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Karen Cushman
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Karen Cushman was born Karen Ann Lipski in Chicago, Illinois, on October 4, 1941. Her only brother followed in May 1944. Her family left Chicago for the sunnier skies of California in 1952, when she was 10. “I was not thrilled with California,” she says. “It was too hot. I missed my grandparents and my dog and my public library. Some of those feelings came out forty-some years later in Lucy Whipple.”

The young Cushman was an avid reader and an enthusiastic writer. One of her earliest works was an epic poem cycle based on the life of Elvis.

In 1959 she entered Stanford University on a scholarship. It was the first time she realized she didn’t “have to get married and do laundry and spend my life making bologna sandwiches for my kids’ lunches.”

For eleven years she was adjunct professor in the Museum Studies Department at John F. Kennedy University before resigning in 1996 to write full-time.

Catherine, Called Birdy, her first book, was published in 1994 and named a 1995 Newbery Honor Book. The Midwife’s Apprentice grew from the image of a child sleeping on a dung heap, longing for a name, a full belly, and a place in the world. This novel won the Newbery Medal for 1996 and changed Cushman’s life. The Ballad of Lucy Whipple followed in 1996, and Matilda Bone, the story of a girl raised by a priest to know nothing of the world, came out in the fall of 2000. Rodzina, published in 2003, is the story of a Polish girl who boards an orphan train and questions everything along the route. Her latest book, The Loud Silence of Francine Green, features a 13-year-old character who is trying to understand the shadows of Communism in her world in 1949.

Cushman was the recipient of the 2007 Kerlan Award at the University of Minnesota’s Children’s Literature Research Collection for her contributions to the Kerlan Collection. The research notes, drafts, revisions, and communication from each of her books can be reviewed there.

Cushman now lives on Vashon Island in Washington with her husband, Philip, a psychologist, author, and professor. They have a grown daughter. Karen is now at work on a new book. “It took me forty-nine years of preparation—of reading and writing and making up stories in my head—to be ready to write. Now I do not intend to stop.”

Will Sparrow's Road
Clarion Books, November 2011
ISBN 978-0547231846

Will Sparrow, liar and thief, is running away—from the father who sold him for beer, the innkeeper who threatened to sell him as a chimney sweep, from his whole, sad, sorry life. Barefoot and penniless, Will is determined to avoid capture, secure boots, and find something to eat. The lively goings-on behind the scenes of Elizabethan market fairs provide a colorful, earthy backdrop for this wise and funny story of a runaway who finally and unexpectedly stops running.

Podcasts

Interview in School Library Journal

Awards & Recognition
Odyssey Honor Recording

  Will Sparrow's Road
Alchemy and Meggy Swan
Clarion Books, 2010
ISBN 978-0547231846

Fans of Karen Cushman's witty, satisfying novels will welcome Meggy Swann,newly come to London with her only friend, a goose named Louise.

Meggy's mother was glad to be rid of her; her father, who sent for her, doesn't want her after all. Meggy is appalled by London, dirty and noisy, full of rogues and thieves, and difficult to get around in—not that getting around is ever easy for someone who walks with the help of two sticks.

Just as her alchemist father pursues his Great Work of transforming base metal into gold, Meggy finds herself pursuing her own transformation.

Earthy and colorful, Elizabethan London has its dark side, but it also has gifts in store for Meggy Swann.

Awards & Recognition
Odyssey Honor Recording

  Alchemy and Meggy Swann
The Loud Silence of Francine Green
Clarion, 2006
ages 10 to 14, ISBN 978-0-618-50455-8

Francine Green doesn't speak up much, and who can blame her? Her parents aren't interested in her opinions, the nuns at school punish girls who ask too many questions, and the House Committee on Un-American Activities is blacklisting people who express unpopular ideas. There's safety in silence. Francine would rather lose herself in a book, or in daydreams about her favorite Hollywood stars, than risk attracting attention or getting in trouble.

But when outspoken, passionate Sophie Bowman transfers into Francine's class at All Saints School for Girls, Francine finds herself thinking about things that never concerned her before—free speech, the atom bomb, the existence of God, the way people treat each other. Eventually, Francine discovers that she not only has something to say, she is absolutely determined to say it.

Discussion guide

Awards
2006 Parents' Choice Silver Award; 2006 New York Public Library, 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing; 2006 ABC Children's Booksellers Choice Award; 2007 CCBC Choices; 2007 NYPL Books for the Teen Age; 2007 Kansas State Reading Circle Recommendation

  The Loud Silence of Francine Green
Rodzina
Clarion, 2003
ages 9 to 12, ISBN978-0-689-86730-9

One of a group of orphans, 12-year-old Rodzina Clara Jadwiga Anastazya Brodski boards a train on a cold day in March 1881. She's reluctant to leave Chicago, the only home she can remember, and she knows there's no substitute for the family she has lost. She expects to be adopted and turned into a slave—or worse, not to be adopted at all. As the train rattles westward, Rodzina unwittingly begins to develop attachments to her fellow travelers, even the frosty orphan guardian, and to accept the idea that there might be good homes for orphans—maybe even for a big, combative Polish girl.

