As a teacher and librarian, I’m always looking for books to put into the hands of students and teachers. I love it when a book does double (or triple duty). For example, a single book might:
1. Spark debates from different characters’ points of view, especially when those characters come from different cultures, lands, and economic classes.
2. Connect to an area of the curriculum outside of English class, such as, oh, I don’t know–a period of history that a kid has never explored, like the year 1293 during the height of the conflict between the English and the Welsh! Said topic could lead seamlessly to discussions of past and present oppression of one people by another and the subsequent rebellion that ensues. Got that? Quiz tomorrow–be ready.
3. And here’s my favorite: Turn a meh reader into an I-can’t-put-this-book-down reader.
But don’t take it from me. Or Kirkus and Hornbook and who bestowed starred reviews on The Wicked and the Just. Here’s what J. Anderson Coats had to say about using The Wicked and the Just with kids in the classroom…
The Wicked (a.k.a. Natalie): A student walks into my library and I think, “That kid needs a copy of The Wicked and the Just.” Who is this kid?
The Just (a.k.a. J. Anderson Coats): They’ll be your voracious readers. The ones who take in words through every pore. The ones who have a high tolerance for ambiguity and don’t mind a challenge. They might be the kids who’ve read everything by Karen Cushman, Michael Cadnum, and Catherine Jinks twice, but they’re not quite ready for Sharon Kay Penman or Elizabeth Chadwick. They might be kids who are developing an interest in the past through works of historical fantasy like A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray or THE MINISTER’S DAUGHTER by Julie Hearn. But they also might be the kids who care deeply about social justice and the lived experiences of oppression and redemption, possibly through an interest in dystopian literature.
The Wicked (a.k.a. Natalie): Although The Wicked and the Just is a work of fiction, historical facts are woven throughout the story. How did research factor into your writing process?
The Just (a.k.a. J. Anderson Coats): My process is heavily dependent on immersing myself in books and articles and images while I’m writing. I can’t do a bunch of research, then write a draft. I’m the kind of geek that does research for fun, and the constant stream of material informs not only the story, but also how I structure the words on the page. Only about 1% of the stuff that comes out of my research ever makes it into the story explicitly, but all of it is important to get me into the proper headspace to recreate the world as best I can.
The Wicked (a.k.a. Natalie): Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?
The Just (a.k.a. J. Anderson Coats):
The Wicked (a.k.a. Natalie): Thanks, J.!
For those Kindergarten and preschool teachers out there, don’t despair! Click here for Mike Jung’s G-rated rendition of The Wicked and the Just for the 6-and-under set.
Happy reading, everyone!