Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, September 30, 2019

An Inside Look #107 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Barbara Dee
(Author of Maybe He Just Likes You

*During the summer of 2016, I added this feature to the blog which was called "Season #ONE".  This first season ran from June of 2016 to March of 2017.  

*I started up the interviews again in June of 2017.  It was great to get back to Season #TWO.  This season ran throughout the summer.  

*Season #THREE ran during the school year of 2017-2018.  

*The next season (season #FOUR) of interviews took place during the summer and fall of 2018.  With each interview I became more and more impressed with the authors I was having interactions with.  

*Season #FIVE ran during the 2018/2019 school year.  I took a little break at the start of June 2019.  

*During my summer 2019 vacation I continued a series of interviews in which I put under the heading of Season #SIX.

*To kick off my 29th year of teaching, I'm adding Season #SEVEN with a whole new season of authors, books, and interviews.  

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

*This is the FOURTH interview in which I'm calling Season #SEASON.  

*Thank you to Barbara Dee for being the One-Hundred Seventh author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first One Hundred Six interviews…

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

Interview #81 with Tony Abbott (Author of The Great Jeff)

Interview #82 with Susan Ross (Author of Searching for Lottie)

Interview #83 with Gillian McDunn (Author of Caterpillar Summer)

Interview #84 with Rebecca Ansari (Author of The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly)

Interview #85 with Ali Standish (Author of August Isle)

Interview #86 with Shaun David Hutchinson (Author of The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried)

Interview #87 with Greg Howard (Author of The Whispers)

Interview #88 with Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Author of Shouting at the Rain)

Interview #89 with Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Author of One for the Murphys)

Interview #90 with Laurie Morrison (Author of Up for Air)

Interview #91 with Jody J. Little (Author of Mostly the Honest Truth)

SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)

Interview #92 with John David Anderson (Author of Finding Orion)

Interview #93 with Lisa Thompson (Author of The Light Jar)

Interview #94 with Keith Calabrese (Author of A Drop of Hope)

Interview #95 with Alicia D. Williams (Author of Genesis Begins Again)

Interview #96 with Kim Ventrella (Author of Bone Hollow)

Interview #97 with Natalie Lloyd (Author of Over the Moon)

Interview #98 with Cynthia Lord (Author of Because of the Rabbit)

Interview #99 with Tina Athaide (Author of Orange for the Sunsets)

Interview #100 with Elly Swartz (Author of Give and Take)

Interview #101 with Amy Rebecca Tan (Author of A Kind of Paradise)

Interview #102 with Varsha Bajaj (Author of Count Me In)

Interview #103 with Laura Resau (Author of Tree of Dreams)

SEASON #SEVEN (2019/2020)

Interview #104 with Laurel Snyder (Author of My Jasper June)

Interview #105 with Lisa Bunker (Author of Zenobia July)

Interview #106 with Jasmine Warga (Author of Other Words for Home)

*Barbara Dee was kind, gracious, and giving with her answers to the questions.  It is an honor to post her responses here on the blog. 

*Thank you Barbara for writing this incredible and thought-provoking book.

*Here is my book review...

Maybe He Just Likes You

by Barbara Dee (October 1, 2019)

How did you come to know Mila?
In the spring and summer of 2018, I followed all the #MeToo stories in the news. When I watched the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, I couldn't stop wondering: Where does this behavior come from? When does it start?

So I did some research. Education experts say it starts in seventh grade, but many teachers I spoke to say they see it earlier, in fourth and fifth. (One teacher told me she sees it in second!)

I began thinking about my own middle school experience, and my daughter's. I heard stories from moms of current middle schoolers, how their daughters dreaded the school bus. I watched kids in my town interacting after school let out on Friday afternoons. I had a long conversation with a middle school psychologist.

All of this, plus a healthy dose of imagination, led me to Mila.

What do you think is her most admirable quality?
I have to say it's two qualities--her empathy and her resilience.  Mila is a strong kid with a big heart.

Is there anything you wish Mila would have changed or done differently in her story?
Yes! Mila isn't perfect, and she makes a lot of mistakes. I wish she'd spoken to Ms. Fender earlier. I wish she hadn't felt as if she needed to protect her mom from her problems at school. I wish she hadn't pushed Max away, and also that she'd distanced herself from Zara sooner.  And of course I wish she hadn't reacted physically, but I understand why she did.

What do you think she can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?
First and foremost, kids should follow their gut. If a social interaction feels wrong, it probably is. And sometimes the best way to address a problem is by sharing it with trusted adults. Middle school kids never want to be labeled as "tattlers"--but certain types of conflicts do need adult intervention.

I also think Mila 's decision to distance herself from Zara--while still remaining friendly--was an excellent coping strategy.  Kids need to learn who they can trust with personal information. And they need to be open to making new friends, the way Mila makes friends with Samira.

How did you research Mila and the circumstances she found herself in?
In addition to reading several articles by education experts about the prevalence of sexual harassment in middle school, I interviewed a wonderful middle school psychologist, who told me that the behavior is common, but often "under the radar" and under-reported to school adults. I also interviewed a karate teacher who coaches girls in self-defense.

Do you and Mila share any similarities?
Many! We both over-think. We're both aware of our strengths and self-conscious about our weaknesses. We both use humor to deflect. We're both loyal friends, but we have our boundaries.  

What was the hardest scene to write about Mila?
Several were extremely tricky, because I always had to keep in mind that this was a #MeToo story for middle grade readers. One of the hardest was the scene with Tobias at the lockers. I had a lot of emotion to get across in a very short chapter-- Tobias's nervousness along with Mila's shock, indignation and fear.

Who do you think was her biggest supporter and why?
I'd say Samira, who encouraged Mila to study self-defense, and never let her off the hook. Sometimes your best supporters are those who challenge you to find your strength.

Why do you think young people, like Mila, and actually some adults; have such a difficult time standing up for what they know is right and putting their needs first and foremost?
Because we're all connected to other people, and some of us (like Mila) feel those connections very strongly.  Mostly that awareness of others is a positive trait, allowing Mila to empathize-- with her mom and her friends, with Liana, even with Callum and Tobias. But the flipside of that empathy is that you put yourself second, avoid conflict, don't make waves. By the end of the book, though, I think Mila has found a healthy balance between empathy and self-advocacy.

What do you think Mila is doing as this present time?
With her empathy and compassion, Mila is probably a teacher, health professional or therapist--and also a black belt in karate.

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