Deborah Underwood

Photo by John Vias

Deborah Underwood grew up in Walla Walla, Washington. She received a B.A. in Philosophy from Pomona College, and worked as a street musician and an administrative assistant before becoming a full-time children’s writer. Her picture book, Outside In, won a Caldecott Honor. She lives in Northern California with her cat, Sports Fan.


What was your favorite book when you were a child?

That’s an impossible question to answer—there were so many books I loved! Here are just a few: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright, Cathie Runs Wild by Elinor Lyon, and Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians by Mary Nash. One of my favorite picture books now is The Mousehole Cat, written by Antonia Barber and illustrated by Nicola Bayley.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

One of my favorites is the last line of the last Harry Potter book. It must have been so hard to figure out how to finish a seven-book series!

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?

Some are Robertson Davies, Alexander McCall Smith, Jane Austen, Laurie Halse Anderson, and J. K. Rowling.

Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?

I spent most of my elementary school recesses reading in the library instead of playing outside. Books inspired me, educated me, and made me laugh. Since books were—and are—so important to me, I wanted to help create them. I hope that some day a child will love one of my books as much as I loved my favorite books when I was young.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?

The most important thing: write! (Or draw, if you want to be an illustrator.) Lots of people say they want to write, but then they never sit down and do it. Keep trying to improve your writing. And don’t give up!