Tag: author birthdays

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Happy Birthday, Hans Christian Andersen!

Today is the birthday of Hans Cristian Andersen, the famous Danish writer who is best remembered for his fairytales. Happy birthday, Andersen! If Andersen were alive, he would be turning 215 years old! Through the years, he has remained known as a prolific writer of plays, novels, poems, and more. Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark and was an only child. His father considered himself related to nobility, but these speculations have since been questioned. His father was the one who introduced him to literature, but he died during Andersen’s childhood. He was left with his mother, an illiterate washerwoman, and her new husband. Andersen went on to receive a rudimentary education but soon moved into a working apprenticeship to support himself. He moved to Copenhagen where he became an actor until his voice’s pitch lowered, and he was no longer wanted. When a fellow actor told him he considered him a poet, Andersen took it seriously and began to pursue writing.

The Complete Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen - Complete Collection (Illustrated and Annotated) (Literary Classics Collection Book 18) by [Andersen, Hans Christian]
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

Soon, Andersen was beginning his journey in writing that would grant him long-lasting success. This success, of course, wasn’t immediate. His first stories were met with some recognition, but it wasn’t until 1833 that he received a grant to travel across Europe. Yet, even then, the quality of his fairytales was not recognized. His first attempts were re-tellings of tales that he had heard as a child. His original works were first released in 1835, but they were met with poor sales. He persisted throughout the next ten years and experienced a breakthrough in 1845 when his work, “The Little Mermaid,” was translated. Andersen’s work after this was eagerly received. He would continue to publish fairytales until his death.

 

Hans Christian Andersen is one of the reasons our literary world is able to be filled with such wonder. Without his persistence throughout his career, many of our childhood tales would evaporate; true magic, more real than that of any fairytale, would have never been able to shine its light on readers for centuries.

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116 Years of Dr. Seuss

Whether you learned about environmentalism for the first time with The Lorax or enjoyed a day in with The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss has impacted children for generations. From the publication of his first children’s book And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street in 1937, it was clear that Dr. Seuss was going to be a mainstay in children’s literature. Seuss’ birthday is one of the biggest birthday celebrations in schools and libraries across the country. For those who are out of school, these lesser-known Dr. Seuss facts are not likely to be celebrated at the kids section of your local library.

 

Why Seuss Added the Doctor

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By now, most people know that Dr. Seuss was a pen name for Theodore Seuss Giesel. Giesel began using the name Seuss while he was in college, but didn’t add the doctor until later. His father had always wanted him to be a medical doctor, but Seuss clearly knew that wouldn’t happen. Rather than let his father down completely, Dr. Seuss became one of the most famous doctors of the past hundred years, whether or not he practiced medicine.

Dr. Seuss’ Dad might be even more interesting

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Even though Giesel’s father wanted him to become a man of medicine, he had his own unique career path. Giesel’s father was a professional beer brewmaster and was also a competitive marksman. Because of Prohibition, Seuss’ father had to change career paths pretty quickly. Maybe this is why he wanted his son to be in a more steady profession.

 

Political Statements in Doctor Seuss (or not)

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Lots of Dr. Seuss books are clearly political, from the environmental messages in The Lorax to the anti-fascist antics of Yertle the Turtle.  The famous line “a person’s a person, no matter how small” from Horton Hears a Who! has been used to support some controversial political causes.  Although this line was originally intended to help young readers understand that all people are important, the quote was used by a variety of pro-life groups to support their views. Dr. Seuss never made any statements about his stance of pro-life vs pro-choice, but he did threaten to sue one anti-abortion group for using the phrase on their letterhead. Seuss and his wife Audrey have both expressed that they don’t appreciate when famous Seuss quotes are taken out of context to support causes that they were never intended to support.

Seuss is Not the Only Pseudonym

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In addition to publishing more than sixty books under the name Dr. Seuss, Giesel also published a number of books under the name Theo LeSieg. His famous book Ten Apples Up On Top was not originally a Dr. Seuss book because it was published under a Theo LeSieg, even though now the book bares the name Dr. Seuss. In 1975, Giesel even wrote a book called Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! under the name Rosetta Stone.

 

Even Dr. Seuss Had His Fun!

