The Strange, Wonderful Experience of Being Seen by Elana K. Arnold
Dear Nerdy Book Folks,
Maybe you will find this hard to believe, but when I first imagine a character, a setting, or a plot, and when I set to work, I don’t think about who will read the book.
In fact, I’ve been known to form a tiny tunnel by cupping my hands around my face, and I do my best to block out everything except for the very next page, paragraph, or sentence, trying to tell the best story I can without regard for what the book is or who might read it.
So you can imagine what a profound pleasure and surprise it has been to look up from my work to find that Bixby Alexander Tam and his skunk kit Thor have gained many friends.
While I didn’t think about the kids who might read A Boy Called Bat when I was writing the early drafts, the hope of future readers did creep in eventually. But even then, my focus stayed on the particular pleasure of telling the best story I could, using all the resources available to me: my imagination; research into many subjects that fascinated me, including the care and feeding of baby skunks; my incredible agent and editor, as well as the team at Walden Pond Press; real life skunk experts Dr. Jerry Dragoo and Dr. Theodore Stankowich; the invaluable insights of readers with autism.
Before the first Bat book was published, I was hard at work on the second, and again worked in my own little world. However, writing Bat and The End of Everything was a different story, altogether. By the time I began imagining this third, final volume, the first book had been published, and people were reading it—most notably, kids.
What a pleasure it has been to hear from readers near and far… and, what a responsibility! Writing with the knowledge of readers and their potential expectations can be intimidating. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I didn’t want to let anyone down. For a while, I was at a loss about how to do this thing—how to write a book that would make everyone happy, especially the book that would conclude this episode of Bat’s story.
Of course, it’s not possible to make everyone happy. Eventually, I remembered one of my core beliefs: that it’s not really possible to make anyone do anything, especially feel happy. Instead of focusing on trying to unlock the elusive secret to pleasing everyone, I returned to where I always return, as a writer—to myself. Rather than focusing on trying to make everyone happy, I began asking myself, “What does Bat need from this book?” and, “What do I need from this book?”
Of course, I found that the answer was one and the same because Bat and I share some fundamental characteristics. Namely that, as a kid, I didn’t have the language to ask for what I needed. But as a grown-up, I do. And as an author, I have the tools to give our wonderful boy Bat what he needs, what I so desperately wanted: stability, support, acceptance, and the strange, wonderful experience of being seen.
Widening the lens, I know that what I need, what Bat needs, is what we all need. It’s the shared work we do as writers, readers, teachers, librarians, parents, friends—as humans sharing this wonderful earth. We see each other. We make room for differences. We learn from one another.
With Bat and The End of Everything, this series draws to a close, but Bat will never leave me. He is the very best of me: a lover of animals; a true friend; a person trying really hard to understand the world.
My fondest hope is that Bat and his skunk kit, Thor, will reflect my core values of empathy, loving kindness, and sincerity; I hope these books might encourage readers of all ages to take a moment to imagine things from another perspective; and I hope that they are deeply satisfying. Teachers, librarians, parents, and all grown-ups who shepherd young readers: Thank you for the work you do, and thank you for sharing Bat.
Elana K. Arnold
Elana K. Arnold grew up in Southern California, where she was lucky enough to have her own perfect pet—a gorgeous mare named Rainbow—and a family who let her read as many books as she wanted. She is the author of picture books, middle grade novels, and books for teens, including Damsel a Michael Prinz Honor Book, and What Girls are Made of, a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. You can find her online at www.elanakarnold.com
BAT AND THE END OF EVERYTHING
By Elana K. Arnold
Published by Walden Pond Press, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
About the Book:
Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat) ahs been the caretaker for Thor, the best skunk kit in the world…but the last day of third grade is quickly approaching, and Thor is almost ready to be released into the wild. The end of school also means that Bat has to say good-bye to his favorite teacher, and he worries about the summer care of Babycakes, their adorable class pet. Not only that, but his best friend is leaving for a long vacation in Canada.
Summer promises good things, too, like working with his mom at the vet clinic and hanging out with his sister, Janie, but Bat can’t help but feel that everything is coming to an end.
National Book Award finalist Elana K. Arnold returns with the third story starring an unforgettable boy on the autism spectrum.
BAT AND THE END OF EVERYTHING BLOG TOUR STOPS
March 26 Nerdy Book Club
March 27 Kirsti Call
March 30 Read Now Sleep Later
April 1 Bluestocking Thinking
April 2 The Book Monsters
April 3 Educate*Empower*Inspire…Teach
April 4 Librarian’s Quest
April 5 Novel Novice