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Juvenile Books Author of the Month
Matt Christopher
Matt Christopher
6 August 1917 -- 20 September 1997

Biography
Matthew Frederic Martin Christopher was born on August 16, 1917 to Fred and Mary (Vass) Christopher. He was the oldest of nine children including seven boys and two girls.

Christopher first became interested in writing when he was 14 years old. It was at that time, during his freshman year in high school, that Christopher was selling magazines such as Colliers, Country Gentleman, Liberty, and the Saturday Evening Post. He would read the stories with a great deal of interest, particularly the adventures, tales of horror, sports stories, aviation yarns, and mystery stories. He soon began to think about the possibility of not only writing such stories, but to make a living at doing so. As a result, he started writing his own works that included poetry, essays, and song lyrics.

Sports had also always played an important part in Christopher's life. Baseball, in particular, was of interest to him. In fact, he had hoped to win an athletic scholarship to Cornell University, but he lacked the grades. When he graduated from Ludlowville High School in 1935, he found that sports could help him earn a living. In high school, he had played baseball, football and soccer. He went on to play professional baseball for a number of teams including those in Myers, New York (Cayuga Rock Salt); Freevile-Dryden, New York; and Smith Falls, Ontario.

In 1937, Christopher began working as an assembler at the National Cash Register Company in Ithaca, NY. He also started playing for the baseball team sponsored by the company. He spent his evening writing detective stories.

Christopher was one of the athletes selected in 1938 to play in an exhibition game against the former major league baseball team, the New York Giants. The game was to raise funds for a memorial to John McGraw, former manager of the Giants. Christopher proudly recalled batting twice against Johnny Wittig and getting a hit off him.

In the spring of that year, Christopher played Class-C minor league baseball with Smith-Falls, Ontario, Canada, a New York Yankee farm team. Later that year, after returning to continue playing baseball with Freeville-Dryden, he was awarded the Most Valuable Player award for the team.

Even with his success in sports, Christopher was still determined to become a successful writer. He started writing a detective story a week for 40 weeks in hopes of getting one sold. Finally, it happened in 1941. He sold his first story, entitled "The Missing Finger Points", for $50 to Detective Story Magazine.

During those 40 weeks, Christopher continued to work as an assembler. He also found time to fall in love with and marry his wife Catherine M. Krupa, whom he called Cay. Christopher and his wife went on to have four children: Martin, Dale, Pamela, and Duane. They also went on to be the grandparents of 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

After writing and selling a number of stories for both adults and children to magazines, Christopher decided to write a book for children. He had already published a mystery novel for adults in 1952 entitled Look for the Body. Like most of his previous stories, it was related to sports. At the time, he was living in Syracuse, New York. He decided to speak about his idea for a baseball book with the local branch librarian. She was immediately interested because there was a high demand for sports stories. Christopher's final product, The Lucky Baseball Bat, was published in 1954. Christopher's books became so successful that he was able to retire from the National Cash Register Company and focus on being a full-time writer.

When asked why he wrote sports books for children, Christopher once responded, "Sports have made it possible for me to meet many new people with all sorts of life stories, on and off the field, and these are grist for this writer's mill." [1]

Another response provided by the author was "My books for young people are mainly about sports because my love for writing and sports makes it so ... Although most of my books are on sports, they are basically about boys who have problems...." [2]

In his spare time, Christopher enjoyed reading, watching all sorts of sports, listening to his favorite kind of music (easy listening), and watching some of his favorite television shows, like Matlock and Murder She Wrote.

Christopher has become America's bestselling sports writer for children. He wrote over 120 books for children spanning a variet y of sports. Over the years, he added more contemporary issues, such as divorce and adoption, but whether it was competition or the problems faced by children, his main subject remained underdogs and average people demonstrating courage and tenacity. Besides his books, Christopher produced more that 275 short stories and articles published in over 65 children and adult magazines.

Christopher died on September 20, 1997 due to complications following surgery for a brain tumor.

Information for this bioraphy was taken from
1) Author Interview: Matt Christopher; http://www.twbookmark.com/authors/48/444/interview.html.
2) Anne Commire (ed.). Something Authors, #2; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1971.
3) "Matt Christopher:1917-1997", Publisher's Weekly; October 13, 1997: 27.
4) "Matt Christopher", IPL Youth Division: Ask the Author; http//www.ipl.org/youth/AskAuthor/Christopher.html.

