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Patricia Reilly Giff: What Characters!

By Patricia Reilly Giff, for The Children’s Book Review
Published: August 15, 2010

Welcome to stop 6 of Patricia Reilly Giff’s Blog Tour for her new series ZIGZAG KIDS.

What Characters!

Destiny Washington wears her hair up, hmmm, maybe down. Bows on top or over her ears. Green streaks on St. Patrick’s Day.

Mitchell wants to be Number One, instead of Number Eighty-four. He’s hopeful; Nana gave him a Number One tee shirt. And don’t worry; he’s going to be tough! He’s won’t cry, even if a tarantula lands on his head.

Charlie who invents the potato popper, the dollar machine, and flying feet. At least he tries. Wait until everyone sees. “They’ll be yelling: “Charlie! Charlie!”

Don’t forget Sumiko: she’s set to be an Olympic star. Gina’s goal is opera. All she needs is a voice.

There’s a wistfulness here, a longing to be special, (ah, to be a contender) transparent in these early characters, not so obvious when they reach middle grades, and almost hidden later. Some of my early characters scream look at me! How do you like my butterfly bows? The best, right? And did you know my greatest-grandfather was Abraham Washington?

Others go about it more quietly. They don’t want to be losers; they want to fit in. So Mitchell has to swim across the pool with his feet on the bottom. Charlie whose mom is the Afternoon Center bus driver, has to pretend he never saw her in his whole life.

How do I create these characters?

I might as well stand in front of a mirror. It’s a long time since I borrowed Nana’s beaded bag to take to school; it’s been ages since I told everyone to spell my name Patt to distinguish myself from the other two Pats in my class. But I remember. I remember, too, reading a library book, a thick one, returning it that same afternoon, so the librarian would know she had the fastest reader in St. Albans at her desk. And if the mirror’s cloudy, I look around at my children and grandchildren. Billy told me reverent-ly that he was the fastest blesser in his religion class. Alice needed Chapstick so everyone would think she wore lipstick…the same Alice who was horrified when I wanted to take a class at her school.

So for me, that’s the key to writing for young people: to show our own young selves, to hold up that mirror so they can see themselves, too. And once, at least, I did that. Ah, what joy to receive a letter from a young reader. “Do you know me?” she asked. I think so. I hope so.

Add these books to your collection: Number One Kid and Big Whopper

ZigZag Kids Blog Tour:

August 10th       Cynsations
August 11th       Random Acts of Reading
August 12th       Where the Best Books Are!
August 13th       Shelf Elf
August 14th       Mundie Moms
August 15th       The Children’s Book Review
August 16th       Chicken Spaghetti
August 17th       Patricia Reilly Giff

(two additional dates outside of the tour):

August 25th       TeachingAuthors.com
September 7th  Teachingbooks.net

Patricia Reilly Giff

About the author: Patricia Reilly Giff is the author of many beloved books for children, including the Kids of the Polk Street School books, the Friends and Amigos books, and the Polka Dot Private Eye books. Several of her novels for older readers have been chosen as ALA-ALSC Notable Books and ALA-YALSA Best Books for Young Adults. They include The Gift of the Pirate Queen; All the Way Home; Water Street; Nory Ryan’s Song, a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite Honor Book for Fiction; and the Newbery Honor Books Lily’s Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Wood. Lily’s Crossing was also chosen as a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book. Her most recent books are Number One Kid, Eleven, Wild Girl, and Storyteller. Patricia Reilly Giff lives in Connecticut. Visit her at http://www.PatriciaReillyGiff.com.

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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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