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My Brother, Ant


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About the Author

Betsy Byars began her writing career rather late in life. "In all of my school years, . . . not one single teacher ever said to me, 'Perhaps you should consider becoming a writer, '" Byars recalls. "Anyway, I didn't want to be a writer. Writing seemed boring. You sat in a room all day by yourself and typed. If I was going to be a writer at all, I was going to be a foreign correspondent like Claudette Colbert in Arise My Love. I would wear smashing hats, wisecrack with the guys, and have a byline known round the world. My father wanted me to be a mathematician." So Byars set out to become mathematician, but when she couldn't grasp calculus in college, she turned to English. Even then, writing was not on her immediate horizon.

First, she married and started a family. The writing career didn't emerge until she was 28, a mother of two children, and living in a small place she called the barracks apartment, in Urbana, Illinois. She and her husband, Ed, had moved there in 1956 so he could attend graduate school at the University of Illinois. She was bored, had no friends, and so turned to writing to fill her time. Byars started writing articles for The Saturday Evening Post, Look, and other magazines. As her family grew and her children started to read, she began to write books for young people and, fortunately for her readers, discovered that there was more to being a writer than sitting in front of a typewriter."Making up stories and characters is so interesting that I'm never bored. Each book has been a different writing experience. It takes me about a year to write a book, but I spend another year thinking about it, polishing it, and making improvements. I always put something of myself intomy books -- something that happened to me. Once a wanderer came by my house and showed me how to brush my teeth with a cherry twig; that went in The House of Wingscopyright (c) 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.


It may not earn Byars (Summer of the Swans) another Newbery Medal or Simont (A Tree Is Nice) another Caldecott, but this volume is tailor-made for kids just beginning to read on their own. For starters, they will immediately take to the admirably tolerant narrator, whose feisty younger brother, Ant (short for Anthony), would test any sibling's patience. In these snippets, the older boy chases a monster from under Ant's bed; copes with an indecipherable picture that someone (guess who?) has drawn on his homework paper; reads Ant a fairy tale; and plays scribe when Ant dictates a letter to Santa . . . in July. Told with brevity, in simply constructed sentences and controlled vocabulary, these four vignettes are full of homespun warmth and easy-going humor. Echoing the good-natured narrative, Simont's straightforward pictures do a commendable job of helping to relay the plots-a big plus in fiction for this audience. Ages 6-9. (Mar.)

K-Gr 3‘In this appealing easy reader, a boy chronicles how his sometimes-pesky younger brother, Ant, puts a twist on everyday events and keeps the family on its toes. The caring older sibling gets rid of the monster under Ant's bed, reads him a short version of "The Three Little Figs," records his summer thank-you letter to Santa, and manages to take into stride the preschooler's addition to his spelling homework. The affectionate relationship between the boys underscores all the stories. Simont's lively, realistic watercolors enhance the understated humor. Beginning readers will enjoy this effort and look forward to more low-key adventures featuring the irrepressible Ant.‘Gale W. Sherman, Pocatello Public Library, ID

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