Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Jane Breskin Zalben

Born:  1950
Excellent BooksPearl's Passover and over 3 dozen others.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life:  Jane has a lop-eared rabbit named Zoe.  She loves to be involved in all the steps of creating a children's book, from writing to design!

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Use your experiences and be creative.  In an interview, Jane once said, "Children are little people and have a whole gamut of feelings. I'm able to mine those feelings, use those feelings for characters. But if I told them [my memories] exactly the way it happened, that's not as interesting a story. It would be boring. That's what makes a writer; that mixture of reality and imagination."


Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Jane Yolen

Born:  February 11, 1939
Excellent BooksHow Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, over 100 other picture books and over 300 other books.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life:  Jane was captain of the girl's Basketball Team in high school and grew her hair down to her waist in college!

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Jane's website has a whole page of musings and advice on writing.  The following line makes me laugh and shudder at the same time.  And it seems appropriate for the second to last day of the A-Z Challenge.  She said, "Know this about being published: it is out of your hands."


Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for Mem Fox

Born:  March 1946
Excellent BooksPossum Magic, and over 30 others.  

From Her Life:  Mem Fox grew up in Africa and now lives in Australia.  Two of her passions in life are teaching and writing, and she has traveled the world sharing her knowledge with others.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Mem Fox has lots of advice for writers (and teachers and parents!) on her website.  I love this little gem:  "While you’re writing, your best friends will be the ‘cut’ and ‘delete’ keys on your computer. At any one time you can probably cut most of what you have written. The biggest fault of wannabe picture book writers is to write too much."


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for David Wiesner

Born:  February 5, 1956

Excellent BooksArt & Max, Tuesday, and several others.  David has won many awards for his books and illustrations, including three Caldecotts.
From His Life:  David has always loved to draw.  As a child, he also enjoyed reading comic books and watching old movies.  As an adult, he especially likes telling stories with images.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:    You know what matters.  In an interview with Philadelphia Stories, David said, "Do the work that is really personal, that interests you — not what you think others want, or what the market wants. The truly personal work is what will probably resonate most."


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Chris Van Dusen

Born:  March 17, 1960

Excellent BooksThe Circus Ship and several others.  Chris has won many awards for his books.
From His Life:  Chris used to draw as a young boy with his brothers.  Chris specialized in drawing robots, monsters, and aliens!  He has a yellow lab named Pearl and lives in Maine.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:    On his website, Chris advises that new writers do research and find out which publishing houses publish stories similar to yours.  He also comments on rejection: "Getting rejected by publishers is part of the game, but if you believe in your story, don’t give up."


Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Deborah Underwood

Born:  May 3rd 
Excellent BooksThe Quiet Book and over a dozen others.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life:  When Deborah was young she had a teddy bear named Ursa Major.  She has been a street musician and worked for accountants.  She also once adopted a pig named Babe.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Get support!  In an interview with Our Hen House she said, "I advise everyone interested in writing for kids to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a great organization that provides lots of good resources."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Tomie dePaola

Born:  September 15, 1934

Excellent BooksStrega Nona and over 200 others.  Tomie has won many awards for his books.
From His Life:  Tomie's favorite color is white and his favorite holiday is Christmas.  He is 76 years old and still enjoys writing books for children!  When he was four, he loved to tell people that when he grew up he wanted to "write stories and draw pictures for books and to sing and tap dance on the stage."  He has done all those things!

Advice for Aspiring Writers:    Write about what you know.  Your own experiences are wonderful.  Tomie has written over three dozen books that are autobiographical or "loosely autobiographical."

Website   Tomie also has a blog:

S is for John Steptoe

Born:  September 14, 1950 - August 28, 1989

Excellent BooksMufaro's Beautiful Daughters and several others.  John won many awards for his books.
From His Life:  John knew that children's books were in his future at a young age.  He started working on his first book, Stevie, when he was only 16.  It was published when he was 18.  John studied art in college and with professionals. 

Advice for Aspiring Writers:    Children deal with universal themes.  Those who write for them should also deal with universal themes.  John wanted to write books for young African-American children.  He once said there was a "great and disastrous need for books that black children could honestly relate to."  The themes he chose, though, and the manner he presented them make his books important for children of all ethnicities. 


Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Peggy Rathmann

Born:  1953
Excellent BooksGood Night, Gorilla; Officer Buckle and Gloria, and several others.  Peggy has won many awards for her books.

From Her Life:  Peggy grew up in suburbs in Minnesota with four siblings.  They played in plastic swimming pools in the summers and in snow in the winters.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Revise!  Make that manuscript perfect!  Good Night, Gorilla, one of Peggy's picture books, went through ten different endings over the course of two years.  When it was finally perfect, it received an ALA Notable Children's Book Award (1994).


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Born:  June 24, 1977
Excellent BooksChicks Run Wild, Quackenstein, and over a dozen others.  

