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Author Adriana Brad Schanen talks about her book, with Oliver helping, in her Montclair home. NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

Smart Cookies
(Quinny & Hopper Book 3)
Adriana Brad Schanen will read aloud

Thursday, June 14, 6:30 p.m.

Watchung Booksellers,54 Fairfield St., Watchungbooksellers.com

Schanen will be donating 100 percent of her author royalties from this event’s sales to the non-profit literacy group Little Free Library’s Impact Library Program, which works to place books in underserved communities.

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

Adriana Brad Schanen did not set out to write a trilogy of Middle Grade books.

She wrote one stand-alone book about outgoing Quinny and her friend, shy Hopper — and it took off. Disney Hyperion, her publishers, asked her to do two more.

“It was sort of a surprise series,” Schanen (pronounced Shannon) said with a laugh. The first came out in 2014, and the second in 2016.

Awards include the Beverly Cleary Children’s Choice Award Winner 2017 and Oregon Battle of the Books pick.

“Smart Cookies,” the last in the Quinny & Hopper series, came out on June 5. It is dedicated to “the passionate educators and young readers at Charles H. Bullock School — a

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Author Adriana Brad Schanen in her home in Montclair. NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

great place to be a kid.”

Speaking in her Montclair kitchen, which sometimes serves as her office, as does her porch and the Montclair Public Library, Schanen said she wanted to write a chapter book for kids who were a little older than first grade, younger than fifth grade, that was realistic and nuanced.

The challenges that face her characters are the challenges of everyday life, the ups and downs of school. Nobody is chosen to go to Wizarding school, or discovers she’s a princess.

Instead, Hopper decides that the friendship bench, a bench on which nobody wants to sit because it’s like advertising to everyone that you have no friends, should be a reading bench, and also sets out to make a Little Free Library. Quinny is outraged that sweets are against the law now in her school — and sets out to petition to reinstate them.

Other subplots include a neighbor’s pet chickens, a younger sister learning to read, and trying new sports and activities. Events may sound small, but the events are huge to kids.

That’s the point, Schanen said. Seven years ago, when her daughters were in first and second grade, she noticed there were not many titles for them to grow into that were nuanced, with character development, like there is for children who are 12 and up. “The stuff for the little kids, 8, 9 and 10 was either licensed product or super gimmicky and high concept and wacky. I missed the Judy Blume books, the Ramona books. Where was that fiction?”

Her books all take place in the third grade, and have been used as part of realistic fiction units in third and fourth grade. “It’s just the ups and downs of third grade life through the lens of a girl who is so extroverted that she has a hard time sitting still and then a boy who is you know often overlooked; he’s passionate and curious, but he’s in his shell and solitude,” Schanen said.

Parents have told her, “My child is on the autism spectrum, and relates to Hopper,” she said. “I got chills when I heard that.” Other parents have told her their child with ADHD relates to Quinny.

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Adriana Brad Schanen discusses her writing. NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

Born in Romania, Schanen came with her family to the U.S. and said she’s introverted, though she seems bubbly and open, as she pets her large dog Oliver, who often sits with her while she writes.

School visits are hard for her, but she stretches herself to do them. “We did not have visiting authors when I was a child,” she said. “Had that happened, I think I would have felt more secure in believing this is possible for me.”

Following the interview, Schanen left to give a talk at the Bullock School.

Quinny

Excerpts (the book is written in alternating points-of-view, Quinny and Hopper)

(Hopper)

“Principal Ramsey is for sure going to love this super-brainy and very, very extra-very polite petition!” she says. “All we need now is a bunch more autographs on it. And can you draw some cookies on it, again? Wait, wait! Can you draw a picture of kids doing homework while eating cookies?  Because cookies make it easier to do homework, and homework makes you smarter, so cookies for sure make you smarter.”

Quinny might be surprised to hear this, but I don’t think homework makes you smarter.

I think helping people and solving problems and finding something to feel curious about makes you smarter. I think making stuff, and making stuff up, definitely makes me feel smarter.

I’m happy that I’m helping Quinny. Even if I have to get hugged for it.

(Quinny)

Mrs. Flavio is up at the whiteboard again putting numbers into bunk beds (that’s called fractions) and then mixing them up with a bunch of decimal dot numbers. My brain has to squint to figure out what she is talking about. Plus Hopper isn’t in class today, which makes me even less happy to be here.
“Mrs. Flavio, can I go to the bathroom?” I call out.
Then I remember to raise my hand. You’re supposed to do that before you ask your question, but maybe she won’t notice I did it in the wrong order.
Mrs. Flavio leans down and looks me in the eye. It’s terrifying stuff.
“I find it interesting, Quinny, that every time I mention decimals, you feel the sudden urge to use the restroom.”
“I”m not sure it’s that interesting, Mrs. Flavio. When you gotta go, you gotta go.”
She finally says okay-but-come-right-back-no-dawdling, and I get a hall pass and go to the bathroom and I sit there in a stall and wait until I’m pretty sure decimals is almost over.
If Mom knew I did this, she’d be super upset. That’s why I’m never going to tell her.