Books by Katherine Paterson

THE NIGHT OF HIS BIRTH by Katherine Paterson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 17, 2019

"Divine. (Picture book. 6-10)"
A lyrical, moving account of Jesus' birth, from his mother's perspective. Read full book review >
MY BRIGADISTA YEAR by Katherine Paterson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 10, 2017

"Educational and inspiring. (author's note, timeline) (Historical fiction. 10-14)"
Paterson offers a coming-of-age tale about a girl stepping up to be part of something greater than herself in post-revolution Cuba. Read full book review >
STORIES OF MY LIFE by Katherine Paterson
Released: Oct. 16, 2014

"Paterson's legions of fans, young and old, will welcome this peek into her life and process. (timeline, family tree) (Memoir.14 & up)"
The noted writer offers both stories about her life and insights into where her book ideas came from. Read full book review >
GIVING THANKS by Katherine Paterson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 15, 2013

"Suffused with and inspiring gratitude and joy. Amen. (Picture book/poetry. 7 & up)"
A beautiful collection that manages to be both near-universal and deeply personal. Read full book review >
THE FLINT HEART by Katherine Paterson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 27, 2011

"A grand tale skillfully updated and tightened up, this should win the hearts of a new generation. (Fantasy. 8-12)"
A heart-shaped talisman created in the Stone Age brings terribly corrupting power to those who possess it, until 12-year-old Charles Jago manages to destroy it permanently. Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 4, 2011

"Grace and joy for all ages and almost any faith. (author's, editor's and illustrator's notes, 'Canticle' translated by Bill Barrett) (Picture book/religion. 5-10)"
A gorgeous visual paean to the natural world that reflects and echoes the prayer it accompanies. Read full book review >
THE DAY OF THE PELICAN by Katherine Paterson
NONFICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

A realistically harsh yet hopeful account of an Albanian Kosovar family's flight from the violence ravaging their beloved home. When, for no apparent reason, Meli's brother Mehmet is nabbed, held in a Serbian prison and beaten before making it back home, Baba decides they must flee. They first go to Uncle Fadil's farm, but the violence eventually follows them there; Serbian soldiers take all of their possessions, then torch the house. The family hikes to a refugee camp on the Macedonian border, where they live until immigrating to America. Although the adults struggle to learn English and face difficulty finding suitable work, the family settles in fairly well. The children, too, ultimately face challenges, including mistreatment by their classmates following 9/11. Although Meli and Mehmet are interesting, dynamic characters, Paterson is so intent on covering, however briefly, all the issues that a family like Meli's would face that she fails to work her typical spellbinding magic. Nonetheless, a solid addition to the scant offerings on this subject. (Historical fiction. 10 & up)Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Jan. 1, 2008

Newbery Medalist Paterson turns her talents and considerable experience as a religious educator to interpreting the life of Jesus in a style that children will understand. In a gentle, simply told fashion, Paterson begins her interpretation with the metaphor of the light of the world before introducing Mary and presenting the angel's announcement of her forthcoming child. The author continues her well-written narrative in chronological order, focusing on Christ's ministry and his disciples, with some simple explanations of the political situation that led to Christ's crucifixion. The story of Jesus is necessarily shortened within this framework, leaving out some key incidents such as Christ's baptism, but the coherent and smoothly told text succeeds in conveying a powerful and understandable story. Roca's illustrations, previously used as illustrations in a French volume of a similar nature, are just as polished and accessible as the text, with the individualistic faces and costumes of the characters making them seem like real people. Interestingly, Jesus as an adult is always shown from behind or at a distance, making him a character that readers must interpret for themselves. (Nonfiction. 4-8)Read full book review >
BREAD AND ROSES, TOO by Katherine Paterson
ADVENTURE
Released: Sept. 4, 2006

Known as the Bread and Roses strike, the 1912 mill workers' protest against working conditions in the mills of Lawrence, Mass., is the historical context for Paterson's latest work, a beautifully written novel that puts a human face on history. When young Rosa Serutti, looking for shoes she's hidden, meets Jake Beale sleeping in a trash pile, the two become acquaintances and, eventually, part of a family of sorts. When conditions in Lawrence turn dangerous, "shoe girl" Rosa and "Rosa's rat" Jake are among the many children sent "on vacation" to host families in cities such as Philadelphia, New York and Barre, Vt., a part of American history not often covered in textbooks. Readers will be totally wrapped up in the stories of Rosa and Jake, Mrs. Serutti and older daughter Anna, both active in the strike, and Mr. and Mrs. Gerbati, the host family in Barre. The history is neatly woven into this story that explores the true meaning of community and family in hard times. A fine historical note provides additional background. Paterson at her best—and that's saying a lot. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
BLUEBERRIES FOR THE QUEEN by John Paterson
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2004

