About Andrew

Then to Now

Growing Up

I was born in Camden, New Jersey in 1949 and lived in Oaklyn and Cherry Hill until the middle of sixth grade. Then we moved to Springfield, Illinois. My parents were avid readers and they gave that love of books and reading to me and to all my brothers and sisters. I didn’t think about being a writer at all back then, but I did love to read. I'm certain there's a link between reading good books and becoming a writer. I don't know a single writer who wasn’t a reader first. Before moving to Illinois, and even afterwards, our family spent summers at a cabin on a lake in Maine. There was no TV there, no phone, no doorbell—and email wasn’t even invented. All day there was time to swim and fish and mess around outside, and every night, there was time to read. I know those quiet summers helped me begin to think like a writer.

5 Years Old
11 Years Old
7 Years Old

Writing in School

During my senior year at Springfield High School my English teacher handed back a poem I’d written. Two things were amazing about that paper. First, I’d gotten an A—a rare event in this teacher’s class. And she’d also written in large, scrawly red writing, “Andrew—this poem is so funny. This should be published!”

"Andrew—this poem is so funny. This should be published!" Mrs. Bernice Rappel, my 12th grade English teacher

That praise sent me off to Northwestern University feeling like I was a pretty good writer, and occasionally professors there also encouraged me and complimented the essays I was required to write as a literature major. But I didn’t write much on my own—just some poetry now and then. I learned to play guitar and began writing songs, but again, only when I felt like it. Writing felt like hard work—something that’s still true today.

Becoming a Teacher

While I was still at Northwestern, a professor who taught at a nearby college saw some of my writing and liked it enough to invite me to teach creative writing at a series of summer high school workshops she had organized. And that was when I learned how hard it is to be a teacher, and also how rewarding and fun it can be.

After graduating from Northwestern I earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching at National Louis University, and then taught in the public schools north of Chicago for seven years—fourth grade for two years, eighth grade English for three years, and high school English for two years. Those were invaluable times. I loved getting to know so many people, having a year-long relationship with bright, funny kids, and also getting to read good books and think about big ideas together.

Poem Written in 1970
Photograph (lyrics), written in 1978
Me When I was an 8th grade English Teacher

I got married my first year of teaching, and during my teaching years my wife had a career in professional theater in Chicago. We bought our first home, and then our second home, had our first son, and then school enrollments began declining in our area. I was fired a couple of times—they called it “Reduction in Force.” I was rehired both times, but it didn’t make me feel like teaching was a career I could depend on at that time. And so we sold our home, packed up our two-and-a-half year old son, and moved to New York City so that I could develop a truly stable career as a singer-songwriter. It didn’t work out that way, of course, but during that year-and-a-half, I did learn how to make myself sit and think and write things down—a discipline that’s important for every writer.

Dawn Song, written in 1972

The Publishing Business

After the songwriting came my first job in publishing. I worked for a small publisher who specialized in how-to books, the kind of books that have photos with informative captions below each one. The book in which my name first appeared in print is called A Country Christmas Treasury. I’d built a number of the projects featured in the book, and I was listed as one of the “craftspeople" on the acknowledgements page, in tiny, tiny type.

After about a year in the photo-caption-how-to world, a friend I’d met during college called and invited me help him launch a new company that imported high quality children’s books from Europe. It was while working for this company--first called Alphabet Press and then Picture Book Studio--that I began writing picture book texts. As sales manager, I got to work with a terrific crew of people who quickly taught me about the publishing business. As editorial director, I got to work with wonderfully talented authors, illustrators, and author-illustrators. I met people there who became life-long friends. And while there, my own first picture books were published, and they kept coming.

A Country Christmas Treasury

Full Time Writer

In 1990 I began trying to write a picture book about a boy who makes up a new word. That book eventually became my first novel, Frindle, published in 1996, and you can read the whole story of how it developed on the Frindle page of this website. Frindle became popular, more popular than any of my books before or since—at least so far. And it had the eventual effect of turning me into a full-time writer.

Frindle

I’ve learned that I need time and a quiet place to think and write. My wife and I now live in Maine—not far from where I spent my earliest summers. These days I spend a lot of my time in a room attached to the far side of the garage—just far enough from the rest of our home to make me feel like I’ve gone to work. The room is larger than the small garden shed I worked in for almost twenty years, but it’s the same desk, same chair, same paper and pencils, same keyboard and screen. And I’m grateful to say that the books keep coming.

Sometimes kids ask how I've been able to write so many books. The answer is simple: one word at a time. Which is a good lesson, I think. You don't have to do everything at once. You don't have to know how every story is going to end. You just have to take that next step, look for that next idea, write that next word. And growing up, it's the same way. We just have to go to that next class, read that next chapter, help that next person. You simply have to do that next good thing, and before you know it, you're living a good life.

Me in 2014
My Office in Maine

Awards and Accolades

Below are some of the awards my books have received. Notable awards include a Phoenix Award for Frindle, a Christopher Award for both Frindle and Extra Credit, and an Edgar Award for Room One: A Mystery or Two. Frindle is my most awarded work, receiving more than 35 literary awards and nominations.

