Patricia Reilly Giff specializes in writing humorous books for middle-grader readers. In both her novels and her multi-book series, Giff explores situations that are readily familiar to young people
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1935, Giff recalled her childhood as an adventure in reading. As she once commented, "While the rest of the kids were playing hide and seek, I sat under the cherry tree reading. On winter evenings I shared an armchair with my father while he read Hiawatha and Evangeline to me. I read the stories of my mother's childhood and every book in our little library in St. Albans. I wanted to write. Always."
Giff has specialized in humorous books that both parents and middle readers love. By focusing on familiar situations in life Giff creates worlds that readers easily relate to. These allow readers to find the joy and humor in the world around them.
Giff did not begin writing until she was in her 40s. Her concept was simple, "I had worked with so many children who had terrible problems that I wanted to say things that would make them laugh. I wanted to tell them they were special." What a wonderful gift to give to young readers!
In Lilly's Crossing, Giff took a more serious turn. The Newbery Honor book features fifteen-year-old Lily who is left behind with her grandmother as her widowed father joins the army to fight the Nazi threat overseas. It is "a fine piece of historical fiction that evokes a time and place without taking advantage of its characters' emotional lives," Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books contributor Janice M. Del Negro noted that Lily's Crossing "coalesces [plot and characters] into an emotional whole that is fully satisfying."
Giff was again awarded the Newbery Honor Medal for Pictures of Hollis Woods. It takes place on Long Island, where talented but troubled preteen foster-child Hollis Woods begins to feel secure at the home of a retired art teacher.
The themes of her books echo what drove her to write many years ago. "Writing became one of the most important parts of my life, a part that now I couldn't do without," she once recalled. "I hope to say to all the children I've loved that they are special ... that all of us are special ... important just because we are ourselves."