Review: A Bandit’s Tale by Deborah Hopkinson

Today, I’m thrilled to be par­tic­i­pat­ing in anoth­er blog tour for Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son! This time, the award-win­ning mas­ter of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion for chil­dren takes read­ers back to nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry New York City in her new mid­dle-grade nov­el: A BANDIT’S TALE: THE MUDDLED MISADVENTURES OF A PICKPOCKET (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Read­ers | on sale April 5, 2016 | Ages 8–12 | $16.99). Here’s the pub­lish­er’s descrip­tion of this sto­ry of sur­vival, crime, adven­ture, and horses:

Here are a few words from oth­er reviewers:

“A strong choice for those who enjoy adven­tures about scrap­py and resource­ful kids.”
School Library Jour­nal, Starred Review
“A dynam­ic his­tor­i­cal nov­el ide­al for both class­room stud­ies and plea­sure reading.”
Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, Starred Review

And here are a few more from me:
I am a diehard ani­mal lover, so when I found out that the founder of the ASPCA, Hen­ry Bergh, appears as a char­ac­ter in this nov­el and that part of the plot is about help­ing the street hors­es in NYC, I knew I had to read it! What I found was so much more. It turns out there were sev­er­al oth­er things I loved about this nov­el, too:

  1. It’s an inter­est­ing set­ting, late 1800s New York City, that I had­n’t real­ly thought about much before. The nov­el immers­es read­ers in this world and brings it to life on a very human lev­el. I love when his­tor­i­cal fic­tion does that!
  2. There’s a secret! I won’t give away any spoil­ers, but there’s an inci­dent at the begin­ning of the book that isn’t ful­ly explained or under­stood by the read­er until much lat­er, but it sure keeps you wondering.
  3. I love the voice. The book is writ­ten in first-per­son from Roc­co’s some­what irrev­er­ent point of view, some­times address­ing the read­er direct­ly. Roc­co thinks and sounds like a com­plete­ly believ­able 11- to 12-year-old. He is naive and imma­ture but good-heart­ed and try­ing to cope as best he can with a chal­leng­ing and com­plex world. I espe­cial­ly appre­ci­at­ed how with age and expe­ri­ence he is able to look back on pre­vi­ous events and see them differently.
  4. Okay, as much as enjoyed the set­ting, plot, and char­ac­ter of the nov­el, what tru­ly blew me away was the back­mat­ter. (I love fic­tion, but I guess I’m a non­fic­tion girl at heart!) There’s a map; an expla­na­tion of what a picaresque nov­el is; notes about the set­ting, times, and peo­ple; a glos­sary of terms used by the thieves; a guide for fur­ther read­ing; and source notes. Many real peo­ple are ref­er­enced in the nov­el, and Hop­kin­son takes great care to explain exact­ly what is true and what she made up for the sake of the sto­ry. I think read­ers and writ­ers alike will find it inter­est­ing to see how the fic­tion and facts can inter­twine and overlap.
  5. Adding to all of this were the pho­tos! Being able to see authen­tic vin­tage pho­tos from the actu­al time and place of the nov­el real­ly added to the intel­lec­tu­al under­stand­ing as well as the emo­tion­al impact of the fic­tion­al scenes.

5B7C832B-F02E-4045-A0AD-C26D55DC4289All in all, this book earns A Ban­dit’s Tale two thumbs up from this read­er! I would high­ly rec­om­mend hand­ing it to any­one who enjoys his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, ani­mal lovers, adven­ture lovers, ruf­fi­ans and rogues, and, yes, even read­ers who tend to pre­fer non­fic­tion his­to­ry and/or biography.
Thank you to Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son and Michele Kophs at Prova­to Events for the plea­sure of read­ing this advance read­er’s copy!
For oth­er stops on the Ban­dit Blog Tour please check and watch for the hash­tag, #Ban­dit­Blog­Tour.

