Picture book author Jim Aylesworth tells his stories with generous
doses of loud sounds, rhythms and rhymes. His experiences as a teacher
have taught him that these are the elements children like in a story,
especially when it is being read aloud. So, in Hanna's Hog, Aylesworth includes a loud hog call, in The Completed Hickory Dickory Dock, he offers numerous bouncy nonsensical rhymes, in Country Crossing, the sounds of the still countryside and a train passing fill the night, and in Old Black Fly,
a repetitious, rhythmic chant follows a pesky fly in its journey
through a house. Little Bitty Mousie is another alphabetical romp
thorough a household as Mousie explores the house...
Tip tippy tippy tippy
Aylesworth was born in Jacksonville, Florida but as an infant moved
from the state. He lived in many places during his childhood: Alabama,
Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas... but by the time Aylesworth
was 15 his family had settled in Hinsdale, Illinois and that is where
he graduated from high school in 1961.
Went her little mousie toes
Sniff sniffy sniffy sniffy
Went her little mousie nose
In 1965, he graduated from Miami
University in Oxford, Ohio with a B.A. in English. He returned to
Hinsdale and began a career as a stockbroker. By 1970, however,
Aylesworth was thinking about what he really wanted to do. After a
series of assignments as a substitute teacher, Aylesworth ended up in a
primary classroom. He began teaching first grade students in Oak Park,
Illinois in 1971 and entered Concordia College in River Forest,
Illinois, to earn a graduate degree in elementary education -- a goal
he reached in 1978.
During the years Aylesworth taught he was given
several awards. In 1975 the Illinois State Board of Education named him
among "Those Who Excel," and in 1984 he was named a "Governor's Master
Teacher." The following year he was named Corcordia University's
"Alumnus of the Year." In 1998 Hinsdale High School named him to their
Hall of Fame. He has been honored in several years with an entry in Who's Who Among America's Teachers.
But it was his work with children that brought
him the most reward. It was Aylesworth's experiences as a teacher that
eventually led him to writing children's books. His students' enjoyment
of his stories encouraged him to persist in pursuing his dream of being
a children's book writer. It was in the classroom that he realized the
power of books. He says, "I have seen a room full of children sit still
and pay attention to a good book when it may be the first time they've
been still at the same time all day."
During his twenty-five years of teaching Aylesworth read
hundreds of books to his young students. Aylesworth found himself
wanting to be a bigger part of this world of children's stories. And so
he decided to write his own books, and has stuck with this goal ever
since. During his quest to be published he collected many rejection
letters. But his students encouraged him and told him to follow his own
advice -- "Never give up!" Finally, his first work, Hush Up!, was published in 1980.
"Writing children's books," he says, "is my way of being
the teacher beyond the walls of my classroom for children that I may
All of Aylesworth's stories, whether
filled with sounds of a country night or catchy rhymes, find their way
back to his inspiration - the young children who read them.
Jim Aylesworth and his wife Donna raised two sons in
Hinsdale. In 1996, Aylesworth decided to write and visit schools
full-time. The Aylesworths moved to Chicago where Jim continues to
write. He travels extensively to speak to children in schools and at
book events across the United States.
Don't miss Jim's own look at life and writing in Jim Aylesworth and YOU by Jim Aylesworth and Jennifer Rotole (Libraries Unlimited).
Jim has spent much of his adult life in Illinois—first Hinsdale and now
Chicago, but his roots and those of his family belong in Indiana.
He lived in many states during his childhood but spent many summers on
his grandparents' farm near Hebron, Indiana. The farm held many
memories for him, and now as an adult Jim and his brother own that farm
and the two brothers, and their sons and families often gather to enjoy
the same type of idyllic days enjoyed by Jim and his brother. For
a glimpse of Jim's Indiana life, visit Jim's Hickory Lawn Farm page.
Visit Jim's author page on the Scholastic website.
Readers who wish to write to the author may do so by writing: Jim Aylesworth • 55 West Delaware Place, No. 407 • Chicago, IL. 60610. Jim can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org or reached by phone at: (312) 573-0644.
Portions of the text on this page have been excerpted or adapted, with permission, from 100 Most Popular Picture Book Authors and Illustrators by Sharron L. McElmeel (Libraries Unlimited, 2000), pages 32-34.