Louisa May Alcott’s working title for Little Women was The Pathetic Family.
Chris Van Allsburg, who wrote and illustrated the book Jumanji (1982 Caldecott Medal) about a board game coming to life, found board games disappointing as a child.
J. R. Tolkien wrote much of The Lord of the Rings on the backs of undergraduates’ exam papers during a wartime paper shortage.
Frank Baum’s original title for The Wizard of Oz was The Emerald City. Because of a superstition that publishing a book with a jewel in the title was unlucky, the title was changed.
In the final poem of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, the name Alice Pleasance Liddell is spelled out with the first letter of each line. Alice Liddell was the girl for whom the book’s main character was named.Robert C. O’Brien (Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, 1972 Newbery Medal) was the pseudonym of Robert Leslie Conly. He had to write under a pen name because his employer, National Geographic, didn’t want their writers working for anyone else.
Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time, 1963 Newbery Medal) wrote her first story at the age of six. The story concerned a little girl who lived in a cloud.
Although John Newbery is often credited with publishing the first Mother Goose book in London in 1760, Thomas Fleet printed Mother Goose’s Melodies in Boston in 1719. Fleet’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth Goose, wrote the book using some verses she remembered and some she wrote herself.
Beverly Cleary (Dear Mr. Henshaw, 1984 Newbery Medal) wrote novelizations of the Leave It To Beaver television series.
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first book, Little House in the Big Woods, was published when she was 65 years old.
Margery Bianco always wanted to write about her toys. She had a rabbit named Fluffy that became the basis for The Velveteen Rabbit.
When his hometown librarian asked Jerry Spinelli (Maniac Magee, 1991 Newbery Medal) if he was a “maniac,” he answered, “I sure am. Aren’t we all?”
Karen Cushman (The Midwife’s Apprentice, 1996 Newbery Medal) saw the phrase “midwife’s apprentice” and built the book around it.
When Julius Lester learned To Be a Slave was named a Newbery Honor Book in 1969, his first question was “What’s that?” He then asked, “Any money?” He hung up as soon as he learned no money was involved.
Mildred Taylor’s (Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, 1977 Newbery Medal) first book about the Logans, Song of the Trees, was inspired by a real child. At one point while writing that book, Taylor lost her temper because she couldn’t find the words to portray the strong feelings involved.
Maurice Sendak based one of the “wild things” in Where the Wild Things Are (1964 Caldecott Medal) on a relative who scared him as a child by saying, “I could eat you up.” The other wild things were also based on Sendak’s relatives.E. Hinton received a “D” in her high school creative writing class while she worked on the manuscript for The Outsiders.
Meindert DeJong spent four years writing The Wheel on the School (1955 Newbery Medal).
Two years after World War II ended, Ezra Jack Keats (The Snowy Day, 1963 Caldecott Medal) changed his name from Jacob Ezra Katz to avoid anti-Semitic prejudices.
Virginia Hamilton (M. C. Higgins, the Great, 1975 Newbery Medal) was the first African-American writer to receive the Newbery Medal.
Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for 182 weeks.
After Louis Sachar (Holes, 1999 Newbery Medal) and several of his friends took the bar exam, they stayed up all night to see if they passed. Sachar wasn’t as excited as his friends when he learned he had passed because he wanted to be a writer instead.
Nearly thirty publishers rejected And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Dr. Seuss’s first book.
The only money Maia Wojciechowska (Shadow of a Bull, 1965 Newbery Medal) had when she arrived in New York was a dime. She threw that dime into the river from the Brooklyn Bridge.