Two-time Caldecott medalist Nonny Hogrogrian grew up in a stone house in the Bronx, New York which had belonged to her family for three generations. She came from a hard-working and artistic family with strong Armenian roots. When very young she would settle into a big chair in the home library and page through books of beautifully illustrated children’s stories dreaming about one day drawing such pictures herself.
She's been compared to Hans Christian Andersen and that clever fable maker Aesop. For children (and adults!) in today's world, her carefully crafted stories sing with a timeless rhythm and an honest truth. Her family's Russian-Jewish roots have given her the jumping-off place for many a tale (And Twelve Chinese Acrobats, Firebird, and Baba Yaga), but some stories seem to drawn from the heart of the world itself.
Jane Yolen, born in New York City on February 11, 1939, showed a talent for writing early on when she wrote and composed the words and music to her grade school pageant, starring as the lead carrot. She seems to have never slowed down during her years in high school: news editor of the school paper, Spanish club vice president, singing with the a capella choir, and captain of the varsity basketball team. Summers spent at a Vermont camp run by Quakers influenced her deeply. Several of her later books (The Gift of Sarah Barker and Friend: The Story of George Fox and the Quakers) relate to this period of spiritual growth.
When Minfong Ho was a small girl, she listened. She listened to her parents who taught her all those necessary things that parents do. Their words were Chinese, and their words went straight into her heart, giving her wisdom and strength.
When Minfong became a little older, she played in the streets, marketplaces, and temple fairs of Bangkok. All around her, she heard life being experienced: the shouting, the playing, the prayer, the love, and the daily work. It was time to grow, a time to learn how to do the practical things. Minfong came to think of Bangkok’s Thai language as the language of doing; the language of her hands.
By Sarah Amick, CRRL Intern
Shel Silverstein was a unique writer with many artistic talents. While generally best known for his poetry and literature for children, he was also a cartoonist, composer, lyricist, and folksinger. He was born Sheldon Allan Silverstein on September 25, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. In the preface to her book entitled Shel Silverstein, Ruth K. MacDonald writes, "Shel Silverstein is admittedly not a great technical poet; he will not be remembered for the advances he has made in the rhyme, meter, diction, or form of his poetry, which children have come to love so much. What he has accomplished is bringing poetry-- perhaps more accurately described as light verse-- to children who would otherwise avoid it." I believe that Silverstein had made a huge impact on children's literature, and his poetry has undoubtedly influenced children of all ages.
Mildred Taylor writes from the experiences of her own life and the tales told by her loving relatives. Her stories have won many awards including the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award. Mildred was born in Mississippi on September 14, 1943. The hatred and prejudice all around made her family decide to move north when she was just a few weeks old. In the North, there was less prejudice and better opportunities for the Taylor family.
"Long, long ago, when the earth was set down and the sky was lifted up, all folktales were owned by the Sky God."
So begins an Ashanti tale, Anansi Does the Impossible!, retold by Verna Aardema. Anansi the Spider and his clever wife, Aso, use their wits to buy the folk tales for the Ashanti people. Verna Aardema spent much of her life retelling these folktales.
Jack Gantos knows that a kid can be wacky AND wonderful. Crazy things happen to kids all the time. Take Joey Pigza. He can't sit still in class, and accidents seem to be waiting to happen. He's a live wire, just like his dad and his grandmother. No matter how hard he tries, he just can't settle down. But Joey is lucky; he does have people who care about him and can help him get what he needs to be happier.
Tomie dePaola (pronounced "Tommy de -powla") was born just as the hard times of the Great Depression were coming to an end in 1934. When Tomie was a boy, there was no television, but he never missed it! He stayed glued to the radio to listen to his favorite show, Let's Pretend. Every week, the actors on Let's Pretend acted out stories of heroes, goblins, princesses, and talking animals. The show fired Tomie's imagination. By the time he was four years old, he knew he wanted to be an artist.
Marcia Sewall's name can be found on the covers of tons of classic fiction and folktales in the library. She has a simple drawing style that conveys the rhythm and characters of the stories without overwhelming them. Whether the subject is a family issue such as the death of a loved one (Saying Good-bye to Grandma by Jane Resh Thomas) or something more light-hearted (The Leprechaun's Story by Richard Kennedy), Marcia's drawings give the books a simple clarity.
Julius Lester came of age during the fight for civil rights for black Americans. In 1960, he graduated from Fiske College and became involved with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee which organized student protests in communities across the nation.