I have yet to actually meet the lovely Caroline Starr Rose, but I do feel as if I know her after reading her debut novel, May B. I am hoping to coax her back to this blog when her picture book, Over in the Wetlands, comes out later this year. Maybe if you all leave lots of comments, we'll convince her to stop in again!
|Caroline Starr Rose|
In 2008 I was teaching fifth-grade social studies. We’d gotten to those textbook paragraphs about England’s first colony in the Americas. Not Jamestown, the Virginia settlement started in 1607. Roanoke, the community established twenty years before. Reading about the Lost Colony of Roanoke along with my students, I remembered the fascination I’d felt the first time I’d encountered the story: 117 missing people. The word CROATOAN the only clue left behind.
While the inspiration for Blue Birds came from this moment of rediscovery, the story itself grew in part from my own childhood experiences moving back to the US from Saudi Arabia and meeting my first life-long friend.
In 1980 I returned from Saudi at the ripe old age of six. I didn’t understand America, this place with “deer crossing signs” (weren’t those pictures of goats?) and weird playground slang. While living on the other side of the world, what had once been familiar was now strange. That’s when I met Sergio, my boy-next-door, playmate, classmate, sometimes sworn enemy, and stand-in sibling. Our friendship gave us a place to be ourselves, to grow into our fuller selves. It was a safe place for me to navigate my new surroundings and learn about my new home.
I’ve made my literary home as a verse novelist, but I have a little secret to share. Conventional wisdom encourages authors to read 100 books in their genre or format before beginning their own story in the same style. Guess how many verse novels I read before writing my first novel-in-verse, May B.? A grand total of two. Why? Because I never planned for May B. to be written as poetry. But as I wrote I found verse gave me access to May’s character and world in a way prose never could.
In writing Blue Birds, I chose verse deliberately this time. For a genre like historical fiction that is often viewed as distant or hard to understand, verse becomes a beautiful fit. It strips away the unnecessary and gives readers an intimate picture of a book’s central characters.
I believe in order to fully appreciate poetry it must be seen and heard. A poet communicates with language, yes, but she also speaks to the reader through line breaks, stanza breaks, and the placement of words on a page. My favorite passages in Blue Birds come from the poems Alis and Kimi share together. Here are two girls from two entirely different worlds and yet they become friends. It was essential the structure of these dual-voice poems “spoke” the story visually as well as told it through the words they contained.
I hope Blue Birds allows poetry to feel less mysterious and history more accessible. I hope you come to love these girls as I do.
Caroline Starr Rose was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author for her debut novel, May B., which was an ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book and received two starred reviews. She spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping by the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. She has taught social studies and English, and worked to instill in her students a passion for books, an enthusiasm for experimenting with words, and a curiosity about the past. She lives in New Mexico. Blue Birds is her second book. Visit her here.