Guess what? I have the BEST NEWS EVER! Here it is: You’re going to grow up to be a writer. TRUE FACT. You are going to write all the books that you ever wanted to read. It doesn’t get any cooler than that. Am I right? And hey, you know that Scholastic book catalogue that comes out once a month and appears on your desk like magic? YOUR books will be in that catalogue one day and kids just like you are going to buy them. If your mind is not blown by this, then I don’t even know you.
But I do know you! I know you, because you are me.
This is weird, right? Right.
Mostly what I want to do is just reach through time to you and give you a hug, which you would find creepy and terrible and afterwards you’d immediately retreat to your reading nook, AKA your bedroom closet, which is devoid of clothes but has a nice lamp and some pillows and blankets and a fantastic stack of books. I don’t blame you. If my closet wasn’t such a mess – it turns out that once you grow up, you stay largely the same size forever, so “growing out of your clothes” isn’t actually a thing any more – if there was any room in there whatsoever, I might be tempted to do the same thing. My bedroom is in the attic now and it is very similar to sleeping in the closet, except there are skylights so that I can lie awake – I still sometimes can’t sleep – and look at the stars and think about everything everything everything. Just like you.
Sometimes this “everything” is more interesting than others. A lot of times, it’s the same as your everything: Is this tooth pain a cavity? Will I die at the dentist from a severe allergic reaction to flouride? What if one day, I’m walking too close to the edge of a cliff and I trip on my shoelace and next thing you know, I’m falling? WHAT THEN?
I mean, we both know what insomnia is like. It’s basically the meanest of all the mean girls.
But a lot of times now when I can’t sleep, instead of worrying about dying, I can think, “What would my character do if she was on a boat and suddenly, a humpback whale breached and the boat split in two?” (That’s what I’m working on right now. Don’t tell anyone.) Anyway, it turns out that your love for the oceans will play a big part in your books later and boy, is it going to matter a lot to the world that there are people who are passionate about saving the oceans. They’re a mess. You won’t even believe what terrible things we do to them in-between you being you and you becoming me. So keep trying to save everything. Everything is going to need to be saved like you wouldn’t believe.
Now listen: A few months ago, something really bad and very scary happened in your family, and the aftershock of that is that you’re going to have to change schools and start over in only a couple of short months from when this photo is being taken. This is going to be harder than you think, no lie. I wish I could make you ready, but the truth is, if I had to do that kind of “starting over”, even today, I’d do pretty much what you are going to do, which is to hide very far inside the covers of a thousand books. I was going to give you advice, like “Come out of your shell! Don’t be so shy! Smile at people!” But I’ve changed my mind because all that reading is going to pay off in the end. You will never regret a single book that you’ll ever read except for Thinner, because you’ll never be able to eat strawberry pie again after that. And you’re going to be OK. You’re going to make some great friends, who will still be your friends thirty years later, and you’re going to survive every single thing that you think you’re not going to survive. No one ever died of embarrassment, that’s the truth.
Listen up: I love you. You’re great. You’re funny and smart and interesting. And eventually, you’ll figure out how to dress nicely and do your hair like everyone else. I feel lucky to have known you. I feel lucky to have been you, no matter how skinny and awkward and poorly dressed you think you are. Seriously, it never matters what you’re wearing as long as you wear it like you mean it. No apologies.
If I were to give you one piece of advice, it would be this: Be brave and kind. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Take it all on with courage. And be nice when you do it. Simple, right?
Oh, there are two more pieces of advice that I’d like to give, seeing as I have this opportunity. The first is this: Never Google your symptoms. Right now, the word “Google” sounds like something I made up, but believe me, you’re going to know what it is one day, and the temptation to enter all your unusual health concerns into the search bar will be overwhelming. Do NOT do this.
The second is to travel, whenever and wherever you can. Travel is like reading in three-dimensions. It’s scary to go out of your comfort zone, but you’re brave, remember? Don’t say ‘no’ to adventures. It will be worth it, swearsies.
Be brave and happy, kiddo. You’re going to be just fine.
