Brooks, born in Richmond, Virginia, lived most of his young life in North Carolina as a result of parental divorce. Although divorce is never easy for a child, Brooks credits moving around multiple times between the two locations with making him a keen observer of social situations. Switching schools often and having to make new friends evolved his ability to tell good stories. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1972, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1980. Before earning a living as a writer, Brooks had worked as a letterpress operator and a journalist for magazines and newspapers. Brooks has reported a very diverse list of influences, like Charles Dickens, Henry James, P.G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler. Brooks has three sons: Alex, born 1984; Spencer, 1992; and Drake, 2006. He lives with his wife Ginee Seo in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
The Moves Make the Man was chosen best book of 1984 by School Library Journal (SLJ), notable children's book by the American Library Association (ALA), notable book of the year New York Times, and won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and a Newbery Honor in 1985.
Midnight Hour Encores was chosen best book of 1986 by SLJ, a best book for young adults by the ALA, Horn Book Fanfare Honor List book in 1987, teacher's choice by the National Council of Teachers of English that same year, a young adult choice by the International Reading Association in 1988, and an ALA Booklist "best of the 1980s" book for young adults.
No Kidding was a best book for young adults by the ALA, ALA Booklist young adult editor's choice, a best book by SLJ, and a notable children's trade book in social studies.
Everywhere was a notable children's book by the ALA, and a best book by SLJ.