Published in 2003 by Orca Book Publishers
Mitch MacLeod may be the smallest kid in grade six, but he has a great sense of humour and a strong backbone. He can read, sometimes, but never at school when he has to. "You don't know what humiliation is until you have a grade one reading buddy who reads better than you do," he says. But things start to change for Mitch when he stands up to Philip, his arch-enemy, and when his dad, The Creep, moves back to town.
My children were attending Elizabeth Ziegler Public School in Waterloo, Ontario when I wrote My Name is Mitch, so I imagined Mitch attending EZ, too. The window breaking in the book is based on a real event. I was in the school's red tile area when some kids were leaning on the window from the outside. Suddenly the whole huge window shattered with a terrific sound. Amazingly, no one was hurt. The Elizabeth Ziegler schoolyard has a hill where kids toboggan and that appears in the book, too. The idea for My Name is Mitch came when I heard about a girl in grade 3 who had trouble reading. I thought how hard it would be for a child if she still had trouble reading in grade 6. I wondered how a child could handle such a situation. I had already written stories about girls (though they haven't yet been published) so this time I imagined a boy.
When My Name is Mitch was nominated for the 2005 Silver Birch Award, I received lots of mail. Here are a few comments from the letters.
From a special education teacher who read the book to her students, who struggle with reading:
If a child was absent for a day, the first thing they asked when they returned was 'What did I miss in the story about Mitch?'
Your book brought to light many issues these children deal with on a daily basis. Being in a special education class brings its own problems. Of course there is always name calling by 'regular' kids and each of my students could relate to a bully like Philip picking on them. After reading the chapter when Mitch finally gets up the nerve to read aloud in class, one of my students volunteered to read aloud in the History class she is integrated into. What a triumph for all of us. — E.W.
My brother is mad about your book. Every day I read him one chapter and he wants me to read more. I am planning to buy my brother My Name is Mitch. — Lavanya
I really liked your book that I read in Silver birch. I could never put it down. — Julia
I really enjoyed your book because it is humorous, thrilling and sort of surprising when he goes to his dad's house. — Carsten
I really enjoyed your book especially when he set up Phillip and you described him so well I laughed for so long. ... I think you should write a second book on this topic about him in a time machine where he and Phillip have to get along in ancient Roman coliseum. — Graham
I like your book My Name is Mitch because it is a little funny and a little sad....This is the best book in my life. — Raquel
I liked the part with the spicy lunch. I hope you will write a sequel. — Yoseph
I love your book. It is the coolest book ever. — Denny
My favourite part is when Mitch met his original dad. — Surinder
We just Finished the astounding book My Name is Mitch. I liked it when Mitch went to his dad and talked to him for the first time. — Jihad
It's funny! — Billy
I like the part where Philip got blamed for breaking the window. — Cody
I like the book because Mitch and his friend play a joke on the bully. — Jeff
Chevy reminds me of two people I know that are practically my best friends in the summer and they're my worst enemy when it comes to school time. — Carrie
Mitch made the story enjoyable by convincing his classmates to get back at Philip. — Mitchell
...the setting is....in my province of Ontario, and sounds like its calm and nice, like at Christmas with all the snow and tobogganing. — Mitchell
My favourite part was when they put the hot stuff in Phillip's lunch. — Mikaela
I like when Mitch...makes Philip not bother him any more. — Sonny
The book is very funny. — Amanda
The funniest part was when Mitch got revenge on Philip! — Brian
When I read My Name is Mitch I LOVED it! It was AWESOME! — Katie
Your book was simply the most wonderful thing I have ever, ever, ever, EVER read in my entire life. — Alexander
I have named your book the 2nd best book I ever read. — Dylan
I was bitten by the writing bug at around age eight, when I would fold a clean sheet of paper in half and turn it into a four-page book, written and illustrated by myself. I presented these books to my parents and younger brother and sister for admiration, and even though I turned the books out at quite a rate for awhile, my family remained appreciative. They were a generous first audience!
My mother was a teacher and my father was an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force (before the Air Force, Navy and Army joined to become the Canadian Armed Forces). Because of my father's job, we moved frequently within Canada and the U.S. Most summers we visited our farming relatives in Manitoba, and some of my happiest memories are of riding my cousin's horse, a pretty sorrel cow pony named June.
Picture a small sunroom with a large, leafy tree outside and a golden retriever sleeping on the floor. That is where I write.
One of the best things about writing is that you get to create a world. Even if you aren't writing fantasy, you are doing this. I tend to create worlds that are a mix of how I see the real world with how I would like the world to be. For example, I am a vegetarian, and there are quite a few vegetarians in my stories, more than I meet in real life: but not everyone in my stories is a vegetarian.
I first began writing for children when my own were learning to read. In grade one each of my boys in turn brought home a book or two every day to read to me, and I noticed what stories they especially enjoyed.
For beginning writers I will pass on advice I have heard from others: Read a lot, and write a lot. To this I add, when you've written a story, put it away for a few weeks and then reread it. You may notice things that aren't clear, places you can reword. Most important: do you enjoy reading it? If the answer is "yes," probably other people will enjoy it, too.