Monday, December 17, 2007

Jerry Spinelli: Powerful Messages

Want to become a famous major league baseball player and play shortstop for the New York Yankees? Jerry Spinelli had the same dream growing up as a kid in Norristown, Pennsylvania playing with his brother Bill. He was born in 1941, soon developing these dreams of aspiration as any kid does growing up. It wasn’t until the age of 16 that he wanted to become a writer. Spinelli attended a high school football game when he decided to write an article for the daily newspaper. Little did he know it would get posted the next day and that he would someday become a famous writer among young adult authors. Jerry attended John Hopkins University where he received his masters in creative writing. He wrote 20 books that have since seen published. Spinelli has won a number of awards for the books he has written including the Newberry Medal Award. I had the opportunity to read 2 of his books named Milkweed and Maniac Magee.
There are a number of similarities between these books. Both have a young boy who is lost as an orphan trying to find their place in life. ‘Maniac’ leaves his aunt and uncle to find a new start. He ends up at a town that is racially divided between black and white. Here he is faced with the challenges of adapting to his surroundings. He becomes famous from his talents and changes the way people throughout the town see things. Misha (isn’t his real name; he doesn’t know it), who is from the story Milkweed is truly an amazing character. He finds himself lost in the streets during the holocaust with only the memory of his horse and family. Even at a young age, he uses his talent of size and stealth for the benefit of the people he grew to love surrounding him. He would risk his own life just to help that of another’s. I think these books were designed to give a sense of model behavior to the extreme to children of our youth. Both of these boys had nothing, but still managed to give so much, to so many. They each had special gifts you could say. One was perfect for his environment; small, quick and sleek. The other just had miraculous talents, such as baseball and football, giving him the ability to even beat those who were years older. Maniac was not as dark of a book as Milkweed, mainly because there is the knowing that in the end, the family went to the concentration. There can be many lessons created using these 2 books. During my research, I found a number of sites that had ready-made plans for the taking. Here are a couple: milkweedplans, andManiacplans.
Jerry Spinelli and the characters he creates can be enjoyed by all people. I enjoyed his readings so much that I wasn't afraid to have my dad read them as well. He finished one and said he loved it, and if you knew my father you would understand that that was a huge compliment. I myself cannot wait to begin reading the rest of his 20, I am sure of, masterpieces.

Critical Analysis of Avi texts

Avi has written an abundant amount of books in his long career. Part of his appeal to young readers is his extremely varied range of topics covered in his novels. He has written comedies, historical fiction, fables and many more. It is very difficult to compare and contrast his books because of how different they can be. Sometimes it is like comparing apples to oranges. In the case of The Book Without Words and Don't You Know There's a War On? that problem is exactly the issue. I will begin with a short description of each of the books.

The Book Without Words
This novel is set in the medieval era and the story revolves around an alchemist, his servant and his raven. The action begins with the alchemist using a mysterious Book Without Words to create the stones of life. His servant, Sybil and his raven, Odo come into the information that their Master plans to sacrifice them in order to gain eternal life and they must make a decision as to what plan of action to take in order to survive. The story is in the format of a fable with anthropomorphic characters and a final lesson to be learned.

Don't You Know There's a War On?

This novel is set during World War II and follows the life of a young boy throughout his fifth grade year in school. When he discovers that his favorite teacher is going to be fired, Howie and his best friend, Denny, come up with a plan to save her job. It demonstrates the effect that a really good teacher can have on the lives of his/her students and the important lessons students can learn from life.

Both of these books are wonderfully written and exciting from the first page. The action continues nearly right up to the very end of the book. The books are each set in extremely distinct time periods and the era almost becomes a character in itself because of the deep description provided and the effects on the action the time has. Avi's characterizations are deep and meaningful and he does a wonderful job making the characters real to the reader. Howie and Denny and Sybil, Alfric and Odo are all experiencing a crisis in morality. In The Book Without Words the characters must confront the knowledge that their Master has placed them in a position where they must chose ending his life or losing their own. Sybil struggles with this dilemma in the fact that she wishes to find a way to save herself without betraying her Master. Howie learns of a course of action to take place that he feels is extremely unfair. He and his friend must decide whether or not Miss Gossim's job should be saved. As soon as Howie determines the reason for the firing he decides that it is unjust and he sets out to fix the situation. Both dilemmas are solved by the end of the novels, however, they are solved in very different ways. In Don't You Know There's a War On? the novel is concluded with a successful and happy Howie. However, in The Book Without Words, the action is concluded with the demise of Sybil's Master, the metamorphasis of Odo and the uncertain future of the three main characters. Each of these books seems to be teaching a few lessons one of which is the same. Both books provide the idea that even the underdog can win a battle if the cause is important enough to them. Both Sybil and Howie succeed in their causes. However, The Book Without Words mentions the importance of understanding that life is not eternal and the important aspect of life is not how long it is but the quality of the life led. Don't You Know There's a War On? highlights the importance of friendship and the lasting effect that relationships have on those involved. These books are really wonderful reads that engage the reader right from the beginning and keep your complete attention all the way to the end. They discuss topics that are important for all people young and old to think about including friendship, ethics, and mortality. These books left me wanting more and led me right to some of Avi's fantastic other titles like Midnight Magic, Crispin: The Cross of Lead and The Man Who Was Poe.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Critical Analysis of Books by Mary Pope Osborne

Mary Pope Osborne’s vivid imagination inspires her to write these wonderful adventures. She gains inspiration from her surroundings and turns everyday experiences into adventures for children. The Spider Kane mysteries are a mini-series consisting of two books full of adventure, suspense, kidnappings, and the insect world. In the Spider Kane mysteries Osborne brings insects to life by giving them a human touch.

The first book “Spider Kane and the Mystery Under the May-Apple” takes you on an adventure to solve the case of a missing butterfly. Leon, a butterfly, discovers that his new girlfriend Mimi has vanished. With the advice of his ladybug friends he contacts Spider Kane, the brilliant detective of the insect world. With the help of Spider Kane, Leon and his lady bug friends discover Mimi was kidnapped and work together to solve the mystery of Mimi’s secretive past and her kidnapping.

