Sheila O’Connor’s debut novel, Sparrow Road, is absolutely perfect for middle grade readers, but two of my high school students really enjoyed and appreciated it as well. It’s a book that suits all age levels. I’m so happy that my students were able to interview Sheila because Sparrow Road is a book that should be read and Sheila is an author to keep in your sights 🙂
Summary of Sparrow Road (From Goodreads): It’s the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year- old Raine O’Rourke’s mother suddenly takes a job hours from home at mysterious Sparrow Road– a creepy, dilapidated mansion that houses an eccentric group of artists. As Raine tries to make sense of her new surroundings, she forges friendships with a cast of quirky characters including the outrageous and funky Josie.
Together, Raine and Josie decide to solve the mysteries of Sparrow Road–from its haunting history as an orphanage to the secrets of its silent, brooding owner, Viktor. But it’s an unexpected secret from Raine’s own life that changes her forever.
An affecting and beautifully written story of family and forgiveness, Sparrow Road is an incredible gift.
- How did you get the idea for the whole mysterious dad thing?
I wish I knew where I got all of my ideas—but often, I honestly don’t know. In many cases, my ideas just find me, they arrive without request and show up on the page. That was the case with the “mysterious dad” thing. I did not know there was a mysterious dad until Raine told me.
- Is the house the artists live in like a house you’ve been to?
No, the artists’ house is entirely imagined. I have stayed at artist colonies—and they’ve had little things in common with Sparrow Road—in one case a silence rule, in another case there was a turtle pond on the land, but Sparrow Road is a world that came to life inside my mind.
- Why did you decide to write a middle grade book?
For many many years, I’ve worked with middle-grade students as a poet-in-residence—that’s a writer who comes into schools for a week or more and works with kids– I know that age group, I know what they write and what they read—and what weighs heavy on their hearts. All of that is present in their poems. I wanted to write a book that they could read, a book that would speak to their experience of the world.
- And the ever-so-classic, why’d you decide to start writing?
I always wrote. I wrote because I loved the sound of words, and the way a well-told story touched my soul. I wrote because I wanted to remember, and because I wanted to imagine days that could be different.
- What inspired you to write this book?
I may have answered that above. But if I could add to that, I would say I wrote Sparrow Road as a gift to the kids I’d taught, and the kids I’d never teach—I wanted to give them Sparrow Road.
- Who is your favorite character in your book?
Oh dear, I can never choose. I love them all for different reasons (everyone but Eleanor). And I think that Raine does, too.
- Do you have a day job?
I do. I am a professor in a MFA program, which means I mentor graduate students who are serious about writing fiction.
- Is there really something like Sparrow Road or did you make it up?
In many ways, Sparrow Road is all around us—but in other ways it’s totally made up. What of it is real? The power of imagination, the strength of families, the need for generosity and love, the great spirit of so many artists, the goodness of the grown-ups. All of that is right here in the world.