Sardines Cover Reveal…coming at the end of this post, I promise!
When I was born my parents had two immediate reactions. Red hair?! Big feet?!
The red hair was temporary but the latter is still true. I walk proudly on my size 11.5 skis.
When I first saw this cover I also had two reactions. The first was that it is beautiful, and the second was that the kids looked so young! Up until this point the characters in all my books have been high school age. The characters in Sardines are in 6th grade so it makes sense that they wouldn’t look like high school kids, but still. These 6th graders are young but they’re dealing with big stuff, like mental health, missing parents, bullies and figuring out their identities. Big stuff requires big friendship and that’s exactly what they find, sometimes in ways they least expect.
So here it is. My characters: Lucas, Robbie, Cat, Anna and Finn as imagined and executed by the amazing Erwin Madrid, designed by Catherine San Juan. I hope you’ll read their story when it comes into print this fall from Quill Tree Books, Harper Collins.
Some authors say, “This is the book of my heart.” I’ve always wondered when exactly you know you’re writing the book of your heart. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s the book that perfectly encapsulates an experience you’ve had. Or maybe it’s the book you dreamed of finding and reading when you were a certain age.
I don’t know if any of the books I’ve written so far are the “book of my heart.” However, I have noticed that no matter what I do, my books have certain themes that pop up in one form or another. One of these themes is the importance of friendship. In every book I’ve written so far the most important relationships are friendships. I’m smiling as I write this because I’m thinking about the friends I’ve been lucky enough to have. Friends who have helped me feel anchored in an otherwise chaotic world, friends who have given my confidence to do things I might not have done otherwise, friends who have walked around campus with me wearing only our bath towels, or driven across country with me eating cheese and tofurkey sandwiches.
I have a new book coming out this Fall. It’s called Sardines and it’s my first book for the middle grade crowd. If you’re less familiar with children’s literature, middle grade readers are those in the 4th-8th grade age bracket. There’s less sex, drugs and swearing than in your standard YA fare.
Is it the book of my heart? I don’t know. Here’s what I do know. This book is about Lucas. Lucas is a 6th grader living in a small town in Maine. His mom is struggling with mental health issues exacerbated by the death of Lucas’ brother. But even though there’s a lot of hard stuff, Lucas still has his friends. His incredible friend group, brought together by the after school program they all attend come up with an unusual, and almost magical, way to help each other solve the problems that are closest to their hearts.
Lucas wonders, as most young people wonder, who he is in relation to his parents. He’s definitely not exactly like one or the other and he’s not an exact combination of the two of them. He’s his own thing. That search for identity is a kernel that I plucked right from my own heart, even though I didn’t realize it as I was writing it. But that’s the way the best writing happens; it spills out from some corner of your heart when you’re not even looking.
Next week I get to share the cover for Sardines, which will be hitting shelves this fall. I can’t wait for everyone to see it!
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.
It’s been an insane 6 weeks since the book launch party and I’m very sorry not to write this sooner. Between crocheting my kids Halloween costumes and cleaning the baseboards it’s been rough. Okay really just regular life stuff but it’s nowhere near as good as the image of me crocheting anything.
Here is my favorite picture from the book launch party at Mechanics Hall Library.
I’m really hoping none of these children read my book before they’re in high school or at least that they have very permissive (preferably Unitarian or reform Jew) parents.
It was a blast. I’m so grateful to everyone who came out and made it fun and special. So thanks! I know I have more pictures somewhere but I can’t find them so here is a random pic from high school.
By the way, I so knew this picture was being taken. This is just me being cute and pretending to be surprised. Also, these white v-neck t-shirts were a major wardrobe staple for longer than I’d care to admit.
If you’re in the Boston area and you have a lot of anxiety the night before the election please come join me and 3 other amazing YA author friends to talk books at Porter Square Books in Cambridge November 7th at 7pm. Love to see you there.