Please stick around, this post is longer than my usual, but it's full of cool stuff like an author interview and hardcover giveaway. And now, a peek at Glory Be . . .
The premise: It's summer in hot, humid Hanging Moss, Mississippi, and there's nothing Glory Hemphill wants more than to spend her days in the swimming pool, especially her July 4th birthday. But it's 1964, and Freedom Workers have rolled into town, and they change things for Glory--and for the rest of Hanging Moss, Mississippi, too.
What keeps readers reading: Watching Glory grow and learn and decide who she wants to be. In this tumultuous summer, Glory's eyes are opened to things she never really thought about, and she learns you have to make choices, sometimes really tough ones.
What I loved: The way Augusta Scattergood aids middle grade readers in understanding an issue and time in U.S. history through eyes they understand.
I had the chance to ask Augusta some questions about Glory Be and her writing! Here are the three questions I chose (in blue) and her responses.
Glory Be is historical fiction, set in 1964 Mississippi. If it were a contemporary story, what would its plot line look like?
I recently did a school visit in Mississippi. I told them I went to school there when I was their age and we had two separate schools, one for white students and one for African-American students. Sitting on the library floor in front of me, two 4th grade girls hugged each other with a look of utter shock. "You mean I wouldn't be in school with my best friend?" one asked.
So if it were a contemporary story, Glory might have a black best friend, something that probably wouldn't have happened realistically in 1964.
Truly, the book would be completely different. Two sisters pulling away from each other as one grows up and moves on? As much as I love the family connections in GLORY BE, I can't imagine the novel without the story of the community pool's closing.
If I had lived in 1964 Mississippi, I hope I would have been as brave as Laura, her mom, Robbie, the librarian Miss Bloom, and as brave as Glory grows to be. Since you grew up in the South, did you know people like these characters you created?
That's one of the reasons I wrote the novel! I really didn't know anybody like Glory. I wanted to be like her, and I think some of my friends did, too. What we did in 1964 was teach in a summer Head Start program, work in an integrated summer camp and in a public library that stayed open when some thought it should close. In the early 60s in the Deep South, we were learning our way. My friends and I mostly stayed out of the limelight and kept our mouths shut, publicly at least.
I did know one amazing little girl when we lived in Baltimore in the late 70s. I often had her in mind when I heard Glory's strong voice. Sarah spoke up for what she believed and didn't let grownups stand in her way! (She's still like that, even though she's now the grownup.)
Even though Glory Be has a historical setting, it feels and reads like a timeless classic to me because of the timeless message of the story. Since you were a librarian, what middle grade books are on your list of classic favorites and how do they influence your writing?
I like to think of classics as books that stick around, waiting on a library shelf for the next crop of readers to move up and be ready for them. Instead of some of the older titles which appear on every single "Best" list, my list might include books I read aloud, repeatedly: Because of Winn-Dixie, Bridge to Terabithia, Sounder, William Steig's picture books, Getting Near to Baby.
I really could go on and on!
When I started writing, the sound of my words was very important to me. I've always heard characters' voices in my head. I think that comes not only from all those years of reading to kids but from being told stories to for most of my life.
I do a lot of reading aloud, especially while revising. That's why, while writing, I usually steer clear of my local Starbucks!
Augusta, thank you so much for your time and your insightful answers!
I'm giving away an autographed hardcover of Glory Be. To enter the drawing, comment on this post by 8pm CDT on Sunday, May 6th, 2012. The winner will be announced on Monday, May 7th. United States mailing addresses only for this one, please.
For more middle grade recommendations, follow the links in my Middle Grade Monday tab or the ones on Shannon Messenger's blog.
Happy middle grade reading!