Author Hannah Barnaby ’96 published her fifth and sixth books for children and young readers this July.
Monster & Boy (Godwin Books) and There’s Something About Sam (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) are both “built on the idea of friendship between two characters who are (externally) very different,” explains Barnaby. “Looking back at my other books, I can see that this is a theme that runs through virtually all of my books, so these are very much a part of my catalog!”
When Monster (who lives under the bed) meets Boy (who sleeps in the bed), Boy starts to scream — and Monster promptly swallows him. Through their adventures, Monster & Boy shows how the titular characters discover what unites them in “this sweet and unusual friendship story” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
In There’s Something about Sam, Max can’t quite put his finger on what’s different about Sam until a birthday sleepover, where Sam is just as strange at the party as he is at school: he’s wary of the full moon, prefers his hamburgers rare, and can’t help but bite the other kids during an innocent game of Twister. But despite his initial hesitation, Max discovers that what makes us different is actually what makes us special, and that new friends can come in all shapes, sizes and species…“Barnaby’s text hits just the right notes” (Booklist) with “well-written, lightweight fun [and] a little deductive reasoning thrown in” (School Library).
Barnaby is the author of the young-adult novel Some of the Parts, the picture books Bad Guy and Garcia and Colette Go Exploring and her 2012 debut Wonder Show, a Kirkus Best Teen Book and a finalist for the Morris Award.
“When I’m writing a young adult novel, the book is text only, so I must tell the complete story in words. But when I’m writing a picture book manuscript, I have to leave space for the illustrator to contribute to the story, to complete it by adding his or her images — so there’s an openness required on my part,” she says. “The illustrator decides what the characters look like, how they’re rendered, how they move through the space on the page. I’ve learned over time to embrace that part of the process and to look forward to the surprise of seeing the images merge with my words.”
As a student at HWS, Barnaby completed an independent study with Professor of Education Charlie Temple, an experience that “was an absolute gift” as she wrote a rough draft of a story for young adults.
“Charlie read each chapter with careful attention and absolute kindness; he was totally open to the possibilities in the story rather than focusing on the limitations or the mistakes,” says Barnaby, who drew on that approach later as an editor at Houghton Mifflin. “I still try to use that lens in my creative writing classes and when I do manuscript critiques for other writers. Charlie taught me that a teacher’s job is not to correct errors but to lead the student to their own way of deepening the story, and to clarify what they were trying to say all along.”
Barnaby graduated magna cum laude from William Smith with a B.A. in English. As a student, she wrote for Thel and participated in the study abroad program in Bath, England. She holds an M.A. in Children’s Literature from Simmons College and an M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. In addition to serving as children’s book editor at Houghton Mifflin, Barnaby has also worked as a bookseller and a writing instructor. She was the first writer to earn the Children’s Writer in Residency at the Boston Public Library.