Friday, November 24, 2006

Watch out, Joanna Cole!

A conversation tonight

Ben: "Mom, when I grow up, I want to make Magic Schoolbus books."

Evan: "Hey, do we still have that book about the girl who grew up to write books?

We did!

Author: a True Story written and illustrated by Helen Lester.
Houghton Mifflin, 1997; 2002 (0-618-26010-2) $4.95 pb

The cover illustration of this book, showing the author tossing page after page of notes out of the shower as she washes, sets the mood for this fresh and joyful picture-book autobiography. Lester writes a short, engaging story about growing from a three-year-old, scribbling hundreds of useful lists for her mother, who never once said "No thank you, dear, I have enough," into a published author, "the first author I had ever met." Even after overcoming a learning disability, writing stories was sometimes very HARD as a child, and continues to sometimes be very HARD as an adult--yet Lester's love for her craft could not be more clear. Sprightly, unsophisticated pen & ink and watercolor drawings enhance the humor of the story; although Lester writes disparagingly of her skill as an illustrator--"my pig" is a simple creature made mostly of circles, while "my illustrator's pig" nonchalantly balances a refrigerator on one trotter while riding a bicycle with the other--it's easy to be fond of her self-portrait of herself as a rosy-cheeked, smiling, enthusiastic toddler who grows into a rosy-cheeked, smiling, enthusiastic adult.