August or Forever by Ona Gritz

I’m so pleased to be on tour today with The Children’s Book Review for Ona Gritz. This book is ideal for ages 9 and above. It is the perfect length for this age at 108 pages of a wonderful story. I had the privilege of interviewing Ona Gritz about the book and her background. Check out the bottom of the post for a giveaway!


About the Book:

Ten-year-old Molly has always loved having a sister, but sisters are supposed to live together, right? Molly certainly thinks so. Unfortunately, her older half-sister Alison lives on a whole other continent. Their video chats are great, and Molly is thrilled when Alison’s hand-written letters arrive in the mail like surprise gifts.

Still, it’s not enough, not compared to what other siblings have. That’s why when Molly finds out that Alison is finally coming to visit over the summer, she devises a plan to get her sister to stay. But then Alison arrives with plans of her own, a fragile heart gets broken, and Molly stumbles upon a painful piece of her sister’s past. Molly has always loved having a sister, but this is the August when she’ll learn what it really means to be one.

 

Interview with Ona Gritz:

Where did the idea for August or Forever come from? What inspired this book?

I was the baby of my family. My two half siblings never lived with me, and my sister who did left home young. Like Molly in the book, I felt like an “almost only” child, lonelier than an only child because I knew from experience what I was missing out on. The memory of this feeling was the first spark of the idea, along with the realization that, given the various forms that families take, it’s not as uncommon an experience as I grew up believing.

 

What do you hope the reader takes away from this book?

To me the most important thing a young reader can take away from a book is the sense that they’re not as alone as they may have thought they were in what they long for and worry about. Their situation may not be the same as that of a character in a book, but if that character feels authentic and honestly human, something about them should feel familiar. They should articulate, or at least touch upon, a thought or feeling the reader has experienced, even if she’s yet to put it into words for herself. I hope Molly succeeds in doing that for the readers of August Or Forever. 

 

Who is your favorite character and why?

I love them all for different reasons. Molly for her passion and earnestness, and because I know her so well from having lived in her head for so long. Alison for her kindness to Molly and patience with her, along with her dedication to her art and her honesty. And though five-year-old Carly, Molly’s best friend’s little sister, is a very minor character, she’s also a favorite because she’s made me laugh aloud a few times with the unexpected things she says.

 

Do you have any siblings?

I did. A sister who was six years older than me, and a half brother and sister neither of us knew very well growing up. Heartbreakingly, they are all deceased, which, of course, is also behind my interest in exploring siblings and longing.

 

What is special about writing middle grade books?

Middle grade books are likely the first books that kids read completely on their own. This means they’re the first books they develop a private relationship with. I remember so well how much my favorite books meant to me when I was ten, eleven, and twelve. They were like intimate friendships. What a privilege it is to get to create something that may be important to a child in that way.

 

You write books as well as poetry. Is your writing process the same or different for both?

I approach everything I write as a poet. What I mean by this is that I’m listening as I work, reading aloud, paying attention to the music of the language even as I’m working out ideas or story. There is both good and bad in this approach. I’ve learned from poetry how to be concise and not over-explain. Also, my ear for the musicality of language somehow translates into a good ear for dialogue. On the negative side, I’m terribly slow because I like to polish as I go and can spend days getting a few sentences just how I want them. Also I find story structure hard to figure out and I think it’s because, while I’m staring through my magnifying glass at every word choice, I can forget to step back and consider the big picture.

 

Tell us about your writing process. When/where do you write? Do you plot your books or let the characters lead you?

I’m not a morning person, so I write in the afternoons and stay at it until it’s time to do something about dinner. My son is grown and away at school, and my husband is also a writer, so I have a quiet house to work in. By nature, I’m definitely what they call a pantser, flying by the seat of my pants and, as you say, letting my characters lead me. I’m trying for my next project to learn to be more of a plotter. I really admire writers who are able to create maps for themselves so that they have a good sense of where they’re going as they make their way.

 

What advice do you have for a young person who wants to be a writer?

The most important thing to do if you want to be a writer is read. Learn what’s out there. Learn what you love. Don’t shy away from being influenced by other writers. Influence is a good thing. I like to think that we writers and our books are all in conversation with each other. Also, if you can, make friends with other kids who love to write. Form a club, even if it’s a club for two, read to each other and cheer each other on. But if you don’t find that person or community right away, don’t worry. Writing itself is great company.

 

What were some of your favorite books growing up?

Other than the picture books my mother read to me, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume was the first book I remember loving. Next came Mom, The Wolfman, & Me by Norma Klein. Through middle school, I read everything those two writers wrote. Among my favorite novels in high school were A Separate Peace and To Kill a Mockingbird

 

What is your favorite part about being a writer?

I get to spend my days using my imagination and making discoveries, and, once in a while, I find out that a story, poem, or essay I created meant something to someone. It’s the only job I’ve ever really wanted.

 

About the Author:

Ona Gritz is the author of two previous children’s books, including Tangerines and Tea, My Grandparents and Me, a Nick Jr. Family Magazine Best Alphabet Book of the Year and Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine Teacher’s Pick. Her essays and poems have been published widely. Recent honors include two Notable mentions in The Best American Essays, a winning entry in The Poetry Archive Now: Wordview 2020 project, two 2021 Pushcart nominations, and a 2022 Best of the Net nomination.

Learn more about her work at www.onagritz.com.

Giveaway:

Enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of August or Forever, autographed by Ona Gritz, and a glass heart necklace (like one that figures prominently in the story)!

August or Forever Book Giveaway

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

A signed, paperback copy of August or Forever

A glass heart necklace

Nine (9) winners receive:

A signed, paperback copy of August or Forever

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