When Jane Harrington had read the entire collection of Children’s Books at the local library to her children, she realized then that she needed to write some of her own. Jane grew up in the ‘burbs of Washington, DC, with a beagle named Charlie and a parakeet named Pudgie. Her childhood alternated between creating her own summer stories at the pool and immersing herself in the stories on TV during the cold winter.
Jane’s three daughters, now nearly grown up, provided Jane with inspiration for three of her young adult novels. The books are uniquely written in the voice of modern youth, varying from early adolescence to later teen years. Their plots are also easily relatable to modern teenagers, including the internet, a trip to Europe, teen romance, and the problems and joys of friendship.
Her most recent book, Extreme Pets, was inspired by the animals filling her classroom, where Jane teaches science and language arts. Based on what book she is presenting, Jane’s school visits engage the kids with things like having them make journals of their own travels, and bringing in an assortment of live animals!
Four Things My Geeky-Jock-of-a Best Friend Must Do in Europe
The teenage voice shines in this book. This unique style of writing is sure to grab the attention of fiction readers. The style sets it apart from other YA fiction. The plot unfolds when Brady, a budding teen girl, takes a trip to Europe and chronicles daily happenings and events when she writes letters to a friend left in the states. To spice up the information, readers are set up to understand the friend at home wrote a list on the hand of the letter-writer before she took off. Of course, the list is written with a permanent marker for all to see. And the list is made up of four things the writer must do in Europe. The text starts a bit slow, as the traveler actually travels to Europe, but by the time Europe is reached, the pace is moving right along. Much of the setting takes place on a cruise ship where Brady, who is traveling with her mother, conveys teen angst. Typical teen situations occur as she tries to fit in with other teen travelers. Many emotions connected to teens are addressed; shyness, silliness, and compassion are but a few. Some snide comments are interspersed with the regular text and they work perfectly. Much of the text is hilarious and, as is fitting, the book ends with the perfect question: “Is life a trip, or WHAT?” 2006, Darby Creek Publishing, $15.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Nancy Garhan Attebury (Children’s Literature).
My Best Friend, the Atlantic Ocean, and Other Great Bodies Standing Between Me and My Life with Giulio
Meet high school freshman Delia, her best friend Brady, and the Italian exchange student, Giulio. Guilio happens to be Brady’s boyfriend, but is Delia’s potential husband. Delia has discovered that the average teenage relationship lasts only 34 days, meaning Giulio will be free to begin their courtship in a matter of days. Delia’s story unfolds as she tries to fit managing the football team into hr schedule after she hears that Giulio played football in Italy. Of course, she does not realize that American and Italian football are quite different sports. Enter Richard, a football player trying to impress Delia. The tangle weaves in and out and finally unravels with everyone where they are supposed to be, and partnered with those they should be with. Harrington presents very believable exchanges between friends in high school, even with a potential discomfort level for Delia and some football players. The resolution is delightful and should be repeated at schools across the country! A perfect choice for a girls-only book club, or just for pleasure reading, though girls will appreciate this sequel to Four Things My Geeky-Jock-of-a-Best-Friend Must Do in Europe more than boys. 2008, Darby Creek Publishing, $16.95. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Elizabeth Young (Children’s Literature).
Jane’s school visits are flexible and engaging, with an assortment of activities available.
- When promoting her book Extreme Pets, Jane shares live animals–usually hissing cockroaches, snakes, millipedes, caterpillars or butterflies or geckos.
- For her teen novels, the kids can journal about their own travel adventures, make book charms out of Italian glass beads, and more.
- Something Jane can do with all ages is have a journal-decorating activity. This usually involves gluing neat things (feathers, cut-outs from magazines, seed beads, glitter, etc.) onto the cover of a spiral or marble notebook.
For all her school visits, Jane will talk about the creation of the particular book, show manuscripts or galleys, and do a short reading. She also has a question-and-answer time. Sometimes she’ll show kids what they can do on her website, if the classroom has the technological capabilities. Usually the kids get free bookmarks, too!
Each presentation is around one hour. Jane also does creative writing workshops, where she likes to involve the kids in turning real life events into stories. She prefers groups of 50 kids or less, in a media center, classroom or open area (please no auditoriums–these make hands-on activities difficult).
Her fees are:
- Local VA/MD/DC area: $275 for a morning program (1 or 2 presentations, to end by about 11am); $700 for a full day (up to 5 presentations).
- Out of town: $700 for each program day, plus travel, lodging and other costs.
To learn more about Jane Harrington and her publications please visit www.janeharrington.com.