Regular Futures author Alex Schwartzman this week presents a cautionary
tale in the shape of Grains of wheat, which explores the world of
pharmaceuticals. Alex has previously tackled a range of topics in
Futures, from advertising to alien invasion and the perils of time
travel. His first tale for Futures was Ravages of time, and the story
the rumination on what isn’t appeared in the Futures 2 anthology. He
also teamed up with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro to write about coffee. You can
find out more about what Alex is up to at his website or by following
him on Twitter. Here he delves into the backstory for Grains of wheat.

Writing Grains of wheat

when I was kid I used to play chess. It went pretty much the way
Rohana describes it an ancient monarch loved the game so much that he
wanted to reward the inventor and magnanimously offered him an
opportunity to name his own remuneration.
The author of more than 50 books, most of them accessible to
middle-grade readers, now provides his young audience with a story
about himself. Briefly sketched in 49 pages are the first 10 years of
his life on a farm in Missouri. Childhood pranks, accidents, the first
day of school (his sister was the teacher) and the death of a pet are
some of the memories the author shares, as well as his early decision
to be a writer. The book concludes with ten-year-old Clyde winning a
dollar in a writing contest (and his parents’ singular lack of
enthusiasm for his effort).

There’s quite a lot going on in this story for its length: the
exponential sequences mathematics, the ethics of investing resources
into research for very rare diseases that afflict few people, the
pricing of life-saving medicines, the exploration of how much a man
might give up to prolong their life. The book can easily be read by
children of the author’s then age, who will be able also to identify
with the feelings expressed. The selection of biographies, and
especially autobiographies, for third- and fourth-grade readers is
limited, and this fills a need. Addison-Wesley’s “Self-Portrait”
series reaches this audience as well, and those books do have more
visual appeal than Bulla’s book, which is not illustrated. (The dust
jacket and frontispiece do show a few photographs of the young Clyde.)
Where there is a need for middle-grade biography, or where Bulla’s
other books are popular, this is worth considering. Elaine Fort
Weischedel, Turner Free Library, Randolph, Mass.

A crucial element to the success of any revenge plot story is that the
reader must want to root against the bad guy. I took advantage of the
first person point-of-view to show how Green thinks and the sort of
person he is.