Saturday, July 10, 2010

11th July E. B. White (1899 - 1985) Margaret Hodges (1911 - 2005) Jane Gardam (1928) James Stevenson (1929) Patricia Polacco (1944)

Five birthdays! If you want to be a children's author this is the date to be born! Each of these authors has published a large number of books, but for the age group I teach and for my library, the first three are best known for one or two particular books.

Elwyn Brooks (E.B.) White is well known because of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. The 50th Anniversary version of Charlotte's Web with its large print and coloured illustrations (Garth Williams' original illustrations coloured by Rosemary Wells) has made the book accessible to very young children. The parents who have serialised it have all commented on how much they have enjoyed the experience and how attentive their children were. Stuart Little, on the other hand tends to be read by the children in abridged or retold I Can Read form. The movies have helped maintain these classics, but they are still good reads.

Margaret Hodges is the author of Trina Schart Hyman's Caldecott Medal winning St George and the Dragon. She also wrote versions of the King Arthur stories such as The Kitchen Knight . Most of her books were retellings of traditional literature, but she was a master storyteller, a librarian and professor of librarianship who was a very strong advocate for children, storytelling and libraries.

Jane Gardam was one of my favourite authors when I was at university. I read all of her novels and marvelled at her use of language. She has written very little for my clientele, but two beginning novels that my good Year 2 readers will read are Bridget and William, a lovely story about horse-mad Bridget, whose father thinks her horse is a waste of money until Bridget and William save the day, and Tufty Bear, which is three short stories about a teddy bear that is so real-to-life that he talks. These stories have a very British, in-doorsy, cold-weather feel, but extend modern Australian children's view of the world.

James Stevenson is chiefly an illustrator and as he did cartoons for The New Yorker, it comes as no surprise to see that his book illustrations are done in comic-book style too. He does do picture books on his own, (see The Night After Christmas), but he is better known for illustrating poetry anthologies by Jack Prelutsky, such as The New Kid on the Block and My Dog May Be a Genius, and Judy Blume's The Pain and the Great One series of books.

There are a lot of Patricia Polacco books in my library and many are worth commenting on, so I will write about her tomorrow.

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