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 Picture Books Author of the Month
Mercer Mayer
Mercer Mayer
30 December 1943 -- ???

Mercer Mayer was born on December 30, 1943 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Mayer attended elementary school in Camden, Arkansas, but due to the fact that his father was in the United States Navy, the family moved often. This did not stop him from filling his free time with fun activities like snake- and lizard-hunting and reading books. After temporarily settling in communities all over the country, the Mayers finally settled in Honolulu, Hawaii, where Mayer graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School.

Upon graduating from high school in 1961, Mayer attended the Honolulu Academy of Arts. At that time, Mayer and his mother were commissioned to decorate the Kahala Hilton Hotel with collage wall panels. He also supplemented his income by being a political cartoonist for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Honolulu.

Mayer attended the Honolulu Academy of Arts for about a year. It was at this time that Mayer decided he wanted to be a children's book illustrator. "I always liked to draw, and one day I decided I had nothing to lose, so I made a lot of sketches and began to peddle them." [2] His professors discouraged this career choice because they did not believe that he would be able to make a living at it.

In 1964, Mayer left the Hawaiian Islands and moved to New York, where he received additional art training at the Arts Student League in New York City. It was hear that Mayer met his first wife Marianna. After scouring the streets of new York looking for an illustration job, Mayer finally received some good advice from an art director. He told the foundering artist to throw away his portfolio because it was so bad.

While this greatly angered Mayer, he did take the advice and started over. He started working at an advertising agency at the that time, and in his spare time he sketched things he remembered from his childhood and even some creatures he made up on his own. With this new portfolio to show off his talent, he was asked to illustrate The Gillygoofang, which was published by Dial Press, and Outside My Window, which was published by Harper and Row.

Mayer found a position as a door-to-door salesman, a choice which left him with time to work on his illustration projects. It seemed that his interest in children's book illustration was not for naught for his first book was a picture book entitled A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog, which was published by Dial Press in 1967. It was a success and highly praised. The book, which had no words, depended on telling the story through Mayer's illustrations, has allowed many to give him credit as being one of the creators of the wordless picture form. Mayer went on to publish five more books in this series.

There's a Nightmare in My Closet was published in 1968. "It was a true story. When I was a child I was afraid of the dark. Before I went to sleep at night, I would close the closet door. You have to hear the click of the latch catching or else you won't know if the googly monster's coming out. Then if you hear the latch click during the night you know you have to run...." [2]

The book was compared by many critics to Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. While the critics were far from complimentary of the book in their reviews, Mayer believed that the constant coverage helped make the book a bestseller because all the talk made people interested in taking a look at it.

In 1973, Mayer and his wife Marianna, with whom he had already collaborated on a number of works together, bought a fifteen acre farm near Roxbury, Connecticut, where they raised horses. With three horses and two dogs, the couple could also observe the wonders of nature in the river running next to their property.

Mayer continued to publish books during the 1970's. Some were from the popular Frog series, while other were independent tales. In 1976, he joined Golden Publishing, the publishers of the inexpensive Golden Books. These books were, and still are, sold in most grocery and drug stores.

It was in 1978 that Mayer had a number of major life changes. The first of which was his divorce from his wife Marianna. It was also in 1978 that Mayer started publishing his Little Monster/Little Critter books with Golden Press. This series became quite successful and is probably what he is best known for. These books are brightly illustrated with simple, didactic plots.

In 1979, Mayer married his second wife Jo. The couple became the proud parents of two children, a son named Len and a daughter named Jessie.

In 1982, Mayer began working from his home in Bridgewater, Connecticut. He tries to stick to a seven-hour, five-day work week.

Besides filling his time with writing, Mayer enjoys playing guitar, painting, walking in the woods, and sitting by the river that abuts his property.

Mayer has been a prolific author and illustrator, having produced over 80 works. Besides his own books, he has illustrated for such popular authors as John Bellairs, Jan Wahl, Jay Williams, and Jan Yolen. His books are consistent favorites of young library borrowers. Stories and pictures are funny and include casts of friendly monsters, inventive and imaginative children, and insensitive adults. Mayer communicates a variety of valuable lessons to young children about facing fears and presents a series of problems which are resolved during the course of the story.

"I never think of it [writing books] as being done in terms of children. My books are for the children in all of us really," said Mayer once about his books.

He currently lives in Roxbury, Connecticut with his third wife Gina, with whom he co-writes many of the popular Little Critter books.

