Children’s books often weave an imaginary world in their stories, which keeps the kids engaged while reading. One always finds it difficult to understand how the authors manage to do this. For an ordinary individual it almost seems magical how writers find a topic for their book. Even more surprising is how they complete the entire process of writing.
Writing is said to be a lonely profession and is beset with several challenges. This is the same in case of children’s authors. There are plenty of things that go into the creation of all those children’s books that become bestsellers. So, let’s delve into some surprising facts about the authors of children’s books here:
1. Green Eggs and Ham started with a bet
You might’ve heard about the all-time bestselling book Green Eggs and Ham. Published in 1960, this wonderful book written by Dr. Seuss started with a bet. It was between Seuss and Bennett Cerf, who was his publisher. Cerf said that Seuss won’t complete the entire book without exceeding the vocabulary of 236 words. Dr. Seuss completed this book with the vocabulary of the text consisting of merely 50 words.
2. Ramona from Ramona Quimby, Age 8 was born in the 1950s
Author Beverly Cleary had a thought while writing her Henry Huggins series in the 1950s. She realized that Beatrice Ann ‘Beezus’ Quimby must have a younger sister. Although the idea of this character came to her in the 1950s, she didn’t use it until 1981. This was the year when this character was finally created in the form of Ramona. She appeared in Cleary’s 1981 book Ramona Quimby, Age 8.
3. The inspiration for Pete the Cat books came from a little blue cat
Illustrator James Dean partnered with Eric Litwin in 2008 to create the first Pete the Cat book. Many other books in the series for children followed. Pete the Cat books went on to become New York Times bestsellers and brought great success to James Dean. He owes this success to his little blue cat, who was the inspiration for the main character.
4. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are originally had a different name
Published in 1963, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak almost didn’t have that title. Before he changed his mind, the author wanted the title to be Where the Wild Horses Are. He replaced the word ‘Horses’ with ‘Things’ in the title to describe the wild creatures Max meets.
5. The author of Harry Potter series doesn’t have a middle name
J.K. Rowling, the world-renowned author of the Harry Potter series doesn’t have a middle name. Before remarriage, her name was Joanne Rowling. The Bloomsbury Publishing staff had asked her to use a pen name. They told her that she could use two initials and her last name.
The publishing staff’s assumption was that young boys wouldn’t want to read a book written by a woman. So, she used the initial of her paternal grandmother’s name, Kathleen, as the middle initial.
6. First book with a Black character to win major children’s literary award
In 1963, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats won the Caldecott Medal. It thus became the first book with a Black character to win a major children’s literary award. This was a significant milestone in the world of children’s literature.
7. The inspiration for Charlotte’s Web came from the author watching a spider
Published in 1952, Charlotte’s Web is considered a classic and is enjoyed by children and adults alike. The inspiration for Charlotte came from a spider that the author E.B. White had found in his barn. He apparently saw the spider spin an egg sac in his barn in Maine, which inspired the character.
8. It took five years and 22 rejections for The Crossover to become a success
Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover is a book that’s told entirely through verse. It won the Newbery Medal in 2015 and the Coretta Scott King Award. However, before it was first published in 2014, the book was rejected 22 times. It also took five years for the book to go from idea to publication. Eventually, it became a critical and commercial success.
9. Captain Hook was not the original villain in J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy
J.M. Barrie’s novel Peter and Wendy originally appeared in the form of a play. It was simply known as Peter Pan although it had a lengthy title. Captain Hook is a pirate who is the villain in the book and the play. This character was only invented for the theater.
It needed more time for the stage hands to switch out the sets. A pirate ship, therefore, was used to make up for the delay. The original villain was Peter Pan himself, and this was revealed by J.M. Barrie later.
10. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was originally a self-published book
The famous children’s book The Tale of Peter Rabbit was initially self-published by Beatrix Potter. She had written this story for Noel Moore, the five-year-old son of her former governess. When it was privately printed, the book had black-and-white illustrations.
After rejections by several publishers, it was published by Frederick Warne & Co in 1902. The publisher asked the author to redo the illustrations in color. As a result, the book became a huge success following its debut. Multiple reprints of it followed and the book ended up selling 45 million copies.
11. The New York Public Library had banned Goodnight Moon
Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon came out in 1947 and went on to become a popular bedtime story. The New York Public Library didn’t aquire this book at first. The children’s librarian regarded this children’s book as overly sentimental.
As a result, it got banned by the library. The book gradually became a bestseller. The book’s annual sales increased from 1,500 copies in 1953 to nearly 20,000 copies in 1970. Eventually, the book was reinstated by the library in 1972.
12. A Light in the Attic was the first children’s book to become a New York Times bestseller
A Light in the Attic is Shel Silverstein’s famous book of poems. There are 135 poems in the book that are accompanied by the illustrations from the author. It became a bestseller after it was published in 1981. Moreover, it became the first children’s book to reach the esteemed New York Times bestseller list. After making it to this list, it stayed there for 182 weeks!
13. Christopher Paul Curtis had worked as an autoworker in an auto factory
Christopher Paul Curtis wrote his acclaimed children’s book The Watsons Go to Birmingham when he was 42 years old. Not many people know that he had worked as an autoworker for General Motors for 13 years. When the book first came out in 1995, it won several awards and brought him immediate recognition nationally.
14. The main character in The Very Hungry Caterpillar was originally a worm
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle features a hungry caterpillar. It eats many different types of foods before it becomes a butterfly. This children’s picture book that came out in 1969 has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. A little known fact about it is that its main character was originally a bookworm with the name ‘Willi’.