Virginia Johnson

Eleanor Estes: A Childhood Shared

Eleanor Ruth Rosenfeld (Estes) loved to tell stories to children. She began by working as a children's assistant in her hometown library, but when she became sick with tuberculosis, she spent the quiet days of her recovery writing down her childhood memories as a series of stories for young readers.

In The Moffats, a terrific family, growing up during tough times in Cranbury, Connecticut in the 1910s, face calamity when the landlord puts a "For Sale" sign on their beloved yellow house. Janey's widowed mother works as a seamstress every day to put food on the table, coal in the grate, and clothes on their backs, but there isn't enough money left to buy a home. Week after week, month after month, the kids--fifteen-year-old Sylvie, twelve-year-old Joey, nine-year-old Janey, and five-year-old Rufus--expect the worst: that someone will buy their house, and then what will happen?

Sorting Out J.K. Rowling

The blockbuster summer film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is making new fans and having the long-time legions of readers thumbing through their beloved collections of the Potter chronicles. Old aficionados  and first-year initiates alike may delve deeper into J.K. Rowling and her world with our scintillating sources.

Sorting Out J.K. Rowling

Did you know?

  • She's known as Jo to her friends. No one's called her Joanne since she was a child, and only then if she was being naughty.
  • Rowling is pronounced "rolling."
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was first published in England as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
  • Hermoine IS based on a real person-- J.K. Rowling!
  • The fantastic Ford Anglia featured in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is similar to one owned by Sean Harris, her best friend at Wyedean School.

She was born in Chipping Sodbury, England on July 31, 1965. She loved to tell stories about rabbits to her younger sister, Di. When she was still young, she and her family moved to Winterbourne where two of her good friends were named Potter. A little later on, they moved out to the countryside, to the Forest of Dean. Her London-born parents had always wanted to move to the country, and Di and Jo (Jo is short for Joanne) enjoyed roaming the fields and along by the rivers there.

Katherine Paterson's Healing Words

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.

Outside in with Avi

"Avi!" that was the nickname his twin sister called him when they were small. That was enough of a name for Avi (pronounced Ah-Vee) Wortis then, and it's still the name that he writes under today.

Avi came from a family who were passionate about radical politics and the arts. Family members in New York and Boston argued all the time, but in a loving way, so any dinner table discussion might turn into a free-for-all of exciting ideas.

Floyd Cooper Draws from the Heart

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.

From the Mixed Up Files of E.L. Konigsburg

Elaine Lobl Konigsburg has always loved reading. As a girl, she discovered the magic of The Secret Garden and learned about life in a middle-class English family from Mary Poppins. These stories became part of her childhood, and, as she relates in her excellent book of essays, TalkTalk: A Children's Author Speaks to Grown-ups, classic stories become a bridge between today's children and earlier generations.

What she was looking for as a child and did not find, was a reflection of her life in a Pennsylvania mill town. In classic books, the mothers were just that. The women in Elaine's neighborhood worked as maids for extra money. In classic tales, there were maids, but they were always on the sidelines, and the classroom rolls were filled with Smith's, Jones', Edwards', and the like. Where were the Ravinsky's, Machotka's, and Spinelli's?

Peggy Rathmann Makes Reading Fun

It was her third grade teacher who showed Peggy Rathmann that reading could be fun. She had spent the first two grades squinting at the blackboard, trying to make out the alphabet with her nearsighted eyes. But her third grade teacher used pictures to tell stories, and when Peggy grew up to be a famous illustrator, she made sure that her big, bold pictures were clearly outlined in black ink so the kids in the back of the class could see them clearly.

Richard Peck: A Teacher Finds His Audience

Richard Peck grew up in the heartland town of Decatur, Illinois. His childhood and young adulthood were filled with grown-ups of different generations. If a problem arose, there was always someone around to ask for advice.

When 16, he took a trip to the Empire State that changed the way he felt about Illinois. He realized that New York City was the place he wanted to be. At 20, he sailed for England to spend a year at the University of Exeter. The American students were popular because they were so out-going and made friends easily. The rest of his college days were spent in Illinois, but that one year abroad opened up his eyes to the world's possibilities.

The Eerie Worlds of Chris Van Allsburg

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.