James Fenimore Cooper, acclaimed as one of the first American novelists, was born in Burlington, N.J., on September 15, 1789. When he was one year old, his family moved to Cooperstown, N.Y., which was founded by his father. Cooper attended various grammar schools in Burlington, Cooperstown, and Albany, and entered Yale University in 1803 at the age of 13. In 1806, Cooper was expelled from Yale for pushing a rag with gunpowder under a classmate's door, causing it to explode. He then spent some time as a merchant seaman and served as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy from 1808-1811. In 1811, Cooper married Susan De Lancey, and lived the life of a country gentleman until one day in 1820. Cooper and his wife were reading a book together. When Cooper told Susan that he could write a better book than the one they were reading, she challenged him to do so. Thus began his career as an author, with Precaution (first published anonymously). Cooper is known for writing more than 50 works under his own name, Jane Morgan, and Anonymous. His works included fiction, nonfiction, history, and travel sketches. He gained insight for his travel works while the Cooper family lived in Europe from 1826 to 1833. Cooper is best known for the novel The Last of The Mohicans, which has been made into several motion picture adaptations, the most recent starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye. The Last of the Mohicans is part of The Leatherstocking Tales, which includes the other novels, The Pioneers, The Deerslayer, and The Pathfinder. Hawkeye, whose given name is Nathaniel Bumpo, is a recurring character in the series which accurately chronicles early American pioneering life and events during the French and Indian War. In 1851, Cooper developed a liver condition, dying on September 14th of that year, just one day before his 62nd birthday.
Ezra Jack Keats was born Jacob Ezra Katz in Brooklyn, New York on March 11, 1916. He was a mural painter for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) for three years before taking a job as a comic book illustrator. During World War II, he joined the United States Air Corp and was a camouflage pattern designer. After the war, he changed his name to make his Jewish heritage less noticeable. He wrote and/or illustrated more than 85 children's books. The first book he illustrated was Jubilant for Sure by Elizabeth Hubbard Lansing, which was published in 1954. The first book he wrote was My Dog is Lost, which was published in 1960. His other works include Pet Show and The Snowy Day, which won a Caldecott Medal in 1963. He was also awarded the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion for outstanding contributions in the field of children's literature in 1980. He died of a heart attack on May 6, 1983.Richar Slotkin is the Olin Professor of American Studies at Wesleyan University. He is the author of Gunfighter Nation and Regeneration Through Violence, both National Book Award Finalists, and The Crater.