From Her Life:  Sudipta enjoys swinging at the park, eating cake, and singing in the shower.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Sudipta has lots of advice for writers on her website.  I found this particularly interesting:  "I actually always say that [writers] should not send one thing to one editor until they have six publishable manuscripts in hand.  That way, if they get a good rejection, or a request to see more work, they are immediately ready to follow through on the lead."


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Al Perkins

BornAl Perkins' birthday is not the only mystery in his life.

Excellent BooksHand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb; The Digging-est Dog, and several others--most from the 1960's and 1970's. 

From His Life:  Al Perkins wrote several amazing picture books.  Then the mystery begins!  Are any of you readers serious sleuths?  If so, read on!

Advice for Aspiring Writers:    Know your audience.  Al's books are fun, fast-paced, and a little crazy.  They have a strong rhythm.  Kids love them.

WebsiteNow for the mystery.  Random House's Author Page for Al Perkins gives you less information than this page.  Who is Al Perkins?  Why is he so impossible to find?  Is "Al Perkins" even his real name?  His books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, yet he has no biography or website available.  In fact, I can't find anything about his life.  I'd love to know if anyone knows anything about him.  I'm already a huge fan of his books.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Kevin O'Malley

Born: 1961

Excellent BooksAnimal Crackers Fly the Coup and over a dozen others.  Additionally, Kevin has illustrated several dozen more!

From His Life:  When Kevin was in elementary school he spent a lot of time in the library because he had misbehaved in class.  In the library he discovered way too many cute and sweet books.  He decided that when he grew up he wanted to illustrate books for kids like him.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:    Be brave.  On his website, Kevin tells new authors, "The biggest mistake people make is not sending their work. You can't get published if you don't send it."


Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Laura Numeroff

Born:  1953
Excellent BooksIf You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, and over two dozen others.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life:  As a young girl, Laura loved her microscope, box of crayons, visiting the library, and Girl Scout cookies! 

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Laura has a whole list of tips for aspiring authors on her fun website.  I especially love her last piece of advice: "WRITE BECAUSE YOU LOVE WRITING and not because you are looking to make money!"


Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Maurice Sendak

Born: June 10, 1928

Excellent BooksWhere the Wild Things Are and over a dozen others.  Many have won awards.

From His Life:  When Maurice was about 20, he and his brother took a set of model toys to a toy store.  They wanted the toy store to commission a set.  Instead, the store offered Maurice a job arranging toy displays in the window.  He accepted the job.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Children need less protecting than we sometimes think.  Maurice once said, "...from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, that fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, that they continually cope with frustration as best as they can.  And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis.  It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things."   See Barnes & Noble for more great quotes.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Elaine Landau

Bornanother mysteriously difficult to find birthday
Excellent BooksOil Spill!, Big Cats (Hunters of the Night), and over 300 other non-fiction books for children.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life:  Elaine lives in Florida and loves to write under a palm tree.  She also loves traveling to research her books.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Don't be afraid of hard work.  Elaine wanted to be a writer as a young girl and even wrote a book when she was only nine years old!  Many adults told her not to pursue a writing career because it was so difficult to succeed.  Elaine worked hard, though, and now has an impressive list of titles and awards.  She also has an awesome website!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Bornanother mysteriously difficult to find birthday
Excellent BooksDuck! Rabbit!, and at least a dozen others.

From Her Life:  Amy likes to make things, including books, salads, and wishes! 

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Don't rush things.  In a blog interview, Amy once said, "Little bits of facts...probably nestle their way into the crevices of your mind and  swirl around in the imagination for a while [before becoming books]." 


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Judith Viorst

Born:  February 2, 1931

Excellent BooksAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and many others. 

From Her Life:  Judith has backgrounds in psychology and journalism.  According to an interview with the Kennedy Center, Alexander was inspired by her youngest son who went through a series of bad days.  She wanted the book to let him, and everyone else, know that these days come and go...and that's okay. 

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Don't write a book that focuses on an overt message or lesson.  In another interview, Judith said, "I did not preach in the books and would consider my books a failure if that is what they had been...There are things I care about...and want to express, but the creativity, the language, the story, the validity of the work as a work has to trump any message."


Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Rachel Isadora

Born: ? 1953

Excellent BooksSay Hello!, and over 20 others.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life: As a child Rachel wanted to be a dancer.  She worked hard and grew up to be a professional ballerina!  After an injury in the late 1970's, she began writing and illustrating books.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Love what you do!  On her website, Rachel says, "Work like this is a dancer's fantasy...Because ballet is so demanding, dancers' stage careers are short. They can only dream of going on and on forever. With art, I can go on and on, and for me it's the only work that compares in intensity and joy."


Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for James Howe

Born: 1946

Excellent BooksBrontorina and over 80 books for audiences from three years old to teenagers.  Many have won awards.

