P a u l   F l e i s c h m a n

Winner of the Newbery Medal


Middle and high schools can now perform Seedfolks as well as read it. My adaptation is large-cast, single-set, and well-supplied with nonspeaking roles. It's a spoken musical--for a taste of one of the "songs" see the opening scene. There's lots of dialogue, action, and new material, including the answer to the question "What happened with Curtis and Lateesha?"

Licensing info and a full script are available from Playscripts. I'll try to attend the first several productions so as to polish the script that Playscripts will publish as an acting edition. If you're planning to stage it, contact me at paul@paulfleischman.net.



Its short length, multicultural cast, suitability for adults as well as children, and availability in Spanish have led SEEDFOLKS to be used in One Book programs around the country. What have communities done with it?

NEWBURGH, NY connected the book to a month-long multicultural celebration of words, art, and dance, with concerts and classes on everything from found sculpture to African drumming. The local newspaper serialized the book in both English and Spanish.

VERMONT used the book as its One-State One-Book choice. There were discussions, dramatizations, readings on Vermont Public Radio, and the participation of dozens of groups--from the Friends of Burlington Gardens to the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Project--in communities up and down the state.

TAMPA, FL gave away more than 15,000 copies of the book and used it in conjunction with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, encouraging citizens to volunteer in an array of community improvement projects.

RACINE, WI gave away copies of the book, encouraging readers to leave them in public places when finished, posting comments and following the book's journey via BookCrossing.com. Discussions in Spanish, a screening of Greenfingers, writing and virtual gardening at a women's prison are a few of the many activities that took place.

If you're interested in using Seedfolks in a school or community reading program, contact HarperCollins at authorvisits@​harpercollins.com. Click here to download HarperCollins' teacher's guide to the book.



In Spanish

Translated as Semillas, Seedfolks is now available in a Spanish paperback edition from Scholastic's Lectorum Publications.

For ESL classes

With its brief chapters and immigrant cast, SEEDFOLKS has been used often with English-language learners young and old. Now ESL teacher Joyce Flager has created a multifaceted workbook to accompany the novel, one of many valuable ESL resources offered by JAG Publications. For a sample and more information, click here.

For E-readers

SEEDFOLKS is also now available as an e-book on all the usual platforms.



NPR's Backseat Book Club--created for the benefit of young hostages to public radio--made SEEDFOLKS one of its selections. Readers were invited to submit comments, questions, and photos of their own gardens. You can hear my All Things Considered interview with Michele Norris here.



Where did the idea for SEEDFOLKS come from?

There's an essay answering that question in detail here and at the back of the paperback edition.

What research did you do to write it?

I looked for community gardens everywhere I traveled. I also visited some close to home, like the Homeless Garden Project (pictured) in Santa Cruz, CA, which teaches the homeless job and life skills along with gardening. Other topics I researched: Cleveland history, Ohio history, Asian vegetables, Haitian cuisine, earwigs, stroke victims, Korean immigration...to name a few.

Who's your favorite character in the book?

I have several. If I had to pick four, they'd be Kim, Gonzalo, Curtis, and Sam.

Why did you write the book from so many characters' points of view?

When I was younger I wanted to write music, not books. I was fascinated when I saw my first symphonic score. That's what I wanted to write, with all the parts carefully woven together. I didn't end up pursuing composition in college, but I did play chamber music and loved being part of a group. When I turned to writing, I found I could bring a lot of what I loved about music into books: rhythm, form, the pleasure of playing with the sound of words, and the camaraderie of chamber music. I AM PHOENIX and JOYFUL NOISE were verbal duets. BIG TALK contains poems for four. BULL RUN had 16 different speakers--my attempt at writing for a verbal orchestra. SEEDFOLKS was next, with 13 voices. A few years later came SEEK, a high school senior's autobiography told through 52 voices.

For writers, multiple points of view have many advantages. They make for variety and unpredictability--two crucial ingredients in good books. It's also dramatic to have more than one story line running at a time and to show the same event from different perspectives. To my knowledge, BULL RUN was the first novel for young readers with multiple points of view. Now the format is commonplace. I've also used it in plays like ZAP (which crams seven plays into one), and in the picture book GLASS SLIPPER, GOLD SANDAL, which braids together many different tellings of the Cinderella story from around the world.

Are you going to write a sequel?

I'm not a fan of sequels. I like the challenge of writing something brand new, and sequels are rarely as good as the original. But I did turn to the subject of immigration once more in THE MATCHBOX DIARY. It's a different book from SEEDFOLKS--a picture book for younger readers, telling one character's experience, set a century ago instead of in the present. The amazing thing is how little times have changed. Migrant work, the struggle for education, and the fight against prejudice are as present today as they were in my Italian characters' lives.

What was your writing process like on this book?

I probably spent four months or so researching and thinking out the story and an equal amount of time on the writing. That's often the way it is. The invisible side of writing is where the real work happens. I wrote the book in the pre-computer era, with a pencil in a notebook. I'm a slow writer. I typically work 8-10 hours a day and usually only get a page or two written in that time. But those pages are solid. The more outlining and researching you do beforehand, the less revising you have to do later. I write five days a week and sometimes more, sometimes long into the night. If things are falling into place and unexpected scenes are blossoming, what could possibly be better?

Is Virgil a boy or a girl?

It was a fluke that Virgil's chapter didn't contain a "his" or "her" to answer this question. Then again, because the name is strictly for males in my experience, I didn't foresee that the question would exist. Virgil is a boy. Though in my stage version he got changed into a girl to help balance the genders in the cast. What is it with this character?

What else do you do besides write?

My father gardened as a break from the typewriter. I bike, swim, and sail. For some sociability after all week in a room, playing music with other people has often been my cure.