ALL ABOUT THE AUTHOR: KAREN LYNN WILLIAMS
I grew up in Hamden Connecticut in a middle class neighborhood
where kids of all ages played together in backyards, in the woods across the
railroad tracks and up the street in the recreation field. I enjoyed the
excitement and challenge of growing up.
Childhood still seems like the most important part of my life
and I always wanted to write books for children. I was influence by the
fact that my parents and grandparents were wonderful storytellers. I
especially liked to hear my parents tell about when they were young and the
stories my grandmother made up about me.
I can remember having a writing club with neighborhood friends.
We met in our basement and sat around on old couch cushions and pillows and
wrote stories and poems. For a while it was my goal to become the youngest
published author in history.
Although I wasn't an English major in college I took some
writing classes. I didn't start writing seriously until I was living in
Africa, where I had free time without all the things I find to clutter up my
life in the United States. My husband and I were Peace Corps Volunteers in
Malawi where I taught English in secondary school and took care of our sons
Peter and Christopher, who was born there. I published a number of magazine
stories and articles when I returned to the United States and my first two
books, GALIMOTO and WHEN AFRICA WAS HOME are based on my experiences in
Many of my ideas come from my own childhood or from the
experiences of my children. A REAL CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR is about a boy I
taught in my class for the hearing impaired but the main character is a lot
like me when I was growing up. ONE THING I'M GOOD AT is about my daughter
Rachel but the idea for the ending for that book came from something I heard
on the news.
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my stories I forget which part is true and
which part I made up or which part came from my childhood and which part
came form my children. In the end it always turns out to be a totally new
and different story and even I am surprised by what happens.
I decided to write APPLEBAUM'S GARAGE when we had a mouse in our
house and my son, Peter did not want us to kill it. The character of Mr.
Applebaum is based on my grandfather and his garage is much like my
grandfather's garage. When I was growing up we made a fort out of a hole in
the ground and it had a pink toilet seat for a trap door. We even made a
roller coaster in our backyard with things from my grandfather's garage. My
brother had an experience with a friend who used to shoplift, similar to
Jeremy's experience. I am frequently struck by the fact that even people
who we think we know very well often have feelings or ideas we never
suspected they had and that's part of what makes life so interesting. In
the story, Jeremy learns something about the way Robbie feels and in the end
they are able to stay friends and maybe even become closer. I had to make
many changes in the ending of APPLEBAUM'S GARAGE and the story used to be
much longer. Even though it was hard to cross out and change so much of
my work, I like the final story better that the original.
When I am not writing I enjoy jogging, bicycling and quilting.
When I have a free minute I am usually designing a new quilt or trying a new
design for a greeting card. I always have more ideas that I can get around
to trying out. Someday a quilt will work it's way into one of my stories, I
I have four children now and in 1991 we all moved to Haiti for
two years where my husband was a physician at the Albert Schweitzer
Hospital. That is where I got the ideas for my books, TAP-TAP and PAINTED
DREAMS. Tap-taps are very colorfully painted taxis which captured my
imagination as soon as I saw them. I wanted to use them in a book but I had
to wait until I had a story. Often the detail I am looking for to
complete my story is something I already know about and the realization just
hits me when I am not even thinking about the story.
I also quilted in Haiti and I enjoyed working with local
artists, experimenting with painting on fabric for my quilts. For me
piecing a quilt is like telling a story and I'm, never completely happy
unless I'm creating something. I enjoy all kinds of crafts but I always
look for new ways to use them. I like to design things myself, my own way
which sometimes makes for disaster in the finished project. I'm not very
organized or planned in my quilting or my writing which often means more
work than necessary but sometimes things happen that I could have never
planned which is very exciting. I enjoy quilting because it is a tradition
that connects me with the past in the same way story telling does.
My oldest son, Peter who is the main character in WHEN AFRICA
WAS HOME, now lives in Taiwan where he studies Chinese and teaches English.
Christopher, the main character in FIRST GRADE KING is in college studying
Rachel and Jonathan and my husband and I recently returned from another year
in Haiti. We miss Haiti very much but we are excited about being home again
too. I am busy teaching writing and working on several new projects.
