Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids edited by Elissa Brent Weissman. July 4, 2017. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 208 p. ISBN: 9781481472081. Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 930.
From award-winning author Elissa Brent Weissman comes a collection of quirky, smart, and vulnerable childhood works by some of today’s foremost children’s authors and illustrators—revealing young talent, the storytellers they would one day become, and the creativity they inspire today.
Everyone’s story begins somewhere…
For Linda Sue Park, it was a trip to the ocean, a brand-new typewriter, and a little creative license.
For Jarrett J. Krosoczka, it was a third grade writing assignment that ignited a creative fire in a kid who liked to draw.
For Kwame Alexander, it was a loving poem composed for Mother’s Day—and perfected through draft after discarded draft.
For others, it was a teacher, a parent, a beloved book, a word of encouragement. It was trying, and failing, and trying again. It was a love of words, and pictures, and stories.
Your story is beginning, too. Where will it go?
Potentially Sensitive Areas: None
Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 4-7. The best authors and artists make their work seem so effortless that it’s easy to assume they’re all preternaturally gifted; it’s easy to forget the inevitable time and labor that went into their work, and this collection is the perfect remedy to that misapprehension. In short sections, kidlit luminaries offer essays about their early artistic efforts and snippets of their early work. Caldecott winner Dan Santat writes about his comically off-the-mark belief that Norman Rockwell was “about a thousand years old,” and therefore had tons of time to practice. Gordon Korman’s essay is, perhaps, less helpful, since he signed his first book contract at the unbelievable age of 13(!). Some of the presented stories are surprisingly good, and more are realistically amateurish, but the main takeaway, of course, is that practice, as well as a lot of inevitable failure, is always part of honing a craft. A sweet, inspirational anthology for any kid who dreams of having their own name on the cover of a book.
Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
Twenty-six notable authors and illustrators of children’s books—including the book’s editor—introduce themselves via their childhood memories.The short, straightforward introduction begins with the editor sharing her inspiration for the book: reading through her oldest writings, stored in “a box in a basement,” and reflecting that other creators have similar boxes. Two years of interviewing, collecting, and collating produced the accessible, enjoyable text that follows. Each creator shares a childhood photograph, a brief memoir, a short biography, and a photographed sample of a creative work from childhood. The order of presentation is determined by the age at which the creative work was accomplished, ranging from 7 to 16. The art and writing samples from childhood are occasionally exciting but more often typical of the age represented—and thus encouraging rather than intimidating to young creatives. The memoirs—all (unsurprisingly) engaging—range from humorous to serious, and some slip in good advice, both about the tools of the craft and about self-marketing. There is a wide diversity of ages and backgrounds, from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor to Alex Gino, from Eric Rohmann to Rita Williams-Garcia. Thanhhà Lai is especially memorable; as a Vietnamese refugee, she had no box of writings: “But it turns out, I don’t need tangible objects. I have my memories.” Her recollection of an oral prose poem from age 8 is one that stands out because it is indeed remarkable for one so young. Good for aspiring writers and artists. (Collective memoir. 8-12)
About the Editor
Elissa Brent Weissman is an award-winning author of novels for 8-to-12-year olds. Her most recent books, Nerd Camp 2.0 and Nikhil and the Geek Retreat are sequels to the popular Nerd Camp, which was named a best summer read for middle graders in The Washington Post. The Short Seller, about a seventh grade stock-trading whiz, was a Girls’ Life must-read and featured on NPR’s “Here and Now.”
Named one of CBS Baltimore’s Best Authors in Maryland, Elissa lives in Baltimore, where she teaches creative writing to children, college students, and adults. Her website is www.ebweissman.com
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