Sunday, October 24, 2010

Happy Birthday Steven Kellogg - October 26

Happy Birthday Steven Kellogg- Born October 26, 1941

Earlier this month the article, Picture Books Languish as Parents Push "Big-Kid" Books, was published in the NY Times.  This article rippled through the world of children's literature sparking intense emotions.  Parents are choosing to introduce chapter books earlier because they feel their child "does not need picture books anymore" or they recommend to their child "you can do better" than a picture book. The letters to the editor following the article cited many upset teachers, grandmothers, and writers that were "sad" and "dismayed".

During an interview conducted by Reading Rockets Steven Kellogg offered his thoughts on the benefits of picture books.  I was struck by a quote that Kellogg has often used when talking to librarians, teachers and parents from the coffee table book, All Mirrors Are Magic Mirrors,
"Life moves so swiftly
It's such a blur 
that we all need 
on occasion 
to have the frenzy stilled 
so that we may inspect at leisure 
the furniture of our world.  
The child 
not long ago 
a resident of stillness.  
Most need such opportunities 
and the picture book provides them.  
Acts of arrest and selection
are acts tending to an understanding and tranquility.  
Having stopped the movement, 
we discover the form 
and pursuing the form, 
we find beauty." 

Later in the interview he described the picture book as a "bridge" between the adult and child when he said, "Most important of all it is the bonding of the adult and child, where the adult really can establish him or herself as a caring, loving mentor. It deepens and enhances the relationship between the adult and the child and allows them to build on that relationship in lots of areas that they're going to experience together that are not as easy and harmonious and warm and welcoming as the sharing of a story."(Reading Rockets).  

Steven Kellogg began sharing stories when he was very young. He would sit with his two younger sisters and they would engage in an activity they called "telling stories on paper".  As the big brother he would sit with a stack of paper and tell a story while drawing the illustrations. Paper after paper would be illustrated and then passed to his sisters as the story unfolded. Kellogg's talent for story telling and illustration has led him to publish over 110 books including his Pinkerton Series(based on his dog),The Mysterious Tadpole, and many tall tales.

We read many tall tales retold and illustrated by Steven Kellogg this week including Paul Bunyan, Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett, and Pecos Bill. Kellogg once said "My principal concern in presenting the tall tales is to infuse them with the zaniness and high-spirited energy that, to me, is the essence of the genre." (HarperCollins). I wanted to provide my children an opportunity to understand the genre.  I focused on a few common characteristics of tall tales including humor, exaggeration, larger than life characters and accomplishments, and explanation of how familiar things began.  My daughter started to grasp the idea of exaggeration while we read the books.   I later remembered that one of my son's favorite shows on Disney is Mater's Tall Tales based on the Cars Movie (Many available on YouTube - El Materdor, Mater the Greater).  This provided a great opportunity for us to compare tall tales from Kellogg's books and the short animated skits from Disney.  Both the books and the Mater short films proved to be funny and exciting!

Steven Kellogg's favorite award he has received over the years was the Jo Osborne Award for Humor in Children's Literature.  He feels, "children, like all of us, need to have a chance to benefit from the ready access to all the positive effects of laughter." (HarperCollins).  Kellogg blends humor, illustration, and text together to make picture books that bring joy to the face and happiness to the soul of a reader. As a family this week we read books that made us slow down, observe, enjoy time together, and smile. Picture books are an important part of each day for our family and I am thankful for the bond I have with my children as a result.

I wrote Steven Kellogg a letter to inform him that I was going to be celebrating his birthday.  He responded by writing back, "Here is the cover picture for a new book by Ruth Krauss that I illustrated called And I Love You. That's what birthdays are all about." And I Love You was released on October 1, 2010.  The jacketflap of the book summarizes the book and this post perfectly, "Steven Kellogg's luminous illustrations, a cat and her kitten discover the excitement and intimacy of sharing stories. As the pages turn the landscapes evolve from forests to fields to sweeping ocean vistas, the tender bond that unites the cat and her kitten is deepened and enriched."

Thank you Steven Kellogg for writing me back and sharing your encouraging thoughts. I was lost for words the day I received the response in the mail. I hope you have a wonderful birthday!


1. Steven Kellogg's Website
2. Reading Rockets Video - Make sure you check out the last 2 clips in interview - He reads 2 books, Clorinda and Jack and the Beanstalk.
3. Steven Kellogg Speaks at 2009 National Book Festival - YouTube from Library of Congress (If you do not have time to watch all 25 minutes of the video go 15:00 minutes into the clip to watch Kellogg illustrate and tell the story of The Island of the Skog - Awesome!)
4. Tall Tales Webpage - American Folklore
5. Steven Kellogg Books -  Reading Rainbow Episodes - How Much is a Million?, The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash, Paul Bunyan, Best Friends (Something new for the Reading Rainbow episodes from WPTV.  You must become a member of their group to view - Click Here to Join)
6. Steven Kellogg Text Interview - Washington Post 2006, HarperCollins


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I think it's really neat how you celebrate the birthday. How creative! I'm subscribed to you by GFC and email. I look forward to reading more.


  2. How cool that Steven Kellog sent you a print! I would cherish that for a long time!

  3. Wonderful post and how grand that the author contacted you back with that little beauty! It's true...birthdays are all about the love and celebrating life for what it is. As for picture books, I think they definitely have a place in the world of fact, for all ages of readers as well. There is nothing that can spark a young imagination to greater heights than the combination of a whimsical story and colorful artwork. Great post!

  4. What a cool treat from a fantastic illustrator! I love the looks of his last book and may have to pick it up because we are always looking for more ways to show love in our home. Love the post!


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