The next adventure Osborne takes you on is called “Spider Kane and the Mystery at Jumbo Nightcrawler’s.” Here you’ll discover more than one mystery blended into one. This exciting adventure is full of twists and turns as Spider Kane’s friends are kidnapped, ant’s gold is stolen, and disguised bugs surround them. It is not up to Spider Kane and his comrade Leon to solve the case and bring their friends home safely.
These two books are very similar because for one is the continuation of the other. Osborne has done an exceptional job writing these two mysteries. They both start off with one of the main characters, Leon, in a dilemma. Once he has realized this is a huge problem Leon goes to an expert, Spider Kane. In both books you can see the problem is explained in the beginning followed by details and clues helping you solve the case. Children can really enjoy reading while trying to solve the case before Spider Kane does. Osborne leaves clever clues for the reader to follow which makes both these books very exciting. Details are cared for in both books. Having read one after the other I saw that little details were attended to. Things like colors of people dresses, jewelry, feelings and emotions were all maintained in the sequel.

Ultimately there aren’t many differences because Osborne has maintained the same formula she used for the first one. The only difference would be the second book is more complex than the first. The mystery isn’t one fold like the first book there are many components to the second mystery. Aside from it’s complexity there are no major differences between the two books. I believe their similarity is a wonderful plus point to this series. The style is maintained throughout both books allowing the second to truly be a sequel. Unlike many other authors whose books in a series differs from one another Osborne is an expert series writers and is able to maintain the similarities.
Both books are written in a exceptional manner and are a great read. They were very entertaining and engross the reader. They're definitely good mysteries that children would take the utmost joy in reading and solving. Personally I enjoyed the second book much better than the first because of the thrill and excitement posted in the second one. The first one is a bit slow and more of an introduction to the characters. Whereas the second book is a marvelously written and full of twists and turns as any mystery should be. Overall I think Osborne has done a terrific job with these books as she does with her Magic Tree House books. Her creative imagination truly does take you on a unique trail with these books.
Biography of Mary Pope Osborne

Mary Pope Osborne is the creator/writer of Magic Tree house, Magic Tree House Merlin Missions, Magic Tree House Research Guides, Spider Kane Mysteries, Tales from the Odyssey and many other independent books. This popular author of the the Magic Tree House series, Mary Pope Osborne’s life is quite an adventure just like her books. By the age of fifteen she had moved seven times due to her father's military career. "Moving was never traumatic for me, but staying in one place was" said Osborne in regards to her constant moving as a child. She enjoyed moving and learning about new places. For her each move was an adventure that took her into another world. Osborne describes her childhood as being rich due to her imagination. Her and brothers would spend hours playing make believe games using their imagination. This attachment to imagination and creativity isn't something Osborne gained as an adult and children’s author rather something that developed in her as a child.

After graduating from college Osborne decided to do what she loved, travel. She spend some times living in a cave in Crete followed by her extensive travel to about 11 Asian countries. Her trip came to a sudden stop when she nearly lost her life in Katmandu. Osborne was hospitalized due to blood poising and returned to America after some treatment. After recovering from this unfortunate illness Osborne continued her journey and began experimenting with different careers. She's worked as a waitress, window dresser, medical assistant, travel consultant, bartender, acting teacher, and an editor for children's magazine. In between her career search Osborne met and married Will Osborne. The couple moved to New York City but Mary was still unsure about her career path in life. She didn’t know what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. It wasn't until one day while writing in her journal she began to write a story about a young girl in the South much like herself as a child. She began formulating an exciting story that later became her first novel called Run, Run Fast as You Can. From the day she began writing that story she’s never stopped. Writing that novel led her to realized that what she wanted to for the rest of her life was become a children’s author.

Mary Pope Osborne is one of the most popular children’s writers of our time. She explained at a conference that she had planned to write only about four books to the Magic Tree House series but when children wrote her letters asking for her to write more books and suggesting ideas for her future books she was overcome with happiness and continued her series. Today the Magic Tree House series has over
30 books. In all Osborne has written about 80 books in the past 24 years as an author.

Osborne believes in encouraging children’s creativity and imagination. She is dedicated to keeping her books such that they spark imagination amongst children. This is why her and her husband refuse to turn this series into a television show or movies. They believe Osborne’s books are a means of taking children on imaginary worlds. Using their creativity they’ve created a Magic Tree House musical which continues to spark children’s imagination and is a creative addition to the Magic Tree House family.

Osborne’s success came mostly from the Magic Tree House series but she feels she enjoyed writing the Spider Kane mysteries the most. In an attempt to overcome her fear of spiders Osborne began to research the insect and found herself standing in the middle of an idea for another series. She says she enjoyed working on these books a lot because they take you into the lives of insects who are as human as you and I are.

Her biggest support in her adventures is her husband and partner Will Osborne. She gets inspiration from everything around her. Before drafting her stories each new topic is researched intensely.
Osborne claims that about 70% of her efforts go into research and writing is only about 30%. Her love for adventures, imagination and writing helps her continue her journey as an author and contributes new ideas for new books.

For more information about Mary Pope Osborne Visit her
website. For additional information about how Osborne writes you can view this short clip and learn how she spends her days writing and researching. The internet has alot of information about this talanted writer including biographies, interviews, videos, etc...

Life and Times of Avi

Avi is an acclaimed and prolific writer for young children. He has written over 60 books in numerous different genres for different ages and ability levels. His life began in Brooklyn, New York in 1937 along with his twin sister, Emily. He was born Edward Irving Wortis and got the name Avi from his twins' attempts at pronouncing his name. Eventually, it would become his pen name and the only name he would use. Avi's father was a doctor and his mother a social worker and the entire family was very reading and writing centered. As a young student, Avi was talented in science and terrible in writing. His teachers would write on his papers that his writing was sloppy and unedited and that he should invest more time and care in his work. In interviews, Avi has discussed this problem which was later determined to be symptoms of dyslexia and the effect that the disability had on his thoughts about writing as a child. Even though Avi dealt with such a difficult disability he still loved and appreciated reading and writing. For almost every birthday and holiday Avi would receive books which he would rapidly devour and use to improve his own writing. Avi has been quoted as saying that, "I believe reading is the key to writing. The more you read, the better your writing can be." Avi's love of reading served him well as he was a shy child without much interest in sports. When he was a high school senior he made the decision to become a writer and he has given a few different reasons for this. He says that his desire to write began because writing was important to his friends, family and school and eventually it became important to him. He also wanted to prove that he could write even with his disability. As Avi grew older his love for writing grew as well. Though he did not take many english courses in college he did continue writing and even entered playwriting contests, one of which he won. His play was published and the University of Wisconson staged a production of it, so at just twenty-two years old Avi was a published playwright and on his way to becoming a writer. Avi had intended to become a playwright in Los Angeles until his first son, Shaun was born and Avi's path changed. Avi was approached by a friend to illustrate one of her children's books. His illustrations put him in contact with a publisher for whom he compiled bedtime stories he had told his son, into a book. The book, Things That Sometimes Happen was published in 1970, fifteen years after Avi had decided to become a writer and it marked the end of his days as a playwright and the beginning of his many years as an author for young people. Throughout his career Avi has met and interacted with many other authors including Jerry Spinelli, Betty Miles, and Natalie Babbitt. He was also the basis for the character Irvy in Betty Bao Lord's book In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. In 1991, Avi's book The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle was named a Newberry Honor Book and the next year Nothing but the Truth was named as well. In 2003, Avi's fiftieth book, Crispin: The Cross of Lead was awarded the Newberry Medal. Avi has continued writing books for young people with his most recent book The Traitor's Gate being published in May of 2007. Avi also spends his time, when he is not at home in Denver, Colorado with his family, touring schools to talk to students about reading and writing and to talk to teachers about teaching writing. Visit his website for more information about the books he has written in his career and Reading Rockets for some interview clips.

