Children's Books discussion

37 views
The Miscellaneous Club > August 2020: Authors and Writers

Comments Showing 1-43 of 43 (43 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (last edited Aug 06, 2020 12:11AM) (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
This month's books will focus on author and writer biographies and autobiographies. Following is a list of some of the available biographies and autobiographies of authors of books for children and teens.
Chapter/Middle Grade bios/autobios:
El Deafo by Cece Bell
The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden
Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life's Song by Ashley Bryan
Maggie by My Side by Beverly Butler
The Moon and I by Betsy Byars
A Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
26 Fairmount Avenue (and sequels) by Tomie dePaola
Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz
Looking Back: A Book of Memories by Lois Lowry
This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs by Gary Paulsen
Bill Peet: An Autobiography by Bill Peet
Oddballs by William Sleator
Blue Remembered Hills: A Recollection by Rosemary Sutcliff
Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet
Becoming Madeleine: A Biography of the Author of a Wrinkle in Time by Her Granddaughters by Charlotte Jones Voiklis

Picture Book bios/autobios:
The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett
The Days Before Now: An Autobiographical Note by Margaret Wise Brown
Just Like Beverly: A Biography of Beverly Cleary by Vicki Conrad
The Scraps Book by Lois Ehlert
A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White by Barbara Herkert
Self Portrait, Trina Schart Hyman by Trina Schart Hyman
The Boy on Fairfield Street by Kathleen Krull
The Fabled Life of Aesop: The Extraordinary Journey and Collected Tales of the World’s Greatest Storyteller by Ian Lendler
It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way by Kyo Maclear
Finding Narnia: The Story of C. S. Lewis and His Brother by Caroline McAlister
John Ronald's Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. Tolkien by Caroline McAlister
Anne Frank by Josephine Poole
Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw by Deborah Kogan Ray
The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Andersen by Jane Yolen

Participants may also read children's bios/autobios about authors of adult books and writers of poetry.


message 2: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
When I finish reading this, I'll review it on last month's thread about language. But as it's related, and as it's by one of my favorite authors about one of my favorite topics, I'm mentioning it here, too.

What Is Poetry?: The Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems by Michael Rosen


message 3: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
I also love the series Poetry for Young People, which includes such as Frost, Sandburg, Lear, and Poetry for Young People: Edna St. Vincent Millay. Not all entries are stellar imo, but it's a handy 'go-to' because each does begin with a relevant two page biography, and the artists are chosen to be good fits to the poems chosen.

Offhand I remember loving A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams so much that I gave it five stars.


message 4: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7862 comments Mod
I certainly did not really enjoy The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown.

If there is one main emotion that repeatedly has come to me while reading Mac Barnett's The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown, it is unfortunately an annoyed feeling of authorial snarkiness and full-of-himself pretentiousness. For while I even happen to agree with quite a large part of the information and details that Mac Barnett has written about Margaret Wise Brown, sorry, but to and for me, The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown is often seemingly more about the author, more about Mac Barnett tooting his own horn so to speak and trying to demonstrate that authors are oh so very special and indeed also usually somehow eccentric than really trying to show and present an informative and engaging biography of Margaret Wise Brown (since truth be told, most of The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown actually feels more concerned about displaying what Mac Barnett considers her strange and interesting behaviours and ways than truly detailing Margaret Wise Brown’s life and her actual career as a writer). And furthermore (and yes, this has most defintely bothered me), why does Mac Barnett concentrate so extremely heavily on chief New York City librarian Anne Carroll Moore for over twelve pages? I mean, The Important Book About Margaret Wise Brown is supposed to be about Margaret Wise Brown and that Anne Carroll Moore did not like and agree with her books and did not want them in the NYC Public Library, that could have and should have been mentioned in a few sentences and not belaboured to such an extent that it sounds as though Margaret Wise Brown and Anne Carroll Moore were somehow sworn enemies and that the latter out of personal spite refused to recommend Margaret Wise Brown's books (as indeed, I did check a bit online and there were actually very many children's authors that Anne Carroll Moore had issues with and refused to recommend, including Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame). Combined with the fact that I also do wonder why Mac Barnett somehow thinks it is so necessary, so important to tell his readers that as a child, Margaret Wise Brown skinned her deceased pet rabbit and then wore his pelt and that she used to swim in the nude, I really have not all that much enjoyed The Important Book About Margaret Wise Brown (as to and for me, much of Mac Barnett's printed words have simply not felt all that engaged in Margaret Wise Brown's actual life and more to do with himself and with his own ego as an author). And while Sarah Jacoby's accompanying illustrations are certainly colourfully imaginative and descriptive, my at best totally lacklustre reaction to Mac Barnett's presented narrative, that he has not provided an author's note with a bit more information on Margaret Wise Brown's life and that his sources should really have appeared at the back of the book (as where they are located now, at the front, is really all too easily missed) yes indeed, I can and will only consider two stars for The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown and to say that this book certainly has been both a major disappointment and not at all what I was expecting.