Longing to be one of the popular girls in her new town, Kammie Summers has fallen into a well during a (fake) initiation into their club. Now Kammie’s trapped in the dark, counting the hours, waiting to be rescued. (The Girls have gone for help, haven’t they?)
As hours pass, Kammie’s real-life predicament mixes with memories of the best and worst moments of her life so far, including the awful reasons her family moved to this new town in the first place. And as she begins to feel hungry and thirsty and light-headed, Kammie starts to imagine she has company, including a French-speaking coyote and goats that just might be zombies.
Karen Rivers has created a unique narrator with an authentic, sympathetic, sharp, funny voice who will have readers laughing and crying and laugh-crying over the course of physically and emotionally suspenseful, utterly believable events.
The Girl in the Well is Me can be found on Indiebound, B&N, and Amazon, or ask for it at bookstores and libraries near you.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Karen Rivers absolutely loves writing books told from the point of view of kids and teens. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, with her own kids, whose ideas she tries not to steal too often. She has two dogs, two birds, and two kids, because if one of something is good, then two of something must be twice as good. She is the author of nineteen novels. Her forthcoming books are THE GIRL IN THE WELL IS ME (Spring 2016/Algonquin Books For Young Readers) and BEFORE WE GO EXTINCT (June 2106/FSG). More information about Karen can be found at her website at karenrivers.com. You can follow her on Twitter (@karenrivers) or Facebook. |
This is future you. Right now you don’t much like the way you look, do you? You hate being skinny and wonder when you’ll finally grow some curves. Your school uniform is awful — especially that dumb hat. You think your hair will always be a frizzy mess and your teeth will always make you look like Bugs Bunny. But guess what, thing’s improve. You knock those front teeth out doing somersaults on a trampoline so a dentist gives you a new pair, and someone invents a handy thing to straighten your hair, and you just kind of grow into yourself. You worry a lot — about the way you look, and whether your friends really like you, and whether your grades are good enough and … Stop! Worrying is exhausting and things will all turn out well in the end, I promise.
You LOVE reading. Don’t stop — read everything you can get your hands on. Be thankful that a smart librarian gave you an adult library card when you’d read all the books in the children’s section (even though you were officially too young to have one) and that she let you read anything you wanted. That librarian gave you everything you needed to fill your mind and feed your imagination. Empathy — understanding and being able to share the feelings of others — is important and that’s what you get from the books you read, that and excitement and rage and sorrow and fear and so much more. Don’t ever stop leaving useful things for The Borrowers to find, or looking for your own Secret Garden, or peeking in the backs of wardrobes to find a way into Narnia. And don’t stop crying for Jody and his deer Flag. Skip Bilbo Baggins’s story for now, you’ll like it much better when you’re older, and as for those boys in The Lord of The Flies, they’ll still terrify you when you’re an adult.
You know how you’re interested in fossils and the way that mountains and valleys get their shapes and why some rocks are gray with pink specks and others are pink with gray specks? Well one day you take that interest all the way to university and get a degree in geology. But then you won’t want to be a geologist any more because studying takes all the fun out of geology so you’ll become a teacher instead and the best part of the day will be story time — sharing books you love with the students in your class. And then something big and unimaginable will happen — you’ll leave your home in England and move to America with your husband and two kids. (Yes, you have kids).
Being an immigrant is big and terrifying and strange. Minnesota is so different from Hull, where you live now. Most houses are made of wood, not bricks. Butter comes in sticks. People call casseroles “hot dish” and eat fruit salad with their meal instead of as dessert. It’s so cold in the winter that the stuff in your nose freezes when you go outside, the snow squeaks when you walk on it, and cars can be driven across frozen lakes. When you get here, you’ll miss your family and friends and England and everything that’s familiar, but you are stronger than you think. You know how you like to write? Well you’ll get lots of practice writing letters home telling everyone about the new things you’re seeing and doing. (Although you will NEVER EVER drive your car on a frozen lake.)
