I was born on February 11, 1939, in New York City. My father was a journalist, writing for the New York newspapers. My mother was a psychiatric social worker until I was born. I went to PS 93, where I was a gold-star kid, writing a lot and singing with my pals. I took piano lessons, and I studied ballet at Balanchine’s School of American Ballet. Then I got into Hunter Junior High School and discovered that there were a lot of gold-star girls all over the city. What a shock! I had to work hard just to stay in the middle of the class.
At Smith College, I discovered (again) that many of the gold-star girls were there. I had to work hard just to stay in the middle of the class. But by the end of my four years, I was president of the Press Board, won the poetry and journalism awards, and wrote the lyrics to the class musical as well as starring in our senior show. I wrote a book of poems, many of which were published in small journals like the Grecourt Review and the Chicago Jewish Forum.
After college, I moved to New York City and became an editor, writing during lunch breaks, evenings, and weekends. I considered myself a poet and a nonfiction writer. But to my surprise, my first book was for children, selling it on my twenty-second birthday. It was called Pirates in Petticoats.
I have written more than three hundred books since then.
The first man I married, David Stemple, is the only man I married. He and I had three children and six grandchildren. Alas, he died of cancer in 2006, after forty-four years of a wonderful marriage. I live in western Massachusetts next door to my marvelous daughter, Heidi (the little girl in Owl Moon) and her two daughters. My sons live far away with their families: Adam in Minneapolis, Jason in Charleston, South Carolina. I also have a house in Scotland where I live four months of the year. The rest of my life is all book talk.
My Candlewick books are pretty varied, as are all my books. There is Soft House, a picture book about how on rainy days my children used to make a house out of sofa cushions and eat chocolate chip cookies in there, accompanied by the cat. This Little Piggy is a compilation of lap and clapping songs, finger games, knee-bouncing rhymes, and songs (with music by my son Adam), many of the games were ones I use to play with my children when they were small. Our special favorite was “Trot, Trot to Boston,” a raucous knee-bouncer. Then there is Here’s a Little Poem, an anthology of a child’s first poems that I collected with my British friend Andrew Fusek Peters and that includes (among other poets) my daughter Heidi’s poem about ice cream. The book has won a number of awards and citations, including the Bank Street Children’s Book Award. Switching on the Moon, another anthology done with Andrew, concentrates on night poems and lullabies. Take Two: A Celebration of Twins, created with J. Patrick Lewis, is a collection of poems and images for the twins of the world.
And there are two rhymed picture books called Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters, and Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I lost my fencing foil in Grand Central Station on a date. And no—I don’t remember who I was dating, or why we were in Grand Central Station, or why I had my foil with me.
2. I have ridden Lipizzaner horses, been on a dogsled ride in Alaska, and gone white-water rafting down the Colorado River, but the wildest thing I have ever done is to sing blues with my son’s rock-and-roll band!
3. Mr. Rogers shook my hand and told me he was a big fan of my books and I almost passed out with excitement.