Email Karen here
BOOKS BY KAREN LYNN WILLIAMS and How to Order
hard cover and paper
Illustrated by Catherine Stock. Lothrop, Lee and Shepard
Books. Recommend 4-10yrs.
When Kondi tells his older brother, Ufulu that he is going
to make a Galimoto, Ufulu laughs at him. Where in the village will Kondi
find enough wire to shape into a truck, a car, even a bicycle? "A boy with
only seven years cannot make such a toy," says Ufulu. But Kondi is
determined to have his very own galimoto by the end of the day.
In Catherine stock's vibrant watercolors, the busy life of an African
village forms a fascinating backdrop to the satisfying story of a boy who
makes his dream come true.
A 1992 Reading Rainbow feature book.
New York Times Book Review top ten books for children and summer reading selection.
1992 Living the Dream Book Award.
A Parents Choice honor Book, Parents Choice Foundation.
WHEN AFRICA WAS HOME
paperIllustrated by Floyd Cooper. Orchard Books.
Recommended age: 4-10yrs.
The anthills of Africa were taller than Peter - at least
when he was little and Africa was home. His playmates in the village didn't
think a thing about his white skin or golden hair. But his nanny did. Mayi
told Peter's mother the boy should wear a hat because of the hot sun.
Somehow, Peter never wore a hat in Africa. He ran up the anthills barefoot
and ate sugar cane in the shade of red flame trees. But when Peter has to
return to his real home in America he misses Africa deeply. He misses his
friend Yekha and his Mayi, hearing the hippos moo, the hyenas groan, the
drums sing in the distance. More than anything he wishes he were home again
in Africa. This book in eloquent words and glowing pictures, shows why.
Based on the true experiences of the author and her family when for three
years, Malawi Africa was home for them.
A joyful text and glowing art evoke the intensely physical pleasure of what
it feels like to belong." BOOKLIST.
Editors choice, BOOKLIST.
BASEBALL AND BUTTERFLIES
(currently out of print)
Illustrated by Linda Shepard. Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books an early
chapter book, recommended ages 6-10yrs.
Daniel is looking forward to a terrific summer. He has just finished third
grade, his best friend's birthday party is only a few days away, and best of
all, he'll have plenty of time to read up on butterflies and add to his
collection. The only problem is his little brother. Joey is always in the
way, he's a tattletale, and worst of all, he's a better baseball player than
Daniel will ever be.
Things take a surprising turn when Joey has an accident and Daniel discovers
that there's more to his pesky brother-and to Daniel's own abilities-than he
"Sure to strike a chord with young readers." - THE BULLETIN.
"An expertly done early chapter book." - KIRKUS.
FIRST GRADE KING (currently out of print)
Illustrated by Lena Shiffman. Clarion Books.
An early chapter book, recommended age 5-8yrs.
New sneakers, a new backpack, even brand new pencil...Joey
King is ready to start first grade. He's going to learn and he'll have real
homework to bring home, just the way his big brother Daniel does. Joey can'
But first grade has some surprises in store for Joey. There
's a substitute who is supposed to be mean and Madeline who wants to be
friends. Ronald thinks Joey's last name is a big joke. Sometimes, Joey
wishes he were back in kindergarten.
Joey's first weeks in first grade, with all their ups and
downs, make a lively, engaging story that will ring true for anyone who has
had the adventure of starting school.
"Williams exhibits an understanding for the concerns and sentiments of
children in this amusing story." - THE HORNBOOK GUIDE.
APPLEBAUM'S GARAGE (currently out of print)
Clarion Books. Chapter book recommended age: 8-12yrs.
One of Jeremy's favorite things to do is visit old Mr.
Applebaum next door. Mr. A. can build anything and fix everything and his
garage is full of neat stuff that overflows into the driveway and the yard.
Right now it's the only place Jeremy feels comfortable. Jeremy's best
friend, Robbie has started acting tough and unfriendly, and Jeremy finds
himself with some secrets- including a forbidden pet-that he can't talk
about at home. He takes refuge at Applebaum's; but even here, Jeremy
discovers there can be trouble. And worse, he's afraid it may be his fault.
A Junior Library Guild Selection.
