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July - Louis Sachar
Louis is best known for the award-winning Holes, which has also been made into a major film.
More about Louis: “I was born in East Meadow, New York on March 20, 1954 and lived there until third grade. My dad worked on the 78th floor of the Empire State Building, and maybe that somehow inspired Wayside School, who knows?
I enjoyed school and was a good student, but it wasn’t until high school that I really became an avid reader. J.D. Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut were the authors who first inspired me. Some of my other favorite authors include E.L. Doctorow, Margaret Atwood, E.B White, Richard Price and Kazuo Ishiguro.
After high school, I attended Antioch College in Ohio. My father died during my first semester, and I returned to California to be near my mother.
I returned to college, this time to the University of California at Berkeley where I majored in Economics. On campus one day, I saw the unlikely sight of an elementary school girl handing out flyers. I took one from her. It said: “Help. We need teachers aides at our school. Earn three units of credit.” I thought it over and decided it was a pretty good deal.
Besides helping out in a classroom, I also became the Noontime Supervisor, or “Louis the Yard Teacher” as I was known to the kids. It became my favorite college class, and a life changing experience.
When I graduated 1n 1976 I decided to try to write a children’s book, which eventually became Sideways Stories From Wayside School. All the kids at Wayside School were based on the kids I knew at Hillside.
It took me about nine months to write the book. I wrote in the evenings. In the daytime I had a job at a sweater warehouse in Connecticut. After about a year, I was fired (my enthusiasm for sweaters was insufficient), and I decided to go to law school. Sideways Stories from Wayside School was accepted by a publisher during my first week at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.
I finished law school, graduating in 1980, passed the bar exam (which was required to practice law) and then did part-time legal work as I continued to write children’s books. It wasn’t until 1989 that my books began selling well enough that I was finally able to stop practicing law and devote myself fully to writing.
My wife Carla was a counselor at an elementary school when I first met her. She was the inspiration for the counselor in There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom. We were married in 1985. Our daughter, Sherre, was born in 1987. We live in Austin, Texas along with our dog, Watson.”
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June - David Melling
David Melling is a best-selling picture book author and illustrator, best known for his hit Hugless Douglas books.
Before creating picture books, David worked as a photographer and as an animation artist for films including the much-loved Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs. He was born in Oxford and still lives near the city with his wife and two children. One of his most popular picture books The Tale of Jack Frost became an award-winning BBC1 animation, shown on Christmas Day.
He has been shortlisted for lots of awards, including the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal for his first book The Kiss That Missed.
To find out more go to: www.davidmelling.co.uk
May - Liz Pichon
When Liz was little, she loved to draw, paint and make things. Her mum used to say she was very good at making a mess (which is still true today!).
She kept drawing and went to art school, where she earned a degree in graphic design. She worked as a designer and art director in the music industry, and her freelance work has appeared on a wide variety of products.
Liz is the author-illustrator of several picture books. Tom Gates is the first series of books she has written and illustrated for older children. They have won several prestigious awards, including the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, and the Blue Peter Book Award. The books have been translated into forty-one languages worldwide.
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April - Dav Piley
Author and illustrator Dav Pilkey started writing the Captain Underpants stories while he was still at school. His books contain scenes which may be too silly for grown-ups, small animals and some types of houseplants. If you are a grown-up, a small animal, a houseplant or a teacher, you should seek permission from a kid before reading on! He is also the author of two series for younger children, Ricky Ricotta and Super Diaper Baby. He lives in Washington State, USA with his wife.
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March - Claire Freedman
Claire Freedman is the successful author of over 50 picture books, including the Aliens in Underpants books, George’s Dragon and Tappity Tap! What Was That? She is best known for Aliens Love Underpants, which has gone on to become a huge best seller and was the winner of the Richard and Judy Children’s Book Club in 2007.
Claire left school at sixteen and was the worst secretary ever, a trainee buyer at Harrods and a dental nurse before becoming a full-time writer. Claire says “For me, writing is the best job ever. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. I love to create worlds for young children to enjoy and escape into.” She lives on the Essex coast with her husband and loves walking along the sea path, eating in her favourite beach-side café and catching up with friends.
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February ~ Michael Morpugo
Michael Morpurgo discovered his talent for writing while working as a teacher. “We had to read the children a story every day and my lot were bored by the book I was reading. I decided I had to do something and told them the kind of story I used to tell my kids – it was like a soap opera, and they focused on it. I could see there was magic in it for them, and realised there was magic in it for me.”
Living in Devon, listening to Mozart, and working with children have provided most of the stimulae Michael needs to discover and write his stories. He spends about half his life mucking out sheds with the children, feeding sheep or milking cows; the other half he spends dreaming up and writing stories. “For me, the greater part of writing is daydreaming, dreaming the dream of my story until it hatches out – the writing down of it I always find hard. But I love finishing it, then holding the book in my hand and sharing my dream with my readers.”
