Friday, October 30, 2009
This week has seen the start of "Tommy and the Guttersnipe," an eight-chapter story with a holiday sequel, at the Weekly Storybook. Chapter Two will post Sunday, but if you don't see this until then, it's easy to go back to Chapter One and catch up. The illustrations are by Christopher Baldwin, with whom I have collaborated on a number of serials going back nearly a decade to my first, "The Legend of Perseus," which will be featured on the web site beginning in January.
"Tommy and the Guttersnipe" originally ran in papers throughout New York State two years ago as part of a statewide reading/education initiative by the NY Newspaper Publishers Association. It made such a hit that a sequel, "Anna's Story," will be running this spring. We thought it would be worthwhile to run "Tommy" on line for the benefit of anyone who wanted to read it before the sequel appeared.
The historic fiction is set in New York in 1896 and tells of Tommy McMahon, whose father has disappeared while working out West, and of Tommy's struggles to help support his mother and baby sister without the money his father had been sending home. It is very consciously modeled on the work of Horatio Alger, but involved a fair amount of historical research, including a visit to the Tenement Museum in New York.
When we ran the story in the New York papers, we asked students to write the next chapter in the story, and I was overwhelmed by the passion they put into it. Although the story was set more than a century in the past, the sense of abandonment and helplessness that Tommy and his family experienced was very present for young readers and Christopher and I were asked to produce a holiday sequel to tie up the loose ends. Then, two years later, we were commissioned to produce an entirely new serial story to let kids spend more time with Tommy and Jake.
I hope you will give it a look, and please feel free to comment. As my blogosphere friend Jean notes, that's how we know you were here.