Children's book author Deborah Wiles isn't afraid to write about life's most serious issues. Her popular books deal with friendship and the joys of childhood — but they also grapple with intolerance, death, rejection and the difficulty of having to do what's right instead of what's easy.
"What I do is write about what matters to me," Wiles explains to Michele Norris. "Everything I write comes from my childhood and my life — I basically write for 10-year-old me."
Wiles' most recent book, The Aurora County All-Stars, follows a group of little boys who play baseball (read an excerpt).
In Each Little Bird That Sings, for which she was nominated for a National Book Award, the author wrote about a 10-year-old girl whose family owns the local funeral home in a small town in Mississippi. Wiles says that adults sometimes try to keep death from children, but that it's a topic kids want to write about.
"They want to write about when their dog died or their grandfather passed or some difficult event in their family, and they should be able to write about that," Wiles says.
When she speaks to children, Wiles gives them notebooks and encourages them to write about the things in their lives that they really care about.
"I want kids to know that every book tells a story, every story comes from a real live human being, and that they have those stories to tell, too," she says.