From Avi: As I did last summer, I’ve invited 13 admired middle grade authors to write for my blog for the next three months. I hope you’ll tune in each Tuesday to see who has answered these three questions. You should have a list of terrific books to read and share and read aloud by the end of the summer … along with new authors to follow!
Your favorite book on writing:
This question is a slam-dunk for me. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg is the number one book about writing that I recommend when people tell me they want to be writers or want to help their students become better writers.
Natalie’s lifelong training as a Buddhist, sitting in meditation for hours at a time, is the perfect metaphor for the steadfastness, focus, and persistence the act of writing requires. The book’s short chapters are filled with anecdotes and writing prompts in the simplest of language, which is of course the most difficult kind of writing to do. When I first started out as a writer, I studied in Natalie’s workshops many times and always walked away with a clarity of purpose that can only come from putting pen to paper. (I still write all my books in longhand; Natalie does too.) It’s a bullseye from a Zen archer, a book that comes along very rarely. If you’re looking for a book on craft, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking to uncomplicate the writing process and take control of your monkey mind, this is the book for you.
I am a giant fan of reading aloud and am constantly trying to corral willing participants into my daily reading. (I’m currently making my way through The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, which I recommend wholeheartedly.)
As far as my own books, it’s a toss-up between Marty Frye, Private Eye and Hannah Sharpe Cartoon Detective. Marty Frye is a good one because the main character is a poet detective who makes up rhymes while he solves crimes, so the text usually has kids laughing at the character’s absurd couplets. Laurie Keller’s wacky drawings make a funny story even funnier.
Hannah Sharpe Cartoon Detective tells the story of a girl on the autism spectrum trying to handle the many curveballs life throws at her in a day. It’s a good read aloud similarly because there are funny pictures to share — this time by my son, Jake. But it’s also a story that resonates with kids — not just those on the spectrum — about the daily struggle to self-regulate. Whenever I’ve read this book aloud to kids, the looks of recognition and identification with Hannah make me realize her story was an important — and humorous — one to share.
Ethan Long recommends Hannah Sharpe, Cartoon Detective: “Hannah Sharpe is courageous, smart, talented, and funny as she navigates the complexities of the mystery at hand, as well as her life on the autism spectrum. Bravo to Janet and Jake Tashjian for making Hannah Sharpe a role model not just for the neurodiverse but for neurotypicals, too.”