Fox Street is a dead end, which in Mo Wren’s opinion is only one of the many wonderful things about it. She’s lived there all her life, with her dad and her little sister, The Wild Child. Their house sits in the middle of the block, right where a heart would be, if a street were a person. The idea of anything ever changing there is unimaginable–until it isn’t.
This is a story of alarming letters, mysterious errands, and a whole lot of growing up. What happened on Fox Street?
Whatever happened, reviewers seem to like it. The book, which debuts today, has already garnered its own little Milky Way–starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Horn Book. Tricia will send a signed copy to one of our readers, so leave a comment below to win. We spoke with a very happy Tricia.
You write for many audiences, from picture books through adult fiction. But you like middle grade best, right?
How did you know? Middle grade combines all I love best about writing–the possibility of layered meaning, the celebration of language, and, most of all, an urgent story line.
While we’re on the subject–how is writing for kids and adults different?
Adult fiction allows for sidetrips, and kid lit makes more of a bee line. But I’m always trying for beautiful, original sentences, and always searching for the right voice, no matter what I work on. As a grown-up still figuring out who I am, my themes are similar. And writing for middle grade has taught me the value and pleasure of wearing my heart on my sleeve!
So, can you talk about how FOX STREET came to be?
The original impetus was a storyI read in the local paper, about a somewhat down-on-its-heels neighborhood on Cleveland’s west side. Developers had their eye on it, and the city liked the idea of new taxes. But the neighbors fought back. It was a great David and Goliath story, and struck a chord with me because when I was young, the field behind my house was sold to build big new houses. I considered that bit of wild space my own, and losing it broke my heart. Other things fed the story too, including some big changes my family was going through.
Happily, I have a terrible memory, so I don’t even know how many drafts I wrote. At one point I had enough characters for seven or eight books, and I loved them all! But little by little, I had to give them the boot. I whittled away till I understood that the true heart of the book was Mo and her dad. After that, it was easy! (loony laughter)
Mo’s such a determined girl. You could say it’s her mettle that keeps the Wren family together.
I worked ten years in the children’s room of a library in an inner-ring suburb. Every day I saw siblings raising one another, kids with responsibilities way beyond their years. But they were still kids, too, full of spirit and hope and love. Mo’s one of those amazing children.
Fox Street is a delightful mixture of generations and backgrounds. Everybody there looks out for everybody else. Has anyone accused you of writing an old-fashioned book?
You’re tough! But it’s true–I’ve been surprised by how many people say they love the timeless feel of the story. Every neighborhood’s different, and not all kids get to run wild–though every neighborhood has its own version of spooky old Starchbutt, and mayhem specialists like the Baggott brothers. But a sense of community and caring is always possible, if you look for it. I hope Fox Street makes kids reflect on what’s good in their own neighborhoods, and maybe give that mean old lady down the street a friendly wave.
What about the classroom? Does the book have relevance there?
Wow, I really hope so. HarperCollins prepared a terrific teachers’ guide–it’s on my website. Besides being (modest cough) a really fun and compelling story, the book raises serious questions. Is there really such a thing as necessary evil? Can you think too much? And what happens when your family asks you to make a huge sacrifice–where does your loyalty lie? Growing up is such a winding, bumpy road!
One last question–what are you working on now?
I have a picture book called Phoebe and Digger coming out. And a couple of adult short stories I’m thinking about. But right now, my heart belongs to Mo and her family. I’m working on a second book that begins the winter after What Happened…ends. The Wild Child acquires a lizard named Handsome. Mo almost gets kissed. And Mr. Wren…oh that Mr. Wren!
Are you…okay? You haven’t stopped beaming this whole time.
Really? (feeble attempts to look somber and impressive) Sorry, seems to be physically impossible! Thanks so much for talking to me.
Thank you, Tricia.
Remember, leave a comment to be eligible to win a signed copy of What Happened on Fox Street. To learn more about Tricia and her books, visit her at www.triciaspringstubb.com