With three critically acclaimed adult novels under her belt—Shadow Baby (a Today Show Book Club selection), Rainlight, and Was It Beautful?—Alison McGhee was ready to turn her attention to the world of children’s literature. “First I wrote a picture book, which took me years and nearly unhinged me, because it was so difficult to do well,” says the adventurous author. “Then the idea of writing a children’s novel appealed to me.”
The result was Snap, a gracefully told story about a sensitive girl who comes to terms with loss—and learns something about lasting ties. About her inspiration for Snap, Alison McGhee says, “Recently I went through a rubber band phase, in which I wore several on my wrist at all times and snapped them in an effort to retrain myself out of a couple of bad habits. Sadly, the bad habits remained, but happily, Snap was born.”
Alison McGhee’s first young adult novel, All Rivers Flow to The Sea, is the poetically told story of a teenager overwhelmed by trauma and loss yet steadied by loyal friendships and, finally, the solace of first love. In writing her first novels for younger readers, Alison McGhee had to modify some of her usual methods, but there is at least one way in which Snap and All Rivers Flow to The Sea build on her adult books. “Thus far, the setting for all my novels—those for adults and those for children—has been the area where I grew up,” she notes. “Characters from all my novels appear and re-appear, and it was a pleasure seeing some of the adults I had worked with in previous adult novels make an appearance in Snap.”
Snap has certainly been a pleasure for readers, as well. Says Kate DiCamillo, author of The Tale of Despereaux, winner of the 2004 Newbery Medal: “Snap is a book about rubber bands and braids, green buckets and blue bicycles, fear and hope and death. Mostly though, it is a book about friendship. And doughnuts. If you read it, you will laugh and cry; and when you are done, you will find that you have the courage to ‘be strong of heart.’ There’s not much more you can ask of fiction than that.”
Alison McGhee and Kate DiCamillo recently collaborated on the Bink and Gollie series of first chapter books, illustrated by Tony Fucile. The first book in the series, Bink & Gollie, is a Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Winner.
Alison McGhee is a professor of creative writing at Metropolitan State University, where she coordinates the creative writing program. She also teaches in the MFA in Writing for Children program at Vermont College. The author lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her three children.