Paterson, Katherine 1932–
Paterson, Katherine 1932–
Born October 31, 1932, in Huayin (formerly Qing Jiang), China; relocated to the United States, 1937 and 1940; daughter of George Raymond (a Southern Presbyterian missionary, pastor, and school director) and Mary (a missionary and homemaker) Womeldorf; married John Barstow Paterson (a Presbyterian pastor and author), July 14, 1962; children: Elizabeth Po Lin (adopted), John Barstow, Jr., David Lord, Mary Katherine Nah-he-sah-pe-che-a (adopted). Education: King College (Bristol, TN), A.B. (summa cum laude), 1954; Presbyterian School of Christian Education (Richmond, VA), M.A., 1957; postgraduate study at Naganuma School of Japanese Language (Kôbe, Japan), 1957-59; Union Theological Seminary (New York, NY), M.R.E., 1962. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Presbyterian. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, swimming, tennis, sailing, painting, singing, playing the piano, making quilts, doing crossword puzzles.
Writer, 1966—. Lovettsville Elementary School, Lovettsville, VA, teacher, 1954-55; Presbyterian Church in the United States, Board of World Missions, Christian Education assistant and missionary, Shikoku Island, Japan, 1957-61; Pennington School for Boys, Pennington, NJ, master of Sacred Studies and English, 1963-65. Distinguished Professional in Residence, Boyer Center, with Friends of Murray Library, Messiah College, Grantham, PA, 2002.
Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Children's Book Guild of Washington (president, 1978).
Phoenix Award, Children's Literature Association, 1974, for Of Nightingales that Weep; National Book Award for Children's Literature, runner-up for Edgar Allan Poe Award (juvenile division), Mystery Writers of America, both 1977, citation from the Puppeteers of America, 1978, and American Book Award nomination (children's fiction paperback), 1982, all for The Master Puppeteer; Newbery Medal, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, both 1978, Silver Pencil Award (Netherlands), and Janusz Korczak Medal (Poland), both 1981, and Le Grand Prix des Jeunes Lecturs (France), and Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Award, both 1986, all for Bridge to Terabithia; National Book Award for Children's Literature, Christopher Award, Newbery Medal Honor Book, Jane Addams Children's Book Award Honor Book, and CRABbery (Children Raving about Books) Honor Book, all 1979, American Book Award nominee (children's paperback), 1980, and William Allen White Children's Book Award, 1981, all for The Great Gilly Hopkins; Newbery Medal, American Book Award nominee (children's hard cover), and CRABbery Honor Book, all 1981, and American Book Award nominee (children's paperback), 1982, all for Jacob Have I Loved; Outstanding Books and Best Illustrated Books selection, New York Times, 1981, for The Crane Wife, illustrated by Suekichi Akaba; Parents' Choice Award, Parents' Choice Foundation, 1983, for Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom, 1985, for Come Sing, Jimmy Jo, and 1987, for The Tongue-Cut Sparrow; American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, 1988, for Park's Quest; Best Picture Books selection, Boston Globe-Horn Book, 1991, for The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks; Irma Simonton and James H. Black Award, 1992, for The King's Equal; International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY) Honor Book, 1994, for Lyddie; Parents' Choice Story Book Award, and Paperback Book Honor, 1996, and Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, 1999, all for Jip; Parents' Choice Story Book Award, Parents' Choice Foundation, 1999, for Preacher's Boy; Christopher Award, 2006, and the Parents' Choice Gold Award, fall, 2006, Historical Fiction, both for The Same Stuff as Stars; Vice-President of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance Award, 2007, for Bread and Roses, Too. 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.S. representative), 1979 and 1989; Irwin Kerlan Award, University of Minnesota, 1983; University of Southern Mississippi Medallion, 1983; Laura Ingalls Wilder Award nomination, 1986; ALAN Award, 1987; Children's Literature Award, Keene State College, 1987; Regina Medal, Catholic Library Association, 1988; New England Book Award, 1992; Education Press Friend of Education Award, 1993; Anne V. Zarrow Award, Tucson Public Library, 1993; Hans Christian Andersen Medal for Writing, 1998; Lion of the New York Public Library, 1998; Literary Light, Boston Public Library, 2000; and Living Legend, Library of Congress, 2000; Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for Literature, 2006. Union Medal, Union Theological Seminary; Outstanding Alumnus award, King College, 1993-94. Honorary degrees include L.L.D., King College, 1980, St. Mary-of-the-Wood College, IN, 1981, University of Maryland, College Park, 1982, and Washington and Lee University, 1982; D.H.L. from Otterbein College, 1980, Shenandoah College and Conservatory, 1986, Norwich University, VT, 1990, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Canada, 1990, Keene State College, Presbyterian College, Clinton, SC, and St. Michael's College, VT; and honorary degrees from Hope College, Holland, MI.
HISTORICAL FICTION; FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
The Sign of the Chrysanthemum, illustrated by Peter Landa, Crowell (New York, NY), 1973.
Of Nightingales That Weep, illustrated by Haru Wells, Crowell (New York, NY), 1974.
The Master Puppeteer, illustrated by Haru Wells, Crowell (New York, NY), 1975.
Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom, Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1983.
Lyddie, Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1991.
Jip: His Story (companion volume to Lyddie), Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1996.
Preacher's Boy, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Bread and Roses, Too, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2006.
CONTEMPORARY REALISTIC FICTION; FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
Bridge to Terabithia, illustrated by Donna Diamond, Crowell (New York, NY), 1977, 1st Harper Trophy edition, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1987, reprinted, HarperEntertainment (New York, NY), 2007.
The Great Gilly Hopkins, Crowell (New York, NY), 1978, 1st Harper Trophy edition, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1987.
Jacob Have I Loved, Crowell (New York, NY), 1980.
Come Sing, Jimmy Jo, Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1985, Puffin Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Park's Quest, Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1988.
Flip-Flop Girl, Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1994.
The Same Stuff as Stars, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 2002, Harper Trophy (New York, NY), 2004.
MARVIN SERIES; BEGINNING READERS
The Smallest Cow in the World, illustrated by Jane Clark Brown, Migrant Education Program (Burlington, VT), 1988, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Marvin's Best Christmas Present Ever, illustrated by Jane Clark Brown, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
Marvin One Too Many, illustrated by Jane Clark Brown, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
Angels and Other Strangers: Family Christmas Stories (short story collection), Crowell (New York, NY), 1979, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
(Translator) Sumiko Yagawea, reteller, The Crane Wife, illustrated by Suekichi Akaba, Morrow (New York, NY), 1981.