This charming tale is based on an incident that happened to the young John Paterson during the summer of 1942, when Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, her daughter, and two granddaughters spent the summer near Lee, Massachusetts. Young William, frustrated that he's "too young to do anything to help win the war," imagines himself as a knight fighting dragons. He longs to see the queen, and visualizes her in a crown and red ermine-trimmed robes. William decides that the delicious blueberries he picks on the family farm might comfort her. Escaping his jeering older brother, he delivers the berries, and even manages to see the queen, who is "disguised like a grandma, but anyone would know she was a real queen." The gouache paintings with ink cross-hatching recall old-fashioned color-separated illustrations. They beautifully juxtapose the magnificent horses, fire-breathing dragon, and royal robes of William's fairytale world with realistic images of cars, planes, and war work—images that will appeal to young readers. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
THE SAME STUFF AS STARS by Katherine Paterson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 23, 2002

A gently written tale of family caught in the most corrosive of situations, this is a story of guilt and reconciliation. Indeed there is plenty of guilt to go around. Eleven-year-old Angel and little brother Bernie have "parents that acted like spoiled babies and a great-grandmother who needed a mother as much as they did." Dad is in jail and the children are at the mercy of their mother's irresponsible, mercurial moods. She abandons them with their prickly great-grandmother, who lives a hardscrabble life in a ramshackle Vermont farmhouse. Then she returns to "kidnap" Bernie, breaking Grandma's and Angel's hearts. After the mother's drunken boyfriend has an accident in which she is almost killed and Bernie is injured, the family seems headed for reunion. Some characters may have been seen before: from the feisty grandmother with the soft center who herself has failed several generations of children, to her Vietnam-veteran son whose life has been ruined by drugs, but who is one important adult in Angel's life. Central metaphors are best stated by the wise, elderly librarian (the only truly unselfish adult in the book) to whom Angel turns in each crisis. Miss Liza, the only physically misshapen character in a world of crippled adults, quotes the Bible to remind Angel that God is always mindful of man, that He "hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor." Angel is indeed angelic. She is the selfless caretaker, the responsible "adult" in a world where she's always left behind and always disappointed by the very adults who ought to love and care for her. If she's almost too good to be true—constantly buckling seat belts, lecturing on the five food groups, and fussing over proper outerwear in the cold—readers will recognize her and root for her because the odds are so badly stacked against her. (Fiction. 10-13)Read full book review >
MARVIN ONE TOO MANY by Katherine Paterson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2001

Paterson and Brown (Marvin's Best Christmas Present Ever, 1997, etc.) continue their easy-reader series about a sensitive boy named Marvin with this latest addition to the "I Can Read" line. This time Marvin is starting first grade—scared, lost, and ready to cry. He feels like the odd man out in many ways, or "one too many," as his teacher inadvertently comments. The other children in first grade are sounding out words and moving on quickly (perhaps a little too quickly) to reading books, while Marvin has yet to make the connection between groups of letters and sound blends. He starts to dread school, and after a fight on the playground and some tears at home, he gets extra help with his reading at home when his big sister makes flash cards, and his father reads humorous poetry to him and recounts his own difficulties in learning to read. After practicing reading at home every night, Marvin learns to read in his own good time, blooming just like Leo. Brown's color-pencil illustrations add a soft, old-fashioned flavor to the story, with warm details in her depiction of Marvin's close-knit farm family. The story functions well as an intermediate-level easy reader, but first-grade teachers and reading specialists will also find this a useful read-aloud to reassure all the Marvins who need a little extra time and help. (Easy reader. 6-8)Read full book review >
THE FIELD OF THE DOGS by Katherine Paterson
ANIMALS
Released: March 31, 2001