Deborah Hopkinson guest post about Beatrix Potter!

blog tour banner
blog tour bannerDeb­o­rah Hop­kin­son is the author of near­ly 50 fan­tas­tic books for young read­ers. I have blogged pre­vi­ous­ly about sev­er­al of these books, includ­ing her most recent non­fic­tion work, Courage & Defi­ance, which was named a NCTE Orbis Pic­tus rec­om­mend­ed book and Syd­ney Tay­lor award notable book. Her newest mid­dle grade nov­el, A Bandit’s Tale, The Mud­dled Mis­ad­ven­tures of a Pick­pock­et, a Junior Library Guild selec­tion, will be released this April. And today we’re cel­e­brat­ing the recent release of Beat­rix Pot­ter and the Unfor­tu­nate Tale of a Bor­rowed Guinea Pig (Schwartz & Wade), which I know will have a spe­cial place in my heart because a) I love guinea pigs, and b) when I was a lit­tle girl I had a beloved set of bun­nies named Flop­sy, Mop­sy, and Cot­ton­tail. Just check out this intrigu­ing review:

As this book’s fore­bod­ing title sug­gests, a guinea pig does not sur­vive its encounter with the future cre­ator of Peter Rab­bit—nor do Sal­ly the snake, an unnamed bat, and numer­ous snails. In her child­hood, Beat­rix Pot­ter made a habit of cap­tur­ing London’s wild crea­tures. “But the sad truth is that although Beat­rix loved ani­mals, she did not always have the best of luck with them,” sighs Hop­kin­son (Courage & Defi­ance), who shares evi­dence from Potter’s child­hood diary and, accord­ing to an after­word, takes a few autho­r­i­al lib­er­ties with actu­al events. Trou­bles arise when Beat­rix bor­rows a pet guinea pig, drol­ly named Queen Eliz­a­beth, to sketch. After Queen Eliz­a­beth devours a fatal “repast of paper, paste, and string,” Beat­rix humbly returns to its own­er with “a stiff and bloat­ed Queen Eliz­a­beth” and a “delight­ful lit­tle water­col­or” of the sub­ject. Hopkinson’s jest­ing tone com­bines false grandeur with a note of regret, and Voake’s (Gin­ger) breezy water­col­ors sug­gest Beatrix’s com­bi­na­tion of curios­i­ty and non­cha­lance. Sen­si­tive souls will feel for Beatrix’s vic­tims, even as this divert­ing nar­ra­tive sheds light on her child­hood fas­ci­na­tions. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Steven Malk, Writ­ers House. (Feb.).”  – Pub­lish­ers Weekly

And now, here is today’s guest post, writ­ten by Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son her­self:

