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Beyond the Page: Michelle Markel

This week we are excited to feature Michelle Markel, author of Terrible Times Tables (Cameron Kids, August 2019) illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard. Get to know her through fun questions below.

What kind of cheese would you be and why?

Brie. I’d grow up in France, so I’d speak perfect French. My partner would be Wine- always in a good mood. We’d be taken to the best picnics, parties and celebrations – oh, the things we’d hear and see!

What fictional place would you most like to go?

Ireland in the time of leprechauns and other magical beings, as described in James Stephens’ Crock of Gold. I insist on being Dana, mother of the gods. I’d be at one with the universe: wild birds would eat from my hands, flowers and trees would communicate with me.

What is the weirdest random fact that you know?

I know that in his childhood, my husband—now an anthropology professor — developed his own space program, using bugs. He put centipedes and millipedes in matchboxes, stood at the curb and launched them into space with rubber bands. Afterwards he inspected the bug astronauts to make sure they survived the flights- and they did!

Tell us one fun insider-fact about Terrible Times Tables.

Terrible Times Tables was inspired by a Victorian blockbuster (and tongue twister) called Marmaduke Multiply’s Merry Method of Making Minor Mathematicians. That book was comprised of illustrated couplets for each “multiplication fact” – all very random, including some that were dark or quirky (“6 x 8 is 48/Dear Aunt, your dress is out of date.”) Terrible Times Tables, unlike Marmaduke, takes place during a school year, and features recurring (and sometimes trouble-making) characters.


Michelle Markel

As a one-time substitute teacher, Michelle witnessed terrible events in elementary school classrooms- including the torture of learning times tables. Her acclaimed picture books include the The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, (PEN Picture Book Writing Award) Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 (Jane Addams Flora Stieglitz Award; Orbis Pictus Honor) and Balderdash: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books (numerous state awards). More recently, she modernized Eleanor Roosevelt’s When You Grow Up to Vote and authored Out of This World: The Surreal Art of Leonora Carrington. In addition to writing, Michelle enjoys taking pictures of the lizards and bunnies who live outside her home in Woodland Hills, California.

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