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Writing from experience

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Sometimes the ideas that writers come up with for children’s books can be as persistent and appealing as a stray dog that follows you home.

That’s literally what happened to Newbery Medal author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, who was visiting friends two years ago in rural West Virginia. ”This dog was trembling and shaking and yet its tail was wagging,” she says. ”You just felt like this was a dog that had been kicked.” (The beagle, now named Clover, was happily adopted by her West Virginia friends.)

The 59-year-old author was so upset when she got back to her Bethesda, Md., home that she wrote Shiloh, the story of an abused dog protected by an 11-year-old boy. ”I think I wrote the first draft in eight weeks,” says Naylor, who has written 75 books for children and adults.

An assignment to produce a cover for Cricket magazine in 1989 was the inspiration for illustrator David Wiesner’s Caldecott award-winner, Tuesday. The 36-year-old artist, whose wordless picture book, Free Fall, won a Caldecott Honor (a runner-up award) in ’89, was asked to do a cover for an issue containing stories about St. Patrick’s Day and frogs. He chose the latter topic.

”Just visually, frogs are very interesting things,” Wiesner says. ”Sort of round and bumpy and lumpy and funny-looking. When I drew one sitting on a lily pad, the shape they made (together) reminded me of a flying saucer.”

Now that’s an image you’re not likely to forget.

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