I am very happy to have Michael Scotto on sharpread today as a guest poster. His debut novel, Latasha and the Little Red Tornado drops this week. Earlier this year Michael visited my school, and Latasha has since taken over independent reading. If you are looking for a great novel for young readers, I promise you, Latasha will not disappoint.
Hi there! Michael Scotto here. I’m visiting sharpread today because my debut middle-grade novel, Latasha and the Little Red Tornado, goes on sale this week. A tale about maturity,improvisation, and one wild little dog, it tells the story of Latasha Gandy, an 8-year-old African-American girl living in Pittsburgh with her hard working mother and a badly behaved puppy named Ella Fitzgerald.
During the months I was writing my novel, I read many great books to keep me motivated and inspired. I won’t share all of them here—it’s a long list, and after all, I’d like you to have the energy to read my book when you finish this—but I would like to tell you about the top three books that influenced me as I wrote Latasha and the Little Red Tornado.
Book 1: Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
This book bears the most direct similarities to my own, with both featuring an eight-year-old girl as the main character. I read this before I got to work brainstorming Latasha.Reading it reminded me about how though boys and girls have many different experiences growing up, there is a lot about growing up that is universal. It made me confident that I could write a story with a female lead that would appeal to both girls and boys. As a little nod to that, I gave Latasha’s name the same rhythm as Ramona’s. Ramona Quimby – Latasha Gandy.
Book 2: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
One of the main engines of my book is Latasha’sfeeling that she doesn’t get the respect she deserves. Fourth Grade Nothing, with its frustrated older brother character,Peter, helped me get back in touch with that sort of feeling.
Book 3: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
On the face of things, this book would seem to have no relation at all to Latasha and the Little Red Tornado. Paterson’s book is rural; mine is urban. It features a male lead with a female best friend; mine does the reverse. This book’s subjectmatter gets a great deal darker than mine, as well. However, it was probably the most important book that I read while working on my own. Honestly, I read it cover-to-cover a solid five times while I was writing, and I read the final quarter of the book even more often. What Bridge reminded me to do was to write honestly, and not to shield my characters from whatever the story brought upon them, even if it made me upset. Hopefully, when you read Latasha, you’ll find that my aim was true.