On Hope by Rose Brock

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Hi, Nerdys. Rose Brock here! How delighted am I to be left in charge of the Nerdy Book Blog this week by Donalyn? VERY. I’m beginning this piece with a confession (Surely, that will draw you in, dear reader because who doesn’t love the possibility of hearing something juicy?). Alas, it’s nothing too scandalous (I try to save my sordid tales for those with whom I get to chat with in person). I like big books and I cannot lie. Actually, that is true, but I also like small books. Really, I like all kinds of books. And it’s taken me one entire paragraph to get completely off task. Bring it back on track, Brock. Trying again.

If we’ve met, some of what I’m about to share about myself won’t be a big surprise, but if we haven’t, let me catch you up to speed by sharing a few things about me. By day, I’m a YA/Children’s Lit professor in the Library Science program at Sam Houston State University. I also am the co-founder of the North Texas Teen Book Festival, but I haven’t always lived in the US. Actually, I was born in Landstuhl, Germany and moved to the US when I was in elementary school. My family is German, and historically speaking, they were definitely on the wrong side of the war. My mom (herself a child during WWII) harbored a great deal of shame about that fact but still managed to be what seemed like eternally optimistic to me, and her “make lemonade” attitude was passed down to me (Nurture? Nature? Who knows?).  I’ve also been described in many ways: Passionate. Joyful. Friendly. Peppy. Cheerful. Bold. Bright, and possibly, at times, another B word because let’s be real—we all have our tough days where it feels like someone has peed in our Fruity Pebbles (would you expect me to eat some other grown-up cereal? Not a chance).

As I age, I’ve learned that it’s a real privilege to be somewhat wired to be naturally joyful and optimistic (Many people I love don’t come by it easily). I am also a dreamer and a hoper (yes, I believe I personally coined that term), and whether it’s in my genetic makeup to see the glass as half-full or it’s a product of conditioning, I love stories of resilience and tenacity, and I have spent my lifetime looking for hopeful stories everywhere—in the books I read, in the movies I watch, and most importantly, in the world. Here’s the tricky thing though; the older I get, the more I understand that at moments throughout our lives, finding and holding on to hope can be truly challenging. At times it can feel downright impossible. 

Here’s another Rose Brock factoid. I’m an educator. This is my 27th year teaching, and for the two decades I worked as an 8th grade ELA teacher and a middle school librarian, there were so many times I wanted to find a way to help my students feel connected and less alone because life can be really hard. Because it’s what worked for me, I tried to do that through books. No, I don’t believe a novel will solve all the world’s ills, but I do know that through the sharing of stories, we have the ability to help readers see others and to be seen in return; I can’t think of a better way to capture and share the human condition.

Fiction can do that for us organically, and it’s where I’m regularly drawn as a reader, but from those twenty years working in schools, I learned the power of sharing non-fiction with young people. In addition to the many celebrated novels in both my classroom library and school library, sometimes my students were looking for inspiring stories that were real. In the earlier years of my career, I often turned to books like Chicken Soup for the Soul to encourage them. While I’m still not sure just how “real” those books were, they were important and inspirational to many. What I learned from those collections was that books that are filled with real life experiences and shared lessons have an opportunity to profound difference to a young reader.

On May 10th, my newest anthology, Hope Wins publishes, and it’s my hope it will do just that—make a profound difference to a young reader. My Hope Wins (and Hope Nation) anthologies are what I call “Projects for Good” because besides sharing personal stories from beloved MG and YA writers, they benefit organizations and charities that I believe matter. As an educator, Hope Wins is the book I wish had existed over the years to give to the young people in my life that were struggling to say, “You can do this. You are strong. You can capable. You are enough. You can hang your heart on hope”. 

Since the publication of Hope Nation (a YA anthology) four years ago, teachers and librarians have generously told me how much they personally loved that collection, but how they wished there was one for the younger students with whom they work. Between these requests and knowing the difficulties faced by young people these past two+ years due to the pandemic (and let’s face it—just life), this seemed to be the right time to collect more stories by authors young people admire. Hope Wins is technically a collection of inspiring stories for young readers, but I would argue it’s a book for all readers who need a shot of hope, regardless of age.

From stories about how to survive feeling like an outcast (selections by authors Adam Gidwitz and Tom Angleberger), or what to do when parents embarrass us (by Max Brallier), or a how-to smartly battle bullies (by Pam Muñoz Ryan), or what you can do when forced to deal with loss and grief (by Stuart Gibbs), or how to find your life’s inspiration (by Gordon Korman, Janae Marks, and Soman Chainani), and even considering what are the most important lessons that can learned from time working with your family (by Christina Soontornvat), this treasure trove of shared experiences also includes stories by James Bird, Julie Buxbaum, Pablo Cartaya,

J.C. Cervantes, Matt de la Peña, Karina Yan Glaser, Veera Hiranandani, Hena Khan, Sarah Mlynowski, Rex Ogle, James Ponti, Ronald L. Smith, and R.L. Stine. I hope this collection will inspire readers and remind them to keep going and teach them that even in the darkest of times, hope can win.

To watch the author contributors share their definitionof hope, to: https://tinyurl.com/Hope-Wins-video 

To preorder: https://tinyurl.com/hopewinspreorder 

To read a sample (Christina Soontornvat’s “Everything I Know I Learned in a Thai Restaurant”) pull down to find “Excerpt”: https://tinyurl.com/excerptfromhopewins

Dr. Rose Brock is a professor and educator at Sam Houston State University who has dedicated her career to turning young people into book lovers. Building relationships with readers through books is her superpower. In addition to her career as a librarian and educator, Dr. Brock is the cofounder of NTTBF, the North Texas Teen Book Festival, the largest library run book festival for young people in the country. Dr. Brock was awarded the Siddie Joe Johnson Award for Outstanding Service to Youth by the Texas Library Association. She is the editor of Hope Nation: Young Adult Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration and author of Young Adult Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. Visit her online at drrosebrock.com.

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