Children's Authors/Aliki

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Biographical Information[edit | edit source]

Aliki, whose full name is Aliki Liacouras Brandenburg, was born and raised in the United States, but her heritage is Greek. She writes about her heritage in Painted Words, Spoken Memories. She is known mostly for her non-fiction books, including My Visit to the Zoo and Mummies Made in Egypt. For these kinds of books, she must do copious amounts of meticulous research, which finds its way both into her writing and her illustrations. For example, to write My Visit to the Zoo, she visited nine zoo and read hundreds of books, articles, and related matter. She does all the writing before she illustrates her books (Day, 2004).
The flag of Greece since 1978.
Aliki attended art school starting when she was eleven years old. She eventually graduated from the Philadelphia College of Art (Raymond, 1999). She has also illustrated books for Joanna Cole and Paul Showers, as well as for her husband, Franz. Her meticulous attention to detail is apparent in her illustrations as well as her writing.

Books of Interest[edit | edit source]

This dinosaur lives at the Field Museum in Chicago.

My Visit to the Dinosaurs, published in 1969, is the first of three books that focus on fossils and dinosaurs. Like many of Aliki's books, it features a child character and is written in first person. This technique allows children to envision themselves doing the same things the child is doing in the book, in this case, visiting a dinosaur museum. Scientific names of dinosaurs are used instead of watered-down nicknames, which will appeal to children, who enjoy learning specialized terms. Questions are posed throughout the book, which could be used to initiate a discussion with children during a read-aloud.

Fossils Tell of Long Ago, published in 1972, and revised in 1990, begins, "Once upon a time a huge fish was swimming around when along came a smaller fish." The text goes on to explain how this happened 90 millions years ago and how the big fish and the small fish became fossils. The main text is written in the expository mode, but is supplemented by word balloons in which child characters restate ideas in simple terms and make connections to everyday life.
Digging Up Dinosaurs, published in 1981, explains, in the first person voice of a child, how fossils are formed and what paleontologists do. The main narrative is supplemented by various characters adding extra information and exclamations in word balloons. Together, these form a two-stranded path through the book, which is further supplemented in places with captions and charts.
Marianthe's Story: Painted Words, Spoken Memories, published in 1998, is the story of Marianthe, a young girl whose family immigrates to America. In this two part book, one part tells how she begins her new school unable to speak English. Her teacher encourages her to tell her story through pictures. In the second part of the book, Marianthe has learned English and tells her family's immigration story in words. Marianthe's story will likely resonate with children who have recently immigrated or who are learning English. One child who read this story said, "I was just like the girl in this book when I came to America. This book is my story" (Day, 2004). Marianthe's supportive teacher provides a great role model for teachers as well.
Corn is Maize, published in 1976, not only explains how corn is planted, pollinated, and
Corn developed from the ancient grain, teosinte.
harvested, it also explores the rich history of corn and where it came from. Scientists discovered 5000 year old corn in a cave in Mexico that helped them figure out how corn came to be the widely used grain we know today. Aliki also describes the many uses of corn, including religious purposes, industrial uses, and, of course, the many ways it is eaten.
Aliki was inspired to write this book after see the mummy of a cat, much like this one.

Mummies Made in Egypt, published in 1979, is an undisputed favorite among children. In it, Aliki describes the mummification process used by ancient Egyptians, right down to the details about how the brains were removed through the nose of the dead person. Aliki's detailed drawings are accompanied by descriptive captions. Aliki also explains the beliefs of ancient Egyptians and other burial rituals. Aliki was inspired to write this book after seeing a mummified cat (Raymond, 1999).

Aliki's books offer children accurate information, whether scientific or historical, engaging writing, and characters that children can identify with. In an author study, children would be likely to notice Aliki's illustration style and her frequent use of labels, captions, and dialogue in most of her books.

References[edit | edit source]

Aliki: Author Note. [ ]

Day, D. (2004). Amazing Aliki. Journal of Children's Literature, 30 (1), 19-25.

Picture Books Author of the Month: Aliki [1]

Raymond, A. (1999, September). Aliki: 55 books and counting. Teaching K-8.