About Kathryn Erskine

Kathryn ErskineI grew up in Europe, Africa, Canada, and the United States, and was a lawyer before I figured out what I really wanted to be when I grew up—a writer! I take my inspiration from the world around me and from my personal experiences, including my childhood attending 8 different schools.

I travel a fair amount, give speeches, visit schools, etc. and try keep up my website in between. Writing time is precious -- I'm currently working on several novels:  middle grade, young adult, and even adult, and some picture books. My latest novel is THE BADGER KNIGHT, an adventure.  My newest (and first) picture book, MAMA AFRICA, the story of Miriam Makeba, South African civil rights activist and singer, is due to publish in 2017.

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April 17 2018

On a day I'm visiting a school I always wake up smiling. It's a gift. A chance to connect with at least one child, hopefully many, whether it's about writing or reading or, more importantly, making them feel heard, cared for, and important. It's a job teachers, librarians and administrators do every single day, but for an author it's a special occasion. Today, as I was leaving a school, a young man (7th grader) saw me -- "Oh! It's you!" -- and ran over to shake my hand. "Thank you for coming and thank you for answering our questions." Wincing a little, he said, "I know not everyone was listening, but most of us were." He shook my hand again, saying, "Thank you for inspiring us."

Often it's me who receives the gift of feeling heard, cared for, and important. That's one of the many reasons we authors love school visits. Thank you.

April 11 2018

Golden Shovel Review of Richard Peck's THE BEST MAN

"Boys aren’t too interested in weddings. Girls like them."


Who knows what boys

are into and aren’t

You might be surprised, too

because some are interested

in friendships with girls, joy in the family, love between gay uncles and teachers, even in

gay uncles’ and teachers’ weddings

so there are boys, not just girls

who like

to bring love to friends, family, and even to them

March 19 2018

FYI, I am doing 10 free Skype visits in 2018. So far 5 have been taken and it's only March...first come, first serve!

March 7 2018

Virginia Festival of the Book! Come join us in Charlottesville! There are so many events and I'm happy to be on one of the panels with David Barclay Moore (THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET) and Alan Gratz (REFUGEE) to talk about THE INCREDIBLE MAGIC OF BEING as we discuss Making Sense of the World through middle grade fiction at the Village School on Saturday, March 24th, from 12 - 1:30 pm.

March 7 2018

Golden Shovel Review of THE FREEMASON'S DAUGHTER by Shelley Sackier

"He will never see my side of the story." In this case, I took the 1st line of the 2nd chapter because the first chapter starts with the character’s name and I wanted something more generic.


Crackling historical adventure / romance, she and he

from warring Scotland and England, but will

they cross over or never

see eye to eye, see

that your, my

and our side

can come together of

our own free will, like The

Freemason’s Daughter, a teen Outlander story

March 7 2018

MAMA AFRICA has been named a Notable Social Studies book by the Children's Book Council and a Notable Children's Book of 2018 by the American Library Association!

February 12 2018

Congratulations to Charly Palmer for winning the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award for Illustrator for MAMA AFRICA! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with her Song! And thanks to our wonderful editor on this project, too, Grace Kendall of Farrar Straus & Giroux!

January 31 2018

Initiative for 2018 -- Golden Shovel Book Reviews, based on the poetic form created by Terrance Hayes. Here's how it works...

Take a line from the book and write a poem where each consecutive word in the sentence ends the line, e.g., "I am a coward," the first sentence of Elizabeth Wein's CODE NAME VERITY would be a 4-line poem, the first line ending in "I," the second line ending in "am," etc.

First up: LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds

Line from the first page (last stanzas of the first verse): This story is true / It happened to me / Really / It did / It so did

My poem/review:

The heart of this, the reality, feels achingly true

What might we be faced with, you and me?

Depends on our circumstances, and choices, really

A lurching, gut-wrenching elevator ride about what one person, many people, did

Now, what will this kid (or you or me) do, and how will he (or we) look back on what he did? 

January 15 2018

Thanks to Kristen Flowers of KOIT for interviewing me on her podcast! 

November 13 2017

If you haven't received one in the mail, here's a link to the Discussion Guide for The Incredible Magic of Being!

October 10 2017

Today I had twins! It's the book birthday of The Incredible Magic of Being and my first picture book, Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with her Song. I hope you enjoy them both as much as I enjoyed researching and writing them!

October 9 2017

I love this review of The Incredible Magic of Being which I'm sharing with you the day before it publishes (with just one edit to allay any fears).  :-)  Thanks to author Deborah M. Prum ... by the way, if you're studying Russian history, you don't want to miss her hilarious Czars and Czarinas!

