All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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A video interview with

Laurie Halse Anderson

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Laurie Halse (rhymes with "waltz") Anderson got to know and appreciate cold weather growing up in upstate New York. She attended elementary school in Syracuse, where she was terrified that she'd never be able to learn how to read. With help from her teachers, Laurie did crack the code and then became one those students who hide library books inside textbooks during class.

As a teenager, Laurie escaped the traditional classroom and was a foreign exchange student in Denmark, where she worked on pig farm. She developed a fondness for bacon and working with animals. While attending Onondaga Community College, she worked at a dairy farm. In 1981, she transferred to Georgetown University and graduated three years later with a degree in Languages and Linguistics.

Thinking it was time to get a real job, Laurie realized that people would actually pay her to write. She became a freelance writer and journalist, though now that she had two children of her own, she was even more interested in writing her own stories. Her intense desire to not have to do the same thing day in and out turned into numerous picture books, middle-grade titles and award-winning teen and historical fiction, including National Book Award finalist, Speak, and National Book Award finalist, Chains.

Selected Books

from Laurie Halse Anderson

Independent Dames: What You Never Knew about the Women and Girls of the American Revolution

Age Level: 9-12

This fact and fun-filled look at female contributions to the American Revolution provides a serious but lighthearted introduction to a range of known and unknown women. Affable illustrations include thought and speech bubbles.

Buy Independent Dames: What You Never Knew about the Women and Girls of the American Revolution

Fight for Life

Age Level: 9-12

Maggie lives with her grandmother who is a veterinarian and owner of the animal clinic called Wild at Heart. In this first in the series, Maggie and other volunteers find the puppy mill responsible for the sick animals brought to the clinic — and help shut it down.

Buy Fight for Life


Age Level: 9-12

Sunita, a volunteer at the Wild at Heart Animal Clinic, desperately wants a cat of her own, but her parents won't hear of it. Eventually, Sunita gets her animal as readers learn about feral cats and the need for animal control.

Buy Homeless


Age Level: 9-12

Isabel, an enslaved 13-year old, and her younger sister are set to be freed but instead are sold to a ruthless Loyalist at the start of the Revolutionary War. Life in New York City during the time comes vividly alive as do the complexities of the war

Buy Chains

Fever 1793

Age Level: 12-14

When yellow fever strikes 18th century Philadelphia, sixteen year old Matilda's life is forever changed. Contemporary readers are likely to see themselves in Matilda while being transported back in time through striking smells and sights of an earlier time.

Buy Fever 1793


Age Level: 14-16

Ashley, a high school senior, has no interest in the prom but gets sucked into helping organize it once the money for it disappears, changing Ash and her aspirations forever. This fast-paced novel examines class issues as well as high school life.

Buy Prom


Age Level: 14-16

Ever since she called 911 from a teen party, Melinda has quieted her voice, literally and figuratively. She only finds it when its needed to prevent a reoccurrence of the same horror. This stunning look at sexual assault and peer pressure is presented in a highly readable form.

Buy Speak


Age Level: 14-16

After a summer of community service for a graffiti stunt, Tyler goes from being a pariah to popular, attracting the attention of the sister of his nemesis. The humor is cutting but on-target as it deals with real-life issues confronted by teens.

Buy Twisted


Age Level: 14-16

Lia and Cassie are both "wintergirls" — frozen in bodies and minds that strive for the impossible. Cassie's death — was it accidental or suicide? — haunts Lia in this plausible, evocative, and unforgettable look at eating disorders.

Buy Wintergirls


Age Level: Teen

In this powerful memoir told in free verse, Anderson delves into her past and issues a call to action for social justice.

Buy Shout