Title: THE WAY TO BEA
Author: Kat Yeh
Pub. Date: September 19, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
With a charming voice, winning characters, and a perfectly-woven plot, Kat Yeh delivers a powerful story of friendship and finding a path towards embracing yourself.
Everything in Bea’s world has changed. She’s starting seventh grade newly friendless and facing big changes at home, where she is about to go from only child to big sister. Feeling alone and adrift, and like her words don’t deserve to be seen, Bea takes solace in writing haiku in invisible ink and hiding them in a secret spot.
But then something incredible happens–someone writes back. And Bea begins to connect with new friends, including a classmate obsessed with a nearby labyrinth and determined to get inside. As she decides where her next path will lead, she just might discover that her words–and herself–have found a new way to belong.
Little Red Reads Q&A with Kat Yeh, author of The Way to Bea
1. Who would be Bea’s favorite poet and why? What would be her favorite poem?
Bea would have many, many favorite poets and she would have different poets of the week she’d read and smile about, loving whatever it is they do that is different and fun and perfectly beautiful or silly or strange. I don’t think she’d be able to pick a single favorite one.
But she would definitely have a favorite poem.
It would be one that she worked hard to memorize and could recite on demand—and also when no one demands it at all. That poem would be Jabberwocky from Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll.
Bea loves Jabberwocky because of its joyful use of made-up, mashed-up words. She loves the feeling of adventure it has and the way that Lewis Carroll did not seem to give a darn about what anyone else might think. He just wrote what he wanted. Bea would want to draw curly-worded illustrations of the poem on one of the giant canvasses that her mom keeps in the studio and she’d fill the entire blank space with color and strangeness and she’d come to dinner covered in paint and smiling. She’d go online and start trying to learn French and German, so that she could start to memorize those translated versions of the poem – because the foreign language translations of Carroll’s made-up words (like the German Frumiösen Banderschntzchen!) send her over the moon with happiness.
2. What advice would you give to tweens and teens about connecting with their parents?
Hmmm. Because no two humans are alike (and parents are humans, after all, just like you and me), this is not a simple question to answer.
Some parents are open and loving and expressive. Some are quiet and secretive. And there are millions of others in between. All parents are so different that there is really only one thing you can say they all have in common:
There are times they find life just as hard and confusing as you do.
But they’ve also been around a lot longer than you have, so they’ll have experiences to share and things they’ve learned that can help you.
So, talk with them as much as you can. Be honest.
If something is upsetting, try the best you can to express what you need to express. Cry if you have to, then when you’re done, you can try explaining again. If you can’t speak, write it down. If you don’t know what to write down, draw it. Or paint it. Or find a song that says it. There are many ways to tell and show people how you feel.
Listen to what they say even if it feels like they’re saying it for the millionth time.
Ask them what they mean if you don’t understand.
Know that there’s a difference between a parent saying NO! because they’re in a bad mood and saying NO! because something is seriously dangerous or inappropriate or just wrong. I think most parents want to say Yes. They love saying Yes. But they have to be responsible grown-ups and say No sometimes.
Even if it’s hard, try to understand what it’s like to be them. It’s good practice. When you think about how other people feel, you become part of bringing people together in the world.
And always tell the people you love – whether it’s a parent or maybe someone who is a parent-figure for you – like or your grandparents, your aunts or uncles, or a grown-up brother or sister, a family friend or teacher or coach— whoever it is that has that role in your life, make sure you tell them you care.
In THE WAY TO BEA, Bea’s parents seem completely loving and supercool and wonderful, but as we read, we learn that even people who look this way from the outside have flaws. This isn’t the end of the world. It just means you might have to do some figuring out for how you want to handle it. Figuring things out is good practice too.
But then I guess this is all practice, right? I mean, no one is perfect. Whether we are young humans or grown-up parent humans, the best any of us can do is keep practicing and trying to be as true and straightforward and honest and open and giving as we can be.
3. If you had to go back and re-do middle school, what would you change?
I don’t think I would change much. As awkward and struggling and confused as I was for so much of middle school, I needed to go through everything I did in order to become the mom and writer and artist and human that I am now.
I think the difficult times we face are a lot like weight-lifting.
You lift heavy weights.
Your muscles hurt.
But that’s the only way they get stronger. They have to go through that.
Then they heal. And feel great!
You lift the next time and you hurt again, then you heal again.
It takes a while. But you keep getting stronger.
Sometimes life hurts. But we work our way through it and become stronger.
And we learn to love and appreciate all the wonderful things around us even more.
So I don’t think I would change any of the hard things that happened,
but I would change one thing.
I wish I had tried talking to someone when things were hard, instead of bottling it up inside. Because we might have to go through some hard things in life, but we never have to go through them alone.
4. How can we know if our friends are true? What advice would you give to someone going through friendship growing pains?
You will have many friends. And different friends. Friends you drift away from and go back to and some that you end up leaving behind.
You never know what your next friend may look like. But they are out there. Give people a chance. Treat them the way you’d like to be treated. Be happy and curious and kind.
True friends want you to have all these things.
And they are out there.
Friendships change, like everything else. This doesn’t have to be bad. It could mean that the next amazing person is just up ahead, waiting for you.
Kat grew up reading, doodling, and scribbling in Westtown. She worked for many years in advertising and sports marketing, while writing children’s books in the wee hours of the night. She currently lives on Long Island where she can see water every day and explore all the bay and harbor beaches with her family.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE WAY TO BEA, US Only.
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