Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Alexandria LaFaye  

Pen Name: A LaFaye

Genre: Fiction

Audience: Young Adult; Children;

Born: 1970 in Hudson, Wisconsin

-- Website --
-- Alexandria LaFaye on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

LaFaye lives in Greenville, IL. Her second novel ''Edith Shay'' takes place in Chicago (among other settings). Her fourth novel ''Nissa's Place'' takes place in Chicago and a fictioinal town in LA.

Biographical and Professional Information

Alexandria LaFaye has published 11 novels including the 2005 Scott O'Dell Award winning ''WORTH.'' She has also visited schools, spoken at libraries, presented at conferences, and conducting professional development programs for teachers.During the academic year, LaFaye teaches creative writing at Greenville College in Illinois. She's also the advisor of their school newspaper, ''The Papyrus''. She teaches children's literature in the summer graduate program at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Strawberry Hill
ISBN: 0689829612

Aladdin. 2000

Raleia doesn't feel like she belongs in the modern world. And she doesn't feel like she belongs with her hippie parents, either. So when her family moves to Tidal, Maine, Raleia is excited to be in town with some history -- especially one that was demolished by a tidal wave in 1911. But her parents don't understand her preoccupation with the past, or her need to be "from" somewhere. Instead, Raleia finds herself turning to Mr. Rutherford, the sad, reclusive old man who lives on Strawberry Hill. Can he help her find a time and place of her own?

Dad, In Spirit
ISBN: 068981514X

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. 2001

Ebon's father, who is in a coma, appears to the family as a wandering spirit, and Ebon must reunite the spirit and the body before it is too late.

Edith Shay
ISBN: 0689842287

Simon Pulse. 2001

In my mind, the only rival to a good newspaper was a train headed out of Wisconsin. Katherine Lunden has always dreamed of living a life like the ones she reads about in the newspapers, far away from the woods of Wisconsin and the small-town ways she's grown to despise. When a chance finally comes in the form of a train bound for Chicago and an abandoned suitcase marked with the name "Edith Shay," Katherine leaps into the unknown. Armed with a borrowed name and her own fierce courage, she's determined to conquer the big city on her own. But Katherine soon finds that her new life doesn't exactly match up to her dreams -- working for a living is harder than she expected, and making friends in a city of strangers seems impossible. How can she discover herself while she's pretending to be someone else?

The Strength of Saints
ISBN: 0689832001

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. 2002

The opening of a cannery in Harper, Louisiana brings about racial tensions that threaten to destroy the town, forcing Nissa, who created the town's "separate but equal" libraries, to find a solution, in the companion book to The Year of the Sawdust Man and Nissa's Place.

ISBN: 0689857306

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2004

After Nathaniel's leg is crushed in an accident, his father brings home an orphan boy, John Worth, to help work the fields. Worth has come to Nebraska from New York City on the Orphan Train, which brings homeless children west to find new lives.
Nathaniel feels increasingly jealous of the boy who has taken over not only his work but the attention of his father, who has barely spoken to him since his injury. In school for the first time he is far behind even his youngest classmates, and he feels as useless there as he does at home.
Meanwhile, Worth is still grieving for his family and his old life. As the farm chores prevent him from going to school, he also resents losing his dream of an education and a good job. And for all the work he does, he knows he will never inherit the farm that he's helping to save.
But a battle between ranchers and farmers -- and a book of Greek mythology that Nathaniel reads aloud each evening -- forges a connection between the two boys, who begin to discover that maybe there is enough room on the farm, and in the family, for both of them.
A. LaFaye's dynamic portrayal of two boys longing for something they no longer have -- and finding the resources to face the future -- offers a fresh perspective on the thousands of children who moved west via the Orphan Trains in the late nineteenth century.

The Year of the Sawdust Man
ISBN: 1571316795

Milkweed Editions. 2008

Eleven-year-old Nissa’s life has never been perfect. Living in the small town of Harper, Louisiana, with a mama like hers, circa 1933, has led to lots of mean rumors. But now Mama is gone, and all the townsfolk talk about is who she might have run off with. Nissa’s memories of the Sundays her mama would come home smelling of sawdust lead her to suspect the rumors could be true. Did her mama go away with the Sawdust Man? And if so, does it mean she’s never coming back? A. LaFaye’s powerful first novel beautifully explicates the world of a child in distress and how she copes with something beyond her understanding.

Nissa's Place
ISBN: 1571316973

Milkweed Editions. 2010

Ever since Nissa Bergen's father Ivar remarried, Nissa has felt like a stranger in her own home, clinging to her memories of her free-spirited mother, Heirah Rae, who moved to Chicago to escape the conformity of small-town Louisiana. To make matters worse, she's not ready for the physical changes that are happening to her. So when Heirah asks Nissa to stay with her for a while, Nissa decides it's time for a change. But Heirah's life in Chicago painting sets for a theater is overwhelming to Nissa, and she misses her home and father in Harper. Slowly, Nissa realizes that she has to stop living for her mother and start living for herself. Ivar and Lara's visit convinces her that home is in Harper. And after a revelation in the Chicago library, Nissa discovers a way for her to stake her independence and find her place in her family and her life. Told with the lyricism that marked The Year of the Sawdust Man, Nissa's Place is a beautiful continuation of Nissa's story and a remarkable book on its own. Once you meet Nissa Bergen, you'll never forget her.