Deborah HopkinsonThis year marks the 150th anniver­sary of the birth of Beat­rix Pot­ter (1866–1943), the cre­ator of some of the best-loved children’s clas­sics in the world. I first began toy­ing with the idea of writ­ing about Beat­rix five years ago, but it took more than a year and a half of tri­al and error. Final­ly, with the guid­ance of my edi­tor Anne Schwartz at Schwartz & Wade, I found my way to the sto­ry that became Beat­rix Pot­ter and the Unfor­tu­nate Tale of a Bor­rowed Guinea Pig. Inspired by a true inci­dent that Beat­rix record­ed in her jour­nal, she recounts bor­row­ing a guinea pig named Queen Eliz­a­beth from her neigh­bor, only to have it expire in the night from eat­ing paste and glue and oth­er for­bid­den treats.
Beat­rix Pot­ter was a fas­ci­nat­ing woman, as well as a leg­endary artist, author, and con­ser­va­tion­ist. Her jour­nal, writ­ten in code, was decod­ed and tran­scribed in 1958 by Leslie Lin­der and pub­lished in 1966. In it, Beat­rix describes a series of pet dis­as­ters, some of which appear in my book.
I was also intrigued by Beatrix’s cre­ative process. Her first book, The Tale of Peter Rab­bit, pub­lished in 1902, was orig­i­nal­ly a “pic­ture let­ter” writ­ten to cheer up a sick boy named Noel Moore, the son of her for­mer gov­erness. She begins, “My dear Noel, I don’t know what to write to you so I will tell you a sto­ry about four lit­tle rab­bits whose names were Flop­sy, Mop­sy, Cot­ton­tail, and Peter.
Beatrix Potter coverI love play­ing with the struc­ture of pic­ture books. Some of my pre­vi­ous books have been writ­ten in jour­nal for­mat, or divid­ed into innings or cours­es (like chap­ters). For this book, we want­ed to as much as pos­si­ble imi­tate one of Beat­rix Potter’s own pic­ture let­ters. Even before the title page, the sto­ry begins with an intro­duc­tion: “My dear Read­er.” At the end, the sto­ry is signed by me. The post­script? That’s an author’s note which includes pho­tos of Beat­rix and images of her jour­nal and the pic­ture let­ter to Noel. As an author who vis­its schools all over the coun­try, I’m look­ing for­ward to incor­po­rat­ing pic­ture let­ter into my author vis­its and can’t wait to see what stu­dents will cre­ate. I’m also eager to share with them the sto­ry of an artist and writer who began prac­tic­ing her craft at a young age.
Char­lotte Voake, whose delight­ful water­col­ors make this book so spe­cial, is British, and I’m excit­ed that our book will also be pub­lished in Great Britain in July, to coin­cide with Beat­rix Potter’s birth­day on July 28. The Roy­al Mint is issu­ing 50p coins in hon­or of Beat­rix (there is also a coin to mark the 400th anniver­sary of Shakespeare’s death).
For more Beat­rix Pot­ter spe­cial events, fol­low the hash­tag #Beatrix150 on Twit­ter. And, as Beat­rix learned the hard way, do be care­ful when­ev­er you bor­row some­thing from a neighbor.

Many thanks to Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son for guest blog­ging here today!  For oth­er stops on the Beat­rix Blog Tour please vis­it

Nonfiction Monday: Courage & Defiance blog tour and interview

Facts First! Nonfiction Monday

Facts First! Nonfiction MondayAs you can prob­a­bly tell by my books Be a Change­mak­er and Emmanuel’s Dream, I love writ­ing about heroes and change­mak­ers. It should be no sur­prise, then, that I love read­ing about them, too. My favorite kinds of sto­ries are those about ordi­nary peo­ple who act­ed with extra­or­di­nary strength, con­vic­tion, and courage, and the book I just fin­ished read­ing is full of peo­ple doing just that. In Courage & Defi­ance: Sto­ries of Spies, Sabo­teurs and Sur­vivors in World War II Den­mark by Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son (Scholas­tic Press, August 2015), the author has clear­ly done a great deal of care­ful research to bring us nar­ra­tive non­fic­tion about the WWII resis­tance move­ment in Den­mark from the per­spec­tive of some of those who took part in it. It’s a grip­ping tale of adven­ture and sus­pense, and one that has rarely been told.

Deb­o­rah has been inter­viewed on this blog before, and I’m super excit­ed to wel­come her back once again as part of the Courage and Defi­ance blog tour. I hope you enjoy the interview!
LAT: I know I thor­ough­ly enjoyed this book, Deb­o­rah. What kind of young read­er do you think Courage & Defi­ance will appeal to? What oth­er books might be read-alikes? 
DH: I vis­it schools all over the coun­try and love to ask stu­dents what they’re read­ing. While fan­ta­sy and sci­ence fic­tion are always pop­u­lar, I’m usu­al­ly sur­prised by the num­ber of stu­dents – girls and boys – who tell me they like to read about his­to­ry and like non­fic­tion. There are def­i­nite­ly kids who read every­thing they can get their hands on top­ics such as the Titan­ic and World War II, but I think read­ers who enjoyed Num­ber the Stars by Lois Lowry or The Diary of Anne Frank will also enjoy Courage & Defi­ance.
LAT: This is a sto­ry that many of us prob­a­bly haven’t heard before. Why do you think that might be?
DH: I think per­haps that here in the U.S., we’re most nat­u­ral­ly inter­est­ed in sto­ries that take place after Amer­i­ca entered World War II on Decem­ber 7, 1941. (As it hap­pens, my next non­fic­tion book about sub­marines in the Pacif­ic war begins with the attack on Pearl Har­bor and will be out in 2016 for the 75th anniver­sary.) While I did find a num­ber of adult non­fic­tion books about the expe­ri­ence of Danes dur­ing the Ger­man occu­pa­tion, which began on April 9, 1940, almost all were schol­ar­ly titles or of inter­est pri­mar­i­ly to his­to­ri­ans (includ­ing a 600-page book about the SOE in Den­mark). I feel for­tu­nate that I was able to find as much as I did in Eng­lish, but I am sure there is much more avail­able in Dan­ish. We were able to access the pho­to archives of the Muse­um of Dan­ish Resistance.

