STARRED REVIEW
July 07, 2017

Our favorite authors and illustrators as young artists

By Elissa Brent Weissman

Calling all writers, illustrators and lovers of children’s books. Whether you’re a child or an adult, this book is for you.

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Calling all writers, illustrators and lovers of children’s books. Whether you’re a child or an adult, this book is for you.

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, presents the very first work and inspiration of 26 children’s writers and illustrators, including childhood photos, summaries of their achievements, brief personal essays about their earliest literary aspirations and attempts, plus photos of these childhood works, including handwritten stories on notebook paper, childhood drawings and illustrated stories.

Dan Santat remembers being amazed by a Norman Rockwell painting at age 5, trying to perfect his own talent for years and suddenly deciding in a college biology class to become an artist, instead of the doctor his parents had in mind. Thanhha Lai writes movingly about leaving everything behind in Vietnam when her family left in 1975, and remembers the hours she spent listening to her mother tell stories from her childhood.

During the Depression, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor wrote and illustrated a little book called The Food Fairies on the back of used paper. Gordon Korman shares a wonderful fifth grade speech, “How to Handle Your Parents.” Rita Williams-Garcia was desperately trying to sell her seventh-grade stories while enduring a crush on a boy named Franky, a trumpet player. Kwame Alexander spent two days writing an epistolary poem for his mother, which she still has framed in her living room. As a middle schooler, Grace Lin won fourth place in a national book contest for her illustrated “Dandelion Story.” Ashley Bryan shares drawings he made in the 1930s.

The wonderful diversity of these writers and artists shines through in this fun, insightful collection. A page of tips for young artists and writers may very well inspire the next generation.

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Our Story Begins

Our Story Begins

By Elissa Brent Weissman
Atheneum
ISBN 9781481472081

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