age range: 10-12 years
genre: magical realism
Abby Cooper’s website
An authentic yet whimsical journey into the life of a 12-year-old girl. Sophie’s story offers a bright spot of hope and understanding in a difficult time in a child’s life. A funny and sensitive novel, bound to find eager readers.
— School Library Journal
Please tell us about your book.
Bubbles is about twelve-year-old Sophie. There’s a lot going on in her life – her mom lost her job at the TV station and broke up with Pratik, who was like a dad to Sophie. Her teacher is making them do a special project about risk-taking, so Sophie gets roped into doing a triathlon. And to top it all off, she’s started seeing bubbles above people’s heads that tell her what these people are thinking. As she deals with everything that comes her way, Sophie learns that people are much more than what they seem – and what they think.
What inspired you to write this story?
I like to think of this book as one long thank-you note to people who are there for me and people in general who are there for others in their lives. When I wrote BUBBLES, I was going through a difficult time in my life – it was one of those “when it rains, it pours” kinds of phases – and I often thought about how I probably appeared to others: like my happy, outgoing, energetic self. Just by looking at me, people would never know that so much was wrong. But what if they knew what I was thinking? I wished that they could. Eventually, I realized that this probably wasn’t going to happen, and if I wanted help, I needed to ask for it. And when I did, I was absolutely blown away by the support I received.
I realized that this is something students deal with, too. No matter how old you are, it can be scary to admit when you need help, whether it’s with something academic, social, emotional, etc. I wanted to write a book that would thank people who help, but would also encourage the people who need help to ask for it. Sure, it’d be nice to know what people are thinking, but if there’s something you want to share or something you want to know, usually the best thing you can do is be open about it.
Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?
My main character loves history, so there was definitely a lot of research that went into writing this novel. Besides searching for interesting information online and in books, I tried to explore history in ways that I thought would appeal to Sophie. I asked friends to tell me about their favorite historical figures and events. I watched a lot of documentaries. I even went to a couple history museums. One of the reasons I love writing is that it encourages you to try new things and research topics you might not otherwise explore.
What are some special challenges associated with writing magical realism?
I love writing books that fall in the magical realism genre. (This is usually defined as a book that takes place in the real world, but contains elements of magic.) It’s so much fun to imagine magical things happening to regular people and to find out the implications these magical things have. If we could see people’s thoughts like Sophie does, what would that be like? What if the names others called us actually appeared on our bodies, as in my first book, Sticks & Stones? As fun as it is, writing magical realism can also be challenging, because you have to present the magical elements as things that could really happen in our world. This presents a lot of logical questions – how/when/where/why do the thought bubbles appear? Can others see them? Do they stick around for awhile, or do they disappear? There is a lot to consider, and sometimes answering one question only creates more questions. Still, it’s a challenge I love taking on!
What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?
As a former teacher and school librarian, it’s important to me to write books with topics that can be discussed in classrooms. If you read my books carefully, you’ll also notice that I like to sneak in ideas for related activities that educators can use with students. In STICKS & STONES, my characters work through bullying and self-esteem issues, which I think is extremely important to discuss in schools. And in BUBBLES, Sophie and her friends learn the value of open communication and asking for help when they need it. There are many ways these themes can be connected to the classroom. I love hearing from teachers about the discussions they’ve had, and participating in them myself via Skype.
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