Deb­o­rah Hopkinson

LAT: Dur­ing the research phase of Courage & Defi­ance, what dis­cov­er­ies did you come across that made you feel like you’d struck gold? Was there any­thing in the research that came as a surprise?
DH: At author vis­its, I tell stu­dents that my favorite part of writ­ing is the research. And since I knew lit­tle when I began sev­er­al years ago, I felt like I was dis­cov­er­ing some­thing new and incred­i­ble at every cor­ner. Prob­a­bly the most sig­nif­i­cant dis­cov­ery I made was find­ing a mem­oir in Eng­lish enti­tled A Let­ter to My Descen­dents by Niels Skov. Niels, whom I lat­er had the priv­i­lege to meet, came to the U.S. after the war, where he received a Ph.D. and became a col­lege pro­fes­sor. His per­son­al account was so incred­i­bly live­ly and vibrant – which matched his per­son­al­i­ty, even at age nine­ty-four. To my sur­prise, he had been deport­ed to a Ger­man labor camp at the same time as anoth­er activist whose sto­ry I tell, but they did not meet. It made me real­ize just how many incred­i­ble sto­ries there are in his­to­ry, and how eas­i­ly they are lost.
LAT: This one may be tricky, but if you can fath­om a guess… What do you think it was about the Danes that made them able to resist the Ger­mans and sup­port their Jew­ish coun­try­men so effectively? 
DH: Well, I am not sure I am qual­i­fied to say, but what comes across in all the first-per­son accounts I found was that ordi­nary peo­ple shared an unwa­ver­ing sense of human decen­cy, a love of coun­try, and a com­mit­ment to doing the right thing – even at great cost. It seems to me that as the war went on, the con­fi­dence and belief that peo­ple had in demo­c­ra­t­ic val­ues helped to give them the courage to take risks.
LAT: In the book, you asked Niels what his advice to young peo­ple today would be. Now that you’ve done all this research and writ­ten such a fan­tas­tic book, what is YOUR advice to young peo­ple today?
DH: While young peo­ple in Amer­i­ca now may not be faced with life-and-death deci­sions as Dan­ish cit­i­zens were in the 1940s, we all grap­ple with dif­fi­cult per­son­al choic­es. So per­haps I’d sim­ply give the same advice I’ve often told my own two chil­dren: make good choic­es and do good work in the world. And, of course, I have to add: keep reading!
LAT: That’s great advice, Deb­o­rah. Thanks so much for vis­it­ing today! 
For oth­er stops on the Courage and Defi­ance blog tour please check

Interview with author Deborah Hopkinson

Today I’m thrilled to wel­come back author Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son. I inter­viewed Deb­o­rah here pre­vi­ous­ly in a more gen­er­al sense, but this time I’d like to talk specifics about her lat­est book, KNIT YOUR BIT, com­ing from Put­nam Juve­nile on Feb­ru­ary 21, 2013.

KNIT YOUR BIT is a fic­tion­al­ized account of the real “Knit-In” event at Cen­tral Park in 1918. Despite being fic­tion, it was heav­i­ly researched to get the his­tor­i­cal details right, and read­ers can learn a lot about the time, World War I, and the peo­ple who lived then.

Please help me wel­come back Deborah!


