June 2002

My ‘Newbery year’ continues with lots of lovely things happening!

–A couple of months ago when I was in New York City, I stayed with my dear friend Nancy. She had a dinner party for me-and dessert was this amazing cake!

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That’s a replica of the Newbery Medal, all done in frosting. (For some reason the photo came out smeary-looking. It didn’t look like that in real life-it was perfect!)

–For a class book project, fourth-grader Perry Knowlton dressed up as Tree-ear and sent me a photo:

For a class book project, fourth-grader Perry Knowlton dressed up as Tree-ear and sent me a photo

I was floored by his costume-the details are terrific! I could never have done anywhere near as good a job myself. (I know this for a fact. When my son had to dress up to represent the state of Idaho, I used a scarf to tie a potato on top of his head. That was his costume.)

–On the road: In May I was in Albany for Frank Hodge’s wonderful conference, “Let the Reading Begin.” It was the seventeenth and last LRB; I went last year and had a wonderful time, and this year was even better. How could it miss, with guests like Jerry and Eileen Spinelli, Karen Hesse, Bruce Coville, Kate DiCamillo, Mem Fox, Ben Mikaelsen, and many many more! We were treated to a terrific talk by Mem Fox on the importance of reading aloud to children, and a performance of one of Bruce’s books by members of his “Full Cast Audio” staff. (Watch for these audio productions, a wonderful way to hear a book!)

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Frank Hodge’s “Newbery Corner.” From left, Kate DiCamillo (N Honor, Because of Winn-Dixie, 2001); me; Karen Hesse (Medal, Out of the Dust, 1999); and Jerry Spinelli (Medal for Maniac Magee, 1990, Honor for Wringer, 1994). Thanks to Gail Denisoff for the photo!

I also presented awards to the young winners of the Susan B. Anthony writing competition here in Rochester; gave a presentation to the Rochester Area School Librarians association; and talked to the Monroe County Children and Young Adult librarians. I LOVE meeting folks who like to talk about books!

–Recent reading: Still not as much time to read as I would like, but I did steal some time for a few books.

NEXT MONTH: A report from the ALA Annual Conference in Atlanta, where I will give the Newbery acceptance speech and receive the Medal-yikes! Wish me luck.


June 2002 – Recent Reading

Lincoln: A Photobiography, by Russell Freedman. Nonfiction. 1988 Newbery Medal winner. Pick any of Freedman’s biographies-amazing examples of compelling nonfiction and absolutely seamless writing. Eleanor Roosevelt, Martha Graham, Babe Didrickson-I can’t choose a favorite.

Coram Boy, by Jamila Gavin. Upper midgrade/YA historical fiction. A wonderful cast of characters in this tale that illuminates what happened to abandoned children in 18th-century England. Winner of the 2000 Whitbread Prize for best children’s novel in England. (Only complaint: I wish there were an author’s note at the end.)

Loser, by Jerry Spinelli. Midgrade contemporary. Donald Zinkoff—new to the list of my favorite-ever characters—and terrifically effective use of the present tense.


May 2002

April – what a wild and crazy month! Debra Shapiro, Senior Publicist at Clarion Books, keeps track of my schedule for me. Here’s a copy of the calendar page she kept:

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It’s a good thing there was that ‘family vacation’ in the middle of the month! Sometimes things get a little hairy–but mostly I’m having a wonderful time.

School visits to St. Louis School in Pittsford, NY; The Dalton School in Manhattan; P.S. 151 in the Bronx; Second Avenue Elementary and St. Joseph’s Montessori in Columbus, OH; and Marin Horizon School in Mill Valley, CA. I had a great time meeting the students and staff at all the schools-thanks for making my visits so special!

–Travels: I spoke at the Writing for Children conference in Columbus; a book-talk event sponsored by the Sacramento Bee; and the International Reading Association annual conference in San Francisco. Highlights:

In Columbus: meeting author Sharon Draper (Tears of a Tiger; Forged by Fire; her latest book due out next month is Double Dutch), who gave a wonderful opening address and also passed on to me some great tips on public speaking. I also met the talented author/illustrator/storyteller Shonto Begay-his books are next on my ‘to-read’ list!

In Sacramento: Meeting a great group of young and young-at-heart readers-including my two nieces, Michelle and Ailish Dobbin.

In San Francisco: Visiting with a whole bunch of wonderful authors! An Na, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Greg Smith, Deb Wiles, Jane Kurtz, Franny Billingsley, Kathleen Duey, Walter Mayes, Verla Kay, Pat Mora-all people I’ve long wanted to meet. And wonder of wonders, I got to have dinner with two of my writing heroes-Eve Bunting and Katherine Paterson! I heard Eve give a wonderful presentation on her work, and I got to thank Katherine for her very direct impact on my life as a writer. The “On Writing” page of this website tells how an essay in her book The Spying Heart inspired me to make a habit of writing two pages per day. If it weren’t for that tip, I might never have written a book! As it is, every one of my novels was written ‘two pages per day,’ so it was a tremendous thrill to be able to thank her in person.

