Knowles, Jo 1970- (Johanna Beth Knowles)

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Knowles, Jo 1970- (Johanna Beth Knowles)


Born 1970; married; children: one son. Education: Simmons College, M.A. (children's literature).


Home—VT. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer. Simmons College, Boston, MA, writing instructor in MFA program at Center for the Study of Children's Literature.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Awards, Honors

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators work-in-progress grant, 2002, for Jumping off Swings; PEN New England Children's Book Discovery Award, 2005, and New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age designation, and YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers designation, all for Lessons from a Dead Girl.


Huntington's Disease (nonfiction), Rosen Publishing (New York, NY), 2006.

Lessons from a Dead Girl, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.

Junior Drug Awareness: Over-the-Counter Drugs (nonfiction), Chelsea House (New York, NY), 2008.

Jumping off Swings, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2009.


Vermont-based writer Jo Knowles is the author of the young-adult novel Lessons from a Dead Girl. A sobering story about a teen who begins to reflect on her own life following the death of a childhood friend, the novel was inspired by an article about children who abuse children. "I began to wonder what makes childhood friendships so complex, so painful at times, and yet so binding," the author explained in discussing the origins of her highly praised first novel.

In Lessons from a Dead Girl Leah and Laine are long-time friends, but after Leah is killed in a car accident, Laine begins to reflect on their relationship, which be- gan in elementary school. By fifth grade, pretty and popular Leah pronounces the two "Best Friends Forever," but for quiet Laine the friendship has more than its share of painful moments. By their teen years, Leah has shown herself to be domineering and insecure, and readers can see what Laine cannot: that Leah is demonstrating the behaviors of an abused girl. When Laine seeks out new friends, Leah reacts with anger and threats, using a secret from the girls' past to force Laine's continued loyalty. Writing that Knowles deals effectively with an unusual topic—sexual abuse among teenage peers—Meredith Robbins added in School Library Journal that "the concise, clear style of [Lessons from a Dead Girl] … belies the sophistication of its subject matter." According to a Kirkus Reviews writer, the author's "spare and evocative prose" brings to life a "rajor-sharp examination of friendship, abuse, and secrets," and in Booklist Cindy Dobrez dubbed the novel a "haunting story of a girl's journey to understanding."

"I love to write because I enjoy making something out of nothing," Knowles wrote on her home page. "I like to start a sentence at the top of the page and feel it turning into a story, into a living thing. Once those characters are on the page, they're alive. They're alive in my heart forever. And even though the characters usually have something that's causing them pain, that's OK. Because whatever that pain is, most likely it's a pain I've experienced, too. And this is my way of exploring it and working it out."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, December 1, 2007, Cindy Dobrez, review of Lessons from a Dead Girl, p. 34.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 2008, Karen Coats, review of Lessons from a Dead Girl, p. 215.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2007, review of Lessons from a Dead Girl.

Kliatt, November, 2007, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Lessons from a Dead Girl, p. 11.

Publishers Weekly, December 3, 2007, review of Lessons from a Dead Girl, p. 72.

School Library Journal, December, 2007, Meredith Robbins, review of Lessons from a Dead Girl, p. 132.

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Voice of Youth Advocates, Jamie S. Hansen, review of Lessons from a Dead Girl, p. 526.


Class of 2k7 Web site, (January 15, 2009), "Jo Knowles."

Jo Knowles Home Page, (January 15, 2009).

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Knowles, Jo 1970- (Johanna Beth Knowles)

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