Caren Stelson

Sarah Pierce Photography

Caren Stelson is an award-winning author of nonfiction books that focus on war and peace themes. She believes young readers want to know the truth about their world and how others find resilience and courage in difficult times. Her work includes Ezra Jack Keats Book Award winner A Bowl Full of Peace and Sachiko: A Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Story, which 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.


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.