What happens when you bring together five book-loving kids with the author of the book they just read?
We found out on December 16, 2020, when five young readers met virtually with Philadelphia author Christine Kendall to interview her about her recent middle grade book, The True Definition of Neva Beane.
Since last spring, when the pandemic drove most library programming online, virtual programs and events sponsored by Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library and our other neighborhood libraries began to attract interest from all over Philadelphia. For this interview program, three of the group were from Germantown and two were from West Philly. Additionally, when the True Definition of Neva Beane came out in September 2020, Ms. Kendall was unable to host the live author events that normally accompany a publisher’s book release. So, by the time we all got together, our author was eager to hear what her readers thought of her book, and the kids were just as eager to offer their views and to ask the author their questions—face-to-face, in real time.
We gathered for a total of four virtual meetings. Two were to prepare: to come up with questions for the author, to talk about how the interview would work, and to think about the book together. The third meeting was the interview itself. The last was a chance to talk about how we thought the interview went and wrap up our discussion of the book.
About the book…
Neva (short for "Geneva") is a 12-year-old girl growing up in West Philadelphia in a time a lot like now, but without COVID-19. It’s summer, and while Neva’s parents are away, she and her older brother are being looked after by their protective grandparents. Neva is changing, on the inside and the outside, and others around her are noticing this, too. Whether she’s checking out her profile in a mirror, being the best she can be to her friend Jamila, leafing through her beloved dictionary, sharing her struggles over the phone with her far-flung mother, or thinking about how she can help make change for the better in her community, she is working to figure out this powerful new version of herself—this strong, independent Neva who is emerging.
If you or someone you know would like to get involved with upcoming virtual book groups and author interviews offered by Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library, please email me (Ms. Jane) at easleyj @ freelibrary.org.
Also, if you like stories like The True Definition of Neva Beane—about kids growing up, becoming themselves, and finding their power—browse these additional titles available in our catalog:
When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
Track series: Ghost; Patina; Sunny; Lu by Jason Reynolds
For help finding these and other books at the Free Library, call 1-833-TALK FLP (825-5357).
Special thanks to Elliott batTzedek of Big Blue Marble Bookstore for making this interview possible.