Beloved children’s and young adult author Katherine Paterson has won two Newbery Medals, two National Book Awards and numerous other honors. However, it was only when she realized her children had never heard family stories over the kitchen sink—they’d long had a dishwasher—that she penned a memoir.
Paterson’s life story is full of adventures. In anecdotes ranging from the hilarious (a pet snake interrupting a Board of Education meeting) to the heartbreaking (the sudden death of her son’s best friend), she takes readers from her birth in war-torn China to her life as a Christian missionary in Japan, a teacher in rural Virginia, a young mother in East Coast suburbia and beyond. A timeline, family tree, photos and other documents—including a manuscript scribbled on by her young daughter—help readers visualize people and events.
Readers who grew up with Paterson’s books will relish this insight into her life and will appreciate discovering what inspired her well-loved stories (although some sections, like the one chronicling her husband’s time in hospice care, contain mature content). This is a highly recommended read for Paterson fans, or anyone who delights in children’s literature.
Jill Ratzan reviews for School Library Journal and works as a school librarian at a small independent school in New Jersey.