Arts and Entertainment

Laura Numeroff lets her imagination rule the pen

There’s nothing complicated or particularly philosophical about author Laura Numeroff’s approach to writing her best-selling children’s books. She doesn’t set out to convey a specific message, preferring instead to amuse herself as she roams her “silly imagination.”

“I tend to just write for myself and somehow it ends up being a big hit with the kids. I’m really just a big kid myself,” said Numeroff, who will speak at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29, at Silverdale’s Barnes & Noble in the Kitsap Mall.

Numeroff, 55, remembers one particularly long drive from San Francisco to Eugene, Ore. She was antsy and bored and her mind wandered into the realm of mice and chocolate chip cookies. From the thought sprang a circular plot about a boy giving a mouse a cookie and the inevitable follow-up questions from the mouse.

“I finished the whole book in my head by the end of the drive,” she said.

The emerging story, the plot of her bestselling 1985 book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” sparked a whole series of books, including “If You Gave a Pig a Pancake” and “If You Gave a Moose a Muffin.”

Numeroff, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native and Los Angeles resident for the past 25 years, first began writing books when she was a small kid. Her two favorite children’s books were — and still are — E.B. White’s “Stuart Little” and Kay Thompson’s “Eloise.”

She has written more than 30 children’s books. When she is in Silverdale on Wednesday, she will promote her latest book “Otis and Sydney and the Best Birthday Ever,” a story about a bear who throws a surprise party for another bear and has the wrong date on the invitation.

In 2008, she wrote her first nonfiction book, “The Hope Tree — Kids Speak Out About Breast Cancer.” The book, written upon request from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, is written for children and answers basic questions about breast cancer. She also wrote an autobiography “If You Give an Author a Pencil,” in a writing style suited for children ages 4 to 8 years old.

Most of Numeroff’s first drafts are unreadable, she said.

“I have lots of germs of ideas I haven’t been able to flesh out and make a beginning, middle and end,” she said. “I still get rejected. People think that once you are successful, you can just write anything you want.”

She often speaks at teacher conferences, where she presents a power point about how to let kids use their imagination and become excited about reading and writing. She also supports a variety of charities with a similar message, such as First Book, an organization that aims to put books in the hands of disadvantaged children.

For Numeroff, the idea of a kid not having a children’s book is “just sad.”

“It’s one of the scary things about technology: for parents there’s still nothing like settling down, cuddling and reading to their kids,” she said.

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