Divorce is never easy for anyone, and it’s especially difficult for children, who have no say in the decisions being made. Mondovi author Julie Bowe, who also wrote the Friends for Keeps series, is debuting a book about successfully navigating the divorce process from the perspective of a little girl called Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd). The middle-grade book will be officially published March 21 by Kathy Dawson Books, an imprint of Penguin.
Bowe said Big & Little Questions was inspired by her observations of children who have gone through divorce, and pondering how they are so resilient in navigating such big life changes. She said she feels a special affinity for telling the story of children transitioning between childhood and adolescence, and chose to write the book from the perspective of a 9 year old, just like her Friends for Keeps series.
“That age level seems to be a good fit for me, and I really love exploring the transitional years between childhood and adolescence. Plus, I was playing around with the notion of ‘big and little’ – how something can be a big deal to a child, but that same thing can be less significant to adults, or vice versa,” she says. “Eventually, the story began fitting into a framework of big and little questions. My main character, Wren, likes to ask lots of questions.”
“I know from personal experience that divorce is scary and sometimes it feels safest to keep it hidden. ... I wanted to see how (the main character) would navigate her way through it and reach her own point of grace and acceptance.” – Author Julie Bowe on her latest book, Big & Little Questions
Bowe says the inspiration for her stories is consistent, and this story was no exception. “Kids always inspire my stories,” she says. “Over the years, I’ve met some who seem to navigate divorce with such grace. It made me wonder how they came to that point of acceptance. I know from personal experience that divorce is scary and sometimes it feels safest to keep it hidden. So I decided to write a story about a girl who had just discovered her parents were getting a divorce. I wanted to see how she would navigate her way through it and reach her own point of grace and acceptance.”
Wren’s story is set in small-town Wisconsin, and a lot of the story takes place at her school and at the town library, where her mother works. “The story begins with Wren just returning from a long summer stay with her grandparents while her mom and dad were beginning the process of getting a divorce,” Bowe says. “When she gets back home, she decides to keep the whole thing a secret, even from her best friend, in the hopes that her parents will get back together. But keeping secrets from a best friend isn’t easy. Not only are Wren’s family relationships shifting because of the divorce, her friendships are shifting, too.” But lies can only be successfully maintained for so long.
As the story progresses, Wren experiences changes not only in her relationships but also in her outlook. “At first she is angry and upset that she doesn’t have a choice in Mom and Dad’s decision. ‘I’m part of this family too,‘ she says at one point. ‘I should get a say in the big stuff,’ ” Bowe says. But Wren keeps asking questions, looking for answers, and finding common ground and building new friendships with peers who have gone through similar experiences and those who can offer understanding.
Eventually, Wren discovers “the need to tell the truth and finds her own imperfect way to do it,” Bowe explains. Throughout the course of the book, “She discovers that friendship can grow where you least expect it. That little lies can create big complications. That families come in all shapes and sizes.” In other words, Wren finds a way to accept and embrace the changes in her life, as we all must learn to do at some point.
A book release event for Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd) by Julie Bowie will be at 10am, Saturday, March 25, at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire.