Interview with MaryLou Driedger about SIXTIES GIRL

Kathie: Welcome to MG Book Village, MaryLou! I’m so glad I have a chance to chat with you about your upcoming book, SIXTIES GIRL, which comes out April 11th from Heritage House. Can you give us a brief synopsis of it, please?

MaryLou: Thanks for having me Kathie.  I’m a big fan of MG Book Village and I’m so excited you wanted to talk about my new novel with me.

Sixties Girl has two narrators, Will and his grandma, Laura.  Will is a nearly twelve-year-old boy whose parents have decided he needs to spend Wednesdays after school at his grandmother’s apartment. Will is not happy about this arrangement. But when his grandma starts telling him stories about her childhood in the 1960s, he is intrigued. Will is experiencing friendship troubles at school and Grandma’s stories just might inspire him to find a way to work them out.

Kathie: Will’s grandma shares several stories with him throughout their Wednesday afternoons. Is there a story that your own family enjoys hearing about your childhood?

MaryLou: One favourite story is about how an aunt of mine responded when she encountered a mouse during a family holiday at my grandparents’ lakeside cottage.  Another is about a big April snowstorm we had in Manitoba when I was ten years old. I wrote a report about it as a class assignment and my grade five teacher submitted it to the local paper and they published it! It was the first time I felt like a real writer! I use bits of both of those stories in Sixties Girl.

Kathie: I really loved reading local references and related to many of the details from Laura’s early life (so much has changed!!) What are some ways you think we can make historical fiction engaging and interesting for young readers?

MaryLou: I don’t think we need to worry kids won’t be engaged with stories from the past.  If we tell those stories in a direct and personal way, the very fact that so much HAS changed will intrigue children.  At the beginning of the pandemic when we couldn’t see our two grandsons in person, my son asked my husband and me if during our FaceTime chats we would tell the boys stories from our childhoods.  We couldn’t believe how interested and attentive our grandsons were as we shared our memories. Even now, three years later, they still often mention those stories because they made such an impression. I was working on Sixties Girl when the pandemic started and our experience with our grandsons affirmed my hunch that kids might be really interested in stories from half a century ago.

Kathie: Will’s relationships with his friends and his grandma grow stronger by the end of the novel. What do you hope that middle-grade readers take away from that?

MaryLou: Will has come through some really bad experiences with friends in the past and that has led him to doubt his own ability to make new friends and keep them. I want readers to know they can always make new beginnings with new friends who will appreciate them.

I’m hoping the book might prompt kids to ask their own grandparents to tell them stories about their childhood and that sharing those stories will provide a meaningful way for the generations to connect.

One other thing I hope kids learn is that relationships with older relatives aren’t necessarily exclusive. In the book, Will’s friends end up having a great relationship with Grandma Laura too.

Kathie: What can you tell us about the book’s cover, and were you involved in the design process?

MaryLou: The cover was designed by Setareh Ashrafologhalai. Although she is not the same designer who created the cover for my first novel, Lost on the Prairie, the team at Heritage House wanted to maintain a similar kind of look and feel for the Sixties Girl cover since some characters in the two novels overlap. I did get to have some involvement in the design process. Initially, the cover showed Laura holding a stack of books in her arms. I asked Setareh to replace the books with a suitcase since each of the stories Laura tells her grandson Will are associated with an object he chooses from a suitcase filled with his grandma’s sixties’ souvenirs. I think Setareh did a great job of giving the suitcase a real Sixties look.

Kathie: You mention a teaching/reading guide on your website for educators to use. Can you give us an example of one of the ideas we’d find in it?

MaryLou: One of my suggestions is making a book bento. In the study guide for Sixties Girl, I share some of the terrific teaching ideas I’ve discovered while visiting classrooms where students and teachers were using my first book Lost on the Prairie for novel studies.  One class at John W. Gunn Middle School in Winnipeg had made a book bento for my novel.   A bento is a Japanese lunch box with the food items arranged creatively in different sections.  You make a book bento by selecting objects that are meaningful to the story and placing them artistically around a novel. Students nominate objects and then debate which four or five best convey the events and themes of the story.  They design a book bento with the winning objects.

Kathie: What’s something Will would want me to ask him about this book if I was interviewing him?

MaryLou: What did you learn about your Grandma Laura from her Sixties stories that you never knew before?  How did hearing those stories change the way you thought about your grandma and thought about yourself? After hearing your grandma’s stories, are you glad you live in 2023 or do you think it would have been better to live in the 1960s? In what ways is your childhood the same and in what ways is it different from your grandmother’s?

Kathie: Where can we go to learn more about you and your writing?

MaryLou: I have a website for my books but I also have a daily blog called What Next?  You can find it at  It has sections for both my first novel Lost on the Prairie and for Sixties Girl. I am also on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Kathie: Thanks so much for telling us more about SIXTIES GIRL, and all the best with your book’s release.

