Kimberly Willis Holt

Kimberly Willis Holt
Shannon Holt
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Kimberly Willis Holt is the author of the Piper Reed series, including Piper Reed, Navy Brat, Piper Reed, Clubhouse Queen, and Piper Reed, Rodeo Star. She has written many award-winning novels, including The Water Seeker and My Louisiana Sky, as well as the picture books Waiting for Gregory and Skinny Brown Dog. A former Navy brat herself, Holt was born in Pensacola, Florida, and lived all over the U.S. and the world—from Paris to Norfolk to Guam to New Orleans. Holt long dreamed of being a writer, but first worked as a radio news director, marketed a water park, and was an interior decorator, among other jobs. A few years after she started writing, her third book, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, won a National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She resides in West Texas with her family.


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Shannon Holt
Kimberly Willis Holt

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Q & A

How is writing a chapter book for young readers different from writing a middle grade or young adult novel?
There are more similarities than differences. I still have to write a good story with interesting characters. To me the biggest difference is the problem. Piper’s problem is serious to her, but the problem is not as heavy as those explored in middle grade and young adult literature.
 
Also, although I always try to use humor in my stories for older readers, I used a heavier dose of it in Piper Reed, Navy Brat. I loved being able to do that.
 
What are the challenges of writing for this age group?
They are the same as writing for older readers. In the revision process, I question each word and each plot point. I do not feel a need to “dumb down.” In other words, young readers deserve the same attention to detail that older readers get from their stories.
 
Talk a little about your source of inspiration for Tori, Piper, and Sam Reed. Are these sisters based on your own family growing up?
Yes, although most of the book comes from my imagination, the setup is very autobiographical. My dad was a Navy chief and I am one of three girls. However I’m the oldest. Growing up I was the serious one, the bossy one, the one who worried about her weight. I didn’t think that point of view would be as interesting as my middle sister’s. She was the funny one, the confident one, the clever one.
 
Being the middle sister has its advantages and disadvantages but ultimately Piper seems stronger as a result of her position in the family. Do you agree?
I do. Although all the sisters are planners, Piper has the most guts. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and she does what she sets out to do. She doesn’t always get the results she hoped for, but she goes for it.
 
Piper’s spirit seems to get the best and worst of her. But it is her spirit, and a sense of humor, that makes her so endearing. What do you think?
I hope readers find her endearing. I tried to give her a fresh outlook on life. For example when I realized that Piper was going to be dyslexic, I didn’t want that to hold her back in a way that many readers would have expected. I didn’t want the story to be about that. And I love that she accepts that part of her and gets on with living. I think that’s because of her spirit.
 
As a child, you lived on many different Navy bases since your father was stationed all over the world. What did you like most and least about being a “Navy Brat”?
I don’t think I truly appreciated what a military life offered me while I was growing up. I hated moving. I was shy and didn’t make friends easily. About the time I would start to feel at home, we moved, again. Now I look back on that experience and realize how rich a childhood I had. I was exposed to many cultures. And I learned to be adaptable and tolerant. I’m interested in people. Even though I was shy growing up, now I feel like I can talk to anyone. I believe that is because of my childhood.
 
Piper Reed is set in contemporary times, but has a timeless feel. What are some of the ways in which the life of a Navy family is different today than it was back when you were growing up?
One major difference is that when the parents are away on an assignment, military kids today can stay in touch with them more easily. I interviewed several groups of Navy kids whose parents were serving on a ship. They told me how they e-mailed their mom or dad every day. A couple of kids even played internet games with their military parent. Now that’s a huge improvement. I can remember when my dad was away we looked forward to the mail -- snail mail.
 
Another difference is that there are a lot of kids with moms serving in the military today. That wasn’t common when I was a kid. That’s why I wrote about two of Piper’s friends having their mom serve on the same ship as Piper’s dad.
 
Is there really such a thing as Sister Magic?
Sure. I think it really has to do more with shared life experiences than genes, though. My sisters and I might laugh at something that no one else would think was funny.
 
