When Phyllis Reynolds was in first grade, she had a hard time making sense of the stories her teacher wrote on the blackboard. Those little, squiggly characters danced crazily across the open space and didn't mean a thing to her. One day, her teacher asked her to read a story out loud. Phyllis didn't hesitate for a second. She plunged into an exciting story-- her own story-- about a cat and a tree and an autumn day. The teacher shook her head sadly at Phyllis. No, she hadn't gotten it. But she had gotten it-- the desire to tell stories. In time, she did learn to read, and soon she was writing her own books on notebook paper. Phyllis had found a love for writing that she has never lost through the tough times and the good.
How does this master of dry wit create? He imagines a boy, very much like he was, and tries to write a story that would please him. Like many excellent writers for kids and young adults, he has a terrific recall of what it feels like to be a bright, out-of-sync, yet amazingly well-adjusted, kid in a not totally indifferent world.
Daniel Manus Pinkwater was a well-traveled soul by his teens. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, moved to Chicago, then on to Los Angeles at age eight and back to Chicago again as a teenager. Not being a particularly tanned or svelte person, he found Chicago to be a much more friendly residence, although Los Angeles was where he first discovered art supplies. In high school, his friends were like the "Snarkout Boys" from his books-- not socially gifted in the mainstream, but together they formed a clever, friendly group of creative goofballs and truth-seekers.
If you take a walk in Boston’s Public Garden, you may be greeted by a larger-than-life duck family out for a stroll: Mrs. Mallard, Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack. These bronze sculptures capture the frolicking illustrations of one of America’s most-beloved children’s books—Make Way for Ducklings.
Famous picture book illustrator and author Tasha Tudor loved the old ways of country living and payment for her beautiful work allowed her to live the life she dreamed of. She dressed in clothes styled for the 19th century that she made herself and carried a handmade willow basket to do her grocery shopping. Tasha kept goats, chickens, Corgi dogs, as well as a garden full of herbs, flowers, and the sort of tasty fruits that would find their way into homemade pies cooked on her wood stove. These things she loved and made a part of her illustrations.
"Log on to your imagination - that's the real internet - and you can access it just by opening a book." – Helen Cresswell
“Alec heard a whistle—shrill, loud, clear, unlike anything he had ever heard before. He saw a mighty black horse rear on its hind legs, its forelegs striking out into the air. A white scarf was tied across its eyes. The crowd broke and ran.”
Walter Farley first imagined the Black Stallion, a wild creature of blazing speed and mysterious origins, when he was a teenager and high school track star in 1930s. He kept working on the story, sometimes turning parts of it into class assignments at college. After graduation, he began writing for a New York advertising agency, but he still kept working on his horse stories.
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.