How George Washington Saved the Day

Author Jim Murphy brings the American Revolution to life

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

Until a 7th grade history teacher sparked his interest, author Jim Murphy says he was a terrible student.

"Because of her, I became instantly fascinated by the many secrets that history holds," says the author of The Crossing, a fascinating retelling of how George Washington saved the American Revolution.

Now a two-time winner of the prestigious Newbery Award Honor Book and Sibert Award, Murphy has written books about yellow fever in Philadelphia (The American Plague), the fire that leveled Chicago (The Great Fire), and a blizzard that reshaped the east coast (Blizzard!)

To choose a subject, Murphy first reads. While reading a book, he makes it a point to take notes.

"I am a big reader," he said, "Whichever timeframe catches my attention I will write it down until eventually I have about 10 to 15 ideas that fit that era."
It is much harder to write nonfiction, he says, but he enjoys the challenge.

"For nonfiction, you have to make sure each fact is exactly what happened," he said. "For example, if I say it was a cloudy and rainy day in my nonfiction book, it has to actually have been a cloudy and rainy day. In fiction, I can make up things like the weather."
Murphy prefers writing fiction because he likes to create the story.

"When I'm writing fiction," explained Murphy, "I can create more of a theme than in nonfiction."

As for his inspiration for The Crossing, Murphy says that he found that textbooks always depicted George Washington as being a perfect guy and a hero.

"I wanted to show him as a real human being that learned from his mistakes," said Murphy, "[He was] someone who wasn't waited on hand and foot."

His main goal as an author is to make each book a little bit better than the one before. He says he is always looking for ways he could improve his stories. He also offered some good advice for budding young writers who want to follow in his footsteps.

"Kids who want to become authors should read as much as they can," he said. "And they should always get information about things they don't know. The next thing to do is sit down and WRITE! Practice writing every day and eventually it will work. The mission should always be to get better."
Check out Kid Reporter Viveca Riley's review of The Crossing!


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