I’ve written nonfiction books about orphan train riders, children in the Civil War, young people in the Nazi death camps, Amerasian orphans caught up in the final days of the Vietnam War, and the author Charles Dickens, who grew up in poverty and as a self-educated adult championed the poor in his writing and became one of history’s greatest reformers.
It is always my goal as a nonfiction author to link the past to the present, to show that young people called upon to behave heroically have that power within themselves, and that all of us can find something redeeming, even in the worst of circumstances. This is true, wherever we come from. Three of my books are set in other countries. I have learned that sharing our stories helps make us one world, united in our humanity.
If I can inspire students, that’s my greatest reward. Here is one of my favorite letters from teachers:
Our students are still talking about your visit. I want to tell you about one student, a quiet eighth grader who came to the US several years ago from Vietnam. His teacher told me that after hearing your presentation on Surviving Hitler, he sat very still, lost in thought. The teacher asked what he was thinking. He said simply, “it is so sad.” Then he started talking about how the Vietnam War had destroyed much of his family.
The next time he came to the library I handed him a copy of your book Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy. He read it in two days and is asking for more stories about displaced children. You have sparked a fire in that boy. Several teachers have commented that he has started participating in class and is reading more than ever. I want you to know that your books touch readers’ hearts. Thank you for dedicating your talents to writing for young people.