We’re heading into our final week of writing for the 4th annual series of Reach Incorporated Books by Teens, and as always, we have been moved by the creativity, insight, compassion, and joy that these teenagers have brought to their stories. We’ve had smart discussions and plenty of laughter while discussing their totally imaginative stories, from angry ice cream to kangaroos on ice. (!) And we’ve been thrilled that award-winning authors like Wendy Shang, part of the important coalition for We Need Diverse Books, have been able to join us and give feedback on drafts. We’re grateful for the community cheering us on as we work on finalizing these manuscripts!
The truth is, there’s no time when we need these teens more to be leaders for the next generation of readers. It’s been a turbulent summer in the world, with events all too often highlighting the destructive powers of hate, fear, and prejudice, and these writers have been creating both within this context and against this world view. We are proud of the mature ways that these teenagers have handled discussions of bias, authority, and protest, and of the ways they have channeled these lessons into both fun and meaningful stories for young readers. They have found ways to discuss the most difficult issues through the adventures of animals and inanimate objects, while also highlighting the power of individuals to do good for themselves and for others. The whole time, they keep in mind the audience for their books: the young students who look up to them as role models and as mentors. As Reach Executive Director Mark Hecker says, “In times when it is difficult and dangerous to look like them, [these writers] paint a different picture for the young people we serve. They inspire the young people they read to… They will write our future.”
Here’s a sneak peak of the 2016 series of Reach Books by Teens:
Out of Breath: Kendra's Big Secret
Kendra the Kangaroo is getting ready for her hockey team’s big game against their rival. The only problem? Her team doesn’t think that kangaroos belong in hockey. And even worse, Kendra is afraid they’ll kick her off the team if they find out that she has asthma. So she keeps a big secret, and tries to prove that she belongs on the ice. Can her friend Rahim the Rabbit convince her to be herself and tell the truth before she puts herself in danger?
Spanky the Pup: All Dogs Must Go
Closing Day is coming to the animal shelter, and “All Dogs Must Go.” Spanky, who was born with just three legs, is both excited and terrified: Does this mean he will finally be adopted? Spanky’s abandonment as a pup have left him with a deep desire to be loved, and his worries sometimes make him feel hopeless. While Pepper the mean chihuahua tries to tear him down, Dorothy the friendly pit bull tries to cheer him up. Can she help Spanky learn to be his own lovable self and finally get adopted?
Time for Change: The Lion and the Hyena Story
Lions rule the savanna kingdom and are taught to hate hyenas, who compete for the same resources. Then Mya the Lion and Asia the Hyena both get caught by a trapper and have to work together to escape. When they return home, they have to deal with protests and a face-off between their two species, and Jasmine has to make a tough decision: Should she rest easy in her lion power or speak up for her new hyena friend?
Drip, Drip: The Story of the Angry Sherbet
Sherbert is a little sherbet with big problems: he has serious anger management issues, and whenever he gets mad he starts to melt. His friends are getting tired of dealing with his tantrums, and the other treats in the candy shop are worried that his melting will attract unwanted attention from the store’s owner. When Sherbert’s best friend leaves him to fend for himself, he will have to learn how to deal with his anger issues on his own – before he melts away!
We are excited to wrap up these stories this week and to turn them over to our talented illustrators, who will help these ideas come to life on the page. We can’t wait for you to fall in love with a whole new cast of characters. :-) Stay tuned for book launch in November 2016, and thanks for cheering on these young writers as we head into our final week of workshop!