Talking dogs and nasty bullies make odd yet compatible bedfellows in Paterson's intriguing and eccentric new novel. Josh, who was forced to move from Virginia to Vermont when his mother remarried, hates the cold, snowy climate and is ill at ease with his new stepfather and baby brother. But his major problem is that he's being bullied by his neighbor Wes, a big kid who "grabbed him and stuffed snow down his jacket." While searching for his dog Manch in the woods, Josh hears "wild, not quite human laughter." He stops to investigate and what he discovers amazes him. Manch is having a real conversation with several doggy buddies. Hiding behind a tree, Josh eavesdrops and learns that these pooches are being tormented by a pack of larger dogs who call themselves the River Gang. Meanwhile, in the human world, Wes continues to persecute Josh. The story of Josh and Manch intersect when Wes tells Josh that he must bring him the collar from a huge Weimaraner, who happens to be none other than the biggest, meanest dog in the River Gang. Paterson smoothly and proficiently cranks up the pressure for both boy and dog as Josh struggles to solve their interconnected problem. The ending, despite some credibility problems, is satisfying and rather touching, though this book lacks the emotional fire and complexity of Paterson's best work. Still, an imaginative blend of a what-if (dogs could talk) and a problem novel (on how to tame a bully). (Fiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
PREACHER'S BOY by Katherine Paterson
Released: Aug. 23, 1999

Paterson (Celia and the Sweet, Sweet Water, 1998, etc.) rings out the 20th century with this ruminative tale of a 10-year-old freethinker, set in a small Vermont town at the very end of the 19th century. Hearing a revivalist preacher's dark hints of impending doom, Robbie decides to become "a heathen, a Unitarian, or a Democrat, whichever was most fun," because he "ain't got the knack for holiness." As it turns out, he's not very good at sinning either, bending a few commandments by stealing food for a pair of vagrants, Violet and her abusive, alcoholic pa, Zeb, and feeling a stab of envy over the love his parents lavish on his simple-minded older brother, Elliot. He has a brush with serious evil, nearly drowning a rival who throws his clothes into a pond; the experience leaves him profoundly shocked at himself, and he ultimately earns redemption, in his own eyes, by saving Zeb from a charge of attempted murder. Despite some violence, the tone is generally light; if some situations are contrived, more thoughtful readers will look beyond them to the larger moral questions underlying Robbie's attitudes and choices. Talky, but nourishing for mind and spirit both. (Fiction. 10-12) Read full book review >
CELIA AND THE SWEET, SWEET WATER by Katherine Paterson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 22, 1998

Paterson (Parzival, p. 60, etc.) presents an original story with the age-old feel of a classic as she conjures up a brave and good-hearted heroine, a curmugeonly canine companion, and an adventurous journey through—where else?—the deep, dark forest. Celia must trek to her ailing mother's girlhood village to retrieve the "sweet, sweet water of her childhood" from a well. She sets off with Brumble, her grouchy, worry-wart dog whose disposition is a nice contrast to Celia's sunny self-confidence. In the forest they happen upon the wild child of the woods, the wretched woman of the water, and the mad man of the mountain, all of whom Celia tames with kindness. She fetches the water, but breaks the flask that holds it during the journey home. Weeping in frustration and sorrow, Celia experiences sadness for the first time, and her tears become the "sweet, sweet water" of her mother's childhood, curing the woman. Paterson's storytelling makes this a cut above many happily-ever-after tales, and Vagin's use of line in his fine paintings matches the story's style and tone. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
PARZIVAL by Katherine Paterson
FICTION
Released: March 1, 1998

Written in high-toned but not ornately formal language, this abridged rendition of a 13th-century, pre-Galahad Arthurian legend highlights the Grail Knight's spiritual growth. Having had all knowledge of his family, the world at large, even his name, kept from him since birth, Parzival sets out for King Arthur's court a complete innocent. Several ritualistic knightly adventures later, taking some bad advice not to seem foolish by asking questions, he sees the Grail, but by remaining silent, leaves its keeper Anfortas with a wound that will not heal. Condemned by all for his inaction, Parzival angrily blames God for allowing so much misfortune. Although fond of jousting, Parzival nearly always spares his opponents' lives, and the tally of his deeds is illuminated both by flashes of humorhe's forever having to wash off the rust when he doffs his armorand the exotic names of those he encounters, from his wife Condwiramurs to his half-Moorish half-brother Feirefiz. After years of searching, Parzival repents with the help of a holy hermit, and not only finds the Grail again, but becomes its keeper. Paterson never explains the Grail's origin, which has the effect, for readers who don't already know, of making it a less specifically Christian talisman; she analyzes the story's metaphorical underpinnings, discusses her rendition, and introduces the author, Wolfram von Eschenbach, in a closing note. (Fiction/folklore. 12+) Read full book review >
MARVIN'S BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER by Katherine Paterson
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 30, 1997