–At long last, I’ve been able to update my “Reading” page. I haven’t been able to read as much as I usually do, but I did want to let folks know about a few good titles I’ve read.

–Wanna fight!? Here’s a fascinating list from the Allen County Public Library system in Indiana. The folks there do a terrific job promoting interest in books for young people. This link is to their ‘Newbery rankings’: Which book is the best Newbery winner ever? See what you think! And if you’d like, you can share your thoughts in my guestbook.

Newbery rankings by the Allen County Public Library system


May 2002 – Recent Reading

Book of the month

(Um, technically ‘book of the past three months’-but it’s so good that I am recklessly predicting that it will end up being my book of the year!): The Mouse and His Child, by Russell Hoban. A wind-up toy-a mouse who lifts his child into the air-is discarded; father and son must make their own way in the world. Remarkable characterization of the pair as they travel through harrowing adventures in search of a home. First published in 1967 and recently reissued. You may have noticed that I give no genre or age indication. For one thing, it is a fantasy unlike any other. Also, many believe this is not a story for children; certainly there are parts of the story that young children might find disturbing. But any thoughtful reader over the age of about ten will find true wonder in this book: It instantly became one of my all-time favorites.

  • The School Story, by Andrew Clements. Contemporary MG. An elementary-school student writes a novel, and her best friend acts as a literary agent to get it published. Unbelievable maybe, but whether you’re a kid or an adult, if you’re hoping to have a book published someday, you’ll find this story a down-to-earth look at how a book gets made-as useful in its way as the market guides!
  • Breathing Underwater, by Alex Flinn. Contemporary YA. Many well-deserved plaudits for this first novel about an abusive teen relationship. Nick narrates his story in first person, alternating flashbacks with current journal entries. A strong voice and a well-sketched setting contribute to the tough, realistic feel.
  • Everything on a Waffle, by Polly Horvath. Contemporary midgrade. 2002 Newbery Honor title. How can you not love a book whose main character’s name is Primrose Squarp? A small town on the west coast of Canada raises Primrose when her parents are lost at sea. The local cafe’s gimmick: everything is served on-you guess it-a waffle; even waffles come on a waffle! An odd and endearing humor suffuses the pages of Primrose’s story-with bonus recipes at the end of each chapter.
  • Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison. Contemporary YA. Wildly successful British import with-hurrah!-no changes to the dialect. Instead, there’s a glossary of Britishisms at the back of the book. 14-year-old Georgia Nicolson’s diary documents her school year with a navel-gazing intensity I found hilarious and irritating by turns-which is probably an indication of how closely the book hews to its adolescent viewpoint! Sequel (On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of A Sex God) published here last year, with book # 3 due out any minute now.

April 2002

Wow! A new look to my website, thanks to my genius nephew Alex Dobbin who does freelance web design and animation. Hope you enjoy looking around here.

  • Two months now since the Newbery announcement! I’ve finally gotten some photos together and wanted to share them.

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On the set of NBC’s Today Show, with (from left) John Berry, president of the American Library Association; David Weisner, winner of the 2002 Caldecott Medal; and Katie Couric.

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Celebrating at Clarion Books the day after the award announcement. From left: (partially hidden) Kate Chilko, marketing; the legendary Virginia Buckley (Katherine Paterson’s editor!); editor Michele Coppola; me; Managing Editor Jim Armstrong; designer Debora Smith; Deb Shapiro, marketing; my goddess of an editor Dinah Stevenson; editor Jennifer Greene; associate editor Lynne Polvino.


SCBWI President Stephen Mooser and me at the Midyear Conference in NYC.


My niece and nephew, Emma and Craig Park, in front of the wonderful sign their school (Rocky Mount Academy in NC) put up for me when I visited there.


Signing books with the fifth grade book club during a school visit to Rocky Mount Academy in North Carolina. From left: Michael McLaughlin, Catherine Hood, me, my nephew Craig Park, and Jordan Rackley.

  • I’m delighted to share that my new book, When My Name Was Keoko, has received another starred review from School Library Journal. Click on the title to learn more about this book.
  • At the end of March, I visited Fitzhugh Park School, Kingsford Park School, and Minetto Elementary in Oswego, NY and had a great time meeting the students and faculty at all three schools. Also, if you’re ever in Oswego, don’t miss the River’s End Bookstore; I had a wonderful signing there!
  • There have been additions and changes to my appearance schedule on the Author Presentations page.

March 2002

So much has happened in the last few weeks that it’s hard to know where to begin! But I’ll start with the news that A Single Shard is back in stock. If your local bookstore doesn’t have copies, you can place an order; the book is also available now through online booksellers.

Many readers have written to ask about bookplates. To receive a signed bookplate, send an SASE to:

Debra Shapiro
Clarion Books
215 Park Avenue South
New York NY 10003
Please don’t forget to include that SASE!

