A Living, Breathing Ronan Gale by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
This book has been a tough one. A tough one to figure out and a tough one to put on the page. Why did I persevere? Well, because I knew there would be readers who need this book. And I have already met one.
I recently had an opportunity to visit a school where I met a boy I will never forget – a living, breathing Ronan Gale. While spending some time in his classroom, I noticed that he was defensive in his body language, but I could also tell he had a sweetness about him, too. Just like Ronan from my book. I spoke with his teacher and she shared a couple of things with me. So, I asked for her permission to speak with him.
I called him over to a quiet corner. He was wary. Defensive. Assuming he was “in trouble.” I held out my hand and we shook hands. What a tough demeanor he had for a fifth grader. It broke my heart, actually. I told him that I’d heard he was new to class and I just wanted him to know that his teacher was really happy that he was there. That she’d said that him being there made the class a better place.
I was caught off guard when he completely fell apart, dissolving into tears. Tough kid, fists at his side but sobbing. “I just keep screwing up,” he’d said. “No matter what I do, I just keep screwing up.”
You see, this boy was not new to the school. He was new to the classroom having been removed from another class for repetitive and severe fighting. His phenomenal principal felt this kid needed a fresh start so he was moved. Yes, he’d done things he shouldn’t have but he is a good kid. Confused. Sad. But a good-hearted kid. Just like Ronan Gale in Shouting at the Rain. And, oh goodness, there are so many “Ronans” out there. Kids who are angry and who are carried away by it. Who don’t understand what anger truly is and are unable to be their best selves because of it.
And so I had a conversation with him that is similar to one Ronan has with an adult in the book. That we are not defined by our mistakes – we are defined by what we do about them. If this boy I met is working hard to change his behavior then he is not, “screwing up.” He had not gotten into a single fight since moving to this new room three weeks earlier. It takes courage and strength to change behaviors before they become patterns. I left him with a signed ARC of Shouting at the Rain and a Strong Shoulders t-shirt. I told him he was bright and strong and will do great things one day. And I meant it.
I absolutely CAN’T WAIT to meet readers and talk about Shouting at the Rain. (BTW, I will be doing a series of videos for classrooms like I did with my other books.) Releasing this book into the world brings me back to my teaching days; I know those years put me solidly in Sappyville when it comes to kids. As an author, I know this is odd to admit but – I never, ever see kids as readers first. I always see children.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support. I can’t believe I am releasing a third book with Nancy Paulsen Books. I am knocked flat by how many kind and generous people there are out there in the Nerdverse. Doing the heart work or buoying children. Saving lives. You all make the world a better place by being here.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of New York Times bestseller Fish in a Tree and Bank Street Best Book One for the Murphys. She’s a former teacher, and holds writers retreats for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children, impetuous beagle, and beagle-loathing cat.