It’s the Book Birthday of FLIPPING FORWARD TWISTING BACKWARD
by Alma Fullerton / illus. Sarah Mensinga / Peachtree.
A novel in verse starring a fifth grader who is almost as devoted to competitive gymnastics as she is to hiding her poor reading skills. What happens when Claire’s secret starts unraveling?
I am so excited to celebrate this wonderful–and important book!
But don’t take my word for it.
“Fullerton (No More Plastic) authentically and compassionately portrays cued-white fifth grader Claire’s experience with dyslexia in this easily digestible verse novel. . . . Printed in a typeface formatted for those with reading challenges, Fullerton’s flowing verse adeptly captures what dyslexia is like for Claire alongside her frustration around convincing her mother that she’s trying hard but needs assistance. This insightful story carries a strong message for teachers, caregivers, and children alike, and Mensinga’s emotive illustrations provide depth throughout.”—★ Publishers Weekly
“An authentic portrayal of children with learning disabilities. Readers will empathize with Claire as she struggles with feeling ‘stupid’ and will support her journey. The quick-moving plot comes with a satisfying ending, and the free-verse narrative provides plenty of helpful white space for reluctant readers.”—School Library Journal
10 Questions for Alma Fullerton:
Q 1. What was the inspiration for FLIPPING FORWARD TWISTING BACKWARD?
Alma Fullerton: The story of FLIPPING FORWARD TWISTING BACKWARD is very close to my heart because like my character Claire I am also dyslexic. A lot of the feelings Claire went through before her diagnosis were similar to what I felt growing up. I didn’t realize that I saw things differently than other children and thought I must be stupid.
Q 2. Did you compete in gymnastics as a kid?
Alma Fullerton: I did compete in gymnastics as a kid but I was nowhere near as good as Claire. Mostly I did it for fun. My older sister Susan was so much better than I was. She was partly the inspiration for Bethany along with my other sisters Cheryl and Betty.
Q 3. Was your writing process for FLIPPING FORWARD TWISTING BACKWARD more like competing on (choose one):
a. Vault b. Uneven Bars c. Balance Beam d. Floor Exercise.
Alma Fullerton: Competing on the uneven bars because there were a lot of ups and downs and moving backward and forward but when it was finished I knew I stuck the landing.
We agree. –You DID stick the landing!
Q 4. It is so very inspiring to learn that you couldn’t read until you were in fourth grade, and now you teach students with learning disabilities, and have a successful career as a children’s book author. Can you tell us about this journey?
Alma Fullerton: When I started school there wasn’t a lot know about learning differences and teachers didn’t know about how to help children. So for the first few years I was often singled out by teachers.
I was called a liar in front of the class when my teacher told me to take my time and write the words the way I see them and I said this is how I see them. I was also told I wouldn’t graduate if I didn’t take my time to write properly. I wasn’t thinking about graduating in primary school. I was thinking about recess.
“I stopped raising my hand…”
By singling me out the way they did I thought I was stupid, and so did the other children. So by the time I was in third grade I stopped raising my hand to answer their questions in class even when I knew the answers. I always knew the answers, I just couldn’t read them. I had friends help me write and learned more tricks to hide the fact I couldn’t read.
Becoming a Reader…
Thank you Mrs. Monds
In fourth grade, my teacher Mrs. Monds held a mirror to the board and had some children come up and try to read from the mirror. Without pointing me out, she told the class about dyslexia. After class I went up to her and said this is how I see (There really is more to it than reversed letters.) and she said I know and I’m going to help you. That was my first step toward becoming a reader. My second step was in ninth grade when the librarian handed me a book she thought I would enjoy -and then a second and then a third. Once I found books I wanted to read and characters I wanted to know more about I was hooked.
Becoming a Writer…
In high school I decided I wanted to write those stories. I had people tell me I’d never be able to write a book because I could barely read a book but by that time I had decided it was my life and if I wanted to be something I was going to do it. Even if it meant I had to work harder than other people.
I tell my students and children I do workshops with to never allow anyone else to determine what you can achieve in life. That’s important for everyone not just children to learn. I see so many adults give up too because of what someone else has said to them.
Q 5. How much does Claire’s experience mirror your own, or your students’ experiences?
Alma Fullerton: I went through a lot of what Claire did though I didn’t have a parent not allow me to take tests because that wasn’t a thing back then. I do see a lot of parents not let their children take tests now though. They’re afraid of their children being labeled and bullied in school.
These days though there are so many children with individual education plans that the labels aren’t there as much. At least that’s been my experience in the schools I’ve worked in. By not allowing the children to be tested you’re doing more harm than good.
Q 6. I know it was important to you to make sure FLIPPING FORWARD TWISTING BACKWARD was printed in an easily-decoded typeface. Can you explain more about this and how the typeface helps people with reading challenges?
Alma Fullerton: There are several different typefaces that make words easier to read. Some are weighted at the bottom or spaced out a little more so the letters seem to stay where they’re supposed to be and not jump around so much. There are some fonts that are easier on the eyes for people without learning differences.
Q 7. Many of your novels, WALKING ON GLASS, BURN, LIBERTAD, IN THE GARAGE and FLIPPING FORWARD TWISTING BACKWARD are in verse. Any tips for those of us who aspire to write a verse novel?
Alma Fullerton: Make sure the story comes first. Sometimes with verse people work too hard to make it complicated or poetic. Think about how the words flow in each poem and every word you use but a reader should never have to pull themselves out of the story to try to figure what they’ve just read.
Q 8. Without giving away any spoilers, can you tell us if, during the writing process, you always knew how the book would end?
Alma Fullerton: Through every draft the ending has always been the same. There was no other way to end it.
Q 9. What do you hope readers will take away from this novel?
Alma Fullerton: I’m hoping readers enjoy Claire’s journey as much as I do.
Q 10. Can you tell us about any projects you’re working on currently?
Alma Fullerton: I’m working on the illustrations for a couple of my picture books as well as a second novel for Peachtree Press. This book will also be a middle grade in verse.
Read an excerpt of
FLIPPING FORWARD TWISTING BACKWARD here.
Huge thanks to Alma Fullerton for joining us on the blog today and
Happy Book Birthday!
Find out more about Alma and her books at almafullerton.com
and follow her on Twitter: @AlmaFullerton
and Instagram: almajfullerton