Five Things You Should Know About A THOUSAND QUESTIONS by Saadia Faruqi

FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT A THOUSAND QUESTIONS

Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s tender and honest middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval with kind hearts, big dreams, and all the right questions. A Thousand Questions (Quill Tree Books, Oct 6). Preorder here.  

When I started writing A Thousand Questions, I wondered if anyone in the U.S. would be interested in reading about my birth country of Pakistan. Add to that the fact that this book isn’t about some big tragedy or major injustice, but rather a story about everyday life in another country. I’ve decided that the answer to this question is yes. Our young readers today are smart and curious. They look forward to books in unusual settings because they want to learn and be entertained.

So here are five important (and fun) things a reader will take away from A Thousand Questions:

  1. Life in other countries is very similar to ours.

Often, we tend to exoticize life in other countries. How many times have you heard a British accent and thought it sounded just the coolest? And how many times have you met someone from the Middle East and wondered how much freedom they had? A Thousand Questions showcases the everyday, mundane tasks of life in Pakistan through two perspectives: Mimi’s new, wondering perspective as an outsider, and Sakina’s weary, old perspective of someone who’s lived there all her life. From the streets of Karachi to the delicious foods cooked in Nani’s kitchen, there is so much American readers will find familiar and comforting.

2. Speaking of food, Pakistani cuisine is delicious.

Sakina’s father is the cook in Mimi’s grandparents’ house, and he takes pride in cooking the most delicious and mouthwatering food. Interestingly this isn’t the food you’d find in a south Asian restaurant (tikka or biryani for example) but ordinary household foods I grew up eating, such as aaloo gosht or pulao. What’s especially relevant is that Mimi, the American grandchild, finds the food too spicy in the beginning of the story. But as time goes by, she learns to appreciate what’s on the table. I think readers are like that as well: they may find a book like A Thousand Questions unusual at first, but they’ll hopefully love it as they continue to read.

3. Karachi is an amazing destination for tourists.

Like any other big city, Karachi (the financial center of Pakistan) has its fair share of problems. Overcrowding, poverty, bad roads, etc. But it’s also an incredibly diverse city and a premier destination for tourists to South Asia. I was born in Karachi and grew up there, so I know all the best places to visit, from British-era buildings and open-air vegetable markets, to multi-storied indoor amusement parks and big malls housing the latest international items. Mimi rides a camel on the beach, sits in a noisy rickshaw, and visits a mausoleum – all things I did in my youth. Aaliya Jaleel was the fantastic illustrator who created the cover of A Thousand Questions with Karachi’s beautiful – and to me, beloved – skyline.

4. Friendships can jump across language and cultural barriers.

At its heart, A Thousand Questions is a friendship story. Mimi arrives from America at her grandmother’s house, yearning for the father who’s left her. Sakina is the cook’s daughter, too busy trying to get admission into school while keeping it a secret from her family to be interested in the new guest. They hardly speak each other’s languages, and the way they’ve both grown up is worlds apart. Yet they find something in common: they both have big, impossible dreams. And they’re both determined to accomplish those dreams. If there’s a lesson in this book, it is that friendship takes courage and patience, but is always worth it.

5. Democracy is something to be grateful for.

During the course of the summer, while Mimi and Sakina are slowly becoming friends, there is also something bigger than them happening: a national election. Just like we’re counting down the days to the 2020 elections in the U.S. the characters in the book are counting down the days to elect their leaders. There is a lot of election drama, including violence and corruption. All this is important for American readers, both young and old, to read about. Only then can we truly understand the value of true democracy, and how fragile it can be.

I wrote A Thousand Questions to share my childhood memories with my readers. I wanted to show you my heritage: where I came from, and what made me who I am today. Preorder now by clicking here.

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” published by Capstone and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” (HMH/Clarion 2020) co-written with Laura Shovan, and “A Thousand Questions” (Harper Collins 2020). She has also written “Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan” a short story collection for adults and teens. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children. 

Interview with Summer Rachel Short about THE MUTANT MUSHROOM TAKEOVER

Welcome to MG Book Village, Summer! I look forward to learning more about you and your writing. Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself, please?

Thanks so much for having me here, Kathie! I’m a middle grade writer living in North Texas. I have a degree in journalism and have worked as a writer in some capacity pretty much all of my professional life. Though it wasn’t until about five years ago that I really got serious about writing fiction. Before that I’d written a few short stories here and there and drafted novel ideas that got tucked away in desk drawers. Then in the end of 2015, it was like a switch flipped and all of sudden writing a novel went from something on the backburner to a driving passion.

