Karina visited Mayfield in November 2019 as a Book Fair featured author. She shared memories of her time at Mayfield and how the people, places (and pets) in her life in New York City inspire her bestselling series, "The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street."
I attended MJS from sixth through eighth grade, graduating in 1994. It was a life-changing three years for me and it changed the academic trajectory of my life.
I came to MJS from a public school background, and I was way behind academically from the very beginning. I remember taking a science quiz and having no idea what the scientific method was. I failed the quiz, got some extra help from the teacher, and did much better the rest of the year. That was pretty much how it went for the rest of my classes. I entered not having a clue what was going on, but with the kindness and support of every teacher, I was able to get good grades, graduate in good standing, and go on to Mayfield Senior School. I am so thankful for all of those teachers who stuck with me and believed in me.
MJS also gave me confidence. I had always been a quiet child, but I gained confidence in my years at MJS and was cast as the female lead in the eighth grade play, Tom Sawyer. The play was an amazing experience (despite the fact I had to kiss the guy playing Tom Sawyer on stage!). I went on to high school well prepared, and then to Barnard College for my undergraduate studies and Columbia College for graduate school. I worked in the non-profit field for a decade, then had two children and stayed at home with them for a few years.
Now I have a career as a children's book writer, writing for middle grade readers (ages 8-12). I do not think it is a coincidence that I write for kids the same age as I was when I attended MJS. Those were life-changing, formative years for me.
My debut book is called The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. It has been reviewed in The New York Times Book Review and was chosen as a New York Times Notable Children's Book of 2017 and World Magazine's Children's Novel of the Year. It is also a Bank Street Best Children's Book Selection of 2018, received two starred reviews, and has been optioned for film by Amy Poehler's production company. The second book in the series, The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden
, released in September 2018 and hit the New York Times bestseller list. A third book in the series will be published next fall.
I have been meeting with students all over the country while touring for the books, and I get a lot of questions about my own childhood. It has made me think about the places and people who have influenced me. I am grateful for the loving support of MJS in those critical middle school years. The teachers at MJS changed my life, and I am forever grateful.
Keep up with Karina's busy life on Instagram @karinaisreadingandwriting