From Laura Ingalls Wilder’s prairie stories to R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poetry, these books share the joys and challenges of a writer’s life and may inspire children to follow a similar path.
“This Side of Wild” by Gary Paulsen, 2015, Simon & Schuster, 120 pages, ages 9-11.
Gary Paulsen is most at home in the wilderness and writing about nature, as fans of Brian’s saga, including award winning “Hatchet”, can attest to. In “This Side of Wild”, Paulsen describes the many lessons animals and nature continue to teach him, and the joy of weaving these lessons into stories for middle-grade children.
“Been There, Done That: Writing Stories from Real Life” edited by Mike Winchell, 2015, Grosset & Dunlap, 279 pages, ages 9-12.
When given the chance to communicate with authors, children often ask, “Where do you get your ideas?”, often thinking that good ideas magically appear. Writers know that the best ideas come from seemingly ordinary events melded together with a unique perspective. “Been There, Done That” presents the work of 21 children’s authors as they describe real life experiences and how these lead to story ideas. Editor Mike Winchell hopes the book will inspire young writers to look to their own lives for inspiration.
“Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder” by Yona Zeldis McDonough, Illustrated by Jennifer Thermes, 2014, 156 pages, ages 8-11.
Beloved author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, created the fictional “Little House” stories based on her pioneer family and their life during the 1800’s. Wilder actually began writing the books at the age of 61 and continued authoring the series for the next 11 years at her home in Mansfield, Missouri. This biography presents Laura’s life through straightforward text and charming illustrations, appealing to the age of children who initially enjoy reading or listening to the “Little House” Books. End materials include quotes from Ingalls, games, crafts, and recipes from Laura’s childhood.
“A Home for Mr. Emerson” by Barbara Kerley, Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, 2014, Scholastic Press, ages 8-12.
American author, Ralph Waldo Emerson, encourage people of the 19th century to “look at the world with new eyes”, rather than blindly following the rules and customs of Europe. Themes of self-reliance, independence, and community are woven into his essays, poems, and speeches. In this picture book, author Barbara Kerley describes Emerson’s beloved home as a place where his writing ideas could flow and be shared with others. Quotes from Emerson are threaded throughout the clear narrative and brightly colored illustrations depict Emerson’s value of family, friends, and learning.
“The World Within: A Novel of Emily Brontë” by Jane Eagland, 2015, Arthur A. Levine Books, 326 pages, ages 11 and up.
The childhood of famous novelist, Emily Brontë, is brought to readers through this descriptive children’s novel. Little is actually know about Brontë’s childhood, so author, Jane Eagland, has taken creative liberties to create a childhood that reflects what is known about the Brontë family and life during the 1800’s in England. Emily is portrayed as a strong-willed and shy girl who prefers the company of family and life at home to being away at school. Bramwell, her brother, and Charlotte and Anne, her sisters, often while away the hours together writing stories, poems, and plays, some of which serve as inspiration to Emily’s famous novel, “Wuthering Heights”.
“It Came from Ohio!: My Life as a Writer” by R. L. Stine, with Joe Arthur and Susan Lurie, 2015, Scholastic, 152 pages, ages 8-12.
R. L. Stine, a self-proclaimed nerd as a kid, has published over 330 books, sold over 400 million copies and is wildly popular among children who enjoy the thrills of a scary story. The Fear Streets (started in 1989) and Goosebumps (started in 1992) series have earned Stine the nickname “ the Steven King of children’s literature”. In “It Came from Ohio!”, Stine describes his childhood pastime of telling scary bedtime stories to his younger brother and creating humorous magazines to share with his friends. He goes on to describe challenges he faced as an almost starving writer, and successes that led to a Goosebumps television show, videogames, and the recently released feature film starring Jack Black.
Review and image by Elizabeth Dobler