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MERE DAYS BEFORE THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE NEW children's book ambassador, speculation was still running wild. Who would they tap for the prestigious two-year position? And, even more to the point, who could possibly measure up to the very capable Jon Scieszka, the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, whose humor and flair would surely be a tough act to follow?
As it turned out, there was no reason to worry.
When the Library of Congress introduced Katherine Paterson as our new kids' book ambassador on January 5, the choice was greeted with unrivaled enthusiasm. Katherine Paterson! Why, of course! Who could better represent the best in books for young people and spread the message about the importance of reading to children?
A two-time winner of the Newbery Medal (for Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved) and the National Book Award (for The Master Puppeteer and The Great Gilly Hopkins), Paterson has won almost every award a children's book writer can win--and not just here in the United States. She's one of only four Americans to nab the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, an international honor that recognizes an author's or illustrator's lifetime achievements. And in 2006, she took home Sweden's Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, which aims to give kids' books the same esteem as works recognized by the Nobel prize.
Paterson is known throughout the world for her unwavering commitment to children and to children's literature.
Her own childhood began in Qing Jiang, China, where her American parents were Presbyterian missionaries. By the time she was eight, her family had been displaced twice by war and the Japanese occupation of China. They returned to the United States in 1940 but continued to move around, and by the time Paterson was 18, she had lived in 18 different places. It was undoubtedly those early experiences that gave her such a broad view of the world, as well as a strong understanding of the importance of belonging. …