Jennifer Richard Jacobson is the author of numerous books, including the novel Paper Things, a book about a homeless brother and sister living in Portland, Maine, which has received acclaim in the forms of starred reviews and awards. We found this book to be a realistic and thought-provoking read. We were thrilled to interview Jennifer Richard Jacobson for this month’s feature!
RapunzelReads: Paper Things has a premise that’s not common in Middle Grade books—what inspired you to write a story for kids about homelessness?
Jennifer Richard Jacobson: The idea for Paper Things came from my own childhood. I spent hours cutting out people and objects from catalogs. I created large families who lived in wonderful homes. Then I would give my “characters” problems! (In fact, I think it was this game that gave me lots of practice in creating stories.)
I wanted to write about a girl like me. I wondered though, what girl in modern times would still play this game? After all, kids can play similar games on computers. Ah, I
RR: Who is your favorite character in Paper Things, and why?
JRJ: Ari. Of all my books, Ari is the character who most resembles me. Like Ari, I didn’t reach out for help when I needed it as a child. I hid the things that were hard – the things that caused me shame. As a teacher, I look for the kids who might be experiencing invisible pain.
RR: What was your favorite part of writing Paper Things?
JRJ: When I was thinking about this story, I decided to explore catalogs. I cut out people and furniture in the same way I did as a kid. Doing so allowed me to tap into play again – and play is so useful for writing! Play invites imagination.
RR: What are you planning on writing next?
JRJ: The book I’m currently working on is titled Crashing in Love. It’s about a girl who helps save a boy who has been injured in a hit and run accident and how this chance meeting changes her forever.