Archive for February, 2013

Biographies to Inspire Young Writers

Reading is the single most important activity that leads to better writing. In fact, it’s just as crucial as actually writing. Donovan (2012) shares “the human brain is like a sponge. We soak up everything that we observe and experience throughout our lives, and each thing we are exposed to becomes a part of the very fiber of our beings. What we read is no exception.” The writerly life has some distinct characteristics and these characteristics are exemplified in the following biographies for young readers. Young writers may find some inspiration from the following books:

The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss, K. Krull
Before Geisel became Dr. Seuss, he was a boy who “feasted on books and was wild about animals.” This introductory sentence begins a delightful picture-book biography about Geisel that chronicles how he became an innovative writer and illustrator beloved by readers young and old. Born in 1904 to a mother who enjoyed reading and a father who worked at the zoo in Springfield, Massachusetts, Geisel spent his days doodling, hanging out with friends, and generally fooling around. Yet there were also some difficult moments. His German heritage made him a target for teasing at the advent of World War I; he was also a rule breaker and was told by his teacher that he would never get anywhere with his art. The book ends when Geisel, already a published cartoonist, is 22, living in Greenwich Village, and looking forward to a bright future. An extended author’s note details how Geisel became Dr. Seuss and discusses a number of his works. Krull’s pithy text is extended by full-page paintings that glow with the memory of yesteryear and capture the mix of humor and poignancy that comes with trying to fit in. Spot art from Geisel’s own books enlivens the text pages.
Review from Booklist

Boy, R. Dahl
Fans of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda will be entranced by actor Derek Jacobi’s amusing and captivating narration of the formative years of Dahl’s life. Listening to the boyhood antics of this world famous and best-selling author provides a glimpse into where he got some of the plot ideas and inspirations for his most popular books. Dahl’s upbringing was, by any standard, eccentric. In Boy, he details many of his more unusual boyhood adventures, such as almost losing his nose in a car accident, the “Great Mouse Plot” of 1924, and boarding school antics in prose that will leave listeners laughing out loud. Jacobi’s wry delivery is completely unselfconscious, and his pacing is perfect. This audio treat will appeal to Dahl fanatics of all ages.
Review by Cindy Lombardo, Orrville Public Library, OH

Marshfield Dreams: When I Was a Kid, R. Fletcher
The oldest of nine siblings, Ralph Fletcher grew up in the 1950s and 60s in a small town on the Massachusetts coast. He learned the art of storytelling from his big Irish family and went on to an extremely prolific writing career . “Marshfield Dreams,” a collection of autobiographical vignettes, recounts Fletcher’s boyhood from birth to age thirteen, the year that his father got a new job and moved his family to Chicago.
Review by Melissa Donovan, Writing Forward.

Author: A True Story,  H. Lester
Here, the author of Tacky the Penguin and many other children’s books explains how the hurdles and disappointments of being a kid can make some great fodder for books. Helen Lester shares her own childhood struggles, finds humor in her own downfalls and encourages kids to persevere through tough times. She also shares some straightforward writing tips, such as writing down thoughts and ideas and keeping them in a “fizzle box” to open when inspiration strikes.  Author is suitable for very young readers, but this sweet picture book has something to offer for writers of all ages.
Review by Melissa Donovan, Writing Forward

Looking Back: A Book of Memories, Lois Lowry
Lowry begins her autobiography “I would like to introduce you to this book. It has no plot. It is about moments, memories, fragments, falsehoods, and fantasies. It is about things that happened, which caused other things to happen, so that eventually stories emerged.” Children as well as adults often ask Lois Lowry where the ideas for her stories came from. In this fascinating, moving autobiography, the Newbery Medalist answers this and many other questions. Her writing often transports readers into her own world. She explores her rich history through family pictures, memories, and recollections of childhood friends. She details pivotal moments that affected her life, inspired her writing, and that magically evolved into rich and wonderful stories that one is reluctant to put down. Lowry fans, and anyone interested in the writing process, will tremendously enjoy this poignant trip through a remarkable writer’s past.
Review by Amazon. 

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