Matthew Tobin Anderson, known as M.T. Anderson, is a bestselling and highly innovative writer of children’s books that range from picture books to young-adult novels. He won the National Book Award in 2006 for The Pox Party, the first of two Octavian Nothing books, which are historical novels set in Revolution-era Boston. Anderson is known for using wit and sarcasm in his stories and for advocating that young adults are capable of mature comprehension.
He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1968. He attended St. Mark’s School, Harvard College, the University of Cambridge (England) and Syracuse University. Anderson worked at Candlewick Press before his first novel Thirsty (1997) was accepted for publication there. He has also worked as a disc jockey for WCUW radio, as an instructor at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he now serves on the Board, and as a music critic for The Improper Bostonian. He currently lives in Cambridge and is on the Board of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance, a national non-profit organization that advocates for literacy, literature and libraries.
Anderson is known for challenging his readers of varying ages to look at the world in new ways. He has also remarked “We write because we can’t decipher things the first time around.” His novels directed at young adults, such as Thirsty and Feed, tend to direct their satire at society. He’s also written children’s picture books such as Handel, Who Knew What He Liked, and novels directed toward pre-teen readers such as The Game of Sunken Places. Anderson tends to write with sophisticated wit and storylines, making the point that young people are more intelligent than some might think. In response to the question of why he gives so much credit to his young audience, Anderson stated in an interview with Julie Prince: “Our survival as a nation rests upon the willingness of the young to become excited and engaged by new ideas we never considered as adults.”
His young-adult novel Feed (2002) won the Los Angeles Times Book Award and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award. Feed was also named one of the ALA Best Books for Young Adults. Anderson has also written picture books and books for pre-teens. His picture books include Strange Mr. Satie, the story of the composer Erik Satie, who influenced modern music. His choice to focus on Satie is noted as an “offbeat” choice, but the book is held in high regard for its unique style and text that reflects Satie’s own musical style.
Anderson’s most recent release, Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad (2015) was named a 2016 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Book in June.