Author: Claudia Mills
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 240 Pages (June 18th, 2013)
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Synopsis: Seventh-grader Sierra Shepard has always been the perfect student, so when she sees that she accidentally brought her mother's lunch bag to school, including a paring knife, she immediately turns in the knife at the school office. Much to her surprise, her beloved principal places her in in-school suspension and sets a hearing for her expulsion, citing the school's ironclad no weapons policy. While there, Sierra spends time with Luke, a boy who's known as a troublemaker, and discovers that he's not the person she assumed he would be--and that the lines between good and bad aren't as clear as she once thought. Claudia Mills brings another compelling school story to life with Zero Tolerance.
Guest Post: A Childhood Bound by Books
An invitation to be a guest blogger on a blog that celebrates lives bound by—and boundlessly enriched by—books gave me cause to reflect on how much my own childhood was built around books.
When I was growing up in central New Jersey in the 1960s, we had no organized sports, certainly none for girls (this was pre-Title 9), and few organized after-school or summer activities of any kind. My family didn’t have a TV for much of my childhood: I remember going over to a neighbor’s house to watch the space launch that sent John Glenn to orbit the earth. So my sister and I engaged in imaginative play with dolls and stuffed animals, created a neighborhood of little “houses” in the nearby woods, sharpened our skills at Monopoly and Clue, and read. And read. And read.
The library at that time allowed patrons to check out only four books at a time, so Cheryl and I would walk to the library, check out four books, walk back home, spend the next two days reading our four books, and then walk back for four more. Among our favorite titles: the Betsy-Tacy books of Maud Hart Lovelace, the “Shoes” books of British author Noel Streatfeild, Half Magic and The Time Garden by Edward Eager, and the “Adventure” books of Enid Blyton.
We loved the Adventure books most of all: Castle of Adventure, River of Adventure, Sea of Adventure, Mountain of Adventure, Ocean of Adventure, Circus of Adventure. When we came home from the library with a new Adventure book, it seemed unfair for either of us to get to read it first. So we would sit side by side reading the book together. Because I was one year older (361 days older, to be exact), I was a slightly faster reader, and so I had to wait at the bottom of each page for a few seconds until Cheryl was ready to turn the page.
Rereading the books as an adult, I can see how sexist and racist they are. The girls cower behind the boys; the villains are always dark-skinned and/or foreign. I can see how often Enid Blyton recycled the same plots, and in how many books the children are convalescing from measles and so free to engage in adventures rather than attending school. When I was a child, none of that mattered. All that mattered were the adventures, and that Cheryl and I could share the adventures together.
I now write books that are extremely different from the Blyton books we loved so much. My books are character-driven rather than plot-driven; I care more about the inner life of the protagonist than about the external events that drive the story. I write about strong girl characters (whereas my boy characters tend to be more shy and reactive). My stories have no villains.
Yet in writing Zero Tolerance I tried to recapture what Cheryl and I loved so much about Blyton’s adventure stories. It’s true that this story of a girl facing mandatory expulsion for the innocent mistake of bringing the wrong lunch to school is character-driven; I cared most about how the events of the story would lead Sierra to grow and change. Sierra becomes a strong character who shapes her own fate. There are no villains, not even the principal who is pressing for Sierra’s expulsion or her over-zealous attorney father who is determined to fight the expulsion by any means necessary. But Sierra is facing the adventure of her life as she sits in suspension, interacting with kids she never would have associated with before; there she does things (good and bad) she never dreamed herself capable of doing; she faces the ticking clock of her expulsion hearing; the stakes are high.
Adventure, it turns out, comes in many forms and in many places. It usually isn’t as fun when it’s happening to you as when you’re reading about it happening to somebody else. The best thing about it, in the end, is the story it makes. Or so I hoped, in writing this book.
Claudia, thanks for dropping by today and sharing!
About the Author:
Claudia Mills is the author of many chapter and middle-grade books, including 7 x 9=Trouble!; How Oliver Olson Changed the World; and, most recently, Kelsey Green, Reading Queen. She also teaches philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She lives in Boulder, Colorado. To learn more, visit her website: claudiamillsauthor.com
Find Claudia Online:
Website | Blog | Facebook
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Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour:
Wed, Sept 4 - Read Now, Sleep Later AND SLJ Teen giveaway - http://www.readnowsleeplater.com/
Thurs, Sept 5 - proseandkahn - http://proseandkahn.blogspot.com/
Fri, Sept 6 - The Book Monsters - http://www.thebookmonsters.com/
Mon, Sept 9 - Once Upon a Story - http://www.novalibrarymom.com/
Tues, Sept 10 - Pass the Chiclets - http://passthechiclets.blogspot.com/
Wed, Sept 11 - The Late Bloomer's Book Blog - http://thelatebloomersbookblog.blogspot.com/
Thurs, Sept 12 - Mother Daughter Book Club - http://motherdaughterbookclub.com/
Fri, Sept 13 - The Children's Book Review - http://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/
Sun, Sept 15 - Nerdy Book Club - http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/
Mon, Sept 16 - Geo Librarian - http://geolibrarian.blogspot.com/
Tues, Sept 17 - A Life Bound by Books