Critical Analysis of Beverly Cleary

With Beverly Cleary realizing at such a young age that there weren't many relateable and interesting books for children to read, was the start of her journey to becoming one of the most popular authors of children's books for over the past 50 years. Throughout her life she has paid close attention and observed the many different details about the children and events in her neighborhood to use as the material she writes about, normal everyday kids.

Ramona Quimby is probably one of her most well known characters. Some would describe her as impossible or mistake her for being a bad kid. She is just a normal kid that tries to be independent and is curious which sometimes gets her into trouble. Due to the fact she is not perfect, nor tries to be, I think makes her an endearing character. In this book Ramona starts 3rd grade, gets to take the bus to school for the first time, makes new friends and encounters some embarrassing moments at school. Also her family goes through some ups and downs because her father has decided to persue his dream and return to college to become an art teacher. Trying to be supportive of this, Ramona also tries to be responsible and not cause any problems.....but how could her teacher call her a nuisance?

"It's a rare thing to be hailed by audience and critics alike. In Mrs. Cleary's case, everyone seems delighted." -The New York Times (on Ramona Quimby Age 8)

Dear Mr. Henshaw is about a character named Leigh Botts in the 6th grade that writes to his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw. It starts out as a school project but the unexpected response from Mr. Henshaw ends up teaching Leigh to learn how to deal with his feelings about the absence of his father, divorcing parents, being the new kid and a lunch bag thief, by writing.

"A first-rate, poignant story...a lovely, well crafted, three dimensional work." - The New York Times

The tones of both of these books are very different. Although Ramona deals with difficult situations such as embarrassing herself in front of the school by cracking an egg on her head or feeling hurt because she overhears her teacher calling her a nuisance, it is written lightheartedly. Despite these being important situations with Ramona, it seems that in the end everything always works out and has a happy ending. Leigh deals with very serious matters that children deal more and more with everyday now. His parents are divorcing and on top of that he is starting a new school. It's not enough that he already feels like he didn't see his dad that often because he's a cross country truck driver but now it's even less because he doesn't even live there anymore. There is a lot of emotions in this book and Leigh's story doesn't have a happy ending so to speak. You read of his continuous feelings of hurt by his dad leaving and not bothering to contact Leigh very often, acting like he doesn't care. Dear Mr. Henshaw is a sad read, not like that of Ramona Quimby Age 8 but after reading I can definitely understand why it won the John Newbery Medal.

At first glance and reading the back cover of these books one might think they were written by different authors as well. However, one thing both books do have in common is the underlying theme, growing up is difficult. This topic and many others that occur throughout her books makes her books relatable and very appealing to young readers. Although these two characters encounter very different things they both deal with feelings of hurt, disappointment and the stages of growing up. These books provide two very different points of view on how children can deal with problems but it is good because that would appeal to a wide range of readers. I think it might be challenging for Dear Mr. Henshaw to appeal to girls and vice versa but the theme could invite any reader to enjoy both books.

Another similarity between these two books would be the comedic tone present. Ramona is a very entertaining character that gets herself into blunders and deals with things with a very matter of fact attitude. The following are excerpts from both books to give an example of the comedic tone present in each.

Ramona Quimby Age 8-Ramona brought what she thought was a hard boiled egg in her lunch for school.
"There were a number of ways of cracking eggs. The most popular, and the real reason for bringing an egg to school, was knocking the egg against one's head. She took a firm hold on her egg, waited until everyone at her table was watching, and whack-she found herself with a handful of crumbled shell and something cool and slimy running down her face. Her egg was raw."

Dear Mr. Henshaw-Leigh hasn't heard back from the author he wrote to for a school assignment and impatiently writes another one.
"De Liver
De Letter
De Sooner
De Better
De Later
De Letter
De Madder
I Getter"
- Sincerely, Leigh Botts

Both of these examples demonstrate the consistant humor Beverly Cleary uses regardless of the book. Reading both of these books, you witness Beverly Cleary's wide range of writting skills, which would contribute to the reason why she has such a huge audience. Sadly, I heard in an interview that Beverly Cleary would not be writing any more books but thankfully she has left us with many stories to read for future generations as well.

For some fun try playing a game of Dear Mr. Henshaw Jeopardy at:

Or a trivia game on Ramona:

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Critical Analysis of Judy Blume

Every writer seeks to produce a memorable contribution to literature. In addition to the many challenges presented throughout the
writing process, in some ways, the successful completion of a piece of literature is the smallest in a series of feats. Writers are then met with the challenges of sustaining career longevity while creating fresh, original storylines and characters with each new endeavor. Judy Blume is no exception to this challenge. What is remarkable, however, is the fluidity Blume employs when approaching a new book, with its own distinctive theme.

There are many Judy Blume books to choose from, however two that provide a strong example of this, are Judy's books: Iggie's House and the very well known and lovable, Superfudge. Superfudge, is one in a series of Judy Blume books, following the life and adventures of Peter Hatcher and his younger brother Farley Drexel Hatcher, better known as Fudge. Judy has professed in many an interview that she tends to begin a new book at the pivotal moment that something changes in the life of the central character. In Superfudge, twelve year old Peter Hatcher is introduced to a world of change when his family announces they will be moving from New York city to New Jersey while his father attempts to write a book, and that his mother is pregnant with a new baby sister. Among the changes Peter faces, are those children face with the prospect of a new school and leaving the safety of a known entity, as was Peter's life in New York city. Adding to the mix of an already terrifying situation for Peter Hatcher, are the ongoing antics of his brother, Fudge, as he struggles to acclimate to family changes and a new environment. Peter finds himself having less time to devote to his own struggles, as most of the time, he winds up having to rescue Fudge from the newest mess he has made, and explain the ins and outs of change to his little brother.

