Meet SQUINT by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown
My name is Flint, but everyone in middle school calls me Squint because I’m losing my vision. I used to play football, but not anymore. I haven’t had a friend in a long time. Thankfully, real friends can see the real you, even when you can’t clearly see.
Flint loves to draw. In fact, he’s furiously trying to finish his comic book so he can be the youngest winner of the “Find a Comic Star” contest. He’s also rushing to finish because he has keratoconus—an eye disease that could eventually make him blind.
McKell is the new girl at school and immediately hangs with the popular kids. Except McKell’s not a fan of the way her friends treat this boy named Squint. He seems nice and really talented. He draws pictures of superheroes. McKell wants to get to know him, but is it worth the risk? What if her friends catch her hanging with the kid who squints all the time?
McKell has a hidden talent of her own but doesn’t share it for fear of being judged. Her terminally ill brother, Danny, challenges McKell to share her love of poetry and songwriting. Flint seems like someone she could trust. Someone who would never laugh at her. Someone who is as good and brave as the superhero in Flint’s comic book named Squint.
I loved it! Squint is about friendship, overcoming hardships that life throws at you, and being brave when deep down you don’t want to. One thing I was impressed by was the complexity of the relationships presented in the book, which extend well past the school setting. As the story unfolds and Flint begins to mature, the dynamic of those relationships change in such a fantastic way – something I really enjoyed.
This book was witty and inspiring, with all the feels! I truly appreciate the authors’ use of humor to approach difficult topics. I highly recommend this book! I thoroughly enjoyed it and I know my children will as well.
About the Authors:
Chad Morris would love to be able to control animal avatars, see history in 3D, and show everyone how he imagines stories. Since the inventions that would make that possible currently exist only in his imagination, he settles for reading, writing, playing basketball, rappelling down an occasional slot canyon, dating his wife, and hanging out with his five awesome kids. Chad speaks Portuguese, can play the Phineas and Ferb theme song on the guitar, and does decent impressions of a velociraptor and Voldemort—but not at the same time. He isn’t very good at fixing his car, shopping for anything, cooking, or growing hair.
Shelly Brown has always loved children and books so when she started writing, it seemed natural to write books for children. In her spare time, she loves the theater and traveling. She is also one of the worst tap dancers you will ever meet, but she does it anyway. In addition to her five children, she has three chickens and sixty-four Pez dispensers.
Interview with Shelly Brown:
There are so many characters to love in Squint. Of course, I fell in love with both Flint and McKell, but some of the side characters really pulled my attention, like Danny and Grandpa. Which characters were your favorite to write? Or did you fall in love with all of them?
Danny is so dang charming it is hard not to fall hook, line, and sinker for that kid. And McKell is so uniquely talented, I adore her. But I think the character that surprised me the most in my love for them is Danny’s friend, Yellow. He is so loyal, and talented, and kind. I totally wrote that line where the girl yells “I love you Yellow” because he’s so easy to love. And because I was a teenage girl once and that’s what we do. I also really like that we learn that Danny and Yellow became friends when Danny approached Yellow, because Yellow looked lonely. He was the kid that needed a hand up and he has paid back that kindness ten-fold. All good friendships should be symbiotic like theirs.
One thing I love about reading your books is I always finish feeling educated. In Squint, we are introduced to Flint, who has Keratoconus, and Danny, who has Progeria (a rare genetic disorder). How do you approach writing about such challenging topics?
My college degree prepared me for excessive amounts of research and I love it. I want to know all of the things and not just in a factual data way. My favorite part is listening to people share their stories of what life is like with these conditions. The nuances that never make it into medical journals or even wikipedia. Then we have readers with these conditions help us fine tune details in the story as it is written. We want to know how comfortable they are with the portrayal of someone with similar circumstances as themselves.
In Mustaches for Maddie, we had already done plenty of research when Maddie was diagnosed with Craniopharyngioma but in writing the book we dove back in to make sure that a child with a different experience with this same disease would be able to see themselves in this story. We talked to parents and children alike. We had Maddie read over everything that we wrote. And we weren’t afraid to just change things if we were wrong.
In Squint, Flint is determined to be the youngest winner of the “Find a Comic Star” contest. As a mother of five children, I’m sure there is a variety of talents developing in your house. Are there any comic book artists in your family?
Pretty close actually. I have a few kids who really want to be YouTube animators. They have always worked on their chibi/kawaii style art and want to make animations for YouTube with their own flare. I remember drawing my own comics as a kid. I was more into the Saturday morning style with Jim Davis and Charles Schultz as my inspiration. Comedy was always my goal. Chad was a comic book artist when he was a kid as well. He still draws on napkins and the corners of his notes.
Speaking of talents, I have a ten-year-old daughter who dreams of being an author when she grows up. What advice/encouragement would you give young people who dream big?
I’m a big dreamer by nature. I shoot for the stars and never regret it. In fact, the few regrets I have in life were times where I doubted my abilities and was too scared to try. My advice for budding writers, no matter the age, is to never stop trying. Don’t quit. Quitting is the surest way to fail. If you don’t quit, you won’t fail. Now, I’m a little bit of a hypocrite in this because I have a saxophone in my closet as a testament to my swift ability to quit things. Nobody has the time or energy to do everything. But when it comes to your passions keep trying. It will probably take longer than you were hoping. It will probably take longer than you than you think it should. That’s not always a bad thing. You learn a ton in those times where you’re almost there but not quite there yet. The growth is exponential in those times. Don’t let frustration or fear rob you of reaching your dreams.
Want to check Squint out for yourself? Click here! to be directed to Amazon.
You can also check out their book, Mustaches for Maddie, another amazing book, based on the true story of their daughter, Maddie, who faced a brain tumor with humor and optimism. This is another book I highly recommend. We’ve even listened to the audio book version on road trips.
Want to check out Mustaches for Maddie? Click here! to be directed to Amazon.