One Square Inch

Ages 9 to 12. Farrar Straus Giroux 2010. 978-0-374-33652-1

Junior Library Guild Selection

How I Came to Write This Book:
When my husband was growing up in the 1950s, he participated in the marketing frenzy created by Quaker Oats when they began offering in every box of cereal a deed to one square inch of the Yukon, a tie-in the popular radio program, “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.” When he first showed his deeds to me, I thought nothing could be more magical than having a claim to such a tiny piece of land, one's own square inch, with all its possibilities. I knew I wanted to write a book about this someday.

I knew it would be about a boy and his sister who escape from something difficult in their lives by creating an imaginary world in their one square inch, but I didn't yet know the source of their need to escape. Finally, some twenty years later, my own life was touched in a painful way by mental illness. So then I knew that Cooper and Carly would be trying to create a refuge from their mother's bipolar disorder, and that they would discover that the only safe place anyone can ever find is the one we create for ourselves within.

Published: 2010

One Square Inch


For sixth-grader Cooper and his seven-year-old sister, Carly, the new school year brings new friends, stimulating class projects – and increasing worry as their mother goes from disappearing into her room for hours and hours to rushing about buying art supplies, taking on special projects without following through, and undergoing wild swings. Cooper and Carly find some refuge in constructing a tiny bedroom kingdom, and Cooper knows he should talk to an adult. But the right time for that never seems to come. . . . Mills effectively and realistically conveys both Cooper's rising anxiety and his mother's increasingly erratic behavior. . . Expertly crafted.
- Booklist

Affecting and emotionally true.
- Kirkus Reviews