Book Talk: Favourite Authors

I have a rather extensive collection of children’s books. If I go to a bookstore, I make a beeline for the kid’s section. I claim it’s because I’m a teacher, but in reality, I really love well crafted literature for children. I’ve talked about what to look for in kids books before. Now let’s get down to specifics. When you think classic kids stuff, your brain may wander to the likes of Jean Little, Shel Silverstein and Beatrix Potter. They’re classics for a reason. I love them, but I want to offer you a list of authors you may not know about.

Without further ado…

Mo Willems
He has won six Emmy Awards for his writing and animation on Sesame Street. Clearly the man is brilliant.

Known for: The Pigeon books: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late!, The Pigeon Wants a Hot Dog!, The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!

My favourites: Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, Hooray For Amanda and her Alligator!

Why I love Mo: This man’s writing makes me laugh out loud when I’m alone in public. He is strange, goofy and names his characters things like Reginald von Hoobie Doobie. These books are just as fun for adults to read as they are for the kids. In the Pigeon books especially, he manages to convey rather advanced emotions just using facial expressions. On a pigeon. I don’t know if I can fully explain his brilliance and hilarity but to say this: if you don’t laugh while reading his books, you are made of stone.

AND: You can follow the Pigeon on Twitter.

Oliver Jeffers
This man is from Ireland and is primarily an artist. You can tell because his stuff screams artist from Ireland. Not literally, but you know what I mean.

Known for: How to Catch a Star

My favourites: The Heart and the Bottle

Why I love Jeffers: The first time I picked up one of his books, I fell in love with the illustrations. They are whimsical and a little bit strange, but they lend themselves to using your imagination to fill in the missing pieces. The second time I picked up one of his books, I was enamored with his story telling. He does so in a very delicate way that is exciting and thought provoking. His books make me giggle. They are silly, but not blatantly so. Subtle silliness is this man’s game. The first time I read The Heart and the Bottle, I cried. In public. It is a children’s book that a lot of adults could learn from. It’s sweet, beautiful, and makes you want to start living life with fervor and a tender heart.

AND: He has a cool website.

Kevin Henkes
This man is the legend you’ve never heard of. He’s a vetren of children’s book writing and has won a bunch of awards for his writing and illustrations. Some of my favourite Henkes books were published the year I was born. He’s still going strong and producing literary gold.

Known for: Chrysanthemum, Kitten’s First Full Moon, any story where a mouse is the main character

My favourites: Julius, the Baby of the World, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

Why I love Henkes: His writing style is one that I envy. It’s lyrical and rhythmic without being annoying. He repeats phrases throughout his book that are memorable (“Your name scarcely even fits on your name tag!”, “Wow,” said Mr. Slinger, because that’s just about all he could say. “Wow.”) but not repetitive. He manages to do so in a way that makes the reader feel as though they are in on the joke. The characters in his books are mouse children that are intelligent, quick and creative. He doesn’t dumb down his characters to make them more child-like. They are bright, vivid and exceptionally witty. Just from reading his mouse adventures, you can tell that this man knows that children can teach him a lot. I’m considering naming my first born Chrysanthemum.

AND: Watch the most irritating read aloud of Chrysanthemum here.

There you have it. Three of my favourite children’s authors.

What were your favourites as a child (or as an adult)?


12 thoughts on “Book Talk: Favourite Authors

  1. Thanks for the suggestions. I tutor children in reading and we read books together. I’m always on the look-out for good books to read to children. I will keep you favorites in mind.

  2. I adore Mo. Jarett was trying to get rid of some of his books to make room for all the new ones he has. I said get rid of no but you can move them to my bookshelf. I love me some pigeon!!

  3. My father had exacting tastes in childrens literature. “Golden Books” and Disney characters were banned from our collections, but we still grew up with 2 towering bookshelves filled to capacity. My dad selected books based as much on their artwork as the stories they told, knowing he would have to read them to us over and over.

    My family’s favorite Childrens author is Patricia Polacco. She tells the most wonderful heart-felt stories that have left us laughing and crying over the years. I wrote a letter last year telling her how her books have touched our family (published on my blog ) and got a hand-written response and a beautiful personalized drawing in return. Her drawing is now framed in my parents home, and I’m quite certain she will remain cemented as our family’s favorite author for generations to come. Mrs. Polacco paints beautiful watercolor illustrations, often making her characters appear rather, plain, but that much more endearing.

    Do the schools in Canada host book fairs? That’s how much of our collection was acquired. They often have many books that won the Caldecott and/or Newbery awards (you know you’re a childrens book nerd when you know what these awards are).

    Also – my little sister totally had a purple-plastic-purse like Lilly. It was one of her favorites!

  4. I always like John Dennis Fitzgerald and his “The Great Brain” series of books although those might be more older kids/young adults. I still remember reading them at 7 or 8 and loving how he told the story from the perspective of the Great Brain’s little brother instead of TGB himself.

    Sid Fleischman’s Farmer McBroom series was also a fave.

    L. Frank Baum’s entire Oz series was good too.

  5. I really want to check them out, now.

    Dav Wilkey’s a good’er. Known for the Captain Underpants series, as well as the Dragon books. But in my opinion, his best work lies in “Dogzilla” and “Kat Kong,” with caricature live-animal photos as the illustrations, and creative wordplay.
    eg. “The big cheese tried to catch up to the hot dog with all the relish he could muster.”

  6. I LOVE KEVIN HENKES! When I was teaching 1st grade our class wrote him letters and he sent us one back- with bookmarks! He is wonderful. Have you read Owen? It is my favorite by far. (Maybe because I still sleep with my security blanket…) I also love Barbara Park (Junie B.- LOVE her.) and David Shannon. You have to read No, David! (and all his other David books.) He is hilarious. I even got to meet him!

  7. LOVE Mo Willems!

    My wife and I just got loads of his books for Evan for Christmas. And that’s all we got him – we let family take care of the rest.

    Now he’ll grow up with something in common with his favorite Internet Aunt.

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