A big day, three birthdays, and two of them are 'heavies' in children's literature, Ludwig Bemelmans of Madeline fame and John Burningham of Mr Gumpy fame.
"In a little house in Paris, that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines...the smallest one was Madeline", so begins each of the Madeline books and little girls all over the world, no doubt can say it and thus read it, long before they can read the rest of each book. It is the 'hook' that pulls you in! While I have lots of questions I would like to ask Bemelmans, such as why are these girls living with a nun called Miss, rather than Sister? Having taught in Catholic schools I was always asked this one, but practicalities aside they are still popular stories, made more popular by television.
Las year Will Hillenbrand published a new picture book called Louie! which is a biography of Bemelmans' life. For me it is unfortunate that he made Louie a pig because although adults get that the book is biographical, it isn't transparent enough for children and Bemelmans did have quite an exciting life in France before emigrating to America. It appears from this story that the vine covered house comes from Bemelmans' mother's childhood.
Now to the English author/illustrator John Burningham. How many illustrators win the coveted Kate Greenaway Medal with their first book? Burningham did with one of my favourite stories, Borka: The Adventures of a Goose Without Feathers. His books are amazing and have so much depth! They appeal to a very wide audience and work well with approaches such as Aidan Chambers' Tell Me Framework, Bloom's Taxonomy, and QAR. They certainly encourage children to think. Come Away From the Water, Shirley and Time to Get Out of the Bath, Shirley, Granpa and Oi! Get Off Our Train are good places to start. He has even written about himself in a beautifully illustrated autobiography, so much better than someone else illustrating his life. Another thing I like about Burningham is that he is married to Helen Oxenbury. Their approach to early childhood illustration could hardly be more different but I would like to be a 'fly on the wall' at their house while they are working.
And lastly Barbara Park, the American author who is well-known in my library because of Junie B. Jones a series of books that starts when Junie starts kindergarten and then follows her through many misadventures to Book 18 when she starts first grade and the remainder of the books follow her Year 1 exploits. While they are liked by children, many of the parents I deal with don't like that they are very American, Junie's language is not good in that it is often grammatically incorrect and she doesn't always make good choices. Read some for yourself and see what you think.