Titles
J-P-CHR Baseball Pals (1956) -- As captain of the baseball team, Jimmie makes himself the pitcher, but the team starts losing when he cannot get the ball over the plate.

J-P-CHR The Basket Counts (1968) -- Mel Jensen is new to the basketball team and wants to play a more active role, but the teams star player won't pass to him because he is an African American.

J-CHR/J-P-CHR Catch That Pass! (1969) -- Everyone knows Jim will be the star linebacker onthe team if he can only conquer his fear of being tackled, but it takes a boy in a wheelchar to teach him that kind of courage.

J-P-CHR Catcher With a Glass Arm (1964) -- After getting hit by a pitch, Jody becomes afraid of the ball. he has to overcome this fear and the humiliation of not throwing well.

J-Christopher Center Court Sting (1998) -- Daren's tendency to blame everyone but himself when anything goes wrong causes problems with his best friend, with a young neighbor who idolizes him, and with one of his basketball teammates.

J-Christopher Centerfield Ballhawk (1992) -- Baseball player Jose Mendez worries about his poor performance with the bat and fears disappointing his father, a former ballplayer with an outstanding batting average.

J-P-CHR Challenge at Second Base (1962) -- Stan Martin believes his chances for playing second base are next to zero because his rival for the position looks tough to beat.

J-P-CHR The Counterfeit Tackle (1965) -- Buzz learns he likes playing football when he substitutes for his younger brother Corky so he can go see a professional game.

J-P-CHR The Diamond Champs (1977) -- An aura of intrigue surrounds a baseball coach obsessed with the idea of turning a bunch of handpicked beginners into champions in one season.

J-P-CHR Dirt Bike Runaway (1983) -- A shy, unhappy 16 year old with a talent for working with motorcycles runs away from his foster home and gets involved with a variety of people, both bad and good.

J-P-CHR Face-Off (1972) -- Although he loves the game, a young hockey player discovers he is handicapped while playing by his fear of getting hit by the puck.

J-CHR/J-P-CHR Football Fugitive (1976) -- Representing a professional football player whom his son admires brings a lawyer closer to his son.

J-P-CHR The Fox Steals Home (1978) -- Already troubled by his parent's divorce, Bobby Canfield is further distressed when he learns that his father, who has coached him in running bases, intends to move away.

J-P-CHR A Hard Drive to Short (1969) -- Shortstop Sandy makes the error of not telling fellow players why he leaves ballgames early and alienates them further by excluding them from his friendship with an older boy.

J-P-CHR The Hit-Away Kid (1988) -- Barry McGee, hit-away batter for the Peach Street Mudders, enjoys winning so much that he has a tendency to bend the rules. The dirty tactics of the pitcher on a rival team give him a new perspective on sports ethics.

J-P-CHR The Hockey Machine (1986) -- Abducted by a "fan" and forced to become a member of a professional junior hockey team, 13 year old star center, Steve Crandall quickly realizes that he must play not only to win, but to survive.

J-Christopher Ice Magic (1973) -- The twins' toy hockey game seems to be magic as it plays games identical to the real ones before they happen.

J-Chrisopher Jackrabbit Goalie (1978) -- Anxious to make friends in a new town, a young boy lies about his experience as a goalie in order to get on the local soccer team.

J-P-CHR Johnny Long Legs (1970) -- Even though he is the tallest member of the basketball team, a young boy finds he is far from being the best player.

J-P-CHR The Kid Who Only Hit Homers (1972) -- A boy becomes a phenomenal baseball player one summer when a mysterious stranger resembling Babe Ruth befriends him.

J-P-CHR Long Shot for Paul (1966) -- Glenn Marlette helps his brother Paul, who is developmentally challenged, become a part of his basketball team as a player and a teammate.

J-P-CHR Long Stretch at First Base (1960) -- Bobby wants to help his brother become first baseman, but will his conscience let him do what would guarantee it?

J-P-CHR Look Who's Playing First Base (1971) -- Mike Hagin offers his new friend from Russia the first baseman's position on the little league team before he finds out the boy can't play.

