Deb Joanne Takes You Down the Nostalgia Highway

This week’s theme is “If you liked my book, you might like…” which is kind of tricky, since my book isn’t out yet (although it will be, in just a few weeks. Wheee!!!). So I figured I’d take this theme and turn it around, to be, “If you liked these books, you might like SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE.”

Now, as you may know, SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE was originally written as a Young Adult book, but a wise editor said she thought the voice and humor would work better for a middle grade audience. I was surprised by the suggestion at first, but then eventually (long story short)  saw the light and thought I’d give it a go. But I said to that editor (in what was, I’m sure, a very panicked voice), “I’m lost when it comes to MG—I don’t have kids and I haven’t read any books for this age since I was in middle school. Do you have any suggestions?”

Without hesitation, she suggested the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. I’d never heard of these books, but went out and bought The Agony of Alice – the first book in the series that follows Alice McKinley from age 11 to the most recent books where she’s a teen (I believe the final book in the series, where she’s 18, comes out next year). This book showed me exactly the voice I really needed to channel—the very honest voice of an unsure but curious and prone to embarrassment 12 year old girl (which sounds a lot like me at that age). The Alice books are VERY honest and don’t sugar-coat tough topics, so ALL the stuff that young girls think about is in there. Now, I didn’t want to go whole hog with controversial topics, but 12 year olds worry about their bodies and boys and being embarrassed, so that’s what’s in SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE. Not only that, but the Alice books are funny. And that smart editor I was talking about? She said I was funny, so I figured I needed to really harness the funny and go for it.

She also mentioned the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary – more funny books from my childhood about regular kids growing up. Okay, I was starting to get what she was talking about. These books are perennial favs and I highly recommend them, but of course, you’ve probably already read them, along with everyone else on the planet.

Another book I read (actually, re-read, since it was one of my childhood favs) as I was preparing to rewrite my book was ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET and was reminded why I loved it so much. Blume captures the feelings of a pre-teen so well—the questions, the new and scary feelings, the changes, the worry that your boobs will never grow… so much is going on at this age and getting that voice pitch-perfect is a hallmark of Ms. Blume (who is on Twitter – did you know this? I get so geeked up when I see her tweets).  And it’s not just this book that captures the perfect tween voice, either. Pick up any of her middle grade books and you’re guaranteed to be taken back to those awkward years!

So there you go. If this list makes you smile and nod and feel nostalgic and think about books you want to read again or buy for your daughter or niece, then maybe you’ll like my book, too (and don’t forget—it’s still available for pre-order and will hit shelves in just a few weeks—you can pick them all up at the same time!).

Any of these among your favorite tween reads? Tell me about your childhood favorites.

18 Replies to “Deb Joanne Takes You Down the Nostalgia Highway”

  1. I’ll be doing the same thing on Friday, since In a Fix isn’t out yet, either.

    I loved the Ramona books–actually, all of Beverly Cleary’s books–when I was a kid. She’s one of the authors who sucked me in and turned me into a lifelong reader. I predict SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE will have the same effect on a whole new generation of middle grade readers. 🙂

    1. I’m looking forward to your comps, Linda. The more I think about this post, the more I’m glad we did this – I didn’t give a whole lot of thought to similar books before now, but this will really help me when talking to people about my book and what kind of ‘tone’ they can expect from it.
      And thank you for your nice words about SM@L! 😀

  2. Such a great list, Joanne–and having had the pleasure of reading SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE, I know that Lilah will be joining the ranks of these wonderful heroines!

    For me, I loved Judy Blume’s books too–as well as Nancy Drew. And I remember being ushered through the incredible Hobbit trilogy and John Christopher’s Tripod series by a fantastic teacher who worked with a handful of us to read them in 6th grade. I am forever grateful to him.

    1. Thanks, Erika!. And weren’t Judy Blume’s books awesome? I do lament that in newer versions of ARE YOU THERE… They took out the belts. Remember the belts? Girls these days don’t know how easy they have it (not that I ever had to experience the belts myself, but at least I KNEW they did exist and could appreciate major advances in feminine products. ;-D ).

      I’ve never heard of John Christopher’s books – huh. I’ll have to look those up!

      1. Wait–they took out the belts? Seriously? I’m sorry but I can’t get behind that one. It smacks of Lucas going back into the Star Wars and don’t get me started on THAT one…Oy!

        1. Yep – when I re-read it, there were no belts and I felt like I was losing it, because I DISTINCTLY remembered the belts. I went Googling and sure enough, they had updated newer versions. I guess it makes more sense for kids reading it now, but for nostalgia’s sake, I was kind of sad about it.

          1. They took out the belts?? Crazy!! Of course I’m from the post-belt era as well, but still, I have to agree.

            I don’t think I knew this was MG, Joanne. Will have to pick it up for my niece (maybe after I’ve read it) and the Alice books too. Thanks!

  3. I loved Small Medium at Large and was so happy to see Are You There God? on this list because I just bought a used copy yesterday! I took a trip down nostalgia lane at Printer’s Row bookfest and bought that, Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, James and the Giant Peach and others… now to find the time to read them all again…

    1. Aw, thanks, Rachel! James was one of my favorites, too. Sometimes I wish I could just spend all my spare time, re-reading all my childhood books. And with my horrible memory (other than about the belt thing, apparently) it would feel like the first time reading most of them!

  4. Yep I am late today with my comments, been a rough day, did not start out good but ended okay. So here I am at 11;30 at night.
    Oh back back back to Joannes childhood and the wonderful reads of yester year with Judy Blume and onto this year with Joanne Levy and Small, Medium at Large, right up there with the best of them.(I know Debs I am the Mother stop with the oy vey she’s here again just can’t help myself).

    Have a wonderful week, good reads new or old they are all good, so keep up the writing. See you next week.

  5. Awesome list! I’m gonna read these to the girls. After reading Are You There God, our oldest is a Blume fan!! And I totally geeked when she replied to one of my tweets!

    1. Isn’t it amazing the connections we can get through social networking? It’s a double-edged sword for sure, but the great things definitely outweigh the negatives. Thanks for stopping by, Missy!

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