message 5: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7862 comments Mod
Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White

From a narrational point of departure, yes indeed, I definitely do find Melissa Sweet’s middle grade biography of E.B White (which I also believe would likely be of interest to and for adult readers), I do consider her Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White almost textually perfect and namely so because in my opinion, Melissa Sweet sticks to the rules of writing and the elements of composition that always seemed part and parcel to E.B. White’s own work and were his constant guideposts (to focus and not veer off topic, to not use too many gratuitous, superfluous words).

And therefore, while Melissa Sweet does of course present E.B. White’s entire life, because her title Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White indicates to me that her main focus will be or rather that it is supposed to be on E.B. White’s development and work as an author, thankfully she focuses very distinctly and deliberately on how E.B. White became a writer, on his verbal development, and yes, also on his three children’s books, on Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan, which I absolutely do massively appreciate and cherish. For far far too often I have read biographies of famous authors in which their oeuvre and their attitudes towards writing and being an author are sometimes literally buried far beneath either avalanches of to and for me unimportant minutiae of details or even worse sensationalism and rumour, something that thankfully never once appears to be the case in Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White, giving first and foremost a portrait of E.B. White the author, and which in my opinion and according to the book title is the way things definitely should be. And combined with the detailed supplemental information (expansive time lines, endnotes and a very good select bibliography), yes and certainly, if I were to actually judge Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White only and simply according to Melissa Sweet’s presented narrative, I would most definitely be considering four and perhaps even five stars.

However, as much as I have both very much enjoyed and appreciated how Melissa Sweet has penned Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White, personally, I have generally mostly felt rather annoyed with and distracted by the included illustrations and visuals. For me, they have felt annoyingly disruptive and to the point that I was sometimes even taken right out of the narrative, something I certainly have not appreciated, especially since in my opinion, NONE of the included visuals are actually really all that necessary for understanding and enjoying Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White (and which is also why instead of four stars, this is but a three star read for me, a very highly recommended three stars, to be sure, but I cannot really consider four stars for a book where the illustrations have mostly felt majorly distracting and even unnecessary).


message 6: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7862 comments Mod
Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw

Deborah Kogan Ray's Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw is a short but always sufficiently detailed picture book biography of famous Bohemian-American children's illustrator and author Wanda Gág (amongst her many books being Newbery Award winner Millions of Cats and Newbery Honour winner The ABC Bunny), a delightful narrative that not only covers and describes the main points both happy and sad, both triumphant and tragic of Wanda Gág's life, but also very much and importantly demonstrates that especially with regard to children who are by nature artistically inclined and talented, a supportive and indeed equally art and culture hungry family is often not only a boon but indeed sometimes even what artistic children very much do require in order to flourish and be able to without reservations engage in their craft, in their artistic desires and wants. For without especially her father's constant encouragement and this even as he was dying of consumption, and equally without Wanda Gág's entire family being all and sundry absolutely and totally both "into" art and always sympathetic to and understanding of not only Wanda's talents but also and especially her decided need to constantly be drawing, painting etc., while Wanda Gág might still have become an artist without said support and encouragement, as art was obviously where her so-called calling lay, becoming an artist might well have proven considerably more difficult and painful, with more hurdles to surmount had her family not been right from square one so to speak so totally and utterly in favour of her artistic endeavours (as even when after her father's death, fifteen year old Wanda as the eldest was hard at work trying to earn money for her family's basic needs and to provide for her younger siblings an adequate education, much if not even the majority of her employment opportunities were artistically based, and with her mother's full support, Wanda started selling hand painted and drawn bookmarks, holiday cards and the like, as well as writing and illustrating stories that she would send to magazines, and of course, when Wanda took first place at artistic competitions, any prize money won always went right back into the family coffers).