(With husband, John Paterson) Consider the Lilies: Plants of the Bible (nonfiction), illustrated by Ann Ophelia Dowden, Crowell (New York, NY), 1986, reprinted, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1998.
(Translator) Momoko Ishii, reteller, The Tongue-Cut Sparrow, illustrated by Suekichi Akaba, Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1987.
(Reteller) The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks (picture book), illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1990, reprinted, S. French (New York, NY), 1999.
The King's Equal (picture book), illustrated by Vladimir Vagin, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992, reissued as a chapter book, illustrated by Curtis Woodbridge, HarperTrophy (New York, NY), 1999.
A Midnight Clear: Stories for the Christmas Season (short story collection), Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1995.
(Reteller) The Angel and the Donkey (picture book), illustrated by Alexander Koshkin, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Celia and the Sweet, Sweet Water, illustrated by Vladimir Vagin, Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1998.
(With husband, John Paterson) Images of God: Views of the Invisible (nonfiction), illustrated by Alexander Koshkin, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1998.
(Reteller) Parzival: The Quest of the Grail Knight, Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1998.
The Field of the Dogs (primary-grade fiction), illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
The Wide-Awake Princess (picture book), illustrated by Vladimir Vagin, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 2001.
(With John Paterson) Blueberries for the Queen, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION MATERIALS; FOR CHILDREN
Who Am I? (curriculum unit), illustrated by David Stone, C.L.C. Press (Richmond, VA), 1966, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1992.
To Make Men Free (curriculum unit; includes books, records, pamphlets, and a filmstrip), John Knox Press (Richmond, VA), 1973.
Justice for All People, Friendship Press (New York, NY), 1973.
NONFICTION; FOR ADULTS
Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children (essays; also see below), Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1981.
The Spying Heart: More Thoughts on Reading and Writing Books for Children (essays; also see below), Dutton/Lodestar (New York, NY), 1989.
Stick to Reality and Dream: Celebrating America's Young Readers: A Lecture for the Year of the Young Reader, Presented on November 17, 1988, at the Library of Congress (lecture), Library of Congress (Washington, DC), 1990.
A Sense of Wonder: On Reading and Writing Books for Children (omnibus; includes Gates of Excellence and The Spying Heart), Plume (New York, NY), 1995.
The Invisible Child: On Reading and Writing Books for Children (essays), Dutton (New York, NY), 2001.
(Libretto, with Stephanie Tolan) Bridge to Terabithia: A Play with Music, music by Steve Liebman, S. French (New York, NY), 1992.
(Book and lyrics, with Stephanie Tolan) The Tale of the Madarin Ducks, music and lyrics by Steve Liebman, S. French (New York, NY), 1999.
(Book and lyrics, with Stephanie Tolan) The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck: A Musical Play Based on the Story by Beatrix Potter, music by Steve Liebman, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 2002.
(Afterword) Avi, with Carolyn Shute, Best Shorts: Favorite Short Stories for Sharing, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2006.
Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals. Works represented in several anthologies, including Once upon a Time: Celebrating the Magic in Children's Books in Honor of the Twentieth Anniversary of Reading Is Fundamental, Putnam (New York, NY), 1986, Face to Face, edited by Thomas Pettepiece and Anatoly Aleskin, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 1990, and On the Wings of Peace and Origins of Story: On Writing for Children, edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999. Coeditor, with others, of The World in 1492, Holt (New York, NY), 1992, and The Big Book for Our Planet, Dutton (New York, NY), 1993. Reviewer, Washington Post Book World, 1975—. Member of editorial board, Writer magazine, 1987—. 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, 1978, and as a sound recording by Newbery Award Records, 1979. The Great Gilly Hopkins was released as a sound recording by Newbery Award Records, 1979, and as a film by Hanna-Barbera, 1980; it also was issued with a teacher's guide as Getting Hooked on Books: Challenges by Guidance Associates, 1986. Bridge to Ter-abithia was filmed for the Wonderworks television series by the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), 1985; Bridge to Terabithia was adapted for the stage by Katherine Paterson and Stephanie Tolan with music by Steve Liebman, Samuel French, 1992; Bridge to Terabithia was adapted as a theatrical film, 2007. Jacob Have I Loved was filmed for PBS, 1990. Several of Paterson's books, including Bridge to Terabithia, The Great Gilly Hopkins, and Jacob Have I Loved, were released as audio cassettes by Random House. Recorded Books released audio cassettes of Lyddie, 1993, Flip-Flop Girl, 1994, Bridge to Terabithia, 1996, The Great Gilly Hopkins, 1996, Jacob Have I Loved, 1998, Jip: His Story, 1998, Come Sing, Jimmy Jo, 2000, Park's Quest, 2000, The King's Equal, 2001, and Preacher's Boy, 2001. The Smallest Cow in the World was released on audio cassette by HarperCollins, 1996. Teacher's guides have been created for several of Paterson's works, including Bridge to Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved, Lyddie, and Flip-Flop Girl. Bridge to Terabithia was released as a major motion picture in 2007; 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 crossroads, 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." Many of Paterson's works reflect her wry sense of humor and love of wordplay as well as the wit of her characters.
