Author profile

Author of the Month: Betsy Byars

No teacher ever told Newbery-winning author Betsy Byars she should be a writer when she was growing up. Young Betsy Cromer, nicknamed “Cro,” was a wide-awake kid and into most everything, but not writing. Part of the time her family lived in the country, which was heaven for Betsy as she was surrounded by nature. When she got older, she was interested in nature of a different kind—boys!

Author of the Month: Sharon Creech

“I have a normally strange family.”

Award-winning author Sharon Creech wove a lot of her own life into her books for young adults, including her first one, Absolutely Normal Chaos. Written as a journal as are many of her novels, what strikes a reader immediately are her humor and casual way of storytelling. Everything is told offhand, as if it doesn’t really matter—just a 13-year-old chattering. Until what happens does matter and things get serious. That’s when readers are grateful for the humor, and having a strong if strange family really becomes important.

Happy Birthday to the Delightful Bruce Degen

One of children’s literature’s most beloved authors and illustrators was born in June. Bruce Degen created Jamberry and illustrated the hugely successful Magic School Bus series.

Paula Fox

Award-winning author Paula Fox had an extremely unusual childhood. Given away by her parents at birth, she spent the first few years of her life in a small town on the Hudson River. Her guardian, a poor minister, was a bachelor who looked after his very ill mother. He was a kind and cultured man who taught her to read and encouraged her to grow. But this pleasant time wasn’t to last.

Virginia Hamilton: Writer of “Liberation Literature”

Virginia Hamilton, self-described writer of "Liberation Literature,"* was born in Yellow Springs, Ohio, the same place where her grandfather was brought to freedom as an infant through the Underground Railroad. Yellow Springs has a connection to our area because it was here that Moncure Daniel Conway brought his newly-freed slaves from Stafford County to settle in the days just before the Civil War.

Lloyd Alexander: American Bard

"In other worlds I used the imaginary kingdom not as a sentimentalized fairyland, but as an opening wedge to express what I hoped would be some very hard truths. I never saw fairy tales as an escape or a cop out....On the contrary, speaking for myself, it is the way to understand reality."*

Lloyd Alexander wrote many adventure stories for young people, including the wonderful Chronicles of Prydain which follow the adventures of brave, young Taran, who proudly holds the title of assistant pig-keeper, the fiery, quick-witted Eilonwy, shambling man-beast Gurgi, and Fflewddur Fflam, a teller of tales, mostly tall ones. In The Book of Three, these unlikely heroes are on the run from dread forces that have more personality and are therefore more terrifying than Tolkien’s Sauron.

Jean Fritz: History Made Interesting!

Author Jean Fritz has written many books that kids enjoy. They’re often funny and full of adventure and always have great characters. They’re also pretty much absolutely true. Jean specializes in history books, especially people’s life stories. As a biographer, she tries to get to know the people and the times in which they lived through research including reading their own words. Then she takes all that history and turns it around in her mind until it becomes a story her readers will enjoy.

Anita Lobel

For years, Anita Lobel shied away from many memories of her childhood, and she had good reason to do so. Born in Poland just before World War II, Anita’s father ran a chocolate factory and the family was rather well off. Her mother had furs and jewels and employed servants to help with the housework and the children, including a beloved nanny, Niania. All that was soon to change when the Nazis marched into Kraków.

Paul O. Zelinsky: Always Drawing

When he was two, Paul Zelinsky’s family moved from an apartment near Chicago to a house in Kyoto, Japan.  Most of the Japanese houses had walls made of paper. Though his was an exception, he does wonder if all that paper might have influenced him to become an artist. While in Kyoto, he drew the stylish and elegant geisha ladies.  When they came back to Chicago, their family home overlooked a construction site, so he took to drawing tractors and steam shovels being driven by geishas!*

He kept on drawing and kept on getting better and found a market for his work after college.  Through the years, he has illustrated many, many books and written some himself.  Today, his life, as chronicled on Facebook, is a happy blend of family, visiting schools, and, of course, drawing!

James Marshall

“I have always thought my best stuff was in my sketchbooks.  I have hundreds and hundreds of sketchbooks.  I like to work at night, I suppose because that’s when my defenses are sort of low.  I have my most creative ideas at night.  I’m less inhibited, and I really let it rip.”

From: Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book, edited by Leonard S. Marcus. p. 96; pp. 82-106 are on James Marshall

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, James Marshall’s whimsical drawings added humor to dozens of children’s picture books.  While many were made for other writers’ works, including classics such as Mother Goose, Edward Lear, and Ogden Nash, he was also a talented writer on his own.  Indeed,  he became one of the most popular and prolific illustrators in children’s publishing.  In high school, however, he wasn’t so much about the art--though he did doodle, as he called it--as about the music which he saw as a way to get a scholarship to college far away from swampy Texas town where his family lived.