Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
Newbery-award winning author Paula Fox was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Awards: Newbery Medal
Former University of Pennsylvania professor Paula Fox was born in New York City in 1923. After a widely-traveled youth, she attended Columbia University and eventually taught at the University of Pennsylvania. She has become a highly-esteemed children’s novelist, winning the Newbery Award for 1974’s The Slave Dancer (1973) and the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1978. She died in Brooklyn on March 1, 2017.
Paula Fox was born in New York City on April 22, 1923. She was the daughter of writer Paul Hervey and Elsie da Sola Fox. She married Richard Sigerson in 1948, and had three children: Adam, Gabriel, and Linda; the couple divorced in 1954. She was married to Martin Greenberg in 1962.
Fox developed a respect for reading as a child. Because her father’s occupation as a writer took him away for business, Fox lived in various places including New York, California, and Cuba (with her grandmother). Despite her formal education being divided among many schools, she was able to learn Spanish fluently and was encouraged to read avidly. Fox returned to New York and attended Columbia University from 1955-1958; however, because of financial difficulties, she was unable to complete her degree. After various jobs, she became a teacher of writing workshops and a professor of literature at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Fox’s writing earned her a place among America’s most noted children’s book authors. In her novels for young adults, she tackled issues of estrangement, death, AIDS, and race; her ability to address these topics honestly and bluntly made her style unique. For instance, her most famous and controversial novel, The Slave Dancer (1973), follows a young musician’s journey from his capture in New Orleans to his life of slavery playing for the slaves captured in West Africa on their trip to America.
Paula Fox received numerous awards for her children’s books, including the Newbery Medal for The Slave Dancer, in 1974 and the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1978. In 1971, she was also a finalist for the National Book Award for Blowfish Live in the Sea (1970) and again in 1979 for The Little Swineherd and Other Tales (1978). Her book A Place Apart (1980)was selected as one of the New York Times Outstanding Books in 1980. Three years later, it received the American Book Award.
Fox and her husband lived in New York City until her death on March 1, 2017.
A Likely Place, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone. New York: Macmillan, 1967.
The King’s Falcon. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Bradbury Press, 1969.
Blowfish Live in the Sea. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Bradbury Press, 1970.
The Slave Dancer. Scarsdale, NY: Bradbury Press, 1973.
The Little Swineherd and Other Tales. New York: Dutton, 1978.
A Place Apart. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1980.