Now Deborah Kogan Ray's presented narrative is both readable and immediate, and indeed, that in Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw, Wanda Gág's own words (from her diaries) are often interspersed with Deborah Kogan Ray's text, this does to and for me make Wand Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw much more personal and relatable than if the author had just written about her (for one gets to know Wanda Gág's personality, her feelings and how important especially art in every way was to and for her). An enlightening, informative and yes also very much delightful and inspiring homage to a girl (and later a woman) who defintely truly and utterly lived to draw, to whom art was life and life was art, I highly recommend Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw and the only reason I am not granting five stars is that although I have certainly very much aesthetically enjoyed the accompanying illustrations, I most definitely would have preferred for Deborah Kogan Ray to have included considerably more of Wanda Gág's own artwork (and also, while I do much appreciate the included author's note and bibliography, I do wish that the latter, that the bibliography were a bit more prominently displayed and not simply relegated to the very last page of Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw, as truth be told, I almost missed it).


message 7: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7862 comments Mod
El Deafo

I am not always a huge fan of graphic novels (and indeed when late last night I quickly skimmed though Cece Bell's illustrations for her Newbery Honour winning 2014 semi-autobiographical El Deafo, I have to admit that her pictorial renderings were most definitely not what I would personally consider aesthetically pleasant by any stretch of my imagination). For while I do like David Lasky’s sense and use of colour, sorry, but Cece Bell's rabbit/human combinations, at best they have not really visually spoken to me in an enjoyable manner and at worst, yes, I actually have even tended to find Cece and everyone else depicted more than a trifle visually creepy in their physical appearances (with in particular the superimposed rabbit ears and spindling legs and arms just not at all being to my personal and aesthetic tastes). And truth be told, I almost did consider not continuing with El Deafo, but then decided to stick with it, since El Deafo did win a Newbery Honour designation and I had also and equally heard many good things regarding author Cece Bell's presented text and that it supposedly is both an engaging and also a realistic (from her own childhood experiences with deafness) reading experience.

And yes, if I do not consider the illustrations (if I for the most part ignore them) and instead concentrate more on Bell's presented narrative, I have indeed found El Deafo both enjoyable and engaging, not to mention at times heart-breaking and of course often also heart-warming (and in many ways even with Cece's deafness and having to deal with large and cumbersome hearing aids often just a typical story about maneuvering through the mazes of friendship, boys etc. during middle school, made all the more poignant because much of this, because most of this is the author's own and personal story). But of course, I should probably also point out that while I have certainly and indeed found El Deafo realistic and that the scenarios young Cece experiences with her family, with her teachers, with her school friends and acquaintances seem to ring true and appear reasonable, realistic and typical, I am also not deaf and equally never had a school friend or acquaintance who was profoundly hard of hearing. And thus perhaps, young Cece's personal experiences with her own hearing loss might not have been what other hard of hearing individuals experienced during their own childhood and at school and vice versa (in other words, while I personally have found El Deafo delightful on a textual level, and very much relatable, engaging, I also do realise that my saying that Cece Bell's narrative rings true should probably also be taken with a bit of a grain of salt and that it is my personal take on El Deafo). Highly recommended and indeed, my three star ranking is simply that I just do not like the illustrations all that much, that for me, it is really ONLY the text, the printed words of El Deafo that I have been able to both truly enjoy and appreciate without reservations.


message 8: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Ada Lovelace: The Poet of Science by Diane Stanley
Ada Lovelace did not write very much, but she did write extensive footnotes to Charles Babbage's Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage, explaining the mathematics and calculations; and how math could be coded for the machine. This was an interesting biography, but the illustrations were not at all to my taste.


message 9: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 1886 comments Louisa May Alcott: Her Life, Letters, and Journals
This book is essentially the only autobiography we have of Louisa May Alcott. This book compiles the papers she left behind. (Louisa burned most of her papers). This volume includes Louisa's childhood journals, the illuminating Fruitlands years journals and some of her adult writing. This biography was published in the 1880s and is available in the public domain.
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/38049...

I own the original physical copy of this book.