Featured Books

  • Cover of Frindle

    48Awards

    Frindle
  • Cover of Things Not Seen

    3Awards

    Things Not Seen
  • Cover of A Week in the Woods

    7Awards

    A Week in the Woods

All Awards

  • ALA Schneider Family Book Award

    Awarded 2004 for Things Not Seen

  • ALA/YALSA Best Book For Young Adults

    Awarded 2002 for Things Not Seen

  • Arizona Young Readers' Award

    Nominated 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • ASPCA Henry Bergh Children's Book Honor

    Awarded 2001 for Brave Norman: A True Story

  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year

    Awarded 2007 for Dogku

  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year

    Awarded 2005 for Lunch Money

  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year - with Outstanding Merit

    Awarded 2009 for Extra Credit

  • Battle of the Books Reading List

    Nominated 1998 for Frindle

  • Best Kids Books – Family Fun Magazine

    Noted 1998 for Frindle

  • Black Eyed Susan Book Award -- Maryland

    Awarded 1999 for Frindle

  • Black Eyed Susan Book Award -- Maryland

    Awarded 2009 for No Talking

  • Black-Eyed Susan Book Award-Maryland

    Awarded 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • California Young Reader Medal

    Nominated 1999-2000 for Frindle

  • California Young Reader Medal

    Nominated 2006-2007 for A Week in the Woods

  • California Young Reader Medal

    Awarded 2010 for No Talking

  • California Young Reader Medal

    Awarded 2004 for The School Story

  • California Young Reader Medal

    Awarded 2005 for Things Not Seen

  • Capitol Choices list, best books for ages 7-10

    Noted 1999 for Frindle

  • CBC/Children's and Teen Choice Book Award, grades 5 & 6

    Awarded 2018 for The Losers Club

  • CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book

    Awarded 2005 for Lunch Money

  • CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book

    Awarded 2007 for Extra Credit

  • Charlie May Simon Children's Book Award

    Awarded 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • Charlie May Simon Honor Book (AR)

    Awarded 2005 for Lunch Money

  • Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best

    Noted 1998 for Frindle

  • Children's Choices, ILA/CBC

    Awarded for A Week in the Woods

  • Children's Crown Award

    Awarded 2010 for No Talking

  • Christopher Award

    Awarded 1997 for Frindle

  • Christopher Award

    Awarded 2007 for Extra Credit

  • Common Sense Media Best Book Award

    Awarded 2004 for The Last Holiday Concert

  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award

    Nominated 1997-1998 for Frindle

  • Edgar Award

    Awarded 2007 for Room One: A Mystery or Two

  • Garden State Children's Book Award

    Nominated 1999 for Frindle

  • Garden State Children's Book Award (NJ)

    Awarded 2005 for Lunch Money

  • Garden State Children's Book Award (NJ)

    Awarded 2004 for The Last Holiday Concert

  • Georgia Children's Book Award

    Awarded 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • Golden Sower Award

    Nominated 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • Golden Sower Masterlist

    Nominated 2006 for A Week in the Woods

  • Great Stone Face Book Award

    Awarded 1997-1998 for Frindle

  • Horn Book Magazine Fanfare Book

    Noted 1997 for Frindle

  • Indiana Read-Alouds Too Good to Miss

    Noted 1997-1998 for Frindle

  • Iowa Children's Choice Award

    Awarded 2004-2005 for A Week in the Woods

  • Iowa Children's Choice Award

    Nominated 1999-2000 for Frindle

  • Judy Lopez Memorial Honor Book

    Awarded 1997 for Frindle

  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award

    Nominated 1997-1998 for Frindle

  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award

    Awarded 2007 for Dogku

  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award

    Nominated for A Week in the Woods

  • Keystone to Reading Book Award

    Awarded 2005 for A Week in the Woods

  • Land of Enchantment Book Award

    Nominated 1999-2000 for Frindle

  • Land of Enchantment Children's Master List

    Nominated for A Week in the Woods

  • Maine Student Book Award

    Nominated 1997-1998 for Frindle

  • Massachusetts Children's Book Award

    Awarded 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • Maud Hart Lovelace Award

    Awarded 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • NENE Award

    Nominated 1998 for Frindle

  • Nevada Young Readers' Award

    Awarded 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • New York Public Library – 100 titles for reading & sharing

    Noted 1996 for Frindle

  • North Carolina Children's Choice Award

    Awarded 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • Nutmeg Children's Book Award

    Nominated 1999-2000 for Frindle

  • Pacific North West Library Association – Young Reader's Choice

    Awarded 1999 for Frindle

  • Parents' Choice Award

    Awarded 2007 for Extra Credit

  • Parents' Choice Honor Book

    Noted 1997 for Frindle

  • Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award

    Awarded 1999-2000 for Frindle

  • Phoenix Award

    Awarded 2016 for Frindle

  • Prairie Pasque Award (SD)

    Awarded 2006 for A Million Dots

  • Premio Cassa di Risparmio di Cento di Letteratura per Ragazzi

    Awarded 1998 for Frindle

  • Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award

    Awarded 1999 for Frindle

  • Rhode Island Children's Book Award

    Awarded 1998 for Frindle

  • Sasquatch Children's Book Award

    Awarded 1999 for Frindle

  • Sequoyah Children's Book Award

    Nominated 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • South Dakota Prairie Pasque

    Awarded 1999 for Frindle

  • SSLI Book Award Honor Book

    Awarded 2006 for A Million Dots

  • Sunshine State Young Readers Award

    Nominated 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • Texas Bluebonnet Award

    Nominated 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • Texas Children's Crown Award

    Awarded 1999 for Frindle

  • Utah Children's Choice Award

    Awarded 2000 for Frindle

  • Virginia Young Readers Award

    Nominated 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • West Virginia Children's Book Award

    Nominated 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • William Allen White Children's Book Award

    Awarded 2002 for The Landry News

  • William Allen White Children's Book Award

    Awarded 1999 for Frindle

  • William Allen White Children's Book Award

    Awarded 2005 for The Report Card

  • Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Book Award

    Nominated 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • Young Hoosier Book Award

    Awarded 1998-1999 for Frindle

  • Young Hoosier Book Award

    Awarded 2000 for Double Trouble in Walla Walla

  • Young Hoosier Book Award (IN)

    Awarded 2007 for Room One: A Mystery or Two

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