Mary Downing Hahn

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I grew up in a small shingled house down at the end of Guilford Road in College Park, Maryland. Our block was loaded with kids my age. We spent hours outdoors playing "Kick the Can" and "Mother, May I" as well as cowboy and outlaw games that usually ended in quarrels about who shot whom. In the summer, we went on day long expeditions into forbidden territory -- the woods on the other side of the train tracks, the creek that wound its way through College Park, and the experimental farm run by the University of Maryland.

In elementary school, I was known as the class artist. I loved to read and draw but I hated writing reports. Requirements such as outlines, perfect penmanship, and following directions killed my interest in putting words on paper. All those facts -- who cared what the principal products of Chile were? To me, writing reports was almost as boring as math.

Despite my dislike of writing, I loved to make up stories. Instead of telling them in words, I told them in pictures. My stories were usually about orphans who ran away and had the sort of exciting adventures I would have enjoyed if my mother hadn't always interfered.

When I was in junior high school, I developed an interest in more complex stories. I wanted to show how people felt, what they thought, what they said. For this, I needed words. Although I wasn't sure I was smart enough, I decided to write and illustrate children's books when I grew up. Consequently, at the age of thirteen, I began my first book. Small Town Life was about a girl named Susan, as tall and skinny and freckle faced as I was. Unlike her shy, self conscious creator, however, Susan was a leader who lived the life I wanted to live -- my ideal self, in other words. Although I never finished Small Town Life, it marked the start of a lifelong interest in writing.

In high school, I kept a diary. In college, I wrote poetry and short stories and dreamed of being published in The New Yorker. Unfortunately, I didn't have the courage or the confidence to send anything there.

By the time my first novel was published, I was 41 years old. That's how long it took me to get serious about writing. The Sara Summer took me a year to write, another year to find a publisher, and yet another year of revisions before Clarion accepted it.

Since Sara appeared in 1979, I've written an average of one book a year. If I have a plot firmly in mind when I begin, the writing goes fairly quickly. More typically, I start with a character or a situation and only a vague idea of what's going to happen. Therefore, I spend a lot of time revising and thinking things out. If I'd paid more attention to the craft of outlining back in elementary school, I might be a faster writer, but, on the other hand, if I knew everything that was going to happen in a story, I might be too bored to write it down. Writing is a journey of discovery. That's what makes it so exciting.


My Books

DAPHNE'S BOOK.
Clarion, 1983. Avon Paperback
ALA Reviewer's Choice, 1983.
"Best Books 1983." Library of Congress Children's Books, 1983.
Child Study Association of America Children's Books of the Year, 1984.
National Council of English Teacher's Choice, 1984.
Iowa Children's Choice Award, 1985 - 1986; Iowa.
William Allen White Children's Choice Award, 1986; Kansas.

WAIT TILL HELEN COMES.
Clarion, 1986. Avon Paperback
Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, 1988.
Utah Children's Book Award, 1988.
Texas Bluebonnet Award, 1989.
Pacific Northwest Children's Choice Award, 1989.
Indiana Young Hoosier Award, 1989.
Virginia Young Reader's Award, 1989.
Tennessee Volunteer State Award, 1989.
Minnesota Maud Hart Lovelace Award, 1990.
Illinois Rebecca Caudil Award, 1990.
Iowa Children's Choice Award, 1990.
Nebraska Golden Sower's Award, 1990. BEST OF THE EIGHTIES, Booklist.

DECEMBER STILLNESS.
Clarion, 1988. Avon Paperback
Children's Book Award, 1988.
Child Study Association Award, 1989.
Jane Addams Peace Association Honor Book, 1989.
Young Adults Choice, 1990; International Reading Association, United States, 1990.
California Young Reader's Medal, 1991.

THE DOLL IN THE GARDEN.
Clarion, 1989. Avon Paperback
Maryland Children's Book Award, 1991.
Oklahoma Sequoyah Children's Choice Award, 1992.
Kansas William Allen White Award, 1992.
Missouri Mark Twain Award, 1992.
South Dakota Prairie Pasque Award, 1992.
Georgia Children's Choice Award, 1993.

