This is future you. Right now you don’t much like the way you look, do you? You hate being skinny and wonder when you’ll finally grow some curves. Your school uniform is awful — especially that dumb hat. You think your hair will always be a frizzy mess and your teeth will always make you look like Bugs Bunny. But guess what, thing’s improve. You knock those front teeth out doing somersaults on a trampoline so a dentist gives you a new pair, and someone invents a handy thing to straighten your hair, and you just kind of grow into yourself. You worry a lot — about the way you look, and whether your friends really like you, and whether your grades are good enough and … Stop! Worrying is exhausting and things will all turn out well in the end, I promise.
You LOVE reading. Don’t stop — read everything you can get your hands on. Be thankful that a smart librarian gave you an adult library card when you’d read all the books in the children’s section (even though you were officially too young to have one) and that she let you read anything you wanted. That librarian gave you everything you needed to fill your mind and feed your imagination. Empathy — understanding and being able to share the feelings of others — is important and that’s what you get from the books you read, that and excitement and rage and sorrow and fear and so much more. Don’t ever stop leaving useful things for The Borrowers to find, or looking for your own Secret Garden, or peeking in the backs of wardrobes to find a way into Narnia. And don’t stop crying for Jody and his deer Flag. Skip Bilbo Baggins’s story for now, you’ll like it much better when you’re older, and as for those boys in The Lord of The Flies, they’ll still terrify you when you’re an adult.
You know how you’re interested in fossils and the way that mountains and valleys get their shapes and why some rocks are gray with pink specks and others are pink with gray specks? Well one day you take that interest all the way to university and get a degree in geology. But then you won’t want to be a geologist any more because studying takes all the fun out of geology so you’ll become a teacher instead and the best part of the day will be story time — sharing books you love with the students in your class. And then something big and unimaginable will happen — you’ll leave your home in England and move to America with your husband and two kids. (Yes, you have kids).
Being an immigrant is big and terrifying and strange. Minnesota is so different from Hull, where you live now. Most houses are made of wood, not bricks. Butter comes in sticks. People call casseroles “hot dish” and eat fruit salad with their meal instead of as dessert. It’s so cold in the winter that the stuff in your nose freezes when you go outside, the snow squeaks when you walk on it, and cars can be driven across frozen lakes. When you get here, you’ll miss your family and friends and England and everything that’s familiar, but you are stronger than you think. You know how you like to write? Well you’ll get lots of practice writing letters home telling everyone about the new things you’re seeing and doing. (Although you will NEVER EVER drive your car on a frozen lake.)
I’ve been saving the best thing for last. One day, when you’re pretty old, you will finally realize that there was only ever one thing you were meant to do and that’s write children’s books. You often wondered if you could, but you were never brave enough to try: being an “author” is something “special” people do, not ordinary people like you. But one day you will try and you’ll work hard and you’ll persevere. Some people will tell you your stories aren’t good enough to publish and then you’ll be crushed, but you won’t give up. And one fantastic day a book with your name on the cover will be published. You, ordinary you, will be an “author.” And perhaps somewhere a girl will love your book so much that she imagines herself riding in a Gypsy wagon and wonders what she would do if she found a lost baby in a field.
So stop worrying, you’ll have a pretty great life.
Love, future Cheryl
P.S. You know how you always skip the setting descriptions in books, well it turns out those are the bits you love writing. How ironic is that?
Ten-year-old Lizzie Dewhurst is an evacuee, sent with her younger brother Peter from their city home at the beginning of World War II to live with strangers in Swainedale, a remote Yorkshire valley. When Lizzie finds a lost baby in a field, her world is turned upside down. Will she have the courage to do what is right in the face of prejudice and opposition from the people around her? Told from the alternating perspectives of Lizzie and Elijah, a Gypsy boy, LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY explores the nature of intolerance, compassion, and the quiet bravery of ordinary people.
