Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Introducing Stephen Shapiro

Stephen Shapiro was born and raised in Toronto. As a child, he was an avid reader and his first favorite book (or so his parents tell him) was Jelly Belly by Dennis Lee. When he was a little older, Stephen began to read as much as possible about history, including the occasional book beyond his level of comprehension. The first book he ever bought was a handbook on warships. His parents, after an initial period of shock, were supportive of this interest. They even allowed themselves to be dragged around to more forts, museums, and ships than they had ever wanted to see. In exchange, Stephen agreed to be dragged to art galleries (though he still complained). Surprisingly, Stephen reads more children’s books today than he did when he was younger, no doubt because his mother is a children’s book designer. Stephen now counts Loris Lesynski as one of his favorite children’s authors.

His latest book, The Siege: Under Attack in Renaissance Europe (2007), takes you inside the walls of a besieged community and also behind the lines of the attackers. Brought to life through dramatic storytelling and vivid illustrations, The Siege is an exciting look at Renaissance life during military strife.

Battle Stations! Fortifications Through the Ages (2005), features over 14 cunningly designed defences from around the world, both past and present.

As a lover of history and books, Stephen has always enjoyed reading about World War II--he just didn't enjoy writing it down until he co-authored (with Tina Forrester) Ultra Hush-hush: Espionage and Special Missions (2003). Stephen cites the non-fiction writing of Tom Clancy as a major influence for this book, particularly the author's ability to make military topics accessible and interesting to the general public--something Stephen hopes his own books can do for kids.

In the tradition of Ultra Hush-hush, Stephen wrote Hoodwinked: Deception and Resistance (2004), which plunges readers into the secret strategies and underground battles that helped turn the tide of WWII. Presented with historical accuracy and engaging storytelling, Hoodwinked tells 18 true, gripping stories from both sides of the conflict.

Stephen’s main interest is still history, just as it was when he was young. Although he dabbled in stamp collecting for many years, he finds he has less time for that now. In many ways, what interested him about stamps is what interests him about history: the thrill of the chase. With stamps it’s identifying, from a trail of clues, a stamp you’ve never seen before. With history, it’s the same process, except instead of stamps you’re working with facts.

Eventually, Stephen would like to write about history full time. With an almost infinite amount of material to work from, he says, the biggest challenge in writing about history is selecting the best stories. Naval history is an area full of particularly exciting stories that Stephen would like to explore in the future … and it might even give him an excuse to learn how to sail.

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