Although his sister, May, always makes the best presents, Marvin is determined to create a Christmas gift his family will never forget. Noticing the pretty wreath his neighbors place on their door, Marvin decides that it would be an ideal way to dress up the blank side of their trailer. His mother and father are duly impressed, but when the snow has melted away into spring, and the wreath begins to turn brown, the family breaks the news to Marvin that it's finally time to remove the wreath. They discover, though, that a new family needs it—a family of birds—so it looks like the wreath is there to stay. With tender simplicity, Paterson (Jip, His Story, 1996, etc.) spins a story of generosity, teamwork, and a young boy's ingenuity. Brown's soft, colored-pencil illustrations flow with the change of season and perfectly match the story's gentle charm. (Fiction. 6-9) Read full book review >
JIP, HIS STORY by Katherine Paterson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1996

Set in the 1850s, this story centers on a boy named for his supposed abandonment by gypsies and for his swarthy complexion. Jip lives on the local poor farm, doing chores and caring for the animals. He befriends a caged lunatic, "Put"; a menacing stranger appears who inquires about Jip's background and turns the boy's life upside down. As he straggles to find answers, he is given the opportunity to attend school and is befriended by the teacher, whom readers will recognize from Lyddie (1991), and her Quaker sweetheart. Through this friendship, Jip is able to face his ancestry and the fact that he must escape or suffer dire consequences. As usual for Paterson, all the characterizations are penetrating—even the villains are interesting. An epilogue lets readers in on Jip's success in reaching Canada and his decisions as the Civil War begins. Unfortunately, the ending is abrupt: Put is sacrificed, and it is not clear what lesson Jip derives from putting his friend in harm's way. Regardless, this is fine historical fiction. (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
THE ANGEL AND THE DONKEY by Katherine Paterson
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 18, 1996

The story of Balaam's ass is a comic item found in the Old Testament, here invested with great solemnity and dread. Balaam, the greedy soothsayer, has been asked by Balak, king of Moab, to lay a curse on his Israelite neighbors. An angel visits Balaam's dreams to warn him off—the Israelites are being watched over by a higher power—but he sets out for Moab anyway, with visions of his reward still in his head. Balaam's ass saves his life by dodging the angel's fiery sword, and Balaam winds up cursing Balak in words that God puts in his mouth. Paterson (A Midnight Clear, 1995, etc.) makes her adaptation fluid and briskly paced; Koshkin's illustrations are lovely, swarming with energy and color. Of particular interest is the afterword, which offers a brief overview of biblical writers and comments on the distinctiveness of Balaam's story. (Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >
FICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

Paterson (Flip-Flop Girl, 1994, etc.) wrote these stories over the years for her husband, a pastor, to read to his congregation each Christmas Eve. The collection is somewhat uneven, with protagonists both teenaged and adult, but fans won't give a hoot because every story is warm and fuzzy, fitting right in with the holiday quest for peace, love, and joy. Two stories stand out: "No Room in the Inn" finds a young man taking care of his family's country inn on a stormy Vermont Christmas Eve until a scruffy stranger knocks on the door seeking shelter; the other gem is "In the Desert, a Highway," which takes place in Communist China during the brutal reign of the Red Guards as female scholar Comrade Wong and an old night watchman are arrested for having hidden "subversive" literature in their mattresses. In labor camp to be rehabilitated, the two of them find true friendship, and Comrade Wong brings joy to the old man on the last Christmas Eve of his life. Expect high demand for this collection as the holidays approach. (Short stories. 10+) Read full book review >
FLIP-FLOP GIRL by Katherine Paterson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 1994

