Renowned children’s author Cynthia DeFelice ’73 recently published her new children’s book, “Fort.” The book was released in May 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
“Fort” is a story about friendship and revenge, as it tells the tale of 11-year-old Wyatt and his friend Augie, two funny and very real young heroes. Amidst the best summer of the boys’ lives, two older kids ruin the fort Wyatt and Augie built in the woods. The friends are forced to launch “Operation Doom,” which has unexpected results for all concerned.
“I’m very fond of these two boys,” says DeFelice. “I think readers will have fun going along with them on the adventures they experience in the course of the book.”
A review in the School Library Journal describes “Fort” as a “boy-centered adventure with heart, appealing to a variety of readers… There is a good balance of action and description and well-developed characters.” Kirkus Review calls the book “upbeat, engaging and satisfying; altogether a very fine book.”
In addition to her latest work, DeFelice has written 29 other titles for children. Her books include: “Nelly May Has Her Say,” “Weasel,” “The Missing Manatee,” “The Ghost of Fossil Glen,” “Wild Life,” and “One Potato, Two Potato,” among others.
DeFelice has received numerous accolades for her many storybooks and young adult novels. She was the recipient of the Empire State Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People in 2010, an award that honors a body of work that has made a significant contribution to literature for young people. Her novel “Under the Same Sky” was awarded the Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year in 2004, and her books have also been nominated for an Edgar Allen Poe Award and listed under the American Library Association Notable Children’s Books.
“Writing for children is incredibly rewarding,” DeFelice says. “People who write for adults don’t get letter saying, ‘I read your book 17 times!’ When you write for children, you have the possibility of offering them a new thought or a new way of looking at a familiar feeling or situation. Through the story, you have a way of helping them to understand and therefore to navigate a complex and often puzzling world.”
DeFelice was a religious studies major at HWS, and says that her experiences at HWS were instrumental in her decision to pursue writing as a career.
“Everything that happened to me and everything I learned at HWS informed me as a writer,” DeFelice says. “While I took only one class on writing, it was at HWS that a professor, Dr. Robert Huff, took me aside and told me that I could write. Of course I was writing critical essays and non-fiction for him, but I’ll never forget what he told me. It meant a lot when I decided to try my hand at writing as a career.”
DeFelice, who resides in Geneva, also says that the many jobs she held after graduation – from working at the Finger Lakes Times to working as a school librarian to running a day care center at her house – were instrumental in helping her figure out what she really loved to do: write for young children and middle school readers.
“The connections children make through literature can be some of the most meaningful of their lives,” says DeFelice. “I know that was true for me.”