MaryLou: Thanks so much for inviting me to be included in the MG Book Village and thanks for all these great questions Kathie.  They really made me think about my book in new ways.

MARYLOU DRIEDGER’s curiosity and love of learning have taken her to some fifty
destinations across the globe. As an educator, she has taught in three different countries and
is the recipient of a Manitoba Teacher of the Year award. She is the author of Lost on the
Prairie, and has been a columnist for Winnipeg Free Press and The Carillon. Her freelance
work has been published in numerous periodicals, anthologies, travel guides, institutional
histories, and curriculums. MaryLou chronicles her adventures on her popular daily blog,

Interview with Shawn Peters about LOGAN FOSTER AND THE SHADOW OF DOUBT

Anne: Hello, Shawn! Welcome back to MG Book Village to chat about The Unforgettable Logan Foster and the Shadow of Doubt, the sequel to your 2022 debut.

Shawn: Thank you so much for having me back. I’ve been looking forward to talking about Shadow of Doubt since we first discussed Logan a year ago.

Anne: Our 2022 interview was so fun! Here’s the link to it. Now let’s get to Shadow of Doubt. Such a crazy-fun story! Could we start with you giving readers a hint as to what it’s all about?

Shawn: Absolutely. The sequel catches up with Logan only three weeks after the events of book one, when he is starting to settle in with his foster folks, Gil and Margie (who are secretly the superheroes UltraQuantum and Quicksilver Siren). They are now living on a houseboat in Marina Del Rey, California, several miles from their original home. MASC (The Multinational Authority for Superhuman Control) has given them new identifies and told them to lay low to avoid being noticed by Necros, the super-villainess who is searching for Logan because he’s got the entire database of the planet’s superhumans contained in his one-in-a-billion brain.

Logan wants to make new friends, get closer as a family, and work on his life skills, including riding a bike to visit his best friend Elena Arguello, who is now a MASC superhero-in-training. But he is a magnet for superhuman conflict. When he learns the history of MASC and Necros, Logan realizes his own story may be tied up in a terrible event that was erased from thousands of minds… possibly including his own. That leaves him doubting whom he should trust and searching for answers in dangerous places.

Anne: Thank you. Dangerous placesyes! Lots of them. Poor Logan.

And here we are in April, which is Autism Acceptance Month. One of Logan’s unique traits, possibly related to his autism, is his eidetic memory—his ability to remember everything—which helps him defeat the story’s supervillains, of course. In addition, he uses the ability to calm himself when he’s nervous. For example, in one scene he launches into reciting the state birds of all fifty states. (Too funny. Really.) And my question is: what about you? When you’re in a tense situation, what do you do to calm yourself down?

Shawn: Logan and I are different in key ways, but I think both of us are in the process of learning how to handle tension. Logan is on the autism spectrum, and when emotions and tensions get high, he is prone to “stimming” which is an involuntary behavior that feels soothing to him. So, when he’s very nervous, Logan’s brain dumps lists that his mouth recites in a way that’s totally out of his control. The act of reciting them is his form of regulation. He engages in physical versions of that too, such as rubbing his hands on his pant legs when his feelings of frustration or anger get the better of him. 

As for me, I don’t identify as neurodivergent, but I do live with anxiety as a daily challenge, so my coping tactics are a bit more intentional. Mostly, I focus on my breathing… but honestly, at times I wish I had some fail-safes like Logan, because I’m still not great at always finding calm when I need it.

Also, this might be a good place to point out that Logan’s eidetic memory might not be a trait of his autism. While there is a lot of evidence that autism and certain memory abilities (like remembering facts and events) are linked for many neurodivergent people, Logan gets a sense that his memory might have been altered by something in his past, specifically on the day he became an orphan. This thread ties into the deeper theme of Logan wanting to learn more about his own “origin story.”

Anne: Right. He’s forever searching for his younger sibling and birth mom. (The story pulled on my heartstrings, just saying.) The plot is an epic showdown between superheroes and supervillains, but you go deeper than a good vs. bad trope, such as when a character tells Logan, “you’re not like other people. You’re honest, you’re real, and you’re not trying to be anyone but who you are…” (page 296). I love Logan! What do you love most about him?

Shawn: I love him too, and for so many reasons. I think he’s funny, both when he means to be and when he doesn’t. I think he is curious, which I believe is one of the core traits that leads to growth at any age. But most of all, I love how he is (in many ways) the least judgmental person on the planet. He believes in facts and whenever possible, he waits until he has facts before making decisions, which is something I aspire to. Like when he meets Connie, he sees how kids in his D&D club react to her vibe, and his reaction is different. He really listens to her, and he judges the veracity of the things she says independent of the tone with which she says them.

Writing Logan feels like getting to be a version of myself I’d like to be more often.

Anne: Oh, that’s great! Love it.

Now, the book is full of puns, such as the “Great Dane who likes to smell everything… even though he nose it’s not okay.” Groan. Hahaha. Okay, so where do you get your puns? When you’re with friends, do you drop puns as much as your character Gil does?

