4 Questions and 3 Sentence Starters with Dan Gemeinhart
Mr. Schu: First of all, happy book birthday to The Honest Truth. I’ve really enjoyed reading how teachers and librarians are responding to it on Twitter. It is one of the most talked about and anticipated books of 2015. How does it feel to share Mark’s story with more and more readers?
Dan Gemeinhart: Thanks, Mr. Schu! The response to The Honest Truth has really been thrilling and humbling. Just to get the book published was a dream come true, and to have people – strangers, even! - reach out to say how much they liked it has just been out of this world. I spend so much time pinching myself that if I'm not careful my arms will soon be horribly scarred. How does it feel? Easy: amazing. And pretty surreal. And immensely gratifying. The story means a lot to me...it's written in honor of a friend of mine, my sister's fiancee, who died of cancer. It's not about him, but it's written for him, so to see this story out in the world, being read and enjoyed by people...man, goosebumps. It's a beautiful feeling. I feel so, so blessed to be where I'm at right now.
Scenario: You’re in a crowded elevator at the ALA Midwinter meeting in Chicago. A school librarian notices that you’re holding a copy of The Honest Truth. She asks you what it is about. You have 45 seconds to deliver a booktalk. Ready, Set, Go!
Dan Gemeinhart: Would it be cheating to hit the Emergency Stop button on the elevator to give myself some more time? Yeah, probably. I'll stick to the forty-five seconds, then. And I like to start booktalks with a question. Here I go:
“How far would a 12 year-old boy go for the adventure of a lifetime? How far would he go if he knew his life was ending? The Honest Truth is an adventure story about friendship, about loyalty, about surviving. Mark is a tough kid fighting a terrible disease, and he's had enough. He's tired of being sick and living his life on other people's terms, so he runs away with his dog on an unlikely and dangerous quest to fulfill his dream of climbing Mt. Rainier. He leaves behind his family and his best friend, Jessie, who figures out where Mark is going and has to decide whether it's more loyal to tell where Mark is going and save his life, or keep his secret and let him die on the mountain. Mark encounters both angels and demons on his life-and-death journey, but his loyal dog stays by his side – until the very end. This is not at all a book about dying – it's a book about living.”
That's 42 seconds on my stopwatch...giving me enough time to add in a couple dramatic pauses! And I actually will be at ALA Midwinter, so this was great real-life practice! Thanks, Mr. Schu!
What is one thing you hope readers say or do after they finish reading The Honest Truth?
Dan Gemeinhart: Oh, good question. If you were to secretly watch me when I finish reading a book (creepy), the best sign that I loved the book is if I just sit there for a few minutes, holding the book, like I don't want to let go. That's an amazing moment, when you've wrapped up a story that truly moved you, and you need to sit there and marinate in it for a moment. When I finish a book that really resonated with me, a story that burrowed down into my heart and made itself a permanent home there, it leaves me feeling such a wonderful mix of empty and full. And I just have to sit there with it for awhile. I don't know if my book would ever touch someone like that, but it would be amazing if it did.
Please share a handful of books that your students have been raving about.
Dan Gemeinhart: Man...at my school, we are currently in full Raina Telgemeier madness mode. I have never seen books take off in popularity like Smile and Sisters have (and that includes Wimpy Kid!). I booktalked them during our Book Fair and word got around and within a week I swear every kid from 2nd to 5th grade, boys and girls, wanted to read them. We sold every copy in the Book Fair (and they're kind of expensive, too) and I now have a “Hold” list for my copies longer than any Hold list I've ever had. A 5th grade boy – a tough, macho 5th grade boy – announced during class that he read Sisters three times the first night he had it! Also popular: The One and Only Ivan, Babymouse, I Survived, the Origami Yoda series, and Notebook of Doom.
Please finish these sentence starters:
When I was in middle school I was a quiet, bookish kid. Awkward, desperately trying to figure out where I fit in. We moved a lot when I was younger – almost every year until the 5th Grade – and middle school was the first time I stayed in one school for that long. Books were kind of one constant thing I could l count on, and I loved them deeply.
School libraries are the magical place where stories live in a school. We don't eat in the library. We don't throw balls (that often). We don't take tests (too much). We share stories. We talk about books. We think about characters. We wonder. Classroom teachers are so overloaded that read-alouds and just general book-loving often don't have as much space in the classroom anymore; a lot of our students don't have any books at home. The library is the one place all our kids go where we savor and love and enjoy and talk and share stories and books. Yeah, we also talk about computers and research and information – all very important stuff – but books are the soul and source of what a library is. And when we talk about books, we're really talking about ourselves. Learning and thinking about books means learning and thinking about ourselves and our world. And that happens in school libraries.
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what other 2015 MG debuts I'm excited to read! This is going to be a stellar year for middle grade literature, and I'm so excited to get my hands on some of these books (and get them into the hands of my students) that I'm practically vibrating. I've got a long list, but some of the ones that I've most recently added to my “oh my gosh give me this book now” list are:
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley,
Dead Boy by Laurel Gale,
The Loudness by Nick Courage,
The Spider Ring by Andrew Harwell, Hoodoo by Ronald Smith (no cover image yet), and The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari (no cover image yet).
Thank you, Dan!
I am giving away a copy of The Honest Truth.
Thank you, Dan!
Rules for the Giveaway
1. It will run from 1/27 to 11:59 p.m. on 1/29.
2. You must be at least 13.
3. If you win, please pay it forward.
Borrow The Honest Truth from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.