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Karen Hesse (born on August 29, 1952) is an American author of children's literature and literature for young adults, often with historical settings. Her novel Out of the Dust was the winner of the 1998 Newbery Medal and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. In 2002, Hesse was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship.



Karen Hesse was born August 29, 1952, in Baltimore, Maryland. She studied theatre at Towson State College, and married Randy Hesse in 1971 before completing her studies.[1] She finished her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland in English, Psychology, and Anthropology [2], during which she began writing poetry. After graduating, she moved with her husband to Brattleboro, Vermont, had two children, took jobs in publishing, and started writing children's books. Her first novel was a rejected story about meeting Bigfoot, but her next proposal became the novel Wish on a Unicorn.[1]


  1. ^ a b EPA biography
  2. ^ KidsReads biography


  • 1991 Wish on a Unicorn
  • 1992 Letters From Rifka
  • 1993 Lester's Dog
  • 1993 Poppy's Chair
  • 1994 Phoenix Rising
  • 1995 Lavender
  • 1996 The Music of Dolphins
  • 1997 Out of the Dust
  • 1997 A Time of Angels
  • 1998 Just Juice
  • 1998 Sable
  • 1999 A Light in the Storm: the Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin
  • 2000 Stowaway
  • 2001 Witness
  • 2003 Aleutian Sparrow
  • 2003 The Stone Lamp: Eight Stories Of Hanukkah Through History (with Brian Pinkney)
  • 2004 The Cats in Krasinski Square
  • 2005 The Young Hans Christian Andersen
  • 2008 Spuds
  • 2008 Brooklyn Bridge
  • Out of the Dust is a story of a girl living through the dust bowl of the depression. The central character accidentally injures her pregnant mother by throwing a bucket of flaming kerosene on her. After the mother dies, Billie Jo and her father try continue with their lives.
  • Hesse tackled a more disturbing subject in her book Witness. Here, the newly invigorated Klan of the 1920s (in this book, 1924 and '25) tries to take over a small Vermont town. The book is written from the perspectives of several people- Merlin Van Tornhout and Johnny Reeves, both members of the Ku Klux Klan, Sara Chickering, a farmer, Esther Hirsh, a six-year-old Jewish girl, Leonora Sutter, an African American girl, Iris Weaver, a resteraunteur, Harvey and Viola Pettibone, who are shop owners, Reynard Alexander, a newspaper editor, Fitzgerald Flitt, the doctor, and Percelle Johnson, the town constable. In Witness Hesse continues the distinctive poetic/prose style she pioneered in Out of the Dust.
  • She also wrote The Music of Dolphins, about a girl who was raised by dolphins.
  • Stowaway, based on the true story of an 11-year-old boy who stowed away on Captain James Cook's ship Endeavour in 1768.
  • Brooklyn Bridge is based on the true story of the family that created the teddy bear in Brooklyn in 1903.

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