Member Reviews

True confession: This is my first experience reading anything by Katherine Paterson.

Which is notable, because a) she wrote _Bridge to Terabithia_ (among other books!), and b) I read enough Newbery Award winners and/or nominees in elementary school, I surely should have read one of her books by now.

And yet, here we are.

I do remember hearing about _Terabithia_, and a vague recollection of fellow school-age readers' shock that a character dies at some point. (Maybe?) I think that's why I never picked it up. (If that's the case, it's also a miracle I ever read, let alone re-read, _Where the Red Fern Grows_. Again, here we are.)

Paterson is an engaging, charming, and witty author, and reading _Stories of My Life_ (which turns out to be a re-release of a previous edition) makes me want to check out some of her other books--including _Terabithia_. At least I can go into it knowing "something big happens." LOL. The best kind of spoiler alert, as I don't remember enough (and am uncertain enough of its accuracy) that I'm not convinced it counts as a spoiler.

Paterson's focus in this book, on sharing the stories she heard so often over the years to ensure they're passed to the next generation, is inspiring. My grandfather did the same, in a book primarily published for the family--and it's something I would love to see more of us do. We always think we'll ask later, and one day ... later is no longer possible. So my biggest takeaway is "Ask! Ask now!" Have the conversations while you can...and write them down or share them in whatever fashion you wish, such that they can be remembered later.

Fans of Paterson and newbies alike will enjoy this insightful read into her life, into an era and locales vastly different than here and now. Similarly, aspiring and established writers will both enjoy this as an opportunity to learn the art from one of the best.

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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Author Katherine Paterson wrote the most impactful books for me as I grew up. I did not know that her life was just as fascinating as her books. Not only is she an award-winning author, she was a missionary kid, teacher, preacher’s wife, devoted mother, and a Christian.

Paterson reveals the ups and downs of her life. She starts the book with the three most frequently asked questions from readers: How did you become a writer? Where do you get your ideas? How does it feel to be famous?

This memoir (I don’t care that she doesn’t think of it as a memoir, it reads like one) was enlightening. I had no idea that Paterson had such an interesting life as a missionary kid, then as a missionary wife. Despite the unusual nature of her early life, she quickly proves that she’s just an ordinary woman who has led an extraordinary life. This has proved useful when coming up for ideas for her books.

I’m always amazed when someone writes about their life and has vivid stories of their youth because I can barely recall my own memories from such young ages. Paterson admits that she never thought she was going to be a writer and kept no diaries or had any early writings to look back on when she wrote this autobiography. Still, the memories she does have are compelling and there’s an easy flow to the book. Her memories flow easily from her pen, and she shares her inspiration for many of her books.

Bridge to Terabithia, The Great Gilly Hopkins, and Jacob Have I Loved were required reading in fifth grade, just a few years after they had won the Newbery honors and the National Book Award. I was instantly smitten with Paterson’s writing, and these books are still among my favorites of all time. They definitely left a lasting impression on me. Bridge to Terabithia was most helpful to me the following year, when my grandmother died. It was the first loss in my life, and I re-read the book for a sense of comfort, and because Jessie had his own loss in the book that he had to get over.

I’m so glad I got to know one of my favorite author a bit better. Katherine Paterson has led such an interesting life that I’m glad she decided to share many parts of it with her readers.

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Superb! Fascinating! Stories of My Life is as well-written - and plotted - as any of Katherine Paterson's novels.

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Thanks to Netgalley and Westminster John Knox Press for the opportunity to read and review this title.

The Great Gilly Hopkins and Bridge to Terebithia were some of my favorite books as a child, and I loved reading books by Katherine Paterson. It was a delight to be able to "see" her online at a recent conference and watch her film "Written Together." It was a delight to learn more about her in that way. I was excited to hear that she had a memoir coming out and even more so that I could find it on Netgalley. I did not realize that it was a new edition of a book that was out 10 years ago, and I could not find any information about what was different in this edition from the previous one. Still, I got a copy and started reading. I think I would have enjoyed this more in print or on a kindle format - reading it on PDF on my phone only has been difficult, as I had trouble reading such small print. I have decided not to finish this one, though it's mainly due to the format and lack of information that it is on the book itself.