Paterson writes of today's gritty reality in an easily read story about a fourth grader whose father's death has thrown her family out of balance. Momma has moved them to backwater Virginia to live with Daddy's stepmother ("Nurses can always get jobs. They just can't get a lot of money"); Vinnie has lost her home, a best friend, and—because 5-year-old brother Mason hasn't spoken since the funeral—Momma's attention. Grandma, too, is a trial; she buys Vinnie ugly clothes at the Salvation Army and insists on making her teacher an embarrassing Christmas present. Mr. Clayton is Vinnie's one comfort, sensitive to his pupils' troubles and source of unobtrusive gifts—barrettes to hold Vinnie's hair out of her eyes; shoes for Lupe, who only has flip- flops and whose troubles are greater than Vinnie's: her father's in prison for killing her mother (Lupe is sure he's not guilty). Mr. Clayton marries; affection-starved Vinnie feels so betrayed that she slashes his car with her barrette and—in an agony of guilt when Lupe is blamed—lashes out at Mason, who runs away. Repentant, Vinnie goes to look for him, willingly aided by Lupe, whose generosity and plucky survival in the face of local prejudice subtly contrast with Vinnie's unreasoned, more childlike response to her losses. Once again, Paterson sets characters drawn with extraordinary empathy in a story distinguished by its overarching theme. Vinnie is ordinary, fallible; but with the help of Lupe's quietly courageous model of grace—plus the values enduring in her own family—she reclaims her equilibrium. Touching, engrossing, beautifully wrought. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
THE BIG BOOK FOR OUR PLANET by Ann Durell
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Again, an all-star collaboration in aid of a worthy cause: Mother Earth herself. The 28 original entries include several poems, fables, and other imaginative tales, plus nonfiction: on bats, by Laurence Pringle (with photos by "Batman" Merlin Tuttle); on wetlands, by Seymour Simon; on Central Park's Frederick Law Olmsted, by Milton Meltzer; and some of Tana Hoban's splendid photos. Though quality varies, there are some nifty stories (satire's a natural here): Marilyn Sachs's whale's- eye view of Jonah (not a politically correct snack—junk food, and an endangered species, too); Natalie Babbitt's "The Last Days of the Giddywit," who live "after the dinosaurs but before shovels" and come to a bad end because they never clean out their caves; William Sleator's chilling glimpse of future "Traffic"; etc. From Aliki and Arnosky to Van Allsburg and Zelinsky, 28 illustrators reflect the texts in a fine range of styles. A grand resource to enliven a unit, to ponder, or simply to enjoy. Six conservation organizations are to benefit. (Anthology. 6-12) Read full book review >
THE KING'S EQUAL by Katherine Paterson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 30, 1992

On his deathbed, the wise old king decrees that his arrogant son will not inherit the crown until he marries "a woman who is your equal in beauty and intelligence and wealth." Angry, and misunderstanding this "blessing," Prince Raphael sets about impoverishing his people and rejecting a procession of princesses who may excel in one quality, but never in three. In the meantime, Rosamund, a shepherd lass, shares the last of her grain with a hungry (but gentle) wolf; magically, his presence replenishes the grain and he recognizes her as queen-to-be. He sends her to the palace, where her wisdom and compassion charm Raphael. Still, he must now prove himself to her: leaving Rosamund to put his kingdom to rights, he repairs to her hut, where the animals help him learn cooperation, competence, and humility. There's a lesson here, of course, but Paterson (unlike many who use folkloric motifs to project contemporary messages) shapes her tale with such grace, narrative skill, and good humor that the lesson is a pleasure. Vagin, a Russian introduced with Here Comes the Cat! (1989), offers sumptuous, elegantly detailed illustrations of the court, bordered in serene pastoral landscapes, in more muted colors, which also adorn chapter heads. A handsome book; an entertaining, thought-provoking story. (Fiction/Young reader. 7-10) Read full book review >
THE SMALLEST COW IN THE WORLD by Katherine Paterson
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

No one loves cross Rosie but Marvin; she steps on feet, switches faces with her tail, and shoves the people on Brock's farm. Only Marvin understands that "Rosie is mad because Mr. Brock took away her calf." Then Mr. Brock sells his farm, Rosie and all. Dad has to find a new job, and Marvin is inconsolable—until he begins to keep a tiny, invisible new "Rosie" in a bottle. When he starts school, this Rosie makes Marvin the butt of teasing until his older sister comes up with a perfect face-saver, allowing him to go on enjoying his unusual imaginary friend—at home. Like Paterson's books for older readers, this pint-sized novel treats life's real troubles with sensitivity; and, as might be expected, the author adopts the constraints of the easy reader (her first) with grace and good humor. Brown's unassuming realistic illustrations deftly extend the story, catching the nuances of this nice family's emotions and some authentic details of present-day farming. (Easy reader. 5-8) Read full book review >
LYDDIE by Katherine Paterson
Released: March 1, 1991

Abandoned by their mother, whose mental stability has been crumbling since her husband went west, Lyddie and her brother Charlie manage alone through a Vermont winter. But in the spring of 1844, without consulting them, the mother apprentices Charlie to a miller and hires Lyddie out to a tavern, where she is little better than a slave. Still, Lyddie is strong and indomitable, and the cook is friendly even if the mistress is cold and stern; Lyddie manages well enough until a run-in with the mistress sends her south to work in the mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, thus earning a better wage (in a vain hope of saving the family farm), making friends among the other girls enduring the long hours and dangerous conditions, and expanding her understanding of loyalty, generosity, and injustice (she already knows more than most people ever learn about perseverance). Knowing only her own troubled family, Lyddie is unusually reserved, even for a New Englander, With her usual discernment and consummate skill, Paterson depicts her gradually turning toward the warmth of others' kindnesses—Betsy reads Oliver Twist aloud and suggests the ultimate goal of Oberlin College; Diana teaches Lyddie to cope in the mill, setting an example that Lyddie later follows with an Irish girl who is even more naive than she had been; Quaker neighbors offer help and solace that Lyddie at first rejects out of hand. Deftly plotted and rich in incident, a well-researched picture of the period—and a memorable portrait of an untutored but intelligent young woman making her way against fierce odds. Read full book review >
PARK'S QUEST by Katherine Paterson
FICTION
Released: April 1, 1988

