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Children's Nonfiction Literary

Born to Write

The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors

by (author) Charis Cotter

Annick Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2009
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2009
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2009
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 6


Our childhood experiences shape us into the adults we become. Born to Write tells the stories of how six extraordinary children transformed early struggles into spellbinding bedtime reading for kids around the world.

To ease the pain of being ostracized by her classmates, Madeleine L’Engle escaped to an invented world every night in her bedroom. Lucy Maud Montgomery lost her mother as a baby and her father appeared only sporadically throughout her life. And Philip Pullman, a seasoned traveler by age 10, used his long journeys by ship as inspiration for his remarkable novels.

In Born to Write, Charis Cotter chronicles the early lives of these and other much-loved children’s writers, including Christopher Paul Curtis, C.S. Lewis and E.B.White, revealing how each author’s achievements and losses, triumphs and tragedies, helped shape our most beloved books. Interspersed throughout are sidebars highlighting other well-known children’s authors, such as Hans Christian Andersen and Louisa May Alcott, whose works served as inspiration.

About the author

A writer and storyteller, Charis Cotter has published several critically acclaimed children's books, including a series of biographies about extraordinary children and a book about international ghosts. Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City 1919-1939 received the 2005 Heritage Toronto Award of Excellence. Most recently, The Swallow: A Ghost Story won the 2015 IODE Violet Downey Book Award, was named an Honour Book by the Canadian Library Association for 2015, and has been nominated for four 2016 children's choice awards across Canada. She lives in Western Bay, NL.

Charis Cotter's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“… accessible, thought-provoking, and fun to read.”—Booklist, 12/09

“… can be used to motivate children to dive into a good book or to spin their own tales.”—CM Magazine, 11/09

“… mature readers will gain the most enjoyment as they discover the backgrounds and inspirations of some of their favorite writers.”—School Library Journal, 12/09

“… will intensely satisfy, not to mention inspire, the child who is already a reader and writer …”—Resource Links, 02/10

“Fascinating … intriguing … irresistible … will have young readers hoping that Cotter plans a series of books similar to this must-purchase and her earlier titles.”—VOYA, 04/10

Librarian Reviews

Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors

Have you ever wondered why writers write? Which writers, as children, “liked to sneak out the window at night to play?”

Charis Cotter’s Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors is an enticing mix of book excerpts, family and life history and literary background of six influential authors: Lucy Maud Montgomery, Clive Staples Lewis, Elwyn Brooks White, Madeleine L’Engle, Phillip Pullman and Christopher Paul Curtis.

The layout of Born to Write is appealing and accessible to students in Grades 5 and older, as each of the six chapters are minibiographies. Each section includes background facts, book excerpts, archival and present day photos with fact boxes. Cotter researched further to expose the similarities between a wide variety of authors. The resulting ‘Echoes’ sidebars highlight comparable details of the authors’ life and their books in a fun way – for example, “Madeleine L’Engle and Christopher Paul Curtis both enjoyed the smell of books.” Cotter details how vivid childhood experiences, both joyous and tragic, truly affect the authors’ decisions later in their adult life, whether it is in their writing, or a life-altering decision.

This book is ideal for expanding a young reader’s knowledge of an author’s life history and their writing influences or introducing an unfamiliar author and encouraging a student to read any of the six authors’ books. A selected bibliography guides young readers to other resources detailing the writers’ lives. To learn more about Charis Cotter, visit her website at

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Winter 2010. Vol.33 No.1.

Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors

What were Lucy Maud Montgomery, C.S. Lewis, E.B. White, Madeleine L’Engle, Philip Pullman and Christopher Paul Curtis like as kids? Cotter explores how the childhoods of these authors helped mold the children’s stories that would later earn them success and stardom. Photos, a bibliography and an index accompany this insightful text.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2010.

Other titles by Charis Cotter