The Alex Crow and my 10 minutes with Andrew Smith

9 Jul

The YA coffee Klatch at ALA was exciting and disappointing. There were lots of cool authors I didn’t get to see. Scott Westerfeld started at the table next to mine, but never sat at mine.

Fortunately, we had several very cool people stop by, like Andrew Smith. He was promoting The Alex Crow. 

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Until that moment, when he sat down and started talking, I did not know that Smith was a high school teacher. Not an ex-high school teacher, like Sting used to teach high school before he became famous.. He still teaches high school in California and he is a famous author. How cool is that.

A lot of what he told us, in his 10 minutes at our table, was about teaching and the story of one boy, a Somali refugee, who was in one of his class, and how that boy’s story became the inspiration for The Alex Crow. 

Smith’s last few books are not for everyone.  In fact, he is part of a  national “Keep YA Weird” campaign that celebrates literary experimentalism and extreme imagination in YA literature.

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Publisher’s Summary: Once again blending multiple story strands that transcend time and place, Grasshopper Jungle author Andrew Smith tells the story of 15-year-old Ariel, a refugee from the Middle East who is the sole survivor of an attack on his small village. Now living with an adoptive family in Sunday, West Virginia, Ariel’s story of his summer at a boys’ camp for tech detox is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic bomber and the diaries of a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth century. Oh, and there’s also a depressed bionic reincarnated crow.

It is hard to explain the book, but, Smith brings all the weird story strands together at the end in a way you weren’t expecting. It is a dark journey, but not without hope at the end.

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