I was born in Philadelphia and lived in the city right next to the zoo, which seemed like paradise to me and my brothers. Meg as a child My family moved to the country when I was in elementary school to a cooperative community where families worked together to build our homes, maintain our roads, and grow our food. Storytelling and folk dancing were frequent activities after the monthly work parties. My father, who was raised in England, came from a family of Irish storytellers. He carried on the tradition by telling English and Irish stories to us.

Following graduation from Swarthmore College, I wanted to see the world so I lived for a year in Tanzania and a year in Guatemala. I participated in village life, taught women and children, and learned many more stories. When I came home I dreamed in Swahili and in Spanish.

I've always been a storyteller—when I was little my dad accused me of exaggerating but I came by it honestly. I've been an elementary school teacher, a principal, and a professor of children's literature. I taught a bilingual class of 4th through 6th graders in Harlem, started my own non-graded elementary school in New Jersey, and then taught at the Ethical Culture School in New York. I earned a Doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University, where I taught for seven years. I have also taught children’s literature and storytelling at Bank Street College and Seattle Pacific University. Now I teach Writing for Children at the University of Washington extension program and Cultural History through Storytelling with Lesley University. I also teach playwriting and journalism to high school students in Seattle public schools. The newsletter they created about innovative arts programs at their schools is called Hold Up!

My 21 books include Why the Moon Is In the Sky, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (Macmillan, 1988), and a 9-volume Teacher's Read Aloud Anthology of multicultural stories for grades K through 8 (Macmillan-McGraw/Hill School Publishing Company, 1993). The Sea Serpent's Daughter: A Brazilian Legend, illustrated by Felipe Davalos (Troll, 1993), is available in Spanish as La Hija de la Serpiente Marina: Leyenda Brasileña. Finist the Falcon: A Russian Legend (Troll, 1996), was inspired by my daughter's visit to Russia in 1995.

Why Leopard Has Spots: Dan Stories From Liberia, co-authored with Liberian storyteller Won-Ldy Paye and illustrated with stunning block prints by Ashley Bryan (Fulcrum, 1998), has won four awards including 1998 Best Book for Older Children from the African Studies Association. Head, Body, Legs: A Story From Liberia, co-authored with Won-Ldy Paye and illustrated with dazzling paintings by Julie Paschkis, was published by Holt in April, 2002. It won an ALA Notable Award, an Aesop Accolade Award, and a Blue Ribbon Award.

Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile (Holt, 2003), by the same team, was a Charlotte Zolotow 2004 Honor Book for outstanding writing in picture books and was also selected as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People for 2004. When Won-Ldy Paye was congratulated for these awards he said, "Mrs. Chicken is really her own boss. We just work for her."

Our most recent book, The Talking Vegetables, was released Fall 2006.

I love to travel and to share the power of stories with children, families, and teachers. Since 1965, I've integrated storytelling with my teaching to children. In 1983 an article about one of my storytelling workshops was published in the New York Times, and that's when my national career as a storyteller began. Since then I've traveled coast to coast, from Maine to Texas, and to Canada, Europe and Asia telling stories and giving workshops for teachers and university students. Under the service mark StoryPower® since 1991, I have shared the power of stories through performances, workshops, artist-in-residencies, undergraduate and graduate courses, and, since 1993, author booksignings.

I live with my family on an island near Seattle, between two ranges of great mountains for hiking, the Cascades and the Olympics. My daughters are accomplished storytellers and often perform with me. My husband, a retired systems engineer and a retired (from his second career) middle school math teacher, is an expert story listener.