Put your hands together and welcome Jen White to Watch. Connect. Read. She dropped by to chat with me about Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave, Pippi Longstocking, school libraries, reading, and Mary Poppins. I wrote the words in orange, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Jen!
When I received the final cover for Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave, I had a gigantic moving truck parked in my driveway! I was moving my family to a new state, so my house was full of boxes and people and noise. I had to hide in the laundry room to have a quiet moment to open the email. Initially, when my editor first sent me the cover proof it didn’t show up in my inbox. She sent it to me a few times over a couple of weeks and when I didn’t respond she thought I hated it. Finally, she called and said, “Did you get the cover?” And I was like, “What cover?” Soon it was all resolved, but I felt bad that for a moment she thought I didn’t like it. When I finally received the cover, I LOVED it. Elizabeth H. Clark did an amazing job. It has all of my favorite things from the book. I would say my two favorite items are the prairie dog on the back and the candy sprinkles on the front, which represent the cat in the book—Mr. Sprinkles.
Twelve-year-old Liberty thinks after her mother passes away, that her life is like an episode of Hunter vs. Hunted on NatGeo. She doesn’t trust anyone. Liberty feels the best way to keep herself safe is to use the survival skills she learns from animals. She keeps a notebook with animal facts that help navigate her world. She thinks the only person she can truly trust is her little sister, Billie.
I hope Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave, does two things. One, I hope it makes the reader feel better about the world and the people in it. We seldom have control over the things that happen in our lives, but we have control over how we respond. Liberty and Billie don’t always make the best decisions, but I think they make choices that are true to who they are and their life experience. Two, I hope readers finish the book and say, “Wow! That was a great adventure.” I love adventure books. A grand adventure always seems to shine a bright light on the good things in my life.
|Download the discussion guide for Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave.|
When I was Liberty’s age I was the oldest of five siblings and in many ways like a miniature bossy pants. Besides reading, I loved to do outside stuff, like camp with my family, go to the beach, and water ski at the lake. I was still in that sweet spot of girlhood, where I felt invincible, like a little, blonde Pippi Longstocking— or at least that’s who I wanted to be. I wasn’t too concerned with what other people thought of me. Twelve is such a great age where you feel like anything is possible, but are also coming to understand the realities of grown-up life. That’s most likely why I love to write middle grade. It is that magical transition between being a child and being a grown-up.
School libraries are where I feel most at home. I still remember my elementary school librarian, Mrs. Davenport. (Isn’t that a great name for a librarian?) She read aloud to my class, chose books for us, and introduced me to books that I probably wouldn’t have picked on my own. In my opinion, the school library and the librarian are the heart of the school, a place where every child should feel included and safe.
|Image Credit: Krae Designs|
Reading is my happy place. It has always been my happy place. I was one of those kids who would sometimes get grounded from reading because I would disappear into a book and ignore everything else. But isn’t there something wonderful about evaporating into someone else’s world? Reading creates empathy and understanding of different characters, emotions, and ideas. There is no doubt that reading shaped who I am. In my opinion, reading is the best thing on the planet!
|Image Credit: Krae Designs|
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about where I got the idea to write Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave. Have you ever been lost or forgotten? Once when I was twelve and on vacation with family, my parents accidentally left me, my sister, and my cousin at a gas station for six hours! They didn’t see us get out of the back of our camper truck to use the restroom and they drove away without us. They thought we had fallen asleep and didn’t realize we were missing until they reached their destination, three hours away. We sure could have used a cell phone back then. We were really scared, but don’t worry. A police officer came and took us to the police station, and then to a foster home where we ate bean burritos and watched Mary Poppins, and then we were reunited with our family. Thirty years later, we can laugh about it. But that experience made me think, “Hmm. What if…?” I think every good story begins with a ‘what if’.
Look for Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave on June 9.