More stories about two endearing friends. The lovable vole and groundhog who first appeared in Rose and Riley return for three new stories about friendship and...
A welcome addition to the pantheon of early reader books
Meet Rose and Riley, a vole and a groundhog, who are best friends. And like all best friends, they...
When we talk about what writers are like, we’re polite. We don’t say, “They’re liars.” We say, “They tend to exaggerate.” We don't say, “They’re snoops.” We say, “They’re interested in everyone.” And we don't say, “They're fools.” We say, “They have such vivid imaginations, sometimes they just can’t tell what’s real and what isn’t.”
I grew up in the Midwest at a time when people spoke more plainly. And I knew from an early age exactly who I was. I was a liar, a snoop, and a fool; apparently, I was intended to be a writer.
I accepted my fate and launched my career with a blatantly criminal act: in grade four, I composed rhyming quatrains for almost everyone in my class to pass off as his or her own on their handmade Mother’s Day cards.
At the time, in the fever of composition and under the pressure of my first deadline, I didn’t stop to think about the immorality of passing off my work as theirs. And, as it turned out, since our teacher encouraged cooperation and failed to see the true scope of the deception being practiced, the project came off without a hitch.
In junior high, I wrote a long, melodramatic story about the evils of racial prejudice. The story won second prize in a statewide contest, and my name appeared in the newspaper. There was no turning back.
When I got to high school, I wrote a piece for Scribblers’, the creative writing club, and became—officially—a “scribbler.” Then I wrote a play, a column for a teen magazine, and a lot of prose poems about spring, love, and death.
In college, I wrote papers, usually for extra credit, which was the only sure way I knew to pull up my mostly sorry grades.
After college, I cheerfully entered the world of writing for a living at the bottom. I wrote advertising copy for such things as tires, electric drills, and lawn mowers. I advanced to writing public relations copy for an opera company. After that, I joined the ranks of the ultra-respectable, writing and editing encyclopedias and then textbooks.
In due course, I got married, had three children, and—though I remained at heart a liar, a snoop, and a fool—set aside my writing in favor of cookie baking, knee bandaging, car-pool driving, comforting, overseeing, and reading aloud.
Soon enough, the children grew up and went merrily off to do whatever they had to do, and I went back to writing.
In graduate school, I studied fiction writing and learned to write short stories, which got published in magazines and literary quarterlies.
Once again, I was fulfilling my destiny. I was writing, and my writing was even being published. Perversely, I began to regret the whole business and to think that if I could just get over being a liar, a snoop, and a fool, I could be something other than a writer.
Then one dreamy day when I wasn't paying attention, I sat down and wrote a story for children. I had such a good time doing it that I wrote another. And before I knew it, I'd become a children's writer.
They say that my tendency to exaggerate makes my books lively. They say my interest in everyone else’s business helps me create memorable characters. And they even say that my difficulty separating the imaginary from the real helps me write with conviction about almost anything.
I appreciate the fancy language.
But I know exactly what makes stories lively, characters memorable, and writing convincing: lots of practice, combined with being a liar, a snoop, and a fool!
Thomas F. Yezerski
About a year ago, I discovered something startling in the closet of my childhood bedroom -- I haven't changed a whole heck of a lot since I was five! I realized this when I found a picture that I made in kindergarten.
The subject of that first drawing was my stuffed bear, enigmatically named Mary Bear. As she was in life, the Mary Bear in the drawing is long and flat, the result of sleeping in the arms of a chubby little boy. She is fastidiously rendered in brown, black, and red crayon. Mom insists it shows I was going to be an artist when I grew up, but she is my mother, after all! When I look at it, I just see the love I had for my bear.
My feelings about the ordinary people and events in my life also tend to get into my work. Mom says the Mary Bear drawing was the first drawing I made in kindergarten. I can bet that I was missing my bear quite a lot during those first few terrifying days of my education, and that emotion is apparent in the drawing.
My first book, Together in Pinecone Patch, is about the prejudices of Polish and Irish immigrants in the nineteenth century. But it's also about my gratitude to my parents and grandparents for working so hard to make life better for me. My personal fears about starting out on my own motivated that story, too. It may even be about my own experience of falling in love with someone I shouldn't have.
My outlook on life isn't all hungry peasants and gray coal towns, though. Queen of the World reflects my sillier side. After all, my kindergarten drawing wasn't sad and dark; it was a stuffed bear! I admit that the three girls in the story resemble my sisters. My sisters admit it, too, and they're slightly annoyed. I have a long history of slightly annoying my sisters, so this book is a sort of crowning work. I'm also proud of my siblings. I think my admiration for their individuality and zeal comes across through these words and pictures. Though I've conveniently left out a character representing myself, this book helps me laugh at my own busy, frantic quest to be the best.
A Full Hand is a trip down the Morris Canal in New Jersey, and a journey from childhood to adulthood. The route I travel from my parents' house to my home is roughly the same as that of the canal. Over the years, at the deliberate pace of a canal boat, my father dispensed mundane facts and taught me the right way to be. The boy in A Full Hand is amazed by and yet anxious about his father's world. He's also eager to do a good job in it. Decades after my first day in kindergarten, I still find my world daunting and amazing. In some ways, I'm still a five-year-old trying to put it all in my drawings.
Thomas F. Yezerski was born in 1969 and spent most of his childhood in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. Tom took art lessons at the Baum School of Art in Allentown and at the Barnstone Studios in Coplay. He was a Boy Scout for six years and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. In 1987 he graduated from Parkland High School in Orefield, where he played xylophone in the band. Tom earned his BFA in illustration from Syracuse University in 1991.
Before illustrating children's books, Tom created a design a day for children's pajamas and swimsuits. He is forever grateful to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for publishing his first book, Together in Pinecone Patch. Tom continues to write and illustrate new books, as well as to create graphics for computer software. He lives in Rutherford, New Jersey.