Kathryn Lasky Biography

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Kathryn Lasky was born on June 24, 1944 in Indianapolis, Indiana, the second daughter of Marven Lasky, a bottler, and his wife Hortense, a social worker. In Indianapolis, she attended a girl's school that encouraged writing but not necessarily imagination. Her earliest attempts at fiction she kept strictly to herself; it was not until reaching adulthood that Lasky accepted writing as a legitimate occupation for herself. She left home to attend college at the University of Michigan, earning her bachelor's degree in 1966. Marriage to photographer and filmmaker Christopher Knight followed in 1971.

While pursuing a master's degree at Wheelock College, and with the encouragement of her parents and her husband, Lasky produced her first book, Agatha's Alphabet, a book for children which was published in 1975. Her next three books, also for children, were collaborations with her husband, who provided photographs for her texts: I Have Four Names for My Grandfather (1976), Tugboats Never Sleep (1977), and Tall Ships (1978). Lasky completed her master's degree in 1977, freeing up time for a family and more ambitious writing projects. She published her fifth book, My Island Grandma, in 1979, the year she had her first child, a son, Maxwell.

The 1980s saw Lasky's first honors and first novels. The Night Journey (1981), her first novel for children and a departure into more serious subjects, won the National Jewish Book Award for Children and made the American Library Association's list of Notable Books. Night Journey is the story of thirteen- year-old Rachel, a girl living a typically American girlhood until she is assigned the task of spending afternoons with her great-grandmother. What could have been merely an adventure in tedium becomes an opportunity to hear an exciting and poignant story of the family's flight from persecution in the old country nearly a century ago, introducing the history of the Russian pogroms to a generation of youngsters who have never known such danger.

Dollmaker: The Eyelight and the Shadow, which appeared in 1981, was another joint venture between Lasky and her husband. It was followed by Jem's Island (1982) and Sugaring Time (1983), which was named a Newbery Honor Book and made the American Library Association's List of Notable Books. The story of the New England tradition of gathering sap from maple trees to make sweet syrup was also made into a filmstrip and a video.

The year 1983 was a banner year for Lasky for two additional reasons: the birth of a daughter, Meribah, and the publication of a new novel set in the Old West. Beyond the Divide is a gritty but absorbing adventure story; it received a New York Times Notable Book Citation and made the American Library Association Best Book List for Young Adults. A Baby For Max, written in 1984, made young son Maxwell as well as husband Christopher a collaborator in this book about baby Meribah's arrival.

Prank, published in 1984, became another critical success: it garnered a spot on the ALA list of Best Books for Young Adults with its portrait of an impoverished Irish-American family living in East Boston that must come to terms with its failures when one of its sons is arrested for vandalizing a synagogue. The year 1985 saw the publication of the novel Home Free, about a relocated midwestern teenager in rural Massachusetts and his autistic friend, as well as the critically acclaimed nonfiction work Puppeteer. Lasky also began in 1985 to publish adult books under her married name, Kathryn Lasky Knight. Pageant, the story of a Jewish teen-ager trying to find a place for herself in a gentile school, appeared in 1986 and made the ALA list of Best Books for Young Adults; Lasky received the 1986 Washington Post Children's Book Guild Non-Fiction Award for her body of work.

The Bone Wars came out in 1988; it is a provocative and entertaining blend of two of young readers' favorite eras: the Wild West and the Age of the Dinosaurs. It received the Pratt Library's "Youth to Youth Books" Award. Sea Swan also appeared in 1988, followed by the nonfiction book Dinosaur Dig in 1990. Her most recent publications are children's and adult books. Lasky currently resides with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.