Newbery Authors on How Books Change Lives — A Conversation Between Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Katherine Applegate

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 2.37.38 PM
A fourth grader enjoys her copy of The One and Only Ivan, thanks to the efforts of the Appalachian Literacy Initiative.

The Newbery Medal is an award given annually to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” Today, we’re thrilled to present an exclusive conversation between two recent Newbery authors, Medalist Katherine Applegate and Honor author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

Applegate will visit Nashville on May 13, 2019, for a free Salon@615 event at the downtown public library. She’ll share her newest book, Endling: The First, the sequel to last year’s critically acclaimed and bestselling Endling: The Last, a magical adventure brilliantly grounded in themes of family, friendship, and the power of hope. You can reserve free tickets to that event right here!

On May 13, Parnassus is also thrilled to be hosting an online fundraiser for the Appalachian Literacy Initiative, the nonprofit organization co-founded by Bradley. ALI puts books into the hands of fourth-graders in 28 classrooms across four different states. Parnassus supports their work by making it easy to donate books to their cause, and by serving as their preferred book provider — ordering, packing, and shipping thousands of donated books over the course of the school year.

Want to be part of the giving? No matter where you live, shop online at on Monday, May 13, enter the code BOOKJOY in the comments section of your order, and we’ll donate 10% of your purchase to the Appalachian Literacy Initiative. If you’d like to purchase a book that’s been autographed by Katherine Applegate herself, click right here to see all the available titles.

Meanwhile, read on for Katherine and Kim’s conversation.

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley: What’s your favorite thing about indie bookstores?

Katherine Applegate: When I step into an indie bookstore, it’s like walking through my own front door. No matter where I am, I know I’m home.

Indies say, Come inside. You’re welcome here. So are new ideas, and complicated ideas, and contrarian ideas. How amazing is that?

KBB: Also, do you have a favorite shop dog? (Mine’s Bear. Such gravitas, and also he seems to recognize me. But don’t tell the others.)

Katherine Applegate

KA: How is it that after so many bookstore visits I have only encountered shop cats? They’re usually sunning themselves in a front display window, aloof and jaded. Give me a dog any day. I prefer their goofy, eternal optimism.

I’ve yet to meet the Parnassus canine family, but I can tell you already it’s going to be the highlight of my next book tour. My initial impression is that, like you, I’ll be drawn to Bear’s moving backstory and his soulful gaze. But I’m an equal-opportunity dog-hugger.

KBB: How hard was it for you to write a sequel? (My only sequel, The War I Finally Won, nearly killed me.)

KA: Oh, I hear you. I have written way too many series in my life, some of them eminently forgettable. There’s something so beautiful about a single title with a beginning, a middle, and an end, isn’t there?

KBB: Over or under nine drafts?

KA: I tend to rewrite obsessively as I go (it’s wildly inefficient.) It’s more like nine hundred mini-drafts.

KBB: Your book The One and Only Ivan was one of the most-requested student selections for my non-profit, Appalachian Literacy Initiative, this year. Why do you think students respond to it so well?

KA: I think young readers react so passionately to the story of an animal in need because children are themselves so vulnerable to the whims of adults. The compassion, gentleness, and idealism of kids never ceases to surprise and touch me.

KBB: How did you get inside the mind of a shopping mall gorilla? Or, for that matter, a doglike creature with opposable thumbs? Or a tree? I mean this as a real question—you’re very well known for your non-human protagonists. Where do you start your thinking to build these sorts of characters? What sort of research do you do?

KA: I absolutely love research. What better way to procrastinate?

As for those non-human characters, I suppose I’m just trying to figure out our breathtakingly kind, heartbreakingly cruel species. Sometimes it’s easier to step back and take a look from the outside.

That said, I’m still stumped on Homo sapiens. Let me know if you figure us out.

KBB: What issues of social justice are most important to you? What role do you think children’s literature can play in creating a better world?

KA: Deep breath. Where to begin, especially these days? I suppose the fear-driven “othering” of entire groups of people haunts me the most.

Perhaps that’s where children’s literature really can make a difference. Compassion requires imagination. Empathy requires understanding. And fiction makes those things possible.

Every time I do a school visit, my hope in the future is rekindled. The next time you’re disheartened after the latest angst-provoking news cycle, spend some time talking about the future with a fourth-grader. I guarantee you’ll feel renewed.

Better yet, spend some time with a fourth-grader and a dog.


Join author Katherine Applegate for a discussion and signing of her newest book, Endling: The First
Monday, May 13, 2019
6:15 p.m. at the downtown Nashville Public Library
This Salon@615 event is a free, ticketed event. Reserve your tickets here.

And don’t forget to join us at on May 13 for an online fundraiser for the Appalachian Literacy Initiative, co-founded by author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Enter the code BOOKJOY in the comments section of your order, and we’ll donate 10% of your purchase to the ALI.