Featured author biographies for upcoming Columbus Children’s Book Festival

Caroll Spinney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Caroll Spinney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Christopher Paul Curtis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Christopher Paul Curtis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Alyssa Satin Capucilli (alyssasatincapucilli.com)
Alyssa Satin Capucilli (alyssasatincapucilli.com)
Carmen Agra Deedy (carmenagradeedy.com)
Carmen Agra Deedy (carmenagradeedy.com)
Michael P. White (michaelpwhite.com)
Michael P. White (michaelpwhite.com)

(WTVM) - CAROLL SPINNEY - Named a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress, Big Bird has captivated children around the world for more than 30 years. A puppeteer since he was eight years old, Caroll Spinney has been the man inside the bird from the beginning. Also playing Oscar the Grouch, his characters have been seen on more than 4,000 shows in 148 countries.

Spinney is the author of The Wisdom of Big Bird (And the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers, an inspirational memoir in which he shares the wisdom that he has gleaned over the years from his work creating and portraying one of the world's most beloved characters. In an honest and endearing tone, Spinney vividly recalls a life enriched by pursuing and attaining his childhood dream.

Starting with a show in his neighborhood barn, for which he charged two cents admission, Spinney set out to be "a puppeteer on the best kids' show in the world." After attending art school in Boston, he launched his television career in Las Vegas, where he created a show titled Rascal Rabbit in 1955. Returning to Boston, he first joined the Judy and Goggle Show as a puppeteer, and then moved over to The Bozo Show where he stayed for ten years.

Since achieving worldwide renown on Sesame Street, Spinney has made guest appearances on many other television shows, always as Big Bird and Oscar. He has performed in specials with Julie Andrews and Bob Hope, starred in his own 90-minute special, Big Bird in China, in 1982 and made appearances in the second and third Night of 100 Stars, Broadway's televised tribute and fundraiser for fellow thespians. Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird marked Spinney's motion picture debut in a starring role.

Spinney has earned four Emmy Awards, two Gold Records, and two Grammy Awards. Sesame Street has won numerous awards for its groundbreaking work.

CHRISTOPHER PAUL CURTIS - The second oldest of five siblings, Christopher was born and raised in Flint, Michigan which has been used as a prominent setting in several stories including The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 and Bucking the Sarge. Graduating from Flint Southwestern High School, Christopher immediately did two things: 1) enrolled at Flint's campus of the University of Michigan and 2) applied for a job at Fisher Body Plant No. 1, a General Motors assembly facility. This was extremely typical for many young adults. Most blue-collar jobs, particularly in the "Jungle" where Christopher worked, were often heavy-duty, hard-working tasks, requiring minimal educational skills at best. The pay and benefits couldn't be beat, so for high school graduates that wanted a significant income right out of school, General Motors was the ticket.

Of all the various departments one could work, the "Jungle" was easily one of the worst. The Jungle was where the manufacturing process began, various sizes and shapes of metal being welded together at sequential work stations that eventually became the body frame of the automobile.

Once the car's basic skeletal frame was established, one of the first things to get added were the doors. This was Christopher's work station. During the 70s, Fisher Body produced three models – the Electra 225 (also known as a "deuce and a quarter"), LaSabre and Riveria. Because the doors were so big and quite heavy, the company set the job up for two men to alternate installing the doors on every other car coming down the assembly line. This went on each night for eight or more hours, about 60 cars per hour.

Christopher and his coworker decided that instead of working every other car, they would work every 30 minutes. This allowed Christopher time to do other things — besides reading novels (one of his great passions), he began writing to overcome the boredom. Some of the writings were letters; others were sketches of stories that, like his character Bud Caldwell (Bud, Not Buddy), began the colorful sojourn which led him to become one of America's leading authors of children's literature.

Christopher currently lives in Detroit, Michigan and in his free time still enjoys reading, playing basketball and collecting music.

ALYSSA SATIN CAPUCILLI - Alyssa Satin Capucilli is the imaginative author of books for both pre-schoolers and beginning readers. Her creations include lift-the-flap books for toddlers that feature gentle, lovable characters and easily identifiable objects as well as a series of beginning readers starring Biscuit, a rambunctious golden-haired puppy whose adventures are brought to life by illustrator Pat Schories.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1957, Capucilli developed an early love of books, and looked forward to weekly trips to the library with her mother and sisters. "I could hardly wait to choose a special book from all of the books that lined the shelves," she once recalled to Something about the Author (SATA ). "As a matter of fact, my sisters and I would often play library at home! We would take turns pretending to be the librarian, and we would recommend books to each other, check them out, and tell each other to 'SSSSHHH!'" Among Capucilli's favorite authors were Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, and Beverly Cleary, whose stories about Henry and his dog, Ribsy, she loved. "The funny thing was, although I loved to imagine myself as different characters in books," Capucilli added, "I never imagined that the authors who created them were real people!"

