Books And More

A Humorous New Heroine

Author James Patterson talks to TFK about his latest children’s book, Jacky Ha-Ha

March 14, 2016
COURTESY SUE PATTERSON; DON HEINY FOR TIME FOR KIDS

James Patterson holds the Guinness World Record for being the first author to sell 1 million e-books.

Author James Patterson has penned more than 100 books. Recently, he embarked on a new challenge: writing especially for kids. With a goal of attracting kids who do not like reading, Patterson has already created five different book series for younger audiences.

TFK spoke to Patterson about his latest book, Jacky Ha-Ha, which focuses on 12-year-old Jacky Hart, a girl who uses humor as a way to cope with her life at school and with her family.

TFK:

What was the inspiration behind this new character?

JAMES PATTERSON:

What really drove me into writing this book was getting kids to read more. That’s what drove me into writing all my children’s books. If you give kids books that they’ll really like, they’ll ask for more. I like to tell a story that really gets the reader involved, and Jacky Ha-Ha definitely does that. She’s a kid who is teased in school because of her stutter, and the way she gets past it is by making a joke out of it.

TFK:

Did you base this book on any of you own personal experiences?

PATTERSON:

I write a lot of female characters, and you can see that in my previous books. I grew up in a household full of women—my mother, grandmother, three sisters, and two female cats—so it all kind of stayed with me.

TFK:

The book deals with a few difficult issues. Jacky’s mom is away at war and her dad isn’t really around. Do you think kids can relate to these themes?

PATTERSON:

I think kids have always related to these kinds of storylines. Kids are really aware of what happens in their surroundings. A lot of them know what it’s like when a parent is away because of work, or when a sibling goes off to college. So I think readers can definitely relate to Jacky on that level.

TFK:

You are widely known for your thriller and suspense novels written for adults. Was it difficult writing for a younger crowd?

Patterson’s latest children’s book, Jacky Ha-Ha, is about a 12-year girl who tries to make people laugh with her so that they don’t laugh at her.

DON HEINY FOR TIME FOR KIDS
Patterson’s latest children’s book, Jacky Ha-Ha, is about a 12-year girl who tries to make people laugh with her so that they don’t laugh at her.

PATTERSON:

I personally think it is just a good thing to do. I also think I have a good sense of humor and I have the freedom to be funny in these books, as opposed to the mystery novels I write for adults. So in a way, it wasn’t too difficult for me, and I actually enjoyed it more than when I’m writing for adults.

TFK:

What first inspired you to write children’s books?

PATTERSON:

My son wasn’t a big reader, so when he was about eight years old, we decided to read everyday during his summer vacation. We went out and got a dozen books we thought he would really enjoy. By the end of the summer he had read most of the books, which were a mix of genres, and his reading skills improved dramatically.

TFK:

Do you find that it’s harder to find books for reluctant readers?

PATTERSON:

Yes, I think it is. There aren’t a lot of cool books for kids to read in the market. But I think kids really like books that are funny, have interesting characters, and have a genuine storyline that makes them think. I find that kids really respond to that. I also find that if kids read enough, they will become knowledgeable, and in order to get them to read enough, they have to read things that will make them say, “Wow, that was a cool book! I don’t mind reading another one.”

TFK:

Will there be another Jacky Ha-ha book? And if so, what’s next for Jacky?

PATTERSON:

Yes! And teachers will really like the next book. In the second book, Jacky takes on Shakespeare. In school, Jacky is involved in theater, which has forced her to deal with her stage fright. I think introducing Shakespeare to young kids in an interesting way will grab their attention immediately. And that’s what Shakespeare is supposed to do for readers: grab their attention.


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