icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

I grew up in a house built of voices.    

--from SEEK

I grew up in Santa Monica, California, hearing my father, Sid Fleischman, read his books aloud chapter by chapter, as they were written. We've both won the Newbery Medal, he for The Whipping Boy in 1987, I for Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices in 1989.

This is my only request. That you make four whirligigs, of a girl who looks like Lea. Put her name on them. Then set them up in Washington, California, Florida, and Maine—the corners of the United States.     


When I was 19, after two years of college in Berkeley, I took a cross-country bicycle and train trip, ending up living in a 1770 house in New Hampshire. The years there, leading a modified 18th century lifestyle--wood heating, no electricity or phone--kindled an interest in the past and led to the historical fiction I'd later write.

She's a word person, a glasses-wearing former editor, copyeditor, and proofreader, who dumped her last suitor for giving her a Valentine candy that read "Your mine." Y-O-U-R. No apostrophe, no "e."    


Words have always been my world. I grew up setting type for our family's hand printing press. After graduating from the University of New Mexico, I worked as a bookstore clerk, library shelver, and textbook proofreader, eventually founding the now-defunct tongue-in-cheek grammar watchdog groups The Committee to Save the Sentence and ColonWatch.

The Trojan War is still being fought. Simply open a newspaper.


I thought about teaching history as a career, but decided to bring it into my books instead. Over the years, I've dealt with the Puritans' Indian wars, Philadelphia's yellow fever epidemic, the Civil War, and the naturalists JohnTownsend and Thomas Nuttall. I've been drawn to the ancient Greeks as well--bits of classical mythology pop up throughout my work--and spent five years combing newspapers in search of clippings that paralleled the Trojan War story.

Beethoven's Rondo in C--lovely piece / Strange how it brings to mind south-flying geese.

--from RONDO IN C

Music has been a constant inspiration for my books, from the duets in Joyful Noise to the symphonic, 50-voice Seek. I played piano as a child, joined recorder consorts in college, and later played in string quartets. In the past twenty years I've been drawn to America's most-loathed quartet of instruments--the accordion, banjo, bagpipes, and bassoon.

Baedeker's Italy. But you won't simply read it. No indeed. Let me explain.

--from MIND'S EYE

Reading The Bad Seed as readers theater in my fifth grade class had a lifelong impact, pointing me toward writing for the small stage--the couch, the classroom, the dining room table. My multi-voice poems and the monologue-novels Seedfolks and Bull Run were designed for these venues. Just as with chamber music, there's a camaraderie and synergy among readers that excites me. Lately I've been writing pieces for the big stage--Zap and a large-cast adaptation of Seedfolks.

"What was the best part?" a reporter asked us later.


Writing is its own reward--challenging, unpredictable, exciting. Awards and acclaim, if they come, are the icing on the cake. Aside from the Newbery Medal for Joyful Noise, I've received a Newbery Honor for Graven Images, the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction for Bull Run, the California Young Reader Medal for Weslandia, and was a National Book Award finalist for Breakout. In 2012 I was the United States' author candidate for the international Hans Christian Andersen Award for the body of my work.

I have my grandchildren--five in the house, and four more coming by train tomorrow. To touch their smooth skin is to know the future.


I have two sterling sons and a book-devouring stepdaughter, all grown. After sojourns in many parts of the country, I'm back in California, living with my wife in Monterey.