As part of our summer book study, Jim Trelease offered to answer some specific questions for teachers. Yay! One questions posed was:
Do you have any thoughts on taking the time to talk about the author and illustrator
of a children’s book with young children? How important do you feel this is to do and
Jim Trelease’s Answer: Most of what we consume as adults and children consists of products made anonymously by hard-working people. From toys and clothes to food and drinks, we consume it without a thought in our heads. Do we really wish the same blind consumption imposed upon the artists of this world. We give very special attention and credit to the singers, the actors, the athletes — so why not the same prestige to the writers and illustrators. It’s bad enough the publishers kiss-off the authors with two sentences or less on the dust jacket (“The author lives in New Jersey with his wife and their five goldfish.”), don’t make it worse. Bring them alive; use the Internet to find out information about them, how they came to be a writer or illustrator, what were the other books Bill Peet created that we read this year?
“Stuart Little wasn’t written by a machine. It came from a very special man who was terribly, terribly shy. And when he was about to publish it, a very important librarian in New York City decided she didn’t like it and she was going to do everything she could to keep everyone from reading it. Fortunately she failed. No one would listen to her this time. Readers loved that little kid who looked like a mouse. In fact, so many people read it and loved it, the publisher asked the author, E. B. White, to write another book. And this one he called Charlotte’s Web. And one note here about that librarian who didn’t like the book: She never changed her mind, but that didn’t make her a bad person. Librarians are just like everyone else — they can make a mistake, though they don’t make them very often. Most of them are extremely helpful in guiding us to wonderful books to read. Some people like mint chocolate chip ice cream, some people don’t. The same with books. We don’t have to like everything that is printed, and surely we can see that some books are better or worse than others. Sometimes it comes down to personal taste.”
Part of my job as a teacher is to help children understand their potential. When we read a particularly amazing book, why not talk about the author and/or illustrator? Many authors and illustrators have websites with lots of information which I quickly bring up on the SmartBoard.
By showing them real people are behind their favorite stories, I want my kindergarteners to see they too are becoming authors and illustrators. At it’s core, exploring the lives of the people who create our favorite stories opens the idea that anyone, yes, even you, can be an author and illustrator.