The Center for Children's Books


Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Writers and Writing- November 2010

Selected and annotated by Laura Spradlin


Abel, Jessica. Drawing Words and Writing Pictures: Making Comics, Manga, Graphic Novels, and Beyond. First/Second Roaring Book, 2008. 282 p. Gr. 9 and up.
With exercises, assignments, and lively and knowledgeable comic characters guiding the way, Abel inspires and instructs artists and comic fans to create their own stories and illustrations.

Amato, Mary. Please Write in This Book. Holiday House, 2006. 97 p. Gr. 2-5.
Ms. Wurtz leaves a blank journal in the corner of her classroom for her students to “talk” to each other. The students embrace the project, which also leads to rivalries, rebellion, and eventually camaraderie.

Baskin, Nora Raleigh. Anything but Typical. Simon, 2009. 208 p. Gr. 6-9.
Jason, an autistic boy with few friends and an obsession for literature and writing, spends most of his time in an online writing forum. There, he meets a girl, whom he will meet in person at an upcoming writing conference and must face his struggles with social interaction and feeling “different.”

Borden, Louise. The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey. Houghton, 2005. 72 p. Gr. 3-6.
As the German army approached, Hans and Margaret Rey had to escape their Paris home on bicycles, taking with them only a few belongings that included their children’s book manuscripts. Borden employs primary resources to convey this true and captivating tale.

Campbell, Patty. Robert Cormier: Daring to Disturb the Universe. Delacorte, 2006. 287 p. Gr. 9-12.
Part literary analysis and part biography, Campbell’s book thoroughly examines The Chocolate War author’s life, writing process, and body of work, making it a valuable resource for fans and professionals.

Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. Bella and Bean. Atheneum, 2009. 32 p. 5-7 yrs.
Moody Bella is an eager and obsessive poet, while her best friend Bean is a free-spirited and energetic interruption. The two mice friends eventually find common ground and write poetry together in this richly illustrated tale.

Dubosarsky, Ursula. The Word Snoop. Dial, 2009. 246 p. Gr. 4-9.
Determined to understand the English language, the Word Snoop investigates the history of the language as well as many of the language’s puzzles and peculiarities. This study of words includes games, puzzles, and illustrations that will increase readers’ knowledge and love of language.

Fershleiser, Rachel and Larry Smith. I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six Word Memoirs By Teens Famous and Obscure. HarperTeen, 2009. 192 p. Gr. 7 and up.
Teens were asked to fit their life story into a mere six words, producing brief yet resonant results that cover a wide range of relevant topics. The concept of the book offers an interesting challenge for budding writers to create their own short story.

Fleischman, Sid. Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West. Greenwillow, 2008. 224 p. Gr. 5-9.
Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain, spent seven years drifting through the Wild West, going through different get-rich-quick schemes and writing for a newspaper. While reproducing Clemens’ wit, this biography recounts the author’s littler known adventures and books.

Kerley, Barbara. The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy). Scholastic, 2010. 48 p. Gr. 3-5.
Mark Twain’s daughter, Susy, wants to know more about her father’s life and does so by becoming his biographer. She records her findings in her visually interesting journal, which contains as much humor as factual information.

Krull, Kathleen. The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum. Knopf,
2008. 42 p. Gr. 2-4.
Before writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum dappled in careers ranging from chicken expert to newspaper editor. Detailing the reality of the life of this storyteller, Krull’s book builds an entertaining portrait using facts, relatable stories, and additional resources for Baum fans.

Lange, Karen E. Nevermore: A Photobiography of Edgar Allen Poe. National Geographic, 2009. 64 p. Gr. 5-9.
Haunting writer Edgar Allen Poe made significant contributions to horror, mystery, and science fiction literature. This photobiography includes a historical background of the author, timelines, vibrant illustrations, and additional resources to serve as an introduction for new Poe readers or as a satisfying portrait for Poe enthusiasts.

Levine, Gail Carson. Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly. Collins/HarperCollins, 2006. 16 p. Gr. 4-9.
Offering practical information about creating characters, endings, and finding ideas, the popular children’s and young adult author uses exercises and real-life advice to compel readers to write and be published.

Macy, Sue. Bylines: A Photobiography of Nellie Bly. National Geographic, 2009. 64 p. Gr. 5-9.
Full of visual information, additional resources, and a compelling story, this photobiography covers the bold life of journalist Nellie Bly, who refused to let her gender interfere with her powerful writing skills and knack for reporting gritty news.

Marcus, Leonard S. The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy. Candlewick, 2006. 202 p.
Gr. 7 and up. Leonard asked 13 prestigious fantasy writers about their writing processes, inspiration, or even influence of the times in which they lived. Fans of the popular genre will appreciate Leonard’s thoughtful questions and the advice and anecdotes of the authors.

