I'm no stranger to tough subjects in books for young readers. My juvenile lit has tackled schizaphrenia, PTSD, and my MG THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY addressed, among other issues, poverty.

I was able to visit several classrooms and reading groups that discussed THE JUNCTION, and one of the discussions that has always stayed with me centered on the main character's neighborhood.

The students in this particular class admitted, during one of their lit talks, that they would be afraid in Auggie's neighborhood. The houses were desribed as being old and ramshackle. They admitted that when they came to areas like that in their own town, they got scared.

But things changed when they got to know the characters. When they started to see the neighborhood from the characters' eyes, they didn't see it as a scary place, but a welcoming one. Homey.

I think about that a lot. I think about how the things that are unlike us scare us. I think about how hard it is to believe, in today's climate, that we could ever share anything with those who are, on the surface, so different from ourselves.

I think about that class. And I think about how maybe, today, reaching out to something or someone who is different is maybe the toughest thing.

And also, now more than ever, the most beautiful.


  1. Yes! Reaching out to someone different is tough - and books can help us "practice" how to reach out, by letting us encounter fictional characters who are different, to prepare us for encountering all those wonderfully different people we meet in real life.


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