age range: middle grade
setting: middle school band
genre: contemporary fiction
Michelle Schusterman’s website
Fellow band geeks will be thrilled to see themselves in Holly and nonmusicians will appreciate the world of music. A sweet debut.
–School Library Journal
Please tell us about your book.
I HEART BAND is a middle grade series about a seventh grader named Holly who’s pretty obsessed with being first chair French horn in band. Unfortunately, she’s got a rival in new girl Natasha, who’s not only a talented horn player, but spent all summer at band camp bonding with Holly’s best friend, Julia. Band might be a competition, but friendship isn’t, and Holly needs to figure it out before she loses Julia for good.
What inspired you to write this story?
Actually, I was commissioned to write this series. My editor, Jordan Hamessley, is a self-proclaimed band geek from Texas, just like me. She came up with the idea for the series, I wrote the outlines, and we went from there!
Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?
I was in band from third grade through high school, got my bachelor’s degree in music education, and was a middle and high school band director in Texas for four years…pretty extensive “research” for this series! I had plenty of anecdotes and experiences to draw from when I wrote these books. And of course, my editor had lots of stories about her own time in band too. For each book, we started by meeting for lunch and brainstorming ideas. Because the series progresses throughout Holly’s seventh grade year, there were certain markers we knew we had to hit – all-region auditions, holiday concerts, solo and ensemble contest, the band trip…
After brainstorming, I’d write an outline, my editor would make changes or suggestions, then I’d write the first draft and we’d go from there.
What are some special challenges associated with writing middle grade?
I think one of the hardest things about writing humorous MG is that the humor has to be authentic or kids just won’t buy it. In other words, I can’t sound like a thirty-something year old trying to sound like a seventh grader. My teaching experience definitely came in handy here – lots of time spent listening to how kids talk and joke around. But I’ll definitely catch examples of “trying too hard to be funny” in my drafts during revisions.
What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?
One comment I’ve been seeing a lot in reviews is how I HEART BAND emphasizes the importance of music education in schools. Throughout the series, Holly and her friends learn not just about music, but how to work together to achieve goals and how to handle winning and losing with grace. There’s also an emphasis on friendships, which often go through a lot of change and strain during adolescence.
Michelle is giving away signed copies of books 1 and 2 for one lucky winner. To enter, simply leave a comment below, sharing a memory from your middle school years. US residents only, please. Contest closes Saturday, August 23.
Congratulations to our winner, Beth Little!
Yay! Would love these for my kids!
Oh gosh, middle school memory? I think I blocked those out! I do remember my friend and I wearing matching tiered ruffle dresses to a school dance, where she started laughing asked me if I was trying to dance like a chicken and then joined in.
Middle school band??? The horrors! However, it was the place I made three of my life-long friends. I have a middle-schooler in band who would really like these books.
Joanne Levy says
One of my favorite memories from middle school that is sort of band-connected was when I invited our very stuffy music teacher to a seance I was planning with my friends. I don’t know why, but we thought it would be hilarious if he attended. He politely declined, although he probably had a good laugh about it in the staff room later.
p.s. I played baritone in middle school–I got guilted into it when no one else volunteered (I wanted to play the flute with my friends) but was glad in the end because it meant I got to sit among a group of boys. WIN.
I love the themes covered in Michelle’s books! I also tend to block out my middle school memories. I do recall showing up on my first day of junior high school wearing the outfit my mom suggested; a dress I had worn the previous Easter, white ankle socks, black patent leather shoes, my hair tied back in a bow and my blue kitty cat glasses (it was 1971). The upper classmen let me know I looked like a rookie all day long. That afternoon, I took all of my babysitting money, got on my bike, and headed up to the Hip Pocket to buy a pair of hiphugger denim bellbottoms and three new shirts.
Jennifer Jackson says
He title brings back memories of band trips to six flags and state competitions. What an incredible way to build the confidence of a young person.
Beth Little says
I was in band in middle school and wanted to quit when my friends quit, but Mr. Atencio encouraged me to continue and I did! My son is just starting band, and my daughter plays the cello. Looking forward to years of music in our house. These books would be great to share in my 5th grade classroom as well!
Laura Denehy says
I love, love, love that someone has finally written something creative for all of our “band kids.” Interestingly, in my building, they also tend to be the most avid readers who have least access to their library because of the band schedule! Maybe I will get copies for my band instructor to keep in her room! Best wishes with your books!
Love the covers! They are just too cute.