Ethiopia-the faraway land on the horn of Africa, was Jane Kurtz's home when she was a young girl. Her parents were missionaries there, and her playmates were dark-skinned, smiling children. They mostly lived in grass-covered huts with dirt floors covered with mats—as did Jane and her family. The boys might work as cattle herders; the girls would help their mothers with cooking until it was time for them to be married.
Mitsumasi Anno grew up in a traditional, beautiful Japanese village named Tsuwano, far away from any bustling city. Although he and his family lived near the sea, the mountains all around kept Anno from experiencing its vastness until he was older. When he was a child, he drew pictures of things he could see and also imagine: mountains, houses, and ghosts. His parents ran an inn, and the colorful magazines lying about for the guests' enjoyment were a big source of inspiration to him as he developed his love of drawing.
When David Small was, well, small, he was often sick and had to stay home from school. He would spend hours drawing and making up stories for fun to keep from being bored. He grew up in the very big city of Detroit, but he spent his summers out in the countryside with his grandparents. David was shy, but he enjoyed being with the animals on the farm, and he loved visiting museums with his parents and taking art lessons.
To open a book illustrated by Floyd Cooper is to be drawn into a world of warmth, bravery, and joy. His drawings are as essential as the text itself in illuminating the world of childhood, often of the Black experience.
He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1956. Early on, his family lived in the projects and had little money, but his mother was able to give him a sense of self-worth that he has carried with him always. She also shared stories with him, helping to build his imagination.
Bored? Nothing to do? Jump into a cozy picture book on a winter night. Troublesome trolls and a beauty's Beast! Helpful hedgehogs and polite polar bears! Whether you find yourself surrounded by swirling snowflakes or a chilly blue twilight, there are no better companions for winter's frozen brightness than Jan Brett's tales from the European tradition.
Jan Brett knows all about the magical relationship between a book and a reader. "I remember the special quiet of rainy days when I felt that I could enter the pages of my beautiful picture books," she once recalled. "Now I try to recreate that feeling of believing that the imaginary place I'm drawing really exists."
When Astrid Lindgren was a little girl, a friend read her stories about the giant, Bam-Bam, and the fairy, Viribunda. Astrid Lindgren loved these stories. Some part of the author never grew up and the result is the enchanting adventures of The Children of Noisy Village, Ronia, the Robber's Daughter, and, of course, Pippi Longstocking.
"I write books for the child I am myself. I write about things that are dear to me--trees and houses and nature--just to please myself."
Best known for her Newbery Award-winning books, Jacob Have I Loved, as well as Newbery Honor winner, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson's very personal style of storytelling strikes nerves with her readers, who are able feel her characters' emotions, giving them practice for dealing with life's sorrows. What keeps her books from being simple studies in misery is her ability to find the humor and grace in any situation.
No teacher ever told Newbery-winning author Betsy Byars she should be a writer when she was growing up. Young Betsy Cromer, nicknamed “Cro,” was a wide-awake kid and into most everything, but not writing. Part of the time her family lived in the country, which was heaven for Betsy as she was surrounded by nature. When she got older, she was interested in nature of a different kind—boys!
“I have a normally strange family.”
Award-winning author Sharon Creech wove a lot of her own life into her books for young adults, including her first one, Absolutely Normal Chaos. Written as a journal as are many of her novels, what strikes a reader immediately are her humor and casual way of storytelling. Everything is told offhand, as if it doesn’t really matter—just a 13-year-old chattering. Until what happens does matter and things get serious. That’s when readers are grateful for the humor, and having a strong if strange family really becomes important.