Roxane Orgill comes to writing children’s books through journalism.
She worked as a music critic for more than twenty years, starting as a freelance writer with the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and later for the Wall Street Journal, with staff jobs at the Milwaukee Journal and the Bergen County Record in between. She began writing about music in college as a way to bring her two passions, writing and music, together. Today she enjoys studying and playing baroque recorders.
As a music critic, Roxane was assigned to write news and feature stories, which required her to ask a lot of questions. Wanting to know more and to go deeper — and to take more time— led her to writing books, starting with If I Only Had a Horn, a picture book about young Louis Armstrong, in 1997. More biographies followed, including those about Mahalia Jackson, Fred and Adele Astaire, and Ella Fitzgerald— all published by Candlewick Press. For adults, she wrote about Count Basie, race, and politics in the 1930s in Dream Lucky: When FDR was in the White House, Count Basie was on the radio, and everyone wore a hat . . .
While pondering Art Kane’s famous photograph Harlem 1958, of a group of jazz musicians standing in front of a Harlem brownstone, Roxane wondered how it happened and who the fifty-seven musicians were. She found herself writing poems, which became the core of Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph, illustrated by Francis Vallejo (Candlewick, 2016). It won The Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Best Picture Book.
For her next book, Roxane ventured beyond music and the arts and onto… battlefields. In Siege: How General Washington Kicked the British out of Boston and Launched a Revolution (Candlewick, 2018), she used verse to zoom in on the Siege of Boston and the war’s beginnings through the eyes of not only Washington, but his aide Joseph Reed; his wife, Martha; the slave William Lee; privates; a deserter; a boy servant; and townspeople caught in the crossfire.
Roxane Orgill is a graduate of Glenbrook North High School, the University of Illinois, and King’s College London. She lives with her husband and son in Dobbs Ferry, New York.