Kimberly Willis Holt grew up in the Navy. Although not part of the military as an adult, she has given life to a Navy brat of her own. Kimberly is the creator of “Piper Reed: Navy Brat,” a series of books about a young girl and her mobile military family.

Three books about Piper — aimed at elementary readers — are now in print, and a fourth volume is due to be published next summer.

The author of several books for children — and the winner of a National Book Award for “When Zachary Beaver Came to Town” — Kimberly was at first hesitant to write about military life.

“I felt like it would be too autobiographical,” Kimberly said. “I thought it would be so close that I wouldn’t be able to pull away and write fiction.”

However, military brats, even fictional ones, have a way of making themselves heard.

“Characters come to me in voices,” Kimberly said. “I heard a little voice that said ‘I’ve lived everywhere’ ” — a line Piper delivers early in the first book.

That described Kimberly’s young life — as a child, she lived in several states, as well as Guam and France — but she said the voice she heard was not her own.

“It reminded me of my middle sister,” Kimberly said.

So the stories of the Reed family sprang to life with Piper — the middle daughter of a Navy chief and an artist mom — as the storyteller.

Parts of Piper’s narrative reflect Kimberly’s childhood. Her father was a chief petty officer with three daughters, and her family lived in some of the same places as Piper.

“The things that happen, some of them are inspired by real moments,” Kimberly said. “But most of them are definitely fiction.”

Piper aspires to join the Blue Angels, the Navy’s flight demonstration team, but Kimberly said she harbored no military ambitions in childhood.

“I did not enjoy moving as a kid,” she said. “I think I would have enjoyed it as an adult. I have a wanderlust.”

Now Kimberly lives in Texas with her husband and daughter. She said her desire to travel is fulfilled when she is invited to speak at schools around the U.S. and in other countries. Visiting places as diverse as Peru and Poland, she said she feels a connection to each port of call.

“I think that’s what the military life does,” she said. “It makes the world smaller. It makes us care about places beyond where we live, because we’ve been there. It means more to us than a dot on the map.”

As an author and speaker, Kimberly was invited to return to the elementary school she attended on Guam. She said the visit was very moving, bringing back good memories of her childhood there. One of her novels for young people, “Keeper of the Night,” is set on the Pacific island.

Kimberly said the Piper series, which will have at least six volumes, speaks to children in and out of the military.

She said she hopes civilian kids get a sense of what life is like for military families, having to find new friends and leave behind old ones.

“I want military kids to feel a pride in the life they have,” she said. “Maybe through the eyes of Piper, they see it is a special childhood.”

Kimberly said being a military child gave her an appreciation for the world.

“We all can love a lot of places,” she said “We can call a lot of places home.”

For more, see the Spouse Calls blog and

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Contact her at and see the Spouse Calls blog here.

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