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.
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.
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.
Gary Soto came from a hard background by anyone's reckoning. His young father died in an industrial accident when Gary was only five years old. His Mexican-American family was struggling and lived in a tough neighborhood--next to a junkyard and across from a pickle factory. All through school, he and his family worked at whatever jobs they could get, including picking fruits as migrant laborers.
Eric Carle was born in the United States but spent much of his childhood in Hitler's Germany. Whether the family was in the States or in Stuttgart, his father taught him to quietly learn and sympathize with the creatures of the fields and forest. From life inside an anthill to the proper way to handle tiny lizards, Eric discovered whole worlds from his nature walks with his father.
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.
Over 100 years ago, Helen Beatrix Potter was born in London. Her family had plenty of money, but they were not truly happy. Lonely Beatrix lived upstairs in the nursery. She rarely saw her parents and was looked after by a nanny, who, although she was strict, did tell her marvelous fairy stories which she loved. Beatrix and her little brother were happiest when the family went on holidays (vacations) to the countryside. There the children were free to play outside and explore nature.
Jon Scieszka (pronounce that SHESH-ka) is a wild and crazy guy. Don't leave the man alone in a room with an old-fashioned story. He'll twist it and bend it around 'til it looks like something that should be dripping with cheese and sold at the shopping mall.
His takes on classic tales are so off-the-wall you'll wonder what it would have been like to have him in your class. Let me tell you: it would have been dangerous-for you. He'd sit quietly, and then he'd crack up the other kids without making a sound. THEY would be the ones to get into trouble. Not Jon.
Readers who enjoy Paul Goble's many stories of traditional Native American lives and legends are sometimes surprised to discover that the author/illustrator was born in England and not in the American West.
When he was a young boy, he liked to spend time at a lake near his home. He studied all the plants, birds, animals, and insects he saw there throughout the year, and he began to collect arrowheads and wildflowers. Soon he started to draw and paint from nature and from the specimens he would find in books and museums.
When David Shannon was five-years-old, he wrote a book about himself. On each page, there were different pictures of that showed the story of how he was so very good at getting into trouble. Each page had the words, "No, David!"