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While attending Dartmouth, Seuss was editor-in-chief of their humor magazine Jack-O-Lantern. Not unlike many other rowdy college students, Seuss and his friends were caught drinking in their dorm room one night, which got him kicked off the publication. Now, that might seem like a harsh punishment for a few beers, but Prohibition was still in effect when Seuss was in college. Giesel got his the best of them as he kept contributing to the publication under the name Seuss.

Work during World War II

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Even if Giesel was too old to be drafted for the second world war, he certainly was working hard. In the early 1940s, he started as a cartoonist for PM, a magazine produced in New York. Giesel made over 400 cartoons for the newspaper, most of them propaganda. In 1942, he began working for the US Army in their documentary film division. One of the films he wrote, Your Job in Germany, was even directed by Frank Capra (the same guy who directed It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington).

 

Seuss’ More Salacious Side

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Dr. Seuss, ever the pessimist about the publishing industry, wanted to make sure that his editors were paying attention. Apparently, Seuss used to slip in dirty images or swear words into his first drafts to keep everyone on their toes. Giesel even published a book called The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts of America’s Barest Family, which featured many nude drawings to illustrate the text. After its initial failure, as Seuss’ fame grew it was republished in 1987.

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Brooklyn Museum to Celebrate Toni Morrison on her 89th Birthday

Following her death on August 5, 2019, the world has felt the absence of literary legend Toni Morrison. Known for being a leading novelist in writing about the black experience in America, Morrison remains one of the most renowned American authors. On today, what would have been her eighty-ninth birthday, the Brooklyn Museum is dedicating an entire festival to the legendary author and celebrating her contributions to the literary world. 

 

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Ohio-born Morrison earned her B.A. in English from Howard University and later her Masters in American Literature from Cornell University. In the late 1960s, she became the first black female editor in fiction at Random House. Her first novel The Bluest Eye was published in 1970 and remains one of her most celebrated works. Her third novel Song of Solomon, published in 1987, earned her the National Book Critics Circle award. She was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved in 1988. In 1993, Morrison became the first and only black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature for her collective body of work. In 2012, President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Toni Morrison died on August 5, 2019 in New York City due to complications of pneumonia. She was mourned by many and remembered for her great contributions to the literary world.

 

image via the New Yorker

 

In honor of what would have been her eighty-ninth birthday, the Brooklyn Museum is hosting a festival titled The Toni Morrison Festival: Alive at 89. The festival will take place today, February 18, from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Brooklyn Museum. This festival will not only highlight Morrison’s storied legacy, but also touch on the ongoing lack of diversity within literature, note festival founders Magogodi Makhene and Cleyvis Natera Tucker. The event will feature guests and performers such as Sandra Guzman, Tyehimba Jess, and Mitchell S. Jackson, among others. Event organizers say the festival seeks to “reimagine our literary history today by centering Toni Morrison as one of many diverse thinkers.” Tickets are available via Eventbrite, with the first 100 tickets free and following at ten dollars a ticket.

 

 

Featured Image via Vanity Fair

 


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41 Years of Ransom Riggs

Ransom Riggs, one of New York Times Bestselling Authors, is celebrating 41 years of life today. Ransom was born on a 200-year-old farm in Maryland in 1979. From there his family moved to Englewood, Florida, where he grew up learning to love the power of the arts.

 

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At a young age, Riggs started writing stories on an old typewriter that was in his childhood home. His interest in the arts quickly grew, when he became obsessed with photography after receiving a camera as a Christmas present. Photography turned into films when he found a half-broken video camera. This inspired Riggs and his friends to create their own videos, where they were the stars in their own bedrooms and backyards.

 

 

Riggs attended the Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, where he continued to work on the development of his skills. He went onto Kenyon College where he received a degree in English Literature, and later attended the University of Southern California earning a degree in film.

 

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With his growing knowledge of the arts, Riggs hoped to enter the film festival in order to be discovered. Instead, he went on to blogging for Mental Floss, which granted him the opportunity to work on The Sherlock Holmes Handbook “that went along with the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film.”

In 2011, Riggs published his first novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which was based on many old photographs that he collected. A year later, Riggs “published another book inspired by old photographs, called Talking Pictures,” and later went on to publish two sequels to the Miss Peregrine’s Home series, Hollow City and Library of Souls.

 

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was later adapted into a movie on September 30, 2016. Receiving mixed reviews, the movie adaptation was able to gross $296.5 million worldwide with its budget of $110 million. This leads me to believe that the movie did well in profit, despite the mixed reviews that it received.

