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Fern Schumer Chapman
Fern Schumer Chapman is a Chicago-based writer whose second novel, Is It Night or Day?, was released in paperback in March, 2014. In 2004, the Illinois Association of Teachers of English (IATE) named Chapman the ”Illinois Author of the Year.” As a journalist and reporter, her work has appeared in many publications including the Chicago Tribune, Forbes, The Forward, The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Fortune, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, she has taught magazine writing and other seminars at both Northwestern and Lake Forest College. Currently, she is at work on another memoir.
Awards and Honors
Is it Night or Day?
Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Gold Medal in the Young Adult Historical Fiction category
Junior Library Guild selection
Booklist‘s Top Ten Historical Fiction Title for Youth in 2010
Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best list
Illinois Reads selected this book as a featured title for 2013
Nominated for the 2014 Garden State Children's Book Award in nonfiction
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection
Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award
Illinois Reads author Fern Schumer Chapman brings her audience along on her mother’s childhood immigration journey as one of the children rescued from Nazi Germany by a little-known American program. Her books–Motherland and Is It Night or Day?–resonate with universal themes of assimilation, family legacy, prejudice, loss and identity. Square Fish Books released a paperback edition of Is It Night or Day? in March 2014. Teacher’s Guides are available for both books.
After a middle school class read Is It Night or Day? (Lexile Measurement: 810L)–a historical novel which captures the 1938 shipboard friendship of two 12-year-old girls, Gerda Katz and Edith Westerfeld Schumer–students were so moved by the story that they made it a class project to reunite the two Holocaust refugees. They succeeded. Fulfilling a life-long dream, the two women finally saw each other again in Seattle, Washington–73 years after their long-ago journey. The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) featured a story about this emotional reunion.
Ms. Chapman’s presentations inspire student empathy and a desire to tackle similar community service projects. These presentations also help your district meet the state mandate for Holocaust education. Her offerings include:
Length of Programs: From thirty to sixty minutes–depending upon the grade level and type of presentation.
Audience Size: Fern will tailor her program to the grade and size of your audience. No limits on attendance for assemblies. Workshops work best with groups fewer than 50.
“I have witnessed many author presentations, and I have never seen students so engaged.” —Patricia Stacey, Thompson Middle School, St. Charles, Illinois
“Fern’s ability to connect with students on poignant topics of identity, struggle and perseverance makes her a can’t-miss opportunity for your school.” —David Lopez, Literacy Coach, Morton High School, Cicero, Illinois
Is It Night or Day?
Fern Schumer Chapman (Author), Reading level: Ages 10-14 Paperback 256 pages Hardcover 224 pages Publisher: Square Fish, Reprint edition (March 18, 2014) Hardcover ISBN: 0374177449 Paperback ISBN: 1250044219
A work of historical fiction, Is It Night or Day? is a prequel to Motherland that explores immigration, Americanization and identity formation through a little-known program that rescued 1,400 youngsters from the Holocaust. In 1938–torn away from her family and friends, her village in Germany and everything she has ever known–12-year-old Edith Westerfeld travels alone to distant America as her parents struggle to follow her in escaping the Nazis. Sent to live with a hostile aunt who makes Edith a virtual servant, the girl desperately seeks to understand who she is in this new world. One girl’s journey from child refugee to American teenager mirrors and illuminates the struggle of every immigrant child as Edith searches for a new identity through school, friends and even baseball.
Recently, these two books have led to another amazing story. On the ship that brought her to America, young Edith became best friends with 12-year-old Gerda Katz, but the two hadn’t seen each other since their arrival in 1938. After a Naperville, Illinois middle-school class read Is It Night or Day?, the students were so moved by the story that they made it a class project to reunite the two women, 73 years after their childhood immigration journey. Fulfilling a shared life-long dream, Edith and Gerda, now in their 80s, finally saw each other again last summer in Seattle, Washington. A show called Lost and Found on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) featured the reunion of Edith and Gerda on its first episode on January 3, 2013
Fern Schumer Chapman and Edith Westerfeld
The paperback edition of Is It Night or Day? includes bonus material—a Q/A with the author, a 3,000-word story of how 8th graders reunited the two Holocaust refugees featured in the book, and the Teachers Guide, which is aligned with the new Core Curriculum State Standards. Now, Scholastic is offering a $4 edition of the book through its book club.
From Booklist *starred review– ”Powerful and eloquent...as with the best writing, the specifics about life as a young immigrant are universal.”
From Kirkus Reviews– “...rings with authenticity…Moving!”
From Library Media Connection *starred review– “...exceptional story of survival and devotion to homeland.”
From Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA)– “This is a superb addition to any Holocaust or American History collection. Students will be moved by Edith’s story.”
Motherland: Beyond the Holocaust-A Mother/Daughter Journey to Reclaim the Past
Fern Schumer Chapman (Author), Reading level: Ages 10-14 Hardcover 208 pages Paperback 190 pages Publisher: Penguin Books (April 1, 2001) Hardcover ISBN: 0670881058 Paperback ISBN: 0140286233
A memoir, Motherland follows a young mother’s pilgrimage into her family’s history as author Fern Schumer Chapman uneasily accompanies her mother, Edith, a Holocaust escapee, on a baffling visit to the German village her mother left at the age of 12. Edith, the youngest member of the town’s only remaining Jewish family, was sent alone and terrified to America to escape the Nazis. Nearly half a century later, mother and daughter return to the village and gradually realize that no one has escaped the shame, guilt and lingering scars of the war.
The success of Motherland has led to numerous speaking engagements at libraries, book clubs, junior/senior high schools, universities and literary organizations.
From Booklist *starred review– "...a new and profound perspective on the legacy of the Holocaust."
From Kirkus Reviews– “An outstanding portrait of the painful postwar waltz of Germans, their victims, and their victims’ victims.”
Chicago Tribune– “Meticulously detailed account…which Chapman renders with precise and often moving prose.”
Dallas Morning News– “Anyone who reads her observations about the remnants of anti-Semitism will surely be moved and even outraged.”
San Diego Jewish Heritage– “This finalist in the 2000 National Jewish Book Awards should have been a winner...beautifully written and is so gripping that it is hard to put down."
WomanLinks.com– "Amazing…tragic and triumphant…incredibly powerful.”
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