Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


The Lonely Doll

I love going to the library, something that started when I was just a kid. Our town didn't have a library, so every Saturday we drove 6 miles to Merrillan, Wisconsin, population 636, where they had a tiny library, open only on Saturdays. My grandparents' insurance agency was just up the street, so we usually parked there and walked down.
This was the early 70's, and I doubt any book in that library had been published after 1965. So my check-outs consisted of oldies, like the The Wizard of Oz series and The Five Little Pepper series, both of which I now collect. ( Most of my Pepper books are first editions, with publication dates between 1890-1910. Oldies, indeed...) But they were new to me, so their age didn't matter.
But I think my absolute favorites were Dare Wright's books about Edith, The Lonely Doll. The library had big hardbacks of them, dressed in noisy, crinkly plastic covers. I'm not sure what it was about them that fascinated me, but one has to wonder the depth of the impression, given my first picture book was about a doll... I have searched on ebay for first editions of these, to no avail, but happily they came out as reprints a few years ago and I picked a couple up. There is something absolutely reassuring about having copies of these books and the Oz books and the Pepper books on my shelves. It's like I have my childhood there, just waiting for me to open the covers and go back to those days when I walked into that little library, eager to take stories home.


Favorite Picture Books from Childhood

A LITTLE HOUSE OF YOUR OWN (Harcourt Brace and Co.) by Beatrice Schenk De Regniers and with drawings by Irene Haas was one of my favorites. I was a child who loved to find my own cozy nook or hideaway to read in, and all the ideas triggered by this book gave both my brother and me endless hours of fun.

I was also a girl who loved horses, saved my allowance for horseback riding lessons, collected china horse figurines, and spent hours galloping around on my imaginary horse, Salute. So, it's no surprise that THE LITTLE FELLOW (The John Winston Company) written by Marguerite Henry and illustrated by Diana Thorne was another favorite. Of course I went on to enjoy all of Marguerite Henry's books.

A new bedtime favorite of my grandchildren's (and mine) is ONE WOLF HOWLS (Sylvan Dell Publishing) written by Scotti Cohn and illustrated by my good friend, Susan Detwiler. It's a wonderful concept book for not only learning about wolves and their habitats, but also counting and learning the seasons and months of the year. A favorite page for finding and counting all the wolves is for September:

"Nine wolves hide on September hilltops-
shy ones, sly ones, no one sees.
Nine wolves hide on September hilltops
deep in the woods in the falling leaves."


Tears of Laughter

I read a lot growing up, but mostly on my own. I do, however, remember reading Fox in Socks together with my father. He had been working out in the garage that evening, but when he came inside, we began taking turns reading the silly nonsense tongue twisters. "When Tweedle Beetles fight, it's a tweedle beetle battle..." As we stumbled through the rhymes, we laughed harder and harder until we both had tears running down our faces. It is a great book, no doubt about it, but part of what makes it so great in my memory is that I shared it with my father. That's the priceless magic of reading picture books together; it creates a bond between the reader and listener.

Fast forward thirty-five years and you'd see me sharing another picture book, this time with my friend Gary. Mo Willems' Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! is so ridiculous, and so hilariously accurate with regards to children's (and yes, adults') emotions. Gary bought the book for me as a birthday gift that year, and we still crack each other up by quoting favorite lines. True story. Who says you ever get too old to share a picture book?


You are a cowboy

…riding around the range. Suddenly Bad-Nose Bill comes up behind you with a gun. He says, "Would you like me to shoot a hole in your head?"
What do you say, dear?

Early Sendak tickles me. The pages are graphic, open, and perfectly composed. Characters strike just the right emotional chord, yet nothing is labored. The economy of line makes the drawings fresh—like they were dashed off. Figures move with whimsy. This text, by Sesyle Joslin, is wonderfully absurd.

Give me any early Sendak book (don't care for the fussy later ones). These books all shaped my sense of what a picture book or early chapter book should be.