Lizzie and the Lost Baby can be found on IndieBound, The Red Balloon Bookshop, B&N, Amazon, and in bookstores and libraries near you.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Cheryl Blackford was born in Yorkshire, England but now lives in a house in the woods in Minnesota where she is entertained by a wide assortment of wildlife, including coyotes. LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY is Cheryl’s first middle-grade novel. She has written three non-fiction books for young readers and her picture book HUNGRY COYOTE (inspired by a coyote she saw one winter morning) won the 2015 Moonbeam Award for picture books for ages 4-8.|
Connect with Cheryl on cherylblackford.com, Twitter, and Goodreads.
It’s me — future you. No, time travel isn’t happening yet. And I haven’t figured out Mrs. Whatsit’s tesseract. But I don’t need it. I can still look back and see you as if it were yesterday.
I can see you in fourth and fifth grade reading all the different-colored Andrew Lang fairy tale books, and C.S. Lewis, and Edward Eager, and wishing so hard for magic to happen that it almost hurts. You wish on coins, on four-leaf clovers. You push your way to the back of every wardrobe, hoping to come out in Narnia.
I can see you hiding under the piano in the hallway outside your sixth grade classroom while the boys in the class make fun of you. You’re overweight, and they’re despicable. How do they come up with those awful nicknames? But you don’t cry. They never see you cry.
I can see you huddled in the corner of the schoolyard at the alternative junior high, writing in your notebook. You really, really want to be Harriet the Spy. The notebook defends you from what the other kids might be saying or thinking. You could be writing anything; they all wonder about it. It’s your shield.
I can see you reading and re-reading all your favorite books, even when your parents shake their heads in bewilderment, wondering why anyone would want to read a book twice when there are so many books to read. But you love them so much – Betsy, Tacy, and Tib; Harriet; Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter; all of All-of-a-Kind Family; the Melendys; Meg and Charles Wallace; Ged the wizard; Claudia and Jamie. They’re your friends when real kids aren’t. Why wouldn’t you want to visit them over and over?
I can see you at the library every Friday night with your family. Your dad toting a big box of books to return, you and your brother and sister filling it up again with the new books for the week. Everyone in your family reads at every meal. You won’t even realize it’s weird until the first time you have a friend over for dinner, in seventh grade, and when you all sit down at the table with a book she just stares, her mouth open.
I can see you lonely and lost, and I’m sorry that you can’t see me. Because here’s the thing: that loneliness, that lostness – it all has a purpose. Your longing for magic leads you to invent your own magic worlds. You endure the bullies, and you figure out how to be brave and persistent. You watch people and write about them, and you begin to understand how to create a character. Your love of the library starts you on the path to what you – what I – do now. Because you hang out in the children’s room so much, you’ll wind up working there, all through high school and college. You’ll realize that you want children’s books to be your life. You’ll work in children’s publishing for a while, and then you’ll start writing yourself.
It’ll take you a long time – a REALLY long time – to get your first children’s novel published. You’ll get more rejections than you can count. You could probably paper a whole room with them. Or a whole houseful of rooms. But you learn, wishing on coins, hiding under the piano, sitting in the corner of the schoolyard, reading at the dining room table, working in the library, that children’s books are what you love, and that patience and persistence will get you where you want to be.
So listen, kid, don’t give up. Remember the feelings. Write it all down. And keep pushing to the back of every wardrobe. Narnia might not look quite the way you imagined, but you’ll get there.
p.s. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but I can also see, from the future, that your Nehru jacket is a TERRIBLE mistake.
Bee is an orphan, alone in a poor, crumbling kingdom. In desperation, she steals a bun from a bakery, and to her surprise, the baker offers her a place at his shop. As she learns to bake, Bee discovers that she has a magical power, but when a new friend desperately needs her help against an evil mage, Bee wonders what an orphan girl with only a small bit of magic can do. Bee’s journey to help her friend becomes a journey to save the kingdom, and a discovery of the meaning of family.
