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Articles to Help You in Your Library

Discover Great Author Websites: Picture Book Edition

by Ellen Myrick



The internet is everywhere and while that may be alarming in some ways, it's a boon for teachers and librarians who want to foster a connection between kids and the authors they love. In this series of articles, we'll look at some of the best author websites and what kids, teachers, librarians and even parents can find there to foster a love of the written and, yes, pixeled word. In this first installment, we look at three very diverse authors whose focus is the picture book: Chris Van Allsburg, Mem Fox, and Jan Brett.

There are so many reasons Jan Brett is beloved by people of all ages and some of her appeal springs from how well she knows her audiences. Go to janbrett.com and you will find such a wealth of information and fun that you could linger there for days. For teachers and librarians, there are literally hundreds of art projects, bulletin board helps, lesson plans, step-by-step drawing lessons, and interactive pages all under the heading of "Activities" and sorted alphabetically. A bonus for libraries: Give your signage that distinctive Brett touch with signs for everything from "Check Out" to "Reference" and Dewey ranges. Teachers are not left behind as the artist has similarly rendered the must-haves for classrooms as well.

Interactive games and printable pages are just the beginning of ways for kids to benefit from the Brett site. Many build visual literacy and the "Name the Botswana Animal Game" can help children learn more about a very different part of the world. As cooler weather approaches, who can resist the "Decorate a Gingerbread House" interactive and printable game using all of Brett's signature confections?

There is a noticeable lack of gingerbread at Chris Van Allsburg's site. chrisvanallsburg.com reflects a high cool factor with subtle sound effects and animations that will immediately draw in kids of the "G for Gaming" generation. For teachers looking for a subject of an author unit, Chris Van Allsburg's many video resources include everything from the process of turning a book into a film to insights into what makes him click. For instance, did you know that he turned down many offers to illustrate as he was beginning his career because he didn't want to work on stories that did not interest him? He talks about that and other things as children learn firsthand about the creative life of an artist.

Chris Van Allsburg is both an artist and an author and when you click "Write a Story," you are treated to a fascinating (and true!) backstory to The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and invited to write a story inspired by the clues given. More than a writing prompt, this feature encourages young writers to build on a foundation already provided but make the finished work truly their own.

Mem Fox is an original as well. Celebrated most for her picture books including groundbreaking classics like Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, the fantastic Ms. Fox has also written extensively on how to grow readers. While there are video clips of Mem reading and sometimes even singing her books, parents, librarians and teachers are the great beneficiaries of this site. Do you want to reduce the squirm and enhance the wide-eyed wonder of your audience when reading aloud? Check out Mem Fox's Ten Read Aloud Commandments. Teachers, do you sometimes need a pep talk to get you through an especially trying day? Read "In the Teaching Olympics, Who Wins Gold?"

Jan Brett, Chris Van Allsburg and Mem Fox are just three of the authors who have rich websites that can be exciting, inspiring and downright helpful for beleaguered teachers and librarians. Jan Brett's generous sharing of her art, Chris van Allsburg's generous access to his creative brain, and Mem Fox's generous insights into motivating a love of reading can each enrich your working lives and both you and your students will benefit.

Do you have a favorite author website? Post your favorites on our Facebook page and share your insights! Visit the BTSB Library Corner's Links to browse through over 350 author and illustrator websites to find more great resources.

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