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January ~ Eric Carle
Eric Carle was born of German parents. He was always drawn to America after his family moved to Stuttgart when he was six. Carle’s childhood years in Germany were traumatic; as an adult he would make “books for the child in me, books I had longed for.” It is no surprise that his style is characterised by an explosive use of colour.
During the war, his art teacher showed him his hidden collection of banned “degenerate” art, including works by Picasso, Klee and Matisse. At 16, Carle began studying graphic art at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart. Returning to New York in 1952, Carle built a successful career in advertising. In the mid 1960s, Carle decided to give up this career to become an illustrator and graphic designer. His first published work appeared in a cookery book.
Soon afterwards, children’s book author Bill Martin asked him to illustrate the manuscript of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? The resulting book was an instant hit. Encouraged by this success, Carle began submitting ideas for his own books. One of these was “Willie The Worm”. His editor suggested that a caterpillar might prove a more endearing character – the rest is history.
First published in 1969, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has sold over 29 million copies in more than 47 languages. Eric Carle has illustrated more than seventy books, and more than 88 million copies of his books have sold around the world.
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December ~ Cressida Cowell
Cressida grew up in London and on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland. The island had no roads, houses or electricity. For the first four years, the family would be dropped off like castaways on the island by a local boatman and picked up again two weeks later. Imagine being like Robinson Crusoe and having a whole island to yourself to explore…
By the time Cressida was eight, the family had built a small stone house on the island, so they no longer had to camp out in tents, which made life much drier. Her father got a boat, so they could fish for enough food to feed the family for the whole summer.
Every year, Cressida spent the long summer holiday, and some of the spring, on the island. The house was lit by candle-light, and there was no electricity, telephone or television, so Cressida and the family lived like people in the olden days. In the evening, Cressida’s father told the children old Scottish tales about the people who lived on the islands round about, who were always fighting and tricking each other, and about dragons living in caves in the cliffs.
Cressida spent her time writing stories, fishing for things to eat, and exploring the island looking for these dragons. These childhood experiences (quite apart from her fluency in Old Norse, of course), made her delighted to be approached to translate the Hiccup memoirs…
After leaving school Cressida studied English at university, and then got degrees in graphic design and illustration at art college. For her final project at art school she created a childrens’ book called Little Bo Peep’s Library Book and was lucky enough to have that book published in 1998. She has gone on to write ten more picture books, including the popular Emily Brown stories, which won the Nestle Childrens’ Book Prize in 2006.
In 2002 she began to write a book for older children. Remembering the stories she had written on the island as a child, these ideas became the book How to Train Your Dragon. There are now nine books in the Hiccup series, and a DreamWorks Animation film of How to Train Y0ur Dragon came out in 2010!
Cressida lives in London with her husband, three children and a hamster.
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November ~ Julia Donaldson
Julia grew up in a tall terraced Victorian London house with her parents, grandmother, aunt, uncle, younger sister Mary and cat Geoffrey (who was really a prince in disguise. Mary and Julia would argue about which of them would marry him).
Mary and Julia were always creating imaginary characters and mimicking real ones, and she used to write shows and choreograph ballets for them. A wind-up gramophone wafted out Chopin waltzes.
She studied Drama and French at Bristol University, where she met Malcolm, a guitar-playing medic to whom I’m now married.
Before Malcolm and julia had their family, they used to go busking together and would write special songs for each country; the best one was in Italian about pasta.
The busking led to a career in singing and songwriting, mainly for children’s television. Juila became an expert at writing to order on such subjects as guinea pigs, window-cleaning and horrible smells. “We want a song about throwing crumpled-up wrapping paper into the bin” was a typical request from the BBC.
She also continued to write “grown-up” songs and perform them in folk clubs and on the radio.
One of her television songs, A SQUASH AND A SQUEEZE, was made into a book in 1993, with illustrations by the wonderful Axel Scheffler. She said "It was great to hold the book in my hand without it vanishing in the air the way the songs did. This prompted me to unearth some plays I’d written for a school reading group, and since then I’ve had 20 plays published. Most children love acting and it’s a tremendous way to improve their reading."
Her real breakthrough was THE GRUFFALO, again illustrated by Axel. They work separately - he’s in London and Julia in Glasgow - but he sends her letters with lovely funny pictures on the envelopes.
She really enjoys writing verse, even though it can be fiendishly difficult. Julia used to memorise poems as a child and it means a lot to Julia when parents tell her their child can recite one of my books.
