The other night my daughter received a big coloring page from the library (part of her school's Open House night). It included questions that kids were supposed to answer with words and/or pictures. One of the questions was: Favorite Author. She did not hesitate, responding with two favorite authors: "Mo Willems and my friend Bob Staake."
Mo Willems as a choice is probably self-evident. We have made our way through his Knuffle Bunny, Pigeon, Elephant & Piggie, and standalone titles over the years. Mo was the first author that my daughter could name and whose work she could recognize. She still gets a kick out of finding The Pigeon hiding out in other books. The other day, as I was in my office working, I listened to her read aloud to her babysitter from a whole slew of Elephant & Piggie titles. This brought me great joy. I have been putting off getting a copy of The Thank You Book because it makes me sad that it is the last Elephant & Piggie book in the series (though I do respect ending a series before it starts to fade).
Bob Staake is another artist whose work my daughter recognized and appreciated early. Again, not so surprising, given the distinct style of his illustrations and his many fun books. We've read everything from Cars Galore to Look! A Book! We've given My Pet Book as a gift to friends who wanted a pet that they didn't have to clean up after. But our favorites among Bob Staakes's books are The Donut Chef and Mary Had A Little Lamp (written by Jack Lechner). We have been reading The Donut Chef regularly for years and it never gets old.
The reason that Bob is "my friend Bob Staake" to my daughter is because after I happened to mention to her that I was friends with him on Facebook she went wide-eyed, and insisted that I had to write on his wall, immediately, telling him how much she enjoyed his work. After that, Bob kindly sent my daughter a signed copy of We Planted A Tree (written by Diane Muldrow). She likes to show her friends this "private book" (she means personally inscribed) from "my friend, Bob Staake". We do have other signed picture books, of course, but this one is special, because she initiated the contact. I'm pretty sure that she is now a fan for life, and I am grateful.
I do make a point, when my daughter and I read a picture book, of telling her about other books we have read by the same author and/or illustrator. We look for commonalities, and she loves it when she notices something that I've missed. She can recognize illustrations by Peter Brown, Jon Klassen, and Alison Jay at this point. But Mo Willems and Bob Staake are her rock stars.
Incidentally, there was also a question on the coloring page about her favorite book. She just wrote "Lots of books." Narrowing that to one just seemed ridiculous to her.
I don't remember which picture book authors I appreciated as a child. But my favorite chapter book authors were Zilpha Keatley Snyder and Elizabeth Enright. Of course I had favorite series too (Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and the Maida series by Inez Haynes Irwin, mostly long out of print). But there's a difference, I think, between liking a particular series and following an author across books about different characters. My daughter right now appreciates the Magic Treehouse and Babymouse series. But who she'll appreciate as authors for chapter books remains to be seen. I'll be enjoying the journey in the meantime.