Author of the 6.5 Million-Copy Bestseller FRINDLE
To The Readers In Minnesota
March 25, 2002
Dear Readers of Minnesota:
First of all, thanks. It was so good to learn the other day that my book, The Janitor’s Boy, has been nominated for the Maud Hart Lovlace Book Award for 2002-2003. It is such an honor to have a book considered alongside the work of so many other fine writers!
Like a number of my other books, The Janitor’s Boy grew from a simple incident in my own life. Shortly after I’d finished writing my book Frindle, I was talking to a man I know, a high school teacher in Maine. We started talking about his school, and I asked, “Do many of your kids go on to college?” I guess from the way I asked the question, my friend thought I expected the answer to be ‘no.’
But he said, “College? Absolutely! You’d be surprised how many really bright students I have.” Then he was quiet a moment and said, “In fact, there’s this one kid? So bright—one of the smartest kids I’ve taught in a long time. And I really hope he’ll go on to college. But every time I ask him to set up a time when we can get together and talk with his parents about it, he kind of clams up and then he avoids talking to me for the next week or two. I think it’s because of his dad. His dad works in the woods, never had much education. I see him around town once in a while—big rough-looking guy who runs a chainsaw all day. And I think the kid is sort of ashamed of his dad.”
A year or so passed, and I’d finished writing The Landry News, and I was on the lookout for a new book idea. I knew I wanted to write another story about kids and teachers and schools, but that was all I knew. As I was thinking one day, I remembered that talk with that teacher from Maine. And I thought, “What if a kid didn’t understand his dad, didn’t understand that every honest job is a respectable job, and this kid felt ashamed of what his dad did for a living?” Then it hit me: “Would it be hard for a boy if his dad was the school custodian?” And that was enough of an idea to launch the story of The Janitor’s Boy.
When I visited at a school recently, a large dark-haired man came up to me at the end of the day and asked me autograph a copy of that book. As I did, he smiled and said, “This is my son’s book. He’s already read it, and he said I’d like it—and I do! I’m already on chapter six, and it’s great!” Then with a big smile he shook my hand and said, “Y’see, I’m the janitor here.”
Moments like that are worth a lot to a writer.
Again, thanks, and I hope you’ll enjoy the time you spend with my book, and with so many others as well.
With all best wishes,