When A Wrong Can’t Be Righted, What’s a Kid to Do? A guest post by Laura Segal Stegman
When I was in fifth grade, I got slugged in the stomach by a classmate. She knocked the wind out of me, which felt as bad as it sounds. I was terrified. Would I ever start breathing again? I did, of course, and today, it’s a distant memory. What I’ll never forget, though, is that she got away with it, fueling an outrage that flares up when I hear about bullies who aren’t held accountable. Which brings me to Ready or Not, sequel to Summer of L.U.C.K. (my middle-grade debut). Just published in August by Young Dragons Press, Ready or Not is about a kid needing to find the courage to face and deal with life’s unfair situations.
I’d spent so many years working on Summer of L.U.C.K. before finally landing a publisher [see my previous Teen Librarian Toolbox guest post] that for a while, I thought I wasn’t prepared to begin anything new. But by the time I sat down to write L.U.C.K.’s sequel, I had a three-book deal with deadlines, so I was – pardon the pun – ready or not. In any case, I was thrilled to continue the adventures of Darby, Naz, and Justin, the characters I’d introduced in Summer of L.U.C.K. Struggling to communicate, they’d met at summer camp and found their voices with help from Leroy Usher, the ghost who haunted a magical carnival. So, what came next? In sorting out the answer, suddenly, “What did I want to write about?” became, “What did I need to write about?”
With bigotry, hatred, and intolerance from men and women on the local, national, and international stage gathering increasing strength over the last almost-decade, I found myself struggling with how to deal with the reality that these bullies faced few consequences – or none at all. And if that was tough for me, how much tougher was it for kids? Exploring that question inspired the story I told in Ready or Not.
Set the year after Summer of L.U.C.K., Ready or Not features more magical adventures with Darby, Naz, and Justin, but it spotlights Justin, who faces a tricky choice: stand up to bigotry or let fear hold him back. When he’s targeted by a bully, and a good friend stops speaking to him, Justin counts on help from Mr. Usher, the magical ghost who helped transform Justin’s life the year before. His expectations rise further when a mysterious message from Mr. Usher invites him and pals Darby and Naz for a midnight visit. Instead of a reunion, though, the kids find themselves transported through time to unravel a mystery that tore Mr. Usher’s family apart. As Justin digs for the truth, he discovers that Mr. Usher faced bigotry and prejudice during his lifetime with courage – and without magic. But if courage is what it takes, Justin must learn to do what’s right when everything’s wrong.
Ready or Not’s subtitle is How do you learn to be brave? So how does Justin? As the story concludes, he learns that we have a choice: to be trapped by injustice or to embrace goodness.
I’m not, of course, the only middle-grade author writing books about life’s unfairness and wrongs that can’t be righted. Just a few of my current favorites include Elisa Stone Leahy’s Tethered to Other Stars and Claire Swinarski’s What Happened to Rachel Riley, both released this year, and Shelley Tougas’ A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids from a few years back. A recent social media chat among middle grade writers, parents, and educators was filled with examples of many other books about this topic.
From these vastly different illustrations of life’s unfairness, and in writing my own books, there has been one consistently suggested solution that middle grade writers can offer to young readers: Find what you can do, not what you can’t. Make a change, no matter how small. Be an honorable example to others. Keep faith in the power of good.
Did that help Justin? Has it helped me? With no easy answers for unfairness in the world, I have to keep hoping and believing that it has. And that it will.
Meet the author
Laura Segal Stegman is a Los Angeles-based author whose middle grade debut novel, Summer of L.U.C.K., and its sequel, Ready or Not (both from Young Dragons Press), are available wherever books are sold. The Chambered Nautilus, third in the L.U.C.K. trilogy, will follow. L.A. Parent Magazine lauded Summer of L.U.C.K.as a “good read,” and it received a Five-Star Readers’ Favorite Award. Ready or Not, according to middle grade author Frank Morelli, “is filled with twists, turns, magic, time travel, and a healthy dose of courage from its deeply authentic cast of characters.” Laura serves as a judge for Society of Young Inklings and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) writer competitions, and she shares her author journey in engaging virtual and in-person visits to schools and libraries. Her popular PR Tips for Authors workshop features a step-by-step guide to building a digital author media kit. Non-fiction credits include collaboration on the travel book Only in New York, and her feature stories appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Magazine, among others. A long-time publicity consultant, she owns Laura Segal Stegman Public Relations, LLC. www.LauraStegman.com
Web site: LauraStegman.com
PR Tips for Authors: https://www.laurastegman.com/pr-tips-for-authors/
About Ready or Not
How do you learn to be brave?
With his summer headed downhill fast, thirteen-year-old Justin faces a tricky choice-stand up to bigotry or let fear hold him back. When he’s targeted by a bully, and a good friend stops speaking to him, Justin counts on help from Leroy Usher, the ghost whose magical carnival helped transform Justin’s life after his father died last year. So this should be a breeze, right?
His expectations rise further when a mysterious message from Mr. Usher invites him and pals Darby and Naz for a midnight visit. Instead of a reunion, though, the kids find themselves transported through time to unravel a mystery that tore Mr. Usher’s family apart. As Justin digs for the truth, he discovers that Mr. Usher faced challenges during his lifetime with courage… and without magic. But if courage is what it takes, Justin must learn to do what’s right when everything’s wrong.
Publisher: Young Dragons
Publication date: 08/29/2023
Series: Summer of L.U.C.K. Trilogy #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.
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