Sticks & Stones
by Abby Cooper
Publication: July 12th 2016
by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Contemporary (Friendship & Social Skills)
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.
When did you first start writing? Did you start by trying to write a book, or did you start on a smaller scale?
I’ve always loved writing! It’s something I’ve done forever, basically. As I grew up, though, I wrote less and less, even though my dream of becoming a published author never went away. At a certain point I just kind of got fed up with myself. I was complaining so much about the fact that I wasn’t a published author (or even remotely close to becoming one), but I hadn’t actually written anything, so what did I expect?! I think I was scared to try to write a book because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it. Eventually, not trying became more of a burden than the fear of failure, so I decided to give it a real shot. And it turns out I can write a book! ☺
Where did the idea for Sticks & Stones come from?
It was a lot of things:
My anxiety (I tend to think “what if” approximately ten million times per day, but when I thought, “what if words appeared on your body?” I knew I was onto something. Thanks, anxiety!)
Noticing kids struggling with self-esteem and wanting to help them
The way kids reacted to Wonder by R.J. Palacio (I was working as a school librarian when it came out, and seriously, I’ve never seen students love a book so much. I think a lot of students feel different and can relate to Auggie on some level. I wanted to give them a character like that, someone to root for and relate to, and to write something that they’d hopefully love with the same passion!)
Your bio mentions your love of recommending books. What books would you recommend for my two daughters, seven and nine years old?
Oooh, fun! Yes, I love recommending books. To make the very best recommendations possible, I’d want to know more about your daughters – especially their hobbies, interests, and any books they’ve read recently that they liked. But since I don’t have that info at the moment, I’ll give you some of my personal favorites!
For 7-ish-year-olds: the Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski, the Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka, the Ivy & Bean series by Annie Barrows, and the Shelter Pet Squad series by Cynthia Lord.
For 9-ish-year-olds: Fenway and Hattie by Victoria Coe, All the Answers by Kate Messner, George by Alex Gino, Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate, and El Deafo by Cece Bell.
(Have I mentioned I love recommending books? I love it SO. MUCH! E-mail me with more info about your kiddos and their tastes if you want! And that goes for anybody reading this, too.)
What is your favorite kind of cupcake?
Oh man, this is impossible! Honestly, it depends on the day. Sometimes I’m in the mood for cookies and cream and other times I’m more into mint chocolate. I will say that most any time I’m getting a cupcake, you can bet that said cupcake will include chocolate, mountains of frosting, and sprinkles. (PS, I see on your “about” page that you bake cupcakes. If you ever need a taste-tester, I’m available. Again, this also goes for anyone reading.)
What is the best and worst reality television show in your opinion?
My favorite reality show is Big Brother (it starts in July!! Wooo!) It’s super entertaining, and I love the psychology of it. I mean, imagine living in a house with fifteen strangers for three months. I could never do it because I’m the most introverted human on the planet. But I think it’s fascinating to see who becomes friends/enemies/etc. and to watch all the relationships and the strategies unfold. And then they throw in all these competitions that makes everything that much more intense.
And worst… hmm. Is Fear Factor still on? I have nothing against people facing fears, but why do so many of them have to involve eating bugs? Gross.
Can you give your readers an idea of what to look forward to in the future? Do you have any new stories in the works?
Yes! I will have a second middle grade novel published by FSG in 2017. It’s about a twelve-year-old girl who is able to do something very unusual. I love middle grade and magical realism and hope to write both for a very long time.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today, Abby. Thanks for the book recommendations also.
Funny story – last season was the very first time that I ever watched Big Brother. The only reason I chose to watch season 17 is because my neighbor told me she does a lottery every season. I’m always up for a challenge (OK, it’s actually a bet because I obviously have no influence over the characters actions). Everyone puts in $10 and is assigned a random (drawn out of a hat) character. Last character standing wins. I WON!!! Beginners luck, right? 🙂
~About the Author~
Abby Cooper lives in Minnesota with her miniature poodle, Louis, and a whole bunch of books. A former teacher and school librarian, her favorite things in the world (besides writing) are getting and giving book recommendations and sharing her love of reading with others. In her spare time, she likes eating cupcakes, running along the Mississippi River, and watching a lot of bad reality TV.
Abby’s Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
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