Jillicious Author: Wendelin Van Draanen

On a Saturday in February, I had the opportunity to hear author Wendelin Van Draanen.  She came to the Allen Public Library as part of the ALLen Reads program.  What a treat!  It was definitely worth getting up early on a Saturday to hear this incredible lady.  

Ms. Van Draanen spoke about writing, getting published, and the inspiration behind her books.  Surprisingly, she was a "math and science" kind of person and started writing as a form of therapy after a tragedy in her family.  She discovered a love for writing and a voice for adolescent literature which eventually led to the publication of her first book, Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief. This was the beginning of the popular Sammy Keyes series, a fun mystery series with a feisty heroine.  She also talked about her years as a teacher, and it was clear that she connected with her students in the same way then that she connects with her readers today. 

My favorite of Wendelin Van Draanen's books is Flipped.  She told how she was inspired to write this novel after watching her students admire other kids who were not worthy of their admiration.  Ms. Van Draanen described how Flipped came to be made into a movie by Rob Reiner (after he read the book with his son!) and all of the interesting, behind-the-scene details of the film making.  If you haven't read Flipped, definitely add it to your list!  It is told in the alternating points-of-view of Julianna and Bryce.  When Bryce moves in across the street from Julianna in elementary school, she flips over him right away.  But in eighth grade, when most of the story takes place, things start to flip.

Finally, the author spoke about her latest novel The Running Dream, an inspiring story about a track star who must have her leg amputated after a tragic accident.  A classmate with cerebral palsy helps her learn to live again.  Another great book to add to your reading list!  

Ms. Van Draanen was such an entertaining speaker.  If you ever have the chance to hear her, definitely go!  And also, if you live in the Dallas area, be sure to visit the Allen Public Library.  It's a lovely facility and offers excellent literary programs. 

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