When asked how she came to be a writer of children’s books for nine- to twelve-year-old children, Susan Hall Patron ’69 responded, “To paraphrase Judy Blume, writers for kids seek an inner child to tap into. My inner child seems to be about ten or eleven.”
During a time in the marketplace when most of us transition between jobs every few years, Patron has been a very satisfied librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library for thirty-four years—a place she described as both beautiful and nurturing.
The Los Angeles Public Library is also where it all began for Patron. Her elementary school library was uninspiring to her, but a librarian from the Los Angeles Public Library visited her fourth grade class and unlocked incredible treasures to her in the form of books. After school that very day, Patron rode her bike to a local branch of the library and thus began her passion in life.
Another inspiration occurred at the age of eight when Patron began to be a reader. Her fourth grade teacher read E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web aloud. She was impassioned by this powerful story and decided that she wanted to try to create books that would also have a strong effect on others.
Patron’s father was encouraging and supportive of her writing from the very beginning. He advised her well and told her to eavesdrop. “This is one of the secret techniques of writers, along with keeping a special notebook to capture telling moments,” Patron said.
The Higher Power of Lucky, the contemporary fiction novel that won her the coveted Newbery Medal Book Award, took ten years to complete. Patron credits her editor, Richard Jackson, who helped her to make the story more compelling. “He is a wonderful and very patient man,” Patron continued. “The heart of my book that led to its completion resulted from my mom passing away a couple of years ago.”
The Higher Power of Lucky, Patron’s sixth book, was chosen from among some ten thousand children’s books published in 2006. The amazing book focuses on the protagonist, Lucky, who is an amalgamation of Patron’s imagination. Lucky is a charming and intelligent ten-year-old who seeks control in an adult-controlled world. Lucky, too, is an eavesdropper.
The award is presented by the American Library Association (ALA). “It’s amazing to receive this award after having participated in the Association as a librarian and having worked on some of its committees for more than twenty years,” Patron said.
Will there be sequels? Patron is about three quarters finished with a companion novel. This bodes of great reading to come for both children and adults alike.
Patron, an English major, graduated from Pitzer College in 1969. “The spirit of Pitzer was exciting, like the times themselves—the feeling that one can make a difference. I also valued the smallness and intimacy of the College along with its town meetings,” she explained. Influential to her education at Pitzer were Professors Esther Wagner and Steve Glass. And the visiting Irish poet, W. R. Rodgers, led to Patron’s junior year abroad in Dublin, where, she said, she “started to figure out how stories and storytelling and literature are the keys to unlocking the world.”