When he was five years old, Creighton's mother left. He and his father know she has started a career as a singer but not much more than that. Dad's work with a carnival means they have not set
When he was five years old, Creighton's mother left. He and his father know she has started a career as a singer but not much more than that. Dad's work with a carnival means they have not set down roots anywhere for long and as a result Creighton does not have a formal education. When they finally settle in a small town, Creighton is 14 years old. When he starts school there he is placed in an alternate school — which it turns out is a place for "losers" — kids who struggle with learning.
Gradually Creighton meets other kids in his new school — like Schooner who can't read but has his own kind of wisdom and Carin who was a victim of sexual assault when she was thirteen. There is one teacher at the school who truly cares about the students and who encourages their hopes for the future. But when she announces she is leaving at the end of the year, the students feel abandoned. School becomes irrelevant and the students are left to fend for themselves. How will they manage to survive in spite of all the personal disasters that challenge them.
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is a teacher and elementary school counsellor who works and lives in Creston BC. A Soft Place to Fall is her first novel
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"The narrative pacing is slow but purposeful. The memorable characters, all cued as White, are drawn with affection and are scarred, flawed, and fully human. Their needs are great, their expectations modest as they hunger for connection and security. As Ms. Hayworth says, "it's hard to give to others what you haven't received yourself"… This quiet debut with a powerful message leaves readers plenty to ponder."
— Kirkus Reviews
"This contemporary novel dares to tackle quite edgy material, including rape, a near-fatal knife fight, dysfunctional parents and teen pregnancy. But it's less about violence than about how a bunch of damaged teens pushed into one classroom help or hinder one another as they cope with their difficult personal circumstances. Happily, it has uplifting moments that are pure teen. . . A Soft Place to Fall is realistic and well-paced with language appropriate for older youths. . . A well-told story with highly memorable characters and nail-biting situations. It doesn't shrink from the gritty side of life, and ensures that readers come away with greater empathy for those who struggle. Indeed, the teacher's methods gift readers with tools on how to handle those who lead more challenged lives.
"We should all look forward to this author's next book. (And is it any surprise she's a teacher and counsellor?)
— CM Magazine
A Soft Place to Fall is a story of struggles, challenges and loss from which triumphs emerge from the ordinary. . . BC's Tanya Christenson, a teacher and school counsellor, knows kids and she's written these kids as human as you and I. And she doesn't wrap up their struggles with happy endings, ribbons or balloons. Tanya Christenson makes their outcomes as real as the kids. They've suffered abandonment, abuse and upheaval, and they have endured. Sometimes they've triumphed over those struggles and sometimes not, and like all of us, they have needed support and a soft place to fall. Because, after all, we will all fall some time, some way. I just hope that there will always be a soft place to fall, perhaps even land, for anyone challenged by life. And that's everyone.
— CanLit for LittleCanadians
"This book tackles some heavy topics: rape, violence, teen pregnancy and family dysfunction. Its theme is resilience, and it's a gripping read. The characters are distinctive and memorable, and most exhibit solid character growth by the end. The dialogue is authentic… the writing shines… This debut author (a teacher and elementary school counsellor) is definitely a writer to watch."
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Finalist for the 2022 Sheila A Egoff Children's Literature Prize
On the Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books For Kids And Teens 2022 list
Creighton, abandoned by his mother, finds himself at an alternate school. Here he meets other teens who, like him, are struggling in life. Fortunately, they have a kind teacher who helps them feel connected. When she leaves to have a baby, they feel abandoned. How will they survive without her?
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A Soft Place to Fall is about a troubled group of teens who are trying to find their way in the world despite the many traumas that seem to follow them. As a teacher and school counsellor, the most difficult students are the ones that tug at my heart. They always have a story, that few people notice, because their challenging behaviors dominate.
I've been writing this book in my mind for years, wanting others to look a little more deeply, to find some empathy, and also to give teens hope, that despite a traumatic past, you can be resilient and find your way in the world. Teens (12 +) and adults will relate to the characters in this book and secondary teachers can enjoy using it as a novel study due to its prevalent themes.
If you enjoy my story, I also recommend Stephen Chbosky's, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
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Click here to read an interview with the author, Tanya Christenson, on writing A Soft Place to Fall.