Our Story Begins: Children's Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids

, ed. 208p. photos. reprods. S. & S./Atheneum. Jul. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481472081.
Gr 4–7—By the time Rita Williams-Garcia, author of One Crazy Summer, was 13 years old, she had filled 39 notebooks with scribbles and story ideas. Gordon Korman exhibited the humor found in Slacker and "The Mastermind" series back in fifth grade, when he wrote a speech, "How To Handle Your Parents." Firsthand accounts from 26 children's authors and illustrators describe how their earliest writing or drawing experiences resulted in a career in kid lit. Entries vary in length (three to six pages); each includes a childhood photograph and a sample of an early piece of work, such as Korman's aforementioned speech and Kwame Alexander's first "real" poem, to his mother. The individuals are diverse and represent a variety of cultural upbringings, such as Yuyi Morales, who pursued art even when strict teachers in Xalapa, Mexico, were far from encouraging. All entries end with a brief biography of general facts, notable works, and awards. Here, readers learn that Morales went on to receive a Caldecott Honor for Viva Frida and recently illustrated Sherman Alexie's Thunder Boy Jr. Concluding the work are gorgeous sketches that Ashley Bryan drew as a teenager. Weissman, the collection's editor, pens her own chapter about how a love of kid detective stories led to her writing Nerd Camp for middle graders. An attractive cover, glossy pages, and writing tips will make this a great addition to collective biography or career sections.
VERDICT An authentic, generous, and inspiring selection for tweens who wonder where their doodling or journaling might take them.

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