"Artists need to fill themselves to overflowing and give it all back." -- E.B. Lewis
E.B. Lewis almost didn’t become an illustrator. Which means he almost did not open a visual pathway to African American culture and history that can be enjoyed by children in libraries and schools all around the country. He thought of himself as an artist, not an illustrator. When he thought of children’s book illustrations, he imagined pictures that were engaging, funny, sometimes almost cartoon-like. That wasn’t for him.
But an agent saw his work and insisted E.B. look at what was going on in children’s books now. As he sat in a bookshop, poring over the many wonderful books available for young audiences, he realized he wanted to be a part of this. He had been teaching art to special needs kids, a job he would have to set aside because publishers were hungry for his art to accompany the great stories they had already bought from the writers. He plunged into illustrating full time, sometimes working 15-to 18-hour days. He’s illustrated dozens of stories, including a Caldecott Honor book, and several projects have won the Coretta Scott King Award.
Gail was a girl who loved stories. She wrote them and illustrated them from a very young age and created stories told with puppet shows to entertain her little sisters. She spent part of her childhood in the North Carolina countryside in a place called Shuffletown. Both of her parents were artists, and her father worked for the newspaper The Charlotte Observer. Visiting him at his workplace inspired her to pursue a career in art, too. She wanted to study in New York but compromised with her parents and attended schools in Virginia.
Louisa May Alcott did not write because she had the need to get the stories out. Louisa May wrote for one reason: she wanted her family to be rich.
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!
"I think of writing--particularly of writing picture books--as a kind of choreography. A picture book must have pace and movement and pattern. Pictures and text should, together, create the pattern, rather than simply run parallel." -- Beatrice Schenk de Regniers*
Born: in Lafayette, Indiana, on August 16, 1914
Favorite writing genres: picture books, folk tales, poetry, and plays
Well-known books: May I Bring a Friend?; What Can You Do with a Shoe?; Everyone Is Good for Something; David and Goliath; It Does Not Say Meow, and Other Animal Rhymes; Little Sister and the Month Brothers
Her last name is pronounced, “drain-yay”
Education: Attended University of Illinois, 1931-33; University of Chicago, Ph.B., 1935, graduate study, 1936-37; Winnetka Graduate Teachers College, M.Ed., 1941.
Career: Member of the Eloise Moore Dance Group, Chicago, 1942-43; copywriter, Scott Foresman, publishers, Chicago, 1943-44; welfare officer, UNRRA, Egypt, 1944-46; copywriter, American Book Company, New York, 1948-49; director of educational materials, American Heart Association, New York, 1949-61; editor, Lucky Book Club, Scholastic Book Services, New York, 1961-81.
Awards: May Children's Spring Book Festival honor book, New York Herald Tribune, 1958, for Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats; Boys' Clubs Junior Book Award, 1960, for The Snow Party; Indiana Authors Day Award, honorable mention, 1961, for The Shadow Book; Caldecott Award, 1965, for May I Bring a Friend? ‘s illustrations by Beni Montresor; certificate of excellence, American Institute of Graphic Arts, for communicating with children; Brooklyn Art Books for Children citation, 1973, for Red Riding Hood: Retold in Verse for Boys and Girls to Read Themselves.
Memberships: Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Dramatists Guild, PEN, Society of Children's Book Writers.
Died: March 1, 2000, from a stroke at her home in Washington, D.C.
It's true: hunger impels an author to write. The hunger can take the form of putting food on the table, yes; or, the hunger comes from an author wanting to read a book about a topic and that book doesn't exist. Then there is the hunger for words: their similarities, their differences, and their power. These are the reasons why Donna Jo Napoli started writing.
We seek heat in the dark cold winter night. Sleeping, we dream of warm air, beaches, and jungles. Imagine growing up in such a place, an island: not wearing shoes until the 6th grade; not seeing snow until you were 19, (and away from home). Some people call Hawaii paradise; Graham Salisbury called Hawaii home. The islands and surrounding waters are the locale for his compelling stories and novels.
Walter Dean Myers started school, looking to conquer the world. He could read well; he had discovered the powers of the written word. Words failed him, though, when it came time to speak. He had a speech impediment, one that caused him immense frustration: some words he couldn't pronounce. His frustration soon turned to anger. Luckily, a teacher recognized his problem. She told him to write words he could pronounce, and he began to write. He created poems at first, then short stories, full of words that he did not fear reading aloud. He was soon being praised for his writing: it was just a preview of the praise he would receive when he embarked on his life of writing.
Chester Himes had a hard life, even for someone growing up in the 'thirties. He took some knocks early on, knocks many people get in life; it was the racism he encountered in LA that made him bitter, a bitterness which put a fire in his belly and informed so much of his best work. Himes probably would have drawn little consolation over the fact he was breaking new trails for authors such as Walter Mosley. But he did.