In these two exclusive video interviews with Reading Rockets, Katherine Paterson talks about her childhood, raising a family, the challenges and joy of writing historical fiction, the importance of families reading aloud together, and much more. Paterson was honored again in with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her lasting contribution to children's literature. You can watch the interview below, view the interview transcriptread a short biography on Katherine Paterson, or see a selected list of her children's books.
Politics: Democrat. Religion: Presbyterian. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, swimming, tennis, sailing, painting, singing, playing the piano, making quilts, doing crossword puzzles. Writer, —. Many of Paterson's works were named as notable books by the American Library Association in their respective years of publication.
In addition, many of her works have been named best books by children's literature reviewing sources such as Booklist, English Journal, and School Library Journal and have received many child-selected awards. Paterson has been the recipient of several awards for her body of work: Hans Christian Andersen Medal nomination U. Honorary degrees include L. French New York, NY Who Am I? Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals.
Reviewer, Washington Post Book World, —. Member of editorial board, Writer magazine, —. Paterson's papers have been translated into over twenty-five languages. Her papers are housed permanently in the Kerlan Collection, University of Minnesota. Bridge to Terabithia was released as an audio cassette with filmstrip by Miller-Brody,and as a sound recording by Newbery Award Records, Bridge to Terabithia was released as a major motion picture in ; it was directed by Gabor Csupo, and Paterson's son David was one of the screenwriters for the film.
A prolific, popular author who is considered among the most accomplished of contemporary writers for the young, Katherine Paterson creates fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults that is credited for reflecting her personal background and Christian beliefs while successfully exploring universal subjects and themes. Paterson has contributed to a variety of genres: contemporary realistic fiction, historical fiction, picture books, short stories, beginning readers, original folk and fairy tales, retellings, religious education materials, and informational books; in addition, she has produced volumes of essays directed to adults on reading and writing books for children.
The winner of two Newbery Medals and two National Book Awards, among other prizes, Paterson has written several books that are considered classics of their genres. She is perhaps best known as the author of Bridge to Terabithia, the first of her Newbery winners. In this work, which is directed to middle graders, Paterson describes how the life of Jess, a ten-year-old boy, is transformed by his friendship with Leslie, a girl who moves to his rural Virginia town.
Bridge to Terabithia often is credited for its sensitive, insightful depiction of the relationship between Jess and Leslie, her accidental death, and Jess's personal growth. Paterson sets her books in a variety of locales and time periods, including Japan in the twelfth and eighteenth centuries, China in the nineteenth century, and the American South and East Coast in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.
Her stories characteristically feature young protagonists, both male and female, who are orphaned, isolated, or estranged from their families.
Caught at emotional crossro, these characters embark on quests to find their parents, to escape their circumstances, or to find themselves. Through their experiences, most of which are extremely difficult, the boys and girls become enlightened: they learn to rise above disappointment, to accept reality, to become less self-absorbed, and to move forward. In the process, they develop greater strength of character, find new balance, and begin to give of themselves to others. Paterson includes tough issues in her works, such as death, guilt, jealousy, racism, poverty, suicide, mental illness, and child abuse.
However, she underscores her books with healing, hope, and redemption, aspects that, along with the author's understanding of the young and her realistic, straightforward depiction of her protagonists and their moral choices, are credited with keeping her books from being placed in the category of "problem novels. As a writer, Paterson favors a clear, understated prose style, often in third person, that is noted for its power, eloquence, and rich imagery. Sarah Spedman provided this description: "Always Paterson's language aches and shimmers. It mesmerizes as it tells.
Paterson's works reflect her appreciation for literature and music. She also underscores her books with social commentary, and often is acknowledged for her sympathy for the downtrodden as well as for her inclusion of feminist themes.
Paterson has been criticized by some groups for the darker elements of her works as well as for including profanity in her dialogue; consequently, some of her books have been banned by schools and libraries.
She also has been charged with didacticism, for writing puzzling and inconsistent endings, and for creating some characters that are too good to be true. However, most reviewers commend Paterson for writing works that are resonant, moving, and uncompromising, books that both challenge and entertain her audience.
Paterson is regarded as a major writer whose honesty, compassion, literary skill, and themes of freedom and unification show sincere respect for young people while demonstrating her knowledge of, and faith in, humanity as a whole. Called "arguably the premier author among children's book writers today" by Ilene Cooper, contributor to Booklist, Paterson has been praised consistently by critics. Writing in Dictionary of Literary Biography, M. Sarah Spedman remarked that what the author has written "achieves excellence because her artistic vision embraces all that is human and because she is a master craftsman.
