What I love most about cyberspace is that it has allowed me to form warm friendships with folks I’ve never even met, except through their books. That’s the case with today’s guest, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, whose debut novel One For the Murphys captured my heart. Her newest novel is just out and I’m delighted that she’s agreed to visit with us today to talk about it.
|Lynda Mullaly Hunt|
My new book, FISH IN A TREE, is a lot about the kinds of friends who know the ins and outs of you. Who forgive you when you say something dumb because they know your heart. The kinds of friends who, when you say you’re fine, will raise an eyebrow and pull the truth out of you. These are the people who help you figure out who you are. They serve as both mirrors and windows.
In Fish in a Tree, Ally Nickerson confesses to her best friends that she can’t read. She finds out that they already know and is horrified but then realizes they don’t see her any differently because of it. Then the three friends discuss “being yourself” like their teacher tells them. Being a cerebral type, Albert has even Googled “being yourself” searching for an answer on how to actually do it. He knows who he wants to be when he grows up but he has trouble picking out who he is now. After all, there are many opinions he hears at school about who is – nerd, loser. etc. However, it is Ally and Keisha who mirror back to him who he reallyis—intelligent. Observant. Kind. Fiercely loyal.
These friendships we have as children are like no others later in life, I think. When we are young, friendship is just about the love—the pure joy of camaraderie and having found a kindred spirit. Remember those days when, after one recess period, you had a very best friend ever? The joy? And sometimes the relief?
As authors, we teach children a lot of things. We don’t set out to do that necessarily, but children “become” our characters as they read—and thus experience what our main characters do. (Studies on readers’ brains have proven this.) So, kids are learning and feeling what friendships should be—and shouldn’t be—while reading.
When my daughter was in elementary school she commented to me one day that she was nervous around a particular friend and we talked about how a true friend is someone you can let your guard down with. When you do, you trust them to care for your feelings and when they do that, the connection is deepened. Friendships are made that way. One kindness upon another. A trusting gesture upon another. And acceptance of who we are. Really are.
Ally gives these bits of herself to Keisha and Albert—and they do the same with her. These friends care for each other. Cheer each other on. Hold each other up. Step forward in defense. They are loyal. And as they each give this affection and receive it, they each learn what true friendship is. Hopefully, their readers will as well.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of middle-grade novel, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin), winner of The Tassy Walden Award: New Voices in Children’s Literature, an ABA New Voices Pick, A Nerdy Book Award Winner, and an Editor’s Choice Book with Scholastic Book Clubs. It also appears on 22 state lists. Lynda has directed the SCBWI-NE Whispering Pines Retreat for eight years and is a former teacher and Scenario Writing coach. Her second novel, FISH IN A TREE, was released on Thursday. Lynda lives with her husband, two kids, impetuous beagle and beagle-loathing cat.