Caren Stelson

Sarah Pierce Photography

When author Caren Stelson first heard Sachiko Yasui speak, she knew she needed to share her story with young people. She eventually made five trips to Japan to interview Sachiko in Nagasaki and conduct additional research. Caren’s book for middle grade readers, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Story, was longlisted for a National Book Award and received a Sibert Honor Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award. Caren and her husband Kim live in Minneapolis. They have two adult children and one grandson, Reid, who, like the readers of A Bowl Full of Peace, will be our next generation of peacemakers.


What was your favorite book when you were a child?

When I was twelve, my favorite book was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Then the story scared me out of my wits. Now as an adult, each time I read To Kill a Mockingbird, I admire the author’s skill and artistry. 

What’s your favorite line from a book?

The line that plays over and over in my mind comes from Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day.” The last lines are: “Now tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?

I love to read anything by Kate DiCamillo, Russell Freeman, and Karen Hesse—who most often write for young readers. Lately I’ve been reading novels by Elizabeth Strout who writes for adults. Ask me tomorrow and I would come up with three other names. I learn something about writing from every author I read.

Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?

I was a teacher then a freelance writer, working on assignment and meeting deadlines. Finally I decided it was time to write the stories I needed to write for myself. I hoped that if I needed the stories I wanted to write, maybe others would want them too.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?

Read as much as you can. When you start writing, tell the truth.