About Me

Yes, Kirby is my real name.

Read more about that here.

I was born at Fort Lawton Army hospital (Seattle, Washington) and cost my parents $5. My family moved around a lot; if only I had realized then how being the new kid would give me great material and insights for my writing, it might not have seemed so tough.

From the moment I realized the black lines on a page were actually words, I was smitten with reading, sometimes getting in trouble at school for reading instead of paying attention. Though I never dreamed I could be an author, my love of reading led to a love of writing and I wrote all through my growing up years. An encounter with Arnold Lobel’s Ming Lo Moves the Mountain inspired me to try my own hand at writing for publication. It only took 3 years and hundreds of rejection letters to find my way.

My first book

There are two bits of advice I give prospective writers. The first is to gather up fellow creatives and make yourself a writing family. I have been blessed with the support and encouragement of so many people in the world of children’s literature and truly would not have followed this career path without them. My second bit of advice (borrowed from Carolyn See’s book, MAKING A LITERARY LIFE) is to write charming literary notes. These are handwritten notes, when possible, to writers, editors, illustrators whose work you admire. For me, many of these notes have planted seeds for rich and rewarding friendships but they should always be written without expectations. Just say something nice! Creative folks love to hear how you connected with their work.

Though I write in a variety of genres – historical fiction novels, narrative nonfiction picture books, and contemporary fiction – all my books seem to come from my wondering about one main question: what does it mean to be a good human being? If it’s a question you wonder about, too, read on!

Literary Award Highlights

  • Newbery Honor
  • New York Times Bestseller
  • Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Prize
  • Bank Street Best Book
  • Montana Book Award
  • California Young Reader Medal
  • Christopher Medal
  • ASPCA Henry Bergh Award
  • Junior Library Guild
  • New York Public Library Best Book
  • American Library Association Best Book
  • American Library Association Notable
  • 37 State Young Readers Choice Awards

Interviews & Essays