About Heather

Heather Author PhotoHeather Henson was born and raised in Danville, Kentucky, and grew up at Pioneer Playhouse, Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre, which her father founded in 1950. Now managing director of this historic 73 year-old theatre, she is also the author of several award-winning and critically acclaimed books for young readers, including That Book Woman, illustrated by Caldecott Medal-winner David Small, and Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop, Slave-Explorer, illustrated by Caldecott Medal-Medal honoree Bryan Collier. After living in New York City for many years where she was an editor at HarperCollins Publishers, Ms. Henson returned to her home state and is in the process of restoring an old house on her family’s farm with her husband, Tim Ungs, and their three children.

From the author:

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been working in the world of children’s books for over twenty-five years. It all started just after I’d graduated from The New School in New York City with a BA in Creative Writing with no idea how I was actually going to support myself as a writer. As it turns out, I began temping for a “creative types” temp agency, and within a few months I was sent to work at Harper & Row Publishers (now HarperCollins.) What began as a temporary position in the Children’s Division turned into a calling. I discovered I loved working on books for young readers, loved working with both writers and artists on creating books. I made my way up the ladder at Harper, from temp to full time Editorial Assistant, eventually to Senior Editor. As I went, I was able to learn from some of the most creative editors of the day, and I was able to acquire and edit novels like PARROT IN THE OVEN by Victor Martinez, which won the first National Book Award for Young People after the category had been reinstated after a ten-year hiatus in 1996.

I stayed on at Harper for over ten years until I decided to leave to focus on my own writing. At first I took on major freelance writing projects from Harper, such as the adaptation of the original “Little House” books into a series of chapter books and later into the series of “prequel” novels for middle grade readers, such as “The Caroline Years.” Besides my own writing, I have “ghost-written” over fifty published children’s books.

In 2001, I published my first YA novel, MAKING THE RUN, which was named a New York Times Best Book for the Teen Age. Next came a picture book, ANGEL COMING, which celebrated a little known piece of history from my home state of Kentucky, the Frontier Nursing Service. THAT BOOK WOMAN came soon after, another book that celebrates real people: The Pack Horse Librarians of eastern Kentucky.

While I’ve written many other picture books and novels for middle grade readers at this point, THAT BOOK WOMAN has been a “favorite child.” This small story celebrating Kentucky, celebrating librarians, celebrating reading, has traveled around the country, and around the world. It is now published in many languages, including Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. In fact it is currently part of the 4th grade curriculum in South Korean. I continue to receive letters from students, teachers, librarians from all over the world asking me about those brave “Book Women,” asking me about the world the book depicts. Because I’m a Kentucky writer first and foremost (even though I’ve lived elsewhere), this makes me especially proud. When I was a kid in school in Kentucky, I’d never learned about the Pack Horse Librarians or the Frontier Nurses or Stephen Bishop (the subject of my latest picture book), but one of the reasons I write these stories is so that future generations will.


That Book Woman, illustrated by David Small (2008)

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Winner, Christopher Medal for Young People’s Literature

Winner, Great Lakes Book Award for Picture Books

Parent’s Choice Foundation, Parent’s Choice Award

Winner, Anne Izzard Storyteller’s Choice Award

Winner, Keystone to Reading Book Award (PA)

Storytelling World Award Honor Book, Stories for Young Listeners

Finalist, Kentucky Bluegrass Award

Finalist, Texas Bluebonnet Award

Finalist, Nebraska Golden Sower Award

Finalist, Utah Beehive Book Awards

A Smithsonian Magazine Notable Books for Children

CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book

A First Book Selection

Honorable Mention, Favorite Picture Book of the Year Cuffie Awards (Selected by Independent Booksellers nationwide and printed annually in Publishers Weekly)

Lift Your Light a Little Higher, illustrated by Bryan Collier (2017)

-A Junior Library Guild Selection

-Finalist, Kentucky Bluegrass Award

-Bank Street Best Books of the Year

-CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book

-Eureka Nonfiction Honor Book

-Chosen to represent Kentucky in the Pavilion of the States at the 16th Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C

Dream of Night (2010)

Black Eyed Susan Book Award Master List (MD)

Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Master List (VT)

Here’s How I See It/Here’s How It Is (2009)

-Bank Street Best Books of the Year

Grumpy Grandpa, illustrated by Ross MacDonald (2009)

Grandparents.com 2009 Summer Reading List: Preschool

The Whole Sky (2017)

A Junior Library Guild Selection

A Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award Finalist

Click here to read an interview with Heather.