Cover Reveal Q&A: Gennifer Choldenko and THE TENTH MISTAKE OF HANK HOOPERMAN
Newbery Honor winner Gennifer Choldenko (Al Capone Does My Shirts) has a new middle grade novel coming on June 11th: The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman. Today, we have a first look at the cover. But first, I had some questions for Gennifer . . .
Travis: What inspired The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman?
Gennifer Choldenko: When I began to research this novel, which at that point was about foster kids, I happened upon a manual for foster parents which had a chapter on “parentification.” Parentification is when kids step in and act as parents to their younger siblings because their parents aren’t available. The example paragraph was about a boy who loved soccer but would not go out to play because he could not leave his baby sister’s side. Something about that boy reminded me vividly and viscerally of my big brother. That afternoon, I dumped what I had written and began The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman.
Travis: Do you have a time in your life where you thought you made a mistake, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise?
Gennifer: When I graduated from college, I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t have the courage or the confidence to pursue a writing career. After brief stints selling lamps and shoes, working at a ketchup factory, and teaching horseback riding to kids with disabilities, I landed a (believe it or not) coveted job writing junk mail. Turns out I was pretty good at copywriting because I love coming up with ideas and I adore wordsmithing. Writing junk mail was a misstep if not an out and out mistake . . . but one that had surprising benefits. I developed writing stamina by writing all day every day. I learned to take criticism and use it to improve my work. I became adept at writing under pressure and handling difficult deadlines.
Would I advise an aspiring children’s book writer to become a junk mail queen? Not a chance. But that experience helped me gain the skills and develop the confidence I needed to go after my real dream . . . to be an author.
Travis: What was the best part of writing this book?
Gennifer: I found the writing of this book gripping, intense, and cathartic. It brought back memories of when I was four and my big brother taught me how to zip my jacket. I remembered how when I ran away, my brother was the one who discovered I was gone, and he was the one who found me. I remembered how scared I was the time I climbed to the tip top branches of the tree by the road then froze, to terrified to move. And I remembered how my brother talked me down branch by branch.
Travis: What was the most challenging part?
Gennifer: My longtime editor retired just before I began writing this book. So, I was working with an editor I had never worked with before. The first editorial letter I received from her for The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman was tough. I have received many challenging editorial letters in my career, but generally they were from editors who I had been working with for a while. On top of that I wasn’t sure the new editor was right. But I decided to take everything she said whether I agreed with it or not and see if I could use it to make the novel better. I let go of my precious darlings and you know what? The novel got better in leaps and bounds.
Travis: Big Question: What snack puts you in peak creativity mode?
I’m a caffeine head, so I never say no to coffee in any form. If you bring me a coffee, a cappuccino, a latte, an americano, a mocha, a macchiato (I am not picky) I will be your friend for life.
Travis: Thanks for taking my questions, Gennifer! Now, for the first time, the cover for The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman
(Click to enlarge)
From the publisher:
Readers will be rooting for a happy ending for Hank in Newbery-Honor-winner Gennifer Choldenko’s gripping story of a boy struggling to hold his family together when his mom doesn’t come home.
When eleven-year-old Hank’s mom doesn’t come home, he takes care of his toddler sister, Boo, like he always does. But it’s been a week now. They are out of food and mom has never stayed away this long… Hank knows he needs help, so he and Boo seek out the stranger listed as their emergency contact.
But asking for help has consequences. It means social workers, and a new school, and having to answer questions about his mom that he’s been trying to keep secret. And if they can’t find his mom soon, Hank and Boo may end up in different foster homes–he could lose everything.
Gennifer Choldenko has written a heart-wrenching, healing, and ultimately hopeful story about how complicated family can be. About how you can love someone, even when you can’t rely on them. And about the transformative power of second chances.
Filed under: Cover Reveal
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
SLJ Blog Network