I don’t know how it is that Heather Bouwman chooses to be friends with a slacker like me– in addition to her writing, she’s a college professor, homeschooling mom AND she studies a Korean martial art called Kuk Sool Won, that she’s been practicing for 20 years. Heather may also have one of the best websites ever so be sure to check it out. Today, I am especially thrilled to host Heather in celebration of her newest book, Owen and Eleanor Meet the New Kid (Beaming Books) because this is the first cover reveal ever on Friend Friday! Pop the champagne and read on!
Writing a humorous book series…and a cover reveal!
Before early 2016, I’d never written a book for the very young. I write upper-middle-grade fantasy novels, and I thought myself happy to stay in that field. When I was asked to write an early chapter book for emerging readers—and said Sure, I’ll try!—I didn’t realize might be redefining myself as a writer. I love writing for the upper-middle-grade crowd; my next fantasy novel comes out in spring 2019. But I’ve come to love the early reader, too, much more than I ever thought I would, and largely it’s because I love exploring the huge difference between how young kids see the world and how adults see the world.
In some ways there’s an analogy to how parents and non-parents see the world. As the last of my sisters to have kids, I distinctly remember my younger sister telling non-parent me about her toddler sons scribbling on the walls of her living room. “What colors?” I asked. There was a short silence on the other end of the phone line before my sister continued her story. As a parent I now see that the point of the story was (among other things) how much work it was to remove crayon from a wall. But as someone who hadn’t yet lived in the country of parenthood, I simply wanted to envision what my nephews were drawing. My next question, had I asked it, would have been if they’d drawn anything pretty, and could my sister please take a photo. We never got to that place in the conversation.
In my early chapter books, Eleanor (age 8) and Owen (age almost-eight) see the world very differently than I (age much-older-than-eight) do. And I want to honor that difference in the stories—and to see the humor there, as I hope my sister eventually did when I asked about her sons’ color palettes.
On top of that, with the Owen and Eleanor series I’m trying to write something that is not only funny but also 1) about kids of faith; and 2) never never never didactic or preachy or narrowminded. It’s pretty easy to do funny and not-didactic, but when you add issues of faith into the mix, things get tricky. As soon as grownups talk about faith with kids, we tend to tell them what to think and how to live. I didn’t want to do that. And I wanted the Owen and Eleanor to be able to mess up, figure things out on their own, and do some crazy things.
In addition, I wanted to touch on—gently—tough and timely issues. In the first book, Eleanor and Owen Move In (Beaming Books), Eleanor’s family moves into a duplex she doesn’t want to live in, and the book alludes to immigration and the pain of losing one’s old home. (It was a Junior Library Guild selection!) In the second book, Owen and Eleanor Make Things Up (Beaming Books), which will publish in November 2018, the two friends try to win a “true story” writing contest by creating an impressive story about themselves that isn’t exactly true…an allusion to fake news and the importance of telling the truth.
In the third book, Owen and Eleanor Meet the New Kid (Beaming Books), a new girl moves into the neighborhood. This new kid dresses differently than Eleanor and Owen do, and she speaks a different language, and they don’t exactly know how to make friends with her—or if they even want to. This book asks readers to consider how we welcome immigrants into our neighborhood and broader community.
For me, key to writing funny books about serious topics like faith and difficult social issues is to write without a preconception of the “right” answer to difficult questions; and write with a love for kids’ views of the world. I hope these are things I’ve achieved in this series.
Meanwhile, I’m excited to reveal the cover of my third book today: Owen and Eleanor Meet the New Kid, which will publish in April 2019. Here it is! I love the way artist Charlie Alder ties the series together with similar covers that feature the two main characters and give a sense of their personalities. And I love how the additional details in the cover allude to the story without giving the plot away.
H.M. Bouwman (Heather) is the author of middle-grade fantasy novels including A CRACK IN THE SEA (2017) and the forthcoming A TEAR IN THE OCEAN (2019), both with Putnam, as well as the brand new early chapter book series OWEN AND ELEANOR (Beaming Books). She lives in St. Paul MN with her family and is a Professor of English at the University of St. Thomas.