Remember when you were a kid? When you pulled cushions off every piece of furniture in the house and precariously lined them up on the floor? How you scavenged blankets and sleeping bags and created mysterious, dim labyrinths into which you and your best friend would disappear with crumbly snacks for hours on end? There were always flashlights and stories and giggles and secrets. The subdued lighting and upholstery formed a cocoon around you and everything inside felt mysterious, yet safe, and you loved it with all your heart. Remember?
If you do, you will find an elusive porthole back to that feeling in Will Taylor’s debut middle reader book, Maggie & Abby’s Neverending Pillow Fort.
Told by Maggie, an imaginative only child on the cusp of middle school, the story spans the summer before her 6th grade year. While not exactly an introvert, Maggie, the daughter of a workaholic single mother, doesn't quite know how to be or act in groups of kids, and has thus far been happy spending the majority of her time building forts and playing imaginary games with her one best friend and neighbor, Abby. And that has worked out just fine until this summer when Abby left her to go to camp.
For six weeks Maggie has waited for Abby to come home and when she does, she’s not the same. Abby’s now looking forward to middle school, she’s not as interested in pretend, she only wants to talk about camp and she definitely isn't falling back into her previous roll of sidekick. Abby is different and Maggie feels stuck. How will these two friends find each other again?
When one pillow from Maggie’s pillow fort knocks over a pillow inside Abby’s pillow fort, the land of imagination magically becomes a reality. If they can travel between their pillow forts, where else can they go? So begins the start of a fantastical adventure including an official pillow fort council, overseas pillow fort travel, and a required pillow fort quest they can only complete together. Along the way, Maggie just might discover that changing isn't all that bad. And trusting the new Abby while taking some of her own chances could be the combination that brings them together again.
Inspired by the magic of J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, Brian Jacques, Susan Cooper and the many pillow forts he built growing up, Will Taylor was more than ready to write for middle readers. Ages 8-12 encompass such a great section of childhood, he explains. Kids are starting to choose their own books and create spaces in their imaginations that don’t include their parents and other adults. It’s a magical time of exploration and growth as they learn who they are, how they relate to each other, and what they are capable of doing. He still carries a small, curious key he acquired at eight. He doesn't know how he came to have it or what it is for, but he loves the idea that it might open some door or make something work someday, a la Hugo Cabret.
Every adult that has read Harry Potter or watched the Polar Express will understand the positive effects of holding on to a little bit of magic.
In his not-so-spare time, Will volunteers with freshman English classes at Garfield High School, teaching them literary analysis techniques. The students choose their own stories and with his guidance, they each write and illustrate 32-page picture books. Will has his own picture books in the works too, as well as a sequel to this one, which will be coming out in June 2019. When asked what he would like readers to take away from his story, Will said he wants everyone to go build a pillow fort and look behind every pillow for that little bit of magic. And be sure to listen to the needs of your friends. ‘Friendship like magic, expands to fill the space you make for it.’
Join Will Taylor at the University Book Store (4326 University Way) on April 7th at 6 p.m. for the launch party and book signing.