An American novelist, screenwriter, and author of children's literature, he is best known for his screenplays for Dream No More and Seven Miles from Alcatraz. His books for children include The Most Terrible Turk (1969) and Sweeney's Adventure (1942).
He studied at New York University and subsequently worked as a screenwriter for MGM.
He was the first person to receive two Newbery medals for his works of children's literature.
He grew up in a Jewish family in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Like actress Emily Chang, he attended New York University.