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I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the 20th of June. June 20th was also the birthday of my grandmother and her twin sister, who was my great aunt. You can imagine the family celebrations when I was little! I loved sharing my special day with Nana and Aunt Florence, but I also remember wishing my birthday fell during the school year, so I could celebrate with my friends at Overlook Elementary School.

Everyone in my family loved to read and write. Once we adopted a stray dog and my brother and I couldn't agree on a name for it. My mother organized a poetry contest. We were to write poems about dogs, and whoever wrote the best poem could name the new dog. The contest was between my older brother, my mother, and me. My younger sister was only two -- too young to play. I guess my father was the judge, but I don't remember. Anyway, my brother won, and he named the dog Topper. I wish I still had a copy of his poem. Even today, I remember it as being pretty good.

When I was eleven my family moved from Philadelphia to Dallas, Texas. All my Philadelphia friends thought I was moving to the land of stagecoaches and cowboys, and so did I. When we arrived, I was a bit disappointed to find out that my father would drive his car to work, and the best chance I had of seeing a real cowboy would be at the Ft. Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo!

I finished high school in Dallas and even went to college there at Southern Methodist University. While I was a student at SMU I met and married my husband, Parker. Eventually we had two daughters, Cindy and Susan, who are both grown now. Throughout the years we also had an assortment of pets. There were guinea pigs, gerbils, white mice, dogs and cats.

Someone once asked me to name the five books that most influenced my life. That was a real challenge! My earliest memories are caught up with sitting on my mother's lap and listening to her read aloud from Robert Louis Stevenson's Child's Garden of Verses. I particularly liked "The Lamplighter" and "The Swing." By the time I was able to read for myself, I loved Grimm's Fairy Tales and the Raggedy Ann Stories by Johnny Gruelle. I also loved biographies, mysteries like the Nancy Drew series, and perhaps my all-time favorites as a child (and even as an adult), Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens). My childhood copies of each of those titles sit on the mantel of the fireplace in my study. As a child, I also read Bible stories. As an adult I still read the Bible, because I find that the stories within its pages still teach me everything I ever needed to know about living life with joy and satisfaction.

I've been fortunate to have received a few awards for my books. For example, Adventure in Space was named an SLJ Best Book of the Year, a Booklist Editor's Choice, a Children's Literature Choice and was included in VOYA 's Nonfiction Honor list. Beverly Cleary's Ramona: Behind the Scenes of a Television Show was an ALA Notable Children's Book and received a Parenting Magazine's Reading Magic Award. Close Encounters received the American Institute of Physics Award and was named an Outstanding Trade Book for Children by the National Science Teachers Association. And Funny Paper received the National Christian Schools Association's Lamplighter Classic Award. When is a Planet Not a Planet is on the 2010-2011 Indiana Young Hoosier Master List. Space, Stars, and the Beginning of Time was a 2012 ALA Notable Children's Book, a Texas Institute of Letters Children's Book Award finalist and won the North Dakota 2012 Flicker Tale Children's Book Award; and Buried Alive was a CCBC Choice in 2013.

To sum up, I would say that reading and writing are important to me because both exercises open my mind to new thoughts, my mouth to new discussions, and my heart to new experiences.

Today I live in Houston, Texas where, when I'm not reading or writing, I'm off sailing.