Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Imaginary Cats and Childhood Hunger

Oddly enough, one of the things that has changed since The War That Saved My Life is the sense of connectedness I feel toward other authors. I mean in a personal way. Mostly this is due to other writers' generosity--I've been getting emails and tweets from people I truly, deeply admire.

Yesterday, for example, I had a Twitter conversation with Elizabeth Wein, author of none other than Code Name Verity. (If you haven't read it, put this blog down immediately and don't come back until you have. Talk about your unreliable narrators!) Elizabeth lives in Scotland and flies airplanes for fun. How badass is that? I tried to counter by telling her I once rode an ostrich (true story), but ostrich-riding, while interesting, is not exactly badass. When your ostrich crashes you are not very far from the ground. (No, my ostrich did not crash. Sheesh.)

Anyhow, Katherine Applegate, an author I deeply admire (she wrote The One and Only Ivan), has a new book just out, called Crenshaw. I bought a copy on Saturday but haven't read it yet. It's about a near-homeless boy and his imaginary best friend, an extremely large cat named Crenshaw. To celebrate the release, Katherine's asking independent bookstores nationwide to host food drives.

Childhood hunger shouldn't happen in the country, but it does, far more often than most people reading this might think. In my city some local groups run backpack programs, sending students home on Friday afternoons with backpacks full of healthy food, so that the children are guaranteed something to eat over the weekend. In my city, the grocery stores on the poor side of town stay open until 2 am on the last day of the month--because when the clock clicks over past midnight, SNAP (food stamp) benefits reappear in peoples' accounts, and many peoples' refrigerators are empty enough by then that walking to the grocery at midnight makes sense. In my town of 40,000, the local food pantry serves hundreds every month, and the Salvation Army feeds 40 to 50 each day. There are high chairs in the Salvation Army dining room.

So I love what Katherine Applegate is doing. She's taking a hey-look-at-me-and-my-shiny-new-book moment, and deflecting the attention to an important issue. She's making positive change.

For those of us who don't have local independent bookstores, Katherine suggests donating personally to local charities.

In Bristol, you can give money or food to the Bristol Emergency Food Pantry (it's on the VA side of State St., just over the railroad tracks under the Bristol sign, a big white building) or Bristol Faith in Action (across from DeVault Stadium, where the Bristol Pirates play). We could use cereal, peanut butter, canned meat, canned meals, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, crackers, tortillas, baby food. I think the Food Pantry can take perishable items. If your garden is still overflowing and you're done canning, drop the extra off. We'll use it.

And thanks. From a big imaginary cat, and Katherine Applegate, and me.

Learn more at CrenshawTheBook.com.