Renée Watson on the Stories She Loved, the Books She’s Reading, and the Poems She May Write One Day

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Meet Renée Watson, author of This Side of Home, the latest pick for our Young Adult Signed First Editions Club. She’s the creator of characters such as Maya Younger, a high school senior coming into her own as an adult and coping with changes in her community, her school, and her friendships. Stephanie Appell, our manager of books for young readers, selected this book for the club and describes it like this: “Maya is so proud of who she is and where she’s from, and she so desperately wants to do the right thing, but as the people and places around her change, she struggles to know what the right thing is.” Sounds like adolescence, doesn’t it?

It’s not surprising that someone who so adeptly tells stories to which young people relate has been an avid reader all her life. We asked Watson to name a few of the books that helped form the person — and the author — she is today.

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The book(s) you loved most as a child:
Oh, so many! It’s hard to choose. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary were favorites during my early reading years. As a teen, I loved Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

TSOHThe book(s) you’ve owned the longest:
Richard Scarry’s Nursery Tales and a collection of Bible stories for children.

The book that made you want to be a writer:
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

The book you thought you’d love but didn’t:
I can’t think of a book I thought I’d love but didn’t. In general, fantasy is not my favorite genre.

The book you thought you’d hate but didn’t:
In middle school my teacher had the class read Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I didn’t think I’d like the book based off of the title but it became one of my favorites.

The book(s) you most often give as a present to others:
I usually give poetry books as gifts. Some of my favorites to give young people are Amaze Me by Naomi Shihab-Nye or Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Depending on the occasion and person, my go-to poetry books to gift to adults are Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton, Where A Nickel Costs a Dime by Willie Perdomo, or Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks.

The book every child should read:
When I’m talking with teens, I always recommend The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

The book every adult should read:
I love reading plays. I think everyone should read Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.

The book you read most recently:
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

The book you want to read next:
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.

The book you want to write next:
I’m not sure what will be next but I hope to write a book of poems one day.

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Read along with Renée Watson: 

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ISBN-13: 9781599906683 Availability: On Our Shelves Now Published: Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 2/2015
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ISBN-13: 9780064410939 Availability: On Our Shelves Now Published: HarperCollins, 10/2001
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ISBN-13: 9780380709564 Availability: On Our Shelves Now Published: HarperCollins, 10/1992

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ISBN-13: 9780060838676 Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 1/2006

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ISBN-13: 9780061120084 Availability: On Our Shelves Now Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 6/2006
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ISBN-13: 9780385375337 Availability: On Our Shelves Now Published: Golden Books, 1/2014
$11.00

ISBN-13: 9780679734772 Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days Published: Vintage, 1/1984

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ISBN-13: 9780399501487 Availability: On Our Shelves Now Published: Perigee Trade, 7/1959

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ISBN-13: 9780060572341 Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days Published: HarperCollins, 2/2004

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ISBN-13: 9781880238882 Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days Published: BOA Editions Ltd., 4/2000

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ISBN-13: 9780393313833 Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days Published: W. W. Norton & Company, 3/1996

$12.99

ISBN-13: 9780060882969 Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 7/2006

$15.00

ISBN-13: 9780316013697 Availability: On Our Shelves Now Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 4/2009

A Raisin in the Sun (Mass Market Paperback)

$7.50

ISBN-13: 9780679755333 Availability: On Our Shelves Now Published: Vintage, 1/1994

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ISBN-13: 9780399252518 Availability: On Our Shelves Now Published: Nancy Paulsen Books, 8/2014

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ISBN-13: 9780544107717 Availability: On Our Shelves Now Published: Houghton Mifflin, 3/2014