Great book!

I read a great book yesterday…All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall. It’s about a group of urban middle school students who set out to build the world’s largest tetrahedron. The book is fiction, but it’s based on a true story. When I saw that, I thought the “true story” had to be the one I’d come across a few years back…about kids who built the world’s largest yo-yo. But no. In 2002, a group of students in Cleveland built a stage 7 Sierpinkski tetrahedron. It contained 16,384 smaller tetrahedrons. How cool is that?

And in 1990, students at Shakamak High School (is it just me, or is that a cool name for a high school?) in Jasonville, Indiana built the world’s largest yo-yo. It was six feet tall and weighed 820 pounds. I came across the story when I was working on H is for Hoosier. BTW, I never set out to write a book on Indiana…I DID mean to write M is for Minnesota because Minnesota will always be “home” for me, and I did mean to write W is for Wisconsin and the ABCs of Wisconsin because my grandparents lived in Wisconsin and I have many happy memories of summers spent in Wisconsin. I only wrote H is for Hoosier because my Wisconsin publisher asked me to…they had a lot of sales reps in Indiana and thought they could sell it.

I’m so glad they did ask me to write that book because I may never have come across the story of these kids otherwise. (Y is for Yo-Yo in H is for Hoosier…it’s the best page in the whole book!) I was so fascinated by this story that I did way more research than I needed to for a 100-word entry. I interviewed the teacher (several times) and a couple of the students. And I learned a lot of the story behind the story. The teacher even sent me a big box of stuff to look at — newspaper articles, journal entries, videos of their progress, stuff they sent to/received from Guiness, letters they wrote to/received from the Vice President of the United States and other celebrities. I always wanted to do something with this…I wanted to write a novel about a group of kids building the world’s largest yo-yo, but I never thought I could do justice to the real story. Shelley Pearsall certainly did justice to the story that inspired her, though. What a great read! Too bad I already wrote my review column for this month (it had been a LONG time since I’d done a column on nonfiction, so this one’s on non-fiction.) Ah well…I’ll include All of the Above in my next review.

BTW, I DID end up using some of what I learned about building an over-sized yo-yo in a Boxcar Children book. Yes, The Giant Yo-Yo Mystery is mine…that wasn’t quite the way I wanted to write about the world’s largest yo-yo, but at least it was a new idea for the Boxcar Children. After 107+ books, it’s hard to come up with new ideas for that series!

3 thoughts on “Great book!

  1. Congrats on writing the YOYO mystery!! Will your name be anywhere on the book? Are you allowed to do signings with the book (when I ghosted a Sweet Valley Twin I was forbidden to include that book at my signings)?

    Great to see your career going in fun new places! LJS

    • Really? FORBIDDEN to include it at your signings? I just dug out one of my old Sweet Valley contracts…there’s nothing in there that says I can’t have them available at signings. I always felt funny about having them at signings when they weren’t really “mine.” I never wanted them at SCBWI events that I spoke at (a couple of R.A.s had them at events against my wishes). But early on (when I didn’t have many books out), I DID have them at school visits…I used to have a “ghost pen” that wrote in invisible ink (I don’t remember what you had to do to make it show up). I always told the kids about ghostwriting, so I thought it was appropriate to sign in invisible ink. And the kids liked it. Unfortunately, that pen doesn’t work anymore.

      In answer to your questions, though, no, my name isn’t on the Boxcar Children books anywhere (I’ve done three so far). I know there are some series you can write for where you get credit on the acknowledgement page (“the author would like to thank so-and-so for their HELP in preparing this manuscript…”) The Boxcar Children books are being published by Albert Whitman (which is one of my publishers) now rather than Scholastic, so that’s how I got the gig. There’s nothing in my contract that says I CAN’T sign them (and Gertrude Chandler Warner has been dead for more than 20 years)…and unlike the Sweet Valley Twins books, I DO actually get a royalty on these books. But I haven’t been asking host schools to get them for my signings. I still talk about ghostwriting when I visit…but if someone wants to buy one of my books, I’d much rather they buy one of MY books rather than one of my ghostwritten books. (I do have a white pen, though, and I WILL sign my ghost books if asked.)

      • When I wrote the SVTwin, I had a signing and when the editor found out I was told FIRMLY not to sign that book, that it was their property not mine. No big deal since I had two other books at that point…still it was a kick of reality.

        Sounds like a great gig for you! I know of one other author who did some of those books and she seemed happy to write them. I write occasional author interviews for a girl series magazine — email me privately ([email protected]) if you’d like to be interviewed. LJS

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