3-Minute Interview: Jeanne Birdsall

The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature winner will promote her new book, “The Penderwicks on Gardam Street,” at 6 p.m. today at Kepler’s in Menlo Park and at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Books Inc. in Laurel Village in San Francisco.

Your book is a sequel, but can kids read it without having read the first one? Yes; I worked very hard at making it OK for someone to pick up this second book and understand what’s going on.

What inspired “The Penderwicks”? When I was a child, I read books by Edward Eager, who wrote about books by E. Nesbit in his books. I tried to do that here.

The book is reminiscent of “Little Women.” Is that a fair comparison? It makes sense that if you’re going to write a book about sisters, the Bible of sister books should be taken into account. But Meg was boring, so I made Rosy, my oldest sister, spunky. And I didn’t want anybody to die in my book.

Which sister do you resemble the most? Probably Batty. I’m the youngest, I like animals.

What did you think of the wide acclaim for your first book? I was delighted and surprised. It went so much against what was currently being published. It’s not an “issue” book, about divorce or anything.

What did you do before you published books? I actually came to the Bay Area in the 1970s to study textile design at what used to be the California College of Arts and Crafts. I ended up studying photography and then had 95 horrible jobs in order to be able to continue doing photography.

What are you looking forward to doing while in the Bay Area? I’ll see my stepson, who's finishing up his doctorate at Stanford, and I’ll meet Annie Barrows, who lives here and who wrote “The Magic Half,” in person.

lkatz@examiner.com

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