Author Myron Levoy, whose acclaimed YA novel Alan and Naomi, depicting the friendship between a teen boy and a French refugee of the Holocaust in 1944 New York City, was a National Book Award finalist, died on December 30, 2019. He was 89.
Levoy was born on January 30, 1930 in New York, N.Y. where he recalled “from a very early age constant trips to the library,” according to his essay in Speaking for Ourselves: Autobiographical Sketches by Notable Authors of Books for Young Adults. He received his B.S. at New York’s City College and M.Sc. from Purdue University, and worked as a chemical and aviation engineer as a young man. He began writing in his spare time and wrote five plays that were produced in New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Soon after that, he shifted gears and crafted a tale for his son and daughter as a Hanukkah gift. That story was expanded into Levoy’s first book for children, The Witch of Fourth Street and Other Stories, which Charlotte Zolotow published at Harper in 1972. The volume features tales about immigrants in New York during the 1920s and remains in print.
In his career as an author, Levoy largely focused on characters who were outsiders, creating several YA novels with hard-hitting themes including A Shadow Like a Leopard about a young gang member (Harper, 1981) and Three Friends (Harper, 1984), featuring a gay teenage protagonist. He also drafted lighter fare for kids, including 1972’s fable-like Penny Tunes and Princesses (Harper, 1972) which was illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. Alan and Naomi remained his best-known work. It was published throughout Europe and Asia and adapted as a play that is still performed in Germany. The book was also brought to the big screen in 1992 as the Porchlight Entertainment feature film Alan & Naomi, starring Lukas Haas.