 

 

Riggs has his own page, RϟR where he provides insight into the books that he has done, short films that he has created, photos he has taken, and any events that he will hold. Riggs is more than a novelist; he is an artist that continues to find ways to express his passions.

 

Featured Image Via The Times

 


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Beverly Cleary and Ramona Quimby

Children’s Author Beverly Cleary Celebrates 103rd Birthday!

Age is just a number… Isn’t IT?

What a comforting reminder—the idea that we are who we are, irrespective of how many wrinkles or gray hairs we may obtain. Who doesn’t love a big kid? The type of person who clings to vitality and wonderment, even in the face of so-called adulthood. Some of the most quotable people are the ones who maintain the irreverence of a child, but none of those people can hold a torch to self-proclaimed child whisper Beverly Cleary.

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Beverly Atlee Bunn was born on April 12th, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon. In the memoir, A Girl from Yamhill, she explains one of her earliest memories as being the day World War One ended… Today, she turns 103 years old. She is one of America’s pioneer children’s authors (without question); Cleary’s first book (Henry Huggins) was published in 1950 and her last book (Ramona’s World) in 1999—in all those years, she has gone on to sell over 90 million copies of her books. The stories of Beezus and RamonaThe Mouse and the Motorcycle (which she wrote because her son wanted to read about motorcycles), and Henry Huggins have become beloved and timeless classics.

She has not only influenced the development of children’s literature but has also changed the lives of the children, adults and other authors (like Jeff Kinney) who grew up reading her stories—her didactic stories. Cleary writes with the intention of teaching, preparing children for the world. Her books are aimed towards an audience of the most impressionable of youths as she gives them all one big fat hug.

5 Eye Opening Beverly Cleary Quotes 5 Eye Opening Beverly Cleary Quotes

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The world has changed since Cleary began writing; however, her stories continue to resonate with audiences for one reason: children have more or less stayed the same. Before becoming an author, Cleary was a children’s librarian… and before that she was a child who didn’t learn how to read until the second grade. 

She has described the first time she ever really enjoyed reading as an accident. She had been flipping through a picture book and found herself, unintentionally, reading. Books changed her as she began to understand their power although she always felt deprived of a certain aspect of relatability in children’s books. One day, when she did eventually occupy the aforementioned position of children’s librarian, a frustrated student asked her, “where are the books about kids like us?” This moment created award-winning children’s author Beverly Cleary and in turn characters like Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby.

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Of her forty-one published books, fourteen are devoted to the characters of Henry Huggins, his friend Beezus, and her mischievous little sister Ramona. Initially, Ramona was in nursing school—Cleary wrote her until eventually, she was in the fourth grade. Over the course of those novels, Ramona encounters hilarious, relatable and often enlightening situations. Ramona questions the world and gets endearing answers, answers that are undeniably helpful. In Ramona’s World, the protagonist learns to see from her nemesis Susan’s point of view—a cornerstone of maturity. 

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Beverly Cleary is undeniably wise. Wisdom is a result of pain—we teach others not to make our mistakes and then they make their own, which they inevitably advise others not to make. If you read Cleary’s memoir, you may find yourself drawing parallels between her upbringing and the characters in her books. The thing is, her upbringing won’t read as cheery or as endearing as her fiction. That’s the point. I believe Cleary, with all her talent, chose to focus on a younger demographic because she felt it was one that needed the most help. She showed them there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Cleary’s mother once told her that, regardless of what you are writing about, “keep it funny. People always like to read something funny.”  It is with this approach that Cleary has made the world a better place.

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What does one’s legacy consist of? Is it built by the things we leave behind—the people we affect? Is that effect influenced by our bodies of work? The relationships we form? Or perhaps our legacies are all lined up into a sea of dominoes, converging into fateful fallout. The most important domino is the initial one—the ones that follow and fall are influenced by the pioneer. Even when they cause others to fall, it’s still because of that initial domino. Not only can Beverly Cleary be considered an initial domino, but also most certainly a pioneer.

Happy Birthday, legend. 

P.S.

In an interview with Today, when Cleary turned one hundred years old, she had this to say of the milestone:

“Well, I didn’t do it on purpose!”

 

Featured Image Via Today Show.