As a writer, Paterson favors a clear, understated prose style, often in third person, that is noted for its power, eloquence, and rich imagery. Writing in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, M. Sarah Spedman provided this description: "Always Paterson's language aches and shimmers. It mesmerizes as it tells." Several of the author's novels draw on mythology and the metaphysical, such as the Bible and the quest for the Holy Grail, and include literary allusions as well as references to popular culture, cooking, and nature, among other subjects. 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." Spedman concluded, "Because Paterson perceives the grandeur with which the world is charged and because she writes from the heart of themes which haunt her, her books have the enduring value that will help to make tomorrow's children, as well as today's, make the connections she outlines." A reviewer in the St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers remarked, "Paterson's contribution to the field of young adult literature has been immeasurable." Jane Resh Thomas, contributor to the New York Times Book Review, offered that Paterson takes her readers "to the nadir, the dead of winter, when it seems that all is lost, and then propels them up into springtime. 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." Thomas concluded that Paterson's "clear vision of humanity's mixed character and her hope despite that knowledge give realism a good name." Writing in Entertainment Weekly, Michele Landsberg noted: "Unlike many of her fluffier contemporaries, Paterson offers no cheap sentiment or glib solutions. 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." Writing in his Katherine Paterson, Gary D. 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 significant factor in the shape and content of a book; she also has noted that her characters are reflections of herself. "When I look at the books I have written," she commented in the Horn Book, "the first thing I see is the outcast child searching for a place to stand." Paterson was born in Qing Jiang, China, the middle child of five born to George and Mary Womeldorf. 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." In an interview with Gary D. 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 I, an 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." During the first decade of Paterson's life, the Jaingsu Province, in which her birthplace is located, was beset with fighting between the communists and Kuomintang forces. 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 previous 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." In her Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children, Paterson recalls: "Among the more than twice-told tales in my family is the tragic one about the year we lived in Richmond, Virginia, when I came home from first grade on February 14 without a single valentine. 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. ‘But, Mother,’ I said, ‘all my stories are 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." When she was eight, Paterson was taken from China for a second time; she would not return until 1981, when she was researching the background for her novel Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom. The family relocated to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where her father worked as a clergyman. Paterson wrote in Gates of Excellence about her experience as a new student in the local elementary school, the 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. Because children are somewhat vague about geography, my classmates knew only that I had come from somewhere over there and decided I was, if not a Japanese spy, certainly suspect, so they called me, in the friendly way that children have, ‘Jap.’ The only thing I could do anything about was the accent. Although I have since that time lived in five states and one foreign country, I still speak like a North Carolinian." She added that "on the hills and playgrounds of Wiley School were spent some of the most miserable hours of my life."
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.A. Milne, and I loved [Kenneth Grahame's] The Wind in the Willows almost as fanatically as the youth of the sixties loved Tolkien." At the age of seven, Paterson had a short poem published in her school newspaper, the Shanghai American. At eight, she began to write imitations of the notorious "Elsie Dinsmore" stories, tales about, as Paterson describes her, "a pious Victorian child whose mother was dead and whose father was an unfeeling unbeliever." After moving to Winston-Salem, Paterson discovered the school library. She wrote: "I do not think it would be hyperbolic to say that it saved my sanity." She added: "I read everything of Kate Seredy and Robert Lawson and Rachel Field that the shelves contained." Later, Paterson would discover books like The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, all of which had a profound effect on her. By the time that she was in fifth grade, Paterson's writing had begun to gain her some recognition. She told Virginia Buckley of Horn Book: "I was very verbal and started writing plays. The kids respected this. I loved acting and was the evil fairy in Sleeping Beauty." In sixth grade, she wrote plays regularly for her classmates to act. 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 took in being a library aide at Calvin H. 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." Despite her love of books and literature, Paterson did not want to be a writer. "When I was ten," she wrote on her Web site: "I wanted to be either a movie star or a missionary. When I was twenty, I wanted to get married and have lots of children."
Before she was eighteen, Paterson attended thirteen schools in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. George and Mary Womeldorf settled finally in Winchester, Virginia, where George became the associate pastor of a Presbyterian church. After graduating from high school, Paterson attended King College in Bristol, Tennessee. Here, as she noted on her Web site: "I spent four years reading English and American literature and avoiding math wherever possible." Writing in Gates of Excellence, Paterson recalled that by the time she got to college, "I had apparently read enough so that it was beginning to rub off a bit on my work. Indeed, an English professor once noted my chameleonic tendency to adopt the style of whatever literary figure I happened to be doing a paper on. I am grateful that he encouraged me to write papers on only the best. An apprenticeship imitating the masters of the English language was bound to have a beneficial effect." At King College, Paterson discovered Shakespeare, Sophocles, and the English poets John Donne and Gerard Manley Hopkins (whose surname later would provide that of one of Paterson's most popular characters, Gilly Hopkins). Paterson also read the "Narnia" series of children's fantasies by C.S. Lewis. She recalled: "I lost my voice reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe aloud on the tour bus that was taking the college choir to Atlanta to sing." Later, one of Lewis's "Narnia" books, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, would inspire Paterson when she named the imaginary land that Jess and Leslie create in Bridge to Terabithia. Lewis includes an island called Terebinthia in his work, and Paterson recalled it unconsciously when she was naming her own world. In 1954, Paterson graduated summa cum laude from King College.
After her graduation, Paterson taught sixth grade for a year at the elementary school in Lovettsville, a small rural town in Virginia that became the setting for Bridge to Terabithia more than twenty years later. She then went to Richmond, Virginia, to work on her master's degree in Christian education at the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. While attending this school, one of her favorite teachers stopped Paterson in the hall and asked her if she had ever thought of becoming a writer. Paterson recalled her response in Gates of Excellence: "‘No,’ I replied, swelling with twenty-four-year-old pomposity. ‘I wouldn't want to add another mediocre writer to the world.’ ‘But maybe that's what God is calling you to be.’ She meant, of course, that if I wasn't willing to risk mediocrity, I'd never accomplish anything." After receiving her master's degree, Paterson was told by a friend, a female Japanese pastor, that she would find a home in Japan if she gave the Japanese people a chance. Despite misgivings prompted by her memories of Japan's war with China, Paterson went to Kôbe, Japan, to serve as a Presbyterian missionary. After studying the Japanese language for two years at the Naganuma School, she went to work on the island of Shikoku, where she became an assistant in Christian education to eleven country pastors. Paterson confirmed that her friend was right. "In the course of four years, I was set fully free from my deep childish hatred. I truly loved Japan." She added: "You see, in those four years I had become a different person. I had not only learned new ways to express myself, I had new thoughts to express. I had come by painful experience to a conclusion that linguists now advance: language is not simply the instrument by which we communicate thought. The language we speak will shape the thoughts and feelings themselves."
Paterson planned to spend the rest of her life in Japan. However, when she was offered a fellowship to study Christian Education at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1961, she moved back to the United States. At the seminary, Katherine fell in love with a fellow classmate, John Barstow Paterson, a Presbyterian minister from Buffalo, New York. The couple married in 1962; that same year, Paterson received her second master's degree. After her marriage, Paterson worked as a substitute teacher (which she considers the worst job that she ever had) and then as a teacher of English and Sacred Studies at the Pennington School for Boys, a prep school near Princeton, New Jersey. In 1964, Paterson accepted her first professional assignment as a writer: creating Sunday School curriculum units for the Presbyterian Church that were directed to readers in the fifth and sixth grades. Paterson wrote in Gates of Excellence: "I became a writer, then … without ever really formulating the ambition to become one. When the curriculum assignment was completed, I turned to fiction, because that is what I most enjoy reading." Her first book, the religious education volume Who Am I?, was published in 1966.