LT: Hi, Deb­o­rah. It’s great to have you back. I love KNIT YOUR BIT and how it melds a fic­tion­al sto­ry with a non­fic­tion event. How did you first become inter­est­ed in writ­ing about this top­ic? Where did the seed of the sto­ry come from?
DH: The seed of this sto­ry actu­al­ly dates back some years, to my first pro­fes­sion­al job.  After grad­u­ate school I stum­bled into a career in fundrais­ing, which I have pur­sued ever since, in addi­tion to being a writer.  My first posi­tion was Staff Writer for the Amer­i­can Red Cross in Honolulu.
DH: As part of a his­to­ry cel­e­bra­tion, I wrote some arti­cles for the organization’s newslet­ter and stum­bled upon one of fire­men knit­ting in World War I.  I loved that image.  As a writer inter­est­ed in his­to­ry, I col­lect books on a wide vari­ety of top­ics.  At some point, think­ing about the upcom­ing anniver­sary of WWI, I remem­bered that pho­to and began read­ing about the his­to­ry of knit­ting.  Even­tu­al­ly, in Anne L. Macdonald’s NO IDLE HANDS, THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF AMERICAN KNITTING, I found a ref­er­ence to the 1918 Cen­tral Park Knit­ting Bee, and that’s where the sto­ry began.
LT: What kind of read­er do you think this book will appeal to?
DH: I think that my edi­tor, Shau­na Rossano, and the illus­tra­tor, Steven Gua­nac­cia, have done won­ders to make this sto­ry appeal­ing to young read­ers. I hope peo­ple who love crafts and knit­ting will be inter­est­ed.  I know that I often sign copies of my pic­ture book, SWEET CLARA AND THE FREEDOM QUILT, which are being giv­en as gifts to adults.  I hope folks will give KNIT YOUR BIT to friends (women and men, as well as boys and girls) who knit.
LT: What was your research process like for this book?
DH: Like many of my pic­ture books, KNIT YOUR BIT is his­tor­i­cal fic­tion inspired by real peo­ple or events, and includes an author’s note about knit­ting for sol­diers dur­ing World War I.
DH: The New York Times pub­lished an arti­cle on the knit­ting bee back in 1918, and some of the details of the prizes award­ed are pulled direct­ly from that piece.  I also researched and got per­mis­sion for the his­toric pho­tos on the end­pa­pers, which include one of sheep graz­ing dur­ing World War I on the White House lawn.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I wasn’t able to track down per­mis­sions for the Maki­ki fire sta­tion pho­to­graph, but I have added to my Pin­ter­est Board for KNIT YOUR BIT:

