Okay, I know that it’s Wednesday, and that means that we are well into Teen Reads Week, but I have some interesting things to share to mark this event, so we here we go! LOL
If you’ve read any of my earlier posts, you know that I’m a huge proponent of blending reading into the FACS curriculum so I’ve written several resources to make that easier for FACS teachers. The activities in these resources are based on various works of fiction for young readers.
Recipe for Reading features FACS activities based exclusively on Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke. A Novel Approach to FACS, Fiction in the FACS Classroom includes activities based on 14 different novels.
Two of the novels I selected for A Novel Approach were written by Joan Bauer. Ms. Bauer is one of my absolute favorite young adult authors and I was thrilled when she agreed to do a Q & A for readers of this blog. Here’s the first installment of that exchange. Enjoy!
Joan Bauer Q & A
Q #1: In your first novel, Squashed, sixteen-year-old Ellie Morgan aspires to be the first teenager to win the Rock River Pumpkin Competition in the adult division. This is a very unusual premise for a teen novel. What was the inspiration for this unique story line?
Ms. Bauer: This was a very personal, symbolic story for me. I had been trying to break into screenwriting and had just signed a contract with a big talent agency in New York City when I was in a car accident and wasn’t able to work for quite some time. I had to have neurosurgery and it was all quite discouraging and frightening. While I was recuperating, I got the idea for Squashed about a determined teenager who wanted to grow the biggest pumpkin in Iowa. I had a dream, too, of being able to write again, and the story just seemed to intersect with that time. Ellie was funny and bold and I needed to be that way, too. So in the soil of that novel are all my hopes and dreams for being able to make it as a writer, and the storms and challenges that make it hard to believe you’ll ever get there. As for the giant pumpkin, I just loved the audacity of it and the image of Ellie out there in the patch, talking to Max and telling him to come on and grow!
Q #2: A recurring theme of Squashed is the importance of dreaming big dreams and working to make them come true even when the going get tough. What obstacles have you had to overcome to make your dream of becoming a successful novelist come true?
Ms. Bauer: In addition to overcoming a car accident, there were real financial challenges in the early years, and when Squashed did so well, I became scared I couldn’t do it again. I’ve had a few setbacks due to writers block as well. But this is the path to a writing career. It’s not just about getting a book published, it’s keeping it up.
Q #3: Ellie’s Dad is an effective motivational speaker who encourages others to set goals and work to reach them. Why does he have so much trouble understanding and supporting Ellie’s goals for growing a winning giant pumpkin?
Ms. Bauer: I think her dad, like some parents do, had his plan for Ellie’s life plotted out and he didn’t feel she was using her gifts and grit effectively. Also, I think Dad is a bit of a control freak and doesn’t step back enough to think about the world beyond his motivational speeches. Add to that his lack of interest in anything agricultural, and they really are not on the same page for a long time in the book.
Q #4: In Squashed, you voice a deep respect for farmers and the work that they do. Did you grow up in a rural community?
Ms. Bauer: I didn’t. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and I’ve never grown vegetables, but I do have a heart for people of the land. I’m amazed at their fortitude and faith. I wrote about a family who had a small apple orchard in my novel, Peeled. I truly see these good folks as courageous people who don’t complain.
Q # 5: Jenna Boller, the main character in Rules of the Road, is such a strong and resilient young woman who has had much adversity to overcome. How like Jenna were you when you were sixteen?
Ms. Bauer: I was strong like she was, and high school was not a great time for me. I really loved my part time job working at the local IHOP as a waitress. I was in an adult world and earning good money and I liked that. Also, things with my own alcoholic father were coming to a head, so I have great sympathy and compassion for Jenna. She and are are a great deal alike.
Learn more about all of Joan Bauer’s books at http://www.joanbauer.com/