In 1965, Katherine and John Paterson welcomed their first son, John. Six months later, they adopted their first daughter, Lin, who was born in Hong Kong. In 1966, the Patersons moved to Takoma Park, Maryland, where their son, David, was born. That same year, the couple adopted another daughter, Mary, who was born on an Apache reservation in Arizona. While living in Maryland, Paterson began writing annual Christmas stories for her husband to use at his services at Takoma Park Presbyterian Church; these stories later were published in two volumes, Angels and Other Strangers: Family Christmas Stories and A Midnight Clear: Stories for the Christmas Season. John Paterson provided editorial advice on these stories; later, he would collaborate with his wife on two informational books for middle graders: Consider the Lilies: Plants of the Bible, a work that presents background material on the flora that appears in the Old and New Testaments, and Images of God: Views of the Invisible, a book that interprets the forms and roles that God takes in Scripture, such as light, wind, fire, dove, king, judge, and architect. In 1973, Paterson produced two additional volumes of religious education material for the Presbyterian Church, To Make Men Free and Justice for All People. In the same year, she published her first work of fiction, The Sign of the Chrysanthemum, a story that she wrote in an adult education class on creative writing.
A historical novel for young adults set in Japan during the twelfth century, a time of warfare between rival clans, The Sign of the Chrysanthemum outlines the search of thirteen-year-old Muna ("No Name" in Japanese), the illegitimate son of a peasant woman and a samurai, for both his warrior father—who has a chrysanthemum tattooed on his shoulder—and his true name. Muna goes to Heiankyo, the City of Eternal Peace, where he meets the thief Takanobu and the sword maker Fukuji. Torn between them, Muna steals Fukuji's sword for Takanobu, who claims that he is the boy's father. After being disillusioned by Takanobu, Muna ends up at the Rashomon Gate, where he lives with the city's outcasts for three seasons. Finally, he returns with the sword to Fukuji, who forgives him and takes him back. As he enters his fifteenth year, which signifies manhood, Muna decides to keep his name, and the master accepts the boy as his apprentice. Inspired by the desire of Paterson's daughter Lin to know about her biological parents, The Sign of the Chrysanthemum was praised for its character development, authentic background, and fast pace.
The author's next book, Of Nightingales That Weep, is again set in Japan in the twelfth century; however, this tale features an eleven-year-old girl as its protagonist. Takiko is a talented musician who plays the koto beautifully, and she seeks beauty in life as well as in art. When her samurai father is killed, Takiko goes to live with her mother and her new husband Goro, a potter and distant relative who is of noble blood. Appalled by Goro's disfigured, simian appearance, Takiko rejects him as a father. While struggling with her feelings, she plays an old koto belonging to Goro's mother in order to comfort herself. Finally, Takiko repents of her intolerance and apologizes to Goro, who welcomes her back to the family. Most reviewers again recognized Paterson's gift for story and inclusion of authentic detail in Of Nightingales That Weep, though some found the novel to be less effective than the author's previous book.
Paterson's next work, The Master Puppeteer, generally is considered the most outstanding of her three novels set in feudal Japan. A mystery story placed against the backdrop of a famine in Osaka that lasted from 1783 to 1787, The Master Puppeteer revolves around the discovery of the identity of Saburo, the Robin Hoodlike bandit who robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Thirteen-year-old Jiro, an unwanted boy who is an apprentice puppeteer at the Hanaza theater compound directed by master puppeteer Yoshida, is determined to learn Saburo's secret. Jiro becomes good friends with Yoshida's son Kinshi, a boy who is trying to reconcile his own values with those of his father. Their disciplined, sheltered life at the theater is suddenly disrupted by a rioting, hungry mob, among which is Jiro's mother Isako. Kinshi goes to her aid and sacrifices himself for the good of the people. Through his experiences, Jiro learns about the nature of reality and the reflection of life in art. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly called The Master Puppeteer "a brilliant novel," while a critic in Kirkus Reviews claimed that "Paterson's ability to exploit the tension between violence in the street and dreamlike confrontation of masked puppet operators is what makes this more lively and immediate than her other, equally exacting, historical fiction." M. Sarah Spedman of Dictionary of Literary Biography concluded: "The Master Puppeteer suggests that hope for redemption of debased worlds, like eighteenth-century Osaka, may well lie in people like Kinshi, self-possessed and altruistic, who will give of themselves until it hurts." Paterson received the 1977 National Book Award, an Edgar Allan Poe Award runner-up citation, an American Book Award nomination, and a citation from the Puppeteers of America for The Master Puppeteer.
She returned to Asia for another young adult novel, Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom, which is the only one of her books of this type with a Chinese setting. Taking place during the revolt by the Taiping Tienkuo (the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace) against the Manchu rulers, the story features two teenagers, fifteen-year-old Wang Lee, a kidnapped peasant boy who is sold into slavery, and seventeen-year-old Mei Lin, an educated young woman who is a member of the Taiping. The characters are caught up in both the harsh military struggle and their spiritual searching. Wang Lee becomes a warrior for the Heavenly Kingdom; he kills mercilessly, convinced that the cause of the kingdom is greater than human life. However, both he and Mei Lin realize that their zealotry is misguided. The couple is separated but, at the end of the novel, reunite and marry. They resolve to conserve the battered land and to raise all of their children as equals. Although some critics noted that the protagonists seemed to exist merely to promote the theme, most observers praised Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom for its epic scale, vivid story, and authentic detail. As with all of Paterson's books on Asian culture, it also was acknowledged for providing information on time periods and places that are unfamiliar to most readers.
