Author Caroline B. Cooney visited Oakridge Middle School on Jan. 23 to meet with the Readin’ the Ridge Book Club.
Almost 50 sixth-graders read her novel “Diamonds in the Shadow,” a mystery about a family who takes in African refugees but all is not what it seems.
“The book was very inspiring,” said Mikey Schoonmaker, one of the students attending the book club. “I think the book has had an impact on millions of lives by showing them how much we have. Even though this book is a fiction book, it is based on real lives.”
Cooney shared her experience of hosting refugees in her home and helping them adjust to American life. She also told them about her children and how they helped inspire some of her stories.
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She said to research a book about a race car, she bought a race car. To understand beauty pageants, she convinced one of her daughters to participate in one.
Her “The Face on the Milk Carton,” the first novel in her Janie series, was inspired by a trip she took to New York, where she saw a wall full of photographs of missing children.
“When she talked about her books, it opened up a new perspective on the stories and how all her ideas come from real life experiences,” said student Taylor Lewis. “It just changes the way you look at her work.”
Cooney told the students to “just start writing, and don’t stop.”
She advised them to take situations and make them more interesting by adding unexpected characters and plot twists. She described how she used what if scenarios to brainstorm her own stories. Cooney has written more than 90 novels, most for youth.
Cooney’s next novel, “No Such Person,” will be released this summer.
“I cannot wait to get her new book in July,” said student Emily Williams.
Cooney no longer visits schools, and came to Oakridge as a favor to sixth grade language arts teacher Kimberly Cauble, who met her in November.
“I think having Mrs. Cooney here in my school was a thing I will never forget,” said student Jackie McClure. “I think I would love to write, and maybe walk in her shoes.”