Friday, November 25, 2016

Wrapping Up 3 Weeks of Thanks-Giving with a Tribute to Katherine Paterson and a Grateful Poem

Happy day after Thanksgiving and Poetry Friday! You'll find a poem at the end of this post and the link to this week's roundup. Below that, you'll also see a link to our current giveaway

While others may be enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers or Black Friday shopping, I'm pleased to wrap up our Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving with a tribute to one of my favorite authors, Katherine Paterson.

I didn't discover Katherine Paterson's work until I became interested in writing for young readers. She's probably best known for her 1978-Newbery winning Bridge to Terabithia, a novel I first read in August, 1995. I found the book moving, but it was Paterson's 1981 Newbery winner, Jacob Have I Loved, which I read the following month, that really touched me as both a reader and an aspiring writer. I wrote this of Jacob in my book reading log: "When I finished it, I immediately thought, 'I’d love to write a book that moved other people the way Jacob moved me.'"

But of all of Paterson's novels, The Great Gilly Hopkins has influenced me most as a writer. I first heard of it in 1996, at the Highlights Writers’ Workshop in Chautauqua, New York, when editor and author Patricia Lee Gauch discussed Gilly in a lecture on characterization. I read The Great Gilly Hopkins shortly after returning from the conference and was amazed at how Paterson was able to make me love a character who really wasn't that likeable. As I wrote in my reading log: "You empathize with Gilly, in spite of, or maybe because of, her brashness. You know she’s hurting and you want her to find happiness." The novel became one of my all-time favorites.

Years later, when I went to Vermont College to work on an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Gilly became my "mentor text." My first adviser in the program, Marion Dane Bauer, suggested I take a paperback copy of a book I admired and highlight "backstory" in one color and "sensory details" in another. When I tried this exercise on The Great Gilly Hopkins  I was amazed to discover that Paterson incorporated backstory throughout the novel, even in the last chapters. Before that, I'd assumed you had to include every bit of pertinent character history in the first few chapters.

 highlighted interior of my copy of The Great Gilly Hopkins  
My paperback copy of The Great Gilly Hopkins is getting rather ragged looking, so when Paterson offered a giveaway of the new edition on her Facebook page, I entered right away. The giveaway was to celebrate the release of a movie version of Gilly. Lucky me, I won the book and a bookmark highlighting the movie's cast!
My NEW autographed copy and bookmark!
Our Not for Kids Only book club, sponsored by Anderson's Bookshop, recently re-read The Great Gilly Hopkins. I was surprised that I loved the novel as much as ever, and was happy to introduce it to several members. We'd planned a field trip to see the movie, but by then it was no longer playing. I look forward to watching it as soon as I'm able.

I had the pleasure of hearing Katherine Paterson give a visiting lecture while I was at Vermont College. She struck me as a humble, hardworking writer. In her lecture, she encouraged us to “write out of who you are, not who you think the reader might be.” I still strive to follow that advice in my writing.

In researching Paterson's work for this post, I discovered her beautiful book Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving, illustrated by Pamela Dalton. You can read a lovely review of it at Kid Lit Reviews. In honor of Poetry Friday, I'd like to share a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem from the book that is still appropriate on this day after Thanksgiving.


        For each new morning with its light,
        For rest and shelter of the night,
        For health and food,
        For love and friends,
        For everything Thy goodness sends.

        by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1883-1882)
from Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving, © 2013 by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton

And I'm grateful for Katherine Paterson and her wonderful contributions to literature for young people.

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is at Carol's Corner. Before you head over there, be sure to enter our current giveaway if you haven't already done so. You could win a 2-book set of great historical fiction by Sandy Brehl.

Don't forget to Write with Joy!


  1. Your post makes me want to go back and read everything Katherine Paterson has written! So many great books!

  2. How have I missed this book? I will look for it. So many books to be thankful for.

  3. Oh, you were the perfect person to win the new edition! Congratulations!! I, too, am a huge fan of Katherine Paterson, and of GILLY. I hope the movie doesn't ruin it. ONE FOR THE MURPHYS has a similar feel to GILLY...and I didn't konw about the Thanksgiving book. I will look for it. Thank you!

  4. Yes, Mary Lee, there are more of her books I want to read now.
    Brenda, so glad to introduce you to GILLY. Hope you enjoy it.
    Thanks, Irene. I haven't read ONE FOR THE MURPHYS. I'll have to now!

  5. Like several other commenters, I love, love, love Katherine Paterson's work. I especially want to go back now and reread GILLY, I adopted my boys from the foster care system when they were 7 and 9, so I have a huge connection to Gilly. I'm intrigued too, by the idea of "studying" a novel to see how the author embeds the back story. I haven't read Katherine's Thanksgiving book, but now I definitely want to hunt it down. Thank you!

  6. I've read Gilly Hopkins many times with students through the years, Carmela. What a wonderful story you chose as a mentor for you! And I have the Giving Thanks books, too. We read parts of it on our Thanksgiving day. I loved hearing your thank you story!

  7. Thanks for sharing how GILLY connects to your own life, Carol. I'm happy to have introduced you to Paterson's Thanksgiving book.
    Linda, I'm pleased to know that young readers are still reading GILLY. And Paterson's GIVING THANKS is a beautiful way to spend the holiday.

  8. What a wonderful, inspiring celebration of a wonderful author! I really appreciate what you said about her ability to create real, even unlikable characters who we still connect with and root for because they're so real, and we feel like we understand them. Such an incredible gift.

  9. Glad you enjoyed the post, Jane. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. I also fell in love with Gilly! I am anxious to read her other books. Thank you for this blog entry.

  11. I enjoyed hearing about your relationship with K.P.'s books, especially highlighting Gilly. Very interesting that backstory is all the way through. Glad you won :-)

  12. Katherine is one of my favorite authors--her writing is so powerful. I had to read Bridge to Terebithia in school, and immediately ignored my teacher's request that we not read ahead. Then I sought all of her other books and devoured them too.

  13. Kay and Danielle: so lovely to connect with fellow K. Paterson fans!
    Tabatha, the discovery was a real eye-opener for me.

  14. I am a huge Katherine Paterson fan - I've read (and reviewed) her Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia. I will definitely check out her thanksgiving poetry book.

  15. Thanks, Myra. Hope you enjoy the Thanksgiving book.

  16. I've so enjoyed this entire series of Thanks-giving. Very heartwarming, inspirational! I am so grateful you've invited me into the TAs!

  17. And we're grateful to have YOU, Bobbi!


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