A University of Pennsylvania expert on children's literature offers guidance for parents on authors whose works are ideal for youngsters
Lawrence Sipe, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, is an expert in children's literature. "Research supports the theory that the single most important predictor of future school success is having parents who read aloud to their kids at an early age." he says. (Professor Sipe is available for interviews.)
Eric Carle is the illustrator and author of many picture books for younger children, including "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," "Do You Want to Be My Friend?" and "The Very Busy Spider." His illustration technique of painted tissue-paper collage is instantly recognizable. Carle's books often contain features such as the holes that the caterpillar eats through in "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" which add an element of playfulness to the reading experience.
Eve Bunting is an author who is willing to tackle serious and challenging themes in ways that children can understand. For example, she deals with the issue of homelessness in "Fly Away Home," the feelings generated by the Vietnam War Memorial in "The Wall" and the death of a parent in "The Memory String."
Tomie DePaola's gentle and charming illustrations are a perfect match for his stories. He has illustrated folktales and religious stories and has written powerfully about his own childhood. For example, he writes about his longing to be an artist in "The Art Lesson" and his wonderful relatives in "Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs" and "Chicken Feet."
Stephen Kellogg has a superbly detailed illustration style that highlights the humor inherent in most of his books. He has illustrated versions of traditional stories like "Chicken Little," and "The Three Little Pigs." He also specializes in imaginative fantasies such as "The Island of the Skog" and retellings of traditional American tall tales such as "Mike Fink" and "Paul Bunyan."
Jerry Pinkney's watercolor illustrations are stunning in their composition and use of wonderful colors. He often illustrates texts that relate to the African-American experience in folktales like "Uncle Remus" and "Sam and the Tigers" and historical themes such as "Minty," a story about the young Harriet Tubman.
Kevin Henkes writes and illustrates charming stories relating to childhood anxieties and everyday experience. Whether he is writing about a child's love/hate relationship with her first-grade teacher in "Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse," an attachment to a blankie in "Owen" or the arrival of a new baby in "Julius, the Baby of the World," Henkes conveys a subtle lesson about life with a light and humorous touch.
Chris Van Allsburg's books celebrate the power of the imagination, frequently with elements of magic or mystery. He takes children on a trip to the North Pole to visit Santa Claus in "The Polar Express," envisions flying sailboats in "The Wreck of the Zephyr" and imagines what would happen if a board game came to life in "Jumanji."