I grew up in the little town of Newman Grove, Nebraska, with my parents, two brothers, two sisters, and our dog, Pepper. I always loved to read and write, and chose to become an English teacher. I graduated from the University of Nebraska with a master’s degree in British Literature. While teaching high school English and history in Hastings, Nebraska, I wrote my first stories for publication.
Later I moved to Lawrence, Kansas, to complete a master’s degree in magazine journalism at the University of Kansas. After briefly editing a magazine and working as a newspaper reporter, I began my career as a freelance writer, contributing to many major publications. I also began writing books. In 1996, Houghton Mifflin published my first nonfiction book for young readers, Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story.
The success of this book encouraged me to follow it with other nonfiction books for young readers. Listed in order of publication, my other books include:
- Pioneer Girl: A True Story of Growing Up on the Prairie
- Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps
- We Rode the Orphan Trains;
- Escape From Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy
- Under Siege! Three Children at the Civil War Battle for Vicksburg
- Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London
- The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding Kansas
- Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp During World War Two
My books have won many awards, including the prestigious Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Orphan Train Rider. I’ve listed the major awards in the book sections for those of you who are interested.
I keep regular office hours, working on research, writing, editing, and setting up visits to schools and libraries. I especially enjoy visiting schools to meet students and talk about my books and the process of researching and writing history.