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

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

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Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was born in 1933 in Anderson, Indiana, growing up during the Great Depression. Her parents shared theatrical read alouds with Naylor and her siblings every evening, well until her teen years. These shared stories, from Mark Twain to Lewis Carroll, are among Naylor’s deepest and happiest memories — and inspired her to write her own short stories, beginning as a very young girl. When she was 16 years old, a Sunday school teacher asked her to write a story for the church magazine. This story, called Mike’s Hero, was published and Naylor received all of $4.67 for her work. Naylor continued to write short stories and articles until she discovered a preference for the novel where she can really dig into the characters, narrative, and sense of place.

Naylor writes primarily for children and young adults — although she has published several books for adults, including How I Came to Be a Writer, a wry and very personal look at the ups and downs of one writer’s life. Naylor is perhaps best known as the author of Shiloh, a story about a West Virginia boy and an abused dog. The book won the Newbery Medal in 1991 and has been discovered — and cherished — by new generations of young readers. Naylor is also well-known for several successful series: Boys and Girls, Alice, and The Bessledorf mysteries. Naylor taps into her own growing-up experiences to breathe life into the very popular Alice series.

Naylor continues to put in a full six hours of writing every day and can’t imagine doing anything else (although she does have a passion for snorkeling...). She lives with her husband (and first draft reader) Rex, in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Selected Books

from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Starting With Alice

Age Level: 9-12

This book is the first of three prequels that takes readers back to Alice's elementary school days. Here, Alice is in a new school where she makes friends (and unfortunately, enemies). Alice ages through the series, and other books depict Alice in middle school and high school, making this series one that girls can grow up with.

Buy Starting With Alice


Age Level: 9-12

Eleven year old Marty must decide whether or not to return an abused beagle to its rightful owner, an unkind man. His dilemma includes hiding the dog, Shiloh, telling his parents the truth, and more in this riveting, award-winning novel which is ideal to read aloud with slightly sophisticated listeners. It was adapted into a live action film in 2000.

Buy Shiloh

The Agony of Alice

Age Level: 9-12

Alice was four when her mother died. Though her father and brother do what they can, it's tough being the only girl in the family. But as Alice begins 6th grade, she learns that there's more to a person than just good looks. Readers will appreciate Alice's sturdy but unattractive teacher, Mrs. Plotkins, and grow to respect her as did Alice. Both poignant and funny, this first in the Alice series introduces a girl who grows up literally in each successive installment. As Alice grows, so does the sophistication of the issues with which she deals.

Buy The Agony of Alice

The Grand Escape

Age Level: 9-12

The feline adventures begin when Marco and Polo, always indoor cats, taste freedom (and the Burger King dump). The cat brothers meet others memorable mousers along the way in this first of a series of books about the Cat Pack.

Buy The Grand Escape

How I Became a Writer

Age Level: 9-12

Anecdotes, examples of her work, and photographs combine to present a sketch of a popular and prolific author and insight into her work. Naylor's memoir — like her writing — uses humor to great effect while presenting a memorable self-portrait.

Buy How I Became a Writer