Superfudge, is an example of one of Judy Blume's most recognized abilities to see the world of a child through a child's eyes. By means of this ability, she is able to speak to the issues children face as central and of utmost importance, as well as to reflect on how the decisions sometimes deemed trivial by adults, can deeply affect the lives of children. One of the ways she achieves this, is by writing in a manner reflective of everyday speech, specifically children's speech, and setting the stage of action in each chapter around everyday 'stuff', as she does in the first scene from Superfudge:

Life was going along okay when my mother and father dropped the news. Bam! Just like that!

From there, the reactions of the central character, Peter, are much as any child's would be, instead of excitement, he responds to the news of a new baby, with complete disdain. For the the few issues that are presented in Superfudge, it is primarily a lighthearted, comedic story about adjusting to change and the upside to new beginnings in life. This comedic lightheartedness is one of the book's many strengths, and also one of its few limitations. For all the laughs the reader will get at Fudge's expense, the storyline occasionally lacks any and all direction, becoming more of a snapshot into the everyday life of a family. For many readers, this serves to be a point of interest, for others, such as myself, it allows all too much room for the reader's interest level to fizzle. Though the chapter lengths in Superfudge assist with shifting the readers interest, the overall length of the book might benefit from being shorter.

Another strength of the book is the ever encourable, Fudge. He is depicted as a fun-loving, quirky and inquisitive menace. However, for as enjoyable as the messes Fudge makes are to read, there are some instances where the wrong message could be conveyed to young readers. Blume devotes an entire chapter to Fudge's first introduction to kindergarten and and his kindergarten teacher. The title of the chapter is: Farley Drexel Meets Rat Face. From the title alone, it is clear that Fudge's first impressions of his teacher are not favorable, and in the chapter itself, Fudge acts out when placed in a foreign situation. His brother, Peter, is brought in to intervene and remedy the situation. In an effort to avoid his teacher, Fudge has perched himself above the shelves of the cubby holes in his classroom and refuses to come down until his demands are met. To accomplish the task of getting Fudge down, this chapter concludes with the transferring of Fudge to another classroom where he might have full reign, per his demands.

Fudge climbed down to the top of the cubbies, and Mr. Green reached up and lifted him the rest of the way down.

"Good-bye, Farley Drexel," Mrs. Hildebrandt said.

"Good-bye, Rat Face," Fudge said to her.

I gave him an elbow and whispered,"You don't go around calling teachers Rat Face."

"Not even if they have one?" he asked.

"Not even then." I said.

Clearly, as a reader can extrapulate through this chapter, this scene is particularly comedic in nature, but not necessarily the best of examples as to how to respect adults or behave in new social situations. Such, are examples were the book's very strengths also serve as its primary weaknesses. The book is effectively designed with the purpose to engage children in a playful read with which they can relate on an everyday level. The book does not strive to make a political statement, preach morality, or establish a code of ethics. It is quite simply a book about 'being', and Judy Blume does 'being' very well.

An interesting meeting would take place between the character, Fudge and Winnifred Barringer, the central character in Judy Blume's novel Iggie's House. In contrast to Superfudge, Iggie's House is a book about what happens when just 'being' is no longer simple, and the challenges overcome the everyday. Judy Blume successfully depicts the most ordinary, sheltered suburban neighborhood. The house on Grove Street belonged to Winnie's best friend Iggie, and was a place of refuge for Winnie, one where she could explore her own ideas and be heard as an adult. Determined to keep the legacy of Iggie's house alive, she sets her sights on welcoming and befriending the Garbers, the new family set to move in. The Garbers are the first black family to settle into an all white neighborhood, and Winnie discovers she is one of the only people eager to welcome them. Blume began writing Iggie's House in the late 1960's when racial tensions were high and cites that her own naivety on the issue was similar to that which she creates in Winnie.

In contrast to the flow of the book Superfudge, Iggie's House is a book with a resonating plot and a very distinct path down which it takes its readers. The book is a strong exploration of both sides of the racial coin, through the heartfelt experiences of children as opposed to the more prevalent issues involving adults at the time. Every neighborhood has the characteristics of Grove Street and into every neighborhood a little Mrs. Landon must fall. Mrs. Landon, better known to Winnie as Germs Incorporated, is the character Blume creates to encapsulate the role of ring master. Each neighborhood has its most vocal leader, and in this case, Mrs. Landon has always been the neighborhood's most outspoken proponent for change. However, as the book evolves, it becomes clear to the reader that the change Mrs. Landon hopes to make is one much like the sign she chooses to nail to the Garber's lawn that reads: Go back where you belong. We don't want your kind around here!

The dialogue used throughout the course of the book is an effective blend of a child's voice, as manifested through Winifred, that evolves and matures as Winifred begins to take in the various experiences she encounters through befriending the Garbers. The scene selection is also concise and effective, moving the reader through a series of events from introduction and friendship to later rifts and turmoil surrounding the choice to make a stand. Young readers can identify with the emotions Winnie experiences and through her, be guided towards peaceful and open minded resolutions. In contrast to the journey of Superfudge, Blume takes a stand in Iggie's House and emphasizes human compassion and understanding as most important.

Glenn read the sign in a hoarse and whispery voice, as if he needed to say it out loud to believe that it was real.


Mr. Garber grabbed the sign, yanked it out of the ground and broke it in half over his knee. Winnie felt her cheeks burning. She was shaking all over. "We're not all like that," she heard a small voice say. "We're not...we're not...we're not." She realized the voice as her own and that she was crying. She turned and fled, tears streaming down her face.

The success of this book, is its ability to bring an issue as complex as racial equality, to the forefront in a way that pertains to us all. There exists an innately universal quality to the sentiment expressed by Winnie in this scene. At one time or another, most people have encountered some type of situation in which they felt much like Winnie does here. The limited weakness the book encounters at certain turns is the loss of the storyline to the enormity of the issue of race. At various points, it becomes difficult to separate the story of a girl named Winnie and her new friends the Garbers, or to identify an alternate theme, from that of the central one taking place about race.

Despite the weighty issue at the heart of Iggie's House, the book is a welcomed departure from the typical book one has come to expect of Judy Blume. The same characteristics of comedic playfulness set against a similar theme of change and new friendships arise in Iggie's House as they do in Superfudge. Both books begin at a very pivotal juncture in a child's life---change. The central characters in both are strong willed, eclectic, and witty individuals struggling to adapt themselves to their world(s) and the other way around. Judy Blume takes her readers on two very unique journeys, each most definitely worth the trip.

