The Wilder Award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.
2013 Medal Winner
Katherine Paterson is the winner of the 2013 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honoring an author or illustrator, published in the United States, whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children. Her numerous works include “Bridge to Terabithia” (Crowell, 1977), “Jacob Have I Loved” (Crowell, 1980) and “The Great Gilly Hopkins” (Crowell, 1978).
The award was announced today, during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Seattle. The award is administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the ALA, and is named for its first recipient in 1954.
“Katherine Paterson has been writing books that have made a profound difference in children’s lives for 40 years. Her work acknowledges life’s challenges and difficulties, yet she always leaves her readers with hope. With her commitment to helping children become better citizens of the world, she is the perfect choice for this moment in time,” said Wilder Award Committee Chair Martha V. Parravano.
Katherine Paterson was born in China in 1932 to missionary parents and grew up in the American South, moving 18 times before she was 18. After graduating from King College in Bristol, Tenn., she herself became a missionary in Japan. She returned to the U.S. to attend the Union Theological Seminary in New York, where she met and married John Paterson, a Presbyterian minister. Her first book, “The Sign of the Chrysanthemum,” (Crowell), was published in 1973. Katherine Paterson currently lives in Barre, Vt.
Paterson’s award-winning works include “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Jacob Have I Loved,” both of which won the Newbery Medal, in 1978 and 1981, respectively; “The Great Gilly Hopkins” was a 1979 Newbery Honor Book. In addition, Paterson has received the National Book Award twice, for “The Master Puppeteer” (Crowell, 1975) and “The Great Gilly Hopkins.” “The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks” (Lodestar), illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, received the 1991 Boston Globe-Horn Book Picture Book Award. Paterson was the recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1998 and the Astrid Lindgren Award in 2006. She also served as this country’s second National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (2010-2011) and was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress in 2000.
Paterson channels her outsider status into her writing, confronting readers with sometimes difficult truths as well as offering reassurance that they are not alone. Her use of rich, literary language elevates each story, yet her engaging plots, believable dialogue and wry humor appeal to young readers. Her ability to access the inner voice of the protagonist places young people in the center of the story, while conflicts and resolutions strive for honesty and truth.
One of Paterson’s most valued books is “Bridge to Terabithia,” a novel about friendship, loss and the power of imagination. Fifth-grader Jesse Aarons’ hardscrabble life is enriched by his friendship with newcomer Leslie Burke, who introduces him to the world of literature, imagination and art. He is devastated by Leslie’s accidental death, but finds comfort in passing on her legacy to his younger sister. Paterson’s unflinching yet redemptive treatment of tragedy and loss helped pave the way for ever more realistic writing for young people.