Reading was always an important part of Kate Duke's life. "Both my parents were great readers and we
children were always amply supplied with books," she said in an exclusive interview. "My parents seemed to enjoy reading to me as much as I enjoyed
being read to."
The author and illustrator of Aunt Isabel Tells a Good One and other books, Kate Duke writes on
several levels. Kids who read or listen to her tales always enjoy the adventures of her exuberant and sweet animal
characters. But Ms. Duke also subtly interweaves learning concepts into her stories, such as writing and
adding and subtracting.
Near her home in Connecticut, she often visits schools to talk about her work. "I like to go to schools because
it renews my feeling of what children are like," she said.
"I find out
what makes children laugh, what doesn't make them laugh, what their current interests are," Ms. Duke noted. "I am always cheered and inspired
by their energy and imagination."
Watching Kate Duke let her imagination run as she creates an illustration is like seeing magic
happen. She remembers being surprised and pleased when, as a youngster, she discovered she could draw. Today when she visits
a class, she always brings some of that magic with her, involving small groups of children in "drawing a story."
With the children gathered in front of her, she quickly sketches illustrations, asking questions along the
way, as the kids come up with characters, plot, and action. "I keep on asking questions and drawing the pictures to go along
with them to keep the story developing," she said.
"I try to encourage children to take chances and not be afraid, especially in terms of using their imagination."
While her parents gave her a love of reading, it was a
teacher who inspired her to write for others. "When I was in sixth grade I wrote a short piece, something that had happened
to me over the summer. The teacher gave me the first 'A' I had ever had on anything I wrote, and she wrote at the bottom,
'Lovely.' That was the first moment that I thought of being a writer."
Click here to read about another children's book author,
Walter Dean Myers>>