Who (and What) Lives in the Spaces Between Us by Elana K. Arnold
When I wrote A Boy Called BAT, I knew what I hoped: I hoped that it would reach the kids who needed it. What I didn’t expect was the response from readers. Over the past several years, I’ve received hundreds of emails from kids, parents, teachers, librarians, and grandparents, telling me how and why they see themselves and the people they love in the pages of A Boy Called BAT.
When I began work on what would become The House That Wasn’t There, I knew two things: first, that it would center a space between two houses—numbers 11 and 15 on a street called Rollingwood Drive—and second, that it would be a book for kids who love Bat. It would be a warm, gentle, caretaking, cozy book. Oh—and there would be animals, of course.
When I was a kid, there were a few things I wanted more than pretty much everything else: to communicate with animals; to find a best friend; to discover that my intuition was right, and that there really was magic in the world.
Like Bat—and like Alder, one of the two main characters in The House That Wasn’t There—I often felt that animals made more sense than people. At school, I didn’t know what to do with my hands or my face or my feet; I didn’t know how to make people like me. But animals loved me. They understood me—I was sure of it. I had places inside me that felt as though they should be full, but were empty. My relationships with animals helped to fill those places.
So, it makes sense that the resident of 13 Rollingwood Drive—the house that both is and isn’t between Alder’s house at number 15 and new neighbor Oak’s house at number 11—is not quite human. And it makes sense that it’s this resident, along with a pair of kittens who seem to possess the ability to teleport (visit www.felineteleportation.com to learn more) who helps Alder and Oak realize that there are strange, wonderous threads that connect us all, whether we know they are there, or not.
Every book I publish is a call out to readers for connection. It’s a way to say: I see you. Do you see me? Every letter I’ve gotten from a reader is an answer: I see you. I see that you see me.
As a lonely, uncomfortable kid, how I longed to communicate with animals, to make a best friend, and to find real magic in the world. Writing has brought me all three, in one form or another, and The House That Wasn’t There brings those yearnings and those connections to young readers.
More than anything, The House That Wasn’t There is a book about connection. Friends, this has been such a long, tough winter, coming at the end of such a long, tough year. My hope is that as we turn toward spring, toward hope, all of us can find ways—both in our real lives, and in books, as well—to grasp those mysterious, magical threads that connect us, and braid them even tighter.
Elana K. Arnold is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning young adult novels and children’s books, including the Printz Honor winner Damsel, the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of, and Global Read Aloud selection A Boy Called Bat and its sequels. Several of her books are Junior Library Guild selections and have appeared on many best book lists, including the Amelia Bloomer Project, a catalog of feminist titles for young readers. Elana teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program and lives in Southern California with her family and menagerie of pets.
Looking for a teacher’s guide for The House That Wasn’t There? Look no further!
Check out all the stops in The House That Wasn’t There Tour:
March 28 Nerdy Book Club
March 29 YAYOMG
March 30 Unleashing Readers
March 31 Teachers Who Read
April 2 Maria’s Mélange
April 7 Bluestocking Thinking
April 10 A Library Mama
April 12 Storymamas