|photo: Carter Hasegawa
Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky and now lives in the Boston area, where she practices medicine and writes books for young readers. Much Ado About Baseball (Little Bee Books) is a middle-grade take on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, featuring two 12-year-old math competition rivals who find themselves on the same summer baseball team and must contend with brutish opponents, challenging math puzzles, mysterious salty snacks and sneaky magic.
On your nightstand now:
I'm almost done with The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, and I'm scared to finish because I already know how things turn out in the future for Coriolanus Snow.
I just started Flamer by Mike Curato, and it's heartbreaking and beautiful.
Next, I'll dig into While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams. Sometimes I have to take a break from reading middle-grade and YA, and this legal thriller came highly recommended by my local bookseller at the Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton, Mass.!
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. I read this Newbery Medal winner over and over as a kid. I shared it with my own children when they were old enough, and they loved it, too. This book is part mystery and part family story, and I was fascinated by the large cast of characters, how they are all tied to millionaire Sam Westing and how they're brought together in a competition to inherit Westing's millions. The young protagonist, Turtle Wexler, was spunky and outspoken in a way I wished I could be when I was a kid.
Your top five authors:
Jhumpa Lahiri, Kate Atkinson, Anthony Horowitz, William Shakespeare, Sharon Kay Penman.
Book you've faked reading:
Moby Dick by Herman Melville. There is just too much knot-tying for me.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. This murder mystery within a murder mystery grabbed me from the first page and had me screaming at the book when I thought the answer might not be revealed!
Book you've bought for the cover:
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. And it was worth it! It's a twisty story with clever capers and unexpected betrayals in a darkly fascinating Victorian setting.
Book you hid from your parents:
Forever by Judy Blume. This was the book that was passed among our middle-school crew. My parents let me read whatever I wanted, so I didn't really need to hide it from them, but I would have been mortified if they knew what I was reading about!
Book that changed your life:
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I had never seen my own experience as an Indian immigrant reflected in books in the U.S. or in India until I read this book as an adult. This novel made me realize what I'd been missing, and made me believe that people might want to read my stories, too.
Favorite line from a book:
"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends." --Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. Living in a world where people are so ready to make snap decisions about others, I love this quote about not rushing to condemn.
Five books you'll never part with:
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I'd love to read this gripping, iterative story again without knowing how it ends.
Character I've learned from:
Beatrice in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. She's been spurned and hurt, but she keeps her wit and sense of humor, and underneath her cynical exterior, she remains hopeful. I aspire to come up with rejoinders as brilliant as those that Beatrice rattles off in iambic pentameter.