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Robert D. San Souci

Photo of Robert D. San Souci

Photo: © East Bay Photo Lab

About the Author

“I have always had a fascination with traveling to magical places. Many of my own stories take place in other places, other dimensions. I guess I’m the ultimate escapist.”—Robert D. San Souci

Robert D. San Souci is an ALA Notable author whose work has been recognized by American Bookseller and the International Reading Association.

ABOUT THE AUTHOREast Bay Photo lab

As a boy Robert D. San Souci was relatively shy; he found that writing was a way to express himself. Now San Souci is the author of numerous books, including award-winning children’s books and adult fantasy novels.

San Souci was born in San Francisco and raised across the bay in Berkeley. Reading and writing have always been a part of his life—his earliest memories are ones of being read to. “My father had some wonderful books from when he was a child,” he recalls. “The Wizard of Oz was one of my favorite stories.”

In the second grade San Souci was the class reporter for his school newspaper. Around the same time, he wrote his first book, which his brother Daniel—now an award-winning artist—illustrated. The brothers paired up again years later. Robert says, “I was working in bookstores at the time, writing reviews and some science fiction stories. Meanwhile, Dan was winning awards doing watercolors for local shows. We got together and decided to do a children’s book.”

Many of Robert’s ideas for his books come from reading and researching in the library. His own personal library contains several thousand volumes. He also finds inspiration by traveling and keeping his eyes open. “I love to travel by bus. I can sit and stare out the window and simply observe.” And sometimes he just wanders around and listens to people talking. “I love to listen for the flow and rhythm of the language that different people use.”

San Souci loves when a book lets him celebrate his “home base” of San Francisco, but he has also been inspired by the many places he has traveled to. “My books—many of them retellings of traditional tales—celebrate peoples and places all around the world. Stories stretch from Armenia to Australia—each, I hope, helping young readers discover how much we share in common with people around the world, while underscoring just how rich, unique, and wise many of these sometimes unfamiliar cultures are in their diverse histories and traditions.”

Because San Souci has always loved folklore, he now mines the wealth of oral tradition from around the world and brings it to life in dramatic stories for children.

Robert D. San Souci on The Silver Charm . . .

I have always been interested in the folk literature of Japan. Some years back, I became particularly intrigued by the culture of the Ainu (“Eye-noo”), the indigenous people who largely inhabit Hokkaido, the large island at the northernmost tip of Japan. They are a people whose origins remain largely shrouded in mystery and whose culture—while overlapping at some points with the Japanese—is highly distinctive. In reading into the folklore of this unique people, I came across several versions of the story that I have retold under the title of The Silver Charm.

The story itself—of an Ainu boy, Satsu, menaced by an ogre, and rescued by his two pets, a puppy and a fox cub (with a welcome assist from a most resourceful mouse!)—is exciting and delightfully simple. Yet the shifting scenes of the seaside village, the family dwelling, forest, and ogre’s hut allow for touching on some details of Ainu life that will hopefully make a wider audience aware of this little-known people and their culture.

Part of my delight in working on The Silver Charm was my chance to work with my friend, illustrator Yoriko Ito. She has visited Hokkaido on several occasions and made use of these visits to check out details that have helped make my text, as well as her wonderful, detailed illustrations, accurate reflections of key aspects of Ainu culture.

I have dedicated the book to the founders and performers of Eth-Noh-Tec, for which I sit on the Board of Directors. Eth-Noh-Tec is storytelling theatre incorporating myth, movement, and music to celebrate and build cross-cultural bridges drawing on the wisdom and resources of Pacific Rim traditions. My interest in exploring Ainu culture through The Silver Charm has certainly been furthered by my work with this group. I like to think that my book will add to awareness of this unique culture within the larger Pacific community.


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