Your upcoming book, THE MUTANT MUSHROOM TAKEOVER, comes out on September 22nd. Can you give us a brief synopsis of it?

The book is a lightly spooky STEM novel that features eleven-year-old aspiring naturalist, Maggie, and her conspiracy theorist/YouTuber best friend, Nate, who must solve the mystery surrounding a strange glow-in-the-dark fungus that’s spreading through their small town. At the same time, Maggie is trying to put her family back together as her dad has recently taken a job across country. For now, she’s stuck in her gramma’s mobile home with her grumpy older brother, Ezra, who develops odd symptoms after their run-in with the fungus. All around town people and animals start sprouting unusual growths and exhibiting alarming behavior. Things get more dangerous as Maggie’s brother develops a bluish glow and a nagging cough. Maggie must use her scientific know-how and Nate’s impressive knowledge of all things spooky to save their town from the odd glowing mushrooms.

What’s one thing about this story that compelled you to write it?

Several years ago, my kids and I watched an old documentary called Fungi: The Rotten World About Us on YouTube. We were all so fascinated by fungi’s strange properties that I kept reading more until I stumbled upon an especially creepy kind of fungus with some very bizarre abilities. This real-life fungus features prominently in my book (I can’t say the name of it just yet as it’s a spoiler!). Another inspiration was my son, who was ten at the time, who wanted me to write a story about a character named Root Beard who possesses a beard made of living tree roots. That nugget became the impetus for an important character in the book. 

Is there a character in this book that you would have liked as a friend?

I have to say my main character’s best friend, Nate. He’s a conspiracy theorist/wanna-be YouTube star. He’s on the hunt for aliens, Bigfoot, and anything else spooky and sensational. He keeps Maggie on her toes and has a zest for adventure that I admire. He’s all about fun and doesn’t really give much thought to what people will think of all his wild ideas.

Did this story change a lot during the editing process?

The story changed a fair amount over the couple years I worked on it. In the earliest drafts, Maggie’s best friend, Nate, was actually an antagonist, but the more I wrote, the more he kept zinging out one liners and eventually I rewrote his character completely. Also, I was a PitchWars mentee in 2018 and The Mutant Mushroom Takeover was the manuscript I submitted. During that period, I got great feedback from my mentors on ways to strengthen the story, including reducing its length quite a bit. Originally, it was around 70,000 words and the final version is closer to 50,000. The book’s title has also changed a few times throughout its life. But the main characters’ opposites-attract friendship and the mystery of the strange fungus taking over their small town always remained at the heart.

How have you adapted your book’s release due to COVID?

More of my author activities are definitely moving online because of COVID. I’ve done a couple of virtual author panels so far and will also be doing my book launch party virtually with a local independent bookstore. While I’d love to see friends and family in person and sign all their books for my release, the virtual launch does let me connect with people who otherwise probably wouldn’t be able to attend.

Where can readers go to find out more about you and your writing?

My website is srachelshort.com. I’m also on Twitter at @Summer_Rachel_ and Instagram @summerrachelwrites.

Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Summer, and best of luck with your book’s release.

Summer lives in North Texas with her charming husband, three hilarious kids, a fluffy kitty, and a big yellow dog. Before spinning tales about mutant mushrooms, she once worked as a science reporter for her university’s newspaper, where she wrote on topics like nanotech tweezers, poultry farm pollution, and the nighttime habits of spiders and snakes. She enjoys
exploring new places with the family, playing tennis, and dreaming up ideas for her next book.

Interview: Amy Timberlake

Hi there, Amy! Thanks so much for stopping by the MG Book Village to chat about your new book, Skunk and Badger!

Hi Jarrett! Thanks for having me. Yay!

First off, can you tell us what the book is about?

Skunk and Badger is about two animals who are forced to become roommates. This does not go well. The badger — an Important Rock Scientist — has moved into the brownstone first. How will he do his Important Rock Work with a roommate? How will he find his focus, focus, focus? Difficulties abound. There are too many chickens.  

Can you share where these characters came from? Did the idea for the story come first, or did Badger and Skunk?

