xviii Acknowledgments Gribble, and Emma Bailey for their incredible editing and emotional support. Thank you to Mrs. Ellen H. Ramsey and Mrs. Vicky Culbertson, my school librarians who helped me find my “home” in this profession. Thank you to Mrs. Cynthia T. Simmons, my beloved mentor and English teacher. Thank you to Mrs. Diane Estes for being my teacher during the years I was homeschooled following complex surgeries, and to Mr. Donnie Estes, for ensuring I had physical therapy and every possible comfort during recovery from surgeries. I also thank Drs. James H. Johnson, T. S. Park, and Douglas Kehl, the most incredible doctors anyone could ever hope to have. Thank you for always offering reminders—tumble after tumble—to “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get going again.” I am grateful to my one of my closest and truest childhood friends and someone I consider to be an adopted brother. Thank you, Michael, for being you. Thank you for always being by my side, and for being one of the first people to put a book in my hands. I still remember our preschool and kindergarten days when the teacher would ask us to select our books. You could have simply selected books for yourself, but you always put me first, and you never returned to the seat beside me without books for both of us. Thank you, Uncle Bill, for always loving everyone around you and, along with all of our amazing teachers and librarians, creating Thorn- well School for countless children. As you told me when I was writing the address as valedictorian of our high school class, “Thornwell gave us our roots and helped us find our wings.” You always wanted us to write a book together, and you always wanted it to be a collab- orative effort, an effort that brought many, many voices and lived experiences together. I know you are looking down from Heaven. I know you have been cheering each and every step of the way. We did it, Uncle Bill. Together, we did it. Thank you to Keely Ruth and Bella, my young friends who, in your young journeys as fourth and fifth graders, respectively, help me to see the beauty in the world. I love you both more than you’ll ever know. Keely Ruth, I have such respect for your courage and your honesty. Your heart spills over with love. I’ll always remember look- ing into your sweet, innocent eyes. I had asked you what game you
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