Sometimes I complain about college. It can be a lot of work, no lie. But nothing makes it worth it like getting back a 14-page paper with a 3-page bibliography that you spent most of a semester on (and still need to revise and turn in again) that says: [A-] This is excellent . . . But basically this was a pleasure to read.
By Rhonda Hayter
Available now from Dial (Penguin); Review copy
Read my interview with Rhonda
I want to branch into middle grade fiction more often. Why? It's important, particularly to kids who enjoy reading. Chapter books don't have the complexity to hold their attention, but young adult and adult books contain inappropriate content. I knew I spent several enjoyable years with middle grade authors like Bruce Coville, Mary Downing Hahn, and Willo Davis Roberts. Plus, I have two cousins who are the perfect age for middle grade novels. I don't just want to hook them up with what I enjoyed as a kid; I want to shower them with the best new books too! (What, you don't periodically gift copy boxes full of books to your relatives?)
It's a little strange reading a book for younger readers again. On one hand, THE WITCHY WORRIES OF ABBIE ADAMS felt highly episodic to me. The different threads like Abbie's school play and trying to get Tom home, rarely intertwine. They're mostly explored on their own. On the other hand, it feels perfect for reading at night. I'd always want to finish "one more chapter!", and it's much easier to get to bed after reading one that comes to an actual conclusion.
Abbie herself seems like someone younger readers can identify with. She's always getting in trouble due to her younger brother and she has trouble focusing on schoolwork when there are other things to do. While Tom Edison figures into the story, Rhonda Hayter doesn't use him as a means to be didactic. She acknowledges his importance in American history and goes on with the story. Tom's work ethic, however, does provide a nice contrast to Abbie's. (And whether his slang is accurate or not, it's fun.)
Generally, THE WITCHY WORRIES OF ABBIE ADAMS is a fun novel with a little bit of mystery and a little bit of fantasy - both genres I've always enjoyed. While I'm still refamiliarizing myself with the middle grade world and where things fit within it, I can tell you there are no dead dogs.