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Middle Grade Reader Spotlight! An Interview with Olive

Olive, an eleven-year-old reader from New York, has a wide range of favorite books that display intellectual curiosity, a big heart, and a whip-smart sense of humor. When Olive reads, her world "transforms into that of the book." She devours books "anywhere, from wedding receptions to the sidewalk," though she prefers to sink into pillows. Read Olive's reflective, witty thoughts on KidLit below!

Olive, 11, New York

What are your three favorite books and why?

My three favorite books are Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and What If? by Randall Munroe.

Because of Mr. Terupt is a heartwarming novel about a teacher who brings seven kids together. When tragedy ensues, Anna, Jessica, Alexia, Danielle, Jeffry, Luke, and Peter must help each other. This book is told from the perspective of each kid who has their own personality, and changes, because of Mr. Terupt.

The Giver is a young adult dystopian novel about a seemingly perfect society where there is no sickness, divorce, sadness, or storms. There is also no choice, weather, color, or love. In a set of twins (born from a designated Birthmother), the child who weighs less is released, moving on to a different place. Jonas, the main character, is chosen to have the weight of memories from our world. This book is a real page turner with complex themes.

What If? is a funny non-fiction book that answers questions that are (hopefully) hypothetical. For example, it explains the speed necessary that a piece of steak must be thrown into the air in order for it to come back down cooked, to what would happen if every single human jumped at the exact same time. What If? is less aimed at children as it explains complicated formulas, but it's informative and funny at the same time.

What do you like about reading?

One thing that I like about reading is that when I am doing it, my world sort of just transforms into that of the book. When a book is especially engaging, it can really come to life and make me feel like I am in its world. I think reading is a great way to pass the time.

Is there a book out there that you think is seriously underrated? Tell us about it!

One book that I think is seriously underrated is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It is about a man named Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect, an alien from somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse (a fictional planet) posing as an out of work actor. Ford saves Arthur from Earth, which is demolished by the angry Vogons seconds later. The two meet Zaphod Beeblebrox, the out-to-lunch president of the galaxy, and Trillian (formerly Tricia McMillan), a girl whom Arthur had previously met at a cocktail party. They all go off to explore, along with Marvin, an extremely depressed robot. This book, originally published in 1979, isn’t as popular now, but, regardless, it's a great read for kids above the age of ten, as it contains some explicit language.

Where is your favorite place to read? Can you describe it for us?

My favorite place to read is on the couch. Although I read anywhere, from wedding receptions to the sidewalk, I find the couch to be the most comfortable area to be among pillows. As an added bonus, the couch is an excellent place to fall asleep should I finish my book.

Which character in a book you’ve read is the most like you and why?

One character from a book that I feel is like me is Jessica, a character from the book Because of Mr. Terupt. In the book, she helps her friends while learning an important lesson. Jessica is adventurous but also always willing to help.

Is there any aspect of being a kid that you think authors don’t write about enough?

One aspect of being a kid that I don’t think authors don’t write about enough is their school. In most young adult novels, the author needs to get rid of the parents and their school so that the protagonist can go off and have an adventure. However, I think that school should be brought up more often, because there aren’t enough books where the main character leads a relatively normal life. Maybe this happens more in other kinds of books, but in the ones I read, it doesn’t.

If you could be best friends with any character from any book, who would it be and why?

If I could be friends with one character from a book, it would be Jessica, a ghost from the book Friends for Life by Andrew Norriss. Jessica committed suicide, but comes back as a ghost to prevent other characters from making the same mistake. She has interesting abilities as a ghost, but she seems kind and thoughtful, and she gives good advice. I would really like to meet someone with her personality.

If you’ve started a book, but you don’t like it, do you force yourself to finish it, or do you stop reading? How long does it usually take for you to stop?

When I start a book I don’t like, I usually put it down. Unless I start to dislike it in the middle of the story, I will try to find a better book for me. If the book is too challenging, I will listen to it as an audiobook. If I want to finish a book when I’m barely a quarter through it, then I actually should read it. If I don’t, then I know that I really don’t like it, and I find another book. Why read a book tomorrow that I could read today?

If you, as a reader, could give advice to authors of kids’ books, what would it be?

As a reader, one piece of advice that I would give to an author of kids' books is that they should really try to give the ending of their books a sense of closure. What sometimes bugs me about the books that I read is that they end too abruptly. Many authors writing books for kids know that we have great imaginations, so they try to let the reader imagine the rest of the story. However, some writers get carried away with this idea and end too abruptly. Personally, I prefer books that end with a theme that continued throughout the story. Another thing that I would tell an author is that they should try to write an interesting story that is also somewhat unique.

And lastly, what is something you dream of doing one day (from becoming a dog owner to running for President, nothing is too big or too small for this answer!)?

One thing that I dream of doing in the future is going to Asia. There are so many things to do, eat, ride, and play with there that you can’t do in the United States. I would like to go to a place far away with an interesting culture. On the other hand, I wouldn’t love the 24 hour plane ride.

If you're a middle grade reader interested in being interviewed, please visit my contact page. :)

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