Thursday, May 27, 2021

"Lily’s Promise"

Kathryn Erskine is the author of several acclaimed books for young adults and children, including the National Book Award–winning middle grade novel Mockingbird.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Lily's Promise, and reported the following:
From page 69:

Oh, that is just peachy1.

Now I’m going to worry about Skippy and someone feeding him something he’s not supposed to have. How could you name a dog Skippy and not expect people to want to feed him peanut butter? Excuse me while I research whether Skippy has xylitol….

It does not.

However, fat is not good for dogs and can give them pancreatitis. And the list goes on. And on. Oh, my aching spine! This had better not be one of those dead dog books. I have a soft spot for dogs. Like me, they have thoughts and feelings but no voice, or at least, they have difficulty in making themselves understood. I understand their frustration.

I will have to do some of my own editing-on-the-sly if the Imaginer dares kill off a dog. I am not having it. Not on my watch.
1Incidentally, peach pits are poisonous to dogs as well as humans. I found that out while doing my research. This is why reading is good. It can save your life. Literally.
You’re welcome.
There are two parts to this book: 1) Lily’s story and 2) Libro, the book itself, who breaks the fourth wall by commenting on the characters, the story, and the author (the “Imaginer”). The chapters alternate between Lily and Libro, and page 69 is an accurate reflection of Libro’s personality—snarky, sarcastic, but with real heart underneath. Libro cares very much about the characters, even (maybe especially!) the dog, Skippy.

It was great fun working with a metafiction character, and I had specific reasons for doing so: First, Libro’s humor lightens the story which is a little poignant at times, although there’s also Lily’s friend, Hobart, who can be quite funny.

Second, for reluctant readers, Libro’s sections are short, leading to a sense of accomplishment (“Hey, I just read an entire chapter!”), hopefully encouraging them to continue.

Third, Libro underlines the theme of the story which is that we all have control over our thoughts, our actions, our lives, even a kid. Libro bemoans the fate of being contained by the covers of a book and the thoughts of the Imaginer, and points out that the reader has freedom and choices and can rule their own life.

Fourth, Libro talks a little about elements of writing and crafting a story which, I hope, teachers might be able to use in a fun way to help students analyze a story.

Finally, readers often want to know how I come up with ideas, how I research, whether I have to revise (yes, lots!), even where I write, so Libro gave me an opportunity to give some “insider information” to kids.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Erskine's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kathryn Erskine & Fletcher.

My Book, the Movie: Lily's Promise.

--Marshal Zeringue