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Secrets and Stories

TFK spoke to author Wendelin Van Draanen about her new book, The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones

October 25, 2016
CONNOR V. PARSONS; NATAKI HEWLING FOR TIME FOR KIDS

Author Wendelin Van Draanen hopes her new book, The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones, inspires kids to write their own stories.

After moving to a new town, 11-year-old Lincoln Jones is having a rough time adjusting to school. As the new kid at school, making friends is not an easy task. Forced to spend most of his time with senior citizens — or “oldies” — at a nursing home where his mom works, Lincoln retreats into his comic books to find heroes and adventure. He also spends much of his time writing down secrets into his notebook. However, with the help of a new friend and a school writing assignment, Lincoln discovers real-life heroes in an unlikely place.

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen takes readers on a funny and charming journey as Lincoln comes to understand what’s important in life. Van Draanen, who is also the author of the Sammy Keyes mystery series, spoke to TFK about the book, her inspirations, and what she hopes readers will take away from this story.

 

TFK:

What was the inspiration behind this book?

WENDELIN VAN DRAANEN:

My mother was in elder care and it was after she passed away that I realized there was a valuable story about seniors and the role that caregivers play when someone can’t take care of herself anymore. The research [for this book] took three years.

TFK:

There are many interesting characters in the book. Were any of them based on people you know?

 

Wendelin Van Draanen has written more than 30 books for young readers.
CONNOR V. PARSONS
Wendelin Van Draanen has written more than 30 books for young readers.

VAN DRAANEN:

I have been surrounded by kids my whole life! I have my own children and I was a teacher for fifteen years. When I was a teacher, my students would inspire my characters and when I had children, I saw life through the eyes of child. It was refreshing.

TFK:

Lincoln never goes anywhere without his notebook. Did you carry a notebook as a child? Do you carry one now?

VAN DRAANEN:

I carry one now, but when I was a kid I did not. I had a diary, but I also had brothers so once I got older so I gave that up.

TFK:

The experiences at Brookside nursing home were very realistic. Do you write from experience or did you do a lot of research?

Kid Reporter
Mia Muniz

VAN DRAANEN:

It’s a combination. The facts come from research and the emotion comes from experience. You want to make sure the both are balanced and accurate.

TFK:

Have you ever worked with seniors or “oldies” as they are called in the book?

VAN DRAANEN:

When my mom was in elder care I visited her almost every day for two years. I spent a lot of time with the caregivers and visiting other seniors. There weren’t a lot of visitors visited so the seniors appreciated when I sat down to talk to them or play a game.

TFK:

References and accents related to southern states were frequently used in the book. Did you spend time in the South while writing the book?

VAN DRAANEN:

Not while writing the book, but I have been there before. I was inspired to write Swear to Howdy when I was on an extended school visit tour in the South. I was completely charmed by their hospitality, sense of humor and loving community. I had friends in Birmingham, Alabama read over The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones to make sure I was accurate in my references.

TFK:

Why was it important to include the character Mrs. Graves? Why did you want the reader to know she had two feuding sons?

VAN DRAANEN:

I think it represents what happens sometimes when there are feuds within a family. I hope readers will recognize that they don’t want to have that kind of relationship with family. You have a history and a thread with family, a common bond that you won’t have with anyone else.

TFK:

What lesson do you hope this book will teach kids?

VAN DRAANEN: 

There are two lessons; the first is that the “oldies” were once young, too! They have a lifetime of stories and experiences we should get to know. The second is how Lincoln uses his notebook to feel better about things and how his writing helps him form a connection with other people. Writing can be very good for people who are shy or feel left out. It can also be a fun way to let your imagination blossom.


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