Why do you write for children as opposed to adults?

I realized early on, after publication of my first book for young readers, what an impact literature has on kids. The letters came in huge numbers, and they said things like, “This changed my life.”

That was almost 40 years ago. Now it is email instead of snail mail, but the passion is still there and the intimacy with which they tell me of their feelings. You don’t get that from adults. Adults can love a book, can talk with eloquence about it. But they are not going to be changed by it. It is that very vulnerable time, adolescence, when the readers are profoundly affected and their values are sometimes shaped by what they read. Knowing that gives me as a writer an enormous sense of responsibility.

What drives you to address such complex topics in your books?

My books simply reflect my own thinking. I don’t consciously seek out topics. But my own imagination dwells in a world of complex issues, and so the stories spring from that. If a theme, or a question, is pervasive in my consciousness, then it will appear in my dreams, in my waking thoughts, eventually in a narrative form. 

 "I hope that today’s young readers will have exactly the same experience I did so many years ago: that they will read a book—or two or three or ten— that will stay with them, that will haunt them..."

Why do you think your books have stood the test of time?

In my more serious books (because I have written, and continue to write, some light-hearted ones as well), I try to avoid the trendy. Books that grow out of today’s headlines and contemporary culture will likely be obsolete quickly. I am more attracted, as a writer, to the timeless.

How have books impacted your relationship with your children and grandchildren?

My kids, and now my grandkids, have all grown up in homes that value books and reading. Shared books have always been part of our conversation. 

How do you hope your books will impact the minds and hearts of your young readers?

I hope that today’s young readers will have exactly the same experience I did so many years ago: that they will read a book—or two or three or 10— that will stay with them, that will haunt them; that there will be a fictional character—or two or three or 10—who will seem real, who will become a lifelong friend.

What can parents and educations do to help children retain creativity and a love for reading?

They can take their children to the local library from the earliest possible age. They can be certain that their children see them reading and enjoying books. They can talk about what they are reading. They can read aloud. They can turn off the screens—the computers, the TV—periodically and declare a sacrosanct time for reading.