“MIDDLE SCHOOL MANIA” (courtesy The Times Leader, c. 2012)
Author: Dave Webb, a native of the Mountain Top area who published his first book in 1996, when he was a fifth-grade teacher at St. Jude School in Wright Township. He also has taught in Virginia and North Carolina and now resides in Monroe County.
Themes: School, friendship, making the right choices
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Available: Through Amazon.com as an e-book as well as paperback or at Barnes & Noble
Suitable for: Readers 8 to 12.
Characters: This is the third in a trilogy of books about 11-year-old Slinky Inkerman and friends.
Plot: While adjusting to middle school, Slinky runs for class president and helps solve a mystery that’s disrupted school for weeks.
Q: How much of what you write is based on actual events?
Dave Webb: I’d say about half of them are actual situations as they happened; some of them are things I see in my subconscious that I just put on paper. Slinky Inkerman was the nickname of my brother’s friend growing up.
Q: So, are the kids on the cover students of yours?
DW: Those are actually some kids I taught in fourth grade in Virginia. They’re all in their 20s now. I sent them all a copy of the book with a little note, “Nothing like old childhood photos coming back to haunt you.”
Q: You were a reporter. How did you get into teaching?
DW: I graduated with an English degree from King’s College. I got an internship with the Times Leader and then corresponded for a little while at local papers. I went back to school to be a teacher. It was just a calling. Then I thought, well, I work with kids and was a writer professionally, so how could I combine the two? Children’s books.
Q: Can you describe Slinky?
DW: He’s just your average kid. There’s nothing crazy about him, it’s just that crazy things around him keep happening.
Q: What do you hope kids who read this book take out of it?
DW: I want kids to see that things are going to happen in life but it’s all in how you deal with it. There’s also a moral dilemma. I want readers to ask themselves if Slinky made the right choice.
Q: Do you think kids are straying from books?
DW: It can be harder to get kids to read these days, which is why I don’t see this as selling books but as selling reading. One of my favorite quotes is from Beverly Cleary. “Children should learn that reading is a pleasure and not just something teachers make you do in school.”