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Laura Numeroff: Books & Biography

Instructor: Sharon Linde
If you've ever thought about giving a mouse a cookie or a moose a muffin, you've likely read one of Laura Numeroff's famous, award-winning books. In this lesson, get to know Numeroff and what inspired her to become a best-selling author. Sorry, cookies not included.

Introduction

Ms. Rogers, a second grade teacher, is preparing a unit on Laura Numeroff, a popular children's author. She prepares her students to learn about Numeroff's work and life. Let's peek in as Ms. Rogers fills the students in on Numeroff and her work.

Early Life

Ms. Rogers tells her students that Numeroff was born on July 14, 1953 in Brooklyn, NY. She was an avid reader who dreamed of becoming an author. Her father, William, was a staff artist for the New York paper, World Telegram & Sun. Her mother, Florence, taught middle school home economics. Numeroff's parents were supportive of the arts in all forms and surrounded Laura and her sisters, Alice and Emily, with art - piano playing, dancing, singing and most importantly, reading. Little Susie is wondering how Numeroff became an author. Ms. Rogers continues.

Becoming an Author

As a child, Numeroff loved everything about books. She often made up stories and illustrated them, even adding a book jacket to go along with them, including the name of a publisher. By the time she was nine years old, she made the decision to become a writer. When she was 15, however, she changed her mind and decided instead to become a fashion designer like her older sister Emily. While in college pursuing a fashion degree at Pratt Institute, Numeroff found she didn't quite have the talent or passion for fashion.

During her last semester, she took a writing course focusing on creating and illustrating children's books. For a homework assignment, Numeroff wrote Amy for Short, a book about a girl who was the tallest in her third grade class. After four rejection letters from publishers, the book was bought by Macmillan and published in 1975.

Life as a Children's Author

Ms. Rogers continues her lesson by teaching that Numeroff continued writing and illustrating after the publication of her first book. In fact, she wrote and illustrated her first nine books, only shifting her focus to writing with her book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Some of her early books are now out of print, but Numeroff continues to write and produce some of America's best-known titles and series. Let's take a look at a few.

Numeroff's Series Books

  • If You Give... Series

Ms. Rogers introduces the classes' favorite book first. In 1985, Numeroff wrote the book that launched her into a solid standing as a children's author with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Illustrated by Felicia Bond, the book, and its subsequent titles, follow the same if/then format and is a circular story, meaning it ends at the same place it began. The reader follows a character through a chain of events surrounding the concept of what happens if a cookie is given to a mouse. Other books from this series follow the same format and feature characters like a cat, dog, pig and moose.

  • What People Do Best Series

Moving to another class favorite, Ms. Rogers says that in 1998 Numeroff began a new series with What Mommies Do Best/What Daddies Do Best, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. All books in this series feature a 2-part story, first focusing on the actions of one character, in this case the mother, and then focusing on the actions of the other partner, the father. The books are divided in two sides to feature each storyline; readers actually need to flip the book over to read the second story.

Like her first If You Give... series, Numeroff created a rhythmic, predictable pattern with the What People Do Best series. Other books of this series include grandparent pairs, aunt/uncles and brothers/sisters.

  • The Jellybeans... Series

In 2008, Numeroff published the first of her Jellybeans series with the title, The Jellybeans and the Big Dance. The books in this series follow four friends who each have a specific niche, like dancing, soccer or reading, and sends a message of friendship and acceptance; just like jellybeans are all different and wonderful, so are friends. Six titles have been published in this series with the last in 2014.

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