In a multilayered novel filled with themes of reconciliation and renewal, the two-time Newbery winner draws parallels between a boy's quest for the family of his father, killed in Vietnam, and the Arthurian legends. Park's pretty mother, grieving and withdrawn, has told Park nothing of his origins, so, when Park is 11 and the Vietnam War Memorial is being dedicated in Washington, his need to know increases and he convinces his mother to let him visit his paternal grandfather on a Virginia farm. There Park discovers the existence of his Uncle Frank, Frank's Vietnamese wife and stepdaughter (Thanh, six months younger than Park)—plus an inarticulate grandfather, paralyzed by strokes. Thanh is "sassy" and competitive, full of life and mischief, and at first has no use for Park; but she is also wise and generous at heart; when she and Park discover that they are half-brother and sister, it advances their growing friendship. Park has long had the habit of imagining himself a knight errant or long-lost heir; in truth, he is finally both, but not in the conventional terms of his fantasies. Using elegantly chosen symbols, Paterson entwines noble legend with contemporary realism; and the two worlds merge when the pure springhouse water Thanh defends so fiercely when she first meets interloper Park is shared by the two and their grandfather. Park's quest is a fine journey of discovery, and the characters he meets are uniquely memorable. Read full book review >
CONSIDER THE LILIES by John Paterson
FRIENDS AND SCHOOL
Released: Sept. 25, 1986

The history and symbolism of 39 plants of the Bible, presented with related Bible texts. The dramatic, full-color paintings are the book's most successful aspect. A typical two-page spread presents a graceful arc of dates, figs, and pomegranates that glows with color. Bible texts and retellings are sometimes so abbreviated they are difficult to follow even with brief introductions. Passages include stories of Ruth, David, Jacob and Esau, as well as less familiar selections from Jeremiah, Hosea and Isaiah. Indexes of scriptures and plant names are provided. Plant lore gleaned from botanists and Biblical scholarship is presented in italics: the "lilies of the fields" were probably anemones; and myrrh may refer either to the gum of the Commiphona or of the rock rose; etc. A visual delight which may find an audience with both Bible students and naturalists. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: Sept. 24, 1981

Several of Paterson's Washington Post Book World reviews, articles from The Writer, her award acceptance speeches, and some original chapters on her own writing and her thoughts on writing for young people—collected here, she says, for her adult readers, "not all [of them] librarians or teachers," just people who "have learned. . . truly how to read." Whoever these adults might be, they may well be interested in her revelation that she was a "weird little kid" (more accurately, a timid, uncertain outsider) and now writes for other weird little kids, and in her account of how she conceived and planned and progressed with some of her stories. (The Master Puppeteer began with a vivid dream.) However, readers seeking an award-winner's insights into the special nature of children's literature will find, as Paterson's title might indicate, only the usual solemn banalities: Children's literature is true art, not moral instruction; a sense of wonder is the greatest gift we can give our children; words are very precious; we must help non-readers to recognize that books are "friends who will enrich and broaden and give joy to their lives"; and we must give our children not slogans and platitudes (these apparently she reserves for adults), but "the life and growth and refreshment that only the full richness of our language can give." As for adult literature, "Fiction allows us to enter fully into the lives of other human beings"; "a season with Natasha and AndrÉ and Pierre may make us wiser and more compassionate people" (a dubious proposition); and, à propos of Agatha Christie, "we care desperately" who killed Roger Ackroyd. As for her own, "I cannot, will not, withhold from my young readers the harsh realities. . . but neither will I neglect to plant that stubborn seed of hope. . . ." (Besides hope, she lists plot, brevity, absence of "symphonic" complexity, and characters readers can care for as requirements setting "boundaries"—not limits—on juvenile fiction.) No doubt the separate items gathered here well served their original occasions. Reading them in one lump tends to clot one's consciousness. Read full book review >
JACOB HAVE I LOVED by Katherine Paterson
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Oct. 22, 1980

