Features / Five in Bloom

Letting Your Inner Child Bloom: Five Children’s Literature Authors

by Juhi Singhal Karan

“Behind every children’s book is a vision of childhood: a shared understanding of what growing up is all about,” argues The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter, a recent exhibition on children’s literature at The New York Public Library. Here we look at five authors whose vision is a blend of their inner child and their forty plus years of living experience.

Karen Cushman

catherine called birdy karen cushman

As a voracious young reader Karen Cushman borrowed a book to learn ballet. As a writer, one of her very first stories featured “Santa Claus coming down the wrong chimney and winding up in a Jewish home on Christmas Eve.” Cushman carried around in her head tales “about gutsy girls figuring out who they are” till the age of 53, when, challenged by her husband to put her stories on paper, she published her very first book, Catherine, Called Birdy. The book earned her a Newbery Honor. Her very next book, The Midwife’s Apprentice, earned her a Newbery Medal. Along with her husband, she has established the Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award, in association with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. In her own words, “This award was established to encourage and celebrate late bloomers like me, who didn’t start to write until age fifty.  But then I bloomed, and I’d love to see others do so as well.”

Dick King-Smith

dick king-smith the sheep pig

Dick King-Smith settled into his role as an author of “farmyard fantasies” by way of careers as a soldier, a farmer, a salesman, an engineer at a shoe factory, and a teacher. A bloomer whose first novel was published at age 56, Dick King-Smith wrote prodigiously—over 100 books translated into more than 20 languages, with millions of sales worldwide. He was catapulted into fame with his 1983 novel The Sheep Pig. The book won him the 1984 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and was the basis of the blockbuster movie Babe. Given the world he was writing about, he did not like to “pussyfoot on death,” and said, “Much as I love The Wind In The Willows and the works of Beatrix Potter, I never dress my animals in clothes. They behave as animals should behave, with the exception that they open their mouths and speak the Queen’s English.”

Lucy M. Boston

lucy m. boston stranger at green knowe

Lucy M. Boston bloomed into a novelist at the age of 62. She is best known for her Children of Green Knowe series, and yet she was also passionate about gardening and patchwork, activities that she well pursued till her death at age 98. All her endeavors, including her stories, revolved around her lifelong love for her house, The Manor at Hemingford Grey. Winner of the Carnegie Medal for A Stranger at Green Knowe, Boston wrote stories “[T]o remind adults of joy, now considered obsolete—and to encourage children to use and trust their senses for themselves at first hand—their ears, eyes and noses, their fingers and the soles of their feet, their skins and their breathing, their muscular joy and rhythms and heartbeats, their instinctive loves and pity and their awe of the unknown.”

Christopher Paul Curtis

bud not buddy cristopher paul curtis

Christopher Paul Curtis became the first person in 2000 to win both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award for his second novel Bud, Not Buddy. He wrote his first book, The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963, while working on the assembly line for Fisher Body, where he was employed for 13 years before, in his own words, “I finally got the courage up [sic] to leave and to try something else.” Having his first book published when he was 42 years of age, here’s what Christopher Paul Curtis has to say about writing: “Be patient with yourself, because writing is one of the few arts where there are no prodigies. You don’t have kids writing really, really good books. Writing’s something that you have to live, and you have to learn how to express yourself. That takes time, and it takes practice.”

Sharon Creech

sharon creech absolutely normal chaos

Sharon Creech made her debut at the age of 45 with two novels published in the same year—The Recital and Absolutely, Normal Chaos. Her second manuscript for a children’s book elicited a lukewarm reaction from her publisher, not once but twice, testing her confidence: “[S]he was ready to toss it in the trash.” Happily for her readers, Creech persevered and went on to write the story that would become Walk Two Moons, winner of the 1995 Newbery Medal. Creech also won the Carnegie Medal for her 2002 novel Ruby Holler, becoming the first person to hold the top honors for children’s literature across both sides of the Atlantic. A writer of both picture books and novels, and of novels both in verse and prose, Creech says, “I don’t know the story before I begin. I only have a vague image in my mind of a character and a place. Then I write in order to find out what the story is. I want to know why the character is in this place and what is happening now, what happened before, and what will happen later.”

Homepage Photo Credit: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

One thought on “Letting Your Inner Child Bloom: Five Children’s Literature Authors

  1. Pingback: Over at Bloom | Nooks & Crannies - 'cus they're perfect for a book lover

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