About Katherine

Katherine Ayres through the yearsKatherine Ayres has been a lover of books since earliest childhood, when she began inventing stories before she could write them. Her childhood home state of Ohio is the setting for her first two novels, Family Tree and North by Night: A Story of the Underground Railroad. Her present home, Pittsburgh, is the setting for her third novel, Voices at Whisper Bend. As part of her research for this book, which takes place during World War II, she spent a day on a tugboat on Pittsburgh’s Monongahela River. Her newest novel, Macaroni Boy, also takes place in Pittsburgh, featuring the Strip District during the Great Depression. Ayres traveled farther afield for her fourth and fifth books. Silver Dollar Girl begins in Pittsburgh, but quickly moves to the untamed terrain of the Colorado Rockies during the 1880s Silver Boom. Under Copp’s Hill visits turn-of-the-century Boston’s North End and explores mysteries that lurk in a settlement house and pottery. Stealing South returns to the 1850s in Ohio and Kentucky and is a companion book to North by Night. Whether writing about contemporary characters or historical ones, Ayres enjoys the opportunity to travel and study the real places she includes in her books.

Ayres enjoys writing for young people of all ages and has published three picture books for younger children. A Long Way began as a family travel story, but grew more fantastical in the skilled hands of artist Tricia Tusa. Matthew’s Truck is also a family story, which takes the listener on a fun ride via Hideko Takahashi’s vivid illustrations. Up, Down, and Around, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott, is a celebration of vegetables and how they grow. This book was selected as The Pennsylvania OneBook (every young child) in 2008 and was featured on Oprah’s kids’ list. And in 2009, Ayres was chosen as the Outstanding Pennsylvania Author for children by the Pennsylvania School Library Association.

Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, and Pockets magazines are among the publishers of her short stories for children. She also writes plays for both children and adults, several of which have received professional readings.

Ayres’ love of literature was a theme during her first career as a teacher and elementary school principal, and she continues to enjoy working with children and teachers in the school setting. She teaches Writing at Chatham University, where she also coordinates the Masters of Arts in Children’s Writing. She has been a speaker at the California Reading Meeting (for teachers of reading), at Aspen Summer Words (a writers’ festival), at the Ligonier Writers' Conference, Fall Festival of Children's Books and at numerous schools as a visiting author and writer-in-residence.

When she is not writing, she skis, golfs, gardens, and quilts. She and her husband are parents to three adult children and grandparents to two girls and two boys.


  • Family Tree Random House (1996) 

  • North by Night: A Story of the Underground Railroad
 Random House (1998) 

  • Voices at Whisper Bend Pleasant Company (1999) 

  • Silver Dollar Girl Random House (2000) 

  • Under Copp’s Hill Pleasant Company (2000) 

  • Stealing South: A Story of the Underground Railroad 
Random House (2001)

  • A Long Way Candlewick Press (2003) 

  • Macaroni Boy Random House (2003) 

  • Matthew's Truck Candlewick Press (2005) 

  • *Up, Down and Around Candlewick Press (2007)

*Selected as the 2008 Pennsylvania One Book 
(Every Young Child)


“Runaways on the River,” Cricket Magazine, April 1994, 
“Runaways on the River,” Cricket Magazine, June 2003 
“Talking to the Dogs,” Pockets Magazine, May 1996 
“The Visitor,” Spider Magazine, December 1997 
“Welcoming Andrew,” Pockets Magazine, February 1998 
“Sugar Peas,” Ladybug Magazine, May 1998 
“A Long Way,” Ladybug Magazine, June 1998 
“Who Needs a Bath?” Ladybug Magazine, May 1999 
“Hummer,” Pockets Magazine, June 2001
“Up, Down, Around and Around,” Ladybug, July 2001
“A Secret,” Spider Magazine, February 2002 
"Which Part Do We Eat?" Ladybug, May 2006

FasT Facts

Early Years

Born: October 15, 1947 in Columbus, Ohio.
Parents: Ray and Betty Kent. 

Siblings: I am an only child. 

Growing Up:
I grew up in Ohio, West Virginia and New York. 

Pets: As a child, I had a cat, and later two dogs.


West Islip High School, West Islip, New York, graduated in 1965
BA: The College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio, 1969. Studied
 Psychology and Sociology

MA: The Eliot Pearson Child Study Center Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, 1974. Studied Child Development


Have had a variety of jobs in my life, here’s a short list: Camp counselor, diner waitress, research assistant, teacher of emotionally disturbed children, Xerox operator, library assistant, preschool/day care teacher, elementary school principal, freelance writer about architecture, writer for children, college professor.


My husband and I have three children, a son and two daughters, all grown. We have four grandchildren, two girls and two boys.

School Visits - Contact Information

Yes, I do school visits. For information, the address is below. 
And yes, I like to get letters from folks who read my books, again the address is below.

Katherine Ayres

The Graduate Writing Programs

Chatham University

Woodland Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

For school events and author visits in Western Pennsylvania, please contact the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and check out the outreach programs. http://www.pittsburghkids.org

© 2009 Katherine Ayres All Rights Reserved