Ellen Conford, popular children's author, dead at 73
Mar. 23, 2015
NEW YORK (AP) — Ellen Conford, an award-winning children's writer whose comic tales about everything from the travails of high school to a girl's summer camp crush made her a favorite for at least one generation of readers, has died.
Conford died at home in Great Neck, New York, last Friday, on her 73rd birthday, her husband told The Associated Press. David Conford said Monday that his wife had been in poor health and died of heart failure.
Conford's more than 40 books — for age groups ranging from small children to young adults — included the "Jenny Archer" and "Annabel the Actress" series and the novel "This is Laura." Her husband said that a personal favorite was "The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations," published in 1976 and inspired by the guidelines that their son, Michael, received while in high school.
"Ellen found some of the rules so hilarious that she started working on a book about them," David Conford said.
Honors received by Ellen Conford included a Book of the Year citation from the American Library Association for "Alfred G. Graebner." ''This is Laura," ''Alfred G. Graebner" and several other books were adapted for television specials.
"Ellen is one of the authors that created the kind of John Green YA as we know it today — the kind of witty works that also take their readers seriously," said Lizzie Skurnick, who has been reissuing Conford's work through her eponymous imprint. "Whether she was writing about a girl fleeing foster homes in the 1950s ('To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie') or the consummate novel of summer camp ('Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood'), her books are plotted so well, and her writing is so smart and fabulous. Readers have been sending me pictures of all the old books they've held onto since they were teenagers."
A native of New York City who edited her high school's humor magazine and attended Hofstra University (Hofstra College at the time), Conford had been writing poems and short stories when a trip to the library inspired her to try a different kind of book. She was frustrated by the scarcity of good stories for her son and wondered aloud if she couldn't write one herself."
"I said to her, 'Then why don't you?'" her husband recalled.
Ellen Conford's first book, the picture story "Impossible, Possum," came out in 1971, and she published regularly over the next 30 years. Reissues by Lizzie Skurnick Books include "And This is Laura" and "To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie," with "Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood," likely to come out in 2016.