illustrated by Nicole Xu, and published by Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing

Back in November, an editor at School Library Journal invited me to contribute an essay on writing about grief and tragic events for an elementary-age audience.

This may come as a surprise to anyone who mainly knows me as the author of Shark vs. Train.

But my new nonfiction picture book, All of a Sudden and Forever, is about the Oklahoma City bombing, the 25th anniversary of which is this coming April 19.

Hence SLJ’s request that I offer up some insight into being sensitive, respectful, and honest when writing for kids about some pretty tough stuff.

So, I did. I submitted the essay in the first half of February. And now here we are. The essay went up a couple of days ago, and I hope or someone you care about might find it helpful.

Here’s how it begins:

The first time I ever visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, I came away in awe of the complex web of tragedy, grief, suffering, heroism, recovery, remembrance, and community spun by the stories it told.

So, of course, I thought, “Picture book!”

Part of that response, I’m sure, stems from the fact that picture books are what I primarily write. As the adage goes, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” and picture books do have a prominent place in my toolbox.

But as I expect will be the case for many who encounter my new picture book All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing, the themes explored by the memorial and museum have resonance in lives not directly affected by the tragedy that occurred 25 years ago this April.

These lives include those of young readers.

Please read the rest here. And if you think that what I have to say — in the essay, or in the book — might resonate with someone that you care for, will you please share the SLJ piece with them?