Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the New York Times--bestselling Book Scavenger series (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt) which includes Book Scavenger, The Unbreakable Code, and The Alcatraz Escape. Book Scavenger was an Indie Next Top Ten pick, an Amazon Book of the Year, a Bank Street College Book of the Year, an NCTE Notable Book, and has been nominated for over twenty state award and honor lists, among other accolades. The series is being translated into twelve languages. She studied creative writing and dance at UC Irvine and went on to earn her MFA in creative writing from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, CA. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jennifer now lives in Colorado with her family.
- Color: orange
- Ice Cream Flavor: Baskin Robbins mint chocolate chip
- Board Game: Blokus, Clue, Scattergories, Mastermind, Yahtzee
- Video Games: Minecraft, Mario Kart, Q-Bert
- Sports: dance and snowboarding
- Animals: cats, dogs, and llamas
- Movie: Clue
- TV Show: Gilmore Girls
- Muppet: Swedish Chef
- Author-Fan Face-off, hosted by Steve Sheinkin and Stacey Rattner
- Hey Kid! Letter to my Younger Self on Heidi Schulz’s blog
- PW KidsCast: A Conversation with Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
- Indies Introduce Q&A
- Mayor of Bookopolis Interview
- Mr. Schu Interview
- Sweet Sixteeners Interview
- Interview with Yours Drewly on Worthy Reader
- Interview With Kim Tomsic, children’s book author
- Girls of Summer Interview
I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up in the same house for most of my childhood. We had a giant orange tree in our backyard, and I could often be found reading next to it in our hammock.
We always had at least one cat. I liked to try and dress them up and read them stories–some cats were more agreeable than others.
I have an older brother who I idolized. He introduced me ZZ Top, Van Halen, Atari, rollerblading, Dukes of Hazard, The A*Team, and lots more of my favorite things.
My dad built hot rods and dragsters and worked at National Semiconductor for over four decades. He introduced me to Chuck Berry and great movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and American Grafitti. My mom stayed at home and volunteered at my school when I was young, and worked as an office manager for various companies when I was a teenager. She introduced me to Ray Charles and Jim Croce and Singing in the Rain and other movies starring Gene Kelly.
I grew up in a family of readers. Newspapers, magazines, and books–there was a high probability of spotting someone reading at any given point. My mom and I made regular trips to the public library, and she let me wander the children’s area and pick out whatever I wanted. We’d cross paths while browsing and she’d share a book she found that she thought I’d like. It was a wonderful way to feel both independent and like I was forming my own reading taste, but also like I was sharing a reading hobby with my mom. We continue to share reading recommendations with each other to this day.
At the library I always made the rounds past my favorite authors to see if there were any new-to-me books. These favorites included Lois Lowry, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Ruth Chew, Edgar Eager, Madeleine L’Engle, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Ellen Raskin, E. L. Kongisburg, James Howe, The Babysitter’s Club section, the Nancy Drew section . . .
When I was very young I liked to “make books”. I folded paper in half and stapled the spine, drew illustrations with my smelly Mr. Sketch pens, and narrated stories for my mom to write down until I knew how to write them down myself. I dreamed of growing up to be an author and illustrator. I wrote to many of my favorites asking for advice. James Howe wrote me back with a personalized letter right before my eleventh birthday. I have his letter framed in my office today, and it’s one of my most treasured childhood possessions.
In my teen years, I tried to write my own stories but I found it frustrating. The disparity between my writing and published books was plain to see. I felt like I had great stories in my head, but I didn’t know how to get them on paper. It was easier to sink into someone else’s world than try to make up my own.
I went to UC Irvine and double majored in dance and English. I took a creative writing class to fulfill an English requirement, and the spark reignited for my love of writing and telling stories. I took every creative writing class UC Irvine would allow, and then went on to study creative writing at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California, where I earned my MFA. While in college and grad school, I worked a number of jobs including being a nanny, summer camp recreation leader, children’s bookseller, math tutor, and SAT test prep course instructor.
After college I worked as a production editor for McGraw-Hill Higher Education in San Francisco. I’ve also taught writing, been a substitute teacher, and worked as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. These days, I live in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains with my husband, son, two cats, and a dog. I don’t think an orange tree would fare very well here in Colorado, but I’m going to look into getting a hammock.