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hen I was growing up in the small town of Rutherford, New Jersey, I was always called a tomboy. That was because I loved riding bikes, climbing trees, and playing baseball with the boys in the neighborhood. When I finally came inside, I had another name: bookworm. I was seldom seen without a book in my hand. In the summertime, I would go to the library and come back with as many books as I could carry. I read by flashlight under the blankets when I was supposed to be sleeping. And I read in the car, even though it made me carsick.

I was especially fond of reading about certain subjects. For a long time, I wished very hard for a dog, so I read all the dog stories I could find. After I finally got a dog, I moved on to horse stories and mystery stories. By the time I was in sixth grade, I felt as if I'd read every single book in our small town library. That was when I decided to write my own book. It seemed like an easy thing to do. I got myself a notebook, sharpened some pencils, and went to work. At that point I was enthralled with Anna Sewell's Black Beauty. So I decided to write a book just like it.

Well, it turned out that writing a book wasn't quite as easy as I thought. By the time I got to the third chapter, I had run out of ideas for my story. And it didn't help that I didn't know anything at all about horses. (I had never taken riding lessons or even been on a horse!) So I put away my notebook and gave up my writing career at the age of eleven.

Later on, after studying journalism at Syracuse University, I moved to New York City and got a job in the children's book department of a publisher. For my job I read lots of children's books and manuscripts. After awhile I decided that maybe I could try again to write a book. This time I was a little bit smarter. I wrote about things I knew about, and also took a writing class. Eventually, my first book, Timothy's Flower, was published.

Since then I have written more than fifty books. Many of them have been inspired by my own two children, David and Elizabeth. When they were very small, I didn't have much time for writing. The only free time in my day was when they were taking their naps. So I began to write little stories about what they were doing and saying. These stories grew into a book, Tales of Oliver Pig. Over the years, that first book has grown into a whole series of Easy-to-Read books about Oliver and Amanda Pig. Even though my children are now grown-up, I still write from my memories of the fun we had together when they were young.

In recent years I have become very interested in American history, and especially how our country was settled. This interest has led me to begin writing historical fiction. I like writing different kinds of stories: funny ones and serious ones, fantasy and real-life, stories about animals and people, children today and children who lived a long time ago. I enjoy writing for different age groups, from preschool to middle school.

Now I live in an old house in Chappaqua, New York, not far from New York City. When I am not writing, I teach a Writers' Workshop for adults and visit schools to talk about books. I also volunteer in a first-grade classroom, where I help children with their writing. I enjoy working in my garden, playing tennis, and listening to music. And when I am not doing any of that, I like to read.

The truth is, I am still a bookworm.



 Arrange a visit with Jean:

To arrange a school visit with Jean Van Leeuwen, contact the Penguin Group (USA)



 Additional Publications:

You can find more information about Jean Van Leeuwen in:

Book Links, Vol.4, No. 4 March 1995

Something About the Author Autobiography Series,
Volume. 8, 1989 Gale Research





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