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Mary Casanova - Books for Young People
“Our live are like
fireflies, brilliant flashes
of light in the darkness
here and gone. Each life
matters. Listen to your
dreams and giftings;
take risks, live fully, make
a difference.”
—Mary Casanova

Taking a break in Glacier National Park after a week of school visits in Kallispell and Whitefish, MT
Every summer, Mary goes on a week-long writers retreat with other children's authors. Here, Mary and Sheryl Peterson enjoy a laugh on the porch of Front House on located on an island in Rainy Lake.

Mary was awarded the 2010 George Morrison Artist Award in “recognition of her creative contributions to the genre of Young Adult Literature, often celebrating northern Minnesota, while impacting readers world wide.”

About Mary Casanova

Brief Bio:

Mary, at home in Ranier, Minnesota,
opposite the historic lift bridge that
spans two countries—the US and
Canada. August, 2007.

Mary Casanova is an award-winning children's author of novels and picture books. Many of her books stem from her life on the Minnesota-Canadian border; yet some of her stories have taken her as far away as France, Norway, and Belize for research. Whatever the setting for her books, Casanova writes stories that matter--and stories that kids can't put down.

Her book awards include: American Library Association "Notable," Aesop Accolades by the American Folklore Society, Parents' Choice "Gold" Award, Booklist Editor Choice, and two Minnesota Book Awards. Her books frequently land on state children's choice book master lists across the country. "The greatest reward for me," Casanova states, "is when a young reader tells me she or he loves one of my books. For me, it's all about communicating writer-to-reader through a character and story."

Casanova grew up in a family of ten children in St. Paul, Minnesota. In a bustling camp-like atmosphere, Casanova found that writing became her voice. "Words are my paintbrush," she explains, "my way of exploring the world around me."

Now, with 38 books published and many more under contract and forthcoming, she divides her time between writing and traveling. Nationally and internationally, at schools and conferences, Casanova shares her love of writing and reading with children and adults.

The Klipfish Code, makes use of Mary’s on-site research in Norway. The story explores an important facet of Norwegian history through the experiences of Marit, a 12-year-old Norwegian girl who finds a way to fight against the 5-year Nazi occupation of Norway. Marit and her brother Lars are separated from their parents (who are working for the Resistance) and sent to live on an island with their gruff grandfather and school teacher aunt. During the course of the story, Marit’s aunt is one of the Norwegian school teachers that gets sent to a concentration camp for refusing to integrate Nazi propaganda into her classroom. With potential danger waiting every turn, Marit finds a way to help the Resistance and eventually reunite her family.

Mary’s series, Dog Watch (Simon and Schuster) is based on her northern Minnesota village where dogs are allowed to roam free—as long as they don't get in trouble. If they get in trouble, they earn a sticker on their page at the village clerk's office; too many stickers and a trouble-making dog must remain at home. ’I never know where the next story will come from. It’s a delight when the stories come right from this corner of the world I call home.” She makes her home in a 100-year old house on Rainy Lake with her husband, Charles, and their three “above average” dogs and spends free time with their horses Midnight, Sable, and Ginger.

From Mary: Why I Write
Ever since high school—when I discovered the power of words—I wanted to be a writer. In required essays and in my journal writing, words were my paintbrush, a way of interpreting the world and exploring my thoughts. I found my voice and discovered my dream of writing books for children.

When it comes to writing for children, I'm passionate about two things: writing books that matter and writing books that kids can't put down. I want kids to pick up my books and enjoy reading them from cover to cover, page by page, chapter by chapter. I strive to hook them firmly, like a fish on a line, and pull them all the way in.

For me, growing up was like going to camp. With seven brothers and two sisters, I was always outdoors. In the winter, we had our own ice-hockey team, and in summer a ready group for playing tag off the pontoon boat. I water-skied, sailed, camped, and rode my horse everywhere. We had every kind of animal over the years, including a Shetland pony who loved to dump his least favorite riders (not me), and a killer Canada goose who protected his turf by leaving welts on our legs. Every summer, we crammed into our station wagon and headed "up north" to the cabin. In the north woods, I loved the spicy pine air, the loon's song, and the squawk of the great blue heron. It was during those early trips north that my feeling for nature was seeded.

My parents were masters of benevolent neglect, giving me strong wings of independence and roots firmly established in unconditional love. Family life was not perfect, however. As a young girl in a largely male-dominated household, I struggled to be heard above the myriad of other voices. I did not understand or accept the bravado of hunting when a deer carcass hung from our garage rafters, but speaking out was difficult for me.

I now live on the Minnesota-Canadian border, where I see eagles, otters, moose, black bear, and wolves. At one time, I thought this remote location would make it more difficult to establish myself as a writer, but now I see how much my environment has influenced and shaped my work.

Mary Casanova and Mrs. Jan Kunkel
Mary paddling out on Rainy Lake (2019).

If it’s true that writers should “write to express, not to impress,? then nowhere is this more important than in writing for children. They are the toughest critics, demanding first and foremost a good story. It's the writer’s responsibility to write honestly, from the heart, and to give something of lasting value to the reader. Every writer offers a unique perspective, a unique gift; if expressed clearly enough, true enough, it is a gift of story that a young reader will remember for a long time.

Mary Casanova and Mrs. Jan Kunkel
Mary with her 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Jan Kunkel, who surprised Mary
when she was visiting a school in Minnetonka, Minnesota. (Spring 2007).
Publicity Photos
If you need a photo of Mary to help publicize a school visit or conference, please use the links below. If you need a print quality image larger than 4 x 5 inches, please send an e-mail request with the specifics of what you need.
Mary Casanova
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Print resolution (240 DPI, 4 x 4 inches)
Mary Casanova
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Print resolution (300 DPI, 4 x 6 inches)

Mary Casanova is a fiscal year 2023 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Arrowhead Regional Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

©1998 Mary Casanova. Site designed and maintained by Winding Oak.