Book Awards are given each year by a number of organizations for outstanding
children's literature, and only the best of the best are honored by
the coveted Caldecott and Newbery Medals. The Caldecott Medal is
presented to the illustrator of the most distinguised American picture
book for children, and the winner for 2002 is The
Three Pigs by David Wiesner. Those receiving the Caldecott Honor distinction for 2002 are: Martin's
Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins illustrated by Brian Selznick The
Stray Dog by Marc Simont. The Newbery Medal goes to the author of
the most distinguished American novel for children, and for 2002 that
novel is A
Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. The Newbery Honor Books for
2002 are: Everything
on a Waffle by Polly Horvath Carver:
A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson
A book that recently came to my attention is "The Calico Buffalo." This book is surely a classic in the making. I talked to the author, E. J. Stapleton about his writing career and this new book.
EJ: The Calico Buffalo came out of a dream. Most of my ideas have come to me that way. It seems you have to knock me out to get my attention. I dreamed I was standing at the edge of the Painted Desert with my arms around the neck of two huge animals. The animals began to run, carrying me along with them. When we reached the other side of the desert, I realized the beasts were buffalo, covered with white orange and black spots. The next morning I told the dream to a friend of mine. She said "Leave it to you to dream of calico buffalo." When I heard her say those words together, the rhyme started writing itself in my head.
Bev: Please tell us about yourself....growing up and becoming a children's writer.
EJ: I grew up the second of five children in a Boston neighborhood.
I was lucky enough to be surrounded by storytellers as a child, the
two most prolific of whom were "Johnny and Flossie," my father's
They were the kind of grandparents who would climb under the bed with you and tell stories from one end of the day until the next. Stories about anything, from the old country, to being a cowboy or cowgirl, or dancing for the Queen. They encouraged and nurtured my ability to use my imagination. They taught me to see an empty refrigerator carton as a fort or spaceship, a sock as a puppet. They made storytelling, early on, a large part of my life. I was truly a lucky kid to have known them. I know it is their influence that has carried me to the writing I do now.
EJ: I have no other books currently in print. My last book before "The Calico Buffalo" was a collection of cartoons about the airline industry called "Hard Fly" published by Quinlan Press in 1988. I took a hiatus from the book world in the eighties to look for a different voice. I believe I have found that voice now. I currently have five more books in the works that I will look forward to seeing come to life.
Bev: India Baldwin's illustrations complement your story-poem so well, and I notice that she is the illustrator for your upcoming books, "The Bundlestick People," and "Audrey Ruth and Jane." Were you and Ms Baldwin paired by the publisher, or how does that work?
EJ: I've often been asked about India Baldwin's illustrations and ability to so clearly understand how to represent exactly what I have in mind. I'll let you in on a very poorly guarded "secret"... India Baldwin and I are one and the same person. To make myself seem more formidable to prospective publishers I long ago separated my two jobs as writer and illustrator. To help maintain the separation I began using India Baldwin as my pen name when wearing my illustrator's hat. The name was taken from my great grandmother.
Bev: Are these upcoming books also written in verse?
EJ: Yes. All of the projects I have in the works will be in
rhyme. India Baldwin has already agreed to illustrate all of the books
now planned. I love the format of "The Calico Buffalo" and
plan to use it for all of the upcoming books.
EJ: I have chosen to forward all of my author's royalties, in equal parts, to two children's charities. More information about them can be found at their websites. Both organizations are providing much needed services for children: The Home for Little Wanderers, One of the oldest child welfare agencies in the country, providing care for at risk children for over two hundred years. www.thehome.org
And, The Jessie Bullens-Crewe Foundation, founded in memory of Jessie
Bullens-Crewe, daughter of singer-songwriter Cindy Bullens, who was
lost to cancer at age eleven. This foundation has been established to
harvest funding for pediatric cancer research, and children's educational
and environmental awareness programs.
EJ: None of my projects is, as yet, scheduled for e-book format. I have been approached to have "The Calico Buffalo" converted to e-book, but no agreements have been reached, no decisions made.
I believe the e-book will become part of our daily lives as an addition to the book world at large, but do not believe they will replace the book as we know it. At least I am certain e-books will not replace paper books for me. I find the paper book a wonderful treat to curl up with. I expect the e-book to become another branch of the book publishing industry.
Bev: Do you have any advice for our readers who would like to be children's writers?
EJ: With regard to advice for writers of any type, I have two things to offer. The first is to find something you LOVE, and write about it. In my work the thing I LOVE is the perspective offered for suggestion. I believe this art form is a very powerful way to offer ideas. A powerful vehicle to effect change.
The second thing is to write about something you know very, very well. The only thing I know well enough to write about is myself. In my work, every character, good or bad, is a manifestation of a facet of my own character.
I believe these two ingredients will carry you in your writing. They certainly work for me.
Bev: E. J., thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. I'm looking forward to your next two books: "The Bundlestick People," and "Audrey Ruth and Jane."
A beautiful new baby is born to the chief of the Buffalo Nation and his wife, but the little buffalo does look different. He is calico-colored. Thorn tries to convince the tribe that the Chief and his wife, along with the little Calico Buffalo calf, should be expelled from the tribe because he is "different." The frantic parents try to color their baby by covering him with brown mud. Then the tribe decides to travel to the far ends of the earth to seek the origins of their tribe and ask advice of the ancient one.
This classic-in-the-making is a magical story, written in wonderful lyrical poetry that carries the story along at an exciting pace. The full-color illustrations perfectly complement the story. Fun to read with a life lesson on tolerance that will clutch your heart, this book really showcases Stapleton's great talent.