The most exciting part of 2019, writing wise, was the sale of two new middle grade books (one written, one not yet) to Alexandra Cooper at Harper Collins. It really doesn’t get more exciting than that! The book I’ve already written is called Sardines and it follows 11-year-old Lucas and a group of four other kids from disparate social and economic circles as they are forced together each afternoon by the middle school’s aftercare program. As the group bonds, they create a game in which the group works together to grant each kid a wish. That’s the blurb from the publishers weekly rights report. But the book is about a lot more than that. Here are a few things I hope kids and grown ups will take away from the book.
- Everyone is carrying around hard things in their emotional backpacks.
- Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.
- You are stronger than you think.
- It’s okay if you’re not.
- Mental health is as real and important as other kinds of health.
Speaking of mental health, one of the best books I read this year was The Year We Fell From Space by A.S. King. I’m an A.S. King fan from way back. She is hands down one of my favorite writers for young people and for all people. The Year We Fell From Space takes everything I love about her YA books and puts it in a format for middle grade readers. When I was a kid my mom used to say to me, “Everyone has crazy thoughts; that doesn’t make you crazy.” This book follows 7th grader Liberty Johansen as she navigates her family’s divorce and her father’s struggle with depression. Liberty is afraid if her father has depression she might have it too. She’s also dealing with unkindness from peers and the part of growing up where you learn that your parents aren’t perfect and neither are you. What I love about A.S. King is that she does things in middle grade fiction that are usually reserved for YA. She lets the characters’ freak flags fly and doesn’t need to explain everything. She puts faith in younger readers to understand that life is weird and complicated and sometimes defies simple explanations.