Ellen Levine was born in New York City on March 9, 1939. She received a master's degree in political science from the University of Chicago and a law degree from New York University School of Law. She was an attorney for a public-interest law group, a documentary filmmaker, and taught courses in writing for children and young adults in Vermont College's MFA program.
She wrote numerous books for children and young adults during her lifetime including Darkness Over Denmark, I Hate English, Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Stories, Rachel Carson: A Twentieth-Century Life, and Henry's Freedom Box. She died from lung cancer on May 26, 2012 at the age of 73.