From His Life:  James enjoyed lots of pets when he was a young child and liked to imagine what they would say to each other.  Beginning with his first book, Bunnicula, you can see imaginative talking animals come to life.  He and his wife also enjoyed the many vampire movies that played on late night television in the late 1970's.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Write!  and Write a lot!  In an interview with Scholastic students, James said, "You'd be surprised how much you can write when you're writing every day."  He also said, "Write what matters to you, write what makes you laugh, write what makes you cry, write in order to get a reaction from the reader, write because you have to, and write because it is fun for you."


Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Theodore Suess Geisel (aka Dr. Suess)

Lived: 1904-1991

Excellent BooksHop on Pop, The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and over 40 others.  Many of his books have won awards. 

From His Life:  Theodore's dad was Superintendent of City Parks, which included a zoo.  Theodore spent years at the zoo drawing animals and developing his personal artistic style.  He worked as a cartoonist before writing and illustrating books.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Dr. Suess is an excellent example of working through rejections and believing in yourself.  His first book, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was turned down by 29 publishers.  Dr. Suess had a wonderful sense of humor and attributed the final acceptance of his book to luck: he happened to be walking down the right side of the street when he bumped into a friend/editor who took Suess immediately to his office to sign a contract!  His most famous book, The Cat in the Hat, was published almost 20 years later.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for Candace Flemming

Born: Candace's birth year is mysteriously difficult to find.

Excellent BooksClever Jack Takes the Cake, and over 20 others.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life: Candace has always considered herself a storyteller.  Her parents encouraged her to write down even her early stories, and she still has the notebooks with those stories in them.  As a mother she discovered the world of writing books for children, and has loved it ever since.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  At a school visit Candace once said, "The best tools for writing are your eyes, ears and your imagination."  She could have listed many other tools, from a computer to a dictionary, but she chose tools that truly empower the writer.  (quote from a teacher's blog)


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Eric Carle

Born: 1929

Excellent BooksThe Hungry Little Caterpillar and over 70 others, many of which have won awards.

From His Life:  As a child, Eric often went on walks through forests with his dad.  His dad would find small animals or wildlife and teach Eric about the natural world.  He was always careful to return any bugs or critters to their homes when they were done learning about them. 

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Books should be a discovery experience.  Eric once appeared on an episode on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.  He said the following about Mr. Rogers: "I think he and I try to do the same thing, which is to take a subject we consider important and explore it with our audiences and readers.  We don't tell children, we let them discover for themselves." (quote from a newsletter by Eric Carle)


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for David Greenberg

Born: October 13, 1954

Excellent Books:  Enchanted Lions, Slugs, Bugs,The Great School Lunch Rebellion, Crocs!, and several others 

From His Life:  David learned to use his imagination as a child by making up games with his dog.  He has always loved to write poetry.  As a young adult he used some of his poems at local schools to help kids practice reading and writing.  The kids loved his poems and he began sending them to publishers.  Most of his picture books are rhyming poems. 

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Read, read, read!  David wrote, "I loved to read as a kid.  And there's no question in my mind that my love of reading helped me a great deal to become a writer."


Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Donald Crews

Born: 1938

Excellent Books:   Freight Train, Truck, Big Mamas, Shortcut, and more.  Freight Train and Truck were both Caldecott winners.

From His Life:  As a child Donald lived in New Jersey and would often take a train trip during the summer with his siblings to visit his grandma in Florida.  These trips later inspired Big Mamas and Shortcut.  Donald is an artist who illustrates his own books and often draws himself in them.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  I love Donald's attitude about starting a new project immediately after finishing another one.  He said, "It's more than a year before you're going to know whether or not you've got something that's generally popular on your hands. The book has to be printed, it has to be sold, it has to get into the stores. People have to review it. People have to look at it. So it's a good long time. You can't wait for all that to happen until you start doing the next project." (quote from article by George Bodmer)


Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Beatrix Potter

Lived: 28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943

Excellent BooksThe Tale of Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and 20 others

From Her Life:  As a child Beatrix collected animals like snakes, mice, lizards, and birds with her brother Bertram.  These little critters inspired many of her stories.  Some of her first stories were actually written in letters that she illustrated.  She loved to paint and illustrated her own books.  She was also a great advocate for conservation.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Beatrix received so many rejections that she finally self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1901.  In 1902 it was published by Frederick Warne & Co.  It has been in print ever since!  The moral of the story is to believe in yourself and keep writing.  You may not be able to self-publish, but you can find a home for your work.


Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for Chris Van Allsburg

Born: June 18, 1949

Excellent BooksThe Polar Express, Jumanji, Zathura.  He has written and illustrated 15 books, illustrated several others, and won the Caldecott and other awards.

From His Life:  Chris walked 1 1/2 miles to and from elementary school. He enjoyed drawing pictures of cars and cartoons as a boy.  He includes a picture of a small white dog in many of his books to commemorate a bull terrier who was part of his first book.  He has two daughters born in 1991 and 1995.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Chris has an attitude that I find motivating and encouraging.  When asked, "Which of the books you have written is your favorite, he always answers, "'My next one.'  That's because I always think the next thing I do will be at least a little better then the things I have already done." (quote from Chris Van Allsburg's website)