Teen Read Week is officially October 16th through 22nd, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating all month long with 31 Days of Authors. On each day in October, we’ll bring you author interviews and profiles and reflections on what YALSA-recognized books have meant to us.
I haven’t met many authors. I mean, I’ve met my fair share when compared to the general population, I suppose, but compared to other librarians, I’m relatively underexposed. It’s unusual, then, for me to have met an author twice–and it’s nearly unbelievable that I’ve met MT Anderson three times.
Two of those times were at the same conference (ALA Annual 2009) on separate days, so maybe it still only counts as twice, but still: I like MT Anderson a lot and I’m always all giddy and excited at the chance to see him. He has such a range: he’s created picture books (including Strange Mr. Satie and The Serpent Came to Gloucester, series books (the Pals in Peril series and the Norumbegan Quartet), books for teens (like Burger Wuss [a 2011 Popular Paperback for Young Adults] and Thirsty [a 1998 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and a 2009 Popular Paperback]), and books that will have both teen and adult appeal (the Octavian Nothing books [which were Michael L. Printz honor books in 2007 and 2009] and Feed [a 2003 Best Book for Young Adults]).
Those books include comedic realistic fiction, funny paranormal tales, adventure stories, science fiction, and historical fiction. Anderson’s writing style also shows great range: Feed is packed full of slang and is told so much from the main character’s perspective that you can’t see his universe objectively until another character comes along to point out the absurdities and dangers in his worldview. The Octavian Nothing books, on the other hand, are told in beautiful prose that makes you want to slow down and savor the writing for its own sake. They’re also some of the books I’ve had the most success in recommending to adults who are dubious of the merits of young adult fiction.
So after reading a lot of what Anderson had written, I felt really lucky to be able to meet him at ALA Annual in Chicago in 2009 and then, a few days later, to see him deliver his acceptance speech for his Printz Honor for the second Octavian Nothing book. He talks about his inspiration for the book and about how intelligence is the one thing that adults still occasionally protest in YA lit. You can watch a video of him speaking or just read a transcript.
I really appreciated how thoughtful Anderson was, both in his speech and in the conversations we had. So when he came to visit the high school in the town where I work shortly after I started at my library, I was thrilled to be able to see him again. Feed had been tied in to not just the English curriculum, but the science and social studies and technology classes as well, so students across grades and disciplines gathered to hear him speak. Some were obviously just there because they had the opportunity to get out of class, but as Anderson talked, honestly and humorously, he drew in everyone in the crowd, student and adult alike. There was a question session after he talked, and students asked interesting questions that he answered with more funny stories and quips and more insightful observations about our society and where it’s headed. Afterward, he had lunch with the high school’s TAG. There are clips from his visit from about 0:55 to 2:40 in this video that our rockin’ school librarian Michelle Luhtala made:
Anyway, of all of the authors I’ve met, MT Anderson is one of my favorites. I love his books, he’s always been quite personable when we’ve talked, he’s perceptive and thoughtful in his observations, and he’s a fun speaker. I hope you’ll have the chance to meet him too–and I’m looking forward to seeing him accept more awards!
— Gretchen Kolderup, currently reading Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick