Saturday, May 2, 2015

Module 12 Biography: Author: A True Story

Author:  A True Story 

Bibliographic Information
Lester, H. (1997). Author:  A true story. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 

Helen Lester describes how she loved to write from the earliest age, 'writing' grocery lists at the age of three that were the same even turned "upside down."  When she began school, they discovered that she had a learning disability when they saw that she wrote everything backwards.  Lester overcame this "thanks to a lot of help," and continued to write, even though it was still hard at times.  She describes how difficult it sometimes was to come up with ideas and edit her stories when she was a student.  After spending some time as a teacher, Lester was encouraged to write a children's book.  She talks about receiving rejection letters and how through hard work and perseverance she finally published her first book.  The last few pages of the book are full of great advice for young writers:  how to come up with and choose the best ideas, revising to make a story better and better, and when and where to write.  She ends with her love of being an author and how her life is "better than a dream come true." 

This autobiographical account of becoming an author is lighthearted and fun even though it discusses overcoming challenges in life.  Her description of being a "mirror writer" is written in a straight-forward way that young readers can understand and relate to.  She focuses on the facts in her explanation of trying to publish a book and being rejected repeatedly before she achieved success.  Her illustrations are simplistic and a perfect companion to the text.  It is obvious to the reader that Helen Lester loves being an author.

Lester's (Tacky the Penguin) lighthearted look at how she came to write children's books will give aspiring authors of any age a lift- and encouragement to persevere, even in the face of learning disabilities (as a child) and multiple rejection slips (as a novice writer).  Candid and a little self-effacing, Lester tells of her struggles with the creative process, noting that both as an elementary school student and a published author, "Often I can't come up with a single idea, and my stories get stuck in the middle, and I can't think of a title."  She accompanies her breezy narrative with her own cheerful, somewhat rudimentary cartoon pictures, save on one spread where she drolly juxtaposes her childlike drawing of a pig next to a highly polished rendering by her frequent collaborator, Lynn Munsinger.  Some of the best moments here are transitional:  a picture shows the young Lester dreaming of joining the circus when she grows up; the next page continues, "Since no one from the circus came looking for me, I became a teacher."  Her ending playfully concludes, "I'm glad I didn't join the circus... I never dreamed I'd become an author.  So this is better than a dream come true."  Her admirers will agree. 

Review Reference
(1997, February 3). [Review of Author:  A True Story, by H. Lester]. Publisher's
     Weekly. Retrieved from

Library Use
~ This book would be a wonderful read-aloud to explain the writing process with the easy to understand text and to encourage aspiring, young authors.

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