Bridge to Terabithia often is credited as the novel in which Paterson found her true voice as a writer. The book was inspired by the death of her son David's best friend, Lisa Hill, who was struck by lightning at the age of eight; in addition, Paterson's own bout with cancer provided the impetus for her story. In this work, ten-year-old Jesse Aarons, the only boy in a family of girls, is, according to M. Sarah Spedman of Dictionary of Literary Biography, an "artist in the philistine stronghold of rural Virginia." Consequently, Jesse's father, whom Jess desperately wants to please, is concerned about his masculinity. Jesse hopes to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade, and he practices all summer. However, he is beaten on the first day of school by Leslie Burke, a girl who has moved into the house next door. Leslie is bright, well-read, spunky, and imaginative, and she and Jesse become fast friends. They discover a secret place in the woods behind their homes that Leslie names Terabithia. In order to get to Terabithia, Jess and Leslie must swing on a rope over a creek. In Terabithia, Leslie introduces Jess to the joys of story and language; at her home, she plays classical music for him and involves him in discussions of world affairs with her liberal parents. In return, Jess teaches Leslie about country living. Jess finds himself growing taller, wiser, and stronger as the year progresses. In the spring, he is invited by a favorite teacher, Miss Edmunds, to go to Washington, DC, for the day. Visiting the museums there, he vows to become a real artist. While Jess is in Washington, Leslie goes to Terabithia by herself. As she swings over the creek, the rope breaks. Leslie is killed when she hits her head on a stone and drowns in the water. When Jesse returns to find Leslie gone, he is angry and guilty. For the first time, his father speaks to Jess man to man and comforts him. As Jess passes through the stages of his grief, he begins to feel that it is time for him to leave Terabithia. Jess decides to give back to the world what Leslie had given him. He builds a plank bridge into Terabithia, over which he leads his little sister May Belle, crowning her with a wreath of flowers and telling her that the beautiful girl arriving today may be the queen for whom the Terebithians have been waiting.
Writing in Katherine Paterson, Gary D. Schmidt called Bridge to Terabithia "perhaps the most moving and painful of her books." Jill Paton Walsh of the Christian Science Monitor wrote in her review of the novel that "Paterson is a fine writer who never puts a foot wrong, but her distinctive flavor comes from a serenity of vision which is uniquely hers." Writing in Literature and the Child, Bernice E. Cullinan, Mary K. Karrer, and Arlene M. Pillar commented that Bridge to Terabithia "celebrates the vision of imagination and touches children's hearts. The wealth of emotion and insights in the book hold potential for rich response from a number of perspectives." Writing on his Web site devoted to the novel, Eric Petersen said: "When you hear the phrase ‘classic children's literature,’ what books do you think of? … I think of Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia. This timeless story serves to remind us that the gift of friendship is precious, fragile, and too often taken for granted." Michele Landsberg of Entertainment Weekly observed: "More hot tears have been shed in fourth-grade classrooms over the death of Leslie Burke than for Bambi's mama and the meltdown of Frosty the Snowman, combined…. Katherine Paterson's portrayal of a taciturn, lonely boy's mourning is so wrenching that to read it is to experience grief firsthand. For thousands of children, in fact, Leslie's death is their first full-hearted confrontation with mortality. Many look back on reading Bridge as a rite of passage." Landsberg concluded: "Paterson is scorchingly honest and uncannily sharp about a child's inner life. We share Jess's depth of loss because we recognize our own familiar frailties in him." Paterson was awarded the Newbery Medal and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, along with several other prizes, for Bridge to Terabithia. The book has retained its popularity with readers and has prompted several Web sites. In her Newbery Award acceptance speech for Bridge to Terabithia, Paterson stated that "of all the people I have ever written about, perhaps Jesse Aarons is more nearly me than any other, and in writing this book, I have thrown my body across the chasm that had most terrified me."
In 1977, the Paterson family moved from Takoma Park, Maryland, to Norfolk, Virginia, where John Paterson became the pastor of Lafayette Presbyterian Church; the family stayed in Norfolk until 1986, when they moved to Barré, Vermont. During this period, Katherine Paterson cemented her reputation as a distinguished writer of books for children and young people. She received the 1979 National Book Award, William Allen White Children's Book Award, and a Newbery Honor Book designation for The Great Gilly Hopkins, a humorous, bittersweet novel that was inspired by Paterson's two-month stint as a foster parent. Abandoned by her flower-child mother, Galadriel "Gilly" Hopkins has spent her eleven years in a number of foster homes. Feisty yet sensitive, she distrusts affection and masks her vulnerability with a sharp tongue. Finally, Gilly acknowledges that her biological mother, around whom she has created elaborate fantasies, really does not want her. Next, Gilly admits that she really loves and respects Maime Trotter, the sloppy, big-hearted woman who has taken her in. At the end of the novel, Gilly must go to live with her grandmother, but before she goes she manages to tell Trotter that she loves her. The Great Gilly Hopkins often is recognized as Paterson's funniest book, but observers also note the panache with which the author delineates her characters and situations. Writing in Washington Post Book World, Natalie Babbitt said: "Gilly is a liar, a bully, a thief; and yet, because Paterson is interested in motivations rather than moralizing, the reader is free to grow very fond of her heroine…. What Paterson has done is to combine a beautiful fairness with her affection for her creations, which makes them solidly three dimensional." Anne Tyler of Washington Post Book World concluded: "I'd adopt [Gilly] any day."
Paterson received her second Newbery Medal for Jacob Have I Loved, which often is considered her best and most complex book. The first of the author's works to be written in first person, Jacob Have I Loved is set on the imaginary island of Rass in Virginia's Chesapeake Bay during World War II; it takes its title from a line from the Bible spoken by God: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." At thirteen, Sara Louise Bradshaw has been blessed with health and strength, in contrast to her twin sister Caroline, a frail flower who is both beautiful and musically talented. Like Esau in the Bible, Louise feels that she has been deprived of her birthright: the elder twin by a few minutes, she believes that her parents have neglected her in favor of her sister, of whom she becomes increasingly jealous. In addition, Louise blames God for judging her before she was born, and she stops praying and going to church. Louise relies on fishing with Call Burnett, a reliable but overly literal boy, to provide her with friendship and extra money for her family. Louise and Call become friends with Captain Wallace, an older man who has returned to his home on the island after many years. Louise discovers that she is in love with the captain, and she is hurt bitterly when Caroline intrudes on their friendship. During World War II, Louise steps into a man's role, gathering oysters and crabs with her father on his boats. After the war, Caroline and Call marry. Slowly, the encounters that Louise has with others, such as her mother, her grandmother, and Captain Wallace, end her obsessive feelings about Caroline and lead her to new hope and understanding. Louise decides to leave Rass and build her own life. In an epilogue, Louise is a married woman and a midwife. Assisting at the birth of twins, she finds herself neglecting the healthy first-born one to take care of the frail second-born. Louise catches herself and asks the children's grandmother to cuddle the first twin while she suckles the frail one from her own breast. Paterson was applauded for her astute exploration of the theme of sibling rivalry as well as for her characterizations and creation of a fishing community. In his review of Jacob Have I Loved in School Librarian, Dennis Hamley called Paterson "a remarkable novelist," while Betty Levin of the Christian Science Monitor called the work "a breath-taking novel." Levin concluded: "This is a book full of humor and compassion and sharpness; it tells a story as old as myth and as fresh as invention."
