Publishers' Preview: Books in the Middle: Five Questions for Erin Entrada Kelly

This interview originally appeared in the January/February 2024 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Books in the Middle, an 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.

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The First State of Being addresses the perennial question, who is that strange new kid? Not to mention that other one brought to us by Steven Spielberg, what do you do when you can’t phone home? Erin Entrada Kelly’s answers to both will move and delight you.

1. Backward or forward in time for you? Where and when?

I’m a history buff, so I’d go backward. There are so many things I’d love to see! Elizabethan England would be tops on my list. It’d be great to catch Shakespeare at the Globe.

2. Was there a Mr. Mosley in your childhood? Not a teacher, not a relative, but a friend?

Unfortunately, no. I wasn’t comfortable around adults, generally. Some kids are easygoing with grownups, but I was never like that. I was quiet and reticent.

3. What are your favorite time-travel books?

Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, followed by The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. My love for time-travel books began in elementary school with Halfway Down Paddy Lane by Jean Marzollo. If you found the library checkout card for that book from my 1980s school library, you’d see my name again and again and again.

4. What do you know now that you wished you’d known the summer before seventh grade?

When I was a kid, all I wanted in life was to be a writer like Judy Blume. I wish I could tell my eleven-year-old self that all my dreams would come true. It might have made things more bearable.

5. Aren’t children’s book authors, by definition, time travelers?

Absolutely. My friend Laurel Snyder likes to say that children’s authors are healing a part of themselves from the past that never really grew up. I agree with that. In many ways, I still feel like the little girl I once was, sitting at the table with my loose-leaf paper and pencils, legs swinging above the floor, writing. “This will be a bestseller,” I’d tell my mom, with all the certainty in the world.

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. 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 MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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