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

Katherine Paterson

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As the daughter of two missionaries, Katherine Paterson spent the first five years of her life in China. When the Japanese invaded during World War II, her family returned to the United States. By the age of 18, Paterson had moved over 18 times with her family. After studying English literature in Tennessee and Bible and Christian education in Virginia, Paterson moved to Japan as a missionary herself. She fell in love with Japan and stayed for four years.

After returning to the United States in 1961, Katherine met and married John Paterson, a Presbyterian pastor in Buffalo, New York. By 1966, the Patersons had four children, two of whom they adopted. When she wasn't busy raising a family, she spent her time writing, though it was a long nine years before her first novel was published. Paterson credits her husband for having faith in her abilities "during all those years that no one wanted to publish anything I had written."

By the early 1980s, Katherine Paterson had solidified her prestigious place in children's literature. In 1978, she won the Newbery Medal for Bridge to Terabithia. The following year, The Great Gilly Hopkins won a Newbery Honor, and just two years after that, Jacob Have I Loved won the 1981 Newbery Medal. In addition to middle grade novels, Paterson has written picture books and stories for younger children, including the popular Marvin series.

Selected Books

from Katherine Paterson

The Master Puppeteer

Age Level: 9-12

Jiro becomes an apprentice puppeteer during a difficult time in Osaka, Japan. Though clumsy for a puppeteer, Jiro has other qualities that help him overcome grave situations and solve a dangerous mystery.

Buy The Master Puppeteer

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Age Level: 9-12

Gilly is not a very likable girl, but then again, she doesn't really like herself very much. She's being placed in yet another foster home, with a fat and ugly foster mother. Gilly knows that her "real" mother is beautiful and that everything would be all right if she'd just come for her. Quirky characters, humor, and a poignant exploration of family are the hallmarks of this book that received many awards, including a Newbery Honor.

Buy The Great Gilly Hopkins

The Same Stuff as Stars

Age Level: 9-12

Eleven-year-old Angel and her seven-year-old brother are taken to live with their great-grandmother on her dilapidated Vermont farm. While the old woman is ill equipped to handle children, she's better prepared to commit to them than either of their parents. A "star man" and the town librarian end up helping the children in this poignant exploration of family.

Buy The Same Stuff as Stars


Age Level: 9-12

Lyddie is a resourceful, self-sufficient girl who leaves Vermont to work in a Lowell, Massachusetts factory. Historical detail about life in 19th century New England combined with a portrait of this fiercely independent girl create an unforgettable novel.

Buy Lyddie

Jacob Have I Loved

Age Level: Teen

Sara Louise Bradshaw knows that she should be proud of her beautiful twin Caroline. But how can she? Ever since they were born, Caroline has done nothing but take from Louise: their parents' – and only – friend. For once in her life, Louise wants to experience the kind of happiness that has always come so easily to Caroline. But in order to do that, she must first figure out who she is, and then make a place for herself outside her sister's shadow.

Buy Jacob Have I Loved

Bridge to Terabithia

Age Level: 9-12

Despite coming from different backgrounds, fifth-graders Jess and Leslie develop a deep friendship. Together they create an imaginary place where they alone rule as king and queen. This Newbery Medal book is told with humor and sensitivity and is filled with the joy of friendship, the pain of losing it, and the hope of healing.

Buy Bridge to Terabithia

Bread and Roses, Too

Age Level: 9-12

When a strike takes a dangerous turn, Rosa and Jake leave their homes for the safety of a neighboring town. Paterson uses the real events of the Lawrence textile strike as a backdrop for a compelling story about the turn of the century immigrant experience.

Buy Bread and Roses, Too

Preacher's Boy

Age Level: 12-14

It's 1899 and Robbie Hewitt isn't sure what the new century will bring, so he decides to have as much fun as possible - just in case! When Robbie stops worrying about God (and his preacher father), his choices lead him into trouble, and the people around him into danger.

Buy Preacher's Boy

Day of the Pelican

Age Level: 9-12

The flight of an Albanian family from Kosovo to avoid escalating violence and what they confront when they land in a small Vermont village comes to life through the voice of 12-year old Meli.

Buy Day of the Pelican

Flint Heart

Age Level: 9-12

An ancient talisman resurfaces to once again create misery until a true heart destroys it forever. The husband and wife team rework this early 20th century fantasy making it accessible to contemporary audiences. Lush illustrations and rich language make this a fine family read aloud.

Buy Flint Heart

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure

Age Level: 9-12

Katherine Paterson contributes to this outrageous, over-the-top, illustrated fantasy. Based on an old parlor game, each author contributed to the story started by another. Fast and funny, the luminary authors and illustrators just may inspire young writers to try their hand at writing.

Buy The Exquisite Corpse Adventure