Walk into a bookstore in 2017, and the odds are good that you’ll see the work of Hannah Barnaby ’96. The award-winning author has followed the 2016 publication of her young-adult novel Some of the Parts with two soon-to-be released picture books: Bad Guy and Garcia and Colette Go Exploring.
Barnaby has been a favorite of critics since her 2012 debut Wonder Show. That book, which follows the adventures of a runaway girl who joins a carnival sideshow, was a Kirkus Best Teen Book of 2012 and a finalist for the Morris Award. Early reviews for Some of the Parts are equally laudatory. In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly called Barnaby’s poignant but hopeful portrait of teenage grief and recovery, “Elegant… a deeply affecting depiction of moving on after a great loss.”
Bad Guy, about a young boy with a wicked imagination, is slated for release on May 9, and Garcia and Colette Go Exploring, the story of two adventurous but stubborn explorers, will hit stores on June 20.
Wonder Show took Barnaby seven years to write. But in just five years, she has produced another critical hit and her first two forays into illustrated literature. How does she account for her uptick in productivity? “There’s almost nothing that hasn’t changed,” Barnaby says.
When she started drafting Wonder Show, she says, she was a single Bostonian, working full-time in publishing, and had never written a complete novel. Today, she lives in Virginia with her husband and three kids.
“My schedule is more compressed, and I’ve adapted to thinking about stories, and to working on them, in a wider variety of ways. I frequently work in small pockets of time, scribbling notes or lines of dialogue in a notebook and storing them away for later. I’m still not a fast writer, but working on picture books has given me a whole new way of fulfilling the urge to write and allows me to get to ‘the end’ much more quickly,” she says.
When asked if there’s a theme that connects a carnival sideshow, a grieving girl with an amateur taxidermist for a best friend, and three children with adventurous minds and hearts, Barnaby says it’s her penchant for noticing the small intersectional moments in life and asking, “What if?”
“What if this girl found out her brother’s organs had been donated? What if two friends just couldn’t agree on what kind of adventure to have? For me, every story is built on that question. And I also take to heart the advice of the editor Cheryl Klein, who says, ‘Write what makes you weird,’” she says.
Barnaby earned a B.A. in English magna cum laude. As a student, she wrote for Thel and participated in the study abroad program in Bath, England.
For more information on Barnaby and her works visit her website.