I’ve been saving the best thing for last. One day, when you’re pretty old, you will finally realize that there was only ever one thing you were meant to do and that’s write children’s books. You often wondered if you could, but you were never brave enough to try: being an “author” is something “special” people do, not ordinary people like you. But one day you will try and you’ll work hard and you’ll persevere. Some people will tell you your stories aren’t good enough to publish and then you’ll be crushed, but you won’t give up. And one fantastic day a book with your name on the cover will be published. You, ordinary you, will be an “author.” And perhaps somewhere a girl will love your book so much that she imagines herself riding in a Gypsy wagon and wonders what she would do if she found a lost baby in a field.
So stop worrying, you’ll have a pretty great life.
Love, future Cheryl
P.S. You know how you always skip the setting descriptions in books, well it turns out those are the bits you love writing. How ironic is that?
Ten-year-old Lizzie Dewhurst is an evacuee, sent with her younger brother Peter from their city home at the beginning of World War II to live with strangers in Swainedale, a remote Yorkshire valley. When Lizzie finds a lost baby in a field, her world is turned upside down. Will she have the courage to do what is right in the face of prejudice and opposition from the people around her? Told from the alternating perspectives of Lizzie and Elijah, a Gypsy boy, LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY explores the nature of intolerance, compassion, and the quiet bravery of ordinary people.
Lizzie and the Lost Baby can be found on IndieBound, The Red Balloon Bookshop, B&N, Amazon, and in bookstores and libraries near you.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Cheryl Blackford was born in Yorkshire, England but now lives in a house in the woods in Minnesota where she is entertained by a wide assortment of wildlife, including coyotes. LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY is Cheryl’s first middle-grade novel. She has written three non-fiction books for young readers and her picture book HUNGRY COYOTE (inspired by a coyote she saw one winter morning) won the 2015 Moonbeam Award for picture books for ages 4-8.|
Connect with Cheryl on cherylblackford.com, Twitter, and Goodreads.
It’s me — future you. No, time travel isn’t happening yet. And I haven’t figured out Mrs. Whatsit’s tesseract. But I don’t need it. I can still look back and see you as if it were yesterday.
I can see you in fourth and fifth grade reading all the different-colored Andrew Lang fairy tale books, and C.S. Lewis, and Edward Eager, and wishing so hard for magic to happen that it almost hurts. You wish on coins, on four-leaf clovers. You push your way to the back of every wardrobe, hoping to come out in Narnia.
I can see you hiding under the piano in the hallway outside your sixth grade classroom while the boys in the class make fun of you. You’re overweight, and they’re despicable. How do they come up with those awful nicknames? But you don’t cry. They never see you cry.
I can see you huddled in the corner of the schoolyard at the alternative junior high, writing in your notebook. You really, really want to be Harriet the Spy. The notebook defends you from what the other kids might be saying or thinking. You could be writing anything; they all wonder about it. It’s your shield.
I can see you reading and re-reading all your favorite books, even when your parents shake their heads in bewilderment, wondering why anyone would want to read a book twice when there are so many books to read. But you love them so much – Betsy, Tacy, and Tib; Harriet; Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter; all of All-of-a-Kind Family; the Melendys; Meg and Charles Wallace; Ged the wizard; Claudia and Jamie. They’re your friends when real kids aren’t. Why wouldn’t you want to visit them over and over?
I can see you at the library every Friday night with your family. Your dad toting a big box of books to return, you and your brother and sister filling it up again with the new books for the week. Everyone in your family reads at every meal. You won’t even realize it’s weird until the first time you have a friend over for dinner, in seventh grade, and when you all sit down at the table with a book she just stares, her mouth open.
I can see you lonely and lost, and I’m sorry that you can’t see me. Because here’s the thing: that loneliness, that lostness – it all has a purpose. Your longing for magic leads you to invent your own magic worlds. You endure the bullies, and you figure out how to be brave and persistent. You watch people and write about them, and you begin to understand how to create a character. Your love of the library starts you on the path to what you – what I – do now. Because you hang out in the children’s room so much, you’ll wind up working there, all through high school and college. You’ll realize that you want children’s books to be your life. You’ll work in children’s publishing for a while, and then you’ll start writing yourself.
