About Patricia McKissack
“To me, reading is like breathing; both are essential to life.”—Patricia C. McKissack
Award-winning author Patricia McKissack wishes she could have talked to her hero, Frederick Douglass, about his rise from slavery, his daring escape, and freedom—at last! She is the author of The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural, which is a Newbery Honor Book and also received the Coretta Scott King Award. She frequently collaborates on books with her husband, Fredrick. They have three sons and live in St. Louis, Missouri.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Long before I became a writer, I was a listener and an observer. My relatives, who were dynamic and skilled storytellers, helped develop my listening and observation skills before I could read or write.
On hot summer evenings our family would sit on the porch and listen to my grandmother tell a hair-raising ghost story, or my mother would recite Dunbar poems or Bible stories. Sometimes we’d get a real treat when my grandfather would dramatize an episode from his childhood, told in the rich and colorful dialect of the Deep South. I can still hear him beginning a yarn, saying: “It was back in nineteen and twenty-seven. I disremember the exact day, but it was long ’bout July, ’cause the skeeters was bitin’ whole chunks outta my arms. . . .”
As a youngster I had no idea that my heritage would one day be the springboard for my writing career.
Somewhere around age seven I discovered reading. And so began my lifelong love affair with the printed word. To me, reading is like breathing; both are essential to life.
I grew up, went off to school, majored in English literature, acquired a teaching certificate, and married right after graduation. (They said the marriage wouldn’t last six months. . . .) I knew then I wanted to be a writer. But the children came—one, and two and three together. Not much time for writing.
The library was my lifesaver. Besides being free, air-conditioned, and quiet, it was a wonderful place to learn my trade. There I learned to identify the complex reading/interest levels in children’s literature from beginning reader through young adult books. My reading included publishers’ catalogs, writers’ magazines, and book reviews. And whenever time and money would permit, I’d attend a seminar or workshop, often taking all three children with me. That’s where I heard about keeping a journal and the benefits of belonging to a literary organization. My parenting period turned out to be a very productive time for the kids and me. I didn’t publish anything, but my spirits were high and my determination steadfast. And the boys turned out to be excellent readers and writers.
My sons grew out of diapers and into size eight shoes; I grew out of size eight jeans and into size twelve business suits. Then, after nine years of teaching junior high and senior high English and after earning a master’s degree in children’s literature, I changed careers and became a children’s book editor. Six years later I became a freelance writer. A year later my husband Fred joined me, and we’ve been writing together since then. On days when I get a rejection slip—oh yes, I still get them—I close up shop and work with my flowers or go antique shopping. Then it’s back to more writing and “yesterday” deadlines.
I enjoy teaching other people to write too. What better way to combine all my training as teacher and writer? For the past ten years I’ve been teaching a course in writing for children at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. One of the greatest joys is seeing a student’s face when he or she tells me, “I’ve just sold a story!” It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s great!
I’m reminded of the day my editor, Anne Schwartz, told me Flossie and the Fox was going to be published. I squealed for joy! When Mirandy and Brother Wind was accepted, Anne knew to hold the telephone away from her ear. The delight of selling a book has never diminished—and I hope it never does.
I write because there’s a clear need for books written about the minority experience in America—fiction and nonfiction. I also write for the love of it!
