Jennifer Donnelly

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Jennifer Donnelly
Jen door 4 043.JPG
Publicity photo for Revolution, 2010
Born (1963-08-16) August 16, 1963 (age 52)
Port Chester, New York, U.S.
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Education B.A., English Literature and European History
Alma mater University of Rochester
Period 2002–present
Genre Historical fiction, young adult fiction
Notable works
Notable awards Carnegie Medal
LA Times Book Prize

Jennifer Donnelly (born August 16, 1963) is an American writer of young-adult fiction best known for the historical novel A Northern Light.

A Northern Light was published as A Gathering Light in the U.K.[a] There it won the 2003 Carnegie Medal, recognizing the year's outstanding children's book.[2][3] For the 70th anniversary of the Medal a few years later it was named one of the top ten winning works, selected by a panel to compose the ballot for a public election of the all-time favorite.[1]

Early life[edit]

Donnelly was born in Port Chester, New York. Her paternal great-grandparents immigrated from Dublin, Ireland to New York state and settled in the Adirondack region where her grandmother worked at a hotel on Big Moose Lake, the setting for A Northern Light. Donnelly's own childhood was divided between the communities of Rye and Port Leyden, New York.[citation needed]

Donnelly attended the University of Rochester, majoring in English Literature and European History and graduating magna cum laude with distinction in English Literature. She also attended Birkbeck College, University of London, in England.[citation needed]


Donnelly returned to New York at age 25, moving to Brooklyn. Her first book was published by Atheneum in 2002: Humble Pie, a picture book with the veteran illustrator Stephen Gammell. That year she also published her first novel, the product of ten years work. The Tea Rose (Thomas Dunne, 2002) is the first book of a trilogy set in the East End of London late in the 19th century, with ties to the story of Jack the Ripper. The second book, The Winter Rose, continues the tale, following the Finnegan family and related characters from London to Africa to the coast of Northern California. The third novel in the series, The Wild Rose, which explores Willa and Seamie's story, follows the characters from London on the verge of World War I to Arabia in 1918.

Her second novel, A Northern Light is Donnelly's biggest success to date. It is based on the infamous murder of Grace Brown by Chester Gillette in the Adirondack Mountains in 1906—which had been the basis for Theodore Dreiser's epic An American Tragedy and its adaptation, the 1951 film A Place in the Sun.

In 2004 A Northern Light won the Carnegie Medal for children's and young-adult books published in Britain[2][3]—where it was entitled A Gathering Light[a] and may have been her first work published in the U.K.[b] In the U.S. it won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for young-adult literature[4] and was a runner-up for the Printz Award from the American Library Association (ALA), recognizing the year's best book for young adults.[5]

Her second young-adult novel, Revolution, is a tale of two teenage girls—one in present-day Brooklyn and one in Paris during the French Revolution—whose stories interweave as they struggle to make sense of the tragedies they encounter. The book was published in October, 2010 by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House, with a first run of 250,000 copies.[6] The audiobook edition from Listening Library, read by Emily Janice Card and Emma Bering, was a runner-up for the ALA's annual Odyssey Award. Donnelly was "captivated and amazed" by the rendition of what she calls "the hardest book I've written".[7][8]

In 2011, Donnelly, unhappy with the lack of a books category on Fox-TV's Teen Choice Awards, started Just Add Books on Facebook, in which she appealed to readers to write to Rupert Murdoch and request that a books category be added to the show. In 2012, the Teen Choice Awards added a books category. Fox has never acknowledged Donnelly or Just Add Books.[citation needed]


Donnelly currently lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her husband and daughter.[citation needed]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Donnelly won the Carnegie Medal[2][3] and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize[4] for A Northern Light. Both A Northern Light and Revolution won other awards or were runners-up (often called Honor Books in the U.S.) and both were named to several annual book lists:

A Northern Light (2003)

Revolution (2010)


As of July 2012, the U.S. Library of Congress catalogs six books by Donnelly, one 32-page picture book and five novels that surpass 2500 pages in sum.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Northern Lights (Scholastic UK, 1995) by Philip Pullman had been published in the U.S. as The Golden Compass (Knopf, 1996); thus only one Northern Light(s) title was used on each continent. Both novels won the annual British Carnegie Medal (which opened before 2003 to American authors who co-publish in the U.K.) and both were named one of the top ten Medal-winning books for the 70th anniversary.[1]
  2. ^ The Carnegie panel recommended A Gathering Light for ages 12 and up and selected it as one of six finalists in April 2004, when its press release called her "American first time novelist Jennifer Donnelly" ("Shortlist for the CILIP Carnegie Medal announced"). It may have been her first book published internationally. When she won the Medal three months later, CILIP wrote that "her first book 'Tea Rose' was published in Spring 2003" after it was "rejected by nearly every publishing house in New York" ("Background on Jennifer Donnelly and A Gathering Light").[3]


  1. ^ a b "70 Years Celebration: Anniversary Top Tens". The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children's Book Awards. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  2. ^ a b c (Carnegie Winner 2003). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  3. ^ a b c d "Press releases for the 2003 Awards, presented in 2004 ". Press Desk. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-08-18.
  4. ^ a b "2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winners". Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. Los Angeles Times. Archived 2009-10-03. Retrieved 2014-01-07.
  5. ^ a b "Michael L. Printz Winners and Honor Books". Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). American Library Association. (ALA).
     "The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature". YALSA. ALA. Retrieved 2014-01-07.
  6. ^ a b The On-Sale Calendar: October 2010 Children's Books. Publishers Weekly. June 20, 2010. Retrieved 2014-01-07.
  7. ^ a b "REVOLUTION Wins Odyssey Honor". Newsletter. January 18, 2011. Jennifer Donnelly. Retrieved 2014-01-07.
  8. ^ a b "Odyssey Award winners and honor audiobooks, 2008–present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA).
     "About the ALSC/Booklist/YALSA Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2014-01-07.
  9. ^ "Best of 2010: Books". Retrieved 2014-01-08. 
  10. ^ Halse, Laurie (2013-01-01). "2010 Best Books for Teens: The Complete List: FORGE". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2014-01-08. 
  11. ^ "Best Books — Heavy Medal". School Library Journal. 2010-11-17. Retrieved 2014-01-08. 
  12. ^ "Donnelly, Jennifer". Library of Congress Online Catalog. Retrieved 2012-07-10.

External links[edit]