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Fall 2014 Publishers’ Preview: Five questions for Ami Polonsky

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2014 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

Sponsored byDisney-Hyperion

Ami Polonsky’s first novel, Gracefully Grayson, is being published in November by Hyperion.


Photo: Susan Libman.

1. So, FIRST NOVEL. Excited?

AP: Absolutely — I’m excited, honored, in shock, and so grateful for the opportunity to share Grayson’s story.

2. What’s the greatest challenge in getting into the head of a transgendered twelve-year-old?

AP: Standing in Grayson’s shoes was challenging in the way that standing in anyone’s shoes is challenging. Everybody has felt like an outsider at some point, and everybody has felt, at one time or another, like their exterior self doesn’t match their true self. I got into Grayson’s head just as I’d relate to anyone — by finding the common threads between our life experiences. This exercise, in and of itself, is always a worthwhile challenge

polonsky_gracefully grayson3. Drama club was always a godsend for queer kids. Were you involved with it when you were a teacher?

AP: No, I actually didn’t know a thing about putting together a theater production until I realized that Grayson needed to be a part of one. Then, I did my research. I’m a classic introvert. Personally, I find anything having to do with a stage terrifying.

4. The teacher in your book, Mr. Finnegan, is a hero. Which of your own teachers was a hero to you?

AP: I’ve known many impressive teachers, and I believe profoundly in the power that a great teacher can have in a child’s life. When I was in middle school, which is such a pivotal time, I didn’t feel like my teachers really knew me, and I could have definitely benefited from being drawn out of my shell at that point. I think Mr. Finnegan is the teacher I aspired to be — someone trying to save the kid who is about to slip through the cracks.

5. What’s the best school story you have ever read?

AP: The Harry Potter series. I find the collaboration between the students and teachers inspirational, and I love any good story where kids are portrayed as smart, powerful, and full of potential.

Sponsored byDisney-Hyperion

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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