In this sensitively written novel, Connor introduces a learning-disabled 12-year-old who will warm readers’ hearts and earn their respect with his honesty and compassion. Poignant and suspenseful, Mason’s story crystalizes an adolescent boy’s joys and fears as he comes into his own.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Connor expertly captures the camaraderie of Calvin and Mason. A poignant underdog tale that will resonate with many young readers.
— School Library Journal (starred review)
In a moving first-person narrative, Connor reveals a remarkably distinct and memorable character. [T]he author weaves the back story into a narrative of redemption chronicling his growing friendships. Connor’s gift for creating complex characters extends to the supporting characters and makes this a compelling read.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Hi Caroline! I want to open with a great big thank you! This is one of my very first opportunities to talk about my new title.
My absolute pleasure. You know I’m a big fan, and I’m so happy you agreed to an interview. Could you tell us about your newest book?
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle is the story of a big sweaty seventh grader with a giant heart. Mason is an academic underdog and he’s grieving the loss of his best friend, Benny, who turned up dead in the Buttle family orchard eighteen months ago. Mason cannot understand why Lieutenant Baird doesn’t believe the story Mason tells about that day.
What inspired you to write this story?
The jumping off point was a news story about a boy’s tragic death and the investigation that followed. (My stories always begin with little seeds from real life.) However, I’ve used none of the specific details from that case, and Mason is an invented character. I must say, his voice was clear in my ear. I knew exactly who Mason was and what his troubles were. His story took a while longer to unfold, and I would say that’s how my work generally goes: character before plot.
Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?
I had an odd and varied set of things I needed to inform myself about for this story, and each one was entirely too fascinating! Among them: diaphoresis (excessive sweating), synesthesia (when a sense impression related to one part of the body shows up in another; in Mason’s case, seeing emotions as colors), apple growing, and the ancient cave paintings of Lascaux, France. I did most of the research on line, but also interviewed an orchardist and an emergency medical technician. This story surprised me with its elements of art and science, and an unexpected study of how we tell stories, and how others interpret them.
What are some special challenges associated with creating convincing fictional characters?
My challenge with Mason was painting a full picture of his troubles—from a learning disability to the profuse sweating, to seeing ugly green puffs when he’s stressed out. All of it was important to the story but it seemed like a lot to ask readers to hang onto. I’m grateful to Mason’s friend Calvin, who played backboard to this information. In turn, we get to know Calvin by the way he reacts.
What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?
I mentioned science and art; these are quiet currents throughout the story that I think will resonate with “creatives” and future engineers, and possibly spark the desire to delve deeper into these topics. There are themes of self-reliance, loyalty, trust, and perseverance. Mason is honest, good-natured, and, as I discovered along the way, deeply funny. You could say Mason is a character who earns our admiration just for showing up to his life every day.