It’ll take you a long time – a REALLY long time – to get your first children’s novel published. You’ll get more rejections than you can count. You could probably paper a whole room with them. Or a whole houseful of rooms. But you learn, wishing on coins, hiding under the piano, sitting in the corner of the schoolyard, reading at the dining room table, working in the library, that children’s books are what you love, and that patience and persistence will get you where you want to be.
So listen, kid, don’t give up. Remember the feelings. Write it all down. And keep pushing to the back of every wardrobe. Narnia might not look quite the way you imagined, but you’ll get there.
p.s. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but I can also see, from the future, that your Nehru jacket is a TERRIBLE mistake.
Bee is an orphan, alone in a poor, crumbling kingdom. In desperation, she steals a bun from a bakery, and to her surprise, the baker offers her a place at his shop. As she learns to bake, Bee discovers that she has a magical power, but when a new friend desperately needs her help against an evil mage, Bee wonders what an orphan girl with only a small bit of magic can do. Bee’s journey to help her friend becomes a journey to save the kingdom, and a discovery of the meaning of family.
Baker’s Magic is available on Indiebound, Oblong Books, Capstone Press, Amazon, and in bookstores and libraries near you.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Diane Zahler is the author of four middle-grade fairy-tale retellings, two nonfiction books for older readers, and a nearly infinite quantity of textbook materials for elementary and high school students. Her newest novel for young readers, Baker’s Magic, was published February 1. She lives with her husband in an old farmhouse in the Hudson Valley, where she bakes a lot – and eats what she bakes.|
Connect with Diane on dianezahler.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
Love is in the air! In homes and classrooms across the country—and beyond—paper hearts are being cut and pasted, cookies are being baked, parents are rushing to the store because they forgot to buy soy-free, gluten-free, dye-free hypoallergenic, candy for this afternoon’s class party, glitter is everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
Yes, my friends, Valentine’s Day is imminent.
Whether you are celebrating romance or friendship, I have just the book for you. Here are a few, available now and upcoming, on my list:
SWITCHED AT FIRST KISS series by Anna Staniszewski (Sourcebooks)
Marcus is a Cupid. Lena is a Reaper. Opposites attract in the exciting new Switched At First Kiss series by the acclaimed author of The Dirt Diary.
When she’s dared to kiss the adorkable Marcus Torelli at a party, Lena thinks it’s the perfect opportunity to cross First Kiss off her list of “Things to Accomplish Before I Turn Fourteen.”
It’s only when she gets sent on an assignment the next day that she realizes something went horribly wrong. That ZING she felt wasn’t the thrill of her first kiss–she and Marcus have swapped powers! Lena is not your average eighth grader; she’s a soul collector with a serious job to do. And Marcus turns out to be a supernatural matchmaker (like Cupid, but without the diaper).
Now logical Lena finds herself with the love touch, and sweet, sentimental Marcus has death at his fingertips. The truth is that Lena should never have taken that dare…because one little kiss has Lena and Marcus in a whole lotta trouble.
GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES by Mike Jung (Arthur A. Levine Books)
Vincent Wu is Captain Stupendous’s No. 1 Fan, but even he has to admit that Captain Stupendous has been a little off lately. During Professor Mayhem’s latest attack, Captain Stupendous barely made it out alive – although he did manage to save Vincent from a giant monster robot. It’s Vincent’s dream come true… until he finds out Captain Stupendous’s secret identity: It’s Polly Winnicott-Lee, the girl Vincent happens to have a crush on.
Captain Stupendous’s powers were recently transferred to Polly in a fluke accident, and so while she has all of his super strength and super speed, she doesn’t know how to use them, and she definitely doesn’t know all the strengths and weaknesses of his many nemeses. But Vincent and his friends are just the right fan club to train up their favorite superhero before he (she?) has to face Professor Mayhem again. And if they make it through this battle for the safety of Copperplate City, Vincent might just get up the courage to ask Polly on a date.
