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Virtual Visit from Jennifer Richard Jacobson: Author of "Paper Things"

On Tuesday, November 13th the Battle of the Books Club students were able to experience a virtual question and answer session with children and young adult books author, Jennifer Richard Jacobson.  From her web site, here is a brief bio on the author:


Coming from a long line of educators, I always knew I’d be a teacher. I didn’t always know I’d be a writer, but somehow it turned out that way. I kept a diary since the age of nine, and I won the Edith Bird Bass Essay Contest as a senior in high school in my hometown of Peterborough, NH.

While an undergrad at Lesley College, I took a course in children’s literature and fell in love with the genre. I tinkered with writing while teaching, holding administrative positions, and getting my masters, but it wasn’t until I moved to Maine and returned to the classroom as first grade teacher, that I became determined to write a children’s book. I told my students we were going to write up a storm that year. I was going to teach them everything I knew about writing, and they in turn would help me to become a better writer. And they did.


I consider the children’s novel I wrote that year to be “practice” and although it will never be published, it kept me on the path, kept me writing. When my daughter was born, I decided to try my hand at a writing career. I wrote articles, books for parents and teachers, teacher guides and emergent readers for first grade reading programs – anything that would give me the time and space to continue trying to break into the children’s field.


No writing is ever wasted. Freelance jobs taught me the craft and cadence of a writing life. I learned that most important thing about writing is this: you must sit down and write. But it was one particular job I credit for giving me the understanding I needed to finally sell a children’s book.

The mother of two young children, I accepted the challenge of reading and reviewing 400 picture books for an educational company in the process of creating reading anthologies. My children thought I was the greatest. I stayed in my pajamas and read to them all day long. Soon after this gig ended, I went on a writing retreat and wrote my first saleable book, A Net of Stars. By reading all of these wonderful new books, I was able to recognize the pattern of story, the power of voice, and the tone of modern literature. Three years later I had my first signing and a few of those children from my first grade class came to say hello.

They were seniors in high school.


Ms. Jacobson, is the author of our battle book, Paper Things.  Here is brief summary of the title from Amazon.    


When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when nineteen-year-old Gage decides he can no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knows she has to go with him. But it’s been two months, and Gage still hasn’t found them an apartment. He and Ari have been “couch surfing,” staying with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, crashing with Gage’s girlfriend and two roommates, and if necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter to escape the cold Maine nights. But all of this jumping around makes it hard for Ari to keep up with her schoolwork, never mind her friendships, and getting into Carter starts to seem impossible. Will Ari be forced to break one of her promises to Mama? Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have readers thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.


During the question answer session, Cavalier book club students asked very thought provoking questions regarding how Jacobson’s  personal experiences may have influenced the story, character intentions, motivations, and thoughts, the inclusion of certain story elements, as well as her choice as an author to tell the story from Mary's perspective. Jacobson said that she identifies with and is most like the main character in the story, Ari.  Jacobson conducted a great deal of research on homelessness before writing this story, and even commented on how she made “paper things” with catalogs with her best friend as a game when she was young, which influenced Ari’s fascination with catalogs and playing paper things with her best friend.


Jacobson also commented that in every book we have characters who have certain desires, and through experiences and conflicts they spend their time throughout the novel  trying to attain those desires, in the case of this book, the main character desired a home and a family. Mrs. Bost complimented Jacobson on the authenticity of her characters and how the character voices and experiences were very real, making the characters more believable.  


Mrs. Bost secured copies of the book, Paper Things for all of the book club students and Ms. Jacobson has agreed to sign them all for the students.  We truly enjoyed the visit and look forward to reading more books from Ms. Jacobson in the future.

Michele Todd Bost