Funnily enough, she finds it harder to write not in verse, though she feels she is now getting the hang of it! THE GIANTS AND THE JONESES is a novel for 7-11 year olds, and she has written three books of stories about the anarchic PRINCESS MIRROR-BELLE who appears from the mirror and disrupts the life of an otherwise ordinary eight-year-old. For teenagers there is a novel called RUNNING ON THE CRACKS.
When Julia's not writing she is often performing, at book festivals and in theatres. "I really enjoy getting the children in the audience to help me act out the stories and sing the songs. When Malcolm can take time off from the hospital he and his guitar come too. and it feels as if we’ve come full circle - back to busking"
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October - Jacqueline Wilson
Jacqueline Wilson was born in Bath in 1945, but spent most of her childhood in Kingston-on-Thames. She always wanted to be a writer and wrote her first ‘novel’ when she was nine, filling in countless Woolworths’ exercise books as she grew up. As a teenager she started work for a magazine publishing company and then went on to work as a journalist on Jackie magazine (which she was told was named after her!) before turning to writing novels full-time.
One of Jacqueline’s most successful and enduring creations has been the famous Tracy Beaker, who first appeared in 1991 in The Story of Tracy Beaker. This was also the first of her books to be illustrated by Nick Sharratt. The CBBC series about Tracy Beaker has been an enormous success and brought a new audience to the books. Since Tracy’s first appearance, Jacqueline has been on countless award shortlists and has gone on to win many of them.
The Illustrated Mum won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award, the 1999 Children’s Book of the Year at the British Book Awards and was also shortlisted for the 1999 Whitbread Children’s Book Award.
Double Act won the prestigious Smarties Medal and the Children’s Book Award as well as being highly commended for the Carnegie Medal. The Story of Tracy Beaker won the 2002 Blue Peter People’s Choice Award.
Jacqueline is one of the nation’s favourite authors, and her books are loved and cherished by young readers not only in the UK but all over the world. She has sold millions of books and in the UK alone the total now stands at over 40 million!
In 2002 Jacqueline was awarded the OBE for services to literacy in schools and from 2005 to 2007 she was the Children’s Laureate. In 2008 she became Dame Jacqueline Wilson.
September ~ Roald Dahl
Born in Llandaff, Wales, on 13th September 1916 to Norwegian parents, Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Hesselberg, Dahl was named after Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian who had been the first man to reach the South Pole just four years earlier. A heroic start in life. But his early years were blighted by the tragic deaths of his older sister, Astri, and his father.
Wanting the best for her only son, his mother sent him to boarding school - first to St Peter's, Weston-super-Mare; then, in 1929, to Repton - where many bizarre and memorable events would later be recounted in Boy. Pupils at Repton were invited to trial chocolate bars, a memory that stayed with Dahl throughout his life, inspiring Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Schooldays happily behind him, Dahl’s lust for travel took him first to Canada, then to East Africa, where he worked for an oil company until the outbreak of World War Two. He enlisted in the Royal Air Force at 23 years old.
In September 1940, Dahl received severe injuries to his head, nose and back when his Gladiator crash-landed in the Western Desert. After six months recovering from his injuries in Alexandria he returned to action, taking part in The Battle of Athens. Later, after a posting to Washington, he supplied intelligence to MI6.
In 1953 Roald Dahl married the American actress, Patricia Neal, with whom he had five children. They divorced after 30 years, and he later married Felicity “Liccy” Crosland, who has furthered Roald’s legacy through the foundation of Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity and The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.
In 1960 Roald helped invent the Wade-Dahl-Till valve, prompted by the need to alleviate the head injuries endured by his son after an accident in New York.
There followed a burst of literary energy: in 1961 James and the Giant Peach was published in the US, followed by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald then wrote screenplays for the James Bond hit You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as adult novels such as Kiss Kiss. Fantastic Mr. Fox was published in 1970, the year before the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was released. The rest of the decade saw the publication of many other classics, including Danny the Champion of the World, The Enormous Crocodile, and My Uncle Oswald.
Roald also enjoyed enormous success on television. Having already had his stories told in six episodes of the award winning US series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, his Tales of the Unexpected ran for several series between 1979 and 1988 in the UK.
In the early 1980s he published The Twits, Revolting Rhymes, The BFG and The Witches. There followed two autobiographical books: Boy, in 1984 and Going Solo, in 1986. Matilda was published in 1988, Esio Trot in 1990, and finally, in 1991, came the posthumous delight of The Minpins.
Roald Dahl died on 23 November 1990, aged 74. He was buried in the parish church of St Peter and St Paul in Great Missenden - the Buckinghamshire village where today The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre continues his extraordinary mission to amaze, thrill and inspire generations of children and their parents.
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