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Northwest Passages: Graham Salisbury

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Author Graham Salisbury won his fifth Oregon Book Award this week. That’s more than any other writer so far! This year’s prize was for The Zippy Fix, the second in Salisbury’s Calvin Coconut series for elementary school kids.

His long list of other work includes young adult novels that tell tales of fatherhood, heroism, violence, racism, and the sea. Almost all his writing is set in Hawaii, where Salisbury grew up.

We’ll talk with him about boys becoming men and his own beloved memories of childhood. Salisbury says he is driven to write about the emotional paths children take through our turbulent world to become adults. He writes for kids because 

I like them. I like being around them. I love their energy and the sparkle in their eyes.

Salisbury is also a musician – make that a world famous rock star. Seriously. Well, to a degree. He’s now put out an album credited to Little Johnny Coconut, the father of Salisbury’s young fictional protagonist Calvin. Salisbury loved music much earlier than he loved reading, let alone writing, books. He says he didn’t really start reading until he was in his 30s. He credits Alex Haley’s Roots for getting him into books.

Did you hate reading as a kid? What got you going? How was your emotional journey through our turbulent world? Have you read, or taught, any of Salisbury’s books?

Editor’s Note: Novelist Willy Vlautin was a double winner at this year’s Oregon Book Awards. You can hear our interview from last year with him right here.

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