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Children's Author Gives Words of Wisdom to Student Writers

April 29, 1993|JAMES GILDEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Imagining a tiny mouse eating a huge Mrs. Fields-type chocolate chip cookie gave best-selling children's author Laura Joffe Numeroff a big smile. How would a little mouse handle such an enormous undertaking?

"I like to think of things that make me laugh," said Numeroff, who is coming to Ventura County this Saturday to address a Young Author's Faire sponsored by the Santa Paula Elementary School District. "I pictured a little mouse with crumbs on his whiskers, and the rest followed."

The rest turned out to be one of the most popular children's books in recent years: "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" (Harper & Row), first published in 1985. It has now been translated into eight languages, and has sold more than 2 million copies.

Similar in humor and style to "Mouse" is her more recent book, "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" (Harper/Collins), published in September, 1991. It has sold 275,000 copies. "Moose" examines the opposite dilemma of that faced by a small creature with a large meal: an enormous creature with a relatively tiny morsel.

Numeroff, who spoke over the telephone from her home in Santa Monica, said there are no more similarly themed books in the offing. Her next book is "Dogs Don't Wear Sneakers" (Simon and Schuster), and is due in bookstores in September.

Numeroff first published "Amy for Short," (MacMillan) while she was still in college, and said she has earned her living as a writer ever since.

"Amy for Short" was the first of 14 books she has had published for children. She has also written for the television show "Mr. Belvedere" and the television cartoon "The Jetsons."

During the Young Author's Faire, Numeroff will see the budding literary achievements of elementary school students from all over Santa Paula.

Ryan Caulfield, an eighth-grader at Isbell Middle School, will display his yearlong English literature assignment, a book of original poetry. A passage from the bound book (complete with hand-drawn cover illustration of a mountain bike) reads: "Even though his bike is heavy, he can go faster than a Chevy."

Numeroff said she has spoken to more than 90 school groups, and it is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a children's author. Her advice to aspiring young authors like Ryan?

"Don't ever give up," she said. "And read a lot . . . whatever you're interested in. If you want to be a science fiction writer, read science fiction. My favorite thing in the whole world is to read."

* WHERE AND WHEN

Santa Paula Young Author's Faire, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Grace Thille School, 1144 Ventura St., Santa Paula. Directions: California 126 to 10th Street. One block north to Ventura Street. Right on Ventura Street. Admission is free.

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