Blowing the Horn: Meeting Mary

Fifteen years ago, I wrote an essay for The Horn Book Magazine, “Brave Orphans, Smelly Boys, and Girls Named Katie.” It began, “I was never a girly girl. But I loved reading about girls” — especially ones who were high spirited and misunderstood, like me. These novels, I explained, got me through good times and bad.

One of my favorites was a series about a girl named Katie John, who was well-meaning but often got in trouble. I loved Mary ­Calhoun’s books so much that I promised myself that if I ever had a daughter, I’d name her Katie. Shortly after the piece appeared, I received the most unexpected email. It was from Mary Calhoun! She subscribed to The Horn Book Magazine and had read my essay.

Lisa Yee and Mary Calhoun at lunch.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Yee.

After almost a year of writing back and forth, we arranged to meet. When the train pulled into the station near where she lived, I spotted a white-haired woman waiting by the tracks. It could only be her. I was shy for about half a second, and then began to blather about what her Katie John books meant to me. As we sat across the table from each other at lunch, Mary was gracious and warm and funny, and I felt like I had known her most of my life. I guess maybe I had. (Photo: Lisa Yee and Mary Calhoun at lunch.)

Before we parted, I opened my backpack and pulled out the Katie John books I had collected over the years. Even though I had asked Mary so many questions that day, I still had one more. “Would you please,” I said, “sign these for me and my daughter, Katie?”

Mary has since passed away. However, my memories of meeting her remain a highlight to me as an author — and a reader. Yes, the Horn Book is about books, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about making connections through the articles, reviews, and essays on the pages of the Magazine…and sometimes in person.

From the May/June 2024 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Our Centennial. For more Horn Book centennial coverage, click here. Find more in the "Blowing the Horn" series here.

Single copies of this special issue are available for $15.00 including postage and may be ordered from:

Horn Book Magazine Customer Service

Full subscription information is here

Lisa Yee

Lisa Yee's latest title is A Royal Conundrum (Random, 2024), illustrated by Dan Santat. Visit Lisa at

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