Skunk and Badger came first? I think? A long time ago, I tried to write a story in the style of Marjorie Sharmat’s “Nate the Great,” with a skunk as the main character. Also, as I was packing up in a recent move, I came across this story about a badger who collected stamps. Anyway, neither of these tries amounted to anything. Then years went by, and I was re-reading A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories and I thought, What if I wrote something like this but in my own style? What would that be like? That’s when I was able to start writing “Skunk and Badger.” 

In addition to the themes woven throughout the story, there are two topics delved into relatively deeply: rocks and chickens! Did you have an interest in these topics before sitting down to write Skunk and Badger? Did you do any research to learn more about them?

I find chickens funny. I like the way they peer and scrutinize and then, peck-peck-PECK! Also, all those tufts and booties and wattles! And why all the varieties? Look up ‘Transylvania Naked Neck chicken!’ What do you think of that? 

And rocks run in the family. My uncle is a geologist and my grandfather worked in the copper industry. My grandmother landscaped her front lawn with old mining equipment and tumbles of big rocks. In the home I grew up in, books were held upright with geode bookends. Still, none of this meant I was interested in rocks or geology. But then Badger walked into my story with his magnifying glass and his quartzite and I had to learn about rocks and geology. I’m doing the best I can to keep up with him. Badger knows far more about rocks than I do. 

Geology — whew! — it’s mind-bending! Or mind-stretching? Anyway, you have to conceptualize a huge span of time. I’ve got this Earth Science textbook. I’ve read histories, and geology written for non-scientists. I took a beginner geology course up at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota because I had to find a way in. Badger needed to see like a geologist, and that’s tough. Geologists don’t look at the landscape in the same way that everyone else does. Geologists read history and time in the rocks around them. That rolling hill? Those sharp-edged mountains? They look completely different to a geologist. You may see something still and lovely; a geologist sees action and violence. 

Skunk and Badger features both spot and full page illustrations by Jon Klassen (plus one absolutely stunning spread!). What was it like working with Jon? What did you think when you first saw his art for the book?

I’ve loved the process of working with Jon. I trust him! 

That said, we each did our work separately and so, when the first illustration arrived it felt as if it came out of the blue. Elise Howard, my editor at Algonquin Young Readers, emailed it. I opened that email and yelled. In front of me was Badger. He sat at his rock table. He was in his rock room. Then I said, “There he is. That’s Badger. He’s in his rock room.” I said this to myself, to Phil (my husband), and to Elise Howard (when she called later). Seeing that image felt both right and eerie. I mean, I recognized Badger, as if yeah, there was the badger who lived in my head, focus-focus-focusing on his Important Rock Work. How was that possible? I’d only just opened the email! Also, at that point, Jon and I had not spoken. I’m still shook by this. I don’t know how Jon did that — but wow.

Skunk and Badger couldn’t be more timely, but there are qualities of the writing, illustration, and general presentation that make it feel classic. While reading, I especially couldn’t help but think of The Wind and the Willows and the Frog and Toad books. Was this intentional? Did these books, or any other older children’s books, play a role in the process of Skunk and Badger‘s creation?

The writing was inspired by A.A. Milne in particular, so that sort of storytelling (the style of it, the shape and size of it, the craftsmanship) was in my head from the beginning. Jon wanted to illustrate the text using full-color spreads printed on thicker, glossy paper that are tucked into the book and bound with the rest of the pages. This is something done in traditional book publishing. Algonquin Young Readers and Jon took these ideas and ran with them. The design of this book is something very special. As a ‘book object’ I consider it a work of art. Honestly, it’s been dreamy to have any part in something like this!   

What do you hope your readers — especially the young ones — take away from Skunk and Badger?

I am hoping for discussion! Maybe about getting along? Or about apologies? Or how disparate creatures — feathered, scaled, or furred — come together in community? Or perhaps they’ll decide to take a day and see the world through Skunk’s eyes. I love how Skunk sees the world! 

Skunk and Badger is listed as the first book in a series. Can you tell us anything about what’s in store for this pair?

In the second book, it’s summer. Skunk and Badger leave the brownstone on an adventure that goes, well, alarmingly astray…  

Are you doing anything else — interviews, events, etc. — to celebrate the release of Skunk and Badger? If so, where can readers find out about that, as well as more about you and your work?

