In this fifth collection of author talks delivered at the New York Public Library and edited by Zinsser (previous books in the series included Inventing the Truth, 1987, and last season's Paths of Resistance), six children's book authors speak revealingly of their sources, their background, and their work. In descending order of interest (quibbles allowed): Maurice Sendak identifies his ""wild things"" as unwelcome relatives at Thirties Sunday dinners and links other compelling motifs and faces in his work with figures from Thirties life, news, and film. Jean Fritz, who grew up in China, gives away some smart tips on writing young biographies, and points to her own need to relate to her American heritage as an impetus behind her lively American history biographies. Jack Prelutsky delights by reciting some of his unlimited vocabulary rhymes. Finally. Rosemary Wells tells how her own small children's overheard exchanges inspired her popular board books; Katherine Paterson pontificates on a moral core as opposed to moralizing, on beauty as defined by physicists, and on ""modern science's"" belief in an eternal mind and will; and Jill Krementz speaks of the benefits to children of the reality depicted in her smoothly synthesized ""How It Feels"" books. If there is a common gist to these remarks it is, as Zinsser puts it in his introduction, that ""the magic word is truth""--a point that seemingly has to be remade whenever children's literature is discussed.