Information for this biography was taken from:
1) Anne Commire (ed.).  Something About the Author, #16; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1979.
2) Anne Commire (ed.).  Something About the Author, #32; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1983.
3)"Mayer, Mercer", Educational Paperback Association; http://www.edupaperbacthk.org/authorbios/Mayer_Mercer.html.
4) Ramsey, Inez and Jason Craig. Mercer Mayer; http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/mayer.htm.

E-P-MAY All By Myself (1983) -- All the many things a young child can do independently are demonstrated, but there is one thing that cannot be done alone.

E-Mayer A Boy, a Dog, a Frog And a Friend (1971) -- When a boy goes fishing, he catches something a little more interesting than a fish on his hook.

E-MAY/E-P-MAY Frog Goes to Dinner (1974) -- Having stowed away in a pocket, Frog wreaks havoc and creates disgrace for a family at the posh restaurant where they are having dinner.

E-Mayer Frog on His Own (1973) -- On a walk in the park with his friends, Frog decides to do some exploring of his own.

E-P-MAY Happy Easter, Little Critter (1988) -- Little Critter experiences all the joys of Easter in spite of his little sister's constant tugging on his sleeve.

E-MAY Herbert the Timid Dragon (1980) -- A timid dragon rescues a princess in order to become a brave knight in armor, but his efforts are misunderstood.

E-Mayer I Am Playing (1992) -- Little Critter likes to do the same things all toddlers enjoy, and at the end of the day, he is one played-out tot!

E-P-MAY I Was So Mad (1983) -- A child describes the number of ways to dissolve anger.

E-MAY If I Had.... (1968) -- A little boy wishes he had some frightening and unusual pets to scare away the bullies for him, but he decides his big brother is a good substitute.

E-P-MAY Just a Daydream (1989) -- Little Critter dreams about what he would do to the local bully if he was Super Critter.

E-Mayer Just a Little Different (1998) -- The other kids in the neighborhood don't like Little Critter's new best friend Zack because he looks different, but they learn that being just a little different is not a bad thing.

E-MAY Just Camping Out (1989) -- A brother and a sister spend the night in a tent in the backyard -- well, part of the night.

E-Mayer Just Going to the Dentist (1990) -- Little Critter goes to the dentist for a check-up and finds out that the dentist is not so bad.

E-MAY Just Grandma and Me (1983) -- A trip to the beach with Grandma provides a lot of fun and surprises.

E-MAY Just Grandpa and Me (1985) -- Little Critter and his grandfather have a lot of fun on a trip to the department store.

E-Mayer Just Lost (1994) -- Little Critter loses his mother when he goes with her to the busy, crowded mall. What will he do?

E-Mayer Just Me and My Dad (1977) -- Father and son go camping, but just who is really taking care of whom?

E-Mayer Just me in the Tub (1994) --Children will discover the secrets of having good, clean fun as they enjoy the antics of Little Critter in his warm and cozy bath.

E-P-MAY Just Shopping With Mom (1989) -- Little Sister seems to want just about everything she sees when she goes out shopping with mom.

E-MAY Little Critter's These Are My Pets (1988) -- Little Critter describes his pets,which include a frog, a turtle, a fish, a dog, a kitten, and a snake.

E-MAY Little Critter's Christmas Book (1989) -- Little Critter and his family celebrate the Christmas season as fully as possible.

E-MAY Little Critter's Staying Overnight (1988) -- Little Critter causes a commotion when he spends the night at his friend's mansion.

E-Mayer Little Critter's This Is My Friend (1989) -- Two friends experience the wonderful things about friendship.

E-MAY Little Monster at Home (1978) -- A Little monster describes his house and some of his family's activities.

E-MAY Little Monster's Counting Book (1978) -- Little Monster introduces the numbers from 1 to 21.

E-Mayer Little Sister's Bracelet (1995) -- Little Sister goes out to play and loses her new bracelet.

E-MAY Me and My Flying Machine (1971) -- A boy visualizes all the things his flying machine will be able to do when he finishes building it in the barn.

E-MAY Me Too! (1983) -- Little Critter finds that sharing with his little sister can be awful, but it also has its rewards.

E-Mayer Merry Kris Christmas Mom and Dad (1982) -- Trying to be good for Christmas without bumbling everything up is difficult.

E-MAY One Frog Too Many (1975) -- A boy's pet frog thinks that the new pet frog the boy gets for his birthday is one frog too many.