Biography of Beverly Cleary

Known as "A girl from Yamhill," reading about Beverly Cleary's life you might think it was one of her characters in a book. She has an interesting yet ironic story that many people can appreciate and relate to. Born in 1916, she grew up on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon. This town was so small it had no library and her mother arranged with the State Library to have books sent to them. Her mother acted as the local librarian and used a room on the second floor of the local bank as the library. When Beverly was six she moved to Portland and attended her first grammar school. However because she came from such a small farming community, she didn't have any schooling experience and found it hard to adjust to attending a classroom with 40 other students. Here she was put into a low reading circle and that is one of her reasons for writing books, to sympathize with struggling readers. She found the books available at that time didn't relate to children where she lived and often were only about English or Pioneer children. She wanted to read books about children like that in her neighborhood and everyday experiences. Once she got over her difficulty of reading by the 3rd grade, books became her passion. The book that really turned things around for her was The Dutch Twins, by Lucy Fitch Perkins. This is when she really learned to read for enjoyment but realized there still was a need for books about every day circumstances and children like those in her neighborhood.

With her dreams about becoming a writer, it was only fitting that she choose to attend college in California where many go to fulfill their dreams as well. As a young women "who was sure where she wanted to go but did not know if she could find the money to get there," she ended up attending a junior college in Ontario, California where she got her Associate of Arts degree. She continued on to graduate from the University of California at Berkeley with a Bachelor's of Arts degree in English. She then continued to pursue her dream and got a degree in librarianship at the University of Washington in Seattle. After completing this degree she got her first full time job as a librarian and ran into students that also were searching for the kind of books she was as a child. That prompted her to write her first book Henry Huggins, where the character of Ramona Quimby made a debut.

When asked in an interview what prompted her to write the character of Ramona Quimby she replied by saying it was accidental because when writing the Henry book, it occurred to her that all the children appeared to be only children, so she added a little sister. She had heard someone yelling the name Ramona out the window and that's how it started. Then she was inspired by a little girl that lived near Cleary who was considered rather impossible. Cleary has a memory of the little girl coming home from the grocery store and she has a pound of butter, which she had opened and was just eating it. Ramona appeals to many young readers because she is a normal and an imperfect everyday kid and according to Cleary doesn't learn to be a better girl.

She has won numerous awards for her books as well as received 35 state awards based directly on reader votes. She receives thousands of letters from her readers every year and that is how her Newbery Medal winner, Dear Mr. Henshaw was created. She received two letters from little boys, who didn't know one another, asking her to write about a boy whose parents were divorced and she decided to give it a try. Writing about a young boy going through his parents divorce, is another example of how Beverly Cleary writes about topics that relates to her readers and reaches such a large audience. Her books are available in over twenty countries and in fourteen different languages.

In honor on Beverly's birthday this year they choose her birthday to celebrate national D.E.A.R day.

Friday, December 14, 2007

But I HATE History!!!

Do you dread discussing the Civil War in Social Studies class? Do you detest having to memorize the numerous dates, eras, and periods of various events throughout our history? Do you sit around wondering who had the hair-brained idea to name the Great Depression after the word "great", when it wasn't really great at all?! If you share in my loathing of all things "history", then have I got an author for you!

Patricia McKissack. That's her name. Plain and simply an author that will change your mind about what you think about history.

Patricia McKissack will make history come alive for you! This Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award winning author does this by writing about real historic events, but as seen through the eyes of fictional characters. This genre is called historical fiction. When reading historical fiction, we get to walk alongside the main character through any trials and tribulations they may face, which is much different than just reading about historical events and the infamous names of those who took part in them.

Patricia McKissack was born Patricia L'Ann Carwell in the southern town of Smyrna, Tennessee on August 9, 1944. Her family moved North to St. Louis, Missouri shortly after her birth, which is where she spent the early part of her growing-up years. When Patricia was twelve, she moved back to Tennessee and developed a very close friendship with a boy named Fredrick McKissack who, many years later, would become her husband. Patricia and Fredrick attended Tennessee State University in Nashville together, and married the same year that Patricia graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1964. Patricia enjoyed a career as a teacher for several years before returning to St. Louis, now a mother of three, with her husband and sons to further her education at Webster University. She received her Masters in Early Childhood Literature and Media Programming in 1975. Patricia then switched careers and became an editor of children's books. She liked what she did for a living, but she wanted something more. Patricia's husband Fredrick knew this about his wife, so one day, as the two of them sat alone in their car, he asked her: "If you could do anything you wanted in this whole wide world for the rest of your life, what would you do?". Patricia answered: "Write books." And from that point on, with the help of her husband, that is exactly what she did. Patricia quit her editing job and her husband Fredrick quit his job as an engineer in order to pursue a writing partnership that has produced nearly 100 books....and counting!

Books with an African-American Focus

One of the primary reasons that Patricia desired to become an author of children's literature was because she felt that there was such a limited amount of material available to children that discussed the African American culture or their contributions to society. Both she and her husband, who grew up during the Civil Rights Era, sought "to enlighten, to change attitudes, to set goals - to build bridges with books." Though Patricia has relied on her own memories for some of the material of her books, she also thoroughly researches her books before writing them so that the material will be as authentic as possible. For example, with her book Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack traveled to Virginia for their research of a real plantation for this story that is set on an 1859 Virginia plantation. Patricia has actually seen the slave quarters that she describes in the book, and because of this, it becomes all the more "real" to the reader as well. Before writing fictional books, Patricia wrote mostly non-fiction books and biographies. She often tackled "controversial topics, such as racism", but did so in a way that invited all readers, regardless of their cultural background, to read (and to learn). And though her original goal was to produce writing that introduced children to "African and African American history and historical figures", Patricia has since branched out to writing the accounts of some Native-American tribes, as well as also writing about the Holocaust.

Patricia McKissack really is an author worth getting to know. Following this bio will be a critical analysis of two books that I have selected: Run Away Home and A Friendship for Today.

Click here to visit Patricia and Fredrick McKissack's Biography Writer's Workshop. This site will not only teach you how to research and write a biography, but will show you how to publish it!

Critical Analysis: Patricia McKissack

African American families; feelings of hope and unity; racial prejudice; characters who overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles -- these are some of the themes you will find in almost any given novel by Patricia McKissack. Written primarily for audiences ages 10-14 years old, Patricia develops her characters so that readers will be able to relate to them almost as well as they might relate to a friend at school. You will root for these characters along every step of their journey, and in doing so, you will learn the true meaning of perseverance and self-pride -- attributes that all children should have in bounty.