We meet Louise Bradshaw in the summer of 1941, smarting under the disproportionate attention lavished on her fragile, musically talented twin sister Caroline since their birth 13 years earlier. We get to know her better the next summer when she and her cumbersome male friend Cal take up with old "Captain" Wallace, a 70-year-old native of their Chesapeake Island who has returned after a 50-year absence. Louise resents Cal's special relationship with the Captain, and resents even more her sister's subsequent friendship with both Cal and the Captain. She is devastated when the Captain offers to send Caroline off to music school; and when Cal and the other young men go off to war, Louise willingly drops out of high school to help her waterman father with the crabs and oysters. Perhaps the biggest blow is when Cal returns from the war all grown up, and announces his intention of marrying Caroline, now off at Juilliard. The interesting aspect of all Louise's torment and self-sacrifice is the growing realization that it isn't being forced on her. But not until she has settled down as a nurse-midwife (the only medical help) in a small Appalachian community—marrying a man with three children to boot—does she recognize and freely accept that she was destined to fulfill herself in a life of service. Paterson has to get into these later years to make the point, and to avoid the instant realizations that substitute in too many juvenile novels. However, this tends to flatten the tone and blur the shape of the novel. Louise's earlier, intense feelings evoke recognition and sympathy, but this hasn't the resonant clarity of Bridge to Terabitha or The Great Gilly Hopkins. Read full book review >
FICTION
Released: Sept. 7, 1979

Paterson's well-tuned, sentimental Christmas stories seem less well suited to a children's book than to a family magazine, especially a church magazine—and indeed the flap tells us that they were originally read in Christmas Eve church services by the author's minister husband. Of the nine, three effect epiphanies of sorts in church; in another a child runs to church for comfort (and finds it with the Sunday-school teacher next door); and others involve, respectively, a lonely minister's home service, a child's bogus creche, a crucifix (thrown by a poor Spanish woman at a minister's genteel mother), a homeless, far from holy mother-and-child who suggest ironic parallels on Christmas Eve, and an old black samaritan/hitchhiker who is taken for an angel by the child of an apprehensive woman driver. Several, like these last three, set up encounters between comfortable middle-class Protestants and others who are poor, black, and/or outcast; in these Paterson does well with the interplay, and she never falsifies the characters on either side or overplays her hand. This is several notches above the usual Christmas story collection, and a boon for groups concerned with the meaning of the holiday. Read full book review >
THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS by Katherine Paterson
FICTION
Released: March 1, 1978

Paterson's bright eleven-year-old has a lot in common with: other foster children we've met in fiction: sulky, surface-tough, perversely set on being "hard to manage," determined after several rejections never to accept an overture, and still cherishing the fantasy that her real mother will come to her rescue. But Gilly's new foster mother, Maime Trotter—a semi-literate, Bible-reading hippopotamus of a woman—is hard to rile, and her new teacher is a study in cool. Mrs. Trotter even takes her back after Gilly, planning secretly to join her real mother in California, steals money for a bus ticket. Then a letter claiming mistreatment that Gilly had sent to her mother backfires ironically and it's her unglamorous grandmother (previously unaware of Gilly's existence) who comes for her, just as Gilly has begun to feel a part of Mrs. Trotter's loving de facto family. Meeting the long-idealized real mother at last is the worst blow of all, but by then Trotter's effect on Gilly is hearteningly evident—not only in the little girl's unprompted "I love you Trotter" on the telephone, but also in her considerate self-restraint as her well-meaning Grandmother bugs her with nervous chatter. Without a hint of the prevailing maudlin realism, Paterson takes up a common "problem" situation and makes it genuinely moving, frequently funny, and sparkling with memorable encounters. Read full book review >
BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Donna Diamond
FICTION
Released: Sept. 14, 1977

Paterson, who has already earned regard with her historical fiction set in Japan, proves to be just as eloquent and assured when dealing with contemporary American children—and Americans of very different backgrounds at that. Jess, from an uneducated family in rural Virginia, has been practicing all summer to become the fastest runner at school—a reputation more desirable than his present image as "that crazy little kid who draws all the time." But Jess is beaten in the first race of the fifth-grade year by a newcomer—who is also the first girl ever to invade the boys' part of the playground. Soon Jess and Leslie, whose parents have moved from the suburbs because they're "reassessing their value structure," become close friends. On her lead they create Terabithia, a secret magic kingdom in the woods, and there in the castle stronghold she tells him wonderful stories. . . about a gloomy prince of Denmark, or a crazy sea captain bent on killing a whale. She lends him her Narnia books and lectures him on endangered predators. . . but he teaches her compassion for a mean older girl at school. Indeed Leslie has brought enchantment into his life. Then one morning, with the creek they must swing over to reach Terabithia dangerously swollen by rain, and Jess torn between his fear of the maneuver and his reluctance to admit it, he is saved by an invitation to visit the National Gallery with his lovely music teacher. The day is perfect—but while he is gone Leslie is killed, swinging into Terabithla on their old frayed rope. Jess' feelings range from numb denial to rage to guilt to desolation (at one point the thought occurs that "I am now the fastest runner in the fifth grade")—typical grief reactions, but newly wrenching as Jess is no representative bibliotherapeutic model. By the end, he is ready to think about giving back to the world something of what he had received from Leslie. You'll remember her too. Read full book review >
THE MASTER PUPPETEER by Haru Wells
FICTION
Released: Jan. 1, 1976