J-Christopher The Lucky Baseball Bat (1991) -- Marty loses his lucky baseball bat, and his confidence along with it, and wonders if he will recover both in time to help the Tigers win the championship.

J-P-CHR No Arm in Left Field (1974) -- A poor throwing arm and prejudice from one white boy keep a black junior high student from completely enjoying his position on the baseball team.

J-Christopher Power Play (1976) A magic candy bar improves Rabbit's basketball game more than is really desirable.

J-P-CHR Pressure Play (1993) -- Travis, less obsessed with baseball than his teammates, tries to balance his playing with his hobby of horror videos and starts receiving anonymous threats warning him to spend more time on baseball.

J-CHR Red-Hot High Tops (1987) -- Normally afraid of playing basketball in front of a crowd, Kelly becomes a confident and aggressive player when she dons a mysterious pair of red sneakers that she finds.

J-P-CHR Return of the Home Run Kid (1992) -- Sylvester Coddmyer III is having a dismal baseball season until he takes advice from a mysterious ex-baseball player named Cheeko and starts to play more aggressively.

J-P-CHR Shoot for the Hoop (1995) -- Forced to referee rather than play basketball after he has been diagnosed as being diabetic, Rusty believes he will never play again until a new man in town organizes a team and coaches him.

J-P-CHR Shortstop from Tokyo (1970) -- When the new boy from Tokyo takes over Stogie Crane's position as shortstop, the two boys encounter the first of several barriers to their friendship.

J-Christopher Soccer Halfback (1978) -- A young boy is pressured by his family to abandon his promising soccer career for football.

J-P-CHR Soccer Scoop (1998) -- When a cartoon appears in the school newspaper making fun of his tendancy to talk a lot, Mac, the goalie for the Cougars soccer team, is determined to find out who is responsible.

J-P-CHR The Spy on Third Base (1988) -- A third baseman is sick with anxiety about whether or not to help his team by using his knack for knowing where the batter is going to hit the ball.

J-CHR/J-P-CHR The Submarine Pitch (1976) -- When he learns why his best friend taught him an unbeatable pitch instead of using it himself, Bernie learns a sad lesson about friendship.

J-CHR/J-P-CHR Supercharged Infield (1985) -- Penny Ferrell, captain and third baseman of the Hawks softball team, tries to uncover the reason for the strange behavior of two teammates who have also suddenly turned into super athletes.

J-Christopher Tackle Without a Team (1989) -- Unjustly dismissed from the football team for drug possession, Scott learns that only by finding out who planted the marijuana in his duffle bag can he clear himself with his parents.

J-CHR The Team That Stopped Moving (1975) -- A new baseball team gets some supernatural help from a concerned wizard.

J-P-CHR Too Hot to Handle (1965) -- A young baseball player has trouble living up to his family's reputation on a baseball diamond.

J-Christopher Top Wing (1994) -- Dana Bellamy searches for the truth behind the fire for which his father is being blamed.

J-P-CHR Touchdown for Tommy (1959) -- A young boy worries about making the footbal team and convincing his foster parents to adopt him.

J-P-CHR Tough to Tackle (1971) -- Disappointed by not being large enough to make quarterback, Boots discovers that there is as much challenge in playing tackle.

J-P-CHR The Year Mom Won the Pennant (1968) -- Nick is horrified to learn that his mom is going to coach his baseball team until the team is in a race for the pennant.

Non-Fiction Titles
J-92-Hill On the Court With Grant Hill (1996) -- A biography of the son of former Dallas Cowboys halfback Calvin Hill who grew up to become a star basketball player with the Detroit Pistons.

J-92 McGwire At the Plate With Mark McGwire (1999) -- This biography depicts the life and career of the St. Louis Cardinals slugger, who holds the record for the most homeruns in one season.

Websites
Author Interview: Matt Christopher (http://.www.twbookmark.com/authors/48/444/interview.html) -- An interview with the popular children's writer Matt Christopher discussing how he became a writer and why he writes about sports.

"Matt Christopher", IPL Youth Division: Ask the Author (http://www.ipl.org/youth/AskAuthor/Christopher.html) -- This brief biography of Matt Christopher produced by the Internet Public Library also includes an list of the author's works as well as a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.

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