In 1986, the Patersons moved to Barré, Vermont, where John became the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Barré; he has since retired. Paterson continues to write well-received novels for middle graders and young adults while expanding her repertoire. For example, she produced a trilogy of easy readers about Marvin, a small boy whose understanding family helps him to overcomes the trauma of moving, the difficulty of learning to read, and the sadness in taking down a homemade Christmas wreath. Paterson also has created a number of picture books and original folktales—of which The King's Equal, a story in which an arrogant prince learns humility from the woman he has chosen as his bride, is perhaps the most popular—and has written primary-grade fiction that blends reality and fantasy. She also has written a retelling of a thirteenth-century epic poem about Parzival, the knight who found the Holy Grail, and a retelling of the Bible story of Balaam and the Ass; in addition, she has translated retellings of Asian folktales.
Paterson has continued to receive accolades for her historical novels. Lyddie was named an honor book by the International Board of Books for Young People, and Jip: His Story won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. These books represent something unique in Paterson's canon—they are the first of her novels for young adults to be linked by character, and they are her first to have the eastern seaboard of the United States as their locales. Set during the American Industrial Revolution of the 1840s, Lyddie features thirteen-year-old Lyddie Worthen, a Vermont girl who is deserted by her father and made an indentured servant by her debt-ridden mother. In order to earn enough money to save the family farm, Lyddie leaves her home and goes to work in a factory mill in Lowell, Massachusetts. She encounters a variety of experiences, both good and bad. Lyddie endures the insanity and subsequent death of her mother, the death of her siblings, and the grueling conditions of the mill, but she also learns to depend on herself as a person and a woman and to learn about the joys of reading. Lyddie also becomes aware of the injustice of slavery, and she helps a runaway slave to escape. In addition, she becomes aware of the inequality of women. After saving a coworker from the unwanted advances of the mill owner, a man whom she herself has rebuffed, Lyddie is fired. She then discovers that her family's farm has been sold to her Quaker neighbors. Finally, Lyddie decides to go to Oberlin College in Ohio, a school that accepts both women and men. Writing in Horn Book, Elizabeth S. Watson called Lyddie a "superb story of grit, determination, and personal growth," while Mary L. Adams of Voice of Youth Advocates said that its "story and characterizations are Paterson at her best."
Jip is set ten years after the conclusion of Lyddie. Jip (short for "Gypsy") West is a foundling of about ten or eleven who does not know where he came from. He works on the poor farm in his rural Vermont town, where he has established bonds with both the human and animal residents. Jip takes special care of Put, an old man who has been placed in a wooden cage because of his fits of self-destructive violence; the boy helps to give his friend a sense of dignity. One day, Jip encounters an ominous-looking stranger. The man, a slave trader, tells Jip that his mother was a runaway slave and that his father, the master of a Southern plantation, has arrived to claim his property. Once his background is revealed, Jip encounters racism. With the help of his teacher, Lyddie Worthen from the previous book, and her sweetheart, the Quaker Luke Stevens, Jip escapes to Canada, but not before Put is killed. Jip is welcomed as a free man into the home of the former slave whom Lyddie had helped in the previous novel. Paterson portrays Jip's growing consciousness; the poverty and mistreatment of the time, especially of the poor and the mentally ill; and the struggle between abolitionists and slave holders. Writing in Booklist, Hazel Rochman said: "What a story. It's not often that the revelations of the plot are so astonishing—and yet so inevitable—that they make you shout and think and shiver and cry. Paterson has taken the old orphan foundling tale … and made it new." Kathleen Jewett, contributor to New York Times Book Review, noted that in Jip, "issues that too often remain abstract in a textbook come to life." Jewett concluded that Paterson "is consciously writing in the great tradition of Oliver Twist and Uncle Tom's Cabin. She allows her readers to face some disturbing parts of our history, but she also gives them a hero to admire and emulate; she teaches that every life has value and that loyalty and courage matter more than power and money."
In Flip-Flop Girl, Paterson again tackles difficult subject matter with grace and understanding. Nine-year-old Vinnie is grief-stricken following the death of her father, and completely unable to handle her emotions. She lashes out at her younger brother, who proceeds to stop speaking as a result, further complicating Vinnie's home life and her feelings regarding her sibling. Financial issues have forced the family to move in with Vinnie's grandmother, which means a new school and one more place where Vinnie feels as if she does not fit. Her only friend is Lupe, a half-Latina girl, whose circumstances are even more painful than her own, as her father is serving time for killing her mother. Vinnie's only true solace is from her teacher, and she soon develops a crush on him, but when the man marries, it feels like yet another betrayal. As Vinnie's emotions continue to careen out of control, she finds herself alienating even the people she cares about the most, and only their fierce loyalty to her despite her mood swings will enable Vinnie and her family to come through a true crisis intact. Hazel Rochman, reviewing the novel for Booklist, observed that "Vinnie and her family are drawn with exquisite candor in scenes that combine love, anger, and sudden comedy." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote of Paterson: "With deep compassion, her story crystalizes the vulnerability and resiliency of preadolescents placed in tragic circumstances."
The Same Stuff as Stars tells the story of twelve-year-old Angel, who bears the weight of her dysfunctional family and attempts to take care of her seven-year-old brother. The children's father is in jail and their mother is frequently drunk, resulting in Angel having attended numerous schools, as well as going into foster care twice. Things only worsen when Angel's mother takes her to her great-grandmother's farm, eventually returning to fetch Bernie, but leaving Angel behind. But when a kind man, who turns out to be her broken uncle, a Vietnam vet with his own problems, tells her that she is made of the same material as the stars, Angel begins to see a glimmer of hope in her future, imagining the size and grandeur of the sky and her own place in the universe. Connie Tyrrell Burns, in a review for School Library Journal, remarked that, "as always, Paterson conveys great respect for the poor, and for preadolescents in tragic circumstances who have the resiliency to transform themselves." In a review for Booklist, Hazel Rochman commented that "Paterson's plain, beautiful words root the wonder of astronomy in the gritty details of daily survival on a dead-end road."
