Kathie: Welcome to MG Book Village, George! Thank you for taking the time to tell us about your middle-grade debut SHAD HADID AND THE ALCHEMISTS OF ALEXANDRIA, coming out on October 4th from Harper Collins. Can you please give our readers a brief synopsis of it?
George: Thanks for having me at the MG Book Village, Kathie! SHAD HADID AND THE ALCHEMISTS OF ALEXANDRIA centers on Shad Hadid, a twelve-year-old aspiring baker. Shad’s life is uprooted when he discovers he’s descended from a long line of alchemists and sent to the mysterious Alexandria Academy. Only, his arrival at the school awakens a nefarious force long lurking in the shadows, and he unwittingly holds the key to either stopping—or unleashing—their evil plot.
Kathie: I recently finished an eARC of your book, and I loved how you wove Lebanese culture together with mythology, alchemy, and lots of humor. Why was it important to you to tell this story?
George: I’m so glad you enjoyed the advanced copy. Writing this story meant more to me than getting a book deal, and that was because I felt so strongly about the need for a story that highlights an Arab hero. So much Western media paints characters of Arab background negatively, and my hope is to combat this narrative, sharing our rich culture with younger readers while giving the world a diverse lead they can root for.
Kathie: Shad is an aspiring baker when he discovers his family’s connection to alchemy and is sent to the Alexandria Academy to study it. What’s one question you think he would want me to ask him if I interviewed him?
George: You should definitely ask what part of the Alexandria Academy he most wants to explore. There’s the dining hall with all the tasty foods, of course, but also the Great Library with countless hidden secrets, among other mysterious nooks and crannies across the school.
Kathie: Food is an essential part of this book. Do you have a favorite Lebanese dish?
George: Picking my favorite Lebanese dish is an impossible task! One that I would rate very highly is fattoush, which is a salad covered with toasted pieces of bread that give it a tasty crunch. Yum!
Kathie: If I was booktalking this story to a young reader in my library, what could I say to help convince them to try it?
George: Be sure to ask them whether they are an alchemist or a necromancer. They’ll have to read the book to discover who they side with, but the alchemists value tradition while the necromancers are much more concerned with progress at all costs.
Kathie: What’s one thing you’ve learned as a debut author that will influence your future writing projects?
George: What will most impact my writing moving forward is having a deeper goal that I’m trying to achieve. SHAD HADID AND THE ALCHEMISTS OF ALEXANDRIA was written for readers who didn’t see themselves represented in middle grade books. I’m going to be sure that I work to get across a similar goal or message through all of my books.
Kathie: Do you have another writing project on the go, and can you share anything about it?
George: In fact, I do have a few secret projects coming up! Though I can’t go into much detail yet, I’ll just say two words…graphic novels.
Oh, and of course SHAD HADID will have an EPIC sequel, which will take you across the world of alchemy. There’s so much to be excited about, and I’m humbled to have awesome readers along for the ride!
Kathie: Where can our readers go to learn more about you and your writing?
George: Readers can find me on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok at @ByGeorgeJreije to hear all of the latest on what’s happening with me. For personalized pre-orders and some swag, be sure to pre-order SHAD HADID AND THE ALCHEMISTS OF ALEXANDRIA from Books of Wonder in New York.
Kathie: Thanks so much for chatting with me today, George, and I hope young readers enjoy this story as much as I did.
George: It’s been a pleasure to be interviewed by you and the MG Book Village, and I can’t wait to hear what readers think of SHAD HADID AND THE ALCHEMISTS OF ALEXANDRIA!
George is the Lebanese-American author of SHAD HADID AND THE ALCHEMISTS OF ALEXANDRIA, a children’s fantasy novel with HarperCollins, and a forthcoming sequel. He has also written short stories published in collaboration with UNICEF. When not writing, George enjoys trying tasty Arabic pastries, messing with new yoga poses, and playing with his labradoodle, Sushi.