The Children’s Book Guild is pleased to honor Kathleen Krull with its 34th Nonfiction Award. The Guild’s Nonfiction Award is presented annually to “an author or illustrator whose total body of work has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children.”
Kathleen Krull brings scrupulous research and a sense of play to her nonfiction for young readers. Her “snappy prose” (Publishers Weekly), intriguing facts and humorous anecdotes enliven biographies of Leonardo da Vinci, Cesar Chavez, Wilma Rudolph, and many other notables. Beginning with the acclaimed Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought), Krull’s Lives of … series continues to enthrall with short, fascinating portraits of writers, artists, athletes, presidents and extraordinary women.
“Kathleen Krull’s zest for history, politics, music, art and many other subjects shines through her fine writing,” says Mary Quattlebaum, who chaired this year’s Nonfiction Award Committee. “Krull not only informs but excites her young readers—and helps spark their curiosity to learn more.”
Childhood interests spur many of Krull’s projects. A job at the age of 12 playing the church organ gave rise later to her first book, Songs of Praise (a collection of hymns and historical notes). Its publication prompted Krull to leave the children’s publishing world, where she had worked as an editor for 10 years, for the life of author. Her fascination with politics was fueled by watching the Kennedy-Nixon presidential debates as a kid and informs her biographies of Victoria Woodhull and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought).
Music books, picture books, photo essays of contemporary life, biographies: Krull’s nonfiction oeuvre is distinguished not only by breadth of subject matter but range of genre. Her more than 60 books have been frequent ALA Notables, selected for Booklist, School Library Journal and IRA-CBC “choice” lists, and garnered awards such as the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor and the Christopher Award.
Krull’s Giants of Science series explores the lives of ground-breaking scientists, placing them within the history of science and the context of their times. These biographies of Marie Curie, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, and others help children to better understand the scientific method, the importance of critical thinking, and the impact of scientific findings on the larger world and belief systems.
Humor is a big part of Krull’s popular appeal, and with artist-husband Paul Brewer she has created picture books that tickle both brain and funny bone, most recently Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country).
What draws her to writing biographies? As a self-confessed “nosy” person, Krull enjoys researching the details that spice a life and offer insight into personality and accomplishments. But biographies also “fill a great need,” she says. “We read them to find out who we are.” By discovering how we resemble and differ from others, be they ordinary or extraordinary, says Krull, we learn “something about our own identity, our goals, our possibilities in life.” She considers it a privilege to help young readers in this search.
The years 2010 and 2011 see the addition of several new titles, including
- The Brothers Kennedy: John, Robert, Edward;
- A Boy Named FDR: How Franklin D. Roosevelt Grew Up to Change America;
- Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything;
- Charles Darwin (the latest in her Giants of Science series); and
- Lives of the Pirates: Swashbucklers, Scoundrels (Neighbors Beware!).
Members of the 2010 Nonfiction Award Committee included Caroline Parr (emeritus), Ellen Butts, and Mary Quattlebaum.
Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country), co-written with her husband, author/illustrator Paul Brewer;
The Brothers Kennedy: John, Robert, Edward
Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything
Find out more about Kathleen Krull