An Interview with Alan Gratz
By Chloe Grant, Read to Them staff
Hey there, readers! We hope you’ve been enjoying the first few chapters of Ban This Book— we can’t get enough of it! We thought you may be curious to learn more about this title and its origins, so we went directly to the source, Alan Gratz. Below you’ll find an interview with Alan where he answers our questions and offers up some interesting tid-bits. Enjoy!
What was your relationship with reading like growing up?
I wasn't a huge reader when I was a boy. I read books, but I didn't have my nose buried in a book all the time the way my wife and a lot of other people I know did. It took a really exciting book to get me to compete with building forts or coming up with stories with my action figures or playing video games or any of the hundred other things I found to do every day. So now, I try to write the kind of books young-Alan would have sat down and finished!
How did you find your way to becoming a writer?
Even though I wasn't a huge reader, I knew I wanted to be a writer from a young age. I loved telling stories. I loved making up characters, and worlds, and adventures. I didn't know what form that storytelling would take--Screenplay writer? Novelist? Short story writer? TV writer? Playwright? Comic book writer? Something else?--but I knew telling stories was in my blood. I wrote stories all through middle school and high school, and studied creative writing in college. I was always headed down this path!
What was your inspiration for writing Ban This Book ?
Ban This Book came from me wanting to write a book about book challenges and bans that would be accessible to young readers. I had read about a similar situation, where a high school girl had checked out banned books to her friends from her locker, and thought that would make a terrific premise to tackle the topic. I just took that core idea--hiding banned books in your locker and loaning them to friends--and ran my own direction with it!
What can we learn from Amy Anne?
Speak up! That's so hard for many people--it was super difficult for me, all the way through high school. But when we see injustice, we have to speak up against it.
Amy Anne becomes the spokesperson for the fight against censorship and banned books in her community. What made you decide to tackle these issues in a children’s novel, and why is it important for our kiddos to be a part of the conversation surrounding what they read?
No one can tell you what you can and can't read, except your parents--and kids should know that! The American Library Association estimates that there are thousands of book challenges and bans every year in the United States, so this is still happening in communities all over the country. I want young people to be ready to fight it if it happens in their school!
You are quite a prolific writer, how does this title fit into the larger narrative of your writing? Much of which includes historical fiction, not to mention a whopping 17 New York Times best sellers for young readers!
Not all of my books are historical. I've written sports books, and mysteries, and fantasies. But yes, lately I've been writing a lot about history. But whether they are set in the past or the present, my more recent books all have a common social justice theme. I think that's what unifies them, no matter when or where they're set.
What is something you hope families get out of reading Ban This Book with Read to Them?
I hope they have a good time, to start! No matter what issue I'm writing about, my first and primary goal is to write a book they can't put down. Beyond that, I hope it leads to interesting conversations about why people challenge and ban books, and a deeper understanding of why that's a slippery slope we can't head down.
What is your favorite ‘banned’ book?
We’re thrilled to be getting lost in Ban This Book. What stories have you been getting lost in recently?
My favorite books from last year include Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri, Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker, A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner, and Twins by Varian Johnson.
What advice do you have for young readers & writers?
For readers: find what you love, and read deeply. Even if it's just one author, or one genre, reading should first and foremost be for pleasure, and you should never feel like you have to apologize for what you like, or read things you don't like. (Unless it's for school! Sorry.)
For writers: Write, Revise, Share, Repeat!
We love Alan’s answer as to what he hopes families get out of reading this text, and so far, we’re having a great time, too! We hope you're having a similar experience, and that you’re starting those rich conversations as you’re reading. If you wanna chat with other folks reading this book, don’t forget to join our Flipgrid Community here. We’ll see you on Friday to close out our first week with Ban This Book. Until then, happy reading!