This is how much I enjoyed Kathryn Erskine’s The Incredible Magic of Being:  the day after I finished reading the delightful book, I picked it up and read it again. I never do that.

Julian is a 9.63 year-old boy (his calculation) who loves physics and astronomy. He empathizes so fully with the people around him that he actually senses their thoughts and feelings. Oh, and one more thing…from the sound of things, it seems as if Julian’s death might be imminent.

Julian and his family move from D.C. to Maine to a house by a lake where they plan to operate a bed and breakfast. Pookie, Julian’s teenage sister, is miserable about the move and about life in general. One could say she is a toxic waste dump of misery.  Shortly after the family arrives, a lawyer comes to their door. He tells them that they have violated an easement agreement and that their neighbor is insisting they tear down the addition which Julian’s parents intended to use as a bed and breakfast.

At the end of each chapter, the reader finds a section called “Facts and Random Thoughts.” The sections contain fascinating information about physics, astronomy and Julian’s insightful reactions to the world around him.

Erskine nails Julian’s voice. He is all at once engaging, entertaining, and informative in a non-pretentious way. Although Julian is focused on end-of-life issues, the story is not maudlin in any way. The author manages to tell a poignant and moving tale without once being saccharine.

Science teachers take notice: this novel would provide an excellent complement to any section you teach on astronomy or elementary physics. For everyone else:  this is a charming book, which will be much beloved by its audience.

September 18 2017

My favorite review line for THE INCREDIBLE MAGIC OF BEING (from School Library Journal):  "Julian's distinctive narration, awash in supernatural perceptions as well as a nine-year-old's natural misconceptions, is a tour de force....Touching contemporary magical realism, with a final twist that truly surprises."

September 18 2017

STARRED REVIEW for MAMA AFRICA!  From Kirkus:  "An excellent perspective from which American readers can learn about apartheid and one of the pioneers who fought it through her art."

Also, illustrator Charly Palmer's artwork for MAMA AFRICA has been accepted by the Society of Illustrators for their "The Original Art" exhibit, highlighting the best artwork for children's books, 2017.  Congratulations, Charly! 

December 2 2016

So thrilled to announce my new novel, THE INCREDIBLE MAGIC OF BEING!

Publishing Fall 2017 (Scholastic) 

It's what happens when you take a boy named Julian, his anxiety, a telescope, a treehouse, a life jacket, a Styrofoam boat, s'mores, even a statue of the BVM (as Julian would say, "Look it up"), and shake them up with a lot of personalities ... they turn into what I hope is great ride.

Short version: Like MOCKINGBIRD, only funny.


August 19 2016

In an effort to expand my world view beyond American and European literature (what I grew up with) I'm up to 56 countries now -- see "2016 Reading Project" -- and still reading.  I'm enjoying the experience and also struggling with finding books from some countries, given my (embarrassing) English-only limitation.  Currently at around a quarter of the world's nations, I fear I may only get to about half.  If anyone has suggestions, please let me know! 

May 1 2016

Schools looking for class sets or multiple copies, paperbacks of SEEING RED are available through Scholastic here:  http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/save-books-order-your-visiting-authors-work!

April 9 2016

Here's a recent blog interview, with thanks to David Binder.  Also, PLEASE NOTE the new tab for my "2016 READING PROJECT."  I'll be updating the list of books from around the world periodically!

January 1 2016

My 2016 Reading Project – A Children’s Book from Every Country of the World

Although I grew up in six countries, I realize that my reading has been disproportionately American and European authors. Inspired by Ann Morgan’s TED Talk and blog, A Year of Reading the World, my 2016 project is to read a children’s book from every country of the world (using the UN list of member states although I’m happy to include the observer and other states).  I found links to international children’s book sources on Ann Morgan's blog, and my local librarians have been fabulous, but if anyone has advice for finding more children’s books written by non-U.S. authors or has a favorite book that meets these criteria, please contact me: 

1)  the author at least grew up in that country, even if living elsewhere now
2)  the book is available in English

Ideally, I’d love the book to be reflective of the culture (which I interpret very broadly) or important events that happened there or be about current issues.  For example, my U.S. book is All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. 

I’d also like a mix of picture books and novels.  Frankly, I’m not a fast reader and 200 children’s novels would take a long time to read on top of other reading, writing, teaching, traveling, and life in general.

As I gather books, I’ll list them here by country, author and title, and eventually, what I’ve learned -- the fascinating differences and the common denominator, humanity.  Thanks for your help!  Peace, Salam, Shalom.

