How old were you when you first began to write? Some wonderkids began their publishing journey long before others of their age could read, let alone write.
As a kindergartener, Easton V. was reading novels and already had an impressive stack of books he’d written and illustrated. That year, an essay he wrote won an award, was published in a book, and garnered him a Barnes & Noble gift card, which he considered his first royalties.
His prodigious output led to me to search for young authors who’d made the leap to being traditionally published. Because many adult authors struggle to get a commercial house to accept their books, some parents help their children along by publishing their books for them. It’s rare for major publishing houses to accept books by young authors; however, some teens have managed it, and so have some preschool and elementary-aged writers.
Dorothy Straight may be the youngest female author to be commercially published in the United States. Born in 1958 in Washington, DC, Dorothy penned her first book at age four. Her account of creation, How the World Began, came out in August 1964 from Pantheon Books, when she was six years old. Kirkus Reviews praised Dorothy’s artwork for its “refreshing use of color and wild approximation of shape.”
Another four-year-old writer, Daisy Ashford, was born in England in 1881. She began her writing career by dictating a story to her father. That tale, “The Life of Father McSwiney,” wasn’t published until almost one hundred years later. At age nine, Daisy wrote what would become her most famous book, The Young Visiters. When it was finally printed in 1919, Daisy kept her original childish misspellings, even though she was in her thirties.
Third-grader Alec Greven spent a week writing a book of tips for his buddies called How to Talk to Girls. After HarperCollins published it in 2008, the self-help book went on to become a New York Times bestseller. The nine-year-old Colorado author followed up with four other bestselling how-to books.
Nancy Yi Fan was born in China in 1993, but moved to New York state when she was seven. By age eleven, she had begun her first book. Harper Collins accepted her middle-grade fantasy novel, Swordbird, which she completed when she was twelve. Her story went on to become a New York Times bestseller, and Nancy wrote two more books in the trilogy.
Twin brothers from India, Jyoti and Suresh Guptara, learned to read and write when they were three. Together they worked on a 700-page novel, Conspiracy of Calaspia, when they were eleven. After multiple rounds of revisions, the book was published when they were seventeen. It became a bestseller in their country, and the rights were sold to Italy and German for five- and six-figure advances.
Jake Marcionette, of Maryland, finished a diary-type book called Just Jake when he was twelve. Picked up by Grosset & Dunlap, the humorous, colorfully illustrated middle-grade story went on to become a New York Times bestseller in 2014 when Jake was thirteen. He has since added two more books to his comedy adventure series.
Born in Romania in 1988, Flavia Bujor moved with her family to France when she was two. There, Flavia wrote her first book, The Prophecy of the Gems, at age twelve, and HarperCollins released it when she was fourteen. Successful in France, the novel was translated into twenty-three languages.
Canadian author Gordon Corman was twelve when his track-and-field coach became his English teacher. Given the freedom to write whatever he wanted, Gordon set to work on a novel that eventually became This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall. After his mother typed up the manuscript, Gordon sent it to Scholastic, and they published it in 1978, when he was fourteen. He went on to write many books that sold more than 30 million copies.
These are only a few of the many authors who published books when they were elementary students. One trait all these young writers have in common is that they were voracious readers before they became writers. Encourage the young writers you know to read widely and keep putting words down on paper. Soon they might be the next bestselling young author on this list.