Welcome, Lindsey, and welcome to MG Book Village. I’m so happy you could join us today to reveal the cover for your upcoming book, BEA IS FOR BLENDED, which is set to be released by HarperCollins on May 4, 2021. Can you tell us a bit about it, please?
Hi, thank you for having me! Yes. In the book, it has always been eleven-year-old Bea and her mom. But now, Bea’s mom is marrying a man named Wendell who has three sons, two dogs, and a cat. As Bea learns to adapt to life in a new, busy house with a new, bigger family, she also runs into new obstacles at the beginning of middle school. For example, Aileyanna-people-call-me-“A” moves right across the street and has a fancy bounce-back soccer net in the front yard, and a killer left foot. Bea’s always been the town’s “most valuable girl,” and there isn’t room for another left-footed midfielder. But when they arrive on the first day of sixth grade and learn that this might be the first year enough girls are interested in soccer to field their own team, A and Bea must learn to drop the competition and fight together for what they deserve: a team, with a coach who takes them seriously, and a town behind them.
Really, this is a story about coming together and lifting each other up.
I’m curious to how this story came to you, and how much the story changed from the original concept during the process of writing it?
For all of my books, I reflect back to my own childhood and some of the big emotions I remember feeling then. Each book is then powered by that seed emotion. For BEA IS FOR BLENDED it was a moment when the boys’ soccer team at my school dressed up like girls for team spirit. They wore sports bras over their jerseys, stuck their hair in little ponytails all over their head, smeared terrible lipstick across their mouths, and flitted around the halls pretending they had broken a nail. I remember feeling angry and humiliated, but I also remember feeling the pressure to laugh along with the boys, because the “cool” girls were the ones who could take a joke. I had a non-reaction then. I went about my day not laughing along with them, but also not confronting them and I remember my silence feeling so wrong. But now I have BEA and this book is, in part, my reaction to that behavior. Throughout the writing of the book, I stayed true to that seed emotion, and built the story from there.
Is there a character with whom you would have been friends as a middle grader?
I think middle school Lindsey would have gravitated towards A’s confidence. In fact, my real middle school best friend, Lauren, has some of A’s qualities, and I drew on my friendship with Lauren so much for this book. We couldn’t have been more different. I played every sport under the sun while Lauren sang in her church choir, recorded her own CDs for Christmas presents, and played the piccolo. I wore soccer shorts and t-shirts to school. She had a knack for doing hair into complicated updos. But we were inseparable. My friendship with her taught me what to strive for in strong girl friendships: No judgment, lots of humor, and someone who will link arms with you to lift you up, and make you stronger. This is what Bea and A learn to do over the course of the book.
This is your fourth middle grade novel, but the second one you’ll release during the pandemic. What are some ways that readers can best help support authors right now?
Yes, this has been a difficult time for launching books. What I miss most are the in-person school visits. I miss connecting face-to-face with young readers, feeling their excitement, seeing their classrooms, and their projects, meeting their teachers, hearing their questions. Besides buying their books, anything you can do to reach out to an author to let them know their book landed in the perfect reader-hands is always so appreciated. I LIGHT UP when I hear about a reader who fell hard for one of my books.
Did you have any input in the cover, and who is the illustrator?
Jen Bricking, the amazing illustrator, initially sketched a few options for the cover and together with my agent and editor, we decided on one. It was a tough decision because all of her sketches were beautiful and thoughtful, but this one just felt right. I love it. Jen captures so much beauty and just the right amount of storytelling and intrigue.
OK, it’s time for the moment we’ve all been waiting for….
Oh wow, Lindsey, this is so bright and colorful. I think kids will definitely gravitate toward it.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about your book?
There is no such thing as a girl book or a boy book. I hope that kids, regardless of gender, find strength in Bea’s story and that they find hope and courage in Bryce’s character. I hope they find comfort in Bea and Maximilian’s friendship and I hope they all want to take down Principal Meesley.
I love this! Where should people go if they want to know more about you and your writing?
Thanks again for stopping by the Village today, Lindsey, and allowing us to be part of your cover reveal. All the best to you and the release of your new book.
Thank you so much for having me!
Lindsey Stoddard was born and raised in Vermont. She spent twelve years living in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, teaching middle school English, before returning to the Green Mountain State with her husband and two young children. She is also the author of Just Like Jackie, Right as Rain, and Brave Like That.