Southern Tales of the Supernatural
—A Newbery Honor Book
—A Coretta Scott King Award Winner
A MILLION FISH . . . MORE OR LESS
—A Junior Library Guild Selection
“A lively, well-cadenced tale.”—Kirkus Reviews
NETTIE JO’S FRIENDS
—A Parents’ Choice Award Winner
“Pure joy . . . McKissack’s authentic Southern vernacular is rich and rhythmic with a natural flow to read aloud.”—Starred, School Library Journal
MIRANDY AND BROTHER WIND
—A Caldecott Honor Book
—A Coretta Scott King Award Winner for Illustration
—An ALA Notable Book
—A Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
“Sparkles with energy . . . a treat.”—The Bulletin
“Young readers will enjoy practicing their reading skills to find out which animal is the best trickster.”—School Library Journal
About Jerry Pinkney
Jerry Pinkney has been illustrating children's books since 1964 and has the rare distinction of being the recipient of:
Five Caldecott Honor Medals
Five Coretta Scott King Awards
Four New York Times Best Illustrated Awards (most recently 2006 Little Red Hen)
Four Gold and four Silver medals from the Society of Illustrators
Boston Globe Honor Book Award (John Henry 1994)
In addition to his work on children's books, he is an extremely successful artist who has had eleven one-man retrospectives at venues ranging from the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists to the Art Institute of Chicago. His current one-man show entitled, "Building Bridges, the Art of Jerry Pinkney" was organized by the Pittsburgh Children's Museum and will be traveling through 1998. Mr. Pinkney has illustrated for a wide variety of clients, including National Geographic , the National Parks Service, the U.S. Postal Service, the American Library Association and the Association of Booksellers for Children.
Born in Philadelphia in 1939, Jerry Pinkney states, "(I) took an interest in drawing very early in my life, and at some point I realized I'd rather sit and draw than do almost anything else." While growing up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia his interest in art was supported by hisfamily -- especially by his mother. "She certainly understood me and made it clear to everyone that if art was what I wanted to pursue, then that's what she wanted to have happen. My father also became very supportive, and when I wanted to take art classes after school he found ways for me to attend."
In junior high school Mr. Pinkney had a newsstand and took a drawing pad with him to work every day and sketched passersby. That was how he met the cartoonist John Liney, who encouraged him to draw and showed him the possibilities of making a living as an artist.
After graduating from the commercial art program at Dobbins Vocational School, where he met his wife, author Gloria Jean Pinkney, Jerry Pinkney received a full scholarship to attend the Philadelphia Museum College of Art (now University of the Arts). While at PCA he and Gloria married. After their first child was born, they moved to Boston, where Mr. Pinkney worked as a designer at Rustcraft Greeting Card Company, and at Barker-Black Studio where he developed his reputation as an illustrator. Eventually he opened Kaleidoscope Studio with two other artists. Later he opened his own freelance studio -- Jerry Pinkney Studio -- and moved to New York. Sensitivity to and an interest in a variety of cultures has always been a dominant theme of Mr. Pinkney s work. He has also drawn inspiration for a significant part of his work from African American culture. Among his numerous projects are his twelve postage stamps for the U.S. Postal Service Black Heritage series. Mr. Pinkney was a member of its Advisory Committee for ten years and he was also invited to join the NASA artist team for the space shuttle Columbia. "I wanted to show that an African American artist could make it on a national level in the graphic arts. I want to be a strong role model for my family and for other African Americans."
Many of Mr. Pinkney's children's books celebrate multicultural and African American themes. "Working on both the Uncle Remus tales and John Henry has shown me an important link between pivotal and opposite African American folk heroes. Brer Rabbit, the sly trickster, originated during slavery and was the first African American folk hero. Slaves who wanted to get the better of their masters needed to be cunning and sly -- hence the trickster role. However, later comes John Henry, a free man, whose strength and valor bring him fame. He was a strong folk hero for African Americans, a symbol of all the working men who made a major contribution to the building of the roads and railroads in the mountains of West Virginia -- a dangerous job for which many paid with their lives."
Mr. Pinkney's two latest books areThe Little Red Hen and The Old African by Julius Lester (illustrated by Jerry Pinkney). Books give me a great feeling of personal and artistic satisfaction. When I'm working on a book, I wish the phone would never ring. I love doing it. My satisfaction comes from the actual marks on the paper, and when it sings, it's magic".
Jerry and Gloria Pinkney live in Westchester County, New York. The Pinkneys have four children: Troy, Scott, Brian, and Myles, and seven grandchildren. Two of the Pinkney's children are also involved in children's book illustration, Brian through illustrations, and Myles throughphotography. In addition to illustrating children's books and other projects, Mr. Pinkney has also been an art professor at the University of Delaware and State University of New York at Buffalo. He has given workshops and been a guest lecturer at universities and art schools across thecountry.
copyright © 2007 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.