Little Women Letters from the House of Alcott expands on the original Edna Dow Cheney book to include the rest of the family and expand our understanding of Louisa, her sisters and parents.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography Amazing! The original manuscript and how it became the beloved series we know today. This is for teens and up because some of the real life happenings to the Ingalls clan were very dark. The original manuscript is fine on it's own for all readers if I recall correctly.

For kids A Little House Sampler: A Collection of Early Stories and Reminiscenses
This is the more rosy view of the past.


message 10: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
QNPoohBear wrote: "Louisa May Alcott: Her Life, Letters, and Journals
This book is essentially the only autobiography we have of Louisa May Alcott. This book compiles the papers she left behind. (Louis..."


I just watched the latest movie of "Little Women" (with Laura Dern, Emma Watson, etc.), and this movie particularly focused on Jo becoming a writer and getting her book published.


message 11: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 6013 comments Mod
Manybooks wrote: "Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White

From a narrational point of departure, yes indeed, I definitely do find Melissa Sweet’s middle grade biography of E.B White (which I also bel..."


This has been on my list for awhile. Heard great things about it. Will see if I get to it this month.


message 12: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 6013 comments Mod
Manybooks wrote: "I certainly did not really enjoy The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown.

If there is one main emotion that repeatedly has come to me while reading Mac Barnett's The Importan..."


I really did not like this , either. I, too, found it a poor biography and I found the message somewhat problematic.


message 13: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 1886 comments Beverly wrote: "I just watched the latest movie of "Little Women" (with Laura Dern, Emma Watson, etc.), and this movie particularly focused on Jo becoming a writer and getting her book published.."

Yes, unfortunately Greta Gerwig chose to ignore the parts of the novel she didn't like and toss in a heaping dose of LMA's own life. It confused my dad who doesn't, even after 30 years of visiting Concord, know the novel. I still liked the movie though. More than the recent miniseries.


message 14: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7862 comments Mod
Wanda Gag: Storybook Artist

Now I have certainly from a general thematic and content-based point of departure very much appreciated Gwyneth Swain's Wanda Gág: Storybook Artist, as the author has in my opinion for the most part deftly (and without too much overly emotional exaggeration) managed to portray Wanda Gág as to who and what she was and to also glowingly demonstrate not only the many highlights but also the numerous lowlights of her life and career as both artist/illustrator and children's literature author (how Wanda Gág's artistic development was achieved, and especially, how supportive her own family always was towards her and that especially her artist father Anton was never critical of her penchant for daydreaming and openly, actively encouraged his daughter's drawing manias but always with the admonishment that Wanda should compose her own pictures, that she should draw and sketch what was in her mind, what she observed and never simply copy and imitate the work of others).

With Gwyneth Swain's text accompanied by numerous archival photographs, as well as a goodly number of examples of Wanda Gág's own artwork (and thankfully not just from her illustrated children's books), an appreciated (and to and for me always necessary and important with regard to non fiction) glossary, chronology, source notes and last but not least a detailed and well organised into individual sections bibliography, in many ways Wanda Gág: Storybook Artist is a wonderful and often even perfect general introduction to Wanda Gág's life, career and times (not only for older children above the age of twelve or so but also for interested adults).

And main reason I am granting a three and not a four star ranking to Wanda Gág: Storybook Artist is that personally, there are a few informational gaps which I for one would like to have seen filled in and dealt with (such as for example, some details on whether Wanada Gág and her family, seeing that they were German speaking and according to Gwyneth Swain also staunchly against WWI faced much anti-German animosity and bigotry in New Ulm, Minnesota due to their ethnic, cultural background and obvious pacifism), and that there are indeed also a few to and for me potentially disconcerting issues with Gwyneth Swain's writing style and vocabulary choices (like the author claiming how Wanda's father, how Anton Gág somehow looked like a "typical" artist and even more frustratingly and annoyingly, her making the rather majorly strange authorial remark regarding Wanda Gág's death of lung cancer in 1946 at the comparatively young age of just fifty-three that "even Wanda could not live forever").


message 15: by Manybooks (last edited Aug 08, 2020 08:00AM) (new)

Manybooks | 7862 comments Mod
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

