A Message to My Younger Self, a guest post by Erin Entrada Kelly
When my family first moved to Louisiana, I was six years old. My father drove us down to the Gulf of Mexico to see the water. When we got there, my older sister Anna immediately ran down the beach and into the shallow water. She stood there, laughing, letting the water froth around her ankles. I hesitated. I grabbed my father’s hand. I wailed and pulled away. The water didn’t look welcoming to me. It looked like a vast, hungry beast, with waves for teeth. And the beach was an endless wasteland littered with things that could hurt me. Like sharp seashells or little clawed crabs.
At home, we had a tree in our front yard. My mother wanted to get a picture of me and Anna sitting in it.
“Climb up, climb up,” my mother said.
Anna scurried up. I stayed on the ground. The tree wasn’t a friendly place. To me, it looked like an easy place to fall.
I was afraid of other things, too. I didn’t walk barefoot in the grass because I might step on something sharp. I didn’t let go of both handlebars when I rode my bike. If an insect came near me, I screamed.
I read lots of books where precocious kids got themselves in trouble. Most of the characters were loud and feisty, and I couldn’t relate to them. I went on a lot of adventures, too, but they were all in my imagination.
It wasn’t until The Very Worried Walrus, a book from the Sweet Pickles collection, that I felt truly understood. Sweet Pickles was a popular collection of easy readers, published through the 1980s, that followed an eclectic group of 26 characters. Walrus was my favorite.
There aren’t many books for early elementary readers that feature quiet worriers. That’s why I was doubtful when my editor suggested I pull from my personal emotional experience to write my own early middle grade collection, with seven-year-old Marisol Rainey—a half-Filipino, half-white girl in pigtails growing up in south Louisiana—as its centerpiece.
No one wants to read about a girl who’s afraid of everything, I mused. That’s not interesting.
But then I thought about that little girl, little Erin, who wouldn’t even climb a tree, and I thought of all the other kids out there just like her, who think they aren’t brave or interesting. And I realized something: They deserve stories, too. The quietest personality in the room is just as interesting as the loudest.
That’s when Marisol came to life for me. The first book, Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey, is about Marisol’s fear of climbing the tree in her backyard. The companion novel, Surely Surely Marisol Rainey, tackles yet another fear—team sports.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was not a tremendous athlete at Marisol’s age. (Or any age, for that matter). I was the kid who was picked last for basketball, back in the days when kids picked their own teams. When we had to play softball, I would sneak to the end of the line when it was my turn to bat. In the outfield, I went as far out as possible and prayed that nothing came my way, my heart thumping the whole time. I was self-conscious about everything and anything, and nothing made me feel more exposed than team sports.
One of the things that makes me happiest is when I hear from kids who are nothing like Marisol—the ones who are loud and outgoing and love sports and aren’t afraid of anything. Kids like my big sister. And they tell me how happy they are when Marisol overcomes her fears. One of the most common pieces of feedback I get from readers is, “We were rooting for Marisol the whole way!” But they aren’t just cheering for Marisol. They’re cheering for second-grade Erin, who had so few cheerleaders when she was sitting her room, surrounded by stuffed animals, reading The Very Worried Walrus for the hundredth time. And they’re cheering for all the other anxious kids out there who feel very small in a big world.
Every time I write and illustrate a new adventure for Marisol, I’m reaching back thirty-five years, whispering to a younger version of myself, saying: You are not invisible. You are not alone.
We’re never too young—or too old—to get that message. And it’s never too late to hear it.
Meet the author
Erin Entrada Kelly received the 2018 Newbery Medal for Hello, Universe, a 2021 Newbery Honor for We Dream of Space, the 2017 APALA Award for Children’s Literature, and a Golden Kite Honor Award, among many other honors.
Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey, which is illustrated by the author,was named one of the best books of the year by Parents Magazine and the Chicago Public Library and was one of The Week Jr.’s Best Summer Reads. Surely Surely Marisol Rainey, a standalone companion novel, received a starred review from Horn Book. All of Erin’s books are Junior Library Guild Selections.
Erin is active on Instagram and Twitter @erinentrada. Learn more at www.erinentradakelly.com
About Surely Surely Marisol Rainey
“Anyone who has ever had trouble feeling brave will be empowered by Marisol.”—NBC News
Everyone loves sports . . . except Marisol! The stand-alone companion to Newbery Medal winner and New York Times–bestselling Erin Entrada Kelly’s Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey is an irresistible and humorous story about friendship, family, and fitting in. Fans of Clementine, Billy Miller Makes a Wish, and Ramona the Pest will find a new friend in Marisol.
Marisol Rainey’s two least-favorite things are radishes and gym class. She avoids radishes with very little trouble, but gym is another story—especially when Coach Decker announces that they will be learning to play kickball.
There are so many things that can go wrong in kickball. What if Marisol tries to kick the ball . . . but falls down? What if she tries to catch the ball and gets smacked in the nose? What if she’s the worst kickballer in the history of kickball? Marisol and her best friend Jada decide to get help from the most unlikely—and most annoying—athlete in the world: Marisol’s big brother, Oz.
Told in short chapters with illustrations by the author on almost every page, Erin Entrada Kelly’s stand-alone companion novel to Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey celebrates the small but mighty Marisol, the joys of friendship, the power of being different, and the triumph of persevering. Surely Surely Marisol Rainey is ideal for readers of Kevin Henkes, Meg Medina, Judy Blume, and Beverly Cleary.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/09/2022
Series: Maybe Marisol #2
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
SLJ Blog Network