Katherine Paterson

American Writer

Katherine Paterson is an American writer and winner of several renowned book awards. She is best known for transforming the art of storytelling in children’s books.

Author Katherine Paterson had quite the tumultuous experience growing up – and this included her family’s troubling and consistent glob trotting – from Asia to America, then back to Asia. Her writing superpower began showing colorful sprouts when she moved to Japan around the early 1970s.

Life Facts

  • Katherine Paterson was born in Qing Jiang, China.
  • Her birth name is Katherine Womeldorf.
  • She is the daughter of a Presbyterian minister who headed an all-boys school in China before the 1937 Japanese infiltration.
  • Paterson first learned the Chinese language and when her family moved to the USA, it was hard for her to fit in.
  • She develops an interest in language and writing and later graduated from a private missions college in Tennessee in 1954

Interesting Facts

  • At the private college in which she schooled, Katherine Paterson graduated with the highest grade in her class.
  • Katherine Paterson is very fluent in Chinese despite being an American, and in fact, has a difficult time learning and socializing with English.
  • She got the inspiration for her first novel ‘The Sign of the Chrysanthemum’ while away in Japan in 1977.
  • Bridge to Terabithia’ is her most populous novel and has won several awards.
  • Katherine Paterson presently resides in Vermont where she serves as vice president for National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance (NCBLA).

Famous Books by Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson is an experienced writer of children’s books – authoring well over 18 novels in the children’s category. She has written more than 40 books in total and has garnered several awards and accolades as a result. Among her books are a few which have raised the eyebrow. They are highlighted here.

Bridge to Terabithia’ is considered Katherine Paterson’s best book, and tells the story of 10-year-old Jesse Aarons who, despite living with his parents and four-sister siblings, feels lonely and unloved. Jesse’s search for these vital things he misses in his life leads him to become acquaintances with Leslie Burke, his next-door neighbor, and fierce sports competition at the Lark Creek Elementary school.

The two become friends and build a magical home out of a swampy garden, solving their shared problems of boredom and loneliness. The unexpected happens as Leslie accidentally dies at their dream playground one day while Jesse is out excursioning in Washington with his music teacher. Jesse is devastated about finding out but discovers courage and learns the first things about taking responsibility.

Lyddie’ follows the story of a minor girl, Lyddie Worthen, who takes up a job as a factory worker in an attempt to help her family through hard financial times. Although under pressure to help her family clear debts and save their farm, Lyddie doesn’t compromise her morality as a person – and even though that gets her fired, she finds the freedom and peace she seeks in the end.

The Great Gilly Hopkins’ is an award-winning children’s book by Katherine Paterson which narrates the story of a stubborn 11-year-old Galadriel Hopkins (Gilly) who stays in a foster home. Gully’s hope lies in reuniting with her real mother, Courtney Rutherford Hopkins. Gilly finds out later that Courtney is irresponsible and uncaring towards her – only interested in money, but it is too late as she had ruined a good relationship she had with her loving and caring foster family.

Early Life and Education

Katherine Paterson was born in Qing Jiang, China, to a Christian family – with her father a serving as headmaster for a local all-boys school. However, she and her family moved to Virginia, USA, around the 1937 when Japanese invaded China. Young Katherine Paterson didn’t get the easiest time fitting in and growing up, especially following the relocation, as she found herself exposed to a new culture – new ways of doing things – and a new language, she particularly found it hard learning and communicating in English as she was fluent in only Chinese. It took a while, but she learned to fit in and develop a love for language.

Literary Career

In her literary career, Katherine Paterson had her first big break with the trip to Japan – where babe lived colorful experiences that led to her creating her first official novel titled ‘The Sign of the Chrysanthemum’ in the late 70s.

From there, Katherine Paterson has gone on to publish great books both in the children’s category and beyond. Her books such as ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ and ‘The Great Gilly Hopkins’ cupped awards and nominations for her following their publications

Literature by Katherine Paterson

Explore literature by Katherine Paterson below, created by the team at Book Analysis.