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What a treasure this book is! As a longtime youth librarian, I've read all of Katherine Paterson's books and loved them, but even if I was completely unfamiliar with Katherine and her work, I would still have been totally and completely engaged in this collection. She makes it clear that she is not writing a memoir, but thanks to the stories she chooses to tell, and the way she tells them, the book basically serves as a memoir, and is a fascinating glimpse into a life well lived. She tells great stories about her ancestors, her own childhood in China, her young adulthood in Japan, and her life as a wife and mother. I would have loved it if there were more stories about her writing process, but she does provide quite a bit. This is a wonderful choice for readers who love children's literature, but the appeal goes beyond that to anyone who would love to spend a few hours with a fascinating figure in American literature.

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Stories of My Life
by Katherine Paterson
Pub Date 13 Sep 2022
Westminster John Knox Press
Biographies & Memoirs

I am reviewing a copy of Stories of my Life through Westminster John Knox Press and Netgalley:

Beloved author of Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved as well as other classics of children’s literature reveals the fascinating personal stories that have shaped her creative life.

For almost fifty years Katherine Paterson’s stories have captured readers young and old. From Bridge to Terabithia’s Leslie Burke to the unforgettable Gilly Hopkins to countless others, her characters are woven into the memories of several generations. Patterson’s writings have always explored the rich emotional landscape of childhood, for she has never forgotten how she felt as a child herself.

Katherine Patterson’s gift to capture childhood so vividly in her books came from her own fascinating life, told here in a collection of stories that reach from earlier generations of her family to the present day. Born in China to Presbyterian missionary parents from the American South, her young adulthood led her to Japan and then back to the East Coast, where she began to raise her family and put stories on paper. Each of these experiences influenced the books that were to come. Through Paterson’s memories, we learn the origins of her characters and storylines and share in her unexpected literary acclaim. We see the intimate moments of family, creativity, and faith that come together for a life well lived.

If you are looking for a behind the scenes look at one of the greatest Children’s authors then I highly recommend Stories of my Life.

I give Stories of My Life five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!

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Have you ever wondered what happened to someone in a news story when the publicity fades? What about where they are twenty years later? We hear about it all the time with celebrities, but what about the people with everyday lives?

This is the book for you. During COVID shutdown, Katherine Paterson, a reporter who had covered hundreds of stories took on the task of finding the people she had reported on for the past twenty years and finding out where they are now. The answers were often surprising, heartbreaking, and delightful, but always emotional. Written without all of the sensationalism seen in journalism, Katherine captures how newsworthy events change the lives of ordinary people.

Follow along and discover where they are now.

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We all love stories. Since young, many of us would recall listening to how our parents and grandparents told us all kinds of stories. From fairy tales to modern legends, biblical narratives to personal testimonies, stories captivate us in ways that no prose nor non-fiction could. Stories help us appreciate and understand tradition. They also teach us lessons about life, just like the world-famous Aesop's Fables. It takes a conscientious storyteller to tell a good story. It takes a gifted storyteller to tell a great story. Author Katherine Paterson tells her own story to give us many glimpses into her fascinating life as a writer, a missionary kid, teacher, preacher's wife, devoted mother, and a Christian. She shares about the ups and downs of her life. Events like her topsy-turvy days when living with her missionary parents to China to having children of her own following a miscarriage, Paterson shares her stories with vivid description and brutal honesty. She introduces the book from a readers' perspective via three "Frequently Asked Questions."

1) How did you become a writer?
2) Where do you get your ideas?
3) How does it feel to be famous?

In a humble fashion, she puts us all at ease that she is basically as ordinary as anyone of us could be. Like many of us seeking to be authors, she faces rejections from publishers, envies other writers who seem to have all kinds of ideas to write on, and the way fame in a strange way isolates people. Paterson has been through these and more. Each chapter begins with a personal photograph from her archives followed by a title to prepare readers for what is ahead. Then she tells her stories with ease. It is easy for readers to come alongside and walk with her thoughts, and appreciating how human this amazing storyteller is.

