Beatrice Zinker, main character in Shelley Johannes’ middle grade fiction chapter book series, is an unsinkably optimistic, tree-loving, problem-solving, upside down thinking third grader with a top-secret mission to celebrate the things that make her classmates unique and special. She’s brimming with creativity, bursting with ideas, and intent on defying all odds as she both figuratively and literally flips herself upside down to do so. She is the epitome of the glass is half full mentality, a force for positivity, and a natural at seeing the best in every situation.
Shelley Johannes is the author of five books, including the picture book More Than Sunny and the Beatrice Zinker: Upside Down Thinker chapter book series. Her latest children’s book, This Joy, was published this past October.
Beatrice Zinker: Upside Down Thinker has received numerous awards including the Sunshine State Young Readers Award 2020-21, and the Nerdy Book Club Chapter Book Award. It was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a Beverly Cleary Children's Choice Award Nominee 2019-20, a Global Read Aloud Early Reader Nominee, voted Amazon Best Children's Book of 2017, Brightly's Best Children's Book of 2017, and the Today Show’s “Best Gifts for Seven-Year-Olds.”
This highly illustrated chapter book series is perfect for emerging readers and anyone who wants to explore what it means to be an upside down thinker. According to Johannes, being an upside down thinker means “thinking differently than most people.” Many times, Johannes says, “upside down thinkers often don’t feel like out-of-box thinkers at all—it’s just their regular way of existing in the world.” As a young girl, Johannes loved reading, writing, and drawing. The more she read, the more she wanted to become a writer. After a 10-year stint as an architect, Johannes dove headfirst into the world of motherhood and freelance work. Every Tuesday she visited the library and brought home “more joy” than she could carry. “Sometimes,” Johannes confessed, “I checked out so many books I felt like a criminal.”
Johannes reflects on when she was inspired to begin writing the Beatrice Zinker series: “The first time I saw Beatrice, I was standing in the library, having one of my criminal moments. She dropped from the ceiling in a ninja suit and nabbed the entire new book display—before being apprehended by library security. She amused me endlessly, and I couldn’t stop thinking about her.”
Beatrice Zinker’s top-secret mission is fittingly called Operation Upside, but Johannes, like Zinker, tends to do her best thinking while upside down. “As a kid, I gravitated toward being upside down,” Johannes shares. “It was so peaceful. I often did my homework while flipped upside down.” These days, Johannes does her best thinking when her mind can wander freely—in the shower, walking outside, or while drawing.
If you’d like to learn more about upside down thinking or hear more about Johannes’ work, you’re invited to attend a special author visit with Shelley Johannes at the Wickson Library on Wednesday, November 16 from 5:30-7pm. A feature presentation will take place at 6:00pm. Participants will have the opportunity to meet Johannes, make a craft, get their books signed, and learn more about how her books come to life.
Thanks to a collaboration organized by the library’s Early Learning Specialist, Beth Emmons, Johannes will be visiting List Elementary after her engagement at Wickson Library. Emmons believes in the importance of bringing authors to meet and speak with the children in our community because, as Emmons says, “Authors boost confidence, share experiences, and bring their books to life for young readers.” We hope you’ll consider joining us for this fantastic opportunity.