Born: May 5, 1942
Ohio connection: Resident
J. Patrick Lewis, son of Leo J. and Mary (Cambruzzi) Lewis, was born in 1942 in Gary, Indiana. He received a B.A. degree from St. Joseph’s College in 1964, an M.A. from Indiana University in 1965, and a Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1974. In 1972-73 he and his family spent the academic year in the former U.S.S.R., where Lewis completed his doctoral dissertation as an International Research and Exchanges (IREX) Fellow. The Lewises were the first family to be accepted on this the largest cultural exchange program between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. He returned to Moscow and other Soviet cities for shorter stays in 1977, 1982, 1987, August 1991 (during the failed coup), 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2004, and 2012.
In 1964, Lewis was married to Judith Weaver, and they have three children, Beth, Matthew, and Leigh Ann, and now five grandchildren. They were divorced in 1983. He was remarried to Susan Gifford in 1998, and he has two stepchildren, Kelly and Scott. Lewis was professor of economics (now professor emeritus) at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, from 1974 until his retirement in 1998. He has been a prolific author of children’s books since the publication of his first title, The Tsar and the Amazing Cow, in 1988. Since then, he has written more than eighty books with Knopf; Creative Editions; Dial; Harcourt; Atheneum; National Geographic; Little, Brown; Chronicle; Candlewick; Schwartz & Wade/Random House; Scholastic; Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press; Sleeping Bear Press, and others. Some of his books include A Hippopotamusn’t; Earth Verses and Water Rhymes; The Bookworm’s Feast: A Potluck of Poems; Earth and You: A Closer View; Good Mousekeeping; Arithmetickle: An Even Number of Odd Riddle-Rhymes; Scientrickery; Doodle Dandies; Spot the Plot; Please Bury Me in the Library: Poems about Books and Reading; The House; The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse; The Last Resort; When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders; and Face Bug. Lewis’ books run the gamut from history to science to nonsense and humor. He has visited over 500 elementary schools here and abroad to share his love of poetry. His children’s poems have also appeared in Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, Cicada, Odyssey, Ranger Rick, Highlights for Children, Ms. Magazine, Your Big Backyard, Creative Classroom, Storytime, Storyworks, Chickadee, Ahoy, Language Arts, Journal of Children’s Literature, Bookbird, Reading Today and over 100 anthologies. He wrote the 1992 National Children’s Book Week poem, printed on one million bookmarks and distributed nationally, and the 2007 Young People’s Poetry Week poem.
Lewis’ first book of adult poems, Gulls Hold Up the Sky, was published in October 2010 by Laughing Fire Press. His work has appeared in Gettysburg Review, New England Review, New Letters, Southern Humanities Review, New Renaissance, Kansas Quarterly, Fine Madness, Light Quarterly, and many others. He currently resides in Westerville, Ohio.
The 1989 Ohioana Library Association Children's Book of the Year, an Ohio Arts Council individual artist grant in adult poetry, 1991; 1996 Kentucky Bluegrass Award; 2001 SCBWI Golden Kite Award for picture book text; 2002 Gold Book Award from the National Association of Parent Publishers; 2003 ASPCA Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award; Alice Louise Wood Memorial Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Children’s Literature (2004); Europe’s Bologna Ragazzi Award (Honor Book, 2006 and 2008); 2006, 2008, and 2010 Independent Publishers (IPPY) Book Award; 2006 and 2007 Book of the Year (Gold) by Foreword Magazine; 2010-2011 Keystone to Reading Book Gold Medal; 2012 Geminschaftswerk der Evangelischen Publizistik (GEP) Honor Book; a 2012 Parents Choice Award; and the 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award (Nonfiction).
In 2011 Lewis was given the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Children’s Poetry Award. Also in 2011, the Poetry Foundation named J. Patrick Lewis the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate (2011-2013).