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Author of the Month
2008 Archive
Judy Parkinson
Judy Parkinson
Author of i before e (except after c)
ETC: Why did you decide to write this book?

PARKINSON: I've always had a good memory for birthdays and anniversaries and it occurred to me that there wasn't a book that gathered together all the fantastic tricks and devices that exist for remembering things; from how to spell, how to learn music, how to remember peoples' names and the everyday essentials like the length of the months to where you left the car keys. I began researching the subject of memory and mnemonics and discovered a whole book's worth of material.

Kim Antieau
Kim Antieau, Author of Ruby's Imagine
ETC: What is it you like about writing?

Antieau: Life seems easier and more manageable when I write. I figure out things about people and the world when I write, and that's a good thing because people are often such a mystery to me. I'm always searching for community, and I feel as though the characters in my books are part of my community. I like the people I meet in my stories. I like people who aren't like everyone else--they don't follow the crowd. I think we need more people like that in this world: People who are willing to be full of themselves.

One of the problems today is that we don't have authentic communities in many places. We don't have ceremonies and rituals to carry us from one stage of our lives to another. We don't have the wisdom of our elders. We don't have the wisdom of the land because we're so disconnected from nature. Children need mentors and wise elders.

Author, Jennifer Bradbury
Jennifer Bradbury, Author of SHIFT
ETC: How did Shift come about?

Bradbury: The story sort of bubbled out of a lot of experiences. My husband and his best friend cycled cross-country from West Virginia to Spokane when they were seventeen. After we married, we took a bike trip across the southern U.S. When I was teaching, and realized my students loved hearing anecdotes from that trip, I began to wonder if I couldn't figure out a way to write a novel for that ninth grade boy slouching in the front row when I talked about characterization in Of Mice and Men but lit up when I shared the story of getting chased by a coyote while biking up to the Grand Canyon. But I thought about it for a couple of years before doing anything about it. Finally, while I was in India on a teaching exchange, I sat down and plotted it out. From there it unfurled quickly.

ETC: Are there any stories you included from your own bike touring experience in Shift?

Bradbury: Tons! Lots of little stories or anecdotes found their way into Chris and Win's adventures. And I even borrowed a few more from the trip my husband took with his best friend when they graduated high school. But lots of things got changed.

Lynne Cherry
Lynne Cherry, co-Author of
How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming When the weather changes daily, how do we really know that Earth's climate is changing? A groundbreaking new book for children explains the science behind the headlines, shows how young people are participating in gathering the scientific data, and tells what can be done to avert a crisis. The authors of How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate report on such a groundswell of activity by scientists and concerned people-including many children-that what could be a fearful or depressing book is, instead, an empowering book.

The evidence of climate change comes from observation over many years of the changing behavioral patterns of flowers, butterflies, birds, frogs, trees, glaciers, and much more. Some of this evidence was gathered by young people as long ago as 1900, in Nova Scotia, Canada. Scientists are making more and more of these observations, and the authors tell how young people in Siberia, Canada, Mexico, and throughout the U.S. are involved in such citizen science programs that support scientists in their climate research.

The authors explain how scientists piece together the Earth's "climate history" from tree rings, mud cores, ice cores, and other sources; how this history compares with recent climate patterns; and how greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide-much of it human-made-are impacting climate. In addition to clearly presenting the underlying science, the authors explain how to take charge of one's "carbon footprint"-also known as a "climate footprint." The book graphically shows "what you-and a million kids"-can do to make a difference.
More books by Lynne Cherry

Claire Dean, Author of Girlwood
Meet Claire Dean, Author of Girlwood
ETC: GIRLWOOD is your first young adult novel. How did the story come about?

Claire Dean: I'd been a professional writer for many years when my daughter came to me and asked why I hadn't written a book for her. Everything changed for me at that moment. Suddenly writing no longer felt like a job--and a very difficult, unsatisfying one at that--but became the most joyful part of my day. I asked her what kind of book she wanted, and she told me it had to be about good stuff, about nature and fairies and hope and girls. I played with those ideas for a couple of years, starting and stopping and turning over different stories in my mind, until I finally hit upon the tale of Polly and her magical larch grove. In a way, writing GIRLWOOD was like writing a lullaby for my teenager. My main goal was to write a hopeful story, something that would bring strength and solace not only to my daughter, but to all my readers.
READ THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW Page includes more on Girlwood and Reader's Guide/Discussion Questions.

S. A. Harazin
S. A. Harazin
Author of Blood Brothers
ETC: How did you come up with the idea for BLOOD BROTHERS?

Harazin: Most of the story comes from real life experiences that I fictionalized. I am a Registered Nurse and when I was a teen, I worked in a hospital.

Harazin: The spark for the story occurred several years ago. I went to work and one of my patients was a teen who was on life support. He was going through tests to see if he was brain dead. I quickly got to know his parents and a little about what had happened. He was a great student with many hopes and dreams, but he made a bad choice and ended up in a coma. During the time I was taking care of him, I kept asking myself, why did this have to happen to him—or to anyone? I never intended on writing this story, but it was something that haunted me for years. I could not forget him. I had to write a story about a great kid—the almost perfect kid—who made a mistake that changed everything.

Allison van Diepen
Allison van Diepen
Author of Street Pharm and Snitch

ETC: STREET PHARM and SNITCH are both dead-on in their depictions of inner-city youth. Was it your teaching that enabled you to write these books?

van Diepen: Oh yes. The old adage "write what you know" holds true. Ty Johnson and Julia DiVino resembled the students I taught every day in Brooklyn, so I was comfortable writing from their viewpoints. A number of my students were drug dealers and gang members, and many of them boasted of their activities. So researching these books was not a problem either.

ETC: Both STREET PHARM and SNITCH have appeared on ALA's Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list. How do you feel about your books' popularity among reluctant readers?

van Diepen: It's wonderful. I've received many emails from teens saying, "this is the first book I've ever finished" or "this is the only book I've ever liked!" Often the next question they ask is if I can recommend other books they might like - which means readers have been born. There is nothing more gratifying than that, especially for a teacher. I've always believed that you can get any teen to read if he or she is given the right book.

Elizabeth Rusch
Elizabeth Rusch
ETC: The three new books you have out this year cover such a wide range of topics, from art and creativity, to astronomy, to volcanism. What connects these books?

RUSCH: On the home page of my website, I feature a quotation from Carl Sagan: "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." All three books are about discovery. A Day with No Crayons is about a girl's discovery of color in the world all around her. Will It Blow? is about what scientists discovered about Mount St. Helens when they detected earthquake swarms in 2004. And The Planet Hunter is about an astronomer who wondered if there were more planets in our solar system, and whose discoveries have radically changed the way we look at our solar system.

Brian Mandabach
Brian Mandabach
Author of Or Not?
ETC: Tell us how you came up with the idea for your first young adult novel, OR NOT.

Mandabach: The story began when I learned that an 8th grade girl in my neighborhood had taken her own life. I won't go into details here, but I could not get this girl–whom I did not know–out of my head. I'd be taking a walk in the night, as I like to do, only I couldn't just dig the stars and sing to myself and let my mind wander as I usually do–because I was preoccupied with wondering what could have brought this girl to take that one irreversible step.

Aside from reading her obituary, I made a point not to learn anything more about her. And I've got to say that this isn't a suicide novel and that the more I worked on it, researching teen suicide–especially younger teens and girls–the more my character who became Cassie grew away from her initial inspiration. But that's where she started, and I spent the coming months filling up pages in my notebooks with Cassie and her family, discovering who she was.