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Volume 24, Number 9 — September 2017

King Alumna Katherine Paterson Wins 2013 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

Katharine Paterson (Photo by Samantha Loomis Paterson)
Katharine Paterson (Photo by Samantha Loomis Paterson)

February 03, 2013

SEATTLE, Wash. King Alumna Katherine Paterson ('54) is the recipient of the 2013 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honoring an author or illustrator, published in the United States, whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

The award was announced on Monday, Jan. 28, during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, Wash. The award is administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the ALA, and is named for its first recipient in 1954.

Wilder Award Committee Chair Martha V. Parravano said, "Katherine Paterson has been writing books that have made a profound difference in children's lives for 40 years. Her work acknowledges life's challenges and difficulties, yet she always leaves her readers with hope. With her commitment to helping children become better citizens of the world, she is the perfect choice for this moment in time."

Born in China in 1932 to Christian missionaries, Paterson spent much of her childhood there until the family was forced to flee during the Japanese invasion. Her family moved often due to their missionary work. While in school, Paterson began to write, penning many plays, in which her peers acted.

In 1954, Paterson graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English from King College (now King University). She received her master's degree from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. After teaching for a year, Paterson spent four years in Japan as a missionary. She then traveled back to New York to pursue a second master's degree in religious education.

Paterson's first children's novel, "The Sign of the Chrysanthemum," published in 1973, was a Japanese fairy tale, based on her studies in Japan. Paterson's writing career includes 39 published works. Her best known work is "The Bridge to Terabithia," published in 1977, and adapted for film twice, a 1985 PBS version and the Disney/Walden Media production in 2007. Paterson's most recent books are "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" (June 2011) and "The Flint Heart" (Sept. 2011). She is also contributor to a serialized story, "The Exquisite Corpse Adventure," available exclusively on the Library of Congress web site. Paterson penned the final episode, which debuted in Sept. at the 2010 National Book Festival in Washington D.C.

In 2011, Paterson was named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. Paterson, who served in the position throughout 2011, chose "Read for Your Life" as the theme for her platform. Upon bestowing the honor, Billington said of Paterson, "Katherine Paterson represents the finest in literature for young people. Her renown is national as well as international, and she will most ably fulfill the role of a national ambassador who speaks to the importance of reading and literacy in the lives of America's youth."

Having been named a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress in 2000, Paterson's awards are numerous. She is a two-time winner of the Newbery Medal for "Bridge to Terabithia" and "Jacob Have I Loved," and received the National Book Award for "The Great Gilly Hopkins" and "The Master Puppeteer." Other accolades include the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, given by her home state of Vermont.

Paterson is also a founding member of the National Advisory Board for the Buechner Institute at King University.

"Paterson's books have been translated into numerous languages, adapted into films and plays, and acclaimed for stretching the boundaries of the genre," said Dale Brown, director of the Buechner Institute. "Her essays and speeches have contributed to a growing sense of the significance of story for the health and development of the imaginations of young people."