Knit Your Bit cover
KNIT YOUR BIT by Deb­o­rah Hopkinson

LT: What was your favorite part of the book to research and/or write?   What was the hard­est part of the research and/or writ­ing for you? How did you deal with that?
DH: I actu­al­ly love doing research of any kind.  The hard­est part is not hav­ing enough time, or not being able to trav­el to do research on-site.  For KNIT YOUR BIT, the fact that I couldn’t actu­al­ly find any first-per­son accounts of chil­dren who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the knit­ting bee meant that I felt the sto­ry, although based on real events, need­ed to be his­tor­i­cal fic­tion to be appeal­ing to read­ers. I always tell kids that when authors put words in character’s mouths the sto­ry becomes fiction.
LT: How have your research and writ­ing process­es evolved over the course of your career?
DH: I think my process­es have improved over the years.  I’m writ­ing a non­fic­tion book now on World War II, and I’m being care­ful to cite each source metic­u­lous­ly as I go along.
DH: This is some­thing I learned the hard way, espe­cial­ly with longer non­fic­tion.  The vet­ting and research process for my 2012 book, TITANIC, VOICES FROM THE DISASTER (a YALSA Non­fic­tion Award final­ist) was incred­i­bly detailed and time-con­sum­ing, because of the wealth of infor­ma­tion and the sheer com­plex­i­ty of the sto­ry.  So even though it might be tedious, I have learned to take my time and care­ful­ly track infor­ma­tion and sources. It def­i­nite­ly saves time later!
LT: I think every book teach­es us some­thing new, about the world, about our­selves, or about the craft of writ­ing. What have you learned as a result of writ­ing this book?
DH: I tend to write for old­er read­ers, espe­cial­ly since both my kids are now in their twen­ties.  I like to do author vis­its and talk with first and sec­ond graders and imag­ine how the book will sound if I’m shar­ing it with them.  That was espe­cial­ly help­ful in par­ing down this sto­ry to be as kid-friend­ly as possible.
LT: Besides pro­mot­ing your new book, what are you work­ing on now?
DH: Right now, I’m fin­ish­ing the proof­read­ing for my fall mid­dle grade nov­el, THE GREAT TROUBLE, A MYSTERY OF LONDON, THE BLUE DEATH, AND A BOY CALLED EEL.  I’m very excit­ed about it because 2013 is the bicen­ten­ni­al of the birth of Dr. John Snow, whose work in the 1854 cholera epi­dem­ic changed med­ical his­to­ry.  With the recent out­breaks of cholera in Haiti, this top­ic is espe­cial­ly rel­e­vant today.
LT: Is there any­thing else you’d like to tell us about?
DH: I have sev­er­al knit­ter friends who helped with this book, includ­ing Robin Smith, who knits hats for pre­ma­ture babies with her sec­ond graders.
DH: I, on the oth­er hand, am an extreme­ly poor knit­ter and I’m not very good at hats – or socks.   I knit scarves for relax­ation only, and only dare give my hand­i­work to peo­ple who don’t knit at all. I am lucky enough to live near Port­land, Ore­gon, where there are many won­der­ful yarn stores and enthu­si­as­tic knitters.
DH: I’m also delight­ed that the tra­di­tion of knit­ting for sol­diers con­tin­ues today. I hope that KNIT YOUR BIT inspires read­ers to learn a new skill or share one with others.
LT: Thanks so much for shar­ing with us, Deb­o­rah. And best of luck with KNIT YOUR BIT!

Interview with Deborah Hopkinson

I became a fan of Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son in 2007, when I start­ed Anas­ta­sia Suen’s Easy Read­ers and Chap­ter Books course. For the first assign­ment, we had to read five chap­ter books then choose one to ana­lyze. I chose PIONEER SUMMER because it was my favorite. Years lat­er, when I became co-region­al advi­sor for SCBWI West­ern Wash­ing­ton, I knew I had to bring Deb­o­rah up to talk to us. I’m thrilled that she’ll be com­ing to our con­fer­ence this April, and that I’ll final­ly get to meet her in per­son! I’m going to try not to go all fan-girl on her, but you nev­er know. 
I thought I’d take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to ask her a few ques­tions that have been on my mind and share them with you, so we can all get to know her a lit­tle better…

L: From oth­er sources I found online, it sounds like you start­ed writ­ing for chil­dren when your own chil­dren were young, just like I did. Is that right? Did you always know you want­ed to be a writer? Tell us how you got started.
D: I want­ed to be a writer from the time I was in the fourth grade, but it wasn’t until my daugh­ter, Rebekah, was born that I real­ized I want­ed to write for chil­dren.  As a young moth­er with a full time job, pic­ture books seemed short enough to be doable with my busy sched­ule. It took me about two years to sell my first mag­a­zine sto­ry, and anoth­er cou­ple of years to sell my first pic­ture book.

L: When­ev­er I’m not writ­ing, I feel like I should be, but when­ev­er I am writ­ing, I feel­ing like I’m tak­ing valu­able time away from oth­er things. What tricks have you learned for find­ing a bal­ance between your own cre­ative pur­suits and the demands of keep­ing up with the indus­try, work­ing full time, tak­ing care of your home and fam­i­ly, etc.? 
D: Well, I don’t lis­ten to or wor­ry about peo­ple who have firm guide­lines about how one must write every day.  But I once read a great arti­cle where the author rec­om­mend­ed two kinds of writ­ing goals: out­put and process.  I use a com­bi­na­tion of those strate­gies to bal­ance my life.  Out­put goals might be expressed as: “I am going to sub­mit a man­u­script this month.”  And then you do what­ev­er it takes to meet that dead­line.  Process goals are: “I am going to write for three hours every week­end.”  It also just works to put your ener­gies in the direc­tion you want to go as much as you can.