To call Anika Aladamuy Denise's Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré a wonderful junior level picture book biography, while this is of course and indeed the truth, it is still in my opinion a bit of an understatement, as the combination of the author's words and Paola Escobar's accompanying illustrations are in fact (and of course also in my humble opinion) pure and utter perfection (presenting both the high and low points of Pura Belprė's life, her many achievements, how she made popular Latino literature and folklore in the United States and yes, that even sad events such as the death of her husband are approached by Anika Aldamuy Denise gently but all the same realistically, and above all presenting in Pura Belpré a totally shining star, who planted stories like seeds and made them grow and everlastingly flourish). Combined with Paola Escobar's delightful accompanying pictures, artwork that is lush, imaginative but also delightfully realistic (and always totally mirroring the author's engaging and evocative narrative), I will gladly and with no hesitation whatsoever grant a full five stars to Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré (and with the informative author's note as well as the supplemental resource pages for me being the absolute icing on an already delicious cake, featuring a select bibliography, archival collections, articles and films on Pura Belpré, suggestions for further reading and indeed and appreciatively also that the Pura Belpré stories Anika Aldamuty Denise uses and cites in the main narrative of Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré are equally cited by their titles and given a basic plot summary and analysis in the supplemental resources section of this in every way amazing and spectacular picture book biography).


message 16: by Manybooks (last edited Aug 08, 2020 08:03AM) (new)

Manybooks | 7862 comments Mod
Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind

Oh wow! I do absolutely love love love Cynthia Grady's Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind. For truly, Miss Clara Breed is (or rather she was) not only a loving, kind and simply delightful person in and of herself, considering that in post Pearl Harbour WWII USA, Japanese Americans were for the most part considered one and all collectively as enemies of the state and potential traitors, Miss Breed asking young Katherine Tasaki and other internees to regularly write to her as well as her handing out bags of books etc. at the train station sending Japanese Americans to their respective internment camps and in full view of gun toting American soldiers at that, this might well have had (in a worst case scenario) some not so wonderful and happy consequences and repercussions for Miss Breed.

However, and on the other hand, the fact that according to the information presented and featured by author Cynthia Grady in Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind, Clara Breed was fortunately always seemingly able to without all that much official harassment not only easily and consistently able to correspond with her imprisoned Japanese American former library patrons, to keep sending them books and other necessary supplies but yes indeed, even to pen very much critical articles on how Japanese Americans on the West Coast of the USA were being approached and imprisoned without reason and charge, all that most definitely needs to be seen and lauded as something majorly positive. For yes, if this story had taken place in, say, Nazi Germany and Miss Breed had been attempting to help and support Jewish children, sending them books and even remotely either officially or unofficially complaining about the National Socialist progroms against Jews and anyone with even some Jewish background, this would almost certainly have led at best to Miss Breed being arrested and probably even to her being likely executed as a traitor. But still and nevertheless, even if Miss Breed probably did not ever have to fear arrest and actual danger with regard to her sending books and supplies to interned Japanese American children and regularly corresponding with them, I still do very much consider her a total and utter heroine, as even if she might not have been in actual danger of official sanctions and problems, her critical perspective regarding American policies towards Japanese Americans and that she was being very vocal with and in her criticism and condemnation would more than probably not have been very generally popular (and would likely have massively and totally angered and infuriated many Americans, especially since Clara Breed continued to regularly correspond with Japanese American internees and sought to help them in every way she could).

Accompanied by Amiko Hirao's both descriptive and at times heartbreaking illustrations (as well as archival photographs on the front and back cover pages of Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind), not to mention the absolutely wonderful and educational supplemental information that Cynthia Grady has included (a short biography of Clara Breed, multiple informative time-lines, source notes and bibliographic lists for further study and reading), Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind is most definitely a shining five star book for me and one that I do most strongly recommend to and for anyone (an informative, educational, relatable and emotional account that not only introduces readers gently but firmly and with adequate and necessary criticism to the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII but also celebrates and portrays the life of a courageous woman, fetes a caring, compassionate and yes brave librarian who did all she could to help support Japanese American internees, to make their unreasonable and unacceptable imprisonment by the American government less inhumane and more liveable).


message 17: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7862 comments Mod
Looking forward to reading Homesick: My Own Story (even though I guess we will also be reading this in the Newbery Club). But before I start reading I do have to personally wonder how Jean Fritz could really be homesick for the United States if she was born in China.


