James Howe is a multi-talented children's author who writes humorous and entertaining books for young readers. He was born on August 2 , 1946, in Oneida, New York. Howe has published more than 12 children's books, and is best known for his comical Bunnicula series.
His first book, written with his wife, was published in 1979. The book was Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery, a story about a pet rabbit suspected of being a vampire. This book quickly became a favorite among children, winning more than ten Children's Choice awards, including the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award and the Nene Award. Bunnicula soon evolved into a series, with the completion of such lighthearted and comic tales as Howliday Inn, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, Nighty-Nightmare, Harold and Chester in Creepy-Crawly Birthday, and Return to Howliday Inn.
Howe says he first discovered a love for language and stories with his family and friends at a very young age. For example, he wrote and performed his first play as a seven year old. He explains this love for language in the Sixth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators : “Words played an important part in my growing up. Not only the written word . . . but words that flew through the air jokes, riddles, puns. My family was always playing with words. It is little wonder that even after I got serious about writing, I've had a hard time getting serious about words.”
James Howe uses this playful humor throughout all his stories. He says, “humor is the most precious gift I can give to my reader, a reminder that the world is not such a terribly serious place. There is more than video games and drugs and nuclear threats; there is laughter and there is hope.” In addition to the well-known Bunnicula series, Howe has created two other series, Pinky and Rex, about two young best friends, and Sebastian Barth, about a junior high school sleuth whose appetite for mystery leads to dangerous, and sometimes comical, situations.
The success of Howe's books is due to this ability to relate personally with his readers. Even though all of Howe's books contain humor, excitement, and adventure, many of them (like The Hospital Book , A Night Without Stars, Dew Drop Dead) also incorporate very serious issues, such as homelessness, illness, and death. For Howe, this is a way to be open and honest with his young readers. He says, “I can no more separate my serious concerns about the world from my cockeyed way of seeing it than I can keep apart my personal and professional selves.” He stated in a Horn Book article: “It is the writer's privilege and responsibility to give children a world they can enter, recognize, at times be frightened of, but which ultimately, they can master and control. We must not leave them feeling stranded in an unfamiliar world where the questions, let alone the answers, are beyond their grasp.”
He is dedicated to carrying out his obligations as a children's writer. He explains this by saying, “as a writer for children, I have many responsibilities the responsibility to give the reader well-crafted language that is appropriate for the story at hand; to use language that respects the reader's intelligence while stretching his or her appreciation of what language can do; to articulate what the child cannot; to give positive values in a world where values have been demeaned; to make demands on the reader's mind and spirit; to entertain; and to make the reader laugh. In the end, however, my primary responsibility as a writer is to the hidden child in the reader and in myself, and to the belief that though we are years apart when I open my mouth to speak, the child will understand. Because in that hidden part of ourselves, we are one.”
Howe explains his life as a writer: “I'm one of the fortunate ones. My personal and work lives are totally entwined. I get up in the morning, have breakfast with my family, walk to the other end of the house, and sit down at my desk. Later, I'll take breaks to read a book to my daughter or a chapter of a book to myself, have lunch, go for a walk, or play with the cat. All the while my writer's mind is ticking away, thinking about the book I'm working on or ideas for new stories.”
He talks about the importance of challenge to his continuing growth as a writer. He says, “Since my work is a part of everything I am, it is important that I allow it to grow and change. One of the difficult things about doing sequels and series is keeping alive the elements that made the first book funny and popular while writing as the person I am now. That's been one of the greatest challenges of my work. But challenge is much of what work is about at least it is if one's work is going to be rich and satisfying. I look forward to the challenges ahead, the changes and the unknowns. Readers expect to be surprised by writers. What's fun and crucial for writers is that we surprise ourselves.”
When he isn't writing, Howe enjoys bicycling, hiking, skiing, movies, theater, traveling, and reading.