Q&A With James Patterson: His New Book, Public School Superhero

April 1, 2015  |  

In 2015, James Patterson will donate 100,000 copies of Public School Superhero to some of the most neglected and underfunded schools in America, and he will launch a major campaign to support school libraries.

When James Patterson meets with underprivileged kids at schools in some of the country’s poorest neighborhoods, they often ask him, “Why can’t we be heroes in any books?” To answer that question and to bring more books into more kids’ lives, James Patterson is donating 100,000 copies of his new book for young readers, “Public School Superhero,” to some of the most under-resourced schools and youth programs in the country. He was moved to make this donation after recognizing a large and underserved community of children who don’t see themselves portrayed in dynamic, entertaining stories often enough.

These same kids also inspired “Public School Superhero,” by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, with illustrations by Cory Thomas, a book about an African American sixth-grade chess devotee named Kenny Wright who lives in an inner city. It’s a story brimming with wit, action, and heart, one all kids are bound to find relatable and entertaining.

Mommynoire: Tell us about your book and what it means to have Public School Superhero donated to 100 thousand students across the country?

James Patterson: Public School Superhero is about a regular kid named Kenny Wright who happens to have a pretty cool secret identity – Stainlezz Steel, super-powered defender of the weak. I think kids are going to love it, and I wanted to make sure that as many kids as possible could get their hands on it. For many of these kids, it could be the first book they ever own.

Why is it so important to get children engaged in reading at a young age?

We need to get kids to love reading when they’re young. If a kid doesn’t read well, he’s going to have a rough time in middle school, and an even rougher time in high school and beyond. It’s about setting them up for success in life.

Do you think enthusiasm for reading increases with e-books?

If a kid doesn’t have access to books, how is she supposed to read? Kids need to be able to get their hands on books they like to read, and lots of them. I think if an e-book makes a kid excited to read, then that’s great. It really comes down to kids finding things they want to read, though.

What can we as parents and teachers do to inspire and empower children to read and write?

Frankly, as parents, it’s our job to get our kids reading. The most important thing to do is find the kinds of books that your kids actually like to read, whether it be comic books, vampire books, Great Expectations, whatever.

 How does First Book hope to help engage families and schools in helping to build an early love for reading?

First Book is a great organization that does a lot of good in communities. They know as well as I do that getting kids to love reading is essential to achieving success in life, and they have a variety of programs to engage families and schools. I encourage all your readers to visit http://www.firstbook.org/ to see how they can help.

Where can our readers go for more information and to participate in the reading experience?

I founded ReadKiddoRead a few years ago, and it’s since turned into largest non-profit, pro-reading site on the Internet. It’s constantly updated with book recommendations for kids of all ages. If you’re not sure what books you should be getting for your kids, you can head to http://www.readkiddoread.com and find one in seconds.

The book is about an African American sixth-grade chess devotee named Kenny Wright who lives in an inner city…and you’re not. How did you capture this witty kid and his voice?

I’m also not a teenage girl with wings, but I managed to do OK while writing Maximum Ride. Part of my job as a writer is to explore characters and worlds that are different from my own. I’d visited many schools where African-American students would ask me when I was going to write about them, so I felt it was important for me to explore the Kenny Wright’s world.

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