Kimmel was a member of the PSU Curriculum and Instruction Department from 1978 to 1993 and is a professor emeritus. Today he is a prolific children’s book author with well over 130 books to his name and has yet to concede to retirement, writing up to three books per year.
Kimmel has always loved stories. From the time he was in Kindergarten, his dream was to be a writer. After a long and successful career as a teacher and university professor, he got his chance.
Kimmel grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Lafayette College in Pennsylvania where, in 1967, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature. He returned to Manhattan to teach elementary school while earning a master’s degree at New York University. His next job took him to the Virgin Islands, where he taught and served as a school librarian, enjoying the beach as much as possible. He then traded sand for snow, moving to the University of Illinois (UI), where he earned a PhD in education. He taught courses to preservice teachers at UI and at Indiana University before moving permanently to Portland and PSU.
His children’s books are exceedingly popular and frequently appear on school and library recommendation lists. They have earned Kimmel a substantial stockpile of awards. The New York Times calls Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins the “best Hanukkah book of all time.” That book earned Kimmel a Caldecott Honor Award. Other awards include the Sydney Taylor Picture Book Award for The Chanukkah Guest and Gershon’s Monster. Kimmel is the only author to win the National Jewish Book Award for picture books twice. The first time was for The Chanukkah Guest. The second time was for The Mysterious Guests. The Lady in the Blue Cloak, a collection of stories from the Texas missions, was given the Naylor Award by the Daughters of the Texas Revolution.
Kimmel writes primarily for the children’s market, young children through young adult, including picture books and chapter books. His most recent books include Simon and the Bear and Runaway Tortilla, both produced within the last year. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins and Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock have both sold over 100,000 copies each, and several of his books are in multiple editions. He has published in Spanish and has some titles that have moved to electronic versions. He prefers to focus primarily on writing, and works with a different illustrator for each book.
A consummate storyteller, Kimmel travels the world collecting experiences, materials, and stories from other cultures for future projects. He frequently uses settings for stories that are non-European and that resonate well with children from diverse cultures. His book entitled Snot Boy (2013) is based on a Native American legend from the Pacific Northwest. Kimmel’s travels include trips to China, Norway, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Singapore, Canada, Panama, and Texas.
“I cherish my years on the Graduate School of Education faculty,” said Kimmel. “My colleagues were and are some of the finest people I’ve ever had to pleasure to know. I’m proud to hold the rank of professor emeritus. My grandson talks about the Beavers, but I want him to go to PSU. It’s Oregon’s best.”
Kimmel lives in Portland with his wife, Doris; a cat; a tank full of tropical fish; and a snake he told his wife he needed in order to do research for a book.