The Author Presentations page has the schedule of my upcoming appearances. This is being added to constantly (!), so if you’re interested in learning when I’ll be in your area, check this page often!

I have received HUNDREDS of congratulatory messages via e-mails, phone calls, letters, posts in my guestbook–I keep expecting a Pony Express rider to stop by any day now! Heartfelt thanks to all of you who have contacted me. In the way of more concrete thanks, I plan to list highlights of my ‘Newbery experience’ every month on this page. So here’s the first installment:

  • The ‘Today Show’ on January 22nd, and no, I did NOT get to meet Richard Gere! But as a result of my appearance, several long-lost friends ‘found’ me, which was a wonderful bonus.
  • Invitations to speak IN KOREA!
  • A beautiful letter from Lee Hee-ho—Korea’s First Lady!
  • The chance to reunite with many old friends and make some new ones at the SCBWI Midyear Conference in New York City.

More news: March 18 is the publication date for When My Name Was Keoko, my new upper-midgrade novel set in World War II Korea. I’m delighted to share that it has already received two starred reviews—from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. Click here to learn more about the book.

The paperback edition of The Kite Fighters is now available from Random House/Dell Yearling—with a new cover! Order from your local bookstore or online.

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Winners of the February book drawing!


January 2002

As many of you know by now, A Single Shard has been awarded the 2002 Newbery Medal! Thanks to all the readers and friends who have written with congratulations; every single message has been deeply appreciated.

My updates to the site will be a little late this month (except for the winners of the book drawing, which will be posted February 1), but please check back for more news in a few weeks.

Please note: Copies of A Single Shard will be available in mid-February. They can be ordered from your local bookstore, or call Clarion Books: 1-800-225-3362.


January 2002 – Happy New Year

Happy New Year!
Here’s to a great year of reading
and writing to all!

News times two from the American Library Association’s Booklist magazine: an article I wrote about how my reading as a child influences my work today, and a lovely honor for Shard: named a Booklist Editor’s Choice title.

Winners of the December drawing for a free copy of Seesaw Girl. Sign my guestbook for a chance to win next month’s drawing!

Recent reading: What I read in December


December 2001 – Recent Reading

Book of the month:

Zazoo, by Richard Mosher.

YA set in France. Zazoo is a 14-year-old Vietnamese orphan adopted by a French soldier, Grand-Pierre. They run a canal lock from their home in an old mill. Who is the enigmatic boy-on-a-bicycle, and how is he connected with the village pharmacist and Grand-Pierre? A coming-of-age/first love/mystery/war story that lyrically evokes the French countryside– what more could you want in a book?

  • The Secret of Platform 13, by Eva Ibbotson. MG fantasy. Many of the titles recommended for readers who ‘loved Harry Potter’ are off-kilter, in my opinion; Philip Pullman’s trilogy and even Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series are older and very different in tone. Instead, try this one–Ibbotson is well loved in her native England and deserves to be better known here.

    Platform 13 is a light witty story with a fairy-tale feel, complete with a Dursley-esque family and an appealing heroine. Also recommended for the ‘if you loved Harry’ crowd: Diana Wynne-Jones Chrestomanci quartet, and Bruce Coville’s Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.

  • Three Days, by Donna Jo Napoli. MG suspense. A fascinating premise: A girl on vacation is kidnapped and held by a family in the remote hills of Italy. But all is definitely not what it seems here… My first Napoli read, but it won’t be my last.

A pretty measly list for this month, partly because of the holiday madness, but also because I’m luxuriating in a huge adult read: Anna Karenina, the Russian classic by Leo Tolstoy. Unlike my usual m.o., I’m reading this one slowly…savoring is the word. I absolutely love it. Those classics you’ve never gotten around to reading? It’s never too late!


December 2001

A Single Shard has been named to School Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year list (one of 60 titles), and also to the New York Public Library’s annual best list, “100 Titles for Reading and Sharing.” Also, The Kite Fighters has been named one of 25 “Notable Books for a Global Society” by the Children’s Literature Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association. Given the number of terrific books that come out every year, I’m truly thrilled and honored by such recognition.

The 2002 edition of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market (Writer’s Digest Books) is now available. In it you’ll find an article I wrote about the importance of reading for those who want to write and get published, and an ‘Insider Report’ on me and my work. Plus LOTS of other helpful articles and those invaluable market listings.

The good people at Clarion Books have just sent me a proof of the jacket for my next book, due out in April–and I really like it a lot. When My Name Was Keoko is the story of a girl and her brother set in Korea during World War II, when the country was under Japanese occupation. Much of the story is based on my parents’ experiences. April is still a ways off, but receiving the jacket proof makes it seem closer. A sneak peek:

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WINNERS of the November drawing for a free copy of Seesaw Girl—FOUR winners this month, to help celebrate the holidays! Enter the new contest for December, and check out my guestbook’s new feature: A question of the month for you to answer.

Q&A: a few tips for beginning writers wondering where to submit their work.

Recent reading: What I read in November.