Rebecca Stead is the author of When You Reach Me, which was a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Newbery Medal and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction, and Liar & Spy, which was also a New York Times bestseller, won the Guardian Prize for Children’s Fiction, and was on multiple state master lists and best of the year lists. Her most recent book, Goodbye Stranger, was a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book for Fiction and a New York Times bestseller. She is also the author of First Light, which was nominated for many state awards. She lives in New York City with her family.
The Children’s Book Review: Which five words best describe The List of Things That Will Not Change?
Rebecca Stead: This is strangely hard! Here goes: Honest, Emotional, Hopeful, Human, and, ultimately, Joyful.
Can you share a highlight from the book? Or maybe your thoughts on, or an excerpt of, your favorite sentence, paragraph, or page?
Near the beginning of the story, Bea shares a little about her life as a kid with divorced parents. I’m partial to it, and it’s (loosely) based on my own experience:
Sheila picked me up on my “Dad days”—Mondays and Wednesdays and every other Friday. She also used to clean Dad’s apartment. And she walked our dog, Rocco.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays and every other Friday, Mom picked me up at school. Mom cleans our apartment herself because she doesn’t believe in paying someone else to pick up your mess. Or your dog’s.
Dad doesn’t believe in ten-year-olds going to PG-13 movies, and Mom doesn’t believe in cereal with more than three grams of sugar per serving. Dad doesn’t believe in curse words, and Mom doesn’t believe in going to school with a temperature above 98.6.
Dad thinks anything below 100 is fine.
Mom doesn’t believe in wasting money, but Dad says it’s fine to splurge once in a while. When he bought me a puffy purple swivel chair for my room at his apartment, Mom muttered about it, and I went online and found out it cost almost 200 dollars, and after that I felt weird.
Dad believes in allowance for chores. Mom believes in free allowance and doing chores for nothing. But Dad’s allowance is a dollar higher. Confused? Welcome to my life.
Sometimes when I’m dancing at Dad’s with the door locked tight, I slam myself into that puffy purple swivel chair and just spin. Everything is a blur, and my feet kick off the floor, shooting me around, and around, and around.
At Mom’s, I do my spinning on my feet, with my arms stretched out.
What has been the best reaction from a reader, so far?
There’s a “cake plot” in this story, featuring a 7Up cake, which some people have never heard of. One young reader was so curious that she found a recipe and made one. I didn’t get to taste it, but it looked delicious.
What’s on your nightstand? Any books?
Of course books! Chirp, by Kate Messner, The Magic in Changing Your Stars, by Leah Henderson, Echo Mountain, by Lauren Wolk, Alice’s Farm, by Maryrose Wood. All for middle-grade readers! But a couple of these are not yet published.
For your writing energy: sugar or salt, tea or coffee?
Salt and Coffee, all the way.
Writing tools: computer, pen and paper, or all of the above?
I write my first draft longhand, with a pencil, in a notebook. I’ve found that this minimizes distractions and keeps me writing new scenes instead of fiddling with pages I’ve already written. Then I type it all into a Word file and revise it for two or three years on my laptop.
Can you tell us one more thing we may not know about the List of Things That Will Not Change,your writing and illustrating style, or yourself?
I’m a collector. When I write, I’m always using bits and pieces of my own memory, along with things seen or overheard (or – occasionally – dreamt).
Also, I love sharpening pencils with my small-but-heavy brass sharpener. I always feel like a true craftswoman when I’m sharpening my pencil.
Written by Rebecca Stead
Publisher’s Synopsis: At a time when everything is changing for Bea and her family, the important things will always stay the same. A soon-to-be classic by the Newbery Award-winning author of When You Reach Me.
After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.
When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted–a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be “just like sisters anywhere.”
As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy, and readers will discover why the New York Times called Rebecca Stead a “writer of great feeling.”
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books | April 7, 2020 | ISBN-13: 978-1101938096
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This speed interview with Rebecca Stead, author of The List of Things That Will Not Change, was conducted by Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Divorce, Family Relationships, Middle Grade Books, and Rebecca Stead. Be sure to follow along with our Speed Interview series, too.