message 18: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7862 comments Mod
Annie and Helen

Although one of course feels both sadness and pity for Helen Keller being (or rather becoming) both deaf and blind, personally, Deborah Hopkinson’s Annie and Helen is such a wonderful textual celebration of not only how Annie Sullivan teaches Helen Keller the magic and miracle of words but also how once taught the latter, Helen just seems to totally blossom and absorb knowledge like a thirsty sponge, that yes, one almost does tend to forget that Helen Keller is in fact both deaf and blind and to first and foremost see her simply and delightfully as an intelligent and curious little girl being successfully taught her letters, numbers etc. by an inspired and imaginative teacher (with Annie not only giving Helen the gift of vocabulary, but of skills like reading and writing and later the opportunity to attend college and to be the first deaf and blind person in the USA to earn a BA).

Accompanied by Raúl Colón warmly descriptive pictures, which gracefully mirror Deborah Hopkinson’s inspiring words, although truth be told both Annie and Helen’s facial features do seem visually a bit too flat and expressionless for my aesthetics, I have indeed very much enjoyed reading Annie and Helen (and also appreciate the inclusion of letter excerpts from Annie Sullivan to her former teacher at the Perkins School for the Blind, to Sophia C. Hopkins, which although not really necessary on a narrational level does add a sense of history and immediacy to Deborah Hopkinson’s text). And indeed, the only reason why Annie and Helen is a three and not yet a four star book for me is that in my opinion, the bibliographical material should really be located in a much more prominent and easier to notice place, as I almost completely missed it since it was covered by the dust jacket of my library book and thus hidden and obscured from view until I specifically decided to check for it.


message 19: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Ada's Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson

This book was slightly shorter and simpler than the Lovelace book I reviewed above. However, I much preferred the cut-paper and watercolor illustrations glued together to create a 3-D effect in this book. This one did mention her writing, but did not go into great detail.


message 20: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7862 comments Mod
Kathryn wrote: "Manybooks wrote: "I certainly did not really enjoy The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown.

If there is one main emotion that repeatedly has come to me while reading Mac Barn..."


I also found Marc Barnett’s tone of voice really full of himself.


message 21: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (last edited Aug 19, 2020 03:02PM) (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
I finished reading C. S. Lewis: Christian and Storyteller by Beatrice Gormley today. I very much enjoyed the book. I would say that this book is best suited to grades 7 and up, as well as adults. While it is not an academic book, the vocabulary, length, and style of book suggest a teen and adult readership. The biography covers Lewis's life from childhood to passing. While it does acknowledge Lewis's writings for adults, it emphasizes the writing of the Narnia Chronicles. It also discusses his many relationships--his closeness to his brother Warren; his looking after his mate's mother Mrs. Moore; his friendship with Tolkien and the other Inklings; his marriage to Joy Davidman; and more. The book has a bibliography of some (not all) of Lewis's books and a bibliography of books about him. It also has an index. I thought the book was very well written and very readable.


message 22: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen by Deborah Hopkinson

I loved how Hopkinson adapted the first line from Pride and Prejudice for the first line of this children's biography: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is one of our greatest writers." Qin Leng's ink and watercolor paintings reminded me strongly of Tricia Tusa's artwork. This is a short, but interesting biography. The back matter includes "Jane's Bookshelf" which lists her 6 novels in publication order, with 2 quotes from each book, and a short synopsis of the plot. Several internet sites are listed as well as a short bibliography.


message 23: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
The Fabled Life of Aesop: The Extraordinary Journey and Collected Tales of the World’s Greatest Storyteller by Ian Lendler

Lendler bookends the little that is known about Aesop and his life on either side of 10 of the better known fables attributed to him. Further information of Aesop and fables, plus a short bibliography, is included in the back. Caldecott Honor illustrator Zagarenski supplies wonderful, surrealistic paintings for the book.


message 24: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
El Deafo
Cece Bell did an excellent job of conveying her feelings as a deaf child from kindergarten through fifth grade. She made it easy for child readers to relate to her feelings and attitudes; and the feelings and attitudes of the other children in the memoir. It was very courageous of her to admit some of her bad attitudes towards some of the other children or adults; especially her attitude about the sign language classes. So I really loved her story. However, I also wonder at her choosing to depict herself, her family, and friends as rabbits. I could not find anything in the book itself to explain this choice, although she may have talked about it elsewhere. Otherwise, I kind of liked the cartoonish artwork.


