All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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A video interview with

M.T. Anderson

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M. T. Anderson writes: "People write for children for two reasons: Either they have children, or they are children. I'm in the latter category. I loved my childhood, and I write for children so that I can recall it.

"I grew up in a small town surrounded by apple orchards and woods that had grown up where fields once stood. My town was one of the first to oppose the British during the Revolution. I spent my childhood playing in the forest, naming the streams and the valleys formed by quarries. I was not the only one to wander in those woods, and I was always stumbling across weird assemblages of refuse in glades and on hidden paths: automobile chassis overgrown with sweetfern; hideous curtains of unspooled cassette-tape hanging across ravines; a window leaning on an old, burnt washing-machine festooned with yarn. These artifacts arose naturally out of the landscape like story itself. The forest seemed to be bursting with fantasy. The wood led right up to our back door like George Macdonald's Fairy-Land, but with bikers, keggers, and free-range junkies.

"I didn't live near many kids and I was socially inept anyway, so my fantasy world was very involved and quite internal. I apparently became a little too dreamy and distracted-so much so that in fifth grade, my teachers became concerned that I was borderline autistic or had some serious learning disability; and my grandmother, seeing me whisper to some imaginary androids in the woods, became convinced that I was possessed by evil spirits. For the next ten years or so, she would regularly exorcise me.

"My love of fantasy became a love of literature. I began to write plays for my friends to put on. When I was about eleven, we did a dramatic version of Beowulf with a giant foam-rubber dragon puppet and lots of gruesome alliteration. It was supposed to be Anglo-Saxon. Around the same time, we did A Midsummer Night's Fever, which was supposed to be A Midsummer Night's Dream recast with John Travolta. I don't remember much about it except that Puck sang in a high-pitched voice like the Bee Gees.

"There's not much more to tell. The important thing to do if you want to be a writer is first of all to read — read everything — romance novels, nineteenth century novels, Sanskrit prayers, Greek epics, Chinese poetry, installation instructions for plumbing, trade magazines for pet shop owners — everything — and second of all, to write. Staring into the woods dreaming, after all, will only get you so far."

M. T. Anderson teaches at Vermont College; he is the fiction editor for 3rd bed, a journal devoted to surreal and absurdist literature.

Biography courtesy of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance.

Selected Books

from M.T. Anderson


Age Level: 14-16

In this society your brain cyberfeed provides an endless stream of information, entertainment and advertising. When Violet’s feed is disrupted, she’s cast adrift and everyone is forced to examine the power of the feed in his/her life.

Buy Feed

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party

Age Level: 16-18

Set during the American Revolution, Octavian is raised as a pampered African prince by a society of Enlightenment philosophers who view him as an experiment. Realizing that his freedom is an illusion, Octavian sets off on a journey to find freedom and a place in the world. These books will challenge everything you have ever learned about the Revolutionary War.

See also The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. II: The Kingdom on the Waves.

Buy The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party


Age Level: 14-16

Chris has his hands full—he’s growing apart from his friends, his parents may get divorced, his brother is a bully, and, oh yeah, he’s turning into a vampire.

Buy Thirsty

The Game of Sunken Places

Age Level: 9-12

When Gregory and Brian find an old board game while visiting crazy old Uncle Max, they could never imagine that it will draw them into a battle between spirit nations and lead to encounters with all manner of creatures.

Buy The Game of Sunken Places

Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware

Age Level: 9-12

Jasper and his pals Lily and Katie journey to a mysterious land that time forgot. . . .Delaware!?

Buy Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves

Age Level: 16-18

Fearing a death sentence, Octavian and his tutor, Dr. Trefusis, escape through rising tides and pouring rain to find shelter in British-occupied Boston. Sundered from all he knows — the College of Lucidity, the rebel cause — Octavian hopes to find safe harbor. Instead, he is soon to learn of Lord Dunmore's proclamation offering freedom to slaves who join the counterrevolutionary forces.

Buy The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves

Whales on Stilts

Age Level: 9-12

Racing against the clock, shy middle-school student Lily and her best friends, Katie and Jasper, must foil the plot of her father's conniving boss to conquer the world using an army of whales...

Buy Whales on Stilts