Can you tell us a little about Piper’s next adventure?
Piper’s dad is away on ship duty for most of Piper Reed, the Great Gypsy. The story covers how the family passes their time until Chief returns -- staying at a spaceship beach house for Christmas, going to New Orleans on spring break, visits from family members. Also Piper and the Gypsy Club decide to have a Pet Show. Piper is determined that she and Bruna will win. If only she could teach her a trick.
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books
by the author

Dinner with the Highbrows

Kimberly Willis Holt; illustrations by Kyrsten Brooker
Henry Holt and Co.

Bernard has never been to dinner at a friend's house before. His mother gives him quite the list of rules to follow—no elbows on the table, put your napkin on...


Available In:

Book
Piper Reed, Forever Friend
Piper Reed
Kimberly Willis Holt; illustrations by Christine Davenier
Square Fish

Piper Reed is excited to move to a new state and catch up with old friends. But the move doesn’t go as smoothly as she expected: Piper has trouble feeling...


Available In:

Book eBook
Piper Reed, Rodeo Star
Piper Reed
Kimberly Willis Holt; Illustrated by Christine Davenier
Square Fish

Piper’s parents are going on vacation to France and not taking the whole family. What rotten luck! Still, Piper always looks on the bright side. The Reed...


Available In:

Book eBook
The Water Seeker

Kimberly Willis Holt
Square Fish

Amos Kincaid is the son of a dowser—a person gifted in knowing how to “find” water deep in the ground. As a young person, Amos doesn’t reveal his gift to...


Available In:

Book eBook
Keeper of the Night

Kimberly Willis Holt
Square Fish

A powerful novel about family, grief, and strength from the award-winning author of When Zachary Beaver Came to Town


Available In:

Book eBook
When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

Kimberly Willis Holt
Square Fish

The red words painted on the trailer caused quite a buzz around town and before an hour was up, half of Antler was standing in line with two dollars clutched...


Available In:

Book eBook
Piper Reed, Navy Brat
Piper Reed
Kimberly Willis Holt; Illustrated by Christine Davenier
Square Fish

When a man joins the Navy, his family joins the Navy.


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Book eBook
Piper Reed, Party Planner
Piper Reed
Kimberly Willis Holt; Illustrated by Christine Davenier
Square Fish

Every club needs a clubhouse, and Piper Reed isn’t going to give up until the Gypsy Club has one!


Available In:

Book eBook
Piper Reed, Clubhouse Queen
Piper Reed
Kimberly Willis Holt; Illustrated by Christine Davenier
Square Fish

Piper is dead-set on winning the Gypsy Club Pet Show—if only her dog could learn a few tricks!


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Book eBook
Piper Reed, Campfire Girl
Piper Reed
Kimberly Willis Holt; illustrations by Christine Davenier
Square Fish

Piper’s family is going camping on Halloween, and she’s determined to make it a holiday to remember.


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Book eBook
My Louisiana Sky

Kimberly Willis Holt
Square Fish

My Louisiana Sky is a 1998 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award Honor Book for Fiction.


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Book eBook
The Adventures of Granny Clearwater and Little Critter

Kimberly Willis Holt; illustrator Laura Huliska-Beith
Henry Holt / Christy Ottaviano Books

The Clearwater family is heading west in their covered wagon. But when Granny and Little Critter are accidentally thrown from the back, they are suddenly on...


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Book
Part of Me

Kimberly Willis Holt
Square Fish

The lives of four generations of one Louisiana family are woven together by a master story-teller.


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Book
Skinny Brown Dog

Kimberly Willis Holt; illustrations by Donald Saaf
Henry Holt and Co.

A charming story about an unlikely friendship by National Book Award–winning author Kimberly Willis Holt Benny the baker leads a simple life. He makes...


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Book
Waiting for Gregory

Kimberly Willis Holt; illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska
Henry Holt and Co.

The first picture book from National Book Award winner Kimberly Willis Holt When exactly is cousin Gregory going to be born? asks little Iris. Each family...


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