Baker’s Magic is available on Indiebound, Oblong Books, Capstone Press, Amazon, and in bookstores and libraries near you.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Diane Zahler is the author of four middle-grade fairy-tale retellings, two nonfiction books for older readers, and a nearly infinite quantity of textbook materials for elementary and high school students. Her newest novel for young readers, Baker’s Magic, was published February 1. She lives with her husband in an old farmhouse in the Hudson Valley, where she bakes a lot – and eats what she bakes.|
Connect with Diane on dianezahler.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
Dear Kid Ryan,
Hey there, you little geek, I’ve got good news! At 34 you’re just as big a geek–maybe even bigger–and you were ahead of the curve because it’s totally the “in” thing now. So, keep loving the things you love.
Definitely keep doing your whole mad scientist thing, too. All those experiments you dream up (most of which fail spectacularly, but are fun anyway)? Those totally off-the-wall stories you imagine? They’re teaching you to think creatively. Sure, they make you kind of weird now, but someday you’re going to get paid to be professional geek/mad scientist/weirdo storyteller. Yes, that’s right, you’re going to be a real live author! I’m looking at one of your future books right now, and it’s just as big a thrill as you’re imagining it will be. Stay strong, be confident in your writing, don’t let discouragement take you down, and eventually you’ll be published.
Now, be warned, in your late teens you’ll go through what I call your “extremely punchable” phase. That means you’ll become a pretentious know-it-all, take yourself and everything else way too seriously, and many people will want to punch you. Those people will be correct, but you won’t realize it until a few years later. But don’t worry, eventually you’ll wise up and start being fun again. You’ll discover that you were right about one thing, though. Adults are totally making up life as they go along. No one has it all worked out, no matter what age they are. At times, though, that’s kind of awesome. It means you’ll get to blaze your own trail.
Also, you know how awesome it seems to be an adult, but every adult tells you it’s not? Well, you were right all along! Sure, there’s responsibility and doing things you’d rather not, but you already have to do stuff you don’t like. Now, though, I can pretty much do what I want without asking permission. I could drive to the Grand Canyon right now, or maybe just go get tacos. And now I want tacos . . . which I’ll totally get because I have a car and my own money. The best part, though? You’ll still be able to do the things you love now, plus awesome new grown-up stuff that you’ll love just as much.
I’m running low on space, so here are a few pointers to keep in mind over the next twenty years. Not all of them will make sense right now, but trust me, eventually you’ll understand.
- Buy stock in Apple. No, I’m not kidding.
- Don’t bother seeing the prequels. They’ll only hurt you.
- Sometimes you should follow your heart. Other times, your heart is being an idiot. Be ready for either possibility.
- Tell Mom you were right–you’ll always hate asparagus. It’s evil.
One last thing. Don’t ever stop playing. Don’t ever stop having fun. Life will throw enough stress at you without you helping it along. Stay bright. It’ll sustain you through the bad stuff and make the great stuff even better.
Okay, now. Ready? Good! Then get out there and be awesome.
When 15-year-old twins Malcolm and Valentine Gilbert moved to a new town, they never imagined that the old house across the street could bring them so much trouble. A secret machine has reawakened inside, with the power to pierce time itself.
Meanwhile, lightning storms are breaking out all over town. They’re getting worse every week, and seem to enjoy striking kids who just want to pass science class and mind their own business. When Malcolm and Valentine discover a connection between the house and the storms, their situation goes from mysterious to crazy stupid dangerous. Someone is controlling the great machine, and their purpose is nearly complete.
In a race against time, the twins must uncover the chilling plan, the mastermind behind it, and the force that’s driving the deadly storms. They’ll hunt a powerful enemy that threatens their town’s existence, and the only clues are written in the sky.
Find The Year of Lightning on Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Changing Hands Bookstore, and Amazon, or ask for it in bookstores and libraries near you.
See a trailer for The Year of Lightning here.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Ryan Dalton is author of the young adult Time Shift Trilogy. His debut novel THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING released on January 12th, 2016. Ryan splits his time between writing books during the day, fighting crime at night, and hanging out in his awesome underground lair. Please do not tell anyone he’s Batman. It’s a secret. |
Connect with Ryan on RyanDaltonWrites.com, Facebook, and Goodreads.