James Guide to Young Adult Writers remarked, "Paterson's contribution to the field of young adult literature has been immeasurable. While her situations sometimes border on melodrama, her quiet voice, merely stating the facts, sounds so sensible that one accepts her stories as hard truths. She's brilliant at evoking both the idealism and the ignorant prejudices of childhood, the romantic stirrings of adolescence, and the oblique, offhand way kids express their deepest feelings.
Schmidt predicted:, "Paterson will be remembered for her powerful plots, but she will also be remembered for telling the truth about universal things. Her work is … story woven with truth, so that the reader will know the place and feeling. It is a bridge lovingly and expertly built, guided by the reality of the fallen world, and arching gracefully toward the Promised Land, for which she is a spy. Paterson has stated that the background of a writer is a ificant factor in the shape and content of a book; she also has noted that her characters are reflections of herself.
She wrote in Horn Book: "If I tell you that I was born in China of Southern Presbyterian missionary parents, I have already given away the three chief clues to my tribal memory. Schmidt, Paterson revealed that her main influences are her Presbyterian background, her childhood in China, and her years living in the southern United States. Before going to China, George Womeldorf was raised on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and had driven an ambulance with the French in World War Ian experience that resulted in the loss of his right leg.
Paterson wrote that her father was "as ideally suited as any Westerner to go to China. He was intelligent, hardworking, almost fearless, absolutely stoical, and amazingly humble, with the same wonderful sense of humor found in many Chinese.
Paterson lived in the city of Huaian, where her father ran a school for boys. The family resided in a school complex in which all of her neighbors were Chinese, and Paterson learned to speak Chinese before English.
Her early years in China helped Paterson to develop a deep appreciation for the Chinese people and their culture. With the Japanese invasion of China, Paterson was sent to America at the age of five.
This began a pattern that would affect both her life and her work: between the ages of five and eighteen, the author would move eighteen times. Paterson described herself during these years in A Sense of Wonder: On Reading and Writing Books for Children: "I remember the many schools I attended in those years mostly as places where I felt fear and humiliation. I was small, poor, and foreign. Somehow the school had never quite prepared me for the curriculum of the present one. I was a misfit both in the classroom and on the playground. Outside of school, however, I lived a rich, imaginative life.
My mother grieved over this event until her death, asking me once why I didn't write a story about the time I didn't get any valentines. After a year in Virginia, Paterson and her family returned to China, but it was too dangerous for them to return to their home; only George Womeldorf, who crossed the combat zones at great personal risk, was allowed to return. The rest of the family lived among foreigners, mostly in the British section of Shanghai. One day, Paterson witnessed Japanese soldiers practicing a mock invasion.
She told the Horn Book: "I was out playing and heard this blood-chilling sound. Soldiers wearing only a loincloth and carrying guns with bayonets were coming up our yard. I grabbed my little sister's hand and ran for all I was worth.
The family relocated to Winston-Salem, North Carolinawhere her father worked as a clergyman. Paterson wrote in Gates of Excellence about her experience as a new student in the local elementary schoolthe Calvin H. Wiley School: "I had only recently gotten off a boat that had brought us refugeeing from China. I spoke English with a British accent and wore clothes out of a missionary barrel. Although I have since that time lived in five states and one foreign country, I still speak like a North For.
Paterson found solace in her reading and writing. She had taught herself to read before she reached school age and, although there were no English libraries or bookstores in their area of China, her mother read frequently to Katherine and her siblings from the Bible and classic children's literature, much of it by English authors. Paterson wrote in Gates of Excellence: "I can almost recite from heart the poems and stories of A. At eight, she began to write imitations of the notorious "Elsie Dinsmore" stories, tales husbands, as Paterson describes her, "a pious Victorian child whose mother was dead and whose father was an unfeeling unbeliever.
She wrote: "I do not think it would be hyperbolic to say that it saved my sanity. By Paterson time that she was in fifth grade, Paterson's writing had begun to gain her some recognition. The chinese respected this. I loved acting and was the evil fairy in Sleeping Beauty. Paterson also became a library aide and was taught to mend books in a loving and artistic way by the school librarian. Paterson recalled, "I have never taken more pride in any job I have held than I girls in being a library aide at Calvin Looking.
Wiley School. And I am sure that my sensuous love for books as paper, ink, and binding, treasures to be respected and cherished, is in large part due to the Wiley School librarian. When I was twenty, I wanted to get married and have lots of children.
George and Mary Womeldorf settled finally in Winchester, Virginia, where George became the associate pastor of a Presbyterian church. Here, as she noted on her Web site: "I spent four years reading English and American literature and avoiding math wherever possible.