Tag Archive: Authors


pilot and the little prince 

The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery by Peter Sis

Born in a time when airplanes were just arriving in the skies, French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery had dreams of flying himself.  At age 12, Antoine made his own flying machine that didn’t work.  He spent his days at the nearby airfield watching the pilots fly.  He even convinced one of them to take him up with him.  After serving in the military, Antoine took a job delivering the mail by plane.  Antoine was put in charge of an isolated airfield himself.  It was there that he started to write, but he also kept on flying, helping create new air routes in South America.  He returned to France eventually and got married.  He continued to both write and fly even after moving to New York, having famous adventures and also creating his beloved Little Prince.

Sis beautifully shows the life of a man with two strong passions: writing and aviation.  He very effectively ties the two together, showing how they support one another though they may seem so separate and apart.  This is a book less about the creative process of an artist and more about the adventures that he had that inspired his writing and the eventual creation of a character who is beloved around the world. 

As always, Sis’ illustrations are dazzling in their minute details.  He playfully puts faces on mountains that form the landscape below the plane.  He creates the Manhattan skyline in fine lines with the red of the sun peeking over the horizon.  And then there are the smaller touches on the page that one lingers over and that add further information as well.

A dynamic picture book biography of an unusual author, this book demonstrates that there are many paths to becoming a writer and that the best path is your very own.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

scraps

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert

This nonfiction picture book allows readers a glimpse into Ehlert’s creative process as well as her personal history.  The book begins with a very young Ehlert and how she was raised by parents who enjoyed making things with their hands.  She even had her own art space in the house.  After art school, she worked on her own art in the evenings and in an art studio by day.  She wasn’t creating books right away, but when she started she found inspiration right in her own life.  At this point, the book focuses on Ehlert’s previous work and the process she uses to create her beloved books.  This is a colorful and delightful visit to an artist’s studio.

Ehlert approaches this biographical book just as she does her fictional picture books.  The pages are scattered with scraps, cut out objects, designs from her previous work, and photographs from her past.  The result is a book that shines with her own personal style and energy.  This could be no one else’s studio and no one else’s art.  Ehlert invites young readers not only to explore her own history and approach to art, but also to seek out their own and create things themselves. 

Bright, beautifully messy, and wonderfully creative, this book will be inspiring to young artists and authors.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane.

home for mr emerson

A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Ralph Waldo Emerson grew up in Boston where he moved often with his family.  He dreamed of living out in the country near fields and woods.  After college Emerson moved to the small town of Concord, Massachusetts where he bought a farmhouse.  He brought along a bride and an extensive personal library.  He quickly found that he wanted friends to fill up his house and set off throughout Concord to meet his neighbors.  Emerson now had all that he wanted, a family, woods, fields, an orchard and many books and friends.  He began to travel extensively and lecture which brought even more people to his home, people from around the world.  Then one day, Emerson’s beloved home caught on fire and it was his way of life that saves him in the end.

The creative team that did The Extraordinary Mark Twain and What to Do about Alice? return with another dynamic picture book biography.  Kerley manages to both introduce Emerson to elementary-aged children and also to delve deeply into his personal life and the way that his writings reflected that lifestyle as well.  More details about Emerson and his life are available at the end of the book along with inspiration for young people to build their own worlds around what they love. 

Fotheringham’s illustrations are fresh and whimsical.  He has created a world of vivid colors against which the black and white figure of Emerson pops out.  Nature is celebrated in the images, reflecting Emerson’s connection to it and the Concord community spirit is shown as well.

Another exceptional picture book biography from an amazing team, this is a great pick for young readers who don’t know Emerson but will appreciate his sentiments.   Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.

chloe and the lion

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex

You know this book is going to be unique when you get introduced to the author and illustrator before the book begins.  Then you meet Chloe, a little girl, who is the main character in the book.  The story begins and Chloe is collecting loose change that she would use to ride the merry-go-round in the park as many times as she could.  When she headed home, dizzy from the ride, she got lost in the forest.  Then a huge lion jumped out at her!  Except Adam Rex, the illustrator, did not draw a lion.  He thought a dragon would be a much better choice.  Mac Barnett, the author, doesn’t like that idea at all and insists that this is HIS book because he is the author.  The fight goes on from there, until Mac feeds Adam to the lion that a new stand-in illustrator drew for him.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t really like the art of the new illustrator and also finds that he can’t draw well enough himself to fill in for Adam.  What is an author to do?!

I love books that break that fourth wall and take a look at the inner workings of the author/illustrator or involve the audience in an interesting way.  The book’s art and writing are so closely integrated together that it is almost impossible to review them separately.  The tone here is clean and clear until the fight scene where it becomes comically fraught with emotion.  There are running gags, funny comments and lots of humor throughout the story that make it all the more fun to read.

The illustrations are inventive and add real dimension to the book.  There are several elements at play.  There are the figures done in clay that represent the author and illustrator.  There are the flat drawings of Chloe and the lion.  Then there is a stage where the book story takes place.  It’s a wonderful mix of theater, reading, and art.

The silliness doesn’t stop at the end of the book, make sure to check out the author blurb at the back, along with the very short illustrator blurb.  This book will thrill children with its silliness, dynamic illustrations, and its clever look behind the curtain of making a picture book.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan

Fourth grade was dull until the author-in-residence arrived.  Ms. Mirabel brings a love of words and writing as well as her ready laugh to the class.  Through the course of several months, she inspires five fourth graders to write, express themselves, and by doing that change their lives.  The five characters are many for a book this slim, but through their writing they become very distinct.  One of the greatest pleasures in the book is the poetry included throughout, giving us a clear understanding of each character and what they are dealing with in their lives.  A charming book that will inspire us all to carry pen and paper and write to change our lives.

MacLachlan has created a book that is very accessible to young readers with its large font and small size.  She has also managed to portray five characters who go to the same school but are individuals and clearly so.  The character of Ms. Mirabel captures the wonder and inspiration children find in a visiting writer.  It also shows what an impact such a free-thinking and open teacher can have.  But most importantly, this book teaches children what writing can mean to a person, how it can impact their lives, and how important it is. 

Slim and short, this book packs so much in a small wrapper.  Pair it with Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer for a winning combination that will truly inspire young writers to create.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

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