Bethanie Borst: A Middle-Grader’s Perspective on Middle-Grade Literature

03Bethanie Borst is a 13-year-old with ADD and ASD. She writes twisted middle-grade fairy tales with her mom, Amie. Their first book, Cinderskella, releases October 2013! Bethanie can be found at http://www.facebook.com/AmieAndBethanieBorst You can visit her mom at http://www.amieborst.com and at http://www.twitter.com/AmieBorst.


Bethanie:  I’m not sure how to start this blog post.

Amie: *types*

Bethanie: Are you kidding me?

Amie: *smiles*

Bethanie: Stop writing everything I say! Now I’m mad.

Amie: Well, what do you want to say?

Bethanie: I don’t know.

Amie: *laughs*

Bethanie: Me being mad is cute?

Amie: *smiles* *types*

Ever seen the Allstate commercial?  “I’m a random windstorm. Shaky, shaky.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4IKsGm4os4

Well, sometimes that’s how life feels when you’re a kid with disabilities.  Because I’m both very random and my life can be, well, pretty shaky.

I’m an avid reader and I read all types of books and genres. I never really paid any attention to whether characters had disabilities (or how many there were) until I was asked to write this blog post. Then I picked up my books and realized there were lots!

One of my favorite kinds of books is action adventure/fantasy. The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton captured me as a reader. The main character, Persimmony, might seem like a normal kid to most people, but because I have a disability I get the vibe that she’s ADD.  Mostly it’s the way she talks and thinks. It’s all over the place. Much like me!

“Persimmony angrily kicked a stone (which, unfortunately for her toe, remained in place). ‘It’s all Prunella’s fault!’ she cried. ‘If she hadn’t pestered me about sweeping the floor right in the middle of my glorious dream about rescuing a baby from the teeth of a murderous alligator, I would have never have thrown the broom across the room. Then the broom would never have hit the Giving Pot, and I wouldn’t be here trudging through the Willow Woods in the middle of the night to fetch a new pot from Theodore. And with a storm coming, too!’”

Yeah, my brain kind of works just like that.

Ever seen the tee-shirt, “I’m not ADD, it’s just….hey! Did you see that rabbit?” Yup. That’s me.

Then there are paranormal stories.  School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari has four kids with phobias. I have a fear of circuses. And screaming.  There’s also May Bird by Jodi Lynn Anderson. The main character sees ghosts. If I saw a ghost, I’d scream and then my phobia would kick into high gear! Ghosts don’t like salt and quartz.  Or spit. So I’d make sure I stockpiled that. *Patooey!*

There’s contemporary fiction like Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor, Things Not Seen by Avi, Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech, and Larger Than Life Lara by Dandi Mackall. These characters all have different disabilities. Not all disabilities have to have the same struggles. In Waiting for Normal, Addie is a dyslexic flute player. Bobby, in Things Not Seen, is invisible and is best friends with a blind girl. Zinny, in Chasing Redbird, suffers from depression when her favorite aunt dies. Zinny is also socially awkward and doesn’t like to talk, which makes me wonder if she might have something like Aspergers or ASD. But the best one of all is Larger Than Life Lara who is faced with obesity. Despite her body image, she’s a positive upbeat girl.

Everyone with disabilities handles their situation differently. I used to go to public school but advocated (more like begged) to be homeschooled. School was distracting, boring and disorganized (all those kids taping pencils, making noises and hours of homework made my brain feel like it would explode! Or be eaten by a zombie.). So I started homeschool last year in 7th grade. I went to a co-op and took high school classes and got all A’s (whereas in middle school I mostly got C’s, D’s and F’s.)

Homeschooling has been a great experience for me to learn the way I need to in order to succeed.  So, you can imagine how excited I was to read stories with characters who were homeschooled.  Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli features a girl who is very different from her peers.  While she does attend public school, she was previously homeschooled. This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh has a main character (Ratchet) who is homeschooled. In my best opinion it wasn’t a great example of homeschooling, but maybe it is for other kids. In the book, Ida B by Katherine Hannigan, Ida was snippish when she went to public school and seemed much happier as a homeschooler. Although I’ve never been snippy, I’m definitely much more content to stay at home!  People have many reasons for homeschooling, sometimes it’s due to religious reasons and sometimes it’s because kids learn better in another environment.

There’s all sort of disabilities and many ways to handle them. I’m glad to see there’s a variety of books out there so readers can understand what it’s like to have a disability. Or for people like me so we can have someone to relate to!

Thanks for inviting me to be part of this Disability in Kidlit event, Kody and Corinne!


My mom said I should mention these other great links:
http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/2011/07/disability-middle-grade-novels/
http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/2011/04/shining-a-light-on-mental-illness/
http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/2010/09/learning-differences-in-middle-grade/
http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/2012/01/differences-superpowers-middle-grade-novels/


Bethanie and Amie Borst’s novel Cinderskella is available for pre-order at Barnes & Noble.

Cindy is just a normal 11¾-year-old. At least until she wakes up one night and finds out she’s dead. Well, she isn’t technically dead—she just doesn’t have any hair . . . or a nose . . . or skin. Yep—all bones, no body.

Human by day and skeleton by night, Cindy is definitely cursed. And because her mother recently died, Cindy has no one to turn to except a father who’s now scared of her and an evil stepmother who makes her do the housecleaning with a toothbrush. To make matters worse, the Spring Fling dance is approaching, and Ethan, the cutest boy in sixth grade, doesn’t seem to know Cindy exists. Of course, Cindy doesn’t think letting Ethan find out she’s part skeleton is the best way to introduce herself.

While facing such perils as pickled pig’s feet, a wacky fortune teller, and a few quick trips to the Underworld, Cindy’s determined to break the curse—even for a single night.

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5 thoughts on “Bethanie Borst: A Middle-Grader’s Perspective on Middle-Grade Literature

  1. Bethany that was a great blog, I agree with your mom you are awesome! I hope lots of people read this and get some idea of what other people deal with every day!

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