Just launched in January, Josie Booom and the Emergency of Life by Susan Hill Long, tackles tough topics in a hilarious and heart-warming story that will resonate with kids. We asked Josie about her writing journey.
Middle Grade Mojo: It’s a scary feeling for anyone to have to care for an elder with dementia. I can’t imagine how scary it must be for kids, when an older adult is behaving in bizarre and unpredictable ways. How and why did you tackle this difficult topic?
Susan Hill Long: Thanks for this question. My dear dad was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease during the time I was writing JOSIE BLOOM AND THE EMERGENCY OF LIFE. He has since passed away; it’s painful even to write those words here. I wanted to write about a grandfather and granddaughter, perhaps because I have two of my own daughters. But I didn’t want the story to be too heavy. In the book, Josie’s grandfather’s increasingly odd behavior — feeding the squirrels so avidly, blurting, ignoring the bills– stands in for a more realistic dementia. Josie isn’t clear on why he’s changing, and neither is the reader. She’s intent on fixing their situation.
MGM: There are many baseball references in the book, are you a baseball fan, or did you have do some research?
SHL: I grew up in Maine, so I’m still a Boston Red Sox fan by default–but an ignorant one. I had to ask my brother some questions about baseball; he’s a super-fan. I also asked him some questions about gambling. I don’t know how he knew the answers.
MGM: Winky’s dad says, “Life if full of if-only’s.” What would be your if-only?
SHL: If only I’d had Josie’s spunk and confidence when I was a kid!
MGM: What’s would you like the reader to take away from your story?
SHL: I’d like the reader to enjoy a fun reading experience in Josie’s story! I’d like the reader to notice how Josie finds ways to help keep her tiny family together; and when she can’t, when life is just a bit much, how she comes to understand that she has a sort of larger family all around her. And that she has every reason to hope for good things ahead.
Please visit Susan at www.susanhilllong.com