The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga

Hello, Jasmine Warga! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read. First of all, you and your daughters made me so happy when I spotted you leaving cookies on my front porch a few weeks ago. THANK YOU! It was a lovely surprise!

Jasmine Warga: It was so fun to drop off the cookies! It brought a lot of joy to our hearts. My daughters love to celebrate birthdays, and they were especially eager to help celebrate yours—in no small part because they know you are responsible for bringing Our Friend Hedgehog into their lives, which has been such a heart-print book for them. They’re also enjoying all the new books you gifted them. Thank you, thank you!

Awww! I'm so happy they love Our Friend HedgehogThank you! 

I try to walk for at least 60 minutes (90 minutes is better) every day. It is when I listen to my favorite music and figure things out. It rejuvenates me. Lately, I’ve been thinking about Quinn and Cora during my walks. Therefore, it was appropriate Dion MBD's illustration and Alice Wang's design for The Shape of Thunder landed in my email inbox just as I returned from a walk this evening. I said out loud, “Look! That’s Quinn and Cora. I wonder how Jasmine felt when she saw this illustration for the first time.” 

Jasmine Warga: I love that you like to walk and listen to music, and sometimes think about Cora and Quinn. I shared with you earlier this summer that the song “Seven” off Taylor Swift’s new record always makes me think of them. There’s actually a whole long list of songs that remind me of this story. Maybe someday soon I’ll make a playlist of all of them…

But back to the cover! When I first saw the cover, I was speechless. I kept staring at it. The best covers capture the emotional essence of a book—and to me, this cover does exactly that. It’s a visual representation of the heart of this book. Two girls who have been through unbearable tragedy, standing strong. Standing determined. It’s also such a gorgeous cover. I love the colors. They’re haunting **and** beautiful, which I hope is what the reading experience of this book is like.

Yes, it is gorgeous, haunting, and beautiful. It is the perfect cover for the story. 

Scenario: A teacher-librarian in Naperville is working on a display featuring local authors. She asks you to fill out a shelf talker about The Shape of Thunder. There is enough space for 280 characters.

Jasmine Warga: The Shape of Thunder is the story of two best friends, Cora and Quinn, whose friendship has been fractured because of a school shooting in their small Ohio town. Cora is mourning the loss of her sister, and Quinn is dealing with the grief of her brother’s violent actions. The book explores their way back to one another. It’s a book about friendship and grief, but it’s also a book about time travel and science that feels like magic. It’s a book about holding our loved ones accountable. Most of all, it’s a book about the immense power of hope and imagination.

Just like when I read Other Words for Home, I circled, underlined, and highlighted MANY lines while reading The Shape of Thunder. Share three sentences that maybe made you cry while writing them, came to you in a dream or while grocery shopping, you found yourself returning to many times while working on various drafts, sounded like music to your heart, etc.

Jasmine Warga: Oh, wow! Thank you so much. That means the world coming from you. I’m very happy that you were one of the book’s earliest readers!

I’ve spent lots and lots of time dreaming, puzzling, and wrestling with this book. Some lines were there from the beginning, and some came to me at the very end. I cheated and picked four just so I could do two from Cora and two from Quinn. (I hope that’s okay :D!)

Quinn’s POV: How do you draw forgiveness? I imagine sketching it, aloe lotion on a sunburn, a grilled cheese on a snowy day, a soft sweatshirt that feels like a second skin.

Cora’s POV: I guess he’s right, but sometimes the missing feels so big in my heart that I forget what the love even felt like.

Quinn’s POV: But then I remembered that Cora told me once that humans think cats purr because they’re happy, but really cats purr for attention. It’s their way of saying, “Hi, notice me,” and “I need a hug,” and “I want you around.”

Cora’s POV: I can’t decide if it’s worse when people totally forget about that part of my identity or when people make assumptions about it. Both of them feel like losing. I hate losing.

I just looked back at the copy I read. I highlighted, circled, and underlined those passages!!!

Please finish the following sentence starters. 

Quinn and Cora have been best friends their whole lives, but find their friendship fractured by tragedy. Quinn is dreamy, artistic, and sometimes unsure of herself. Cora is brainy and bighearted, and sometimes a pedantic perfectionist. Like many best friends, they bring out the best in one another.

Thunder is... well, Cora would tell you that thunder is caused by the sudden increase in pressure and temperature that lightning produces. Quinn would tell you that thunder is very loud and very hard to visually represent. And I would say that thunder is a warning—it alerts us to a storm. It makes us pay attention. 

Did you know nearly every American public school now conducts lockdown drills — 96 percent in 2015 and 2016 — according to the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics? This is an issue that affects almost all of our kids, and they deserve a chance to discuss how it makes them feel.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why I chose to write about this subject for a younger audience. And the answer is the trauma of gun violence affects the entire community, not just people over the age of 14. Our kids are being subjected to active shooter drills. They are carrying so much anxiety. Books are conversation starters, and I would love for this story to open up space for our kids to be able to have those big, important, and sometimes scary conversations with the grown-ups in their lives. I want kids to feel empowered to talk about the tough things that they’re experiencing, even when those are things that makes the adults in their lives uncomfortable. Most of all, I want young people to know that I see them and that I love them. My biggest hope is that this book helps young people to feel empowered, to know that their voices matter. That we are all ready to listen to them.

I write stories about tough things, but also imbue those same stories with honest hope and gentleness. I want my books to feel like a way forward for young readers. Not a pre-determined path—I’m not prescribing anything—but a door that young people have the tools, wits, big hearts, and courage to open. I’m ready to follow wherever they want to lead.

Look for The Shape of Thunder on May 11, 2021. 

Balzer + Bray's Description: 

Cora hasn’t spoken to her best friend Quinn in a year.

Despite living next door to each other, they exist in separate worlds of grief. Cora is still grappling with the death of her beloved sister in a school shooting, and Quinn is carrying the guilt of what her brother did.

On the day of Cora’s twelfth birthday, Quinn leaves a box on her doorstep with a note. She has decided that the only way to fix things is to go back in time to the moment before her brother changed all their lives forever—and stop him.

In spite of herself, Cora wants to believe. And so the two former friends begin working together to open a wormhole in the fabric of the universe. But as they attempt to unravel the mysteries of time travel to
save their siblings, they learn that the magic of their friendship may actually be the key to saving themselves.

The Shape of Thunder is a deeply moving story, told with exceptional grace, about friendship and loss--and how believing in impossible things can help us heal.

Jasmine Warga is the author of the New York Times bestseller Other Words For Home. Other Words For Home earned multiple awards, including a John Newbery Honor, a Walter Honor for Young Readers, and a Charlotte Huck Honor. She is also the author of young adult books, My Heart and Other Black Holes and Here We Are Now, which have been translated into over twenty-five different languages. The Shape of Thunder, her next novel for middle grade readers, will be published in May 2021. Originally from Cincinnati, she now lives in the Chicago-area with her family.


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