For decades, I wrote for adults trying to become good enough to write for the most important audience in the world—youth. I always try to affirm children’s resilience, strength, empathy, and intelligence.
Middle grade is especially challenging as youth make the passage from childhood to young adulthood. My own middle years were difficult. (Sometimes I think I’m “rewriting” my own history through characters inspired by today’s amazing youth.) Most importantly, I’m providing diverse mirrors and a “safe place” for students to discuss critical issues about identity, social injustice, family, and friendship. Words are powerful; books open hearts and minds.
We live in tense, unsettling, and disruptive times. Social equity issues, climate change, and the current spread of the coronavirus, in particular, affects us all. Youth are desperate to discuss conflicts and for opportunities to develop critical thinking skills and empathy. Characters become a conduit for them to explore ideas, feelings and, perhaps, more importantly, to discuss with classmates, teachers, and parents, ways to become empowered and make their future better and brighter.