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Deborah Hopkinson's picture books and young adult novels make history exciting

PMG PHOTO - Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson is up for an Oregon Book Award. "Each February we celebrate Black History Month. It's a time to honor heroes like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr. But there's one here we sometimes forget."

These are the opening lines to West Linn author Deborah Hopkinson's picture book, "Carter Reads the Newspaper," — one of two books by Hopkison which are up for 2020 Oregon Book Awards.

"Carter Read the Newspaper," which came out last year, portrays the life of Carter G. Woodson, the man best known for founding Black History Month.

The child of former slaves, Woodson would the read the newspaper to his father, who was illiterate. When he got older and went to work in a mine, Woodson would read the paper to the other miners, who also asked him to research the issues they were interested in.

Eventually Woodson went on to obtain a doctorate in history from Harvard and established "Negro History Week," which eventually became Black History Month.

The book conveys Woodson's fascinating story not only through Hopkinson's words but through the illustrations of Don Tate, an award-winning illustrator from Texas, who also contributed his talents to the portraits of other famous black people in history seen on the insides of the books' cover.

PMG PHOTO - How I Became A Spy chronicles the adventures of a British boy and American girl who find a coded notebook belonging to a mysterious missing woman.Hopkinson's other book nominated for a 2020 Oregon Book Award is "How I Became a Spy," a young adult mystery set in London during World War II. The book chronicles the adventures of a British boy and American girl who find a coded notebook belonging to a mysterious missing woman.

Hopkinson said "How I Became a Spy," was inspired by what she learned of the Special Operations Executive, a British spy organization during WWII, from her research for another book.

Her newest book, a nonfiction story called "We had to be Brave," came out Tuesday, Feb. 4, and it's sequel will come out next year.

Even though her books have heavy underlying themes like war, slavery and the Holocaust, Hopkinson said she doesn't shy away from their severity.

"I hope that young readers use my books, and other books, historical fiction, nonfiction, as jumping off points to have a lifelong curiosity," she said.

One of the hardest parts of her work Hopkinson said is finding subjects that will appeal to young readers.

"When you're writing a spy mystery for an 8 or 9-year-old you can't really have murders and car chases, but I try to write about things that interest me so my dog's in this book."

Since 1993, when Hopkinson's first book came out, she has written over 50 books, 12 of which have been nominated for the Oregon Book Awards and two of which have won.

"What I love about the Oregon Book Awards is that it combines both children and adult books together in the same ceremony, which is very rare," she said.


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