December 1 2015

Mockingbird -- or Passarinha in Brazilian Portuguese -- is being made into a play in Brazil!  I'll actually be there in a couple of months but will miss the production, scheduled for September 2016.  I'm thrilled and honored, though.  Thank you, Sao Paulo!

August 29 2015

Thanks, Scholastic for featuring me in the "Author Spotlight" for Seeing Red and The Badger Knight!

July 24 2015

More exciting book news coming soon ....!

July 3 2015

Mama Africa, my first picture book, is a go!  Here's the blurb from Publishers Weekly:

Grace Kendall at Farrar, Straus and Giroux has bought Mockingbird author Kathryn Erskine's debut picture book, Mama Africa, to be illustrated by Charly Palmer, also a debut. The book tells the story of Grammy Award-winning South African singer and civil-rights activist Miriam Makeba, who brought global attention to the injustice of apartheid through her music while in exile. Publication is tentatively set for 2017; Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt Agency represented the author; the illustrator represented himself.

I can't wait to share her story -- and to see the stunning illustrations from Charly Palmer!

July 3 2015

Thanks to the Fairfax Network, here's my appearance on the Meet the Author show!  There are clips about my research for Mockingbird and how I overcome writer's block, as well as info about the Mockingbird play and links to study guides for Mockingbird and Seeing Red.


  • “In his first children’s book, Palmer uses thick, forceful brushstrokes to create vibrant, abstracted portraits of Makeba and her South African home. This rousing account of how Makeba used her music to fight for equality concludes with a timeline and extensive author’s note.”
    - Publishers Weekly, starred review

  • “A welcome addition to picture book biography collections.”
    - School Library Journal

  • “An excellent perspective from which American readers can learn about apartheid and one of the pioneers who fought it through her art. ”
    - Kirkus, starred review

  • “Potent quotes and song lyrics keep the intensity high, as does the clever use of words in a fierce red, often repeated to begin the subsequent page, lending the text a driving propulsion.”
    - Horn Book, starred review

  • “Julian's distinctive narration, awash in supernatural perceptions as well as a nine-year-old's natural misconceptions, is a tour de force... Touching contemporary magical realism, with a final twist that truly surprises.”
    - School Library Journal

  • “His relationships with Mr. X and his tempestuous older sister, Pookie, are sensitively depicted, showcasing the growing understanding among these memorable characters.”
    - Publishers Weekly

  • “A timeless and affecting, slightly paranormal exploration of familial attachments.”
    - Kirkus

  • “The integration of historical facts into the text is seamless ... it is all so cleanly embedded into Adrian’s gripping, often harrowing, adventures.”
    - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Starred Review

  • “Erskine has written a powerful indictment of injustice in all forms and an equally powerful and dramatic demonstration that young people, by taking individual action, can actually change history. This is an important book that deserves the widest possible readership.”
    - Booklist, Starred Review

  • The Absolute Value of Mike is a comedy about deadly serious things.”
    - The New York Times

  • “As readers celebrate this milestone with Caitlin, they realize that they too have been developing empathy by walking a while in her shoes, experiencing the distinctive way that she sees and interacts with the world. ”
    - Kirkus, Starred Review

  • “As one of the first, if not the first anti-war novel for this generation, Erskine's story will surely open some minds to the idea that peace is nothing to be ashamed of. A good discussion starter on several levels.”
    - Kirkus

  • “National Book Award winner Erskine gives her unlikely warrior a lively voice, and the narrative cleverly upends Adrian's assumptions and prejudices.”
    - Publishers Weekly

  • “Erskine frankly explores the difficulty in fighting a corrupt system, but also stresses the difference one individual—even a child—can make, providing hope that justice can prevail.”
    - Publishers Weekly

  • “A satisfying story of family, friendship and small-town cooperation in a 21st-century world.”
    - Kirkus

  • “...this novel is not about violence as much as about the ways in which a wounded community heals.”
    - Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

  • “Kathryn Erskine's Matt is a fragile character with a solid core of strength, and this novel beautifully explores her life-saving, life-changing growth.”
    - Children's Literature

  • “...the unusual setting highlights the message that people aren’t so different from one another; fans of Karen Cushman will enjoy this. ”
    - Kirkus

  • “Seeing Red is a boy's twist on Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.”
    - ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents)

  • “The wacky cast, rewarding character growth, and ample humor make this an effortless read.”
    - Publishers Weekly

  • “Allusions to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the portrayal of a whole community’s healing process, and the sharp insights into Caitlyn’s behavior enhance this fine addition to the recent group of books with narrators with autism and Asbergers.”
    - Booklist

  • “In the end, the narrator chooses to abandon her restricting and no-longer-needed survival skills to become the hero of her own life.”
    - VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)