- Kenneth OppelAuthor–Canada
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Kenneth Oppel was born on August 31, 1967, in Port Alberni, British Columbia. As a boy, he loved video games, Dungeons and Dragons, and films such as Star Wars. He attended the University of Toronto, where he majored in English literature and cinema, and graduated in 1989. He met his wife in Toronto and travelled with her to England, where she was studying for her Ph.D. After three years, they moved back to Canada.
When Oppel was thirteen, he told his father he would publish a book by the time he was fourteen. He did, in fact, complete his first story when he was fourteen. A family friend sent this first manuscript to Roald Dahl. Dahl, liking what he read, in turn, sent it to his agent. Just as Oppel was graduating from high school at the age of seventeen (1985), his first novel, Colin's Fantastic Video Adventure, was published. He has written thirty novels since then, and his work has been published in over twenty-five countries and in as many languages.
Oppel is an author of diverse and exceptional talents, an author of international renown who is celebrated within Canadian children's and young adult literature. Once asked about what makes him a particularly "Canadian" author, Oppel noted,
one of the benefits of living in a small country poised between two cultural superpowers is you tend to be more outward-looking. So, my writing style was influenced by the fantastical hyperbole of Roald Dahl and the terse minimalism of Ernest Hemingway and the brainy, more ornate prose of John Updike, as well as the oral sprezzatura of Brian Doyle.
His body of work has been noted by scholars and critics for strong characters, impressive world-building, and his ability to write across genre and age group—he has written picturebooks, novels for early readers, and young adult fiction. He can move from historical fiction to contemporary and magical realism, from fantasy to steampunk, and each narrative garners fans, prizes, and yet more commendation. When asked to reflect on where his ideas come from, Oppel noted,
Readers—and not just young ones—sometimes imagine that ideas are rare and elusive things. But they are one of the most common elements in our mind's periodic table. An idea starts with a simple question. It doesn't have to be particularly unusual or profound.
In addition to writing for children and young people, Oppel works on screenplays, based both on his own books and original ideas. Several of his screenplays have been optioned for film. A father of three, Oppel juggles a very full schedule with his home life. He is a popular speaker at schools, festivals, conferences, and book award ceremonies. In his thirty-two-year career, Kenneth Oppel has published thirty books—including the The Nest, illustrated by Caldecott Medal-winner Jon Klassen, and his 2016 young adult novel, Every Hidden Thing.
Kenneth Oppel is a truly inspiring Canadian author, whose work transcends genre and appeals to audiences of every age. [End Page 13]