Today Biblio Links welcomes back prolific author Audrey Vernick!
Although Audrey’s middle grade novel, Water Balloon, is the perfect summer-time read, it’s the kind of book kids will want to dive into at any time of the year. As a school librarian at a K-5 elementary school, I always have a faction of 10-year-old girls who sidle up to me and whisper, “Do you have any, you know, romance books?” Water Balloon is the book I recommend because Marley, the main character, has an innocent, wholesome crush on the boy next door . But it’s not just the middle grade romance that makes readers want to take this book home; Water Ballon is a lovely, coming-of-age story about a girl dealing with the separation of her parents (both nice people, by the way) and the loss of her best friends as they all grow their separate ways.
Here’s the jacket flap summary:
Marley is stretched as tightly as an overfull water balloon. Her parents have separated and her relationship with her forever best friends is disintegrating. To top it all off, she is forced into what must be the worst summer job in history. She is trying hard to hold onto everything she loves, but if she squeezes any tighter, something’s going to burst. Luckily, there’s also a boy in the picture with amazing light blue eyes and the ability to make baseball actually seem interesting…but young romance, too, has lots of opportunity for humiliation and misinterpreted signals. As everything changes around her, can Marley loosen her drop on the past long enough to embrace the present, and maybe even the future?
I asked Audrey about ways in which readers connect with Water Balloon.
Biblio Links: A student walks into my library and I think, That kid needs a copy of Water Ballon. Who is this child?
Audrey: That child is probably someone whose parents recently separated or divorced–a situation new to Marley, Water Balloon’s narrator. She may also be someone facing a difficult time with her friends. When I hear from readers, they are often ones perplexed by the end of what they expected to be a lifelong friendship–a situation so common in that transitional middle-school age, and so deeply painful and hard to accept. They often ask about a sequel–they seem to feel a need to know if Marley’s fractured friendships ever heal.
Biblio Links: I can see why readers want to be reassured that Marley will be okay! I was 100% invested in this character, and she felt as real to me as one of my students.
If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?
Audrey: If the classroom were of the outdoor kind, and the teacher was a gamer, you might encounter a brilliantly-conceived water balloon fight, but that’s not altogether likely. If you were to peek at just the right time, you might find yourself privy to a very frank discussion about adjusting to newly separated and/or divorced parents. Or perhaps a thoughtful, delicate conversation about being aware of the way friendships evolve and change over time, and what to do when a friendship goes bad.
Students might also discuss the joys and horrors of baby-sitting, as Marley spends her summer caring for a pair of slightly crazed five-year-old twins, who provide a bit more horror than joy.
Biblio Links: Another place where I can see Water Balloon being used is in a book club or friendship group that guidance counselors often run.
Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?
Audrey: My website contains information about my books and school visits and provides discussion guides for a number of my titles:www.audreyvernick.com.
On my (occasional) blog, I interview authors and illustrators: http://whmp.com/pages/8875192.php
The teaching books website offers links to many interviews I’ve done: http://www.teachingbooks.net/tb.cgi?aid=14457
Biblio Links Thanks for stopping by, Audrey!
Audrey: Thanks so much, Natalie!!
Check out Audrey’s picture books, Bark and Tim, Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? and Teach Your Buffalo To Play The Drums, and picture book biographies She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story and Brothers At Bat.
Click here for smashing reviews (including two starred reviews!) of Water Balloon.
The Nitty Gritty~
Publisher: Clarion Book (Houghton Mifflin)
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Interest Level: Ages 9 and up
Number of Pages: 310