E-Mayer Oops (1977) -- A hippopotamus exhibits a penchant for creating small disasters.

E-P-MAY The New Baby (1983) -- Little Critter finds that the new baby takes getting used to, but she's worth it.

E-Mayer The Smelly Mystery (1997) -- Little Critter and his friends are having a sleep over, but the next morning all the smells in Monsterville have been switched around. What is going on?

E-Mayer The Special Trick (1970) -- Elroy finds that the situation is getting out of hand when he begins pronouncing phrases in the magician's dictionary.

E-Mayer The Terrible Troll (1981) -- Join a young boy as he shares the adventures he would have had if he lived a thousand years ago.

E-Mayer There's a Nightmare in My Closet (1981) -- A determined young man decides to take action into his own hands to protect himself from the monster that lives in his closet.

E-MAY/E-P-MAY There's an Alligator Under My Bed (1987) The alligator under a boy's bed makes his bedtime a hazardous operation until he lures it out of the house and into the garage. The sequel to There's a Nightmare in My Closet.

E-MAY There's Something in My Attic (1988) -- Convinced that there is something making noises in the attic at night, a brave little girl sneaks up the stairs, lasso in hand, to catch whatever it is.

E-P-MAY A Very Special Critter (1992) -- Alex joins Little Critter's class at school, but nobody knows how to treat him because he is in a wheelchair.

ABC-Mayer Little Critter's The Trip (1988) -- During their trip to Camp Wakatookee, the Critter Family introduces the letters from A to Z.

ABC-Mayer Little Critter's This Is My House (1988) -- Little Critter introduces readers to his house and family.

ABC-Mayer No Howling in the House (1996) -- Axl can't howl and Thistle can't fly, but they soon realize that there are other things they can do.

ABC-Mayer Purple Pickle Juice (1996) -- Thistle Howl desperately wants to grow, but drinking purple pickle juice doesn't help, and her aunt's magic makes her think that maybe she's content just the way she is.

Titles Illustrated by Mercer Mayer
J-BEL The Figure in the Shadows (1975) by John Bellairs -- A painfully overweight sixth-grade boy receives a magic amulet that brings him luck, but the gift also carries terrifying consequences. This is the sequel to The House With a Clock in Its Walls.

J-P-FIT The Great Brain Does It Again (1975) by John D. Fitzgerald -- In turn-of-the-century Mormon Utah, Tom's great brain comes up with eight more schemes, most of which are concerned with earning money.

J-P-FIT The Great Brain Reforms (1973) by John D. Fitzgerald -- During the summer vacation of 1898, J.D. arrives at a means of reforming his brother, the Great Brain, and ending his career as a swindler.

J-P-FIT Me And My Little Brain (1971) by John D. Fitzgerald -- In the absence of his older brother, J.D. finds that his own little brain can accomplish feats on a smaller scale.

J-FIT/J-P-FIT More Adventures of the Great Brain (1969) by John D. Fitzgerald -- In 1896, the Great Brain of Andenville, Utah, is almost twelve years old and more mischievous than ever with his practical jokes and schemes against everyone in town.

J-Fitzgerald The Return of the Great Brain (1974) by John D. Fitzgerald -- In turn-of-the-century Mormon Utah, the Great brain struggles to stay reformed now that his friends have threatened to ostracize him if he pulls even one more swindle.

Videos Based on the Stories of Mercer Mayer
J-VID-Three Mercer Mayer's 3 Stories (1985) -- Three of Mercer Mayer's most popular tales are brought to life with this video. They include Herbert the Timid Dragon, Just for You, and How the Trollusk Got His Hat.

Software Based on the Stories of Mercer Mayer
J-CDR-Little Mercer Mayer's Little Monster at School (1994) -- This computer program reads the Mercer Mayer story along with each child, allowing him to see how each word sounds as well as including a number of related activities.

Little Critter Page (http://freeway.net/~mggriffus/critter.html) -- This site pulls together links for information and activities related to the character that Mercer Mayer is most famous, Little Critter.

"Mayer, Mercer", Educational Paperback Association (http://www.edupaperbacthk.org/authorbios/Mayer_Mercer.html) -- A brief biography written in Mayer's own words is provided at this site as well as a list of some some of his works and a list of other resources that can be used to learn about the author.

Ramsey, Inez and Jason Craig. Mercer Mayer (http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/mayer.htm) -- Ramsey and Craig provide a brief biography and a list of works for Mayer at this site. 

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