Artwork by Nick Wroblewski from Hush Hush, Forest

header image

About Mary

Brief Bio

“Our lives are like fireflies,
brilliant flashes of light in the darkness,
 here and gone. 
Each life matters. 
Listen to your dreams and giftings; 
take risks, live fully, make a difference.”

—Mary Casanova

Mary Casanova is an award-winning  author of numerous books for children and teens, as well as adults. Many of her books stem from her life on the Minnesota-Canadian border; yet some of her stories have taken her as far away as France, Norway, and Belize for research. Whatever the setting for her books, Casanova writes stories that matter – and books that readers can’t put down.

Her book awards include: American Library Associ­ation “Notable,” Aesop Accolades by the American Folklore Society, Parents’ Choice “Gold” Award, Booklist Editor Choice, and two Minnesota Book Awards. Her books frequently land on state children’s choice book master lists across the country. “The greatest reward for me,” Casanova states, “is when a young reader tells me she or he loves one of my books. For me, it’s all about commu­ni­cating writer-to-reader through a character and story.”

Casanova grew up in a family of ten children in St. Paul, Minnesota. In a bustling camp-like atmos­phere, Casanova found that writing became her voice. “Words are my paint­brush,” she explains, “my way of exploring the world around me.”

Now, with roughly 40 books published and more forth­coming, she divides her time between writing and traveling. Nationally and inter­na­tionally, at schools and confer­ences, Casanova shares her love of writing and reading with children and adults.

Mary’s series, Dog Watch (Simon and Schuster) is based on her northern Minnesota village where dogs are allowed to roam free — as long as they don’t get in trouble. If they get in trouble, they earn a sticker on their page at the village clerk’s office; too many stickers and a trouble-making dog must remain at home. “I never know where the next story will come from. It’s a delight when the stories come right from this corner of the world I call home.” Mary makes her home with husband, Charlie, in a little red cabin on 60 acres with a dozen chickens, two cats, one dog, and two horses. They share the land with the “Borealis” wolf pack.

Why I write

Ever since high school — when I discovered the power of words — I wanted to be a writer. In required essays and in my journal writing, words were my paint­brush, a way of inter­preting the world and exploring my thoughts. I found my voice and discovered my dream of writing books for children.

When it comes to writing for children, I’m passionate about two things: writing books that matter and writing books that kids can’t put down. I want kids to pick up my books and enjoy reading them from cover to cover, page by page, chapter by chapter. I strive to hook them firmly, like a fish on a line, and pull them all the way in.

For me, growing up was like going to camp. With seven brothers and two sisters, I was always outdoors. In the winter, we had our own ice-hockey team, and in summer a ready group for playing tag off the pontoon boat. I water-skied, sailed, camped, and rode my horse every­where. We had every kind of animal over the years, including a Shetland pony who loved to dump his least favorite riders (not me), and a killer Canada goose who protected his turf by leaving welts on our legs. Every summer, we crammed into our station wagon and headed “up north” to the cabin. In the north woods, I loved the spicy pine air, the loon’s song, and the squawk of the great blue heron. It was during those early trips north that my feeling for nature was seeded.

My parents were masters of benev­olent neglect, giving me strong wings of indepen­dence and roots firmly estab­lished in uncon­di­tional love. Family life was not perfect, however. As a young girl in a largely male-dominated household, I struggled to be heard above the myriad of other voices. I did not under­stand or accept the bravado of hunting when a deer carcass hung from our garage rafters, but speaking out was difficult for me.

I now live on the Minnesota-Canadian border, where I see eagles, otters, moose, black bear, and wolves. At one time, I thought this remote location would make it more difficult to establish myself as a writer, but now I see how much my environment has influ­enced and shaped my work.

Mary paddling out on Rainy Lake (2019)
Mary paddling out on Rainy Lake (2019)

If it’s true that writers should “write to express, not to impress,” then nowhere is this more important than in writing for children. They are the toughest critics, demanding first and foremost a good story. It’s the writer’s respon­si­bility to write honestly, from the heart, and to give something of lasting value to the reader. Every writer offers a unique perspective, a unique gift; if expressed clearly enough, true enough, it is a gift of story that a reader will remember for a long time.

Mary Casanova and Mrs. Jan Kunkle
Mary with her 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Jan Kunkel, who surprised Mary when she was visiting a school in Minnetonka, Minnesota. (Spring 2007).

Radio Interviews

Click here for an archive of PRX radio inter­views with and about Mary.

Publicity Photos

If you need a photo of Mary to help publicize a school visit or conference, please use the links below. If you need a print quality image larger than 4 x 5 inches, please send an e‑mail request with the specifics of what you need.

Mary Casanova

Web resolution (72 DPI, 400 pixels square)
Print resolution (240 DPI, 4 x 4 inches)

Mary Casanova

Web resolution (72 DPI, 400 pixels square)
Print resolution (240 DPI, 4 x 6 inches)

Mary in Glacier National Park
Taking a break in Glacier National Park after a week of school visits in Kallispell and Whitefish, MT
Mary Casanova and Sheryl Peterson at Rainy Lake retreat
Every summer, Mary goes on a week-long writers retreat with other children’s authors. Here, Mary and Sheryl Peterson enjoy a laugh on the porch of Front House located on an island in Rainy Lake.
George Morrison Artist Award
Mary was awarded the 2010 George Morrison Artist Award in “recog­nition of her creative contri­bu­tions to the genre of Young Adult Liter­ature, often celebrating northern Minnesota, while impacting readers world wide.”