Really No Big Deal, by Margaret Bechard

Really No Big Deal

Jonah Truman already has his hands full; it’s bad enough that he’s one of the shortest kids in the seventh grade, and that he can’t get up the nerve to say “hi” to a girl. It’s even worse that he’s trapped at every madcap kids’ birthday party in town as part of his best friend’s latest money-making scheme. But even the face painting, goofy hats, and screaming kids are really no big deal compared to his mom’s latest news—she’s dating Mr. Decker, the principal of Jonah’s school. Even as Jonah tries to keep this a secret, hilarious event unfold that may bring him some romantic tangles of his own.

Reviews

“Not since Betsy Byars’ Bingo Brown has there been such a likable character, similarly drawn with humor and empathy. Bechard has a wonderful grasp of adolescence — its angst, language, and sense of humor.” —School Library Journal, starred review

  • Selected as a Children’s Book of the Year by the Bank Street Child Study Children’s Book Committee
  • Finalist for the Mary Jane Carr Young Readers Award, Oregon Book Awards, 1995.
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection

Author’s Notes

My stories often start with a vision of a particular scene. (I wonder sometimes if writers who wrote before the advent of movies and TV “saw” things the way so many writers today seem to.) Often I get a picture in my mind of a scene or even just a moment that I think will happen somewhere in the course of the story. I then try to craft scenes that will lead the story and my characters to that time and that place. Although often, when I finally get there, I realize that the whole scene needs serious revision.

With this story, right from the beginning, I knew that I wanted a scene where two young adolescents, who are supposed to be responsible for a small toddler, get so distracted by their attraction to each other, they completely lose track of that responsibility. For some reason I envisioned this involving the toddler and a large container of ice cream. When I actually got to the scene, the ice cream had become a birthday cake. A much funnier choice.

My only problem was that I was writing the story about the wrong character. I wrote several chapters of this story from the point of view of the girl. I had always thought that the story belonged to the girl in that scene. But it started spinning its wheels; the story wasn’t going anywhere interesting. I started having trouble working on the next scenes. Then I started having trouble opening the file. Then I started having trouble turning my computer on in the morning …

I finally just sat down to think about this story. This kind of analytical thinking is, for me, a separate part of the process from creating and imagining the story. I just sat down and thought about what I was trying to do, what I wanted to achieve. I knew, first and foremost, I wanted this to be a funny story. And I realized that it would be much funnier from the boy’s point of view. I know. This is a sexist thing to say. But it seemed to me that an adolescent boy, put in the position of having to care for a younger child … well … it just seemed to me that he would be slightly more clueless, slightly more desperate. Not ALL boys, of course. But this boy I was thinking about here in this story. This Jonah boy. He would have more trouble in this situation. He would have less control.

Conflict depends on getting your protagonist into trouble. I think humor depends on that, too. Or at least, the kind of humor I try to write. Characters who are on the edge, characters who are scrambling to keep their balance, are funnier than characters who are in control. I realized that what I had to do was to take away as much of Jonah’s control as I possibly could. And then … not to say that the story just wrote itself, by any means … but I was at least able to go back into my office, start up my computer and get back to work.