Discussion guide

Awards
2003 Booklinks Lasting Connections Selection; 2003 Parents' Choice Gold Award; 2003 Booklist Editor's Choice; 2003 Child Magazine, Best Books of the Year; 2003 Children's Book of the Month Club, Best Books; 2004 ALA/ Amelia Bloomer Project List; 2005 William Allen White (KS) Master List; 2004 Willa Literary Award (NM); 2005 Keystone to Reading Master List (PA); 2005 Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Master List; 2004 Washington State Book Award; 2004 Spur Award Finalist; 2006 Indian Paintbrush Children’s Book Award Master List (WY)

  Rodzina
Matilda Bone
Clarion, 2000
ages 9 to 12, ISBN 978-0-395-88156-9

Karen Cushman assembles a cast of unforgettable characters in a fascinating and pungent setting: the medical quarter of a medieval English village. To Blood and Bone Alley, home of leech, barber-surgeon, and apothecary, comes Matilda, raised by a priest to be pious and learned, and now destined to assist Red Peg the Bonesetter. To Matilda's dismay, her work will not involve Latin or writing, but lighting the fire, going to market, mixing plasters and poultices, and helping Peg treat patients. Matilda is appalled by the worldliness of her new surroundings and yearns for the days at the manor when all she did was study and pray. Lonely and misunderstood, she seems destined for a fate as tragic as that of any of the sharp-tongued saints she turns to for advice.

Discussion guide

Awards
2000 American Bookseller "Pick of the Lists"; 2000 New York Public Library, 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing; 2000 School Library Journal, Best Books of the Year; 2000 Parents' Choice Silver Award; 2001 Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies; 2000 Bank Street Best Children's Books of the Year; 2004 Arizona Young Readers’ Master List; 2002 Maine Student Book Award Master List

  Matilda Bone
The Ballad of Lucy Whipple
Clarion Books, 1996
ages 9 to 12, ISBN978-0-395-72806-2

In 1849 a twelve-year-old girl who calls herself Lucy is distraught when her mother moves the family from Massachusetts to a small California mining town. There Lucy helps run a boarding house and looks for comfort in books while trying to find a way to return "home."

Discussion guide

Awards
1997 John and Patricia Beatty Award; School Library Journal 1996 Best Books of the Year; Booklist 1996 Books for Youth Editors' Choice; NCTE 1997 Notable Children's Books in the Langauge Arts; IRA 1997 Teachers' Choice; NCSS/CBC Notable 1997 Children's Trade Books in Social Studies

  The Ballad of Lucy Whipple
The Midwife's Apprentice
Clarion Books, 1995
ages 9 to 12, ISBN978-0-395-69229-5

The girl known only as Brat has no family, no home, and no future, until she meets Jane the Midwife and becomes her apprentice. As she helps the sharp-tempered Jane deliver babies, Brat—who renames herself Alyce—gains knowledge, confidence, and the courage to want something from life: "A full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world." Medieval village life makes a lively backdrop for the funny, poignant story of how Alyce gets what she wants.

Discussion guide

Awards
1996 Newbery Award; ALA 1996 Best Book for Young Adults; ALA 1996 Notable Children's Book; NCTE 1996 Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts; 1995 List of Recommended Books (NY Public Library); Booklist 1995 Books for Youth Editors' Choice; Horn Book 1996 Fanfare Honor List; School Library Journal 1995 Best Books of the Year; American Booksellers Association, 1995 Pick of the Lists

  The Midwife's Apprentice
Catherine, Called Birdy
Clarion Books, 1994
ages 10 to 14, ISBN978-0-395-68186-2

Catherine, a spirited and inquisitive young woman of good family, narrates in diary form the story of her fourteenth year—the year 1290.

Discussion guide

Awards
1995 Newbery Honor Book; 1995 Notable Children's Book ; ALA1995 Best Book for Young Adults; ALA Quick Picks for Young Adults 1995; Booklist 1994 Books for Youth Editors' Choice; American Booksellers Association, 1994 Pick of the Lists; IRA 1995 Teachers' Choice; NCTE 1995 Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts; Horn Book 1994 Fanfare Honor List; Book Links "A Few Good Books," 1994

  Catherine, Called Birdy

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