A Tale of Two Books
The following is an analysis of two of Ms. McKissack's books: Run Away Home, published in 1997, and A Friendship for Today, published ten years later in 2007. Though each book is set in a different time period, they both center around a main character who is preteen and female. In Run Away Home, the story takes place in rural Alabama, 1888. The main themes in this book are respect for cultural differences, family unity and perseverance. McKissack pulls from her own African American and Native American ancestry to write a book that discusses the little-known relationship between these two cultures during a period in time when both cultures were being treated deplorably by the racist, Southern-white majority. In Run Away Home, we meet Sarah Crossman, who is an eleven-year old only child who adores her parents, her simple lifestyle, and her dog Buster. However, Sarah gets much more than she bargained for when she and her mother rescue a very sick runaway Apache boy whom Sarah had witnessed escaping from the train that runs through her town. What follows is a heartwarming story about how two children from very different cultures learn to respect and trust one another so deeply, despite their differences, that they become brother and sister in all ways other than blood. Though this is the human aspect of McKissack's novel, she is meanwhile teaching her readers about the important historical events that were occurring during this time period. African Americans had only recently been freed in the South, and most faced danger and death at almost every turn. The white Supremacist group, Knights of the Southern Order, was terrorizing men who attempted to vote, threatening families who were trying to better themselves financially, and burning down the homes of African Americans who tried to stand up against them. Even though this book deals with a lot of painful history, it is important that these stories still be told. McKissack addresses the issues eloquently by telling the story through the eyes of an innocent child.

In A Friendship for Today, the setting is now Kirkland, Missouri, "a town just outside of St. Louis" in 1954. The Supreme Court has just ordered that all schools be desegregated based on the landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education. The major themes in this book are personal character, friendship, and racial prejudice. In this novel, the main character is now twelve-year-old Rosemary Patterson. The story begins with Rosemary and her best friend J.J. having just completed the fifth grade at an all-black school that will be closing its doors forever. Of their whole class, only Rosemary and J.J. will be attending the brand new Robertson Elementary School. Though the idea of going to an all-white school next year is very scary to Rosemary, she feels a lot better because she will be doing it right alongside her best friend in the whole wide world. Then tragedy strikes, forcing Rosemary to desegregate Robertson all by herself! Patricia McKissack artfully tells the story of a young girl who has an incredible responsibility placed upon her shoulders -- to change history. Along with historical events, this book (similar to Run Away Home) deals with several relationship themes as well. Rosemary faces the imminent divorce of her parents and feels as though her father no longer loves her. Rosemary worries about betraying her best friend J.J. by developing new friendships with some of the "white girls" at school. Life has suddenly gotten difficult for a young girl to whom most things, like the A's on her report cards and beating even the fastest boys in a race, has always come easy. Readers take Rosemary's journey of hardship and self-discovery right along with her. We feel her discomfort from being assigned to a building full of people who are different from her, many of whom don't want her there at all. We feel her anger and frustration when people call Rosemary by racial slurs. We feel her pride when she displays courage in both her words and actions. This book is about protecting one's own good character by treating everyone with respect, regardless of whether or not they show the same in return.

There are several similarities and differences that can be addressed with regard to each of the described novels. Both books focus on characters who have a strong sense of who they are, which certainly helps them in overcoming the many obstacles they have to face. These characters are also very open-minded, allowing them to form strong, supportive bonds with people who they'd considered "different" from themselves, only to discover that they weren't so different after all. Also contained in both books is a strong connection to African American culture, such as through the frequent discussion of superstition -- a common theme found in African American literature, and language that reflects the distinct vernacular of the particular time and place described within each novel. Both of these novels put a strong emphasis onto character description, making it easy for readers to visualize the different players within each of the stories. There are also distinct differences between the two novels. One such difference would be that of the social class of the main character. In Run Away Home, Sarah's family is very poor; they are barely able to make ends meet and are in danger of losing their farm. After experiencing a failed crop, much of the plot involves Papa trying to save the family home from being taken over by the racist whites in town. In A Friendship for Today, however, Rosemary's family could be described as middle class. They live in a nice home; both of Rosemary's parents are self-employed and running successful businesses. There is no discussion of financial hardship within Rosemary's family throughout the book. Despite such class differences, though, many of the issues faced by each of the main characters are similar: racial discrimination, fear for safety, and injustice. Another noteable difference between the two novels is the amount of power that each of the main characters realistically has to fight against the unfair treatment they are experiencing. In Run Away Home, Sarah and her family have incredible limitations placed upon what they can say and do to speak out, because doing so might cause the family to be physically hurt or killed. In A Friendship for Today, Rosemary has a great deal more freedom to speak up for herself without fearing for her life, as the times are much different. When discussing these differences, it becomes obvious that author Patricia McKissack has put an enormous amount of effort into researching the historical materal that is the basis of her fictional novels. It is extremely important to her that she accurately reflect the true attitudes and realistic dangers for African Americans during those respective time periods.

Each of these novels will provide readers some insight into what it might have been like to live during these time periods. Much like a movie, we can live vicariously through these characters to see what they saw and feel how they felt. Only the very best authors can do that, and Patricia McKissack is certainly one of those authors! Now...let's get to reading!

* For Some Extra Fun: After reading some of Patricia McKissack's books, test your knowledge about the author herself, and about some of the material from her many novels by clicking on this link.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Critical Analysis of Lauren Child

What initially drew me to Lauren Child's books was definitely her signature collage style artwork and mesmerizing illustrations. They captivated me from the moment I opened the book. Then I was introduced to the main characters, Charlie and Lola. These endearing characters create an instant connection with their readers because they are such real, funny, and lovable kids.

But Excuse Me That is My Book

Have you ever looked forward to something so much only to realize it is all sold out or no longer available? At the library, Lola just HAS to get Beetles, Bugs , and Butterflies, her most favorite book in the whole world. She looks and looks and is left to discover the unthinkable- it's not there! Lola is beside herself. How could this happen? Beetles, Bugs, and Butterflies is Lola's book and more importantly, what does she do now? In a hysterically funny and thoughtful way, Charlie helps his little sister Lola discover that there are many more wonderful books just waiting for Lola to discover at the library. After all, what are big brothers for?

Snow Is My Favorite and My Best

Can your really have to much of a good thing? In Snow Is My Favorite and My Best, Lola learns this lesson first hand, along with a little help from her big brother, Charlie. When the weatherman predicts snow, Lola absolutely cannot wait. Snow means sledding, and snow angels, and snow doggies, and hot chocolate. Snow is Lola's favorite thing. She wonders, "wouldn't it be great to have snow all the time?"

