Any kid who's dealt with an exasperated adult is sure to appreciate Laura Joffe Numeroff's If You Give a... series, where children take on semi-parental roles with unexpected, demanding animal guests. Numeroff is an expert at silly situations, catchy verses and stories that absorb and engage.
If you give a series-prone author an inch, she'll take a mile -- and fortunately for fans of Laura Numeroff's books, she took her concept and is still running with it. Her aphoristic animal stories show what happens when you give a little something ... and get a big list of follow-up requests.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and its companion titles have become favorites not only of parents, but of teachers who like the books' visual elements and domino-effect storylines. Numeroff's other popular titles, What Mommies Do Best/What Daddies Do Best and What Grandpas Do Best/What Grandmas Do Best, are loving paeans to activities shared with adults.
A would-be fashion designer who grew up in Brooklyn and now lives in California with a mini-menagerie of pets, Numeroff's stock in trade is her "silly imagination" and her love of animals. Her versatility as a storyteller has been enhanced by the fact that she works with different illustrators, though it also means that all Numeroff titles may not suit the same reader. Her anthropomorphic stories often capitalize on fantasy, but she also has a knack for rhyme, evident in particular in her books Dogs Don't Wear Sneakers and Chimps Don't Wear Glasses.
Numeroff doesn't seem to run out of ideas for ridiculous situations to put people and animals in, nor does she stop celebrating what's special about family relationships. This is what will keep readers coming back to her titles, series-oriented or not.
Good To Know
Numeroff says her parents instilled a love of science and stamp collecting in her as a child, and she has grown into a collector as an adult. Among her collections: stuffed animals, old photographs, autographed children's books, and Halloween masks.
As a teenager, Numeroff was inspired by her sister to become a fashion designer, leading to her attendance at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for college. "Unfortunately," she says, "I hated everything about the fashion department and I couldn't sew to save my life!" Instead, she took a class on writing and illustrating books for children. Her first effort, about the tallest girl in the third grade, was sold before Numeroff graduated. (Amy for Short is now out of print.)