Capucilli's first published book was Peekaboo Bunny, a lift-the-flap book published in 1994. Illustrated by Mary Melcher, the book helps small children navigate in a garden, and it was popular enough to prompt a sequel, Peekaboo Bunny Friends in the Snow.

Capucilli introduced a new character to young readers in Biscuit. A small, soft-eared, lovable puppy the color of freshly baked, golden biscuits, Capucilli's Biscuit bounds into the life of a young girl, quickly becoming her best friend as she interprets his "Woof, Woof" to mean many things. From wanting a small snack before bedtime to being tucked in snugly under layers of blankets, the activities of Biscuit and his young owner are depicted in "oodles of contextual clues," easy-to-read sentences, and "repetitive word and phrases," according to School Library Journal reviewer Gale W. Sherman. "I find that inspiration for stories and characters comes from so many places: our memories, our family, our friends, our pets, our own observations and our own wonderings," Capucilli explained. "I first got the idea to write about … Biscuit after watching my daughter dog-sit a neighbor's huge golden retriever! But deep inside, I think that the 'Biscuit' stories are really about that puppy I always imagined I would someday have, from when I was a young girl, reading and dreaming."

The Biscuit books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies in many formats throughout the world. She is also the author of dozens of other books, including the popular Katy Duck series.

CARMEN AGRA DEEDY - Carmen Agra Deedy has been writing for children for over two decades. Born in Havana, Cuba, she came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1964. She grew up in Decatur, Georgia, where she lives today.

Deedy began writing as a young mother and storyteller whose NPR commentaries on All Things Considered were collected and released under the title, Growing Up Cuban In Decatur, Georgia. The pithy collection of twelve stories soon garnered awards, among them a 1995 Publishers Weekly Best Audio (Adult Storytelling) and a 1996 Parents' Choice Gold Award.

Her children's books have won numerous awards.

The Library Dragon received various children's state book awards and has sold near half a million copies. In 2003 the book was her home state's choice to represent Georgia at the Library of Congress's National Book Festival.

The Yellow Star was the recipient of the 2001 Jane Addams Peace Association Book Award (Honor), presented to Ms. Deedy at the United Nations by Mrs. Kofi Annan.  It also received the 2001 Christopher Award, the 2000 Parent's Choice Gold Award, the 2001 Bologna Ragazzi Award (for best international children's book), the 2002 WOW Award (National Literary Association of England), among other notable awards and honors. It has been translated to over a dozen languages.

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach was presented with the 2008 Pura Belpre Honor Award, the 2008 NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Book Award, the 2008 Best Children's Books of the Year (Bank Street College of Education), the 2008 International Latino Book Award, the Irma Simonton and James H. Black Award (Honor), the 2008 E.B White Award (Nominee), and the 2009 ALA Odyssey Audio Award (Honor), among others.

One of Deedy's more recent children's books, 14 Cows for America, is based on an astonishing gift Americans received from a Maasai village in Kenya, following the events of 9/11. The book was released in September of 2009 and is a New York Times Bestseller. The Wall Street Journal described it as a ". . . moving and dramatically illustrated picture book."

Deedy is now expanding into the world of chapter books with The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale. This is a story of deception, intrigue, and derring-do that reveals the unlikely alliance between a cheese-loving cat and the Cheshire Cheese inn's mice in Victorian England.

Deedy has spent the past twenty years writing and telling stories. She has been an invited speaker at venues as varied as The American Library Association, Refugees International, The International Reading Association, Columbia University, The Smithsonian Institute, TED, The National Book Festival, and the Kennedy Center.

MICHAEL P. WHITE - Michael was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his Associate of Arts degree from The Art Institute of Atlanta. Michael spent many years doing local and regional art festivals before illustrating his first book. His artwork has been featured in many galleries including a show highlighting his book illustrations at the Hudgens Center for the Arts. He has illustrated four children's books: The Library Dragon (winner of the 1997 Flicker Tale Children's Book Award, an Honor Book for the 1997-1998 Florida Reading Association Children's Book Award) and its sequel The Return of the Library Dragon, both by Festival author Carmen Agra Deedy; The Secret of Old Zeb (winner of an Award of Merit from the Southeastern Library Association) with Carmen Agra Deedy; and Harriett's Horrible Hair Day with Dawn Lesley Stewart.

Michael loves having his dream job -- working with students of all ages on how one idea can create a story. Michael lives in Atlanta with his wife, Traci, his daughter, the lovely and talented, Madeline; and five dogs.