In Snow Is My Favorite and My Best you'll join Charlie and Lola in the Arctic and Antarctic as they meet some new furry friends. Charlie helps Lola discover that while snow is very fun, having it all the time might get a bit old.

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book

This is a story about a little boy named Herb. Herb liked reading, but he Loved reading storybooks. He wasn't a very good reader, but it didn't matter because he could tell a lot from the pictures. One night, Herb couldn't find any of his picture books and the only book he managed to find was a book of fairy tales. In this book, Lauren Child takes her own creative and unique twist on the everyday fairy tale.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading each Lauren's books. They are each very similar in that, she incorporates characters that all children can really relate to. Personally, I believe that this a major component to what makes Lauren such a successful writer. She is clearly in tuned with her audience and how to reach them. Just like in the simple fairy tales we all have known and grown up with, Lauren writes about life lessons that can be found in each of her books. Whether the lesson is trying something new, or appreciating what you have, Lauren is undeniably very creative in presenting these idea's through her stories.

What sets Lauren apart from other children's writers is her illustrations. She has become famous for using many different mediums including magazine cuttings, collage material, photography, as well as traditional watercolors. Her illustrations can be considered a work of art.

Lauren Child has revamped traditional children's books. I have very much enjoyed learning about her as an author and getting to know her endearing characters. She is writer you should know!

Biography of Judy Blume

"When I was growing up, I dreamed about becoming a cowgirl, a detective, a spy, a great actress or a ballerina. Not a dentist, like my father, or a homemaker, like my mother---certainly not a writer, although I always loved to read. I didn't know anything about writers. It never occurred to me that they were regular people and that I could grow up to become one, even though I loved to make up stories inside my head."

Today Judy Blume remains one of the most prolific authors of children's books in America. Her books have sold over 75 million copies and translated into twenty different languages. To her writing credit, she holds in excess of ninety awards including the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards award for Lifetime Achievement. It is, perhaps, for this reason, that people find it odd to hear Judy Blume speak of growing up to become a ballerina, and that of all things in her life, becoming a writer, was the ultimate surprise.

Born an initially shy Aquarius with a love for the color purple, Judy Blume grew up in Elizabeth town, New Jersey. As a child, Judy thought nothing of creating intricate characters and stories in her head. She confesses, however, that until the time is uniquely right, she does not introduce a single character or plot line to the page.

My characters live inside my head for a long time before I actually start to write a book about them. Then, they become so real to me I talk about them at the dinner table as if they are real. Some people consider this weird. But my family understands."

Judy went on to attend New York University. It was there that Judy met her first husband John M. Blume, and the two were married in 1959 while Judy was in her junior year of college. She graduated from New York University in 1961 with a B.S. in Education and the couple celebrated with the arrival of their first child, their daughter, Randy. The couple went on to have a son, Lawrence, before divorcing in 1975. Judy's second marraige to Thomas Kitchen a year later also resulted in divorce in 1978. She did not remarry again until 1987, when she met non-fiction writer George Cooper. The couple have three children between them, to include a step-daughter, Amanda.

It was during the years her children were old enough to attend pre-school that Judy began her early attempts at writing, and subsequently publishing. In an effort to ease her frustrations and fears over a rejection period of two years, Judy enrolled in writing courses at New York University. It was during this time, a period stretching over the course of two semesters, that Judy seemed to find her niche. She had some publishing success with magazines, wrote the early drafts of a book that would be known as Iggie's House, and at the age of twenty seven, published her first book: The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo. This marked the beginning of a highly successful career in writing, leading to future publications of over 21 books, an adoringly diverse fan base and a lifetime in the limelight.

To critics and readers alike, a key, contributing attribute that ensures Judy Blume's career longevity, has always been her remarkable authenticity. Whether through the voice of a main character experiencing puberty or referring to her own motivations to begin writing at twenty seven----the result has always been a candid, uncensored snapshot, of her thoughts and emotions. One such example can be seen in this excerpt of an interview with Arts Correspondent Jeffrey Brown in 2004, where Judy's powerful authenticity to say what many experience and few voice, appeared to leave him a bit surprised.

Judy: The voice in my head was the voice of a child, and the voice that came out spontaneously on paper was the voice of a child. And also I think, because at 27, when I really started to write, I felt that life was over for me. I had made my...

Jeffrey Brown: Over for you?

Judy: Over. I had made my choices. I married very young. I had my children, as we did then. And this was going to be it. I didn't know that there were any opportunities around the corner. You know, I mean, it...

Jeffrey Brown: You mean, you felt trapped.

Judy: Well, yes, I guess I did feel trapped. But I thought...looking back, that was the life that interested me, the child that I was when it seemed that everything was still possible, everything was new and exciting, everything was a first.

Jeffrey Brown: And then writing became a way to a new life?

Judy: It certainly did. What I remember when I started to write was how I couldn't wait to get up in the morning to get to my characters. And I just went from book to book to book because gave me my life, again. It gave me my inner life, that connection that I had lost.

It is this connection to children, and to those issues for which she lends a voice, for which she has received widespread praise, and the merciless scrutiny of many a critic. She has been the target of many censorship efforts, aimed largely at restricting child access to books such as: Forever and Are you there God? It's Me Margaret, in which the characters deal with issues related to both puberty and sexuality.

Mark Oppenheimer, in his article for the NY Times Book Review, states his belief that the issues Blume explores in her books, can perhaps hit too close to home in the classroom, and therefore, are preferably avoided altogether. In his article, he recounts his own childhood reading experiences.

"Usually, in the world of children's literature, the same books are successful with readers, teachers and critics: think of E. B. White, Madeleine L'Engle, E. L. Konigsberg or Scott O'Dell. The committees that select the winners of the Newbery Medals are composed of librarians. Their awards are trusted, prompting teachers to assign the books to their fifth graders, who obligingly read and like them. From fourth through sixth grades, I was assigned O'Dell's ''Island of the Blue Dolphins'' three times and was made to read each volume of L'Engle's ''Time'' trilogy. No teacher ever assigned Judy Blume. "

Despite such obstacles, however, Judy Blume has managed to successfully stand the test of time. Today she lends a voice to the National Coalition Against Censorship, working to protect intellectual freedom. The span of Judy Blume's career has honored her with the title(s) of writer, activist, wife, mother, grandmother and inspiration to children everywhere.

