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.
Dockside in Liverpool, England, was an exciting place to be a kid. Growing up there, young Brian Jacques (pronounced "Jacks") was surrounded by a loving and hardworking family. When his seafaring uncles would stop by between voyages, Brian heard tales of faraway places and amazing adventures. He listened, fascinated as his relatives "painted pictures with words."
Provensen and Provensen. Alice and Martin. Martin and Alice. Two illustrators and writers working so closely together that their styles were indistinguishable. It was the same style really, gentle drawings so delightful in their clarity that they subtly underscored the text of the dozens of children's books that they illustrated.
Paula Danziger sometimes said she wished she had had her own books to read when she was growing up. As the nerdy, clueless daughter in a family where Dad yelled and Mom just tried to make Dad happy, life was not fun. When her dad said mean things to her, Paula would tell herself that someday she would put it in a book. And she did.
Jim Arnosky may have been born in New York City, but he has spent much of the rest of his life living in wild places. He uses his storytelling skills—both words and art—to bring kids closer to nature.
Born September 1, 1946, Jim grew up in the Pennsylvania countryside. He knew what he wanted to be when he grew up: a cartoonist! He realized that ambition, but along the way he joined the Navy. After his service, he started drawing for Ranger Rick magazine. Wisely, he took the advice of a more experienced artist who told him to keep a journal alongside of his drawings.
There are some things which are hard and painful to understand. Slavery. Skyscrapers exploding. War. Tsunamis. Even famous people's ordinary lives.
But in a true story, there may also be courage, hope, love, and determination. When Jeanette Winter tells her readers of historic events and people, she makes sure the stories carry not only the frightening pieces but the parts that leaven the misery as well.
Her books take readers to Michigan's deep woods, the dusty streets of India, Chinese fishing boats, and on an Alaskan dog sled trail. And those are only the stories set in today's world.
She has also written books set in revolutionary Russia, on the 1880s American frontier, 1918 British East Africa, and along the Underground Railroad. All of these journeys she writes for us begin with another story--a true one--of a little girl who was very sick.
“And then suddenly the wolf was there. With a crashing of twigs and small branches it sprang into the open, then, seeing the hunters all about it, checked almost in mid spring, swinging its head from side to side, with laid-back ears and wrinkled muzzle: a great, brindled dog wolf, menace in every raised hackle.”
(From Warrior Scarlet)
Rosemary Sutcliff’s splendid stories take place in Britain’s distant past. Shining Roman spears. Cloth woven red for warrior valor. A broken bit of barley cake on a hearth whose ashes grow cold. The last signal fire against the darkness of a massing enemy.