message 25: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Bill Peet: An Autobiography
I read this book many years ago and enjoyed it very much. It was fascinating to read about someone who worked closely with Walt Disney and did many of the drawings for the animated movies. While I really enjoyed the pencil drawings for this book, I was disappointed that they were not in full color, like the many picture books that he wrote and illustrated. Most of the drawings are cartoon in style, but there are a couple of illustrations that look more serious--copies of paintings he did while in art school.


message 26: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Oddballs
This is an autobiography by one of my favorite science fiction authors for children and young adults. His stories about his unconventional family I found very funny. The stories are mostly true, mixed with a bit of fiction.
My favorite books by Sleator:
Interstellar Pig
Parasite Pig
Singularity
The Green Futures of Tycho
The Boy Who Reversed Himself


message 27: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White
An excellent biography, populated with paintings, photos, and examples of White's writings. A fitting celebration of one of the most honored of children's book authors.


message 28: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
The Scraps Book
This vibrantly beautiful picture book is part memoir and part artist’s manual. Beginning with a baby picture, Ehlert illustrates the scrapbook of her life with scraps of art supplies from previous projects. She is inspired by the world around her and uses it all for her art; a full circle of artistic creativity. Ehlert’s imaginative life as a working artist will inspire readers to begin their own art project. A book for all ages, but a must read for anyone who appreciates children's literature


message 29: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
An excellent picture book biography about a Japanese American children's book author and illustrator. Accompanied by wonderful liquid watercolor, gouache, and pencil crayon artwork. Includes additional information about Fujikawa and a bibliography of sources.


message 30: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Finding Narnia: The Story of C. S. Lewis and His Brother
I enjoyed the entertaining biography. Both author and illustrator included extensive notes in the back matter; also includes a bibliography.


message 31: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
John Ronald's Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. Tolkien
An excellent biography (even though it is short), beautifully illustrated.


message 32: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw
I very much enjoyed this biography of the Caldecott winning author/artist. And I thought that Ray's illustrations were an excellent accompaniment to the text. I was especially interested to learn that Wanda added the accent mark to her last name.


message 33: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Andersen
An excellent picture book biography. Yolen covers the highlights of his life, his successes and his failures. Each page also has a quotation from one of his stories. Dennis Nolan's lovely illustrations in muted colors are brilliantly executed and finely detailed.


message 34: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
Beverly wrote: "Oddballs
This is an autobiography by one of my favorite science fiction authors for children and young adults. His stories about his unconventional family I found very funny. The stori..."


I'll have to look for this, as I love his SF for youth, too.


message 35: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
Beverly wrote: "It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
An excellent picture book biography about a Japanese American children's book author and illustrator. Accompanied by wonderful li..."


I have wondered about her life, how she came to do what she did so well. I'll look for this, too.


message 36: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 6013 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "Beverly wrote: "It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
An excellent picture book biography about a Japanese American children's book author and illustrator. Accompanied..."


Yes, that looks great. I'm very interested.


message 37: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
Beverly wrote: "Finding Narnia: The Story of C. S. Lewis and His Brother
I enjoyed the entertaining biography. Both author and illustrator included extensive notes in the back matter; also include..."


Didn't know he had a brother. Yet another for my list!

I'm generally not a huge fan of biographies, but the best do illuminate, and so I thank you for alerting me/us to all of these!


message 38: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Christmas Remembered by Tomie dePaola
Christmas Remembered by Tomie dePaola
Tomie reminisces about 15 different Christmases throughout his life, from his childhood, to his teen years, to his young adult years, to his mature years. The reminiscences are accompanied by his signature artwork in double-page spreads, full page, and smaller decorations. A couple of his more unique Christmas memories were from his time as a monk in a Benedictine monastery; and the year he spent Christmas in Santa Fe, New Mexico with friends. In each memory, he tells how artwork (his own or others) was an important part of the celebration. This would be a great book for a family to share at Christmas.


