Books And More

Gertie the Great

Author Kate Beasley chats with TFK about her first book

September 22, 2016
COURTESY KATE BEASLEY/DON HEINY FOR TIME FOR KIDS

In Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, a girl in Alabama aims to be the best fifth grader in the universe.

At the beginning of the new book Gertie’s Leap to Greatness, a spunky heroine named Gertie Reece Foy finds out some sad news. She learns that her mother — whom she doesn’t live with — plans to move away from their small town. Gertie devises a set of plans to become the best fifth grader in the universe in order to convince her mother to stay in town. Despite her plans, however, Gertie gets outsmarted at nearly every turn by a new girl named Mary Sue, who wants to be the best fifth-grader, too. Although there are some serious parts of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness, there are also many funny moments. At one point, Gertie takes a big bowl of chocolates from the school office, and has to eat all of them at once in order to hide the evidence. Author Kate Beasley told TFK that she drew inspiration from her childhood for this story, which takes place in a small town in Alabama. Beasley spoke to TFK from her home in Claxton, Georgia.

TIME FOR KIDS:

How would you describe Gertie?

KATE BEASLEY: 

She has a very good heart and good intentions. But she gets into a lot of trouble because she has her own logic and her own way of seeing the world that doesn’t always jive up with reality. She is very determined. That is her biggest and most obvious quality. She never gives up.

TFK:

There are a lot of funny things that happen to Gertie in this book. How did you come up with those parts? Were any of them based on experiences you had as a child?

BEASLEY: 

None were taken directly from my life. But I remember being a kid really well. I remember how sometimes the funniest things happen from misunderstandings. When the adults are so busy with their adult responsibilities and they aren’t paying attention, they often misunderstand what a child is doing.

TFK:

There are a lot of serious things that happen in this book, too. Was it hard to find the right balance?

BEASLEY: 

It was important to get that balance right because I didn’t want to write a book that would make readers feel bad, and I also didn’t want to disrespect the issues in the book. There are serious, meaty problems that Gertie faces. I didn’t want to belittle that because there are children who are going through hard times. But Gertie is such a resilient character, and she is so funny and determined that even when bad things happen, she gets up the next day and keeps going.

TFK:

What do you hope kids will take away from this book?

BEASLEY: 

I hope that anyone going through a situation like Gertie’s will feel recognized and understood. I wanted to be really respectful of the fact that children do have problems. A lot of times adults forget that. We think childhood is such an easy time, and it’s not.

TFK:

This is your first book. What was the process like?

BEASLEY: 

It took about two years to write the book, and then almost a year of editing once the book was sold. It was a long process. There were a lot of revisions. I started over many times. But I like the revision process. I like seeing how every draft gets me closer to what I had in mind.

DON HEINY FOR TIME FOR KIDS

TFK:

Which authors have inspired you?

BEASLEY: 

I really love Beverly Cleary. I loved her when I was a child, and I still do. I read her books all the time. I am also a big fan of Louise Fitzhugh and Louis Sachar. Holes (by Sachar) is the best book ever.

TFK:

Are you working on other books?

BEASLEY: 

I am working on another middle-grade book. It’s not a sequel, and it’s not the Gertie universe.

TFK:

Is there anything else you want to add about this book?

BEASLEY: 

I live in Claxton, Georgia, which is near Savannah. This book is set in Alabama. I used the setting because I was so familiar with it. I have lived here all my life. It helps to write what you know and write about the people you know. I definitely drew on that.

 


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