You’re looking for something to read to your kids, but you’ve had it up to here with Goodnight Moon. Well, we don’t blame you, and to that end we’re continuing our “You Haven’t Heard Of Them?” series by bringing you six underrated children’s authors sure to help you and your kids get out of your Eric Carle rut.
1. Tomi Ungerer
Despite receiving critical acclaim, French author/illustrator Tomi Ungerer has never become a household name like Dr. Seuss or Maurice Sendak. This is a pity, because Ungerer’s work is completely wonderful, managing to be imaginative, adorable, and unsugar-coated all at once. Moon Man is a gently satirical tale about the adventures of the Moon Man when he comes down to Earth, while Adelaide: The Flying Kangaroo looks at the importance of being an individual and accepting others. In Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear, Ungerer even manages to write a children’s book about the Holocaust, creating a poignant story about a dark chapter in history without being unduly frightening. With creative plots and charming artwork, Ungerer explores themes like death, sadness, and doubt in ways that are accessible to children while still being entertaining for adults.
2. Sydney Taylor
Born to an immigrant couple in 1904, Sydney Taylor grew up in a large Jewish family on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It was this childhood that formed the basis for her best-known works, the All-of-a-Kind Family series, which chronicle the everyday struggles and adventures of five sisters and their loving parents. In a manner remiscient of Louisa May Alcott, Taylor covers everything from getting lost on a family outing, to shopping at the busy market, to the birth of a new baby and the celebration of the Jewish Holy Days. Bursting with warmth and heart, Taylor’s books bring to life a unique time and place in American history, giving readers an up-close look at both the immigrant and Jewish-American experiences.
3. Irene Haas
Irene Haas is something of a mystery. She doesn’t have a website, or even a wikipedia page. I couldn’t find a picture of her, either. Most people reading this have probably never heard of her. But her books are absolutely wonderful and deserving of more widespread attention. Full of animal birthday parties, fairy godmothers, and magical ships, Haas’s books— which include such gems as The Maggie B, The Little Moon Theater, and A Summertime Song— combine charming stories and lyrical text with gorgeously detailed illustrations. A treat for both children and the grownups who read to them, hopefully Haas’s works will come out of obscurity and receive more of the love they deserve.
4. Sandra Day O’Connor
Yes, that Sandra Day O’Connor. The former Supreme Court Justice has taken up a surprising new career as a children’s author and she’s really very good at it. Her first children’s book, Chico, was published in 2005, with her second one, Finding Susie, appearing four years later. Chico is the story of a girl, her horse, and their frightening encounter with a rattlesnake, while Finding Susie details young Sandra’s quest to find just the right pet. Both books are autobiographical, based on O’Connor’s experiences growing up on a ranch in Arizona, and both combine delightful tales of animals with great lessons about facing your fears and learning to let go.
5. Mark Teague
A prolific author and illustrator, Mark Teague has written over twenty children’s books, and illustrated over forty. One of the best things about him is his ability to take ordinary events and make them extraordinary. Having a babysitter over suddenly means staging a full-blown circus performance (Baby Tamer), while writing a book report involves becoming a doctor for frogs (Frog Medicine). Meanwhile, his first full-length novel, The Doom Machine, deals with a paperboy whose life is turned upside down when an alien spaceship lands in his hometown. Full of fun and imagination, Teague’s books are fantastic stories for kids of all ages.
6. Julie Andrews
The second celebrity appearance on this list, Dame Julie Andrews isn’t just an acclaimed actress. She’s also a really good— and surprisingly underappreciated— children’s author. Writing under her married name, Julie Edwards, she’s published over a dozen children’s books, all of which can best be described as “practically perfect in every way.” Younger readers will delight in her picture books, featuring characters such as the Very Fairy Princess, Dumpy the Dump Truck, and Bonnie Boadicea the cat. Andrews has fare for older children, too, with books such as Dragon: Hound of Honor— a retelling of a Medieval French legend— and The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, a delightful fantasy romp.
Did we miss anyone? What children’s authors do you think deserve more love?
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