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Publishers’ Preview: Debut Authors: Five Questions for Kate Beasley

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2016 Horn Book Magazine as part of Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a first book. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Set in coastal Alabama, Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, features homespun dialogue and a plucky fifth grader with a can-do attitude.

Photo: Cindy Beasley

Photo: Cindy Beasley

1. It’s true: kids can be fickle. Have you experienced this firsthand?

KB: Yes! Hasn’t everyone? I think adults are fickle, too. We’re all guilty of that at some point. That’s why it’s important to find those few people who will be constant and to return that constancy.

2. There are echoes of Harriet the Spy here. Was Harriet a childhood favorite of yours?

KB: Harriet was definitely a childhood favorite. She still is a favorite. The resolution of that book is, for me, one of the realest, hardest, and best I’ve read — of any book, children’s or adult.

adpreview_beasley3. Gertie’s mother is a piece of work, and we don’t know exactly what happened with her. Do you?

KB: I do know. But the precise reasons for her mother abandoning Gertie never come up in the book because (1) it’s about Gertie’s journey, not her mother’s, and (2) Gertie herself doesn’t know why her mother left. I think that’s the toughest thing Gertie faces — living with the not knowing, the never knowing.

4. The environmentalism question you raise — and leave for Gertie to puzzle over — is a compelling one. Do you have any answers?

KB: I’m suspicious of answers. As soon as I think I’m right about something, someone brings me new information or a different perspective that blows up my ideas of right and wrong. When I write I’m not trying to find answers. I’m just trying to get comfortable with all the questions. That uncertainty is what I hope to convey in Gertie. I don’t know if I hit the mark or not; that’s for readers to decide.

5. How many chocolates have you tried to eat at once?

KB: About twenty-eight, I’d say, of those snack-sized candy bars. Mainly Butterfingers and Twix. From the Halloween leftovers. I was off chocolate for weeks after that. This was last Halloween; I’m all better now.

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