Autobiography and Biography
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.
When Frank McCourt passed last month, he left behind memoirs filled with anguish, love, and dark merriment. Personal experiences are what this Irish-American author took and shaped into works of sorrowful beauty.
"That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."
Born August 5, 1930, Neil Armstrong has been an aviator, test pilot, and university professor. And, on July 21, 1969, he became the first man to walk on the moon. In the days before the Internet or cable television, people around the world gathered around their sets to watch history being made.
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.
Peter Sis grew up in Czechoslovakia when the country was still a satellite of the Soviet Union. He remembers not having enough paper for drawing and only one kind of ink. Once a teacher caught him sketching in his notebook at school. She made him write over every page. In Czechoslovakia, there was not enough of anything, and drawing in a notebook was considered to be very wasteful. There were other sad things about living behind the Iron Curtain. The government controlled what could be said in public and written in books, especially if what was written criticized the people in charge.
"Long, long ago, when the earth was set down and the sky was lifted up, all folktales were owned by the Sky God."
So begins an Ashanti tale, Anansi Does the Impossible!, retold by Verna Aardema. Anansi the Spider and his clever wife, Aso, use their wits to buy the folk tales for the Ashanti people. Verna Aardema spent much of her life retelling these folktales.
Jack Gantos knows that a kid can be wacky AND wonderful. Crazy things happen to kids all the time. Take Joey Pigza. He can't sit still in class, and accidents seem to be waiting to happen. He's a live wire, just like his dad and his grandmother. No matter how hard he tries, he just can't settle down. But Joey is lucky; he does have people who care about him and can help him get what he needs to be happier.
Patricia Beatty made history fascinating with her tales of young men and women caught up in America's beginnings. She was a good researcher who felt out the roots of her stories, adding details to let the reader experience what life was like long ago. She researched in libraries but also drew on her own knowledge when creating her books.
Tomie dePaola (pronounced "Tommy de -powla") was born just as the hard times of the Great Depression were coming to an end in 1934. When Tomie was a boy, there was no television, but he never missed it! He stayed glued to the radio to listen to his favorite show, Let's Pretend. Every week, the actors on Let's Pretend acted out stories of heroes, goblins, princesses, and talking animals. The show fired Tomie's imagination. By the time he was four years old, he knew he wanted to be an artist.
Marcia Sewall's name can be found on the covers of tons of classic fiction and folktales in the library. She has a simple drawing style that conveys the rhythm and characters of the stories without overwhelming them. Whether the subject is a family issue such as the death of a loved one (Saying Good-bye to Grandma by Jane Resh Thomas) or something more light-hearted (The Leprechaun's Story by Richard Kennedy), Marcia's drawings give the books a simple clarity.