Virginia Oliver, then-age 101, works as a sternman, measuring and banding lobsters on her son Max Oliver's boat, Aug. 31, 2021, off Rockland. The state's oldest lobsterman has been doing it since before the onset of the Great Depression. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Within a few days of first reading the viral story about Virginia Oliver, the now-102-year-old Rockland woman who is Maine’s oldest working lobsterman, Bangor author Alexandra Hinrichs was in Oliver’s living room, chatting with her about Maine, lobsters and living life on your own terms.

“She has an infectious laugh. She’s a joy to spend time with,” said Hinrichs, who by day is a school librarian at Leonard Middle School in Old Town. “She’s really kind of bemused by how interested people are in her life. To her, it’s just her life. But to everyone else, it’s a pretty amazing story.”

Not long after that, Hinrichs had a rough draft written for a children’s book about Oliver. About two years later, that book, “The Lobster Lady,” will be out Tuesday via Charlesbridge/Penguin Random House, with illustrations by Maine artist Jamie Hogan.

The book tells Oliver’s life story, from growing up on her family’s tiny island, The Neck, off the coast of Knox County, to being among the very few female lobstermen working on Maine’s coast. Though women lobstermen are fairly common these days, when Oliver was growing up, it was mostly unheard of. More than nine decades later, she’s still at it.

“It’s a story about doing what you want to do, regardless of the obstacles that are in your way,” Hinrichs said. “Ginny may have been the only female that was lobster fishing when she first started, but that wasn’t going to get in her way. It just didn’t occur to her to not do exactly what she wanted to do.”

It’s Hinrichs’ fourth children’s book, and it’s coming out hot on the heels of her third book, “I Am Made of Mountains,” a picture book about America’s national parks, which was released on Tuesday. It’s an intense period for Hinrichs, who is finishing up the school year in Old Town in the next few weeks before taking a year-long leave of absence from the school to focus on her writing.

Hinrichs’ path to writing for children started when she herself was a child, writing stories for both school and for fun.

“My dad recently found a thing I wrote when I was a kid, that said my goals in life were to be on an undefeated soccer team, and to grow up and be an author of children’s books,” she said. “I guess I knew very early on.”

Bangor author Alexandra Hinrichs with Virginia Oliver, the 102-year-old “lobster lady” who still lobsters on her son’s boat. Credit: Courtesy of Alexandra Hinrichs.

Rather than study English in college she pursued history and French, and was prepared to start a history Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin when she had a change of heart. Knowing she wanted to be involved in both books and in childhood education, she switched programs to library science while still studying the history of childhood in the U.S.

Straight out of grad school, she got her ideal job as a researcher for American Girl, the Wisconsin-based company that has paired high-end dolls with historical books about various periods in American history for nearly 40 years. Hinrichs worked there for three years, learning the ins and outs of the children’s publishing industry and honing her skills as a writer.

When she and her husband, Brian, moved to Maine 10 years ago so he could take the position of executive director of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, she began working on her first children’s book, “Therese Makes a Tapestry,” published in 2016. Her second book, “The Traveling Camera: Lewis Hine and the Fight to End Child Labor,” came out in 2021. In between all of that, she and her husband had three boys, Nate, Sam and Jem.

“I Am Made of Mountains” takes readers on a journey through national parks through the eyes of children visiting them, telling the stories of the landscapes and history of each park, including Acadia, Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Everglades and many others.

The cover of “The Lobster Lady” by Alexandra Hinrichs. Illustration by Jamie Hogan. Credit: Courtesy of Charlesbridge

With “The Lobster Lady,” the story is a little more personal. While writing it, Hinrichs’ editor pointed out that Ginny Oliver shares a little similarity with another famous Maine lady in a children’s book: “Miss Rumphius.” The beloved book by Barbara Cooney was inspired by the real-life Hilda Hamlin, who in her old age spread lupine seeds all across the Maine coast.

“Maine has been the backdrop for so many beloved children’s books,” Hinrichs said. “‘Miss Rumphius’ was definitely a mentor text for me for ‘The Lobster Lady.’”

The year’s slate of books for Hinrichs doesn’t end with the two titles out this month. Her fifth book, “The Pocket Book,” an ode to the things we keep in our pockets, is out in September.

“I didn’t intend for this year to be such a whirlwind, but it’s delightful that it has ended up this way,” she said.

Hinrichs has two double book launches for both “I Am Made of Mountains” and “The Lobster Lady” in the next week: at 11 a.m. Saturday at The Briar Patch’s BookSpace on Columbia Street in Bangor, and on May 27 at the Blue Hill Public Library, with Blue Hill Books. For more information, visit

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.