Katherine Paterson, two-time Newbery winner and the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, has teamed up with her husband, John Paterson, to write The Flint Heart. Freely abridged from Eden Phillpotts’s 1910 story of the same title, this middle-grade novel will be published by Candlewick in September. Illustrated by John Rocco, this book tells of a brother and sister who must rescue humans, fairies, and animals from the dark influence of a magical amulet created in the Stone Age.
Paterson recalls first becoming aware of Phillpotts’s novel in 1999, when Horn Book’s Roger Sutton asked her and other children’s book authors to select a 20th-century book that they hoped would always be available to children in the 21st century. “I chose Charlotte’s Web,” recalls Paterson, “and Margaret Mahy chose The Flint Heart. I’m a great admirer of Mahy, so I decided I wanted to read it. My husband, John, tracked down a copy through his favorite second-hand bookseller, and we both read it and loved it. But I knew that a publisher wouldn’t likely want to republish the book as it was.”
Sensing that she would appreciate the story, the Patersons sent the novel to Candlewick’s Karen Lotz. “Indeed, she loved it, too,” says Katherine Paterson, “but said that the original version wouldn’t be intelligible to the modern reader. So we went back and forth with various ideas about how we could present the story, and decided we’d choose the parts that are vital to the story and leave out the parts that weren’t, and preserve as much of the language and whimsy as we possibly could. John and I worked on it, chapter by chapter, doing some editing and a little rewriting. In the end, we were very pleased with it—we think the story holds up quite well.”
As ambassador, Paterson will give the opening welcome at this morning’s Children’s Book and Author Breakfast. During her tenure in that role, she has visited a number of schools and has also had the chance to voice her concerns about literacy. “I’ve tried to say how important I think access to books is for children, and how important it is to children to keep libraries strong and properly staffed,” she remarks.
Following today’s breakfast, Paterson will sign galleys of The Flint Heart, 10–11 a.m., at Table 24. Tomorrow, 9–10 a.m., she’ll be at the Chronicle booth (4452) with cut-paper artist Pamela Dalton, signing copies of their June collaboration, Brother Sun, Sister Moon.