Shutta Crum was born in Kentucky and raised in Michigan, where she went to school, learned to read, played “school” and “library” and then grew up to become a teacher and then a librarian. Shutta taught high school English in Michigan and creative writing at the community college level. While at the community college, she was also an assistant editor for a nationally distributed literary arts journal. She spent her first two years as a librarian being a library director in a small town in Michigan. Then she moved to a much larger library and spent almost twenty-four years as a youth librarian and a storyteller. Just before retirement, she was the sole children’s book selector for a large and very busy library system in a cosmopolitan and diverse community. In 2002 she was awarded the Michigan Library Association’s Award of Merit as Youth Librarian of the Year. Now Shutta writes at several levels for children; picture books, chapter books and teen novels. A number of her books have won awards, been nominated for state awards or lists, or have appeared on other prestigious lists. She also write articles about writing and teaching for professional journals. And her poems for adults appear in various print and online journals.
Illustrated by Patrice Barton
Sharing toys is not as easy as it seems. The gentle lines of the illustrations in this book work with the simple text to tell the story about a play date between two young children. The front endpapers set up the scene at the floor level where there are lots of colorful toys and two toddlers. A dog is in the background watching them. The tension mounts as the older child claims all the toys one by one and declares them “mine” while the young toddler observes. The tension rises to a climax for the older child when the younger one picks up a stuffed animal at the same time the dog picks up a ball. Suddenly, the younger child tosses the stuffed animal into the air and it lands in the dog’s water bowl. Thus, the tension is broken and the frolic begins with the trio as they joyfully play with all the toys. The back endpaper brings the story full circle with an aftermath scene when the play date comes to a close. Children may enjoy relating to the young characters in the story. The original picture book, which was a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, has made a successful transition to board book format. 2012 (orig. 2011), Alfred A Knopf/Random House Children’s Books, Ages 3 to 6, $6.99. Reviewers: Carrie Hane Hung and Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).
Illustrated by Carol Thompson
The peace of a lazy, idyllic summer afternoon is spoiled by the arrival of dark ominous clouds heralding the approach of a thunderstorm. Kids and parents run for the safety of the house as the rain is pelting down. Dad rushes out to rescue the squawking and protesting Maizey, the children’s favorite chicken. As thunder rumbles and lightening flashes, mother mops up puddles, Scooter the dog hides under the sofa and, as the children watch the action outside they are surprised and amused as Dad’s underwear whips by, torn from the clothesline. As quickly as it began the wind dies down, the hail stops, the thunder rolls from further away, and the first rays of sun peek through dark clouds. While the family is surveying the damage outside, Maizey heads to the henhouse where the children find her sheltering something under her wing. It is a tiny, wet, black kitten with a “thunderous purr.” With Dad’s permission to keep him, the children quickly and aptly name him Thunder-Boomer. The ebb and flow of the free verse begins quietly, builds tension as the storm approaches, reaches its apex at the height of the storm, and descends to a peaceful conclusion. Words create mood and atmosphere and are in perfect harmony with the illustrations. Using a mixed media of watercolor, collage, crayon and gouache in a muted palette the colors move from the grays and blues of the threatening storm and the ever-darkening day and then lighten to yellows and pinks as the storm abates and the day brightens. Onomatopoeic word scattered throughout text and illustration brings the sound and fury of the storm alive. This relief from the heat adventure with a surprise ending is a perfect hot summer day read aloud. 2009, Houghton Mifflin Company, $17.99. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey (Children’s Literature).
Dozens of Cousins
Illustrated by David Catrow
Anyone with a large family will relate to this wild family reunion with a crowd of young cousins, a.k.a. “beasties” or “ogres,” running wild in a rural setting. Barely supervised by bottom-heavy and doting grandparents, aunts, and uncles, the children run barefoot and uncontrolled through fields and ponds, disturbing local wildlife and crusty neighbors with their shenanigans. No sooner do they apologize for their behavior then they are off on another wild adventure, clearly doted on by the adults in the family. This is a multi-ethnic family (although most of the adults tend to the comically obese), and the children are always squint-eyed with laughter. Sisters and brothers care for each other (“When big brothers wrestle us down and drag us to the pump to wash for dinner, we eat them up”), and age seems to be no barrier to playing together. Every illustration by David Cathrow jumps and leaps with unbound energy. Perhaps this is a memory piece, because the grand, wooden house with wrap around porch and turret rooms exists only in an idealized country world. There is no stillness in this book as children spring, run, swim, and seemingly fly until the very end when the cousins literally collapse with exhaustion, sleeping where they fall. While hunting fireflies, the children turn phosphorescent green and float around the page with their prey. There are echoes of Sendak in the book’s poetry. However, there is not an island of monsters, but an unruly group of relatives who gather “with beastie paws we tackle our uncles who tickles us and say, “Good golly.” There is so much to see and find in this book, both with the rowdy rhymes and the exuberant drawings, that sharing is the natural outcome of reading it. A delight for summer story time. 2013, Houghton Mifflin Company, $16.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross (Children’s Literature).
Making Stories, Making Books (K-1st Grade, 30-60 minutes). The author will do some traditional storytelling as well as share her own books. She will also discuss the making of her books, including where she gets her ideas and working with an illustrator. Includes a question and answer session and hand-outs for teachers. A book signing may also be arranged.
Meet the Author (2nd-8th Grades, 45-90 minutes depending upon the age group). The author will discuss writing, revising, submitting, working with an editor and illustrator, where she gets her ideas and what makes a successful story, which may include elements of plot structure and literary technique. Includes a question and answer session and hand-outs for teachers. A book signing may also be arranged.
Libraries and Bookstores:
Storytimes may include the author’s books as well as the sharing of illustrations and materials of forthcoming titles.
- Preschool and families (25-30 minutes)
- 5 year-olds and older, and families (25-30 minutes)
- Families, older children, young adults, and adults (45-90 minutes)
Out of Slushville and On Your Way! For young adults and adults (45 minutes to 2 hours.) The author will discuss the “slush pile”; genres; submitting; rejection; working with editors and illustrators; maintaining business relationships; networking; and helpful references and resources. Bibliography and handouts included.
Shutta is available as a speaker to participate in a panel on any of the above topics as well as many others related to children’s literature, writing, poetry, teaching writing, and library services for children.
For Teachers, Writers, Library Science and Education Students:
- Meet the Author (45-90 minutes) See description above.
- Out of Slushville and On Your Way! (45 minutes to 2 hours) See description above.
- Making Make-believe Believable: The Glitter and Glue of Plot. (60-90 minutes) The author will discuss creating plot for writers of both the novel and the picture book.
- Poetry 101: A Refresher Course (90 minutes to 2 hours) The author will discuss commonly used poetry writing techniques using examples from adult and children’s literature.
- Them Bones: Holding a Story Together (60-90 minutes) The author will discuss how to teach plot structure to elementary age students. Bibliography and handouts are included.
- Picture Books: The Ginsu Teaching Tool (90 minutes to 2 hours) The author will discuss using picture books to teach writing techniques for students of all ages, kindergarteners to senior citizens.
Fees: Schools – $850 (3-4 sessions), $500 (2 sessions); libraries and conferences – $850 full day, $500 half day, $200 for one session with book sale and signing, $250 for one session with no book sale or signing; plus travel expenses if 35 miles outside Ann Arbor MI.
To learn more about Shutta Crum and her publications please visit www.shutta.com.