Dear 7th-grade Me,
I am writing from the distant future–from way past the year 2000, even!–to let you know that I have just found the photo album you started keeping this year, in 7th grade, and it really reminds me of you, who are also me. So I thought I would write and say hello. Don’t look at me that way. You LIKE science fiction! And magic! Just think of this letter as a lovely mix of both: brought to you by a slightly magical time machine.
Anyway, I am you, and I can more or less prove that to you, I think, because I know some of your secrets, although I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few of them, too, time being what it is.
I know why you wanted your photo album to be that lovely shade of green, for instance. You are still quietly hoping that a door will open, a balloon will descend, a plastic ring will flash with secret magic, and you will finally find yourself in Oz, which you secretly believe is your true home. This album will not look out of place on your future Emerald City bookshelf, and you know what? I’m glad you want to take it along. I’m glad that despite all the misery of the real world, you want to take along pictures of the people and places you love.
(By the way, I still think about my–our–room in the Emerald City. It looks out onto the garden now. If we finally get there for real, we’re going to have to share.)
I’m looking through the album now, and it’s like stepping into a pool of feelings. Everything was so intense! About 83% sadness and 17% fun, I’d say, at that point. Those ratios are going to evolve over time, Younger Me. Hang in there, hang in there, because oddly enough, although sad things will keep happening in life, you are going to become a lot more resilient, I promise. And “resilient” doesn’t mean merely not being squashed by sorrow: it means feeling joy. There is a lot of joy waiting for you, up ahead.
Most of the pictures in your album, I notice, are not of you. But you do show up in the corners, from time to time. Oh, seventh grade! That was the year when you wore Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls to school every single day. And had braids. AND braces. I’m so glad you stuck this picture in the photo album, because the overalls deserve to be documented. You took a lot of ribbing in 7th grade for the way you looked. I know how much it hurt to stand out–even though you also couldn’t imagine fitting in. I know your most secret secret: that you felt even more like an unlovable monstrous alien inside than you looked like (you thought) on the outside. But keep in mind the counter-evidence, Younger Me: you weren’t even alone in your dedication to overalls! You had some friends who wore overalls pretty frequently, too, and ate lunch with you in the orchestra room and talked about books. Some of you played a Haydn quartet together! That was amazing.
Here’s some more good news: you will keep being lucky in your friends. In the album is a card from one of them that came to you in 7th grade: “Dear Whomever this may concern–This is an invitation to come to my house & pick out 3 Danish stamps, of which I have an abundance.–Sharon–” You haven’t picked up those stamps yet, Younger Me, but you know what? You still could, because Sharon is still a beloved friend. Isn’t it amazing, that some things do NOT disappear and fade? Forty years from your seventh-grade Now, you will still have friends whom you knew in elementary school. And you will have friends you made this year! And you will have all sorts of people you love dearly: new family members–some very closely related to you (yep, that’s a hint I’m sneaking in there).
You will feel grateful for every day, by the time you are me. I bet you find this hard to believe, but hey, since I already proved I was once you by telling you all those secrets, BELIEVE IT! It is very good news.
And yes, I know you pretty well, so I know you have been skimming through this letter looking for any really useful tips from the future. But listen: time travel is a tricky business, even when it’s just a letter that’s traveling, so I’m not going to pound you over the head with advice. Most of the hard things in your future life (up to this point, at least) could not have been avoided by simply deciding earlier to do “B” instead of “A.” And you’re actually doing the work already that will lay the foundation for the good things up ahead, so I don’t want to get in your way. You just keep writing those odd stories, Younger Me. Keep writing, keep writing. Keep feeling the world deeply. And eventually, dear Younger Me, a miracle of sorts will have taken place, and you will find you love your seventh-grade self much more than you did at the time.
love (yes! love!),
Up in the magical, wrinkled hills, Linny breaks an ancient law. No matter how musical a girl may be, she must not so much as touch a string of a lourka before she turns twelve, or she’ll be spirited off to Away. But Linny, born nimble-fingered and tune-filled, can’t resist: she makes a lourka of her very own. When the curse meant for her strikes her best friend instead, Linny must leave her home behind to try to set things right. With her father’s young apprentice, Elias, she travels down into the Plain, where science may have found a cure for magic. Linny and Elias soon find themselves caught up in the age-old battle between the wrinkled places and the Plain. Can Linny keep the fractured land from falling apart—and save her best friend?
