I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and attended P.S. 193, Andries Hudde Junior High School, and Midwood High School. My junior high school was named after a pirate—really! My classmates and I discovered this when our social studies teacher asked us to find out who Andries Hudde was. This is one of the reasons why I enjoy writing about pirates. If it hadn’t been for Captain Hudde, I may have never written Blackbeard’s Last Fight.
Brooklyn College was across the street from my high school, so I didn't want to go there. I headed west, to Easton, Pennsylvania, where I graduated from Lafayette College in 1967 with a bachelor's degree in English literature.
I worked as an elementary school teacher at P.S. 68 in Manhattan while working on my masters degree at New York University. From there I went to the U.S. Virgin Islands, where I worked as a teacher and librarian. I spent a lot of time lying on St. Thomas' beautiful beaches.
Returning to reality, I finished my Ph.D. degree in Education at the University of Illinois in 1973. I taught courses in language arts, children's literature, and storytelling at Indiana University at South Bend in South Bend, Indiana, from 1973 to 1978, and from 1978 to 1993 at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. I retired from college teaching in 1993 to become a full-time writer. I still hold the rank of professor emeritus of Education at Portland State.
I had wanted to be an author since I first discovered back in kindergarten that people called authors made books. My favorite books back then were Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hatches the Egg, H. A. Rey’s Curious George, and a long-forgotten book by Margaret Wise Brown called The Duck. I remember loving The Duck so much that I didn’t want to return it to the library. I copied it, letter by letter, on my father’s typewriter. You might say that was the first book I ever wrote.
My first book that I did write by myself was an adventure in Russian history called The Tartar’s Sword, published in 1974. Since then I have published over fifty titles, many of which have won numerous state awards, and appeared on school and library recommended lists. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, received the Caldecott Honor. I received the Sydney Taylor Picture Book Award for The Chanukkah Guest and Gershon’s Monster. The Association of Jewish Libraries honored me with the Sydney Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award.
One of the most thrilling parts about being an author is becoming friends with people whose work you admire. Leonard Everett Fisher has been one of my favorite writers and artists since I was in elementary school. It was Len who suggested that we collaborate on picture book versions of classic stories. He suggested that we do Don Quixote and Beowulf. I was skeptical. “What kid knows about Don Quixote?” I asked. “They'll know about him after they read our book,” Len answered. “And what about Beowulf? It's a bucket of blood!” Len insisted he could do it tastefully and he did.
Creating Blackbeard's Last Fight was loads of fun for both of us. We had wanted to do a pirate book together for some time, as we both love pirates. And Blackbeard, with his braided beard and the smoke coming out from under his hat, is the ultimate buccaneer.
After we finished Blackbeard's Last Fight, Len said, “We fought windmills with Don Quixote, monsters with Beowulf, pirates with Blackbeard! I'm over eighty years old. I can't keep this up. I need a rest.” Our next book together is Rip Van Winkle's Return. “Just don't take a twenty year nap,” I warned Len. “I can't,” he said, “I'd be over a hundred when I wake up.”
I travel throughout the United States and the world visiting schools, talking about my books, and telling stories. My first love is sharing stories from different countries and cultures. During the past several years I have visited Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Norway, Italy, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, and China. I always look forward to coming back with lots of ideas for new books.
Eric Kimmel and his wife Doris live in Portland, Oregon. They have a dog named Tasha, two cats named Inky and Junior, and a tank of tropical fish. Eric loves horses and bluegrass music. When he isn't writing, he can be found riding or practicing his banjo.
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