Cover Reveal for ONE KID’S TRASH by Jamie Sumner
The best way I can explain this book is to describe how the idea came to me. In another lifetime before I was a children’s book author, I taught high school English. We had a very special set up with seminars that students could choose based on themes such as “Wit and Wisdom: Satire in Literature” and “Into the Woods: the Broken Fairytale”, but my favorite seminar to teach was “Creative Writing.” There’s just something about passing out blank notebooks and letting them loose.
Along with Stephen King’s On Writing, one of my favorite books to use for the class was Janet Burroway’s Imaginative Writing: Elements of the Craft. It covers everything from poetry to screen writing to character and voice. Buried in the section on character was an exercise involving “Garbology,” the study of a society’s trash to learn more about the culture. Burroway asks the writer to create a character sketch by describing the contents of that character’s trash. It’s a deep dive into psychoanalysis that is loads of fun.
Hugo, the protagonist in ONE KID’S TRASH, has been bullied all life for his smallness, but finally found a set of friends and safe middle ground at his elementary school. Then his dad, thanks to a midlife crisis of epic proportions, uproots the family to move across Colorado so he can be a ski instructor. Hugo must start over once again, but this time in middle school. This is where the Garbology comes in – to combat the bullying, which does in fact begin again as he predicted, he begins to interpret the trash other students bring him. They seek his council to learn the secrets of the basketball coach to get on the team, win over boyfriends and girlfriends, make older siblings give them rides to school, get better grades. Hugo becomes a hero, the Garbologist – master trasher, king of compost, wizard of waste (you get it). But he also becomes popular for the first time in his life and it all goes to his head. Chaos ensues.
We often share stories of bullying, but they feel too linear. Here, meet the bully. Here meet the one being bullied. Here, watch the resolution. But life isn’t so clear-cut. The one bullied can become the bully. I wanted Hugo to be the kind of kid who makes mistakes but also fixes them and becomes a better, more empathetic human in the end.
With all that said, the cover, as you can imagine, was incredibly significant to the message of the book. It needed to show Hugo’s curiosity, but also his vulnerability, as his new friends circle him – the friends he later casts aside when his own popularity becomes more important. Karyn Lee did such a great job. Her artistry draws you right in to Hugo’s wry smile and also reflects the surprise, ranging from awe to suspicion, from his friends. Also, I’ve never loved the look of trash so much! It reminds me of the Berenstain Bears: And Too Much Junk Food. As a kid, all I wanted to do was reach inside the cover and try their Yum-Puffs and Choco-bars.
I hope readers will walk away from ONE KID’S TRASH with a sense of curiosity about themselves and those around them, and maybe, just maybe, the urge to dig around in their own trash to see what secrets it reveals.
Jamie Sumner is the author of Roll with It, Tune It Out, and One Kid’s Trash. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications. She loves stories that celebrate the grit and beauty in all kids. She and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit her at Jamie-Sumner.com.