L: Many of your books are his­tor­i­cal and obvi­ous­ly heav­i­ly researched, yet they end up in the fic­tion sec­tion. How and when do you decide when to go straight non­fic­tion ver­sus when to fictionalize? 
D: Whether a book is his­tor­i­cal fic­tion or non­fic­tion often is deter­mined by how the sto­ry is pro­gress­ing, I think.  Many times the demands of a dra­mat­ic arc make it a bit dif­fi­cult to tell a com­pelling sto­ry for young read­ers in a non­fic­tion format. 

L: What do you think about the cur­rent state of the pic­ture book indus­try?
D: Well, I am not sure I know enough to be an expert on that!  I feel for­tu­nate to still be able to occa­sion­al­ly sell pic­ture books.  I also try to have some cur­ricu­lum tie-in so that my books are appro­pri­ate to schools and libraries. 

L: I noticed the warm ded­i­ca­tion in STAGECOACH SAL to your amaz­ing super­a­gent, Steven Malk at Writ­ers House (who was at our con­fer­ence last year—thanks, Steven!). Tell us how you snagged him, and if you can, give us a peek inside your author-agent relationship!
D: I called Steven up some years ago at the rec­om­men­da­tion of a fel­low writer, and feel very for­tu­nate to be able to work with him.  Steven is won­der­ful.  I have had many doors opened thanks to his hard work, and I also make an effort to work hard on my own to under­stand what my edi­tors need and want. 

L: My hus­band once asked me what I would con­sid­er suc­cess in this indus­try. I told him I will know I’ve made it when I receive one let­ter from one child say­ing that some­thing I wrote made a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in his or her life. (Of course, I’d love truck­loads of let­ters like that, but if I can get at least one, I’ll die hap­py.) You’ve got a long and var­ied book list, with an impres­sive list of awards to go with it. So, how do you define suc­cess? Do you feel like you’ve achieved your dream? If not, what’s left on your to-do list?
D: Well, I try to be very grate­ful for the luck and suc­cess that I have had.  Right now I am vice pres­i­dent for Advance­ment at the Pacif­ic North­west Col­lege of Art.  I have sev­en peo­ple report­ing to me, and it is cer­tain­ly one of those “big jobs.”  I do feel for­tu­nate to have had, in a way, two careers.  How­ev­er, that doesn’t mean I still don’t dream of becom­ing a full time writer!  But with a kid in col­lege and one in grad­u­ate school, that may not ever happen. 

L: What tips would you like to share with aspir­ing children’s book writ­ers, espe­cial­ly those of us writ­ing non­fic­tion or fic­tion based on facts for grades preK‑5?
D: Well, I think it is very impor­tant to under­stand as much as pos­si­ble about how pub­lish­ing works as ear­ly in one’s career as pos­si­ble. Also it helps to under­stand the cru­cial role of teach­ers and librar­i­ans in children’s lit­er­a­ture.  And I would give writ­ers the same advice I give stu­dents dur­ing author vis­its: Read!

L: What’s com­ing up next for you?

My newest book is The Hum­ble­bee Hunter, illus­trat­ed by Jen Corace. It’s based on the fam­i­ly life of Charles Dar­win and his chil­dren at Down House. It was recent­ly reviewed in the New York Times, which was excit­ing.  My oth­er forth­com­ing books include Annie and Helen, to be illus­trat­ed by Raul Colon, and A Boy Called Dick­ens, illus­trat­ed by John Hen­drix, who also did the art­work for Abe Lin­coln Cross­es a Creek.

L: Those sound won­der­ful! I can’t wait to see them. Thanks so much for chat­ting with me, Deb­o­rah. See you in April!