Here we move forward six hundred years from the 12th century Japan in Of Nightingales That Weep (1974) to a year when the country is ravaged by famine and Jiro, the puppet-maker's son, decides that a theater apprenticeship will be the best way to fill his stomach and ease the burdens of his hard-pressed family. The world of traditional puppet drama—both the glittering artifice onstage and the role-playing that continues behind the scenes—becomes a fantastic backdrop to the mystery that engulfs Jiro when he finds evidence of the Robin Hood style bandit, Saboro, hidden in the theater's storeroom. The deep bond between Jiro and the puppet-master's son Kinshi, both apparently unloved by their demanding fathers, forms this adventure's stable core, but Paterson's ability to exploit the tension between violence in the street and dreamlike confrontations of masked puppet operators is what makes this more lively and immediate then her other, equally exacting, historical fictions. Read full book review >
OF NIGHTINGALES THAT WEEP by Haru Wells
FICTION
Released: Sept. 23, 1974

Like Muna in The Sign of the Chrysanthemum (KR, 1973) Takiko, the daughter of a samurai, is a young teenager in 12th century Japan who loses a parent and moves about on her own during the wars between the Heike and the Genii dans. First seen as a protected child, Takiko adjusts to a humbler rural existence after her father's death, later becomes a favorite entertainer at the court of the infant emperor, is preoccupied then by her once-consummated love affair with an enemy spy, shares the pain and humiliation of her exiled court's defeat at sea, and at last endures exhausting, disfiguring field work beside the ugly, misshapen potter — her dead mother's second husband -whom Takiko herself decides in the end to marry. Again the exquisitely reconstructed backgrounds and episodes and the gradual character development will induce admirers of historical fiction to share Takiko's experience of her times and follow her dramatic progress from innocence to extremity. Read full book review >
THE SIGN OF THE CHRYSANTHEMUM by Peter Landa
ADVENTURE
Released: Oct. 23, 1973

Suspended in delicate imagery and among the many layered feuds between the Samurai clans of the Genii and Heike is the subdued quest of the nameless orphan Muna, who flees the burial of his peasant mother to search for a warrior father identifiable only by a small chrysanthemum tattoo. Muna's conflicting loyalties develop slowly as he is first befriended by the renegade samurai Takanobu and later adopted by a severe, perfectionist swordmaker. Desperate for some sort of security, Manu is persuaded by the wily Takanobu who claims to be his father to steal a sword from his master, but after months of hiding, the disillusioned Muna returns the valuable weapon and is forgiven. This introspective adventure, in which Muna learns to fred his fortune within himself, will attract those readers who can be sustained by the carefully evoked setting and a realistic, stoical resolution which leaves some questions, philosophic and factual, open-ended. Read full book review >

A cruel Japanese lord is preparing to execute Yasuko, the kitchen maid who set free a lovely mandarin drake the lord had in captivity, and Shozor, the one-eyed servant who tried to take the blame in her place. Providentially, two messengers arrive to take the couple to the Imperial Court: they explain that after a vision of the merciful Buddha, the emperor has abolished capital punishment. Actually, though, the messengers are the duck and his mate in disguise; leading Shozo and Yasuko to a comfortable forest hut, they leave the loving couple there for a long, happy life together. Although the jacket describes this as a folk-tale, LC classifies it as fiction. Whichever, Paterson tells it with subtlety, grace, and her characteristic sensitivity to such troths as that "trouble can always be borne when it is shared." The Dillons, who have twice won the Caldecott Medal, have outdone themselves in these elegant, deftly limned illustrations in a Japanese style. In mellow, grayed hues and crisp black, each double spread appears in two borderless panels that allow the eye to make them one without catching in the gutter; the blocks of text are expertly incorporated in the handsome design. An outstanding contribution. Read full book review >