About Me . . .
Lexington's history revolves around the Civil War and its two colleges. Both the Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University have rich ties to the past. During my childhood, history surrounded all my ordinary experiences—from walks to school, to games with friends, to independent prowls. I roller-skated past the chapel where Robert E. Lee is buried. My friends and I collected buckeyes on the campus where George C. Marshall trained for his military career. I visited the museum that displays the stuffed remains (truly!) of Stonewall Jackson's horse. Every breath carried a trace of history. Ties to the past seeped into my pores. Without realizing it, I grew to love history and expect it around every corner. Later on, I was shocked to learn that not all cities came so tightly packed with historic connections! How lucky for me to have grown up in one that did.
My schooling included several years of segregated instruction, then, beginning in fourth grade, a switch to integrated classrooms. Those experiences helped inspire me to write about segregation years later in my book Freedom Riders. My favorite childhood hobbies included stamp collecting, gardening, and reading—everything from the Little House books, to Nancy Drew, to the fantasies of J.R.R. Tolkien, to lots of biographies. I still enjoy these pastimes today. My family traveled a lot, too, with plenty of stops at historic places. I even met one historic figure during these years, Alice Paul, whom I would write about many years later in With Courage and Cloth.
I developed an interest in current events at an early age. My first political memory dates from first grade and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. I lived through more history in the years that followed—everything from the Vietnam War to the anti-war movement, from the push for African-American rights to demands for women's equality, from the Watergate break-in to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. My youthful curiosity about current events inspired a lifelong enthusiasm for newspapers and journalism. It's no wonder I chose to write about investigative reporting in Muckrakers.
During high school I spent three years at an all-girls boarding school, the Madeira School. We made regular trips from our secluded campus into nearby Washington, D.C., and my love of U.S. history and government took hold as a result. Books like Our Country's Presidents and Our Country's First Ladies connect to these early experiences in our nation's capital. When it came time for college, I sought the chance to explore a new part of the country and enrolled at Beloit College in Wisconsin. I loved the winters I found there, plus great new friends, wonderful professors, the chance to study abroad, and lots of writing opportunities.
I've experienced plenty of change in the years since I began writing for young people. I don't live on a farm anymore, I'm no longer married to my college friend, and my sons have grown up and headed off for college and worlds beyond home.
One thing remains constant: I still love to write books. My newest works are Denied, Detained Deported and Unraveling Freedom. I invite you to explore my web site to find out more about these books, my other titles, and my writing process. Every year I travel around the country making author visits to schools and conferences, too. Contact me if you would like me to visit your area.
NOTES: Click here to find a more formal author biography, suitable for use at public events and in media reports.
Click here to find out how to pronounce my name.
Click on these links to find out more about me at:
Children's Literature Network
National Geographic Society
Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators