Friday, May 13, 2016

Guest Post and Giveaway from Karen Harrington, Author of MAYDAY!


THE SEVENTH GRADE PROBLEM

Something happened to my seventh grade daughter the other day and I can’t stop thinking about it.

The setting: Honors English

The main idea: The teacher offers a choice of four different books for classroom book clubs.

The conflict: Girls and boys and the books they choose in public vs. private.

Are you intrigued? Then let me tell you what happened. My girl, CJ, has always been a voracious reader. We read together. She still asks me to “snead”, which has long been our word for snuggle+read. We talk about books all the time. She’s only a little impressed that I’m an author. She was MOST impressed when I had the privilege of getting her a signed copy of Jerry Spinelli’s MANIAC MAGEE. In any case, we talk about books all the time.

But the other day, she came home and told me about how the teacher of her class had created Book Clubs. Basically, the book clubs get to choose a book and then have group conversations about the book. As I understand it, the teacher gives a synopsis of four or five books and the students choose which one they want to read. The idea is that the students will go sit with other like-minded readers and have a discussion.

Terrific, right?

One of the books this time around was THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary Schmidt. Another was WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech. CJ knows that I love each of these books, though she’d never read either one. Being Gary Schmidt’s number one fan myself, I’ve always suggested she read THE WEDNESDAY WARS. A lot. Maybe “suggested” isn’t the right word. Maybe leaving it on her bedroom floor all the time is more accurate. CJ initially was all set to pick that book and go join that book club. But, oh no, that book club was made up of, wait for it…wait for it…all BOYS. Boys! Boys who, in CJ’s own words, “are so completely weird…what happened to them since fifth grade is shocking.”

So what’s a young seventh grade girl to do?

She quickly put Schmidt’s book aside and went for the safer choice: WALK TWO MOONS. Now, either book is a wonderful read. Hooray to the teacher for sharing these books! But this scenario gives me pause as a writer of books with both boy and girl protagonists. Are girls and boys missing out on great reads because it would be mortifying if they were the “only” in the group? If the perception of one book or the other is “too girl” or “too boy”?

I suspect the answer is YES.

In the end, I know CJ will read THE WEDNESDAY WARS on her own. We will snead it together. But the other girls? They might miss out. And the boys will miss out on WALK TWO MOONS. Naturally, there are books that speak to different kids and genders. And I love that there are so many dedicated teachers out there creating book clubs and book discussions. I suppose I’ve realized CJ and her peers will sometimes choose books publicly and privately. Maybe that has always been the case since the invention of seventh graders.


Karen Harrington is the author of books for anyone who is or was once a seventh grader, which is her favorite age group. Check out her latest book, MAYDAY, about a seventh-grade plane crash survivor, Wayne, who is on a quest to recover two things following a plane crash: the American honor flag that belonged to his uncle and his voice, all while trying to fit in between his unreliable dad and his super patriotic, military grandfather. MAYDAY received starred-reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus. Karen is also the author of SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY and COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS.






Enter for a chance to win one signed, hardcopy of Karen’s novel, MAYDAY (U.S. only) by leaving a comment about your favorite books for seventh-graders or any book related topic.

Find out more at www.karenharringtonbooks.com or follow her on Twitter @KA_Harrington.

6 comments:

  1. Interesting how kids select books! Thanks for this post. Can't wait to read MAYDAY!

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  2. I love all of Gary Schmidt's books!

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    1. Oh, I do, too! I wish he could write faster. :)

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  3. I think a lot when choosing the gender of a main character--how will that affect who reads it, what unintended messages will readers take away, and how will gender affect what I say. Thanks for your post

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  4. I totally get this. Both my daughters' reading habits were deeply shaped, of course, by what their friends and classmates liked, and both leaned further and further away from books focused on male main characters and groups of male readers as they grew up. Maybe it's just part of growing up and forming your identity. When I was writing my first adventure-story book with my young daughters as my audience. I was much more concerned with creating a variety of strong female characters that reflected who they were than male characters whom they were seeing in most of the adventures they read.

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