Deborah Hopkinson

Happy Friday! I'm delighted Deborah Hopkinson is here to celebrate books together today! We discussed Betty White, Emilia Bassano, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marie Curie, cats, mice, and more! I wrote the words in purple, and Deborah wrote the words in black. Thank you, Deborah! 

Betty White, Dolly Parton, Tony Bennett, and Sir Anthony Hopkins (yes, I just finished a manuscript about him for a future offering!) are all part of Penguin Random House’s Golden Book biographies for young readers. The series also includes titles about Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, and Oprah Winfrey.

I enjoy the challenge of trying to illuminate someone’s life in few words. And I like to find ways that adults can learn something new and pass on their enjoyment of entertainers, actors, and singers to kids and grandkids.

The Plot to Kill a Queen tells the story
of thirteen-year-old aspiring playwright Emilia Bassano, inspired by a woman who was a contemporary of Shakespeare. In my book, she and her loyal pup, Mouse, are sent by Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster to Sheffield Castle, where Mary, Queen of Scots is held captive and may be hatching a plot against Elizabeth.

I know you’re a theater fan, John, so I’m delighted you asked me about this book! One of my first professional jobs (I worked in fundraising before writing full time) was with a community theater in Honolulu. I’ve never been on stage, but both my kids have and this project is very special to me.

The Plot to Kill a Queen, published by Scholastic, is written in three acts and includes the play Emilia writes in the course of the story, entitled “The Princess and the Cakes.” The play is on my website so anyone can download it to perform in classrooms

 And I am excited that my daughter, Rebekah, a fifth grade teacher at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School (and an incredible actress herself) just let me know the fifth and sixth grade will be doing a production of Princess in 2024!

Eleanor Roosevelt headed the first Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, formed in 1946 in the aftermath of World War II and the unimaginable atrocities of the Holocaust. Tapped in late 1945 by President Harry Truman to be a US delegate to the new organization, which had been advocated by FDR, the recently widowed Eleanor had doubts about her qualifications.

She need not have worried. Thanks to her dedication and perseverance, on December 10, 1948, member nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first such document in history. The Declaration has its seventy-fifth anniversary in December 2023.

I wanted to make the Declaration accessible to young readers in my new picture book Small Places, Close to Home: A Children’s Declaration of Rights, published by Balzer & Bray. Debut illustrator Kate Gardiner has created such gorgeous artwork for this book, which has three parts: Me, My School and Community, My Country and World. Human Rights Day is commemorated each year on December 10. This year, especially, it will be a time to reflect on how we can work to honor and protect human rights in a world filled with suffering, violence, and conflict.

Nonfiction picture books never get easier for me! Next year I have two. Jen Hill has illustrated Determined Dreamer, The Story of Marie Curie, out from Balzer & Bray in February. Then in August, I’m revisiting in picture book format the 1854 cholera epidemic which was the subject of my middle grade novel, The Great Trouble. Evidence! How Dr. John Snow Solved the Mystery of Cholera is published by Knopf Books for Young Readers and illustrated by Nik Henderson, who has created evocative, sepia-toned illustrations that I think will sweep readers into nineteenth century London.

In 2024, I’m excited that other projects I worked on during lockdown will be out in the world, including two more books in the Adventure of Trim series from Peachtree: Trim Saves the Day and Trim Sails the Storm. And if you haven’t seen artist Kristy Caldwell’s Mew News trailer for the series, I think as a cat lover yourself, you’ll appreciate the cats’ perspectives.

I signed copies of TRIM the other day at Maggie Mae’s Bookshop here in the Portland metro area, and they included a cat adoption event!

Also, coming in May from Chronicle Books is a picture book called On a Summer Night; I’m thrilled that Kenard Pak agreed to illustrate this bedtime story inspired by my own gazing out the window on hot summer nights.

Finally, next September from Scholastic Focus is They Saved the Stallions, which tells the true story of the 1945 rescue of the famous Lipizzaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. A special treat is that friends Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann were traveling to Vienna while I was working on the research. The book contains several of Eric’s photos and Candy’s “field research report” of a performance.

John Schu, you should have asked me whether I put my pets into my books! And yes, I do. My old spaniel Rue (you can guess which character in Hunger Games she’s named for) makes her second appearance in fiction this year, as Mouse in The Plot to Kill a Queen. My time-traveling pooch previously appeared as Little Roo (LR) in How I Became a Spy, set in 1944 London.

As for my cat, Beatrix, well, Cinderella and a Mouse called Fred, which came out in August from Anne Schwartz Books in August with delightful illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky, is dedicated to her. (She would never eat a mouse, or would she?) The character of Princess Bea in the Adventure of Trim series is also named after my feisty feline. But in the Trim books, Beatrix appears as a rat!

Thanks so much for having me.

Thank you, Deborah! Congratulations! 

Borrow Deborah's books from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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