Here is a letter from Donna Jo to her readers, which answers lots of the questions that she gets. After the letter you can find her biography.

Dear Reader,

I love to write. I didn't grow up wanting to be a writer, but I'm so lucky that I stumbled across writing. Writing allows me to find out about the world. If I write a story about soccer, I get to go to soccer games for a while. If I write a story about lions, I get to visit the zoo and read about lions for a while and, if I'm extra super lucky, I get to go to Africa (which is what I did when I researched for the book BEAST). Writing is wonderful that way.

My favorite book that I've written for younger readers is THE BRAVEST THING (you can buy it through the Scholastic Book Club). My favorite book that I've written for older readers is BREATH (which Simon & Schuster sells). My favorite book for children that someone else wrote is A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. My favorite adult authors are Anne Tyler, Toni Morrison, and Margaret Atwood. I have lots of favorite children's authors.

None of my books are autobiographical. But I often do get my ideas from real life. Something will happen and I will simply elaborate on it and change it and mold it until I have a story that feels new and exciting to me.

If you want to be a writer, I have advice for you. Write a lot. And write all kinds of things: poems, stories, essays, recipes, e-mails, letters, journals, anything. The more you write, the better you'll get at it.

Thank you for reading my books. You are the reason why I write.


Donna Jo

Short Biography:

Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children's fiction.

She is married to a professor of Health Law. Here he is below in the west, just before throwing that beauty back into the river. And here he is to the right, in the glory of a national park.



Donna Jo has five children. She dreams of moving to the woods and becoming a naturalist. She loves to garden and bake bread.
At various times her house and yard have been filled with dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits. For thirteen years she had a cat named Taxi, and liked to go outside and call, "Taxi!" to make the neighbors wonder. But dear dear Taxi died in 2009.
  Taxi lives on, however, as a character in the SLY THE SLEUTH series. On the left here is a picture of the old, real Taxi.      
  Here are two more animals in Donna Jo's life. Baci is on the left. Ino, when he was an itty bitty kitty, is on the right. Both belong to her daughter.





And here are the last two animals in her life. Jack is on the left. Mouse, when she was a pup, is on the right. Both belong to another daughter.



Below is Donna Jo's grandson on his first birthday:



And on his second birthday:


And on his third birthday:







Below is Donna Jo's granddaughter on her first birthday:



Below are all Donna Jo's children and their spouses and her two grandchildren on Christmas 2009:



  These are photos of a fox Donna Jo's family loves. Maybe someday she'll write a fox story.

Donna Jo's novel BEAST (2000) took place in Persia in 1500. It was translated into Farsi, the language of Iran (the land we used to call Persia). Because of this, in February and March, 2005, Donna Jo got invited to Iran, to give a talk at a children's literature festival. You can read about that visit by clicking here.

The rest of this biography is mostly for educators. For an interview with the author , go to interview 2009. For a comment about author's readings, go to June 2009.

She lives outside Philadelphia. She received her BA in mathematics in 1970 and her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures in 1973, both from Harvard University, then did a postdoctoral year in Linguistics at MIT. She has since taught linguistics at Smith College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Georgetown University, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and Swarthmore College. It was at UM that she earned tenure (in 1981) and became a full professor (in 1984). She has held visiting positions at the University of Queensland (Australia), the University of Geneva (Switzerland), and Capital Normal University of Beijing (China), as well as lectured at the University of Sydney (Australia), Macquarie University (Australia), the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), and the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa). In the area of linguistics she has authored five books (one of which is being translated into Korean), co-authored four (one of which is in Italian), edited one, and co-edited four (with a fifth in press), ranging from theoretical linguistics to practical matters in language structure and use, including matters of interest to d/Deaf people. She has held grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, and the Sloan Foundation.

In the area of novel writing, she held a grant from the American Association of University Women for research pursuant to fiction writing. She won a Leeway Foundation Award for Excellence in Fiction Writing in 1995. Her novel THE PRINCE OF THE POND (1992) won the New Jersey Reading Association Award for 1997. Her novel STONES IN WATER (1997) won the Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in 1998 and the Sydney Taylor Book Award from the National Association of Jewish Libraries for 1998. She received the Drexel University/Free Library of Philadelphia Children's Literature Citation for 1998. Her picture book ALBERT won the Kentucky Bluegrass Award for 2003. Her novel BREATH won the honor book for the Golden Kite Award in 2003. Four of her novels have been honor books for the Carolyn W. Field Award of the Pennsylvania Library Association: STONES IN WATER, SPINNERS (coauthored with Richard Tchen), BEAST, FIRE IN THE HILLS. Her novel DAUGHTER OF VENICE won the Nevada Young Readers Award for 2004. Her novel NORTH was a Parents' Choice Silver Honor book, as was her novel THE KING OF MULBERRY STREET, which was also an honor book for the Sydney Taylor Book Award and a Sons of Italy National Book Club selection. Her novel ALLIGATOR BAYOU was the Parents' Choice Gold book for historical fiction. She received a Literary Lights for Children Award from the Boston Public Library in 2007.

In the area of short story writing, she has two retellings of Italian tales: "Sweet Giongio" in DIANE GOODE'S BOOKS OF SILLY STORIES & SONGS, Dutton, 1992, pp. 41-48 (ISBN 0-525-44967-1) and "Little Lella" in DIANE GOODE'S BOOK OF GIANTS AND LITTLE PEOPLE, Dutton, 1997, pp. 48-53 (ISBN 0-525-45660-0). She also has the story "So many first kisses" in Cylin Busby's (ed.) FIRST KISS (THEN TELL) anthology, Bloomsbury, 2008, pp. 193-201 (ISBN 978-1-59990-199-2), the essay "Choose well" in Dan Gutman's (ed.) RECYCLE THIS BOOK: 100 TOP CHILDREN'S AUTHORS TELL YOU HOW TO GO GREEN, Random House, 2009, pp. 246-247, and the story plus recipe "Bagna cauda Louise" in Jane Martellino's (ed.) ALL BECAUSE OF GRACE: REFLECTIONS AND RECIPES, Yes! Grace Rocks, Inc., 2010, p. 19.

In the area of poetry, she has contributed poems to seven anthologies by linguists and been coeditor of five. She also has a poem for children, "Twelve" in ON HER WAY, edited by Sandy Asher, Dutton, 2004, pp. 84-85 (ISBN 0-525-47170-7).

She has written several essays about children's literature and writing for children. She has also written book reviews about children's fiction.

Full academic CV

She ran a conference on deaf issues in 2004. To see the program click here

She ran a conference on deaf issues in 2008. To see the program click here