message 39: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Write! Write! Write! by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
I just saw this book on a list of books being ordered for our library system, so I have not had a chance to read it yet, but here is a description of the book:
Write! Write! Write! is a poetry collection that explores every stage and every aspect of the writing process, from learning the alphabet to the thrilling moment of writing a thought for the first time, from writer's block to finding inspiration, and from revision to stapling your finished work into a book. These poems also celebrate how writing teaches patience, helps express opinions, and allows us to imagine the impossible.


message 40: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
The Strange Birds of Flannery O'Connor by Amy Alznauer
An interesting biography, focusing mostly on her childhood and her love of birds, particularly chickens, but also including events as she became an adult. Ping Zhu contributes the bold and colorful illustrations. I especially likes the double-page spread of the peacock fanning his tail. The back matter includes an author's note, a bibliographical note, a bibliography and list of websites.


message 41: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 1886 comments A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice
An excellent look at the genius of Jane Austen.

This is an excellent and inspiring introduction to Jane Austen for any curious new reader. Instead of focusing on her life story, the author focuses on Jane's writing and how Jane rejected the ridiculous conventions of the Georgian era and went for characters she knew and could relate to. This book is the first biography I've seen that actually explains what Jane read and how she revolutionized literature. Even though the situations have changed in the last 200 years, the characters are still relatable, something that can't be said for The Monk or The Castle of Otranto. I love the illustration of young Jane reading the "horrid" novels and laughing at them. I can absolutely see her doing that. I could quibble and say she also read comedy- Shakespeare, Henry Fieldingand Oliver Goldsmith seem to have been influences but I won't. The author's note says her intent was to focus on Jane's genius: where did it come from? How do artists learn and grow over time? She wants children to see that genius is a result of experimentation, persistence and life's hard-won battles.

Genius must have time and space to flourish. The author and illustrator show this effectively with the Austens' crowded home full of unruly boys, Mr. Austen's retirement and the move to Bath, Jane's dark period in Bath and Southampton and finally, back in Hampshire at Chawton where she was able to write again. This is the first biography for kids that acknowledges the unproductive period in Jane's life. The transition from happy, carefree childhood to sad adulthood and to bittersweet middle age is shown in the artist's color palette which also reflects colors found in nature, colors that were popular in the Regency period. I appreciate that.

I also love the small details that show the illustrator did her research. Jane is shown reading real books of the 18th-century, Cassandra is doing a watercolor sketch of a woman with her back facing the sitter wearing a wide-brimmed bonnet. Do some research and you'll find Cassandra's sketch, believed to be Jane. I love seeing the Austens performing plays, Eliza flirting with Henry, Frank in his uniform, and the Prince Regent (considerably thinner than he actually was) reading one of Jane's novels. This is the only illustrated biography I've seen that attempts to get the details correct. I can be nitpicky and say Jane had hazel eyes not blue but we don't really know that for sure and sometimes hazel can appear blue.

The author uses Jane's own words to illustrate a point, usually out of context because the words come from novels and also her "Three or four families in a country village" advice. However, in the back of the book the quotes are attributed to the correct sources. There's also an "About Jane Austen" biographical note, a note from the author, a list of Jane's novels, Jane Austen resources for young readers, a note from the illustrator and selected bibliography.

I would recommend this to older kids and adults just discovering Jane's genius for the first time.


message 42: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
QNPoohBear wrote: "A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice
An excellent look at the genius of Jane Austen.

This is an excellent and inspiring introduction to Jane Austen for any cur..."


I completely agree with everything QNPoohBear had to say about this book, which I gave 5 stars. This is my much shorter review:
I loved this biography of Jane Austen. The illustrations successfully followed her life and her imagination as well. The story covers her exuberant childhood, her dormant period, and her emotional resurrection in Chawton Cottage, where she wrote the books that she is deservedly famous for.
The illustrator's note in the back of the book indicated that she was very thoughtful in how she planned out the illustrations: she depicted Jane's childhood and youth in vibrant full color. But when Jane's family moves to Bath, and her father passes away, the illustrator uses a lot of gray tones. When she moves to Chawton Cottage, the illustrator portrays her new maturity in lush greens. She also states that the color palette she used came from textile shades popular in Jane's time.
I thought the entire book a splendid effort.


message 43: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 1886 comments Glad you enjoyed the Austen bio too.


back to top