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Author of the Month
2003 Archive
Peter Sis

Children's authors Peter Sis was honored with MacArthur Foundation Fellowships this year. Otherwise known as "genius" grants. Upon winning the fellowship, Sis told the New York Times, "It's a wonderful acknowledgment of what I'm doing." Of Sis, the foundation noted, "His drawings and the texts of his stories comprise works that are visually arresting and thought provoking."
Peter Sis on
THE TREE OF LIFE: CHARLES DARWIN

When I went to school, I had to deal with historical figures who loomed like monuments between me and my grades. I would register, memorize, and repeat their names—Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Galileo, Darwin, Einstein—but I paid no attention to their lives. I left school and got busy with my own life, finding it somehow fascinating. Gradually I have realized that everybody has a story. Through my work I became intrigued with discovering the human element in the lives of heroes of my books, such as Columbus, Jan Welzl, Galileo, and Darwin. I want to tell children that Galileo and Darwin were also children once, and that some child today might be tomorrow’s Darwin.

As an artist looking at Darwin’s life, I was first struck by the voyage of the Beagle. Then I read more, and more, and realized that the voyage was only a small (but important) segment in a long (and important) life. I was learning about Charles Darwin, the young man who was accused by his bigger-than-life father of caring only about “shooting, dogs, and rat-catching,” which seemed to be a waste of time but later proved extremely useful, not only for collecting specimens but also for supplying the crew of the Beagle with fresh meat.
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Shannon Hale
Shannon Hale
Author of THE GOOSE GIRL

From the Grimm's fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible and original tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can lead the people she has made her own.
--Bloomsbury Children's Books 2003

ETC: The Goose Girl is both lovely and enchanting. Why did you choose to retell a fairy tale for your debut novel and what is the attraction of revisiting tales in novel form?

Shannon Hale: First, I think the stories of our childhood have the most power. They're the ones we think and wonder about when we're at that stage where we wonder most. And as we grow up, they're still there, in the deepest parts of our brains, still being worked out. Second, as a writer, my greatest interest is in the story. Characters, incidents, plot, word-making, language-all there just to tell a story. So when I set out to write a book, for me it's got to be a story that's engaging, fathomless, and worth telling. The old tales, the tales the Grimm Brothers collected, lasted for decades and centuries for a reason. There's a reason "The Goose Girl" was worth telling generation after generation, passed from mother to daughter, persevering orally until it was written down in the 19th Century. That's a story worth telling. That's a story that's going to resonate with a reader and yet surprise her still, a tale both old and new.
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH SHANNON HALE

Jaime Adoff
Jaime Adoff, Author, The Song Shoots Out of My Mouth: A Celebration of Music

I don't think I realized the impact my parents (Virginia Hamilton and Arnold Adoff) had on my future career until I was much older. As writers, both of my parents worked at home, so I got to see what they did every day. I remember watching them go into their offices in the morning with nothing but a cup of coffee. Then emerge hours later with pages of writing. To a small kid, it was like magic. What was going on in there? How did they do it? I kept watching, and soaking it all in.

Sometimes there was a small price to pay for having them work at home. Like lunch.

I remember when I was really young, I used to think it took three hours to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. See, my father usually made the lunches. I didn't know at the time that the reason it took three hours was that he was writing a lot in-between. He would come downstairs and take the bread out. Go back upstairs write a few more poems. Come back downstairs, get the peanut butter out. Go back upstairs, finish writing half a book. Come back downstairs, get the jelly out. Go back upstairs, finish writing the book. Come back downstairs . . . you get the picture! (I quickly learned how to make my own sandwiches!)
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Tom Lichtenheld
Tom Lichtenheld grew up in Rockford, Illinois, where he doodled his way through school. He developed an interest in book design and illustration at the University of Wisconsin and graduated with a degree in fine art.

Tom's first book, "Everything I Know About Pirates" was written by accident after his nephew requested a drawing of a pirate. In response, Tom drew twenty pages of silly pictures of pirates, accompanied by explanatory text. It was, literally, everything he knew about pirates, most of it made up on the fly. The book was named one of the best children¹s books of 2000 by Newsweek. His new book begs to be answered, "What Are YOU So Grumpy About?."
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Michael W. Smith
Michael W. Smith
Co-author
READING DON'T FIX NO CHEVYS:
Literacy in the Lives of Young Men

Excerpts from an interview with Michael Smith...

ETC: If you had to put your findings in a nutshell, what would you say?

Smith: Our data suggest that the boys in the study valued school in general and reading in particular and that they pursued literate activities out of school in interesting and complex ways. However, while they valued school-based reading in theory, they often rejected it in practice because school-based reading was not characterized by the qualities that marked the activities (both literate and not) that the boys pursued out of school.

ETC: Can you say more about those qualities?

Smith: Sure. We found that the activities that the boys enjoyed were very different. Some were athletes. Some were gamers. Some were musicians, and on and on. But in virtually every case, the activities that the boys enjoyed were characterized by 5 features.
READ THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW
READING DON'T FIX NO CHEVYS
AUTHOR BIO

Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini
Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini
Author & Illustrator of Environmental Children's Books

Lauded as a young “Eco Star” by the Cousteau Society, and inducted into the Kid Heroes Hall of Fame by E: The Environmental Magazine, Kristin Joy Pratt demonstrates not only an infectious love of nature that promotes environmental awareness among children, but also a “can do” positive attitude toward life that has helped make her so popular.
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Andrea Perry

Who is this hilarious new author Andrea Perry, and where did she come from?

INTRODUCING ANDREA PERRY
Author of
HERE'S WHAT YOU DO
WHEN YOU CAN'T FIND YOUR SHOE
(Ingenious Inventions for Pesky Problems)
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[Includes Interview, Excerpts, Illustrations]

Chris Crutcher
If you're living under a rock, don't read Chris Crutcher. If you want to experience the "real" world, here's an author that is genuinely on the mark, candid, compassionate and won't sell his soul for the sake of critics.
READ MORE about CHRIS CRUTCHER
Author, Teacher, Family Therapist
[Includes Interview and new book]
Adele Griffin
"I was shy, and I liked to exaggerate the truth. Once I told kids that Elton John was coming to sing at our May Fair Pageant. Another time, I said that our school was built on top of an earthquake fault line, and another time that my mom was a movie star. Other than these chronically embroidered stories, I was not much of a troublemaker, although I always tried to get out of sports so that I could read in the library."
READ MORE about ADELE GRIFFIN
[Includes Interview and new book]