Shawn: In terms of my puns, I do not plan them in advance. I guess you could say they are not premeditated crimes. They arise naturally in the flow of writing, just like they do in my everyday life. I do not pun with most of my friends… which is why they are still my friends. But around my father and a few other folks who are similarly afflicted by the pun curse, the wordplay comes from listening to what’s said and playing off what’s heard. It’s about the sounds of words. Once you’re tuned in, you “hear” puns in conversation before they’re actually said. If that sounds odd or annoying, I understand it’s both.

Anne: Hahaha. Yes, sure, puns can be odd or annoying, but mostly they’re funny.

Now tell me about the element of Logan’s autism called “alexithymia” — the inability to identify or describe one’s own emotions. We see Logan trying to name his emotions and slowly improving in this area. What made you want to incorporate alexithymia into the story?

Shawn: A few times in Book One, Logan mentioned being unsure about what he was feeling. Also, he was honest about the fact that he found it challenging to read other people’s emotions; his own were often pretty elusive too. I did a bit more research on what that experience was called, and when I realized there was a term for it, I thought, “Logan would know that term and use it.” Logan’s alexithymia is also a significant way for me to avoid the autistic savant trope of being emotionless or robotic. Logan is neither. He is deeply, emotionally invested in his missing sibling, and over the course of the books, his feelings for Elena, Gil and Margie grow. It’s just that his emotional intelligence doesn’t function at the same speed as his “book smarts.” But then again, I believe that in certain situations, all people have a hard time knowing what they’re feeling and why. So while alexithymia is a big word, I don’t think it’s a hard concept for young readers to grasp.

Anne: A lot of the book is super funny, but when you get serious, you go all-in. My heart broke when Logan said, “the worst kind of lonely is when you feel lonely even when you’re surrounded by other people.” Tell me about crafting that moment (page 105) in the book.

Shawn: Yeah, because Logan is so logical, when he speaks an emotional truth like that, I hope it hits different. That moment is one that I couldn’t have written into the first book because Logan wasn’t ready to admit it. In my debut, he has convinced himself that he’s fine being othered and alone, since it’s all temporary. He believes he’ll soon meet his mystery sibling. He’s out of touch with his emotions and likes it that way. But a hundred-plus pages into Book Two, he has people enriching his life and accepting him for who he is, and he can’t deny that he used to feel lonely, especially when he befriends a “new kid” who puts up a pretty good front of not needing anybody. So yeah, if that moment makes you want to give Logan a hug, I’m glad.

Anne: Yeah, it was a good moment. And now that you’ve finished two Logan Foster books, what’s next? Do you plan to write a third story featuring Logan? What are you working on?

Shawn: If Harper Collins decides they want one, I’d love to write a third Unforgettable Logan Foster book. There’s more than one lesson I’d love him to learn, and there are a few juicy bits of backstory that readers want to uncover. But until then, I’m working on something so different, I might have to author it under a different name. It’s not funny or light, but it’s MG. It’s a book that tackles a big subject in a way that will appeal to young readers while also empowering them to make changes that the generations before them haven’t been brave enough to tackle. Let’s just say there won’t be puns in that one.

Anne: Ooooh, you’ve made me curious. Sounds really good. Okay, let’s end by telling readers where they can go to learn more about you and your work.

Shawn: Well it’s always good to start on my website,, or follow my twitter or instagram (@shawntweeters on both platforms). Also, if you happen to be reading this in the state of Illinois, The Unforgettable Logan Foster has been nominated for two different readers’ choice awards — The Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award and The Bluestem Awards — so spreading the word throughout the Land of Lincoln would be deeply appreciated.

Anne: Great. Hear that, Illinois readers?

Thank you so much for stopping by MG Book Village, and for writing such a fun (and surprisingly informative) story for young readers!

Shawn: I always love talking books with you and connecting with all the generous teachers, librarians, readers and writers who make up MG Book Village. I hope we get to do it again soon, both because it’s fun, and because it would mean I have more books coming out in the future.

Shawn Peters has written a little bit about a lot of things in a lot of places. Ads for huge premium cable networks and all kinds of small businesses. Movie ideas that ended up on the shelf and domestic date-nights that ended up in the newspapers. Columns about fantasy sports and finally, a pair of books about a neurodiverse hero in the making. Shawn lives in Massachusetts with his wife who is a real superhero (aka a public school teacher), as well as their two children, a dog, and a cat that made him retype this bio by walking across the keyboard. Shawn’s debut MG adventure novel The Unforgettable Logan Foster was published on January 18, 2022 by HarperCollins, and the paperback was released on November 8, 2022. It’s currently nominated for The Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award and The Bluestem Award.  The sequel The Unforgettable Logan Foster and the Shadow of Doubt is out now as well.

Anne (A.B.) Westrick is the author of the older-MG novel Brotherhood. You can learn more about Anne at the MG Book Village “About” page.