As a kid, I never paid attention to authors. It was all about the story – I could not have cared less who wrote it. The only authors I can remember being aware of at all as a child were Laura Ingalls Wilder (my hero!) and Beverly Cleary.
Now, though, as an adult, I’m as fascinated by the authors as by the story. Going to hear Linda Sue Park speak after reading A Single Shard was fantastic. Reading multiple books by the same author, coming to recognize prevalent themes or writing styles in their work, delights me and my giant nerd heart.
When I read Hugo Cabret earlier this year, I was just so blown away by Brian Selznick’s work that I looked up what else he’d done. To my astonishment, he was the author and illustrator of a book called The Houdini Box which my parents had owned for years about a little boy who worships Harry Houdini and desperately wants to imitate his tricks. My dad is an amateur magician (a quite good one, if I say so myself) and so the book had always reminded me of him (I’m certain that the reason we owned the book in the first place was because of my dad).
Currently, I’m working on an illustrator for my Visual Arts class. We were each assigned an illustrator who’d won the Caldecott award in the last eleven years and I got David Wiesner. I was somewhat familiar with him as he’s won an astonishing three Caldecotts and a couple more Caldecott Honors. The man is a genius. Now my desk is stacked with his picture books and books about his life and work (he’s alive, only a bit over fifty). I love getting to know his books and about him as a person. I’ve made Bart read a bunch of his books too, because his work is just too good not to share. If you ever have a baby, you can pretty much guarantee that I will buy you one of his books as a gift. I want every book he’s done in my own personal library.
It really increases my appreciation of a book when I’m familiar with either the illustrator or the author. It makes me want to read everything they’ve worked on, to go to an author event in person.
It frankly thrills me to see authors becoming rock stars in their own right – I love it that people want to see JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer as much as they want to go to a concert or a movie premiere.
And come November, I’ll be doing my own star sightings at the Texas Book Festival all over again, when Shannon Hale comes. You know I’ll be waiting outside that building at three a.m. like the groupie I am.