Previously best known as the co-author of the mega-selling Animorphs series, Katherine Applegate vaults into the ranks of literary luminaries in the children’s book world as the 2013 winner of the Newbery Medal. Her moving novel, The One and Only Ivan, was inspired by the real-life story of a gorilla caged at a shopping mall in Washington state for 27 years. We caught up with Applegate during the whirlwind that followed Monday’s awards announcement to find out how she was dealing with all the excitement.
What was the first thing that went through your head when you found out you had won the Newbery Medal?
There must have been a clerical error.
Who was the one person you couldn’t wait to tell about your award?
My husband, Michael Grant; my editor, Anne Hoppe; my agent, Elena Mechlin at Pippin Properties—those go without saying. But I also couldn’t wait to tell John Schumacher, librarian extraordinaire, and Colby Sharp, teacher extraordinaire, because they both were such supporters of the book.
Do you have a favorite past Newbery winner?
Sarah, Plain and Tall. Patricia MacLachlan is such a gift to children’s literature.
What's the best part of writing books for a younger audience?
When a kid loves your book, you’re a total rock star.
What kind of reaction have you gotten from your readers about this book?
An outpouring of love for the characters. It’s so touching and humbling.
Have you read or listened to past Newbery acceptance speeches? Are you excited (or worried!) about your own speech?
Yes and yes. I’m thinking of hiring a surrogate.
What’s next for you?
Another blank page. And lots of smiling.