Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt

Hi, Jake Burt! Happy Wednesday! I have not stopped thinking about Greetings from Witness Protection since I finished it last week. I’m looking forward to booktalking it during upcoming presentations and school visits. Thank you for telling Nicki’s fascinating and memorable story. 

Jake: Thanks, John – for reading, for inviting me to hang out on your blog for a little while, and for all you do for children (and those who educate them!). I’m excited to finish a sentence or two, especially since you’ve already handled the hardest part for me.


I wrote the words in purple, and Jake wrote the words in black. Thank you, Jake! 

Nicki and Charlotte are skewed mirrors of each other. The chance to “get it right” is a powerful motivation for Nicki; her previous failures to find a family with whom she can stick weigh heavily on her. Thus, while she’s performing Charlotte according to WITSEC’s parameters, and while her primary motivation is keeping the Trevors safe, there’s a bit of her that’s also using Charlotte as an opportunity to be her best self – to be a better friend, a better student, and a better daughter than she’s been before. Of course, hiding away one’s true self for so long has consequences, especially when combined with the exhausting work of maintaining a mask for so long. That’s why Charlotte can’t quite hide everything that makes Nicki special, or everything from her past that makes her who she is.



The Trevor family can’t catch a break. One of the most fun parts of writing the novel came from asking myself what sorts of day-to-day, “just living” sorts of activities might not be possible for them, and then having them try them anyway. Decorating for the holidays, for instance – for most families, that’s a happy time: sharing memories, renewing traditions, watching the cat go bonkers about the Christmas tree. For the Trevors, it’s another reminder of their vulnerability, and another test of their resolve.

Colby mentions Greetings from Witness Protection in this video. 

I wrote Greetings from Witness Protection in 2014. At the time, technology was already able to track people with impressive (or scary, depending on your perspective) precision. It’s only developed further since then, with search engines and social media sites able to recognize faces in even the grainiest photographs. Combine that with software that can recognize patterns of speech or in writing, and I can only imagine what WITSEC is having to do for the people they’re trying to protect, and how fast they’re having to adapt.


Explore Jake's website. 
My fifth graders are reading fanatics. We have student book talks several times a week, and my signup list goes on for pages. They also write “Reccards” (pronounce it like “records,” but it’s a portmanteau of “recommendation cards”) that hang above their bookbins, just like they do off the shelves at independent bookstores. The kids love reading about and hearing about what their classmates are into, and books often move around my classroom virally as a result.
The Right Hook of Devin Velma is a play on words. Exactly how it works, and whether or not someone gets punched in the face, will be revealed on October 2nd, 2018.

School libraries are often one of the most underutilized resources at a school. We’re blessed to have a 40,000+ volume library, and I’m constantly amazed at the incredible variety of ways it can be used as part of my classroom instruction. Sure, it’s a book repository, but it’s also a go-to source of info on research techniques, a safe space for kids for whom the kickball line represents the stuff of nightmares, and a great place to catch up on professional development materials. Of course, all of that’s as a direct result of having great school librarians.


Image Credit: Listening Library 
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the amazing team behind me, because Greetings from Witness Protection! wouldn’t have been possible without them. From my wonderagent, Rebecca Stead, to my editor at Feiwel and Friends, Liz Szabla, I’m incredibly fortunate to work with people who not only believe in me and my writing, but believe wholeheartedly in the larger mission of getting the right books into the hands of the kids who need them most. 
Borrow Greetings from Witness Protection from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

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