When I was in school books seemed to just mysteriously appear on library shelves. I thought Dr. Seuss was a brand name, like Dr. Scholl. Nowadays, kids know all about the people who create children’s books, and treasure their favorites. Just like pop stars, authors and illustrators today have their own websites, and sometimes fan sites made in their honor as well. There are lots of places to look for info on your kids’ favorite writers and artists, news on upcoming work, and ways to contact them or get them to visit your school. Now that school’s back in session, you’ll find these sites a great resource for book reports or writer and artist biographies. Some even invite fans to email them – and there’s nothing like getting a message right back from one of your literary stars!
But don’t expect an answer from Jo Rowling; the author of the Harry Potter franchise is too busy working on the final book, as well as her growing family. Still, on Rowling's website there are chatty messages for fans, news clips on Harry-related topics, fun activities and mysteries to solve. It’s a really neat glimpse into the tremendously fertile (and somewhat messy) mind of one of the world’s most popular authors.
Many other author/illustrators spice up their sites with animations, online games, and printable coloring pages. Tomie dePaola (“Strega Nona”), Jan Brett (“The Mitten”), and Dav Pilkey (The Captain Underpants series) are three of my family’s favorites. Others you may have heard of include DB Johnson (“Henry Hikes to Fitchburg,” based on ideas from philosopher Henry David Thoreau) and the team of Vivian Walsh and J.otto Seibold (“Olive the Other Reindeer,” “Penguin Dreams”). For kids who like their fiction spooky, there's the busy website all about author Lemony Snicket (“A Series of Unfortunate Events”). Or “Talk to DP” -- cult hero Daniel Pinkwater, creator of picture books like “The Big Orange Splot” as well as young adult classics like “Lizard Music” – at the P-Zone, and get a personal message back.
One of the best places to look for information on children’s book authors is the site run by Bethany Roberts, herself a writer of kid lit. It not only lists children’s book creator websites, it also has links to articles about for people who want to write for children, story tips for kids, and lists of other children’s book author web portals. Other places to try include Children’s Literature’s “Meet the Authors and Illustrators” page, and the Children’s Book Council site, with links to authors and illustrators published by members of this industry group. Or try the Author Yellow Pages' section on children’s writers.
Finally, be sure to take a trip to Planet Esme, realm of Esme Raji Codell. A former teacher, bookseller and school librarian, she’s the author of “Educating Esme” and “How to Get Your Child to Love Reading,” and in my opinion one of the most insightful writers on kids and books today.