Book excerpt

Hole in My Life

Jack Gantos

FSG Books for Young Readers

From Hole in My Life

From my cell window I could see a line of houses in the distance. All week the people had been putting up Halloween decorations. We didn't celebrate Halloween in prison. . . or, I should say, every day in prison was scarier than any Halloween, so there was no reason to do anything special on October 31st. But thinking of Halloween reminded me of a funny story from when I was in fifth grade. We were living in Kendall, Florida, right on the train tracks. One Halloween afternoon police cars flooded our neighborhood and announced that Halloween was canceled because there had been a prison break upstate at Raford. A couple of guys had hopped a freight and the cops thought they may have jumped off in our area. We locked our doors and turned on all the lights. We pulled the curtains. All night I scampered from window to window peeking out and looking for unshaven suspicious types in striped outfits. Every time a bush rustled in the wind my heart leapt. I saw rugged prison mugs in every shadow. It was the most exciting Halloween ever. The escapees were caught not far from our house and I was disappointed that I hadn't spotted them slinking around.

I wrote this story down in my journal. From time to time I wrote down other funny stories and memories about my family and my childhood. It was a relief to write stories that didn't have bars around them.

Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert Honors, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book, and Dead End in Norvelt, winner of the Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.

 

Jack was raised in Norvelt, Pennsylvania, and when he was seven, his family moved to Barbados. He attended British schools, where there was much emphasis on reading and writing, and teachers made learning a lot of fun. When the family moved to south Florida, he found his new classmates uninterested in their studies, and his teachers spent most of their time disciplining students. Jack retreated to an abandoned bookmobile (three flat tires and empty of books) parked out behind the sandy ball field, and read for most of the day. The seeds for Jack’s writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister’s diary and decided he could write better than she could. He begged his mother for a diary and began to collect anecdotes he overheard at school, mostly from standing outside the teachers’ lounge and listening to their lunchtime conversations. Later, he incorporated many of these anecdotes into stories.

 

While in college, he and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of well-deserved rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. It was a success and the beginning of Jack’s career as a professional writer. Jack continued to write children’s books and began to teach courses in children’s book writing and children’s literature. He developed the master’s degree program in children’s book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children’s book writers. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking. He lives with his family in Boston, Massachusetts.