library Association Notable Book for Starshine on TV; Our Choice recognition for several books; Silver Birch nomination for Starshine on TV, nomination for Silver Birch Award, Red Cedar Award and Chocolate Lily Award for Jesse's Star.

[BCBW 2023]