Water Steps
ISBN: 1571316868

Milkweed Editions. 2009

Kyna likes her friends, her purple hair, and taking photographs. But there's something she definitely doesn't like: the water. Every time she comes near it, she feels the sinister pull of the depths trying to draw her down to a watery grave. Even the calm water in the bathtub reminds her of the torrential storm that took the lives of her sailing family when she was just a baby. But Kyna's adopted parents love nothing more than to swim and splash about in lakes and streams, or even the local pool. When they decide to spend the summer at a beach house on Lake Champlain, Kyna is convinced that they're trying to teach her something about water that she's not ready to learn. Little does she know that the water will reveal far more than she ever could have imagined. Inspired by Champ, the legendary monster living in Lake Champlain, Water Steps finds novelist A. LaFaye at her best, expertly interweaving themes of adolescent fears and fantasies, the frustrations and rewards of family, and a world of mystery and magic under the placid surface of nature.

The Keening
ISBN: 1571316949

Milkweed Editions. 2010

Born into a family with artistry in their fingers, Lyza laments that her only talent is carving letters into wood. That is until her life is turned upside down when her mother succumbs to the influenza pandemic of 1918, which is devastating their small coastal town in Maine. With her mother gone, Lyza must protect her eccentric father, who runs the risk of being committed, especially now that he claims he’s waiting for the return of his dead wife. Can Lyza save her father and find her own path in the process?

Stella Stands Alone
ISBN: 1416986472

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2010

Stella Reid is fighting to save the home she loves. After her father is killed and her mother succumbs to yellow fever, it's up to Stella to run Oak Grove, her family's plantation. Unlike most Southerners, Stella sees herself as equal to the African Americans she works side-by-side with in the cotton fields. The white Southerners reject her, and the freed men can't trust her after generations of enduring the horrors of slavery. So Stella stands alone as she fights to follow through on her father's dream to leave Oak Grove to her and the slaves. His will is nowhere to be found. Now, the bank has foreclosed on the plantation -- and the day of the auction is rapidly approaching. With no legal claim to the land, Stella is confronted with the possibility of losing Oak Grove, the only home she's ever known.

In this inspiring novel, A. LaFaye, winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, recounts a young woman's struggle to save her family's land and preserve their memory, illuminating the harsh realities faced by women and freed slaves during the turbulent years after the Civil War.

Walking Home to Rosie Lee
ISBN: 1933693975

Cinco Puntos Press. 2011

Young Gabe's is a story of heartache and jubilation. He's a child slave freed after the Civil War. He sets off to reunite himself with his mother who was sold before the war's end. "Come morning, the folks take to the road again, singing songs, telling stories, and dream-talking of the lives they're gonna live in freedom. And I follow, keeping my eyes open for my mama. Days pass into weeks, and one gray evening as Mr. Dark laid down his coat, I see a woman with a yellow scarf 'round her neck as bright as a star. I run up to grab her hand, saying, Mama?" Gabe's odyssey in search of his mother has an epic American quality, and Keith Shepherd's illustrations―influenced deeply by the narrative work of Thomas Hart Benton―fervently portray the struggle in Gabe's heroic quest.

Selected as a 2012 Skipping Stones Honor Book and for the 2012 IRA Teacher's Choices Reading List.

A. LaFaye hopes Walking Home to Rosie Lee will honor all those African American families who struggled to reunite at the end of the Civil War and will pay her respects to those who banded together through the long struggle for freedom. She is the author of the Scott O'Dell Award-winning novel Worth and lives in Tennessee with her daughter Adia.

Keith Shepherd is a painter, graphic designer, and educator working out of Kansas City, MO. His painting "Sunday Best" is part of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum's permanent collection. He describes his work as being "motivated by family, religion, history, and music."


  • Scott O'Dell Award, ''Worth''
  • IRA Teachers Choice, ''Walking Home to Rosie Lee''
  • Notable Book Smithsonian Institute, ''The Strength of Saints''
  • Best Books of the Year Bank Street, ''Year of the Sawdust Man''
  • Nominated for the Rebecca Caudill, ''Worth''

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

    Contact LaFaye at or by calling 501-259-9882. Her fees vary according to event, but she has spoken at schools K-12, colleges, conferences, libraries, and professional development programs for teachers. She incorporates the process approach to writing, learning disabilities, anti-bullying, and incorporating supporting materials (secondary sources)

    into all of her presentations.