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T A Knox-Collins

I love books, especially Science Fiction. I write for children, am a graduate of Hamline University's MFAC program. I am committed to seeing diversity in kidlit and I can't help myself when it comes to rescuing dogs.

Month

September 2017

A Young Artist Tackles Hunger: A Graphic Novel

Working part time at a bookstore, I get to meet a lot of interesting people. Best of all is when kids and teens come in to the store. I love to hear about what they’re reading, what they’re interested in, and discovering their talents.

Jing Jing is 16 years old. She comes into the bookstore quite often. She has a bubbly personality and is a great conversationalist. She’s also an artist. She says she practices her drawings a lot and I can believe that. When she showed me her portfolio, I was envious. Drawing people is definitely not something I can do. I can draw stick figures. What Jing Jing does is a whole different universe.

I told her I’m working on a graphic novel called Hunger. Jing Jing was interested. She asked me what it was about, and really listened as I gave her the long synopsis. Bless that girl!

Hunger is about a Cassia, who lives in the International District in Seattle. Her parents died in an accident when she was a toddler, so she lives with her Aunt Maggie. Maggie runs a Chinese funeral supply store, and has been hoping to make the Hungry Ghost Festival popular in the Pacific Northwest. Business was never great, but her husband’s fortune telling business kept them afloat in the lean times. Now that Harry is gone, Maggie leans on Cassia to keep the store going. Cassia has the ability to see and communicate with the spirits of the departed, particularly during the Hungry Ghost month (7th month of the Lunar Calendar). All Cassia wants is to find her parents’ ghosts, but for some reason, they’ve never visited her. Her ghost friends have been helping her search for them for years, especially Wing – a twenty-something man who died before Cassia was born.

This year, at last, as Cassia gets ready to enter her junior year in high school, news arrives from Wing that her parents have been found. In exchange for his effort, Wing begs Cassia to reach out to his family. He needs them to make him an offering, so he can be freed of his eternal wandering. Cassia may be good with ghosts, but with the living, she’s a complete introvert. To go to Wing’s family and ask them to make an offering to the husband and dad who abandoned them long before he died? That’s a lot to ask. Especially when Cassia finds out that Wing’s son is the most popular boy in her school!

With a whole cast of ghosts and living, Cassia goes on an adventure she’s never dreamed of having. She finds herself making friends with the most unusual people. She discovers how, in being biracial, she’s caught between two cultures whose beliefs about the afterlife could prevent her from ever reuniting with her parents. Most of all, she finds out that family is more than the biological connection between people.

Jing Jing’s reaction? She was excited! Bless her, again. She asked to see some of my script, and then surprised me a few days later, with sketches of some of the characters. I simply have to share them here. Aren’t they great?

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A King County organization called 4Culture very generously gave me a grant to work on HUNGER, to help me hire a graphic novel artist to do the first couple of chapters. With that, I hope to market this graphic novel soon. In return, I’ll be giving free writing workshops to kids who are interested in writing or graphic novels.

Lots of things are happening. But for today, I’m excited to introduce you to this up and coming artist. Great things will come from her someday.

 

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Two More Kids Review Redworld

I’ve been so lucky, over the years, to have been in the classroom with some really great kids. As a Montessori teacher, I often had the same kids in my class for three years. You really get to know each other in that time. That’s the part of teaching that I miss the most. Watching my students grow to become kind, compassionate, and bright kids who love to learn, has been the best part of being a teacher.

Some of my students desire to be writers some day. And I can see them becoming prolific at it. I’m fortunate to still be a part of their writing journeys. I love working with them on their stories. We talk about plot, structure, character, conflict, — everything I think about in my own writing life, and learned about in my MFA program. How amazing to see them grasp these concepts and apply them to their own writing.

These kids are voracious readers too. That they’ve agreed to read my books, and to share their thoughts, has been a joy and an honor. And as usual, I promised not to edit their thoughts.  So, here you are.

Three more reviews of the Redworld Series.

Book One: Homestead – A New Life on Mars

Molly, 5th grader, says:

stars

I rate this book five stars. Belle leaves Earth – all her friends, activities, school and personal items – and moves to a new planet. Even though she is moving to Mars, Belle’s reluctant feelings on moving are very understandable. When she gets to Mars, it isn’t easy to get used to the new farm, neighbors and school friends. But, it looks like a fun adventure and the alien nature of everything makes me think of Star Wars! I would strongly recommend this book to sci-fi lovers and those who are moving.

Another 5th grader, Theo, adds his thoughts:

I like this book because it is science fiction and, my favorite genre is science fiction. I also like it because it has cool pictures of what could be Mars in the future. The scene that I like is when the Sulux people show the Songs how to make their house recognize them and uncover the real house that is hidden invisibly and that the little shack in the front of the real invisible house is actually the front porch.

Theo also read Book Two: Raiders — Water Thieves of Mars

I like this book because there is a lot of action going on in the book the scene that I like is when the neighbors’ kids group together to make some weapons for defenses. Belle makes some very cool petripuffs that paralyze the person that got hit by the puffs. Belle’s friend made something called a disrupter. It immediately disables a person’s body once the person hears the high pitch sound.

 

I want to thank all the kids who’ve reviewed the Redworld Series. If you’ve liked what they’ve said, and are intrigued by the stories, ask your local and school libraries to stock the series. They’re published by Capstone. A paperback version will be out in stores in February 2018.

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