Just as authors' books come in diverse packaging -- so do their Web sites!
From the bright cheer of picture-book-writer Eric Carle's home page to the cartoon-face and direct approach of Aaron Shepard's, authors' pages teem with biographical information, bibliographies, information about specific books, and even, in many cases, activities geared to fun and learning.
And author Web sites can be a wonderful teaching tool! They can add interest and detail to your students' author studies, and offer a springboard to follow-up activities.
Young people often want to know about a favorite author or illustrator because they feel that the author or illustrator is speaking to them directly through their work, writes Kay E. Vandergrift, whose Web site provides links to many authors. Knowledge about the author can reveal more about a book or books.
The Official Eric Carle Web Site
Among Carle's works are the picture books Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; The Very Hungry Caterpillar; and The Very Busy Spider. The brightly illustrated Web site, with an animated hungry caterpillar at the top, offers links to lots of interesting information:
Author Online! Aaron Shepard's Home Page
Aaron Shepard's book The Sea King's Daughter: A Russian Legend has been named a 1998 Notable Children's Book in the Field of Social Studies (National Council for the Social Studies and the Children's Book Council) and a Best Illustrated Book of 1997 (The New York Times). Shepard's Web site deserves awards too! It's loaded with special treats for teachers. Scroll down the main page and you'll find what I think is the highlight of the site -- Reader's Theater scripts that Shepard offers freely for use in classrooms. Currently, the site offers 18 scripts, based on tales written by Shepard and others. Shepard also offers loads of tips -- tips for Reader's Theater productions, tips for storytellers, tips for reading aloud, and tips for young authors. (Among the tips for kid writers are turn off the TV; learn to type well; get a good thesaurus; learn the rules before you break them; find what interests both you and others; and ask for criticism.) Also provided is a gallery of printable color posters of heroes and villains from his books. Of course, the site includes biographical information about Shepard, background information about his picture books, and more.
Welcome to Jan Brett's Home Page
Writer and illustrator Jan Brett is the creator of many books, including The Hat, Berlioz the Bear, and Trouble With Trolls. And Brett's Web site has much to offer. Teachers will adore the printable animal masks of Brett's characters from The Hat, The Mitten, and Town House Country Mouse! (You'll even find iron-on transfers of the characters from The Hat ! in the Projects section of the Activities Page!) The "Piggybacks for Teachers" section offers teacher-written, teacher-tested lesson plans tied to many of Brett's books. Students can send Brett an e-mail and receive a response from Hedgie. A "Newsnote" page is provided for many of Brett's books; on that page, she provides for students "insider information" about the book, her motivations for writing it, and more. In addition, Brett provides coloring pages, a favorite recipe, and directions for drawing an armadillo (Armadillo Rodeo).
Welcome to Seussville
A chance to vote to put the Cat of The Cat in the Hat fame on a stamp introduces the Dr. Seuss home page. Visitors to the site can chat with the Cat in the Hat, find out about new Dr. Seuss books and CD-ROMs, and play games. The games include The Lorax's Save the Trees Game, Horton's Who Hunt, and The Cat's Hat Maze. (For more information about the site and other sites related to Dr. Seuss, including some excellent lesson planning ideas, check out a recent Education World story, Dr. Seuss Inspires "Read to Kids Day.")
An animated porcupine -- one of the characters from Avi's book, Poppy -- spouts humorous quotes as it greets visitors to the author's home page. Here you'll find a list of Avi's books. (Just the list of categories into which Avi's books fall is impressive: comedy; mystery; adventure and historical fiction; fantasy; animal tales; ghosts; young adult; early reader; short stories, and biography!) Click on a title and learn what Avi has to say about the book, his reasons for writing it, and more. Read the opening pages of a short story called "The Teacher Tamer" from his latest book, What Do Fish Have To Do With Anything? Learn about upcoming books, including a follow-up to Poppy. On a question and answer page, Avi offers biographical information, a little personal background, and some advice to young writers.
Dan Gutman: Children's Book Author
Author of such sports books as The Million Dollar Shot, The Shortstop Who Knew Too Much, and Honus & Me, Gutman has a friendly, chatty home page that will make students feel welcome. Gutman paints a realistic picture of what it's like being a writer. He even provides the text of rejection letters from a half-dozen publishers who weren't interested in Honus & Me! (It might be fun for teachers to share those letters with students after they've read and reacted to the book!) A biographical sketch touches on reality, with Gutman describing, among other events, his father's abandoning the family when Dan was a boy. On a FAQ page, young readers can learn who Gutman's favorite authors are, what he does to fight writer's block, and his advice to young writers. Students wanting to know more about any of Gutman's books will find background information here. He also includes resources for teachers, including articles about how to plan an author visit and suggestions on how sports can be used to teach other subjects in your school. He even offers word puzzles and other activities (Read a Box Score, Baseball Math)! Teachers might invite students to writer letters to Gutman, who loves to get fan mail.
This site, a testimonial to author Brian Jacques, was created by a 12-year-old fan! Jacques, most young readers know, is the author of the "Redwall" series, so called because the tales center around Redwall Abbey. "The heroes are peace-loving mice, moles, shrews, squirrels, and their friends who exhibit human characteristics in a medieval setting," states the site's author. "They face the dark side of the animal world, represented by rats, weasels, stoats, foxes, and their villain allies, in the day-to-day struggle of good versus evil, life versus death." Students can read a biography of Jacques and learn where he gets his ideas and what his workday is like. He also offers advice to young writers. Three "Ask Brian" pages provide the author's responses to frequently asked questions. Information is provided for students who might want to join the Redwall Readers Club, and an address is offered for fans who'd like to write directly to Jacques. Educators will find valuable resources here too. The "Redwall in the Classroom" link will carry teachers to Carol Hurst's Web site, which includes activities, "Things to Notice and Talk About," and links to related sites (including Middle Ages sites). And the Jacques site includes three crossword puzzles based on Redwall books.
Article by Sharon Cromwell
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