Kathie: Hi Jessica, and thanks so much for letting us be part of your cover reveal today! Your second middle-grade book, THE RABBIT’S GIFT, is set for release by Greenwillow Books on October 25th. Can you tell us a bit about it, please?
Jessica: Thank you for having me; it’s a pleasure to be here!
My sophomore novel was inspired by the French version of our stork mythology, which holds that instead of being delivered by storks, babies are grown in cabbages and delivered by fairies. In THE RABBIT’S GIFT, babies are grown in cabbage-like plants called Chou . . . and delivered by rabbits.
The story is told in dual points-of-view and features a young runt named Quincy Rabbit, who is determined to brave the human world to find the purple carrot seeds that his starving warren needs to survive. The other point-of-view is a twelve-year-old girl named Fleurine, who happens to be the daughter of the most powerful human in the country. Fleurine longs to study botany but is expected to follow in her mother’s political footsteps, leading a country that believes science will destroy the natural order. When Quincy inadvertently leads Fleurine back to the top-secret warren where Chou are grown, they set off a chain of events that threatens to destroy both of their lives and jeopardizes the future of the entire country–– for rabbits and humans alike.
Kathie: This book is a standalone companion novel to The Wolf’s Curse. What made you decide to stay in this world?
Jessica: I’ve always thought of THE WOLF’S CURSE as my “death” book, and I’ve always wanted to explore the exact opposite of that in a companion novel, but of course a “birth” book felt totally wrong for middle grade readers. I couldn’t figure out how to pull it off until I was brainstorming with a friend, and she asked if I was familiar with La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy), which is a black and white silent film from 1900 that shows a fairy harvesting babies from cabbages. As soon as the words came out of her mouth, I knew I had my next story! At that point, it was just a matter of figuring out how to approach the mythology in a fresh way and making sure it complimented the world that I’d built in THE WOLF’S CURSE.
Kathie: Can you tell us what sort of reader you would recommend this book to?
Jessica: One of the things I love most about this book is that there’s something in it for everyone. Besides including animal and human POVs, the book explores various family dynamics in that Quincy comes from an enormous family, whereas Fleurine is driven by her status as an only child. In addition, the story balances magic and STEM, so it will appeal to fans of both fantasy and science. Between all of that and the themes of friendship, socio-economic disparity, and the delicate balance between humans and nature, I also think it would make a fantastic read-aloud for teachers and librarians.
Kathie: What’s one thing you enjoyed about writing the characters in this story?
Jessica: This book was particularly fun to write because both Quincy and Fleurine view themselves as the heroes of the story, and they are each convinced that the other is the villain. Although they both make a lot of bad decisions, the truth is that the two of them are doing their best with the knowledge and resources they have. I suspect readers will find themselves rooting for both characters!
Kathie: You were fortunate to have the same artists who did the cover of The Wolf’s Curse for this book. Can you tell us who they are and what you enjoy about the way their art showcases this story?
Jessica: The artists, Anna and Elena Balbusso, are twins from Italy; they knocked it out of the park with the cover for THE WOLF’S CURSE, and then they did it all over again with THE RABBIT’S GIFT! The two books are set in the same world, but they take place in different countries, each with their own unique magic.
The stone rabbit on the cover of THE RABBIT’S GIFT represents the mythological rabbits in the story as well as a specific mountain that guides Fleurine and Quincy’s journeys. Fleurine is pictured holding the very Chou that nearly tears the country apart. The lush landscape and rich color palette bring to life the vivid fairy tale world I had in mind while writing the story. There’s a special nod to the resolution of the story on the cover, too, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so I won’t say more.
Kathie: OK, let’s show everyone the brand new cover for THE RABBIT’S GIFT!
Kathie: Oooh, I love the way the way the sun beams down over the rabbit’s shoulder onto the girl standing there. What a striking cover!
Kathie: What would you like readers to know about this book that we haven’t talked about so far?
Jessica: THE RABBIT’S GIFT is publishing during what I hope will prove to be the tail-end of a global pandemic; instead of coming together, we’re more divided than ever before, and we’re also facing a climate crisis that could have catastrophic consequences. The story is a fun fantasy, but I hope it also opens dialogues about our divisions, science, and the responsibility we have to save each other––and the planet.
Kathie: Where can people go to find out more information about you and your writing?
Jessica: The best place to find me is on my website at www.jessicavitalis.com. I’m also on Twitter as @jessicavitalis and on Facebook and Instagram as @JessicaVAuthor.
Kathie: I’m very excited to read your book, and I wish you all the best with the upcoming promotion and release.
Jessica: Thanks so much for your support, Kathie; it’s been wonderful chatting with you!
JESSICA VITALIS is a Columbia MBA-wielding writer. With a mission to write entertaining and thought-provoking middle grade literature, she often combines difficult and timely topics with magic and fantastical settings. As an active volunteer in the kidlit community, she’s also passionate about using her privilege to lift up other voices. She founded Magic in the Middle, a series of free monthly recorded book talks, to help educators introduce young readers to new stories. She was recently named a 2021 Canada Council of the Arts Grant Recipient. An American expat, she now lives in Canada with her husband and two precocious daughters. She loves traveling, sailing and scuba diving, but when she’s at home, she can usually be found reading a book or changing the batteries in her heated socks.