Title: STICKS AND STONES
Author: Abby Cooper
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
A feel-good middle grade debut with just a hint of magic about a girl who has a rare disorder that makes the words other people say about her appear on her body.
Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just “cute” and “adorable,” but as she’s gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like “loser” and “pathetic” appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like “interesting,” which she’s not really sure how to feel about. Now, at age twelve, she’s starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying “I know who you are, and I know what you’re dealing with. I want to help.” As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.
I am so happy to have Abby Cooper here today talking to us about her books and her love of middle grade in particular.
I featured STICKS AND STONES in my magical realism round up, HERE, but I knew I wanted something special to highlight how important this book is.
Particularly today, in the world we live in, kindness matters. Middle school is hard enough, without the climate we find ourselves in today. I think more than ever, kids (and adults) need to find out who they are, stand up for what and who they believe in, and use kindness to make a difference.
Abby and her book STICKS AND STONES are here to help us get there.
1. Where did you get the idea for this book?
I’m a pretty curious person, and I’m always wondering about different things. Sometimes I’ll have random thoughts: what if rainbows came out of my glasses? What if cupcakes appeared anytime I wanted them to? What if words showed up on someone’s body? Writing is a great way to explore your questions and curiosities. Sticks & Stones came from that idea, plus various things I saw and heard as a school librarian.
2. What’s your favorite scene in STICKS AND STONES?
I liked writing the scene where Elyse plays the piano in her school talent show. I got to take my character through a broad range of emotions in those few pages: nerves, anxiety, fear, excitement, happiness, relief, etc. I like living out those emotional scenes right along with my characters.
3. What did this story teach you about writing?
That revision is your friend! I’m a messy first-drafter, so I was pretty overwhelmed by all that I needed to go back and fix. (Though I was thrilled to finally have the ideas out of my head!) The more I revised, though, the more I truly came to love it. It was exciting to see things improve and come together in ways I never expected.
4. What is your favorite thing about middle grade?
Read! I strongly believe that reading middle grade novels improved (and continues to improve) my writing tremendously. Also, test your writing out on actual middle grade people. Kids generally won’t be afraid to give you their honest opinion!
7. What can you tell us about any upcoming projects?