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True: Brud Kinney wants to play basketball like nothing anybody's ever seen. When the Boyds arrive, though, Brud meets someone who plays like nothing he's ever seen.
True: Ferris Boyd isn't like anyone Delly or Brud have ever met. Ferris is a real mysturiosity (an extremely curious mystery).
True: Katherine Hannigan's first novel since her acclaimed Ida B is a compelling look at the ways friendships and truths are discovered.
It's all true (… sort of).
Q: In your debut novel Ida B, Ida B declares, “There is never enough time for fun.” I suspect Delly, your protagonist in True (…Sort Of) would say the same thing—except fun for Miss Pattison often leads to trouble. What draws you to such fun-loving characters such as these two?
Hannigan: First, there’s this: In my experience, most children expect life to be fun, and they are constantly on the prowl for it. Delly and Ida B are just experts at finding it.
But there’s this, too: When I’m writing a story, I spend a long, long time with the characters—Ida B took one and a half years to write, True (…Sort Of) took longer. So if I’m going to spend that much time with somebody, she has to be fun.
And finally, there’s this: Life can be tough, and there are some tough times in these stories. Fun helps temper the tough times. A lot.
Q: Ida B was written in first-person, but in True (…Sort Of) you write from a third-person-omniscient perspective—and on top of that you’re focusing on two characters, Delly and Brud. How was the experience of writing this time around different from writing Ida B?
Hannigan: There’s something wonderful about writing in the first person—knowing a character so completely, and seeing the world through her eyes and with her heart (especially if she’s someone like Ida B). There’s a real flow to the plot, too, when I’m only considering one character’s point of view. But that’s the limitation of writing in the first person—the world is only as big as that character’s perception.
The great thing about writing a story in the third person is that the world is as big as you want it to be. You can go wherever any of the characters go, you can understand what any of them is feeling. The hard thing about that, though, is it can get pretty complicated. In True, I wanted the reader to know a town, and lots of the people in it. I especially wanted the reader to know four kids: Delly, Brud, RB, and Ferris Boyd. And I wanted to show how the four of them, with all their troubles and their talents, could come to be friends and sort of save one another. To do that really well, I needed to write True in the third person. It was harder than writing in first person, and it sure took longer, but it was worth it.
Q: In both novels, a favorite teacher plays a significant role in the course of the story—offering wisdom and encouragement at important times. Is there a teacher from elementary school that filled that role for you?
Hannigan: I write about great teachers like Ms. Washington (in Ida B) and Lionel Terwilliger (in True) because I know how important teachers are. On any weekday, many children will spend more time with their teacher than with their parents. And so much learning is happening in school—not just cognitive or motor stuff, but social and ethical stuff, too. When a teacher’s really good, kids are learning things like how to be decent people, how to do the right thing after doing lots of wrongs, and how to help one another be their best. Not all the teachers in my stories are great, or even good. I focus on the wonderful ones, though, because that’s what I’d wish for every kid, every day.
I also write about teachers like Ms. Washington and Lionel Terwilliger because while I’m writing, I get to spend time with them, and they are wonderful to be around. That’s one of the gifts of writing.
Q: You don’t shy away from tough issues (abuse, cancer) in your novels. Do you ever struggle with how to approach such troublesome issues for a younger audience?
Hannigan: Not really. Maybe because I don’t see them as “issues.” I see them as hard things that have happened to lots of people, including me and the folks I know. I realize that kids have hard things happen in their lives all the time.
What I am careful about is making sure that my characters’ reactions to difficulties are genuine. They all struggle, and handle things imperfectly, just like me and everybody I know. But they all have hearts that help them figure out what’s right and good, as I believe we all do. And I’m careful to surround all the hard times with humor and with love, because I think that’s what saves us.
Life is beautiful and wonderful and amazing. And sometimes it’s awful and ugly. In my stories, I hope I’m showing kids (and maybe grownups, too) some of the ways we can be more aware of the wonderful, and come away from the awful better than we were before.
Q: In Delly’s world a “surpresent” is a present that is a surprise (the best ever, she says). What would be your best “surpresent” ever?
Hannigan: Well, I was going to answer, “My cats,” because there are five of them, and all of them started as strays. So they were all surprises, and they are all presents (although sometimes I wonder about Tinken, who is 3/4 cat and 1/4 hellion). But I think the best surpresent ever was learning that I could write stories, because I didn’t know that until I was almost 40-years-old. Then I wrote Ida B and it was one of the best times of my life. So that was a great and wonderful surprise.
Katherine Hannigan's first novel, Ida B . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World was a New York Times bestseller, a Book Sense bestseller, and a Parents' Choice Gold Award winner. She lives in northeastern Iowa.
Suggested for our book club. The book was good but I think it is written for a young audience. Main character reminds me of my red haired daughter.Published 4 months ago by Lisa Coppola
<b>True (...Sort Of)</b> by Katherine Hannigan
From the time she was very young, Delaware has found herself in trouble of one kind or another, and it... Read more
While this story has its moments, especially after our hero starts to learn to think about other people rather than only herself, the first half is pretty painful. Read morePublished 6 months ago by E. S. Connors
Just like her other book - "Ida B" it was five stars until the ending. My daughter and i were left to make up our own ending as the book never really had a complete... Read morePublished 7 months ago by craig ross
My favorite book so far the book was exciting and had a lot of meaning to it I highly recommend it :)Published 7 months ago by Lerisa Bravo
This is one of my favorite books! Katherine Hannigan did a great job! The story really comes alive!!! I highly recommend this book:)Published 10 months ago by Marie
I like those book believe those is a too poor for the way to my blog and I know that the cub to my hour today that thePublished 11 months ago by E. Soderstrom
It's a great book one of the best books I have ever seen you would like it best book everPublished 12 months ago by HorseyPixie 307
Ms. Hannigan is a master of the simple story with a meaning and purpose behind it. There are no wasted words. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jim Wesp