Paterson named ambassador to young readers

By Stephen Lowman

Katherine Paterson, author of the children's classic "Bridge to Terabithia," has been named the 2010-2011 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

John Cole, director of the Center of the Book that helps sponsor the ambassador program, described the naming ceremony as "only slightly mysterious." The Library of Congress was keeping officially mum until her announcement Tuesday morning, but the appointment was not exactly a state secret.

If you had not heard who it was going to be from someone in the know, the cookies sitting on a tray at the entrance to the room surely gave it away. They were shaped like books and bore Paterson's name in blue frosting.

Paterson is the program's second ambassador. In addition to "Bridge to Terabithia," she is also known for her books "The Master Puppeteer," "The Great Gilly Hopkins" and "Jacob Have I Loved."

James Billington, head of the Library of Congress, noted that she has tackled subjects ranging from sibling rivalry to the death of loved ones. Paterson's latest, "The Day of the Pelican" is about refugees from Kosovo moving to America.

She succeeds Jon Scieszka (author of "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs" and "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales"), who was named in 2008 as the program's first ambassador. Ambassadors travel the country working to raise awareness that children's books are important to literacy and education.

The ceremony came with a medal presentation. When Scieszka's medal was put around his neck two years ago he flexed his muscles like an Olympic weight lifter. He then facetiously asked for his own helicopter and armored car. After the medal was placed on Paterson today she had only one request, and she aimed it at the two dozen elementary school students in the room: "Read for your life!"

Then, when Paterson asked if there were any questions from students in the audience, hands shot up like reporters at a White House press conference..

Q: "What is you personal favorite book?"
A: "The Yearling," when she was the questioner's age

Q: "What was it like to have a book like 'Bridge to Tarabithia' made into a movie?"
A: Paterson replied she is one of the few authors she knows that actually liked the movie version of their story. Plus, "I saw it five times and cried every time."

Q: "Do you have a favorite author?"
A: "If I said I had a favorite author I'd lose 99 percent of my friends."

The ambassadorship is a two-year term. Her first assignment came after the ceremony ended: She signed books for the children.

By Steven E. Levingston |  January 5, 2010; 3:29 PM ET Steven Levingston
Previous: Dangerous art -- and what, if anything, to do about it | Next: Refocusing U.S. policy on the war on terror


Please email us to report offensive comments.

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company