"Applebaum's social withdrawal following a child's accident
in his yard is well portrayed, and the three plot strands involving Robbie,
the mouse and Applebaum are tied together neatly into a satisfying
ending." - BOOKLIST.
"Since not everyone here is as likable as Jeremy and Mr. Applebaum, it's
to the two of them to demonstrate that a good friendship is based on loyalty
and respect. It also doesn't hurt if both parties appreciate great junk." KIRKUS REVIEW.
(hard cover and paper)
Illustrated by Catherine Stock.
Recommended age: 4-10yrs.
As Sasifi walks along to the market with her mother, a
brightly painted truck passes them on the road. The passengers hit the side
of the truck, tap-tap! To let the driver know where to stop.
Sasifi wants to ride to market in a tap-tap, but Mama says they don't have
the money. "Perhaps you are not old enough to help me on market day," she
tells Sasifi. Determined to be a good helper, Sasifi earns herself a
This satisfying story of a memorable market day, accompanied
by vivid watercolor paintings, is filled with the bustle and color of
Haitian village life. Based on Williams experience living in Haiti with
brilliant and accurate illustrations by Stock who visited the country.
A Junior Library Guild selection.
"As they did in GALIMOTO, Williams and Stock here bring a cultural tradition
to life for young readers. Children will enjoy the rollicking ride almost
as much as Sasifi herself." - PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY.
A REAL CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR
(currently out of print)
Clarion Books. Chapter book recommended 8-12yrs.
Megan's little brother, Kevin, who is multiply handicapped,
has recently started wearing a hearing aid and glasses and for the first
time he'll be able to enjoy Christmas with the rest of the family. Megan
knows this will be the best Christmas ever until Kevin breaks his hearing
aid and glasses and everything changes. There's tension at home and even
Megan's best friend doesn't understand. But Megan isn't prepared to give up
her dream of a real Christmas for herself and her family, no matter what.
"Williams has written an eye-opener about life with the handicapped. The
straightforward writing is always empathetic, never pitying...a compelling
novel about the real meaning of Christmas." KIRKUS
A 1997 nomination for the Missouri Association of School Librarians Mark
Illustrated by Catherine Stock
Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books
Recommended age 4-10 yrs.
TiMarie dreams of being an artist. Whenever she gets some
time away from watching her little sisters and helping Mama in their market
stall, she finds a cement wall or a scrap of waste paper and lets her
imagination soar. Using whatever she can find to make a mark-bits of red
brick, charcoal, white rocks-TiMarie makes beautiful art. Mama says there
is no money for real paint and brushes but TiMarie finds a surprising way to
make her dreams come true.
Stared review School Library Journal: "As they did in Galimoto
this author and illustrator gently and deftly portray a child with few
material goods but with plenty of hope, dreams and ingenuity."
ONE THING I'M GOOD AT
(available from the author)
Lothrop, Lee and Shepard. 1999.
Chapter book recommended 8-12yrs.
Nothing seems to be going right for Julie Dorinsky. Her
best friend, Abby, is hanging out with the gifted crowd, while Julie is
struggling to keep up in school. She can't even read the note Abby passes
her in class. It seems as If everybody from her snooty older sister,
Alexia, to her baby brother, Bean, is smarter than she is. There must be
one thing she's good at!
Williams has created a cast of realistic characters that
includes a crabby teenager, a frustrated substitute and a teacher's pet. A
satisfying story with an important message about self-image. School
Publisher Information to Order Books for Author Visits.
To order: TAP-TAP(hardcover: 0395 656 176, paper: 0395 720 869)
Trade Distribution Center: 4925 W. 86th St, NY, NY,
Customer Service : 800-225-3362
Orchard books(Grolier Publishing, a division of Scholastic)
To order: WHEN AFRICA WAS HOME (paper, only : 053 107 0433)
Customer Service: 800-724-6527(option3)
Harper Collins Books
To order: GALIMOTO (paper: 0688 1099 18, hardcover: 0688 087 892)
PAINTED DREAMS (hard cover only: 0688 813 9019)
Customer Service: 1-800-242-7737
To order ONE THING I'M GOOD AT or PAINTED DREAMS (if unavailable through
publisher) please contact the author