THE DEAD MAN IN INDIAN CREEK.
Clarion, 1990. Avon Paperback
ALA Books for the Reluctant Reader, 1990.
Iowa Children's Choice Award, 1993.
Utah Children's Choice Award, 1993.
Minnesota Maud Hart Lovelace Award, 1993.
South Carolina Children's Choice Award, 1993.
Indiana Young Hoosier Award, 1993.
Virginia Young Readers' Award, 1994.

THE SPANISH KIDNAPPING DISASTER.
Clarion, 1991. Avon Paperback

STEPPING ON THE CRACKS.
Clarion, 1991. Avon Paperback
"Pick of the Lists," American Bookseller, 1992.
"Best Books of the Year," School Library Journal,1992.
ALA Notable Book, 1992.
Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, 1992.
Joan G. Sugarman Award, 1992.
Craberry Award, Oxon Hill Library, 1992.
Hedda Seisler Mason Award, 1993.
Maryland Black Eyed Susan Award, 1994.
South Carolina Children's Choice Award, 1994.
Nebraska Golden Sower Children's Choice Award, 1994.

THE WIND BLOWS BACKWARD.
Clarion, 1993. Avon Paperback
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 1993.
Bulletin Blue Ribbon, Chicago Bulletin, 1993.
N.Y. Public Library BOOKS FOR THE TEEN AGE, 1994.

TIME FOR ANDREW.
Clarion, 1994. Avon Paperback
Lasting Connection, 1994, American Library Association
Children's Choice, 1995, International Reading Association
The Texas Bluebonnet, 1996.
Maryland Children's Book Award, 1996.
Utah Children's Book Award, 1996.
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award (Vermont), 1996.
California Young Readers' Medal, 1996.
Georgia Children's Book Award, 1996.
Iowa Children's Choice Award 1996 - 1997
Children's Book Award Reading List, 1996 - 1997
Missouri Mark Twain Award, 1997.
Virginia Young Readers Program Winner, 1997
The William Allen White Award , 1997.
The Maryland Black Eyed Susan Award, 1997.

LOOK FOR ME BY MOONLIGHT.
Clarion, 1995. Avon Paperback
Society of School Librarians International Book Awards, Us, 1995. Bulletin Blue Ribbon, Chicago Bulletin, 1995.
YALSA Quick Picks for the Reluctant Reader List, 1995.
Young Adults' Choices, IRA, 1997.
Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2001.

THE GENTLEMAN OUTLAW AND ME, ELI: A Story of the Old West.
Clarion, 1996. Avon Paperback
"Pick of the Lists," American Bookseller, 1996
Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, ALA, 2001.

“In 1887 twelve-year-old Eliza, disguised as a boy and traveling to Colorado in search of her missing father, falls in with a gentleman outlaw and joins him in his illegal schemes. "With plenty of twists and turns -- and a cameo appearance by Doc Holliday--it's a real cowgirl, triumph."
~Kirkus

“Eliza Yates, who calls herself "Elijah Bates" when she runs away from her unloving relatives, is headed west in search of her absent father. She finds Calvin Featherbone, left for dead by muggers; thus begins a funny, cliff-hanging melodrama that features a sparkling text containing rapid-fire dry humor and a fresh, determined heroine who manages everything to her own satisfaction.”
~The Horn Book, Inc.

“Hahn has obviously done her research, and succeeds in bringing the ambiance of the Old West to her novel. The result is a fast, funny, and entertaining adventure...”
~SLJ

FOLLOWING MY OWN FOOTSTEPS.
Clarion, 1996
Choice List; Children's Literature, 1997.
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Eight Edition; H.W. Wilson, 2000.
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition; H.W. Wilson; US, 2001.

