"Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood."
Jane Yolen is an American writer of fantasy, science fiction, and children’s books. She is the author or editor of more than 280 books, of which the best known is The Devil’s Arithmetic, a Holocaust novella. Her other works include the Nebula Award-winning short story Sister Emily’s Lightship, the novelette Lost Girls, Owl Moon, The Emperor and the Kite, the Commander Toad series and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight.
She gave the lecture for the 1989 Alice G. Smith Lecture, the inaugural year for the series. This lecture series is held at the University of South Florida School of Information “to honor the memory of its first director, Alice Gullen Smith, known for her work with youth and bibliotherapy.” In 2012 she became the first woman to give the Andrew Lang lecture.
Although Yolen considered herself a poet, journalist and nonfiction writer, she became a children’s book writer. Her first published book was Pirates in Petticoats, which was published on her 22nd birthday.
Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens, Favorite Folktales From Around the World, Xanadu and Xanadu 2 are among the works that she has edited.
Her book Naming Liberty, tells the story of a Russian girl and Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the Statue of Liberty.
She has co-written two books with her son, the writer and musician Adam Stemple, Pay the Piper and Troll Bridge, both part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy Tale series.
She also wrote lyrics for the song “Robin’s Complaint,” recorded on the 1994 album Antler Dance by Stemple’s band Boiled in Lead.
Regarding the similarities between her novel Wizard’s Hall, and the Harry Potter series, Yolen has commented on J.K. Rowling, the author of that series:
“I’m pretty sure she never read my book. We were both using fantasy tropes — the wizard school, the pictures on the wall that move. I happen to have a hero whose name was Henry, not Harry. He also had a red-headed best friend and a girl who was also his best friend — though my girl was black, not white.
And there was a wicked wizard who was trying to destroy the school, who was once a teacher at the school. But those are all fantasy tropes …There’s even a book that came out way before hers where children go off to a witch school or a wizard school by going on a mysterious train that no one else can see except the kids, at a major British train station — I don’t know if it was Victoria Station or King’s Cross. These things are out there …This is not new.”