Katherine Paterson (born October 31, 1932) is an American author best known for children's novels. For four different books published 1975-1980, she won two Newbery Medals and two National Book Awards. She is one of three people to win the two major international awards: for "lasting contribution to children's literature" she won the biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing in 1998. For her career contribution to "children's and young adult literature in the broadest sense", she won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from the Swedish Arts Council in 2006, the biggest prize in children's literature. She was awarded the 2007 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature. She was the second U.S. National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, 2010–2011, and she received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the American Library Association in 2013.
She was born Katherine Womeldorf in Huai'an, Jiangsu, China, to Christian Missionaries George and Mary Womeldorf. Her father was a principal at Sutton 690, a school for girls, and traveled throughout China as part of his missionary duties. The Womeldorf family lived in a Chinese neighborhood and immersed themselves in Chinese culture. When Katherine was five years old, the family was forced to leave China during the Japanese invasion of 1937. The family moved to Richmond, Virginia for a short while before returning to China to live in Shanghai. In 1940, the family was forced to flee again, this time to North Carolina.
The Womeldorf family moved 13 times between 1937 and 1950 because of George Womeldorf's work and also because of the war in China.
Paterson began her professional career in the Presbyterian Church by teaching Sunday school curriculum for fifth and sixth grade parochial students.
In 1966, she wrote the novel Who Am I?. While continuing to write, she was unable to get any of her novels published. After being persuaded, Paterson took an adult education course in creative writing during which her first novel was published. Her first children's novel, The Sign of the Chrysanthemum, was published in 1976. A Japanese fairy tale, it is based on Paterson's studies in Japan. Bridge to Terabithia, her most widely read work, was published in 1977. Terabithia was highly controversial due to some of the difficult themes. Bridge to Terabithia is among the most popular books she has written.
Some of her other books also feature difficult themes such as the death of a loved one.