Get to Know… Ann Braden!

My name is… Ann Braden. (Or if I’m going to sign my name the way my 8-year-old son does: Ann Braden!!!!!!!)

I am a… MG author, a former middle school teacher, a lover of spreadsheets, and a community organizer (first about gun laws, then about love, and most recently about getting kids books)

As a kid, I was… so shy that I wouldn’t play on a playground if other kids were on it.

Writing is… something that I used to never think I could do, so I didn’t do it. But now I need to do it to stay sane.

Reading is… a way to live so many lives with just our one.

Books are… something every kid should have easy access to.

Did you know… my cats will eat entire plates of broccoli if left unattended? They’ll each grab a big piece of broccoli and run off with it (growling to protect their catch), devour it somewhere in the shadows of our house, and then repeat until the plate is empty.

You can find me… on Twitter at @annbradenbooks, on Instagram also at @annbradenbooks, and on Facebook at ann.b.braden.

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Ann’s debut novel, The Benefits of Being an Octopus, hits shelves next week, on September 4th! Below, check out some of the stellar reviews it’s garnered so far, and don’t miss the book’s trailer, made by the talented students of Brattleboro Area Middle School!

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 4.39.15 PM.png“This heartbreaking, beautifully written book about finding one’s voice will offer some readers a relatable reflection and others a window that can help build empathy and understanding.” — School Library Journal (starred review)

The Benefits of Being an Octopus is a beautiful, layered look at the courage it takes to stand up to and stand up for the people you love–including yourself. Braden’s story captivated me and carried me along, leaving me changed for the better. — Elaine Vickers, author of Like Magic and Paper Chains

“With grace and heart and words masterfully woven, The Benefits of Being an Octopus captures the quiet and loud masks of domestic violence. Braden navigates the complexities of choice and power and the meaning of courage. And how sometimes together, we can find our voice and our strength.” — Elly Swartz, author of Finding Perfect and Smart Cookie

“This wise book knows we can’t always keep the people we love safe. But it also knows that courage and compassion can sometimes turn lives around. You will care so fiercely about Zoey — the octopus-loving, truth-telling young heroine that you’ll want to wrap all eight of your own arms around her.” — Anne Nesbet, author of California Book Award winner, Cloud, and Wallfish

“You are seen. You are heard. You are loved.” In a perfect world, every child would know these three absolutes. Ann Braden shares this message with her readers in a funny, poignant story about Zoey, her siblings, their mother, and one very special teacher. An octopus might be the most clever creature, but it can’t hold a candle (or eight) to Braden’s masterfully constructed prose.” –– K. A. Holt, author of House Arrest



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A few weeks ago, my friend Ann Braden — author of the forthcoming MG novel The Benefits of Being an Octopus — did something pretty amazing. Inspired by a blog post from Donalyn Miller and moved by a flurry of tweets from educators expressing frustration, sadness, and even fear about the fact that their students were soon leaving school for summer break and wouldn’t have any books to read until they returned in the fall, Ann picked through her shelves and put together a stack of books that she was willing to part with. Educators interested in the books simply needed to retweet Ann’s tweet in order to enter the giveaway.

I saw Ann’s tweet, and was inspired to do what I could to help. That same night, I went home and put together a stack of my own. All the books were ones that I had read and enjoyed, even loved, and that I had purchased with the intent of having them on my shelves forever. But as soon as I considered the fact that there were a tremendous number of young readers out there who, for one reason or another, were facing the prospect of being book-less all summer long, it wasn’t very hard to part with even the most beloved of these books.

The next day, a couple more authors joined Ann and me. And the day after that, there were a handful more. Ann had got the ball rolling — and pretty soon the thing was just racing along. Up to a dozen new stacks were offered on every one of the following days. As of this post, nearly 90 authors have joined our little movement, and well over a hundred stacks of books have been given away. And these stacks were by no means small. Some contained 20 or even 30 books. Officially, the #KidsNeedBooks crew has given away over 500 books. But a huge number of books have been shipped out unofficially, and by my estimate, we’re closer to 1,000. (Below are the stacks I’ve so far given.)

As wonderful as this has all been, it is, sadly, not nearly enough. Our country is riddled with so-called “book deserts,” but all of us authors behind #KidsNeedBooks are committed to doing everything we can to continue flooding these places with books. We have been and are looking forward to working more closely with educators and librarians in a number of ways and on a number of projects, not only to get books into their students’ hands, but also to connect and engage with kids in other ways. As I’ve said before, kid lit authors and educators are colleagues, all of us united in our mission to enhance and enrich the lives of kids. When we work together, we can do more, and do it better.

Click here and here to read more about #KidsNeedBooks at Ann’s website. Click here to read coverage of the #KidsNeedBooks movement in the School Library Journal. And click here to sign up for the #KidsNeedBooks newsletter, through which we’ll keep you updated on our activities and alert you to opportunities to get involved.