Noted Children’s Author to Speak

Jane Kurtz
Jane Kurtz, an award-winning children’s book author and fiction writer

The language and literature department at Eastern Mennonite University will hold another "Writers Read" program 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15 in Martin Chapel of the seminary building at EMU.

Jane Kurtz, an award-winning children’s book author and fiction writer now living in Hesston, Kan., will read from her works at the dinner meeting.

Kurtz was born in Portland, Ore., but when she was two years old, her parents moved to Ethiopia. She grew up in Maji, a small town in the southwest corner of the country. Since there were no televisions, radios, or movies, her memories are of climbing mountains, wading in rivers by the waterfalls, listening to stories and making up her own stories, which she and her sisters acted out for days at a time.

When she was in fourth grade, she went to boarding school in Addis Ababa. Her family left Ethiopia in the late 1970s, but a decade later, first her brother and his family and then her older sister and her family went back to teach in a girls’ school in Addis Ababa.

By the time Kurtz came back to the United States for college, she felt there was no way to talk about her childhood home to people here. It took nearly 20 years to finally find a way – through her children’s books. Now she speaks frequently in schools and at conferences, sharing memories from her own childhood and bringing things for children to touch, taste, see, smell and hear from Ethiopia.

"It’s been a healing and inspiring experience," she says, "to re-connect with my childhood and also be able to help people know just a little of the beautiful country where I grew up."

The author’s numerous illustrated books include "Fire on the Mountain," "Only a Pigeon," "Do Kangaroos Wear Seat Belts" and "Pulling the Lion’s Tail." She has also written about surviving a flood in North Dakota, seatbelts, grouchy days, the Oregon Trail, and several real-life heroes, including Frances Willard, Johnny Appleseed and Barnum Brown.

Admission to the program, which includes dinner, is $14. Advance reservations should be made by noon, Feb. 9, by calling 540-432-4168.