Varian Johnson is the author of several novels for children and young adults, including The Parker Inheritance, which won both Coretta Scott King Author Honor and Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor awards; The Great Greene Heist, an ALA Notable Children’s book and Kirkus Reviews Best Book; and the graphic novel Twins, illustrated by Shannon Wright, an NPR Best Book.
Varian was born in Florence, South Carolina, and attended the University of Oklahoma, where he received a BS in Civil Engineering. He later received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is honored to now be a member of the faculty. Varian lives outside of Austin, TX with his family.
Varian was born in 1977, and grew up in the thriving metropolis of Florence, SC (population 30,248—2000 Census). He has a twin brother and a younger sister, and his parents, unlike many of his characters, were actually pretty good in the parenting department.
Varian excelled in many subjects while growing up, specifically math and science. He was the typical high school “geek”—he played the baritone in marching band, was a member of the Wilson High School Academic Challenge Team, and he counted his Hewlett-Packard 48G calculator as one of his most prized possessions. However, Varian also enjoyed English—especially creative writing.
After writing novels for older readers, Varian began writing middle grade novels. His caper novel, The Great Greene Heist, is his first work for younger readers. It was recently named a Publishers Weekly Best Summer Book of 2014. Kirkus praised the novel in a starred review, stating, “The elaborate bait and switch of this fast-paced, funny caper novel will surprise its readers as much as the victims. They’ll want to reread immediately so they can admire the setup.”
Varian’s puzzle mystery, The Parker Inheritance, has been called The Westing Game meets The Watsons Go To Birmingham—1963. The Parker Inheritance, released in 2018, reviewed starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Horn Book, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and was named a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Book and a 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book among other accolades.
Twins, illustrated by Shannon Wright, is Varian’s debut graphic novel. It received five starred reviews, and was named an NPR best book, and a Washing Post Best Children’s Book, and a Texas Library Association Little Maverick Reading List Selection among other accolades.
Varian loves traveling around the world (seriously, the world!) talking about writing and books. Please contact him if you’re interesting in having him speak at your school or event.