Au­thor’s lat­est strikes at the heart of chil­dren’s strug­gles

The Palm Beach Post - Neighborhood Post - Southern Palm Beach County - - In Focus - By Faran Fa­gen Spe­cial to The Palm Beach Post

For Jupiter au­thor Donna Gephart, “In Your Shoes” was the most dif­fi­cult of her six books to write.

She had an am­bi­tious vi­sion of what she wanted to do with it — a story within a story, a sci­ence-lov­ing, snarky in­tru­sive nar­ra­tor and a tale told from two dis­tinct points of view that chron­i­cle the griev­ing process and how friends and fam­ily can help get you through the hard­est things.

“At one point, I threw out the en­tire 200-page book I’d writ­ten even af­ter I’d got­ten re­vi­sion notes from my ed­i­tor and started over, strug­gling to cre­ate on the page what I en­vi­sioned in my mind,” said Gephart, an award-win­ning mid­dle-grade novelist. “I’m so glad I put in the time and sweat eq­uity be­cause I couldn’t be hap­pier with the fin­ished book.”

The launch party for her newly re­leased book takes p l a c e f r o m 6 t o 8 p . m. Wed­nes­day at The B ook Cel­lar, 801 Lake Ave., Lake Worth. There will be sand­wiches, drinks, bowl­ing with prizes and a short read­ing.

In “In Your Shoes,” Amy and Miles don’t re­al­ize it when they first meet, but they are ex­actly what the other needs to help over­come their chal­lenges and pro­vide what they need to thrive. Liv- ing above her un­cle’s somber fu­neral home, Amy is filled up by the sounds and lights and love at Miles’ fam­ily’s bowl­ing cen­ter. And Amy’s pen­chant for ap­pre­ci­at­ing life and liv­ing in the present helps quell Miles’ fears and wor­ries.

“While they seem so dif­fer­ent at first, the two are per­fect to­gether to help each other nav­i­gate loss,” Gephart said.

Grow­ing up in Philadel­phia with di­vorced par­ents and a busy work­ing Mom, Gephart was of­ten lonely. She found so­lace at her neigh­bor­hood branch of the Free Li­brary of Philadel­phia.

“I think ev­ery book I write is for that girl I was,” Gephart said. “I hope the books I write now pro­vide so­lace, good com­pany and an emo­tional road map for young peo­ple deal­ing with life’s in­evitable chal­lenges.”

Each of Gephart’s books are filled with hu­mor and heart­break and with kind, creative kids strug­gling against re­al­is­tic chal­lenges to reach a worth­while goal.

Her pre­vi­ous book, “Lily and Dunkin,” fol­lows the star­tand-stop friend­ship be­tween an eighth-grader who is trans­gen­der and an­other who’s strug­gling with men­tal ill­ness. Read­ers come away with an ac­cep­tance for both Lily and Dunkin, and in do­ing so gain a keen un­der­stand­ing for kids — and adults — who share their strug­gle.

Gephart said she has great re­spec t and em­pa­thy for young peo­ple go­ing through their mid­dle school years. One of her fa­vorite reader emails came from a mid­dle school boy thank­ing her for “telling it like it re­ally is.”

“It’s a time of tran­si­tion and tur­moil,” Gephart said. “Good books are a won­der­ful way to pro­vide in­sight and com­fort and di­rec­tion dur­ing those years. It’s an honor, priv­i­lege and great re­spon­si­bil­ity to write for young peo­ple at this chal­leng­ing time in their lives when they have one foot in child­hood and the other in adult­hood.”

The credit for the clever ti­tle of “In Your Shoes” goes to Gephart’s ed­i­tor, Kelsey Horton, who wanted a ti­tle that was ac­ces­si­ble to all read­ers and cap­tured the essence of the story. The pre­vi­ous ti­tle was “The Great­est Story Ever Bowled.” Horton, of Dela­corte Press/Pen­guin Ran­dom House, sent Gephart the first copy with a shoelace tied around the book.

The owner and man­ager of The Book Cel­lar hope to cre­ate a mem­o­rable book launch party at their store. The man­ager came up with the idea of games of gi­ant-sized bowl­ing with prizes. There will also be sand­wiches and bev­er­ages as well as Jelly Krimpets — a Philadel­phia-based sweet treat the char­ac­ters en­joy in the book.

“I’m such a fan of in­de­pen­dent book­stores,” Gephart said.

“They’re a vi­tal part of their com­mu­ni­ties, cre­at­ing gath­er­ing spa­ces and pro­vid­ing in­ter­est­ing pro­gram­ming and events. So I truly ap­pre­ci­ate those who are sup­port­ing the launch of my new book and sup­port­ing the won­der­ful in­de­pen­dent book­store, The Book Cel­lar.”

The Book Cel­lar’s chief book­seller is Todd Ketcham and the owner is Tami Ayraud. For in­for­ma­tion, call 561-4525456.

For Gephart, the book launch will be a cul­mi­na­tion of years of cre­at­ing an­other tale of chil­dren over­com­ing strug­gles.

“There will be lots of hugs to go around,” she said.

For more on Gephart, visit her web­site at don­nagephart.com.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF DON­NAGEPHART.COM

Mid­dle-grade novelist Donna Gephart, whose new book was re­leased Tues­day, will have a launch party for “In Your Shoes” Wed­nes­day at The Book Cel­lar in Lake Worth.

“In Your Shoes” by Donna Gephart.

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