We were both adamant that this collection feature protagonists living with mental health conditions and be written by authors with lived mental health experiences. There are many incredible stories out there that aren’t written from lived experience, but we wanted this anthology’s mere existence to be a testament to how those living with mental health conditions can still chase dreams and lead fulfilling lives.
Simon Sort of Says is my new favorite middle grade novel, a laugh-aloud story about the sole survivor of a mass school shooting. Did I just put the words laugh aloud and school shooting in the same sentence? I did. And I meant it. This isn’t just a book with a kid with a snarky tone. Or a great voice. This is a book that’s so funny I snorted. Humor and warmth are the undercurrent of this book. Simon and his family deal with events with humor. Simon connects with new friends through jokes and laughter. Ultimately, their connections and their ability to keep laughing helps them in the healing process.
Through a combination of humor, culture, warmth and language, Hernandez uses voice to make his characters unforgettable and his novel hard to put down.
Meera Sriram’s picture books are a master class in evocative writing. Her superpower is making her stories feel lush, by providing a sensory and emotional experience that culminates in a satisfying payoff.
Meera Sriram’s picture books take kids to a not so often visited “space”—people, place, experience—to evoke wonder and spark conversations. Sriram feels empowered and hopeful when she thinks about how her stories have the power to influence a child’s worldview.
Novels are amalgams. Your experiences. Your friends’ memories. Stuff you’ve read. Stuff you’ve heard about. Be open to it all. Mash up the different elements. The real secret of the secret sauce of novel-writing is that no one knows what goes into it.
Martha Brockenbrough’s chapter book Frank and the Masked Cat is objectively hilarious. By using situational humor, weird words, the juxtaposition of familiar words with unfamiliar uses, repetition, and multiple strategies at the same time Brockenbrough gives readers many layers of witty comedy.
interview by Erin Nuttall The thing I love most about Martha Brockenbrough’s writing is that she is unafraid. Yes, she’s imaginative, funny, thoughtful, and precise which all make her stories a joy to read, but to write bravely is a skill that few have and put Martha’s work on another plane. She slides easily between […]
Patterns can help shape a story, from the big-picture themes to the moment-by-moment actions. Giving kids the opportunity to “read” the patterns gives them practice in making meaning. And it gives them satisfaction in reading as well.
“I focused on just his family members because I realized that I wanted to weave together themes of food and family, in particular the father-and-son relationship. Food has always been a very important part of my family, both when I was growing up and now that I have my own family. My mom liked to cook and it was her way of showing her love for us. Similarly, I like to cook my husband’s or son’s favorite dishes and/or add in favorite ingredients here and there, just because I want to show them I “see” them and I love them.”
Dashka Slater’s text in Escargot (illustrated by Sydney Hanson) uses a number of techniques to break the fourth wall, such as posing questions to the reader and asking them to do physical actions, like turning the page or giving Escargot a kiss. All of these elements engage the reader and delight them!
“I started out writing for adults and so when I published my first children’s book, after 15 years of writing for adults, I couldn’t believe what a warm welcome I got. People were immediately supportive and eager to share information. The collegiality of kidlit authors is one of the things that I love the most about this field.”
But engaging middle school readers requires more than an interesting plot—the characters and their experiences must feel authentic to and reflective of the complicated world in which the readers live.