AS EVER, GORDY, a sequel to FOLLOWING MY OWN FOOTSTEPS.
New York : Clarion, 1998
The Best Children's Books of the Year; Bank Street College of Education; US, 1999.
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Eight Edition; H.W. Wilson; US, 2000.
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition; H.W. Wilson; US, 2001.

ANNA ALL YEAR ROUND
Clarion. 1998. Illustrated by Diane deGroat.
New York : Clarion, 1999.
The Best Children's Books of the Year; Bank Street College of Education; US, 2000.
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition; H.W. Wilson; US, 2001.

“Though set in a bygone era of gas street lamps and horse drawn delivery carts, these episodes in the year Anna turns nine have timeless themes.”
~Publishers’ Weekly

“[Anna’s] exploration of a bigger world beyond her block has details evocative of the pre-World-War-I era but also emotional resonance for every child whose limits are expanding. Homey and decorous, this story has American Girls-style appeal with more depth; its episodic nature makes is eminently suited for reading aloud, but its accessibility, aided by & DeGroat’s sturdy pencil drawings of a tidy but unprissy Anna, will make it a useful step up from Molly, Samantha, and friends.”
~DS, Bulletin Chicago Center of Books June 1999

“Hahn's use of the present tense to tell Anna's stories helps keep nostalgia at bay, as does the energetic, just-dashed-off quality of deGroat's rough pencil sketches.
~The Horn Book, Inc.

“Reading this book is like taking a peaceful carriage ride over the cobbled streets of an earlier time.”
~Linda Bindner, SLJ May 1999

“Children will recognize the personalities and rivalries of the neighborhood (e.g. snobby Rosa with the perfect coat and her sidekick Beatrice as foil for tomboyish Anna) and will see the similarities between Anna's time and their own.”
~Publishers’ Weekly

PROMISES TO THE DEAD.
Clarion, 2000
The Best Children's Books of the Year; Bank Street College of Education; US, 2001.
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Eight Edition; H.W. Wilson; US, 2001.
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition; H.W. Wilson; US, 2001.

“Hahn skillfully blends the language and customs of the Civil War era with an exciting plot. Phrases, such as a "bilious" uncle, a "daring deed", and "the big house", lend an authenticity to the story, as does Judge Baxter's statement, "My son would never miscegenate with a slave!" With a comfortable place in history, an appropriate sprinkling of expressions of the times, and a genuine conflict for the protagonist, this solid historical novel will appeal to most younger teens."
~Reviewed by Rosemary Chance, VOYA

ANNA ON THE FARM.
Clarion, 2001
The Best Children's Books of the Year; Bank Street College of Education; US, 2001.

“The details in the setting (early-twentieth-century Baltimore, Washington, and rural Prince Georges County) add to the richness of the text, as do the illustrations by Diane de Groat. A good choice for easy-chapter-book readers, especially those who have met Anna before.”
~Kay Weisman, Booklist

“Once again, Hahn defies nostalgia with both the immediacy and the honesty of her up-close, present-tense telling.”
~The Horn Book, Inc.

HEAR THE WIND BLOW
A Civil War story set in the Shenandoah Valley, Clarion 2003


Short Stories

"The Old Willis Place." A GHOST STORY
Clarion, 2004
Diana and her brother Georgie live secretly on an old farm. When Diana attempts to befriend the caretaker’s daughter Lissa, she breaks the strict rules governing her and Georgie’s existence.

Video

A VISIT WITH MARY DOWNING HAHN.
Kit Morse Productions, Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

Works in Progress

THE WITCH CATCHER
When Jen explores the tower behind her Great Uncle Thaddeus’s house, she finds a mysterious glass globe hanging in a window. She soon learns the globe is far more than it seems.
Clarion, 2005

CLOSED FOR THE SEASON
Logan’s family moves into an old house, only to discover the former owner was murdered in the kitchen. Logan and Arthur, the boy next door, are drawn into the mystery after they explore a closed amusement park.


My Links

The Author Corner, Mid-Atlantic Authors

Houghton Mifflin Books

HarperChildrens.com

America Writes For Kids

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