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Battle of the Books

The 2011 Judges

Karen Cushman lives, works, and procrastinates on a misty green island near Seattle. She has published seven books since she started writing at age fifty, including the Newbery Award winner The Midwife’s Apprentice and her newest title, Alchemy and Meggy Swann. Ms. Cushman loves the rain and when the weather turns warm and dry, she grumbles and blames the weatherman. She is crazy about anything soft and fuzzy and will someday likely be eaten by a grizzly bear she has tried to embrace. Her husband thinks she is a bit nuts but he has stayed married to her for 42 years so how bad can she be?

Patricia Reilly Giff was a reading teacher for many years and is the author of more than sixty books for children. Several of her novels have been chosen as ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Books and ALA-YALSA Best Books for Young Adults. She is a two-time Newbery Honor winner and one of her books is a Boston Globe-Horn Book honor book. She lives on the edge of a pond in Connecticut with one husband, two geese, a dozen ducks, and an irritable muskrat. Best of all are her seven grandchildren who live nearby.

Pete Hautman is the author of more than twenty novels for adults and teens, including the 2004 National Book Award winner Godless, and three New York Times Notable Books: Drawing Dead, The Mortal Nuts, and Rash. His young adult novels range from science fiction (Rash) to mystery (Blank Confession) to contemporary drama (Sweetblood.) His most recent book, The Big Crunch, is a love story featuring no vampires, zombies, or elves. With fellow author Mary Logue, Hautman divides his time between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Find him on the web at

Karen Hesse published her first book twenty years ago this spring. Since then she has brought twenty more tales to fruition. Her titles include Letters from Rifka, The Music of the Dolphins, and Out of the Dust for older readers, Come on, RainSpuds, and Sable for younger ones. Her writing has earned a MacArthur Grant, a Newbery Medal, and a Scott O’Dell Award, to name a few. She lives in an 1880 Queen Anne house in Brattleboro, Vermont with her wood-working husband and her ball-fetching cat.

Grace Lin is the author and illustrator of picture books, early readers and middle grade novels. Grace’s 2010 Newbery Honor book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was chosen for Al Roker’s Today Show Kid’s Book Club and was a NY Times Bestseller. Ling & Ting, Grace’s first early reader, was honored with the Theodor Geisel Honor in 2011. An Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award nominee for the US, most of Grace’s books are about the Asian-American experience because she believes, “Books erase bias, they make the uncommon everyday, and the mundane exotic. A book makes all cultures universal.” See more about Grace and her work at

Barry Lyga is the author of several books for teens, including his debut novel The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, its sequel, Goth Girl Rising, and the critically acclaimed Boy Toy. He also writes the middle grade Archvillain series, about a kid with super-powers who becomes a prankster, not a superhero. Because let’s face it — wouldn’t you, too? There is no truth to the rumor that Barry agreed to be a judge due to blackmail photos. None at all. Stop thinking about it. Seriously.

Naomi Shihab Nye lives with her photographer husband Michael in a 107 year old house under huge pecan trees by the skinny San Antonio River. She has written or edited 30 books of poems, essays, and stories, including Habibi (which turned into a play), Benito’s Dream Bottle (which turned into a children’s opera), and 19 Varieties of Gazelle (a finalist for the National Book Award.) She loves to visit schools and likes to sweep. Also, as previous judges mentioned, she enjoys staying home many days in a row, reading, writing, and puttering as well as traveling widely – these two things are not contradictory. When traveling, she has the chameleon-esque ability to feel at home within 2 days.

Susan Patron specialized in Children’s Services for 35 years at the Los Angeles Public Library before retiring in 2007, the same year her novel The Higher Power of Lucky was awarded the John Newbery Medal. A sequel, Lucky Breaks, won the Commonwealth Club of California’s Gold Medal for children’s literature and was included in Bank Street’s “Best of the Year” list and the Smithsonian’s “Notable Children’s Books.” The final volume of the Hard Pan trilogy, Lucky for Good, will be published in August 2011. Married to a rare book restorer from the Champagne region of France, Susan is working on a novel set in 1880 in the town of Bodie, California.

Richard Peck‘s thirty-two novels for young readers include A Long Way from Chicago, a Newbery Silver Medal winner, and A Year Down Yonder a Newbery Gold Medalist. His newest novel is Three-Quarters Dead. His 2011 novel will be Secrets at Sea, an ocean-going drawing- room comedy featuring mice. He was the first young people’s author to receive a National Humanities Medal in 2002, and possibly the last one to write on an electric typewriter.

Mitali Perkins ( was born in Kolkata, India and immigrated at age seven to the States with her family. Her newest book, Bamboo People (Charlesbridge), set along the Thai-Burma border, is a YALSA Top Ten 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults. Mitali speaks frequently about the transforming power of stories as windows and mirrors, blogs about “books between cultures” (, and tweets regularly (@mitaliperkins). She lives in Newton, Massachusetts with a husband, twin sons, and one plump black Lab.

Adam Rex is the author and illustrator of books such as the New York Times Bestselling Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich (a picture book of poems about monsters and their problems) and his novel The True Meaning of Smekday (which was shortlisted for an Andre Norton award but lost to J.K. Rowling). His YA novel, Fat Vampire, can currently be seen in ads for the iPad, which you’d expect would entitle him to a free iPad but apparently doesn’t. Adam lives with his astrophysicist wife in Tucson, Arizona. It’s not as bad a place as you probably think it is.

Dana Reinhardt is author of several young adult novels, most recently The Things a Brother Knows which was an ALA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults and the winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Teen Readers. Her forthcoming novel, The Summer I Learned to Fly, is about a girl, a boy, the search for a miracle and a significant amount of gourmet cheese. Although her father is a federal judge, the role of judge is something she has never aspired to, and she finds it rather uncomfortable.

Laura Amy Schlitz won the 2008 Newbery Medal for her collection of monologues Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. She is also the author of A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, The Night Fairy, The Bearskinner and The Hero Schliemann: The Dreamer Who Dug for Troy. She works as a storyteller and librarian for The Park School, in Baltimore, Maryland.

R.L. (Robert Lawrence) Stine is one of the best-selling children’s authors in history. His Goosebumps, Fear Street, Nightmare Room, and Rotten School series have sold nearly 400 million copies around the world and are translated into 35 languages. His current book series is titled Goosebumps HorrorLand, published by Scholastic. His TV series, The Haunting Hour, is seen weekly on The Hub Network. Bob lives in New York City with his wife Jane, an editor and publisher.

Francisco X. Stork was born in Monterrey, Mexico. He came to El Paso, Texas when he was nine-years-old. He started writing fiction in high school but did not publish his first novel until he was forty-five. He works as an attorney for a state agency that develops affordable housing in order to make a living, but writing fiction for young adults is his vocation. He’s the author of three young adult novels: Behind the Eyes, Marcelo in the Real World and The Last Summer of the Death Warriors. Marcelo in the Real World received the 2010 Schneider Family Book Award. He lives outside of Boston with his wife Jill and has two grown-up children.

View the judges from other years:

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