The Wrinkled Crown is available on IndieBound, HarperCollins, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble or ask for it in bookstores and libraries near you.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Anne Nesbet is the author of The Cabinet of Earths and A Box of|
Gargoyles, and she lives near San Francisco with her husband, three daughters, and one irrepressible dog.
Connect with Anne on annenesbet.com, @annenesbet on Twitter, or on Facebook.
Dear middle-grade Ronni,
The bad news? Things are kind of crappy right now. Your parents are on the verge of divorce, your best friend has a new best friend, and your hair is a disaster.
The good news? Things will drastically improve.
But you do have to get through the next few years, and that’s why I’m here. I’d like to give you some advice that I think might help. Ready?
- Tapping light switches and counting in your head doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It does mean that you have a mild form of OCD, but that term hasn’t been developed yet. The truth is, your parents are going to get divorced whether you tap the light switches four-hundred times or not at all.
2. It will be okay when your parents get divorced. Not only will you survive, you’ll actually be happier. Your parents will be happier. You’ll love your new step-parents even though it will be weird at first. Just hang in there, okay? And maybe stop with the light-switch tapping. It’s exhausting.
3. You don’t need one best friend. I know you think you do, because that’s what everyone thinks in middle school, but during the course of your life you’ll have many different friends. Some will be the friends you have deep conversations with, some will be the friends you have fun with, and the best kind will be a combination of both. Just because your BFF is bonded with someone else doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of being a friend. You happen to be a really, really good friend, and even as an adult, your friendships will be priceless to you.
4. You feel like you’ll have braces FOREVER, but it’s only three years. And when you get older, it will have been worth all those awful orthodontist appointments!
5. Lock your diary. Soon everyone will know you’re in love with Lee Sale, even Lee Sale. Crushes are good, but you might want to keep them to yourself. Not everyone is as good as keeping secrets as you think they are.
6. Yeah, Lee Sale is cute. But it’s never gonna happen, girlfriend. Even though you’ll have boyfriends in the very-near future (all as cute as Lee Sale), maybe it would be better if you didn’t focus on them so much. You know, pay attention to yourself a bit more. Boys are great, but at the end of the day, you’re the person you really have to have a relationship with.
7. Keep writing stories. Someday that passion will pay off.
8. Your hair. I know. It’s so big it needs its own zip code. But guess what?! In about 5 years or so big hair will be in! Isn’t that awesome?! Your friends will spend their allowance on hair spray and perms and you will just wake up and look that way! Best. Decade. Ever. But alas, that decade will end and flat, straight hair will once again be back in style. That’s okay, because soon enough they will invent flat irons and Brazilian blowouts. Just sit tight.
Middle school is tough. You’re confused. You’re lonely. And sometimes you don’t know where you belong. But look around. Every single one of the kids you’re surrounded by feels the exact same way… some are just better at faking it.
You’ve got this. You will (eventually) grow into a happy, well-adjusted adult. Believe in yourself, because I believe in you.
When twelve-year-old Ruby learns that her supposed BFFs are only friends with her because her of her famous parents, she finds a place as far from fake and phony Hollywood as she can get: a Maine boarding school.
In her panic to distance herself from her star-studded folks, Ruby tells her new friends that she’s an orphan. She feels awful lying to her weird but wonderful roommate Summer (the first real friend Ruby has ever had), but not awful enough. In fact, now that nobody’s comparing her to her perfect parents, Ruby can finally let her own talents as a dress designer take center stage.
