CORVALLIS - When she isn't helping raise money for the Oregon State University Foundation, Deborah Hopkinson is likely to be boosting education in another way - combining her love for history and literature into a series of award-winning children's books.
Her latest book will be published late this summer by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Called "Apples to Oregon," it tells the tale of a pioneer father who moves his family from Iowa to Oregon, bringing with him his eight children and hundreds of precious apple seedlings, not to mention young starts for peaches, plums, pears and grapes.
It is based loosely on the true story of Henderson Luelling (also spelled Lewelling), a pioneer who in 1847 transported his seedlings along the same path and founded Oregon's first nursery. His brother, Seth, is credited with introducing the Bing cherry. The Seth Lewelling School in Milwaukie bears his name.
"I'm delighted to call Oregon my home just as 'Apples to Oregon' is being published," said Hopkinson, who in May began her job as director of foundation relations at the OSU Foundation. She came to Oregon State from Walla Walla, Wash., where she worked the last 10 years for Whitman College.
"It's especially fitting because I relied on resources at OSU's Valley Library while researching the book," she added. "I hope to have many opportunities to share this bit of Oregon history with young readers."
Hopkinson is enjoying a growing reputation in the children's literature field. Last month, her book, "Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York," was named an honor book for the 2004 James Madison Book Award. This portrait of immigrant life was also honored by the National Council of Teachers of English, and was a notable book by at least two other education groups.
Another of her books, "Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings," received a 2004 Jane Addams Book Award honor recognizing titles that promote peace, social justice and equality. "Girl Wonder" was inspired by the accomplishments of Alta Weiss, who at the age of 17 in early 20th-century Ohio, pitched her way onto an all-male baseball team - and won.
This fall, she will publish a book called "Hear My Sorrow" that is part of the Dear America historical series. It focuses on the saga of sweatshops in 1909 New York City. She is also the author of "The Klondike Kid," a new chapter book trilogy for young readers, which takes place in the Pacific Northwest beginning in 1897 at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.
It's no surprise that Hopkinson, who has worked in higher education fundraising since receiving a master's degree from the University of Hawaii, feels passionate about the importance of literacy and education.
"In June, the National Endowment for the Arts released its sobering survey, 'Reading at Risk,' which presents a bleak picture of literacy in America," Hopkinson said. "The rate of decline is accelerated among young people across all economic levels. I was the first child in my family to graduate from college, and I owe a lot of that to my love of reading.
"As I visit schools across the nation, and especially here in Oregon, it's discouraging to find that school library budgets and librarian positions are continuing to be cut," she added. "While there are no easy solutions, I believe we must take this challenge seriously and support teachers and librarians, public and school libraries, parents, children - and reading itself - and way we can."
About Deborah Hopkinson
Employment: Director of Foundation Relations for the Oregon State University Foundation.
Family: Husband, Andy Thomas, and two children, Rebekah, age 20, and Dimitri, age 18.
Recent Books: "Apples to Oregon," The Klondike Kid series: "Sailing for Gold" and "The Long Trail", "Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings," "Under the Quilt of Night," "Fannie in the Kitchen," "A Packet of Seeds," "A Band of Angels," "Birdie's Lighthouse" and "Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt."
Upcoming Books: "Dear America: Hear My Sorrow" (Fall 2004); The Klondike Kid: "Adventure in Gold Town" (Fall 2004); "Billy and the Rebel" (2005); "Sky Boys: How they Built the Empire State Building" (Spring 2006).
Awards: International Reading Association Award, Reading Rainbow, Junior Library Guild, Jane Addams Award, Smithsonian Magazine Notable Award, Golden Kite Award, Publishers Weekly Best Book, Parents Choice Gold Award, James Madison Book Award.