April 07

Those Kids from Fawn Creek: A Conversation with Erin Entrada Kelly by Maggie Bokelman

Newbery medalist Erin Entrada Kelly wants kids to know that they matter. Her latest book, Those Kids From Fawn Creek (Greenwillow, March 8,2022), explores many of the same big ideas as her previous books: friendship, belonging, self-acceptance, and empathy. But unlike her earlier titles, Fawn Creek features an entire ensemble of viewpoint characters. Each one is a member of the same (very tiny) 7th grade class, and all reveal themselves to be complex, multi-layered, utterly unique individuals, even as they appear to others as mere stereotypes : the jock, the queen bee, the class clown, the misfit.

As a middle school librarian, I fell head over heels for Those Kids from Fawn Creek. It’s the kind of book that will give kids hope and faith in themselves, while at the same time inspiring them to show kindness to others. It’s also fresh, fun, and perfectly paced, with high kid appeal.  I’ve already started recommending it as a read-aloud (yes, middle school kids love and need read-alouds).

 

I’m excited that Erin has agreed to answer a few questions for Nerdy Book Club readers about Those Kids From Fawn Creek, which is already receiving starred reviews and high acclaim from all corners. 

 

Q: You’ve written books with multiple points of view before, but I counted at least ten narrative perspectives in Those Kids from Fawn Creek!  Why did you include so many?

A:  I wanted to demonstrate how the actions of two characters—Renni and Orchid—influenced the seventh grade as a whole. To do that effectively, I had to rotate the POVs to include as many perspectives as possible. Originally, I’d envisioned only three narrators: Greyson, Dorothy, and Janie. But I quickly realized that readers needed to hear from some of the other characters, as well.

 

Q: We never get the points of view of either Renni, who’s easily the meanest kid in the book, or of Orchid, who’s the most empathetic.  Why is that? 

A: The novel isn’t really about Renni or Orchid. It’s about how these two polar opposites have different effects on their communities. What’s most important are the POVs of the people who are directly influenced by them, for better or worse.

Q: Years ago, it was an axiom that books for younger readers should be limited to a single narrative viewpoint. Do you think kids have inherently more difficulty than adults with books featuring multiple points of view?

A:  No. I think it depends on the reader and the book. Some readers don’t like multiple POVs, and that’s okay. Some readers love them. Some readers have trouble. Others don’t. It all depends on what’s written, and who’s reading it.

Q: What was challenging about writing a book from so many perspectives?  What was fun? 

A: The challenge itself was fun! The biggest hurdle was how to depict so many POVs without confusing the reader. I hope I was successful. I did the best I could.

Q: Which character’s point of view was the most difficult for you to write from? Why? 

A: Dorothy was the most difficult, because she keeps things close to the vest. She also doesn’t have any siblings at home and has a strained relationship with her parents, which means there weren’t as many opportunities for her to interact with people on the page. That can be difficult to write.

Q: In the first chapter, we learn that the kids’ teacher, Mr. Agosto, “was born in Venezuela and was the only non-white face in almost every room,”  and that even he has lived nearly his entire life in Fawn Creek. Why did you select such an insular setting for the novel? 

A: I wanted to write about a very small Southern town that exists in its own bubble. The reality is, most small towns like this are homogenous. I grew up in south Louisiana, in a small city surrounded by small towns, and I know how it feels to be Greyson and Dorothy, wondering what life is like in bigger cities, where you encounter people from all walks of life.

 

Q: What was your initial inspiration for the story?

A: All of my novels are sparked by a character. In this case, I thought of Orchid and Greyson first. Then Janie emerged. Then Dorothy. I wondered: What are their lives like? I also thought of the movie Pollyanna with Hayley Mills. I loved that movie when I was a little girl. I loved how Pollyanna affected all these people around her, simply by being herself. Pollyanna was kind to people who didn’t necessarily deserve it. And she was kind to people who weren’t kind to her. Not many people can say that about themselves.

 

Q: Did you have an “ideal reader” in mind as you wrote this book?  Can you describe them? 

 

A: Yes. My ideal reader doesn’t feel seen at home or school. My ideal reader has a rich interior life and isn’t sure how to walk around in the world. My ideal reader feels lonely sometimes, even if they don’t know why. My ideal reader is a kind-hearted dreamer who asks questions of the world around them, even if they never speak them out loud. Basically, my ideal reader is little Erin.

Q: What do you hope kids will take away from the book? 

A:   My hope is that readers will understand how dangerous and limiting it can be to place people in boxes. It’s limiting when we do it to ourselves, and when we do it to others. We all contain multitudes. All of us.

 

Q:  What question do you wish I’d asked you about this book—and what’s your response? 

 

A: “What’s your favorite scene in the book?”  It’s Chapter 26, when Greyson and Dorothy are discussing first kisses.

 

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If you’re interested in seeing Erin in person or virtually on her book promotion tour or at a children’s literature festival, be sure to check out her events page on her personal blog at  http://www.erinentradakelly.com/events/.  Erin also teaches children’s book writing at Hamline University, Gotham Writers Workshop, and Highlights, and information about upcoming classes is available on her events page as well.

 

Thanks again to Erin for taking the time to share some insights about Those Kids from Fawn Creek.  If anyone is wondering about that scene in Chapter 26 now, it is one of my favorites, too!  What kid hasn’t wondered, as Dorothy does, “Will someone think I’m worth kissing some day?”