Four new books celebrate the unlimited possibilities of books, old and new. Two that focus on libraries show the power of collecting and protecting the past. The other two explore what inspired present-day authors when they were kids and how they pursued their craft. Any and all of these books could inspire you to write down your own ideas and stories.
By Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom. Ages 8 to 12.
The British Library has 400 miles of shelves, 15 floors (five below the ground) and 150 million items, so this slim, dynamically illustrated book can only hint at what it holds and preserves. Highlights include the library's oldest book (dating from the 7th century), its biggest (a gigantic atlas that requires six people to lift), as well as the original manuscripts of such famous books as "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." An early set of William Shakespeare's plays is so valuable that it's kept deep underground in a bombproof room.
By Carole Boston Weatherford.
Illustrated by Eric Velasquez.
Ages 9 to 12.
Arturo Schomburg (1874-1938) was a treasure hunter who was interested in historical knowledge rather than money and jewels. He searched for the important but little-known contributions that people of African heritage had made to the world. Carole Boston Weatherford's descriptions and Eric Velasquez's illustrations make clear how tirelessly Schomburg searched for books, pamphlets and art that could "tell our stories, proclaim our glories." They also provide intriguing mini-portraits of the people (such as Benjamin Banneker and Phillis Wheatley) who inspired Schomburg. Although he died about 80 years ago, his library in New York City is a national historic landmark, as big and bustling as ever.
Edited by Elissa Brent Weissman.
Ages 8 to 12.
Is it hard to imagine that the authors and illustrators you admire ever struggle with their work? This fun book goes back to where all of these children's book legends started — a time when they were kids trying to get their ideas onto paper. The 26 entries, each of which features a childhood photograph, include the pages of a chapter book Marla Frazee wrote and illustrated when she was in third grade, a book created by Grace Lin when she was in middle school, and a poem written by 12-year-old Kwame Alexander to his adored mother, who, of course, framed it.
By Jack Gantos.
Ages 9 to 12.
With humor and swift pacing, the author of the "Joey Pigza" books and "Dead End in Norvelt" spills all of his writing secrets about making stories out of everyday life. The key, he says, is writing ideas down as you have them and then giving them structure and emotion. He shares his early stories and explains how he developed into the observant author he has become. It will probably make you want to read Gantos's stories as well as to create your own.