HomeBooks by AgeAges 9-12My Writing and Reading Life: Karen English, Author of It All Comes Down to This
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My Writing and Reading Life: Karen English, Author of It All Comes Down to This

The Children’s Book Review | July 11 2017

Karen English is a Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winner and the author of the Nikki and Deja and The Carver Chronicles series. Her novels have been praised for their accessible writing, authentic characters, and satisfying storylines. She is a former elementary school teacher and lives in Los Angeles, California.

I write because …

I have to. I’ve been writing since I first learned to form sentences. My mother called my stories, “The Miss Flouncy Stories.” I was always searching for a listening ear. We had a housekeeper who would listen to my stories if I washed the dishes in exchange. I gladly made the exchange.

I read because …

It’s so much fun to immerse myself in a character’s world. I’ve learned so much about writing from reading. I often begin a writing session by picking up the book I’m in the middle of first and reading a few pages. You know how a boxer jabs the air and rolls his head around as he’s making his way to the ring? That’s what reading is for me: the warm-up. I’m always amazed by the fact that there are people who don’t read for pleasure.

My latest published book is …

It All Comes Down to This

I wrote this book because …

I wanted to tell a different kind of story—one that reflects another dimension of African American life.  For a long time there seems to have been one kind of story when it comes to a lot of African American Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction: gangs; drugs; absent fathers; single mothers; poverty … Those stories are valid, but our experiences are not limited to those narratives.

Best moment …

When each of my four children was born.   Each birth always left me energized with pure joy.

My special place to write is …

On my bed. I usually start in my home office in the early morning (I love morning) but if I’m in the middle of a book and the afternoon has arrived, somehow I find myself migrating to my bedroom and then sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed.

Necessary writing/creativity tool …

Reading. Reading is the warm-up.

The person who has been my greatest writing teacher or inspiration is …

Beverly Cleary and Andrea Lee (two authors). I fell in love with all of Beverly Cleary’s books starting with Ellen Tebbits. Her characters are real and relatable and have inspired me to strive to make my characters real and relatable.

As for Andrea Lee… Her writing showed me that African American writers really can tell another kind of story—outside of the almost prescribed narrative of gangs and drugs and struggling single mothers. We have that experience—yes. However, even though we all live with the knowledge and/or experience of racism and discrimination—we have a wider range of stories to tell.

Currently reading …

The Bertie Project by Andrew McCall Smith. I’ve read all of his, Ladies Detective Agency books featuring Mma Precious Ramotswe of Gaborone Botswana. I’ve even entertained the idea of traveling to Botswana (a country in East Africa—the setting of those books) just to see what it’s like. The books in the series are funny and full of humanity. So, now I’m in the middle of another Andrew McCall Smith series. This one, set in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Favorite bookshop …

Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena. It’s like the Whole Foods of bookstores. Going there is an experience.

All-time favorite children’s book I didn’t write…

Ellen Tebbits

Favorite illustrator …

I don’t really have a favorite.

A literary character I would like to vacation with …

Annie John from Jamaica Kincaid’s novel, Annie John. She’s such a feisty and funny and vulnerable character, you instantly like her. You just know she’d be the kind of person who could ferret out the most interesting ways to experience a foreign country.

When I am not reading or writing I am …

Thinking about writing. I think about writing all the time. I think about my characters. I run dialogue in my head. I review favorite scenes as if I wasn’t the one who wrote them. I even wonder what it feels like to not think about writing. I mean what do other people think about?

It All Comes Down to ThisIt All Comes Down to This

Written by Karen English

Publisher’s Synopsis: It’s 1965, Los Angeles. All twelve-year-old Sophie wants to do is write her book, star in the community play, and hang out with her friend Jennifer. But she’s the new black kid in a nearly all-white neighborhood; her beloved sister, Lily, is going away to college soon; and her parents’ marriage is rocky. There’s also her family’s new, disapproving housekeeper to deal with. When riots erupt in nearby Watts and a friend is unfairly arrested, Sophie learns that life—and her own place in it—is even more complicated than she’d once thought.

Leavened with gentle humor, this story is perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia.

Ages 10-12 | Publisher: Clarion Books | July 11, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0544839571

Available Here: 

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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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