Deborah Hopkinson is the award-winning author of more than 60 books for young readers including picture books, middle grade historical fiction and nonfiction. In 2020, she won the Sunshine State Young Reader Award for her grade 3–5 novel, How I Became a Spy: A Mystery of World War II London. This month, Mayor Buddy’s Book Club will have a virtual visit with Deborah to celebrate the End of Book Party on Thursday, July 15, 3 p.m.
CONGRATULATIONS ON BEING SELECTED AS A SUNSHINE STATE AUTHOR! HOW DID IT FEEL TO GET THAT NEWS?
I was thrilled to find out How I Became a Spy was selected. And so was the real LR, my dog Little Rue! I’m a big fan of history and mysteries, and I hope this book encourages young readers from Florida to keep reading.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER?
I wanted to be a writer since the fourth grade, mostly because I LOVED to read. And I still do.
HOW I BECAME A SPY COMBINES HISTORY WITH FICTION; THAT SOUNDS LIKE IT COULD BE A HELPFUL WAY TO LEARN. WHAT RESOURCES DID YOU USE TO WRITE HOW I BECAME A SPY?
Writing How I Became a Spy was easier because of the research I’ve done for several nonfiction books about WWII, including D-Day: The World War II Invasion that Changed History and We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport. For both historical fiction and nonfiction, I rely on oral histories, resource books and museum websites.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED ON WRITING?
Just keep trying and practicing – and don’t give up. Writing is so rewarding because it is hard. But, as I remind students, so are pursuits like music and sports. After all, every baseball season starts with spring practice.
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR?
I’ve written a picture book entitled Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane in tribute to my favorite author, Jane Austen. We read her books 200 years later because she worked so hard to make them wonderful.
WHO WERE YOUR READING/WRITING INFLUENCES GROWING UP?
I grew up in the historic industrial town of Lowell, Massachusetts. Perhaps that’s why I was drawn to writers like Charles Dickens, who was forced to work in a factory as a boy. I think it’s also why I got interested in reading and writing about ordinary people of the past.
Just keep trying and practicing – and don’t give up. Writing is so rewarding because it is hard.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT WRITING?
I love to read, of course! I also love working in the garden. My most recent picture book, Butterflies Belong Here, is about growing milkweed to help attract monarch butterflies. I haven’t seen a monarch yet but I am growing milkweed!
HOW DO YOU SELECT THE NAMES OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
It often takes a long time to select the right names. In How I Became a Spy, I knew that Eleanor should be named for Eleanor Roosevelt (who I’m also writing about). I also look at names popular during the time in which the book is set, and Bertie just seemed to fit.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS THIS SUMMER?
This summer I’ll be working on a picture book about Dr. John Snow, who also appears in my other historical fiction novel set in London, The Great Trouble. And I’m writing another nonfiction book about World War II.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG READERS AND FAMILIES THIS SUMMER?
I like to encourage parents to read the same books as their kids, or to use a book as a springboard for discussion. For instance, How I Became a Spy could inspire further reading about World War II, or even watching some fun spy films as a family. Choosing a summer theme for reading, audiobooks and movies is a great way to learn together.
This author virtual visit is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture in conjunction with the City of Orlando Mayor’s Matching Grant.