We all know that middle grade readers love bonding with protagonists. Kids this age want to be him or her. Whether they view a character as determined, bumbling, unafraid to kick some deserving villain in the shins, resolute, whip-smart, humorous, insecure, brave or a hundred other adjectives, they want to ride the words of adventure to help themselves discover who they are or can be in the world that is unfolding before them.
An author on OneFourKidlit recently shared that, “Hermione made it cool to be a bookish, bossy smarty-pants. Because of her, I always felt comfortable shooting my hand in the air and eagerly jumping out of my seat whenever I knew the answer to a question (I may have been a bit insufferable in school. Oops.).”
Whether you view this as good or bad, I’ve come to realize that when you know folks only through Twitter, Facebook and other electronic media, the line between fiction and reality begins to blur. I made that observation when I met an inspiring character online several months ago.
I recently had the opportunity to interview this character and I’d like to share my conversation with you.
I. What’s your favorite subject in school? Why?
I like Reading and Writing, but I like History too. I like it because I learn about the past, and I have fun with that. I pretty much like all my subjects. I think science and math are interesting too, but history is my favorite.
II. Besides reading, what hobbies do you enjoy?
I like writing and building with my LEGOs. I study three different martial arts. I have a black belt in Tae-Kwon Do, a blue belt in jujitsu and a green belt in Okinawan Karate. I just started taking fencing classes too. I also like going into melodramatic poses.
III. What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a published author and an inventor (and maybe an actor).
IV. How many books do you read a month, on average? How can you read so many?
An average of 25-30 books per month. I read so much because I have a bunch of free-time since I don’t play video games or watch T.V. that much. Plus I just LOVE to read. I am told I read pretty fast too.
V. You have a book review blog. When did you start that?
I published my first post on January 12th, 2011, but my first review I posted on the 15th.
VI. What was your inspiration?
I got the idea of writing reviews when my grandmom told me she was shopping for a book for me and didn’t know what to buy and a kid in the store told her to get me “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda”. He said it was a good book and that I would like it, so she bought it. Well, it is a good book and I did like it. I thought that if my grandmom would take the advice of a kid maybe I could help other kids and grown-ups looking for books for kids, find books they like.
At first, I wanted to write for a newspaper, but my Dad said that I should do a blog because a blog can be seen by anyone around the world and that maybe a newspaper wouldn’t hire a kid. So, I started a blog. The funny thing is, I write for a newspaper now, too. I have a monthly book column in the Upper Bucks Free Press! I met the content editor at a book event and she liked how I interviewed the author and asked me to write for the paper.
VII. What is your favorite book? Favorite author? Why?
My favorite author is Brian Jacques and my favorite book is one of the books in his Redwall series (if I had to choose I guess I’d pick the first book – Redwall). Why? Because I love Mr. Jacques’ writing style and his Redwall books are so fun to read – they have adventure, battles, new villains, everything a kid could want in a book (except maybe a $100 bill J).
VIII. What blog software platform do you use? Did you set it up yourself or did someone help you?
I use WordPress, and my parents helped set it up when I first started because they are big on internet security and I wasn’t as tech-savvy as I am now. My parents still check my blog, facebook page, twitter account and emails for anything that may not be appropriate for a kid, but I put all the content on my pages. I think blogs are a cool way for kids to show off their talents or thoughts.
IX. What has been your biggest challenge in starting or maintaining your blog?
Managing my time. I have a bunch I need to do – read the book, write the review, type it, edit it, respond to comments and read other people’s blogs. At first I was posting 5-6 times a week. My parents helped me make a schedule and, especially during the school year, I only post three times a week. I also had to stop taking every book that was sent to me to review. I had to set a limit for the amount of books I say I will review. I would love to read them all, but sadly I don’t have enough time, but it also gives me the time to do other things I like and just have time to play.
X. What, to you, is the greatest benefit of having a blog?
I have learned a lot about being a better writer, and how book publishing works. My greatest benefit is that I get to “meet” people from around the world and learn about how they live. I just think it is awesome that people want to know what I think about books.
You probably deduced my character is still attending school. What I have not revealed is that my character is 11 and in 6th grade. His name is Erik Weibel and he authors the blog This Kid Reviews Books (http://thiskidreviewsbooks.com). If this is not impressive enough, he recently published his first ebook, The Adventures of Tomato and Pea (http://amzn.to/163l0vZ) which I gave 5 stars when I reviewed. During the month of October, Erik is also working to raise money to help fund treatment for a friend’s epilepsy (details available on his blog’s home page).
He is punctual and polite and every interaction I have with him is encouraging as, time and again, I see that if you don’t think about limitations, you can do just about anything. This is encouragement we all need.
What middle grade characters do you have in your life? In what ways do you learn from them?
L. R. W. Lee is the author of the Andy Smithson 7-book MG/YA coming of age fantasy adventure series (Blast of the Dragon’s Fury, Book One and coming soon, Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning, Book Two). She is a wife, mom and reader of the same kinds of books she writes. Since the age of 8 she had a passion to write books that not only entertain, but also teach uncommon life principles.