Even before his first book, Hush Up!, was published in 1980, Jim Aylesworth had an audience for his work. As a first-grade teacher whose favorite part of the day was reading aloud to his 6-year-old students, Aylesworth decided he ''wanted to be a larger part of the book world than just a reader'' and started testing out his own story ideas.
''My students gave me a great education. They made it very clear what works rhythm, rhyme, repetition, noise, and a certain gross factor,'' explains Aylesworth, now in his 23rd year of teaching in a Chicago suburb.
Aylesworth learned his lessons well. His 18 books, especially 1992's best-selling Old Black Fly, are truly a celebration of sound. ''Most of my books are meant to be read out loud to a group of children, and My Son John should really be sung,'' says the 51-year-old author, revealing the strong, simple voice of a folksinger as he demonstrates with the title verse.
''Books that go for the sound are the ones that kids will sit for even on an indoor-recess day, when it's raining out and they're wired,'' says Aylesworth. ''When they scream for me to read again, I know it's working.''