Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Monday, August 21, 2017

An Inside Look #31 - Season #TWO (AUTHOR Interview)

An Inside Look With Katherine Applegate

(Author of wishtree)

*This was a new feature I added to the blog during the summer of 2016.  It was a shot in the dark that it would work, but much to my surprise; it took off and over the last year I conducted 22 interviews with a variety of authors.  

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" about their novel, characters, and thoughts about the story.

*I didn't have time for interviews during the school year, but I'm excited to be back for "season #TWO".  

*I'm hoping to run this feature at least once a week.  There is nothing more satisfying than sharing and promoting a book/author/character that I have fallen in love with.  

*Thank you to Katherine Applegate for being the NINTH author of the second season.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first THIRTY interviews…

*Even as I write this, it amazes me how incredible it is that the one and only Katherine Applegate is one of the authors I have had the chance to interview.  I remember the first time I met her at #NCTE in Minneapolis.  It was truly an honor and a moment I'll never forget.

*This past June I was lucky enough to cross paths with Katherine again.  She was signing copies of her newest novel, wishtree.  We chatted for a few minutes and it was such fun to see her in person again.

*After this meeting, I reached out to her to inquire if she would be interested in an interview about her newest work of fiction.  Being as kind and gracious as she is, she agreed.  This story is one that warmed my heart and touched me in ways that are indescribable.  I can't wait to share this book with my class.  There will be many important discussions that come from the storyline.  

*Here is a link to my review of wishtree...

*Thank you Katherine Applegate for writing this novel for middle-grade readers and taking the time to share your thoughts with us here on the blog...

by Katherine Applegate (Released September 26, 2017)

How did you come to know Red?
I was caring for a tree in my courtyard that wasn’t feeling well—or so I presumed. (I live in California, and we’d been going through an extended drought.) The tree was right outside the window where I wrote each day, and I got so I thought I could tell when the it was having a good day (new buds) or a not-so-good day (new bugs.) Did it need more water? Fertilizer? Less sun? If you’ve ever cared for a plant, or attempted to grow a garden, you know how frustrating it can be, trying to figure out what’s needed. It’s the botanical version of the way you sometimes feel with a pet or a baby: you have to figure out what’s needed without the benefit of language.  

If only trees could talk, I thought to myself. . . . and that’s how Red was born.

What do you think is Red's most admirable quality?
You know, I started to say “wisdom” or “patience,” but I think what I most admire about Red is the way she (or he) isn’t ready to give up on trying to change the world. She knows her limitations (lack of mobility being an obvious one), and yet she decides, against all odds, she’s going to help a young girl in her neighborhood. 

I like that a lot.

Is there anything you wish Red would have changed or done differently in the story?
Hmm. What an interesting question—an especially fun one for a writer, because of course every book goes through many, many incarnations. I suppose she could have spoken up sooner, in her efforts to help Samar and Stephen.

And she could learn to tell better jokes.

How did you research Red and the circumstances the tree was involved in? 
I love doing research! It’s one of my favorite parts of the writing process. Trees, it turns out, are infinitely more complicated and fascinating than I ever dreamed. I highly recommend The Hidden LIfe of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World, by Peter Wohlleben. Who knew that trees had a social life?

I also learned a great deal about crows. They’re incredibly intelligent, wily, and amusing birds. 

The only danger with research is that it’s addictive—and a great way to procrastinate!

What do you think Red can offer to the children that will be reading the book this fall?  
I would be happy indeed if Red’s tale helps young readers think about how they treat others who are different from themselves. It can be hard to reach out, to extend kindness, to make a leap into the unknown. I wish I’d been braver as a kid, more willing to take that kind of risk. 

I also love the reassurance that Red provides that things change, and that things can get better. There’s always hope. Always.

Do you and Red share any similarities?
I wish! I love writing about optimistic, life-affirming types because I’m a bit of a pessimist myself. (OK, maybe more than a bit. Depends on the news that day.)
But despite all that, I’m like Red in that I don’t want to give up. I want to keep trying. Keep fighting. Keep thinking we can make a difference.

What was the hardest scene to write about Red?
Perhaps the scene where a boy who carves the word “Leave” into Red’s trunk. It’s a dark moment, directed toward a new Muslim family in the neighborhood. Red’s seen a lot of human behavior, not all of it admirable, but this is a particularly hard event. 

It made me sad to write this, because even as I did, the real world was providing way too many similar examples of intolerance. I tried to keep the details in the novel simple and accessible to a very young audience. But any time you describe cruelty, it’s a hard write.

Who do you think was Red's biggest supporter and why?
Bongo, her crow pal, for sure. We all need a Bongo: someone who loves you dearly, who knows your faults, and who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth. 
If they can poop on your enemies, that’s just the frosting on the cake.

Why do you think children share such a special bond with  animals, plants, and other living things; much more so than adults?  
Isn’t a shame, the way we seem to lose that bond as we grow up? I think kids recognize the vulnerability in plants and animals because they’re so vulnerable themselves. 

On the other hand, they’re often able to offer care and protection to animals and plants. And how lovely is that?

What do you think Red is doing at the present time?  
Protecting a fresh round of “newbies”: baby owls, opossums, skunks, kittens, and crows. 

And, of course, her beloved human friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment