April 19, 2024

Birth Stories for Books, JUST LIKE CLICK, by Sandy Grubb

Back in October 2018, I started a blog series called, Birth Stories for Books, Posts About Paths to Publication from Published Authors and Illustrators. My first post featured Oregon author, Jody J. Little, and her debut middle grade novel, Mostly the Honest Truth.

Fast forward six years later (! -- I hadn't realized I'd been doing these features for that long!), and I received a message from fellow SCBWI-Oregon member, Sandy Grubb, sharing the good news of her debut middle grade novel, JUST LIKE CLICK. Sandy and Jody are longtime critique partners, which is how Sandy became familiar with my blog series (I love these kinds of connections!) 

by Sandy Grubb

Anyhow, Sandy goes on to congratulate me about receiving the Walt Morey Young Readers Literacy Legacy award, and shares with me that Walt Morey was the very first author she ever met in person back when she was a third grade teacher in Idaho. Meeting Walt Morey inspired Sandy to aspire to publish one day.

Wow! Does this tie into the remarks I gave this time last year when I received the Walt Morey award, or what?! 

So here we are today, and Sandy's debut book, JUST LIKE CLICK is now out in the world (Fitzroy Books, April 2024). I'm so excited to be able to share Sandy's birth story for this book with you here today. Congratulations, Sandy! Take it away:

A Boy, a Book, and a Superhero
by Sandy Grubb

I was in college when I dared to dream that I’d like to write and publish a book one day. As an English and French Literature major, I fell in love with the beautiful novels I read. Several years later, I was teaching third grade in Nampa, Idaho, when the author of Gentle Ben came to town. I walked my class downtown to meet Walt Morey. I was so impressed with him. I’d never met an author before. It was then, I was inspired to focus on writing for children.

Now that’s fine and good, but next I needed to figure out what to write about! So, the dream kept percolating for quite a few years. I snatched at ideas and places and premises and people and made a few scribbles in a notebook. 

It turns out, the idea for my story started nearly 90 years ago, of course long before I was born, when two creative, talented men, the writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, created my favorite superhero, Superman. Just as my book didn’t happen overnight, it turns out Superman didn’t happen overnight either. Jerry and Joe first pitched the idea for a superhero comic strip, hoping to be syndicated in the newspapers. They were met with rejection again and again. They tried for five years to sell different iterations of “The Superman,” the first version using superpowers for evil, the next striving to be more sensational but still evil, and finally the Superman we know today who uses his powers for good. 

Jerry and Joe gave up on selling to the newspapers and sold their Superman story to Detective Comics (which later became DC Comics) for $130. Unfortunately, they also signed away all rights to the story. The rest of their lives they (and their heirs) were in and out of court trying to retrieve as many of those rights as they could, which as you can imagine became worth millions of dollars. With that sale, no one could have anticipated the multi-billion-dollar industry that was birthed.

The first Superman comic was dated June 1938 and released in April of that year. The emergence of superheroes coincided with the end of America’s Great Depression and the beginning of WWII. One could reason this was a time when people were looking for a superhero to save the world, but many reflected later that superheroes inspired Americans to believe they could save their own world. Today, readers are drawn to them for entertainment certainly, but also to inspire them to believe they can become something greater, to give their worldview moral clarity, and sustain the hope that justice will prevail.

The majority of today’s popular superheroes were created in the 30s and 40s, with another surge in the 60s. Interestingly, most were created by Jewish immigrants, like Jerry and Joe. Jewish people were harshly discriminated against for many years in many countries, including the U.S., causing them to feel like outsiders. They felt forced to change their names to hide their identities in order to get jobs and housing. Many jobs, including positions in traditional publishing, were closed to them. Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man, was one who changed his name from Stanley Lieber. Siegel and Shuster didn’t need to change their names; their parents had already done so. And so, it’s no surprise that most superheroes they created also hide their true identities, live as outsiders, and struggle to find their place in the world.

Image Provided by Sandy Grubb

Just Like Click is a type of superhero story. I’m calling it a superhero story for a new era. It’s not like the old Superman. It’s not in the DC universe, nor the Marvel universe—though my protagonist Nick idolizes all those classic superheroes. Stan Lee gives this definition of a superhero, “So in order to be a superhero, you need a power that is more exceptional than any power a normal human being could possess, and you need to use that power to accomplish good deeds.” In my book, Nick steps off the comic book pages he creates to become Click, a powerful undercover superhero, to save his dad’s job and his home at Black Butte Ranch, which would all be a lot easier if he had actual superpowers. At its heart, Just Like Click is a story of friendship, family, and finding yourself. 

As the story begins, Nick feels a kinship with undercover superheroes as he very much feels like an outsider, misunderstood in his own family and among the peers he’s grown up with. Superheroes, along with some new friends, help him dig his way out of the black hole he’s fallen into and find confidence and affirmation. With warmth and humor and fun comic-book-style illustrations, Just Like Click is a fast-paced adventure story. Kirkus Reviews tagged it “compulsively readable.”

So, I discovered my premise, my characters, my setting, and some fun twists and turns for my plot. My grammar and punctuation were impeccable, but I still needed to learn how to write a good story. After many SCBWI workshops and reading Lisa Cron’s Story Genius and Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat Writes a Novel, the light broke forth. In all, I spent five years drafting and revising Just Like Click, four years searching for an agent, two years on submission with twenty-six rejections, and two years in production after signing a publishing contract. The result is my debut contemporary middle grade novel.

I hope every young person who reads Just Like Click will come away believing they are superheroes, with superpowers they can use to change the world for good.

On my website at, you can find discussion questions, activities related to Just Like Click, and some fun how-to-draw-a-comic templates. I hope you will enjoy my book and share it with young readers you know.

What an inspiring story-behind-the story, Sandy (and an important cautionary tale about protecting our rights)! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. I especially love that your book is set in Central Oregon and your hook, a superhero story for a new era. Brava! 

And now, dear readers, you know what to do. The best way to thank an author whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. Buy their books. Request them from your library. Read and share them with others. JUST LIKE CLICK is available where books are borrowed and sold, including your own local, indie bookstore

Image Provided by Sandy Grubb
A former elementary school teacher and a longtime member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Sandy Grubb has an English and French Literature degree from Stanford University and a teaching certificate from U.C. Berkeley. Passionate about making life better for children around the world, she serves on the Board of World Vision U.S. Sandy and her husband live outside of Portland, Oregon, overlooking the beautiful Mt. Hood, where they enjoy hiking and skiing. Learn more at .  


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud, and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at  

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations, Sandy, on your debut middle grade! I'm wishing you SUPER success!