Skip to main content

Interview: February 10, 2014

There's no denying it --- Kate DiCamillo has one of the best "children's book author" resumes out there. She's written 17 children's books, has won the Newbery Award (more than once!) and was recently named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. In this interview, Kate tells us where she was when she found out she won the 2014 Newbery Award for FLORA & ULYSSES, what she wrote about as a child, a particularly amusing plane ride and her plans as National Ambassador. 

Kidsreads: 2014 already has been a big year for you and we are only one month in! You were named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature AND won the Newbery Award! Can you share with us where you were when you learned about the award and the ambassadorship --- and what your reaction was to each?

Kate DiCamillo: I was on the front porch (it was the end of summer!) when I learned about the ambassadorship. And I was asleep when the phone call came (at 5:30 in the morning) from the Newbery committee.  Both times: overwhelmed and disbelieving.  

KRC: You won a Newbery Award in 2004 for THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX and an honor award in 2001 for BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE. Was there something special or different about winning this year?

KD: I am older now (10 years older!).  Everything seems to resonate more deeply.  I am even more wonderstruck than I was the first time around.

KRC: Your platform as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature is "Stories Connect Us." Can you tell us a little bit more about it?

KD: I believe that reading together (father to daughter, mother to son, communities together, grandparents to grandchild) is a way for us to *see* each other.  Reading together allows us to connect in a powerful way.

KRC: What are you most excited about in your position for National Ambassador for Young People's Literature?

KD: I think that what I am most excited about is the chance to remind people that reading is a joy, a privilege.  It is a message that I am so happy about getting out into the world. 

KRC: When you were ten years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?  

KD:A veterinarian. 

KRC: How about when you were fifteen?

KD: By the time I was fifteen, I was pretty certain that I didn't have what it takes to become a vet, but I hadn't settled on any other plans.

KRC: At what point, did you decide that you wanted to be a professional author?  

KD: I knew that I wanted to be a writer when I was in college.  But it took me a long, long time to start writing.

KRC: Did you ever write stories as a kid? Are there any that you can remember? 

KD: I did not write stories as a kid.  But I did write some (really bad) poetry about the dog (Nanette, our standard poodle). She was grand and truly deserving of poetry.

KRC: What's your favorite part about writing books for children? Have you ever thought about writing books for adults?

KD:  I love that books for kids allow for magic and demand hope.  I have found the kind of stories I am supposed to tell, so I don't really ever think about writing for adults.  I just think about telling stories.

KRC: Do you have any advice for kids who are aspiring authors?

KD: Yes!  Read a lot.  Write a little every day.  Keep everything open: your head, your heart, your eyes, your ears.  Hope.  Believe.

KRC: What is the funniest thing that a fan ever said to you? What about the most touching?

KD:  I sat next to a kid on an airplane who was reading BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE.  I told him I wrote it and he didn't believe me.  That was pretty funny.  As to the most touching: kids and adults have moved me to tears more times than I count by telling me how they have connected with my stories. Lucky, lucky me.

KRC: What were your favorite children's books growing up?

KD: Oh, too many to list here.  I loved HARRIET THE SPY, THE BORROWERS, STUART LITTLE, PADDINGTON, THE TWENTY-ONE BALLOONS, the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY. Wheeee. I could go on and on.

KRC: Are you working on a book now? Can you give us any hints about it?

KD: I am working on a novel now.  And eek.  Nope.  No hints.  I just have to keep working and hoping.