McDonough, Yona Zeldis. Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott. Ottaviano/Holt, 2009. 48 p. Gr. 3-5.
Warmly illustrated with additional creative resources, this book describes the life of the Little Women author, focusing on how her early life shaped her adult activist efforts and the obstacles she overcame to pursue her passion for writing.

Muntean, Michaela. Do Not Open This Book! Scholastic, 2006. 32 p. Gr. 2-4.
Led by a slightly disgruntled pig, kids follow along on the colorful, fun, and gutsy journey of the writing process.

Nobleman, Marc Tyler. Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. Knopf, 2008. 36 p. Gr. 3-5.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two teenaged outsiders captivated by gizmos, gadgets, and musclemen, created a beloved superhero. Ross Macdonald’s illustrations beautifully highlight this picture-book biography, while more serious information regarding World War II and financial issues can be found in the afterword.

Owen, James. Here, There be Dragons. Simon, 2006. 326 p. Gr. 6-9.
A murder at Oxford University unites three students: Jack, John, and Charles, characters based on the personas of three real fantasy writers who formed a literary group during their time at Oxford. The men are told that they are keepers of an atlas of imaginary lands.

Pietromarchi, Sophie Benini. The Book Book: A Journey Into Bookmaking. Tara, 2007. 131 p. Gr. 4-9.
This unique book about books examines everything that goes into the creation of a book, from the origins of paper to different textures, shapes, and emotions.

Reef, Catherine. E.E. Cummings: A Poet’s Life. Clarion, 2006. 160 p. Gr. 5-9.
Just as much a coming-of-age story as it is a biography, Reef’s account of the poet’s life captures the spirit of Cummings’ unique writing style and his unwillingness to follow society’s conventions in his life and his writing.

Reef, Catherine. Ernest Hemingway: A Writer’s Life. Clarion, 2009. 192 p. Gr. 7-10.
In an honest portrayal of the iconic author Ernest Hemingway, Reef illustrates the close relationship between his far-from-perfect life and his writing.

Rosen, Michael. Dickens: His Work and His World. Candlewick, 2005. 96 p. Gr. 6-9.
As much a portrait of 1800s London as Charles Dickens himself, this illustrated biography illuminates literary themes and societal influences of Dickens’ works while it uses a personal writing style to detail Dickens’ world of characters.

Russell, Ching Yeung. Tofu Quilt. Lee & Low, 2009. 136 p. Gr. 4-6.
At five-years-old, Yeung Ying decides she wants to be a writer and be educated, yet growing up in 1960s China almost strips her of that dream. Written in free verse poems, this novel-length collection uniquely demonstrates a young girl’s determination and journey to become a writer.

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. The Dreamer. Scholastic, 2010. 372 p. Gr. 5-8.
Dreamlike and lyrical, this book follows the life of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda using poetry, beautiful illustrations, and imagination.

Salinger, Michael. Well Defined: Vocabulary in Rhyme. Wordsong/Boyds Mills, 2009. 64 p. Gr. 6-10.
Salinger makes vocabulary words more memorable by using them to create witty and poetic illustrations of the word. While taking away knowledge of several kinds of poetry and a greater vocabulary, readers can use the words and examples to prompt their own writing exercises.

Shields, Charles J. I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee. Holt, 2008. 272 p. Gr. 7-10.
This informative and engaging biography takes a realistic look at the To Kill a Mockingbird author, from rebellious child to withdrawn adult, detailing a life as interesting as her novels.

Todd, Mark. Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine? Houghton, 2006. 112 p. Gr. 7-12.
Encouraging young adults to get away from the world of blogs and back to the zine subculture, Todd supplies readers with resources, technical information, and materials for creating their own unique zines or cooperative projects with friends.

Varmer, Hjørdis. Hans Christian Andersen: His Fairy Tale Life. House of Anansi/Groundwood, 2005. 112 p. Gr. 5-8.
The fairy tale author claims to have lived a fairy tale himself: his story includes poverty, loneliness, and physical and emotional struggles that he overcame to follow his dreams. Varmer’s account is engaging, vividly illustrated, and includes resources for further research.

Watt, Mélanie. Chester’s Back! Kids Can, 2008. 32 p. Gr. 2-4.
Chester the cat takes over a story that author Mélanie Watt is trying to write about him, scribbling out and correcting the narrative as she goes. The author and her enjoyable yet self-absorbed character take part in a fun writing battle.

Winter, Jonah. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude. Atheneum, 2009. 40 p. 8-12 yrs.
Written in a nonsensical manner meant to mirror writer Gertrude Stein’s own unique style, this artistic biography uses bright colors and wild fonts to create the world in which Stein lived.

Yolen, Jane. My Uncle Emily. Philomel, 2009. 32 p. Gr. 2-4.
Based on the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson, Yolen’s free-verse book follows “Uncle” Emily and her nephews as they attempt to figure out a mysterious poem, deal with school bullies, and learn what “truth” means.

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