Allie, Chesley, and I attended an author meet n greet at Avid on November 15. Both Allie and Chesley bought books by Alan Gratz, the author in attendance, and got them signed. We had a short conversation with him, but this experienced opened my perspective in so many ways.
Alan Gratz is a person, like most authors. He went to the University of Tennessee and got a College Scholars degree with a specialization in creative writing. Later he went back to school and got a masters in English Education. He lives in North Carolina, has children, and likes pizza and reading. Meeting him in person allowed me to understand so many things about the realities of creating a work of writing. It made the whole "being an author thing" much more tangible and relatable. I mean, I like pizza and reading too.
When we met Alan Gratz, he was promoting his most recent release Projekt 1065. This book's protagonist is a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany as a member of a family of spies. I think this perspective is certainly unique and necessary in today's world. Students can read this book and understand the hatred and division that the Nazis caused and they could be given the opportunity realize some parallels in modern day America. The main audience for many of Alan Gratz's novels is middle schoolers, and this is important to note. Though I am not the biggest fan of middle grades novels (only because I read for my high school students), I believe it is so important for students at this age to understand history and be able to relate to the kids that lived through it. Historical fiction molds students' understanding of their current world. Gratz has contributed significantly to this genre with other books like Samurai Shortstop.
I have yet to read a novel by Alan Gratz, but after interacting with him I am definitely more likely to pick up one of his books. I feel like I owe it to him now that I have a picture with him. I could recommend his books to students and let them know that I've met him, humanizing the texts a little more for them. If I were to recommend these books, they would be for lower level readers with an interest in the subjects or issues they address. If I ever end up as a middle school teacher, I would consider Projekt 1065 as a class novel or a companion novel to The Diary of Anne Frank or Night.