Blueberries for the Queen, which Paterson coauthored with her husband John, is actually rooted in a memory from John's childhood, when, in 1942, the Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands spent the summer nearby in Lee, Massachusetts, with her daughter and two granddaughters, due to the events of World War II. In this fictional account, a young boy named William dearly wishes he could find some way to help with the war effort, and for a time his imagination runs wild with ways in which he might fight the enemy. Ultimately, however, he determines he will help by taking the blueberries he has picked on his family's farm, and giving them to the displaced queen. Although William's older brother teases him for his idea, William perseveres, and not only does he deliver his berries, but he even meets the queen herself. Carolyn Phelan, in a review for Booklist, remarked that "this unusual picture book will satisfy many children with its pleasing story and artwork."
Bread and Roses, Too is based on the historic strike that took place in 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, that was knows as the Bread and Roses strike, as well as the sympathy and support the striking workers met with in Barré, Vermont, Paterson's home town. The book focuses on two children, twelve-year-old Rosa, the daughter of Italian immigrants, who is determined to become a true American, complete with education, and Jake, a thirteen-year-old homeless boy, born in America yet in many ways even less well off than Rosa and her family. Rosa's mother and sister join the mill workers' strike, calling for the development of a union, and angering Rosa, who feels their actions make the family seem even more obviously foreign and separate. Paterson alternates between the children's points of view, giving readers a solid foundation in the history of this early phase of the labor movement as well as a sense of the prejudice against immigrant workers, and the struggles of those immigrants to learn the language and culture and acclimate to the American way of life. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly observed that "the book feels like two stories in one: the first part immersed in details of the historical strike … and the second part set in Barré, VT." Hazel Rochman, in a review for Booklist, noted that "the immigrant labor struggle is stirring and dramatic, with connections to contemporary issues." Marie Orlando, reviewing for School Library Journal, held a similar opinion, stating: "Ethnic rivalries and prejudices play an important role, and the alternating points of view of Rosa and Jake allow for a broader picture and add tension and balance."
Paterson has written, lectured, and been interviewed extensively about being a writer for the young. Writing in Gates of Excellence, she comments: "When people ask me what qualifies me to be a writer for children, I say I was once a child. But I was not only a child, I was, better still, a weird little kid, and … there are few things, apparently, more helpful to a writer than having once been a weird little kid. An earnest mother asked me last year how she could encourage her son to become a writer. I couldn't imagine what to say in reply. Have him born in a foreign country, start a war that drives him, not once, but twice like a refugee to another land, where his clothes, his speech, his very thoughts will cut him off from his peers; then, perhaps, he will begin to read books for comfort and invent elaborate fantasies inside his head for entertainment. You will be glad to know I kept my mouth shut. I do not believe for one minute that her son needs to experience what I've experienced in order to write books. I'm sure there are plenty of fine writers who have gone on to do great things. It's just that we weird little kids do seem to have a head start."
In an article for Writer, Paterson explained: "I keep learning that if I am willing to go deep into my own heart, I am able miraculously to touch other people at the core. But that is because I do have a reader I most try to satisfy—that is the reader I am and the reader I was as a child…. This reader demands honesty and emotional depth. She yearns for clear, rhythmically pleasing language…. And above all she wants characters that will make her laugh and cry and bind her to themselves in a fierce friendship." Writing in Theory into Practice, Paterson stated: "My aim is to engage young readers in the life of a story which came out of me but which is not mine, but ours. I don't just want a young reader's time or attention, I want his life. I want his senses, his imagination, his intellect, his emotions, and all the experience he has known breathing life into the words upon the page…. I know that without the efforts of my reader, I have accomplished nothing…. I have not written a book for children unless the book is brought to life by the child who reads it…. My aim is to do my part so well that the young reader will delight to join me as coauthor. My hope (for there are no guarantees) is that children in succeeding generations will claim this story as their own." In an essay in Children's Books and Their Creators, Paterson concluded: "Why do I write for children? Because I'm practicing. Someday if I keep working at my craft, I may write a book worthy of a child—I may write a book worthy of the readers who have come to my books."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present, 2nd edition, edited by Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 1, 1989, Volume 31, 2000.
Children's Literature Review, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 7, 1984, Volume 50, 1999.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 12, 1979; Volume 30, 1984.
Cullinan, Bernice E., with Mary K. Karrer and Arlene M. Pillar, Literature and the Child, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (San Diego, CA), 1981.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 51: American Writers for Children since 1960: Fiction, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.
Paterson, Katherine, Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children, Dutton/Lodestar (Detroit, MI), 1981.
Paterson, Katherine, A Sense of Wonder: On Reading and Writing Books for Children, Plume (New York, NY), 1995.
St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th edition, edited by Tom and Sarah Pendergast, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Schmidt, Gary D., Katherine Paterson, Twayne Publishers (New York, NY), 1984.
Silvey, Anita, editor, Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1995.
ALAN Review, Volume 24, number 3, 1997, Katherine Paterson, "Scott O'Dell Award Acceptance Speech," pp. 51-52.
Booklist, December 15, 1993, Hazel Rochman, review of Flip-Flop Girl, p. 755; March 1, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of The Angel and the Donkey, p. 1189; September 1, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of Jip: His Story, p. 127; October 1, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of The Angel and the Donkey, p. 339; September 1, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of Marvin's Best Christmas Present Ever, p. 140; September 1, 1998, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Celia and the Sweet, Sweet Water, p. 128; August, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of Preacher's Boy, p. 2044; October 1, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of Preacher's Boy, p. 372; January 1, 2000, review of Preacher's Boy, p. 822; March 15, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Wide-Awake Princess, p. 1378; July, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Marvin One Too Many, p. 2023; August, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of The Invisible Child: On Reading and Writing Books for Children, p. 2135; September 15, 2001, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of The Field of the Dogs, p. 223; September 15, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of The Same Stuff as Stars, p. 233; July, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Blueberries for the Queen, p. 1849; August 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Bread and Roses, Too, p. 76; January 1, 2007, Patricia Austin, review of Bread and Roses, Too, p. 132.
Bristol Herald Courier, November 13, 2007, "Renowned Writer Visits King College."
Children's Bookwatch, December, 2006, review of Bread and Roses, Too.
Christian Century, December 4, 2002, review of The Same Stuff as Stars, p. 34.
Christian Science Monitor, May 3, 1978, Jill Paton Walsh, review of Bridge to Terabithia, p. B2; January 21, 1981, Betty Levin, "A Funny, Sad, Sharp Look Back at Growing Up," p. 17.
