By Chris Stuckenschneider
Personal stories and history — we’ve all got them. Once the school bells ring, many students will be asked to relate a tale of what they did over their summer.
To get a jump-start on that activity, and hear excerpts from some of the best historical fiction books today, students and their families won’t want to miss a local book talk by author Deborah Hopkinson.
Hopkinson will visit Washington Public Library on Aug. 25 at 10 a.m. The event is being sponsored by the Washington Friends of the Library. There is no charge to attend.
Following Hopkinson’s presentation, young readers, their parents and grandparents will be invited to write about a journey they took over the summer, or pen a story about how their families came to Washington. This activity will correlate to Hopkinson’s picture book, “Apples to Oregon,” a tall tale set in the 1880s about a dad and his daughters moving from Iowa to Oregon.
Hopkinson, an Oregon resident, has written more than 40 books for young readers including picture books, fiction and nonfiction in her prolific career.
“We are delighted to host Deborah, an author of so many renowned children’s books,” said Ruth McInnis, children’s librarian. “As the library settles into our beautifully renovated facility, we are striving for a standard in which children in our community can have numerous opportunities to be inspired by authors such as Deborah.”
Four of Hopkinson’s books have been chosen as past Book Buzz Picks: “Apples to Oregon,” “Firestorm,” “Saving Strawberry Farm,” and “A Packet of Seeds.” Hopkinson newest, “Annie and Helen,” is illustrated by Raul Colón, an esteemed picture book artist. Colón told Hopkinson his pictures of Annie Sullivan and her student Helen Keller were “inspired by” the work of American artist Mary Cassatt. “Annie and Helen” will be the Middle September Book Buzz Pick and is published by Random House.
Even though it won’t be available in bookstores until September, Hopkinson will introduce the book in Washington, thanks to permission from her publisher.
It’s not unusual for Hopkinson to have several books in the works at a time, researching, writing and editing on the weekends, while maintaining her full-time job as vice president of fund-raising at an arts college during the week. Hopkinson believes her position at the college, which involves lots of writing, benefits her as an author. As many writers believe, writing is all about practice, practice, practice. Hopkinson gathers ideas for her historical fiction and nonfiction books from a variety of places. She might come across a photo or article and “think that would make a good story,” and admits to being “fascinated by a lot of different things.” Writing about history offers her the opportunity to “always be learning,” Hopkinson added.
The author recently focused her research skills on wartime, and next February “Knit Your Bit, A WWI Story” will be released. Also in the works is a middle school novel set in London, a city besieged by cholera, the subject of Hopkinson’s “The Great Trouble, a Mystery of London, the Blue Death and a Boy Called Eel.”
One can’t help but wonder if Hopkinson picked up the idea for this soon to be released story from a trip to London to research “A Boy Called Dickens,” a picture book she wrote, illustrated by St. Louis artist John Hendrix.
That name might ring a bell for area readers. Hendrix and Hopkinson were in Washington several years ago to speak and sign books at The Missourian’s Family Reading Night. Hopkinson said she is pleased to be returning, and the library staff is thrilled to welcome her back.
“Deborah is a master at bringing history alive on the page. Her presentation will offer expertise about how families can chronicle stories from their personal histories,” said McInnis. “I remain grateful to the Friends of the Washington Public Library for making this program possible and hope families will take advantage of this opportunity.”
Hopkinson will sign and sell copies of her books, including, “Annie and Helen,” following her presentation. For more information, people can call the library, 636-390-1070.