But when Ruby finds herself connecting with a boy who really did lose his parents, she’s torn between who she is and who she’s pretending to be. And with Parent’s Weekend approaching, she must find a way to keep her secret… without losing her new best friend, the trust of her first crush, and the chance to shine as the designer of her own fashion show.
Find Ruby Reinvented on Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Simon & Schuster, or ask for at at bookstores and libraries near you.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Ronni Arno lives on the coast of Maine with her husband, 2 daughters, and a dog named Hazel. Her debut middle-grade novel, RUBY REINVENTED, published with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin on November 3, 2015. To learn more, visit ronniarno.com or connect with Ronnie on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram.|
I know you think I’m just telling you this, but things get better after middle school. You started off in 6th grade with high hopes, and that’s a good thing. Don’t let Mr. Olds get you down. He sucks as a math teacher, but you are better at it than you think you are. Someday, though you probably would die laughing, you’re going to teach a subject that’s mostly math. No, seriously. And you’ll like it.
Stop rolling on the floor. It’s the truth.
Don’t sweat the bowties in Panther Elite. No one notices them anyway when you’re singing. Plus, everyone else is wearing them too. Someday, you’ll watch Doctor Who and realize that bowties are cool. Fezzes though, are still pretty out there. Luckily, you know that.
Keep writing. You’ll save all those notebooks and look back on them and realize that was the beginning of becoming a “real” writer. Writing a 200 page book in middle school is a big deal, and you’re allowed to be proud of yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you any different! Read as many books as you can, and ignore everyone who tells you they aren’t appropriate for you or they are too old. Mom lets you do it, you like them, that means you’re good. Also, don’t get rid of so many books. I KNOW Mom tells you to clean things up, but you’ll wish you’d kept some of them someday.
Also, those middle school librarians probably weren’t as scary as we thought, but there’s still the public library, so it all evens out in the end.
Also, you’re a nerd. Embrace it. It only gets worse (or better, depending on how you look at it) from here on out. You’ll eventually realize that being a nerd is pretty much the best thing ever. You are already halfway there, so just keep swimming. Big Bang Theory is coming, and you want to be prepared, after all.
The last thing I want to remind you of, is to have fun. You try hard to pretend you don’t care. Eventually you’ll be comfortable in your skin and you really won’t care (much), but for now, just try to remember that its middle school and they are just as awkward and uncomfortable as you are, if not more. Have fun anyway. Hang out with Ashley, Kirstin, and the group as much as you can. You’ll all go to separate high schools, and you’ll only kind of keep track of each other through the years. It will be a LONG time before you reconnect with any of them. Take advantage of them while you’re there.
And no matter what anyone tells you, keep on being a Halloweenie. It will pay you well in your writing future. I’m proof of that.
Keep writing. Have adventures. Middle school is only three years!
Thirteen-year-old Caroline is a freak. Her parents have uprooted her to a town full of Supernaturals. You’d think she’d be thrilled. But, with someone without a magical bone in her body, this daughter of tree sprites feels like even more of an outcast than she has ever before.
To make matters worse, her new home is cursed. But when Caroline takes to investigating the mysterious and strange happenings of Harridan House, her BFF goes missing. Seems someone doesn’t want Caroline sticking her non-magical nose where it most certainly does not belong. Determined to prove herself, Caroline uncovers a plot to destroy her new hometown.
Undeterred, Caroline can’t give up. But what’s a human without magical powers to do? Caroline better figure it out fast, before she loses everything she has ever loved and the whispers she’s heard all her life prove true: Caroline is a useless superfreak.
Super Freak is available on Books-A-Million, B&N, Amazon, Month9Books, or ask for it in bookstores and libraries near you.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Vanessa Barger is a middle grade and young adult author, represented by Jennifer Mishler and Frances Black of Literary Counsel. She teaches high school technology education in rural Virginia. She spends all her free time writing. She’s a member of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). When not writing, Vanessa is reading, and is an avid movie fan. She also loves long walks on the beach discussing Shakespeare while sipping large fruity drinks with little umbrellas.|
Connect with Vanessa on vanessabarger.com, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.