Daily Oklahoman, September 29, 2007, "Bridge to Terabithia Leads Author on Road to Forgiveness and Healing."
Entertainment Weekly, May 1, 1992, Michele Landsberg, review of Park's Quest, p. 65; May 1, 1992, "A Conversation with the Author: Katherine Paterson," p. 64.
Horn Book, August, 1978, Virginia Buckley, "Katherine Paterson," p. 370; August, 1978, Katherine Paterson, "Newbery Award Acceptance," pp. 361-367; May-June, 1981, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of Lyddie, pp. 339-339; December, 1981, Katherine Paterson, "Sounds in the Heart," pp. 694-702; March 1, 1993, Anita Silvey, review of The World in 1492, p. 226; March 1, 1994, Ellen Fader, review of Flip-Flop Girl, p. 200; January 1999, "Back from IBBY," p. 26; November 1, 2001, "An Interview with Katherine Paterson," p. 689; September 1, 2002, Betty Carter, review of The Same Stuff as Stars, p. 579; July 1, 2006, "Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award," p. 493; September 1, 2006, Vicky Smith, review of Bread and Roses, Too, p. 593.
Instructor, April, 2002, Judy Freeman, review of Marvin One Too Many, p. 14; January 1, 2007, "Meet the Author Katherine Paterson: We Talk with Her about Her Years as a Teacher and the Story behind Bridge to Terabithia," p. 41.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1975, review of The Master Puppeteer, p. 71; August 15, 2002, review of The Same Stuff as Stars, p. 1231; May 15, 2004, review of Blueberries for the Queen, p. 496; August 1, 2006, review of Bread and Roses, Too, p. 794.
Kliatt, September, 2002, Claire Rosser, review of The Same Stuff as Stars, p. 12; May, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of The Same Stuff as Stars, p. 23; September, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of Bread and Roses, Too, p. 17; July, 2007, Pat Dole, review of Bread and Roses, Too, p. 53.
New York Times Book Review, May 22, 1994, Jane Resh Thomas, "Nobody Understands Vinnie," p. 20; November 10, 1996, Kathleen Jewett, "The People Nobody Wants," p. 50; September 10, 2006, "Children's Books," p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, April 19, 1976, review of The Master Puppeteer, p. 85; July 12, 1991, review of The Smallest Cow in the World, p. 65; October 26, 1992, review of The World in 1492, p. 73; September 27, 1993, review of The Big Book for Our Planet, p. 65; November 22, 1993, review of Flip-Flop Girl, p. 64; February 12, 1996, review of The Angel and the Donkey, p. 71; July 20, 1998, review of Celia and the Sweet, Sweet Water, p. 219; June 21, 1999, review of Preacher's Boy, p. 69; March 13, 2000, review of The Wide-Awake Princess, p. 84; January 1, 2001, review of The Field of the Dogs, p. 93; March 19, 2001, review of Preacher's Boy, p. 102; June 24, 2002, review of The Same Stuff as Stars, p. 58; May 31, 2004, review of Blueberries for the Queen, p. 74; July 17, 2006, review of Bread and Roses, Too, p. 158; January 8, 2007, review of Bread and Roses, Too, p. 54.
Reading Today, August 1, 2006, "Paterson Honored," p. 5.
Sacramento Bee, February 16, 2007, "The Gifts of Terabithia."
School Librarian, December, 1981, Dennis Hamley, review of Jacob Have I Loved, p. 349.
School Library Journal, July, 2000, Ronald Jobe, review of The Wide-Awake Princess, p. 85; February, 2001, Maura Bresnahan, review of The Field of the Dogs, p. 122; September, 2001, Devon Gallagher, review of Marvin One Too Many, p. 203; November, 2001, Mary Lankford, review of The Invisible Child, p. 195; August, 2002, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of The Same Stuff as Stars, p. 196; April, 2004, review of Marvin One Too Many, p. 28; September, 2006, Marie Orlando, review of Bread and Roses, Too, p. 215; February, 2007, "Bridge to Terabithia Hits the Big Screen: Author Katherine Paterson's Son Writes Screenplay to Newbery-winning Novel," p. 20; April, 2007, Marie Orlando, review of Bread and Roses, Too, p. 59.
Theory into Practice, autumn, 1982, Katherine Paterson, "The Aim of the Writer Who Writes for Children," pp. 325-330.
Time for Kids, April 7, 2006, "And the Winner Is …," p. 8; September 8, 2006, "1912 Comes to Life," p. 7.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1991, Mary L. Adams, review of Lyddie, p. 34.
Washington Post Book World, May 14, 1978, Natalie Babbitt, "A Home for Nobody's Child," pp. 1-2; November 9, 1980, Anne Tyler, "Coming of Age on Rass Island," pp. 11, 16.
Weekend All Things Considered, February 18, 2007, "Terabithia Inspired by True Events."
World and I, January 2003, "Finding a Child's Secret Place—the Fiction of Katherine Paterson," p. 243.
World Literature Today, November 1, 2006, "Katherine Paterson: Winner of the 2007 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature," p. 62.
Writer, August, 1990, Katherine Paterson, "What Writing Has Taught Me: Three Lessons," pp. 9-10; March, 2003, "The Responsibility to Write: Stay True to Your Heart and Mind, Not the Latest Fad," p. 20.
Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Page,http://www.carolhurst.com/ (January, 1998), "Featured Author: Katherine Paterson."
Internet Public Library,http://www.ipl.org/ (April 23, 2002), "Ask the Author: Katherine Paterson."
Internet School Library Media Center, http://facon.jmu.edu/ (April 23, 2002), Catherine Morris and Inez Ramsey, "Katherine Paterson."
Katherine Paterson Home Page,http://www.terabithia.com (April 23, 2002).
Northern State University,http://lupus.northern.edu/ (February 23, 2002), Wally Hastings, "Katherine Paterson."
Paterson Pages,http://www.ulster.net/~petersne/kpat.html (February 18, 2001).
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (April 23, 2002), "Katherine Paterson."
Scholastic,http://www.teacher.scholastic.com/ (April 23, 2002), "Authors Online Biography: Katherine Paterson."
A Talk with Katherine Paterson, "Good Conversations!" series, Tim Podell Productions, 1999.
Living Legends: Interview with Katherine Paterson (sound recording), Library of Congress, 2000.
The Author's Eye: Katherine Paterson, American School Publishers, 1988.