We are so lucky to have Newberry Honor Winner Catherine Gilbert Murdock as our local literati this month. Book of Boy is her amazing book that takes place in the middle ages. Boy is an orphan with an amazing ability to talk to animals. This story is part historical fiction, part fantasy, part adventure, and all fun. While Catherine did not grow up in the area, she currently lives locally- lucky for us. So, we want to wish Catherine a huge congratulations on her well-deserved award. We are so honored that she agreed to answer some questions for us.
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And, if you have not read Book of Boy, what are you waiting for? I feel some more snow days coming on and there is nothing better than being cooped up in the house with a good book waiting to be read.
Name: Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Job: Author. Also wife, mother, cook, gardener, travel agent… the whole package.
Birthplace: South Carolina, but I’m a Yankee by blood and upbringing.
Current Hometown: Wayne, PA
What is the last book you read? Oddly enough, Merci Suarez Changes Gears*! I brought it with me on
vacation and then, you know… I’m currently rereading Margaret Visser’s The Rituals of Dinner, a history of table manners.
*2019 Newberry Award Winner
What are some of your favorite reads? Mostly fantasy. I’m a huge Garth Nix fan. Lirael is my go-to when I’m sick or sleepless or anxious. Can’t begin to estimate how many times I’ve read it. And of course, of course, Suzanne Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I also adore nonfiction. Out of the East: Spices in the Medieval Imagination really nailed it for me, and Patrick Leary’s Furta Sacra, on relic theft in the Middle Ages. It completely inspired Book of Boy.
Where is your favorite place to read? Anywhere lying down!
What’s on your nightstand? See above. And, always, a book of Kakuro logic puzzles. They’re like Sudoku but with very basic arithmetic. They help me calm my brain at bedtime.
Where did you go to High School? Rural Connecticut.
What was your favorite high school read? Hmm… A lot of Anne McCaffery. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird. To be frank, by high school I wasn’t getting in much pleasure reading. It really stinks how “serious” books kick the love of reading out of you until after college at least.
Do you read primarily middle grade or adult books? Middle grade! Although I’ve never turned down Tana French. And Lissa Evans—I’m her biggest fan.
How many books do you read each month? Depends on how my writing is going. If I write, I don’t read. Otherwise, it might be a couple of books a week. I really should keep a list.
What is your favorite restaurant in Philly? A longtime go-to for us has been 333 Belrose in St. David’s. Great vibe, great food, especially their java pork. Gryphon Cafe in Wayne has wonderful veggie sandwiches as well as fresh-roasted coffee and mushroom (!) tea. Oh, and Tredici! It’s a local Italian deli with phenomenal Italian imports, and panini to die for.
What is your favorite hidden gem in Philly? Main Point Books! It’s only three blocks from our house, and the staff always has great recommendations—which is why I’m reading so much these days. I spend far, far too much money there.
What is your favorite childhood memory about this area? I didn’t grow up here, but we visited. Once I stood on my father’s shoulders and fed peanuts to the giraffes at the Philadelphia Zoo. You can’t do that any more. But believe me, it was memorable.
What is your ideal Sunday Funday? Completing a jigsaw puzzle, then raking the lawn. My life is so, so, so exciting.
What do you love most about the Mainline/Philly? Our neighborhood in Wayne is amazingly walkable. I can do the post office, movie theater, bookstore, library, drug store, mini pedicure, art supplies, dry cleaner, a truly notable selection of clothes, cat food . . . all within a few blocks. The only thing central Wayne doesn’t have is a grocery store. Get on it, people!
Name 5 things you can’t live without. Occasional pedicures. Triple-cream cheese. Funbridge, my latest iPhone distraction. Bug spray. Early mornings.
Who is your literary inspiration? Lissa Evans, definitely “Ambrose Hilliard” in Their Finest Hour may be my favorite character ever, along with the “Disreputable Dog” in Lireal. Suzanne Clarke. Jonathan Stroud. The wit and empathy of Andrew Sean Greer in Less.
Where did the inspiration for your book The Book of Boy come from? Relic theft! And a morbid fascination with the Black Death. I couldn’t bear to write about it, but why not ponder how the survivors fared? Add an obsession with medieval times and everything Rome …
How has your life changed since you received the Newberry Honor? I get to participate in wonderful blogs like this! But no one opens doors for me, or whispers “is that the 2019 Newbery Honor Winner over there…?” At least not in my earshot.
And the most important… coffee or tea? Sadly, tea. I love coffee but it doesn’t love me back. So I have to content myself with sniffing my husband’s, and stealing the occasional sip.