Jane Yolen was born in New York City on February 11, 1939, and she went to grade schools there until she attended high school in Westport, Connecticut. She was encouraged in imaginative pursuits by a family life rich in writing, storytelling, and singing. She studied piano and ballet, read avidly, and showed talent at a very early age, composing the script and music for her first-grade class play. While an eighth-grader at New York's Hunter Academy, a school for gifted girls, she authored two "books," a nonfiction piece on pirates and a seventeen-page western novel. Yolen's first book accepted for publication, a children's nonfiction work Pirates in Petticoats (1963), developed from those early efforts.
Yolen continued to thrive in her teenage years; she was active on the staff of the high school newspaper, joined music groups, wrote term papers in verse, and won an English prize. Yolen, who is Jewish, developed a lasting interest in religions during these years, and she was introduced to Catholicism by a best friend. A cousin-by-marriage, whom Yolen credits as a great influence in her creative career, introduced her to Quakerism as well as to folk-song fests. Yolen's later nonfiction books about the Quakers and their strange offshoot, the Shakers, as well as the fictional The Gift of Sarah Barker, reflect these early religious influences.
Yolen attended Smith College where she won poetry prizes, published poems in magazines, and performed...
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