THE FIREFLY CODE by Megan Frazer Blakemore (Bloomsbury, coming in May)
Mori and her friends live a normal life on Firefly Lane in their utopian community, Old Harmonie. In a world this safe and perfect, they’ve never had to question anything . . . never had to wonder about how their lives came to be. Until a new girl named Ilana moves in. She’s so perfect that Mori and her friends are curious . . . Where exactly did Ilana come from, and why does she act so strange sometimes? When Ilana’s secret is revealed, the kids on Firefly Lane must decide: is it finally time to start questioning the only world they’ve ever known?
In a stunningly imaginative story, critically acclaimed author Megan Frazer Blakemore takes readers on a journey with f
ive friends–new and old–that will have everyone talking about not just what makes people human, but what makes them true friends.
THE QUESTION OF MIRACLES by Elana K. Arnold (HMH Books for Young Readers)
Sixth-grader Iris Abernathy hates life in Corvallis, Oregon, where her family just moved. It’s always raining, and everything is so wet. Besides, nothing has felt right since Iris’s best friend, Sarah, died.
When Iris meets Boris, an awkward mouth-breather with a know-it-all personality, she’s not looking to make a new friend, but it beats eating lunch alone. Then she learns that Boris’s very existence is a medical mystery, maybe even a miracle, and Iris starts to wonder why some people get miracles and others don’t. And if one miracle is possible, can another one be too? Can she possibly communicate with Sarah again?
The CHARMED LIFE series by Lisa Schroeder, (Scholastic)
Caitlin would stay at summer camp forever if she could. Her new best friends in the world, Hannah, Mia, and Libby are there. And at home? Everything’s different: Her dad is worried he might be losing his job; her mom is repainting the whole house and making the kids volunteer at a soup kitchen; and Caitlin is starting sixth grade at a new school, where none of the girls are as fun or friendly as her Cabin 7 BFFs. But Caitlin has a good-luck charm — or a good-luck charm bracelet anyway. The Cabin 7 girls bought it together, and Caitlin is taking the first turn wearing it. She’s sure it will help turn her luck around . . . but when?
THE WIG IN THE WINDOW and THE TIARA ON THE TERRACE by Kristen Kittscher (Harper Children’s)
In this funny, clever novel, perfect for fans of Pseudonymous Bosch and Gordon Korman and a companion to The Wig in the Window, tween sleuths Sophie Young and Grace Yang go undercover at Luna Vista’s Winter Sun Festival to catch a murderer before he—or she—strikes again.
Sophie Young and Grace Yang have been taking it easy ever since they solved the biggest crime Luna Vista had ever seen. But things might get interesting again now that everyone is gearing up for the 125th annual Winter Sun Festival—a town tradition that involves floats, a parade, and a Royal Court made up of local high school girls.
When Festival president Jim Steptoe turns up dead on the first day of parade preparations, the police blame a malfunctioning giant s’more feature on the campfire-themed float. But the two sleuths are convinced the mysterious death wasn’t an accident.
Young and Yang must trade their high tops for high heels and infiltrate the Royal Court to solve the case. But if they fail, they might just be the next victims.
PRINCESS JUNIPER OF THE HOURGLASS (Philomel, 2015)
For her thirteenth nameday all Princess Juniper wants is a country of her own. So when rumblings of unrest start in his kingdom, Juniper’s father decides to grant his daughter’s wish and sends her to a small, idyllic corner of the Hourglass Mountains until trouble blows over. Once there, Juniper discovers that ruling a small country–even just for the summer–is a bit harder than she’d expected, especially when cousin Cyril challenges her rule. Still, the most difficult part is to come. Juniper and her friends discover that her father’s kingdom is at war. The only way to stay safe is to remain in the Hourglass Mountains much longer than planned. Juniper may have her own country after all . . . but what will that mean for the kingdom of Torr?
The JACKSON GREENE Series by Varian Johnson (Arthur A. Levine Books)
A heist series may not sound very Valentiney, but this one delivers action and
romance awkward crushes.
Jackson Greene swears he’s given up scheming. Then school bully Keith Sinclair announces he’s running for Student Council president, against Jackson’s former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it — but he knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the presidency no matter the vote count.