"Dear Judy,

My mom never talks about the things young girls think most about. She doesn't know how I feel. I don't know where I stand in the world. I don't know who I am. That's why I read, to find myself." Letter from Elizabeth/Reader/Age 13

Judy Blume: "...And Elizabeth is the reason that I keep writing."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Critical Analysis of Gary Paulsen

Youthful summers away from home doing chores on farms, construction work, truck driver, and two rounds of the Iditarod (the Alaskan dog sled race); provided Gary Paulsen with sufficient material to write powerful stories. Paulsen has a way of intertwining his real life experiences into his novels. Allowing the reader to experience first hand his accounts of self discovery through adventure and conflict.

Lawn Boy is Gary Paulsen’s newest book, published earlier this year. This book is about a teen boy’s needs for a new tire for his bike. He decides to use the old lawnmower that his Grandmother gave him for his birthday to start mowing lawns. Along the way he accepts the help of Arnold, a stockbroker, who takes care of the money and invests it in many things including a prizefighter named Joey Pow. This is when his summer gets interesting.

Harris and Me is also about a young boy and how he spends his summer vacation. In this novel a young boy is sent to live with his aunt and uncle on their farm. This boy has lived many places over the years, due to his parents drinking, but nothing quite like farm life. Harris and his cousin spend their days wrestling pigs, catching mice, and jumping from the barn, and if they can survive they might just make it through the summer.

One way that Paulsen is able to give the reader this first hand experience in both of these novels is that he allows the reader to become the main character. Both of these books, written 13 years apart, have a nameless main character, something unusual for Gary Paulsen and his writing. These nameless characters allows the reader to jump in and experience exactly what that character is going through. At one point during Lawn Boy, the young boy is confronted by a competing lawn care company and Gary writes in such a way that you feel uncomfortable when the situation escalates and Joe Pow confronts them. The same is true in Harris and Me when you feel the excitement when Harris and his cousin are playing war and start to wrestle the pigs. Gary creates these characters that you feel connected to because you are reading it through their point of view.

Even though these two books share commonalities among them, the characters and themes are very different. In Lawn Boy we live the life of a young suburban boy with stable parents who simply spends his time mowing lawns and becomes wealthy because of his investments. In Harris and Me we get to examine the life of a young boy who does not have very stable parents and spends the summer using his imagination to build a bond with his cousin Harris. Although both characters have lived very different lives you are still able to feel for each of them. At points in both novels you find yourself deeply drawn to each character and truly care about them. In Lawn Boy you learn how one young boy invests his money to create a more comfortable life at home. His discovery is one of business sense and the accomplishment of starting something from nothing. The same is not true in Harris and Me, where Harris’s cousin finds a sense of self and is able to form an actual connection with another person. His investment is personal and he finds something inside himself that he has never felt before. This connection is something that is missing in his life and he greatly appreciates what Harris and his family has done for him.

The other major difference that you can pick up through these two novels is the backdrop. In one novel you see how the setting creates the experience and in the other you need to use your imagination to create a life of your own. In Harris and Me you are transported to the country life of living on a farm, and watching movies in the backroom of a bar. Although Harris and his family live comfortably, they have very little experience in life outside of their little community. Lawn Boy takes place in a suburban town where the boy lives comfortable but feels the need to help his parents out by making money to help pay bills. The experiences in Lawn Boy are created by this backdrop of the suburban neighborhood and how a boy can seek adventure and conflict in unexpected places. On the other hand, Harris and Me, examines the same themes but the experiences are true for what life is like in a small farming community. There is no money to be made its about a simple life and using your imagination to create the experiences that will last a lifetime. Both of these boys will remember there completely different summers for the rest of their lives.

Gary Paulsen’s unstable childhood coupled with his sense of adventure have created a great foundation for incredible novels for young readers. As evident in Lawn Boy and Harris and Me you are able to see that sense of real life experiences intertwined with the journey of two young boys to build bonds and find their way. It took many different circumstances for Gary to find his way to writing and he shares that experience with his readers in his novels. If your looking for a wonderful rags to riches story with plenty of humor and colorful characters then Lawn Boy is for you. If you want to experience adventures as wild as boyhood imaginations and a heartwarming story then you might want to read Harris and Me. However, would we even be able to experience either of these novels if it wasn’t for a librarian offering one simple card to a boy who was seeking some warmth?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hey, who is this peanut head little boy?

Well, it is Christopher Paul Curtis,
Winner of both the Newbery Award and the Coretta Scott King Medal.

Hello, I am Christopher Paul Curtis (CPC)

Hey, that peanut head little boy is not Christopher Paul Curtis (CPC)! Ok, yes it is. Here is a better picture where he has the Denzel look going.

He was born in Flint, Michigan, in 1953, the second of five children. His father, Herman E. Curtis, was a chiropodist (foot doctor), and his mother, Leslie, who attended Michigan State, was a homemaker. Due to economical and social issues, Dr. Curtis had to stop practicing medicine, and went to work at the Fisher Body plant. When CPC graduated from high school in 1971 he went to work on the assembly line with him. CPC was accepted at the University of Michigan-Flint, so it was supposed to be just a summer job, but the money was too good. He spent the next thirteen years on the assembly line, hanging eighty-pound car doors on Buicks, going to school at night and working toward his degree part time. CPC mother was so happy when he finally completed his degree, in the year of 2000.

Christopher contributes most of his success to his family, especially his wife Kaysandra. While dating, he used to write her letters about his job, family, and friends, and Kay said, “You’re good at this. You could be a writer.” So while working at Fisher Body, He, along with a coworker ,worked out a plan. Instead of them taking turns hang every other door, they decided each one would hang every door for half an hour while the other took a half-hour break. Christopher used this time to write as a way to escape the noise and boredom of the automobile factory. During this time, he married Kaysandra and they had two children, Steven and Cydney. Ok, it was delightful talking about CPC to all of you. I will provide some more history on this SUPER-DUPER creative and versatile author soon enough. I can only hope that my words do him the justice he deserves.

Kaysandra , Christopher's wife , encouraged him to quit his job at the plant and focus on writing full time. He took full advantage of this situation by approaching his writing as a job. He would wake up early in the morning and go to the children's section of the public library for creative motivation. He would spend hours upon hours reading and writing, which to him was great because he loved to write. CPC was not a prolific typist, so he reach out to his family for assistance. Steven, his son, volunteered to help by typing all his handwritten material--just another example on how Christopher's family provided the required support for him to be successful as an author.

I will discuss 2 of Christopher's books: Bud,Not Buddy, Mr. Chickee's Funny Money. These books are very different,they will provide insight on how CPC is so versatile, imaginative and capturing to readers of all ages. For a closer personal look into CPC, here are 2 interviews conducted by Tavis Smiley and Al Rooker. Enjoy! CPC and Tavis Smiley, Al Book Club