Author of the Month
Authors by their birthday month: January -- February -- March -- April -- May -- June -- July -- August -- September -- October -- November -- December
There are some things which are hard and painful to understand. Slavery. Skyscrapers exploding. War. Tsunamis. Even famous people's ordinary lives.
But in a true story, there may also be courage, hope, love, and determination. When Jeanette Winter tells her readers of historic events and people, she makes sure the stories carry not only the frightening pieces but the parts that leaven the misery as well.
Pick up a handful of David Wiesner's books, and you'll get a glimpse of the kid who knew in third grade that he wanted to be an artist. But not just any artist--an artist full of fun and imagination. He remembers that there were lots of kinds of paintings he'd like to try:
"I'd have turtles with paintbrushes tied to their backs walking around on a big sheet of paper (I got chuckles from the class and the teacher). Or I'd fill squirt guns with different colored paints at shoot at the canvas. I actually tried this with friends. Well it sounded like a good idea."
Her books take readers to Michigan's deep woods, the dusty streets of India, Chinese fishing boats, and on an Alaskan dog sled trail. And those are only the stories set in today's world.
She has also written books set in revolutionary Russia, on the 1880s American frontier, 1918 British East Africa, and along the Underground Railroad. All of these journeys she writes for us begin with another story--a true one--of a little girl who was very sick.
Mysteries for the mind and the eye, that's what Chris Van Allsburg creates for his readers. His drawings seem quite still and perhaps a little dull-until you notice the huge snake slithering across the mantelpiece (Jumanji) or the brambles stealthily growing out of a sleeping girl's book in The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.
Mr. Taback grew up in the East Bronx of New York City in 1930s and 40s. His family was Jewish, and they had strong ties to Eastern Europe. Their neighborhood was made up of many such families who together created a community rich in the traditions of the Old Country. When he was a young boy, he spoke the Yiddish language. Although he remembers little of it today, the old songs, stories, and ways of life have made a tremendous impact on the work of this Caldecott Award-winner. In old Poland, a village such as the one he grew up in would be called a shtetl.
“And then suddenly the wolf was there. With a crashing of twigs and small branches it sprang into the open, then, seeing the hunters all about it, checked almost in mid spring, swinging its head from side to side, with laid-back ears and wrinkled muzzle: a great, brindled dog wolf, menace in every raised hackle.”
(From Warrior Scarlet)
Rosemary Sutcliff’s splendid stories take place in Britain’s distant past. Shining Roman spears. Cloth woven red for warrior valor. A broken bit of barley cake on a hearth whose ashes grow cold. The last signal fire against the darkness of a massing enemy.
Gary Soto came from a hard background by anyone's reckoning. His young father died in an industrial accident when Gary was only five years old. His Mexican-American family was struggling and lived in a tough neighborhood--next to a junkyard and across from a pickle factory. All through school, he and his family worked at whatever jobs they could get, including picking fruits as migrant laborers.
Jon Scieszka (pronounce that SHESH-ka) is a wild and crazy guy. Don't leave the man alone in a room with an old-fashioned story. He'll twist it and bend it around 'til it looks like something that should be dripping with cheese and sold at the shopping mall.
His takes on classic tales are so off-the-wall you'll wonder what it would have been like to have him in your class. Let me tell you: it would have been dangerous-for you. He'd sit quietly, and then he'd crack up the other kids without making a sound. THEY would be the ones to get into trouble. Not Jon.