First Page Review — FORGED BY FIRE by Sharon Draper
If you don’t sit your stinkin’ useless butt back down in that shopping cart, I swear I’ll bust your greasy face in!” she screamed at the three-year-old in front of her. He studied her face, decided she was serious, and put his leg back inside the cart. He was standing near the front end of the cart, amidst an assorted pile of cigarette boxes, egg cartons, and pop bottles. He didn’t want to sit down anyway because of the soft, uncomfortable load in his pants, which had been there all afternoon and which felt cold and squishy when he moved too much. He rarely had accidents like that, but when he did, Mama sometimes made him keep it in his pants all day to “teach him a lesson.”
Gerald was only three, but he had learned many such lessons. He’d never seen Sesame Street, never heard of Riverfront Stadium — he didn’t even know he lived in Cincinnati. But he knew the important things — like never mess with Mama when she was in bed-Mama got really mad when you woke her up, especially if she had somebody in bed with her. And never touch the hot thing Mama used to light her cigarettes, even if the mysterious orange-and-blue fire that comes out of it liked to tease you and dance for only a moment before running away.
Two paragraphs and don’t you already love Gerald and want to know his story and how ‘the hot thing’ is going to play into the story? How do writers DO that?? More importantly, how do I do that?!
• Sometimes the [grocery] cart would be a tank, as he passed cautiously through rows of armed cling peaches and silent sentinels that looked like boxes of Frosted Flakes.
• She was dressed in bright red from the top of her elaborate turban to the tips of her polished fingernails, and an air of regal self-assurance seemed to travel with her.
• His gifts were never frivolous or the result of Saturday morning cartoon advertising, but thoughtful and delightful. Last year, when he was eight, in addition to two books (he loved to read), a new winter coat, and a used but still bright and shiny blue sled, he got a flashlight, two sets of batteries, and permission to explore the basement and the attic (which had previously been off-limits).
What did you think of FORGED BY FIRE? (Haven’t read it yet? Go ahead. We’ll wait.)
Come back tomorrow and read my interview with Sharon Draper.
Sharon M. Draper is a professional educator as well as an accomplished writer. She has been honored as the National Teacher of the Year, is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Literary Award, and is a New York Times bestselling author. She’s received a ton of awards for teaching and for writing, and has been honored at the White House six times.
She started writing because of a challenge from one of her students. She entered and won first prize in a literary contest — $5000 and the publication of her short story, “One Small Torch.” She has published numerous poems, articles, and short stories in a variety of literary journals.
Here are just a few of her books.