My Thoughts
My first thought is that this book is part-memoir, part-autobiography. Though the author refuses to say it is memoir, I think there is a memoir-like structure in this book. She settles with a longer "Stories of My Life" to show us that maybe, there should be a third category between memoir and autobiography. After all, it takes a sizable memory collection to make it into a proper memoir. At the same time, an autobiography might require a lengthier treatment. I can understand why Paterson chooses to do neither, as she is more comfortable just telling stories as they come. This is her strength and she chooses to utilize that to make this book an enjoyable and personable read.

Secondly, this book is inspiring for anyone trying to write memoirs even without detailed information available. It takes a lot of recollection, interviews, and journaling in order to come up with an accurate list of events. For many of us, the best we could do is to have a snapshot of different moments of our lives. I find myself inspired to do the same. The older one gets, the further the memories. Yet, the best time to start any personal stories is right now. Instead of waiting until the perfect recollection appears, starting whenever we are inspired should spur us to pen down things before they are forgotten. Thankfully, books like this assure us that we do not need perfect memories. Just tell it as it is for now.

For budding writers, there is none more personal than authentic autobiographies. Not only must one be true to the audience, most importantly, truthful to self. In writing a book for the public, Paterson shows us how our personal stories could inspire others to do the same. Thanks to this book, I am inspired.

Katherine Paterson is the beloved author of many books for young readers, including Bridge to Terabithia, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Jacob Have I Loved, The Master Puppeteer, and the Christmas books A Stubborn Sweetness and Other Stories for the Christmas Season and The Night of His Birth. She has been honored with nearly every major award for children's literature, including the Newbery Medal, a Newbery Honor, the National Book Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, and more than one hundred other awards and honors. She was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in 2000 and served as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature in 2010-2011. Paterson lives in Vermont.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of Westminster John Knox Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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I always find it fascinating to read about an author's writing process and the inspiration behind their novels. In this memoir, Katherine Paterson makes note of the inspiration for her books while recounting the stories of her life. She goes back all the way before she was even born, setting the stage for her family culture and faith, and takes us to the present day. Katherine writes with honesty, humor, and touching nostalgia. This book was a breath of fresh air, both in a spiritual sense and in an encouraging sense. I'm inspired by Katherine's faith and how it's influenced every aspect of her life, especially her writing, and I'm encouraged by her advice for writers.

Favorite lines:

“If you don’t dare to be a mediocre writer, you’ll never be a writer at all.” (4)

“I couldn’t make sense of [the tragedy] for myself. So, eventually, I began to write a story, because I knew that a story has to make sense. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and when you get to the end, even if you cannot articulate intellectually what has happened, you know emotionally that you have come from chaos to order.” (272)

“Writers are very private people…who run around naked in public…What is it that I care so deeply and passionately about that I want to share it with that wonderful person, my reader? Am I willing to run around naked in public—to lay bare my own mind and heart and spirit to share this passion? Can I forget who might not approve or who might want me to go in a different direction? Am I determined to be as plainly honest as I can be in telling this story?” (275)

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Such a beautiful use of language!
I hope enough adults recognize the author's name and read this.
The book provides insight and inspiration to aspiring writers.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book, provided by NetGalley.

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Though I have never read any of Katherine Paterson's books, her writing skills were evident in this book containing snippets of her life and that of her family's. The stories were a joy and pleasure to read, especially with the many humorous bits.

Really a worthwhile read, particularly so if you like well-known writer's autobiographies.

4 stars.

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This book is a collection of life stories compiled/written by Katherine Paterson, a beloved writer. Children and adults enjoy her books. This book gives the reader insight to her life...why she writes...why she started writing and when...stories about her family...her dedication to her craft...each page is intriguing...the book is a page turner...a can't put down...I enjoyed reading this and am glad Paterson took on this project...completed it...the book was sent to me by Netgalley for review electronically. There are not enough words to describe what this author has meant to the world of literature...this book is just one small contribution.

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This book is wonderful. I have also enjoyed reading Katherine Pateron's books and this provided more insight into her life and writing. Highly recommend.

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