When Astrid Lindgren was a little girl, a friend read her stories about the giant, Bam-Bam, and the fairy, Viribunda. Astrid Lindgren loved these stories. Some part of the author never grew up and the result is the enchanting adventures of The Children of Noisy Village, Ronia, the Robber's Daughter, and, of course, Pippi Longstocking.
"I write books for the child I am myself. I write about things that are dear to me--trees and houses and nature--just to please myself."
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.
Theodora is an Odd Duck, but she doesn't realize it yet. She does all the normal chores that ducks do: swimming; buying mango salsa; and checking out library books. She knows what she wants in life, preferring to stay home in the winter with a nice cup of tea while all of the other ducks fly south.
"I want to be a sheep-pig," he said.
"Ha ha!" bleated a big lamb standing next to Ma. "Ha ha ha-a-a-a-a!"
"Be quiet!" said Ma sharply, swinging her head to give the lamb a thumping butt in the side. "That ain't nothing to laugh at."
Pigs may herd sheep and perhaps even fly, but Dick King-Smith won't get on an airplane. He'd much rather travel by sea. The author of Babe, The Gallant Pig does have a dog named Fly after his favorite character in Babe. He says his Fly, a German Shepherd, is "beautiful, affectionate, intelligent, and as mad as a March hare."
Divergent, by Veronica Roth, is an example of dystopian young adult fiction at its best! It takes place in a Chicago of the future--in a world that has been rebuilt after society collapsed. In an attempt to avoid the problems of the past, this new Chicago society is divided into five factions - Dauntless (bravery), Amity (friendship), Erudite (knowledge), Candor (truth), and Abnegation (selflessness). Each faction follows a strict code of conduct; each has its own ideals; and each has its own role in governing the new society. At the age of 16, every person throughout the city must go through a simulation designed to show him or her which faction would be most suitable to join.
How does this master of dry wit create? He imagines a boy, very much like he was, and tries to write a story that would please him. Like many excellent writers for kids and young adults, he has a terrific recall of what it feels like to be a bright, out-of-sync, yet amazingly well-adjusted, kid in a not totally indifferent world.
Daniel Manus Pinkwater was a well-traveled soul by his teens. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, moved to Chicago, then on to Los Angeles at age eight and back to Chicago again as a teenager. Not being a particularly tanned or svelte person, he found Chicago to be a much more friendly residence, although Los Angeles was where he first discovered art supplies. In high school, his friends were like the "Snarkout Boys" from his books-- not socially gifted in the mainstream, but together they formed a clever, friendly group of creative goofballs and truth-seekers.
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?