So Jackson assembles a crack team: Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess. Charlie de la Cruz, reporter. Together they devise a plan that will take down Keith, win Gaby’s respect, and make sure the election is done right. If they can pull it off, it will be remembered as the school’s greatest con ever — one worthy of the name THE GREAT GREENE HEIST.
What books are on your Valentine’s weekend list?
Dear Kid Ryan,
Hey there, you little geek, I’ve got good news! At 34 you’re just as big a geek–maybe even bigger–and you were ahead of the curve because it’s totally the “in” thing now. So, keep loving the things you love.
Definitely keep doing your whole mad scientist thing, too. All those experiments you dream up (most of which fail spectacularly, but are fun anyway)? Those totally off-the-wall stories you imagine? They’re teaching you to think creatively. Sure, they make you kind of weird now, but someday you’re going to get paid to be professional geek/mad scientist/weirdo storyteller. Yes, that’s right, you’re going to be a real live author! I’m looking at one of your future books right now, and it’s just as big a thrill as you’re imagining it will be. Stay strong, be confident in your writing, don’t let discouragement take you down, and eventually you’ll be published.
Now, be warned, in your late teens you’ll go through what I call your “extremely punchable” phase. That means you’ll become a pretentious know-it-all, take yourself and everything else way too seriously, and many people will want to punch you. Those people will be correct, but you won’t realize it until a few years later. But don’t worry, eventually you’ll wise up and start being fun again. You’ll discover that you were right about one thing, though. Adults are totally making up life as they go along. No one has it all worked out, no matter what age they are. At times, though, that’s kind of awesome. It means you’ll get to blaze your own trail.
Also, you know how awesome it seems to be an adult, but every adult tells you it’s not? Well, you were right all along! Sure, there’s responsibility and doing things you’d rather not, but you already have to do stuff you don’t like. Now, though, I can pretty much do what I want without asking permission. I could drive to the Grand Canyon right now, or maybe just go get tacos. And now I want tacos . . . which I’ll totally get because I have a car and my own money. The best part, though? You’ll still be able to do the things you love now, plus awesome new grown-up stuff that you’ll love just as much.
I’m running low on space, so here are a few pointers to keep in mind over the next twenty years. Not all of them will make sense right now, but trust me, eventually you’ll understand.
- Buy stock in Apple. No, I’m not kidding.
- Don’t bother seeing the prequels. They’ll only hurt you.
- Sometimes you should follow your heart. Other times, your heart is being an idiot. Be ready for either possibility.
- Tell Mom you were right–you’ll always hate asparagus. It’s evil.
One last thing. Don’t ever stop playing. Don’t ever stop having fun. Life will throw enough stress at you without you helping it along. Stay bright. It’ll sustain you through the bad stuff and make the great stuff even better.
Okay, now. Ready? Good! Then get out there and be awesome.
When 15-year-old twins Malcolm and Valentine Gilbert moved to a new town, they never imagined that the old house across the street could bring them so much trouble. A secret machine has reawakened inside, with the power to pierce time itself.
Meanwhile, lightning storms are breaking out all over town. They’re getting worse every week, and seem to enjoy striking kids who just want to pass science class and mind their own business. When Malcolm and Valentine discover a connection between the house and the storms, their situation goes from mysterious to crazy stupid dangerous. Someone is controlling the great machine, and their purpose is nearly complete.
In a race against time, the twins must uncover the chilling plan, the mastermind behind it, and the force that’s driving the deadly storms. They’ll hunt a powerful enemy that threatens their town’s existence, and the only clues are written in the sky.
Find The Year of Lightning on Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Changing Hands Bookstore, and Amazon, or ask for it in bookstores and libraries near you.
See a trailer for The Year of Lightning here.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Ryan Dalton is author of the young adult Time Shift Trilogy. His debut novel THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING released on January 12th, 2016. Ryan splits his time between writing books during the day, fighting crime at night, and hanging out in his awesome underground lair. Please do not tell anyone he’s Batman. It’s a secret. |
Connect with Ryan on RyanDaltonWrites.com, Facebook, and Goodreads.