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John Schu: Louder Than Hunger (Anorexia)



We all absolutely adore Mr. Schu. The work he has done around this country (and world!) as a literacy ambassador, a librarian, and a champion of children and reading, is tremendous. He has touched and changed innumerable lives.


And he will continue to do so, perhaps more than ever, in his new, beautiful, searingly honest novel-in-verse, LOUDER THAN HUNGER.


If you are familiar with John's blog site, Watch.Connect.Read, you'll know he follows a format where he traditionally asks his esteemed author +/or illustrator guests to finish his purple sentences. Well, we thought it would be fun to turn the tables on him, and ask Mr. Schu to finish our purple sentences!

 

And so, with no further ado: Sally wrote the words in purple, and Mr. Schu wrote the words in black . . .



 

 


Your new book, Louder Than Hunger, tells the story of:


Thirteen-year-old Jake Stacey.

 

Jake’s struggling.

 

Struggling to find his place in the world.

 

Struggling at school.

 

Struggling with the Voice.

 

The Voice that tells him he’s worthless and weak and doesn’t deserve food.

 

The Voice that constantly reminds him he takes up too much space.

 

Told in verse, Louder Than Hunger is an authentic expression of a young man finding the will —and the power — to gain control from the intrusive thoughts that crowd his mind.

 


It felt like the right time in my life to tell this story, because:


I felt emotionally ready.

 

Ready to look back, to examine and admit how so many of the painful moments from my childhood made me the person I am today. A person who cares about musical theatre and libraries and connecting through stories.

 

Writing Louder Than Hunger truly showed me how stories affirm our experiences. They give us space to hibernate and pull us out of our isolation when we need to be reminded we aren’t alone.

 


When writers mine their deepest, most vulnerable selves – as Adrienne Rich put it, “dive into the wreck” – something happens: 


Oh, so many unexpected things happen! With each draft of Louder Than Hunger, I discovered new things about myself.

 

I’d write a poem.

 

I’d walk away from it for a few hours or a few days.

 

I’d return to it and often say,

 

“Wow, I didn’t know I felt that way. I didn’t know that thought was resting inside me. Where did I pull that memory from? Why am I OK with this level of vulnerability?”

 

The answer was always

because of poetry.

 

Poetry helps me open up.

 

It helps me make sense of myself and the world.

 


I chose verse as a format because:


The story told me it could only be told this way.

 

Jake spoke to me quite clearly and loudly from the beginning. His voice was always arranged in my mind in verse. He told me where to place the words on the page. It was the most interesting writing experience I’ve ever had.

 

I hope it happens again . . .

 

It was magical . . .

 

Jason Reynolds called this story “louder than heartbreak.” To me, that means:


It isn’t a how-to-develop-an-eating-disorder manual.

 

It means that I thought about and care about the reader’s heart.

 

 

Tough-topic books are:


Necessary and a lifeline and why I became a librarian.

 

 

Writing stories can heal us.

 

Reading stories can heal us.

 

Sharing stories can heal us.

 

 

Jake’s “Broadway Spirit” is:


My HEART. Oh, my goodness!! There are really only two things I know a lot about: musical theatre and children’s books. I think I honor both in Louder Than Hunger.

 

 

Children need to hear:


Stories read aloud every single day. The best stories and the most powerful read-alouds bring to life an image in our minds that we observe, and through that observation, we can experience a jolt of empathy.


Mr. John Schu! You are a national treasure. Best of luck with this new story of truth and vulnerability and healing. It is sure to touch and change lives for the better.

 

Thank you! It was an honor to finish your sentences!



 


JOHN SCHU is the author of the acclaimed picture books This Is a School,

illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison, and This Is a Story, illustrated by

Caldecott Honoree Lauren Castillo. He also wrote the adult nonfiction book, The

Library Journal Mover and Shaker for his dynamic interactions with students

and his passionate adoption of new technologies as a means of connecting

authors, illustrators, books, and readers.


Children’s librarian for Bookelicious, part-time lecturer at Rutgers University,

and former Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, Mr. Schu

(as he is affectionately known) has been featured on CBS Mornings and NPR,

and continues to travel the world to share his love of books. He lives in

Naperville, Illinois. You can find him at www.JohnSchu.com and on social media

@MrSchuReads.

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