Buffalo, New York. It's cold up there near the Canadian line, the kind of place where houses often have sun porches to catch what heat they can get in the blustery winters. In the 1940s, most families would content themselves filling it with a couch, some houseplants, and a radio. In the Lewin household, the sun porch was filled with gym mats and weights.
"One of the most important things is to laugh with your children and to let them see you think they're being funny when they're trying to be. It gives children enormous pleasure to think they've made you laugh. They feel they've reached one of the nicest parts in you.... As a picture book artist, I don't think one can be too much on the side of the child."
Helen Oxenbury understands babies. She knows that they are messy, cranky, and wonderful. She knows that few things fascinate a baby like, well, another baby. In the world of board books, those sturdy first books that are impervious to drool and can survive a few tasty chews, Helen Oxenbury reigns supreme.
Every morning, Patricia (Trisha) Polacco wakes to the sounds of singing birds on her old Michigan farm. She goes downstairs, pours herself a cup of coffee, and then plays an antique music box, enjoying its magical beauty. She then sits in her favorite chair, rocks and rocks, and dreams of stories, old and new, that she can tell to children through her words and her drawings.
When Betsy Cromer was a young girl, someday being a famous author never crossed her mind. To her way of thinking, book writers led dull lives, shut away in some quiet room without company, just typing and typing. There was no way she wanted to live that kind of life. Yet years later, Betsy has written dozens of books. Unlike the authors she imagined, Betsy's ability to understand and work with people was absolutely essential to making her books a success.
Born on September 4, 1924, in Rye, Sussex, England, Joan was the daughter of famed American writer, Conrad Aiken. She decided to be a writer when she was five years old and kept writing to the end of her days.
Growing up in a house filled with art and literature, she thoroughly enjoyed being homeschooled during her early years. When she was 12, she was sent to boarding school at the improbably named Wychwood near Oxford, England.
She was born Madeleine Camp in grand old New York City on November 29, 1918. Young Madeleine took her meals on a tray in her room with her beloved Nanny, in the English fashion. Often at night, her father and mother would go out to the theatre. Other times, the theatre and literary world would come to them. Madeleine's mother, a Southern belle, played the grand piano wonderfully, and the family apartment would be filled with music and friends.
Born December 11, 1957, William (Bill) Joyce's dream is to be remembered for "a significant contribution to the cause of global silliness." (Publisher's Weekly)
His books, TV shows and movies, from George Shrinks to Robots, have amazed and amused audiences for over 20 years.
Bill got an early start writing and illustrating his own stories. "Billy's Booger" was a popular picture book with his elementary school classmates. The plot is simple enough but guaranteed to get yucks: Billy sneezes out a slimy, smart-aleck booger who becomes his friend. The kids did love it, but unlike his later work, all it earned Bill was a trip to the principal's office. But the booger's adventures continue. These days Bill uses those stories and pix to break the ice at his school visits, which they do with cheerful grossness. There's even talk of reincarnating Billy's Booger as a genuine picture book.
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."
He drew pirates and knights, fair ladies and fairy tales. His illustrated books on Robin Hood and King Arthur are still treasured by children today.
At the Start
Howard Pyle grew up in Wilmington, Delaware surrounded by family and friends. His mother read to him all sorts of marvelous stories, and they had illustrations from the magazines pinned to the walls of their home.
When she was a very young woman, Eloise asked her grandma to tell her stories about growing up in the countryside of North Carolina. Eloise was born there, too—in a little place called Parmele. In her grandparents' day, the Parmele lumber mill provided lots of work for people. But with the trees gone and the mill just a memory, the mostly black families who lived there got by as best they could.