Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How I accidentally wrote a book schools like to assign: Girl, Stolen

Back in 2005 or 2006, I started writing a book based on something that really happened: a blind girl who was briefly and accidentally kidnapped when her parents left the keys in the car and someone stole it. Only in my book, the thief kept the girl and she had to figure out how to escape.

My editor at the time felt that kidnapping books were overdone.  He suggested I rewrite it from the POV of the kidnapper. That didn't seem right to me. How would readers understand what it was like to be blind? So I kept the book as it was, and my agent sent it out to a bunch of editors.  Christy Ottaviano at Henry Holt loved it the way it was.

What I hadn't thought of at all - what I think no one thought of - was that schools like to have students read books about characters with disabilities.  So that helped the book to find a wider audience. Also, it's about as clean as a YA can be, which I think also helped. The third thing that helped the book be assigned is that I tend to write books that test out at a fairly low grade level (even my adult books are like that) and that are about high-interest topics (sometimes known as hi-low books).

I started getting requests for a teachers' guide, and with the help of a teacher, I put one together.  You can see it here.

Since it was published, the book has been the winner or a finalist for 7 or 8 state awards.  Now I get emails every day from kids who have read the book because they were assigned it at school.

I'd like to put together a teachers' guide for some of my other books, but that will have to wait until I've met my latest deadline.  Does anyone have any tips for how to make the process easier?


  1. Fabulous! Congrats on some well-deserved awards, April.

  2. Not sure how to make the process easier. I used to be a teacher and I knew I could put together a teacher's guide if push came to shove, but I also knew that my knowledge of curriculum standards was out of date (Common Core!! yikes, missed that whole thing) So I asked a couple of teacher friends to create a guide for me and they did a fantastic job. I'm at their beck and call for free class visits forever.