Everything is at amytimberlake.com

Is there a celebration of Skunk and Badger? YES! (See “Events” on amytimberlake.com.) Throughout September and October, there’ll be a virtual book tour where I’ll be live and in conversation with various folks including Jon Klassen, Lisa Yee, Betsy Bird, and Jim Higgins of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. There’s also a blog tour going on September 13-19th.

 I hope to see and meet you there!    

Thanks Jarret and MG Book Village for having me! I loved being here!

Amy Timberlake’s work has received a Newbery Honor, an Edgar, and a Golden Kite Award. One book was chosen to be a Book Sense Pick, another was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review. Her books have made several “best books of the year” lists, and she loves it whenever her books are chosen to be part of a state reading list. Chicago’s Lifeline Theatre has adapted both One Came Home and The Dirty Cowboy for the stage. She’s received residency fellowships from Hedgebrook, and The Anderson Center. She was recently awarded The Sterling North Legacy Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature. She is represented by Steven Malk at Writers House. Amy grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin. She attended Mount Holyoke College and majored in History. She also holds an M.A. in English/Creative Writing. Most of the time, she can be found in Chicago, where she lives with her husband. But on especially good days she can be found walking on a long, long trail.

CHILDREN’S STORIES, ANIMAL STYLE, by PJ Gardner

I have a confession to make—I speak for my dogs. They have different voices, of course. Rosie’s is higher and more refined, while Rocky’s is deep and confused. She blames me for making her an older sister at six, and he talks about the joys of biting things. Yeah, I’m one of those people, and, yeah, it’s silly, but I do it because I’m certain they have rich inner lives. All animals do. That certainty is why I write animal POV. Well, that, and it’s a blast.

To me there are three keys to writing it successfully—research, responsibility, and relatability.

RESEARCH

Researching animals isn’t all Dodo stories and YouTube videos. Although, those are great sources for inspiration. No, sometimes it’s asking google which animals have paws like hands and then looking at images of chickens wearing fake arms for two hours. It’s a real thing, I promise. Personally, I do a LOT of secondary research. There’s a lot of great information online and, of course, the library has much to offer. Where possible I try to do primary research There’s nothing as helpful as spending time with the animals I’m writing about and the people who care for them.

When I was writing Horace & Bunwinkle I had the opportunity to visit with Better Piggies Rescue based in Phoenix. I learned so much from them that my online research hadn’t provided. The most important thing I learned is there’s no such thing as teacup pigs or micro mini pigs or a pig that stays under 25 lbs. The only way to keep a pig small is to underfeed it. Which leads me to my next point.

RESPONSIBILITY

Writing for young readers carries a lot of weight. They aren’t as familiar with the suspension of disbelief so they tend to accept what you write in the story. That makes it all the more important to be accurate or at least acknowledge where you varied from fact.

Because it’s a series, none of the characters age in Horace & Bunwinkle, but I don’t want readers to misunderstand, so I wrote a note at the end of the book. The last thing I want is for people to buy a piglet thinking it won’t grow up. It’s not fair to the pig or the family. And I can only imagine the angry letter I’d get from the parents.

I also think seeing through an animal’s eyes strengthens kids’ connection to that animal and the world it lives in. They become more invested in protecting the environment and preserving habitats.

RELATABILITY

I always hope readers identify with my characters, even if they’re a dog or a pig. Horace struggles with a move from the suburbs to a farm, and for most of the book he refuses to adapt to his new home. Bunwinkle is the younger sister who always feels like she has to prove she can do everything her older sibling is doing. I think a lot of kids can relate to those feelings, and they enjoy the story more because of it.

Great animal characters combine both animal behaviors and human emotions. They create a connection with the natural world and inspire us to protect it. And they are a lot of fun to write.

When PJ Gardner was a little girl growing up in Colorado she dreamt of being an actress or a dental hygienist or even Mrs. John Travolta. It didn’t occur to her that she could be a writer until she was a grown up. Now her debut middle grade novel, Horace & Bunwinkle, is being published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, and she’s thrilled.

PJ lives in the scorching heat of the Arizona desert with her husband, sons, and Boston Terriers, Rosie and Rocky. She doesn’t own a pig because her husband says she’s not allowed to.

Interview with Alisha Sevigny re: THE DESERT PRINCE

Hi Alisha, and thank you so much for joining me at MG Book Village today. What a crazy year this has been for debuting a new series, so let’s tell our readers a little bit about Secrets of the Sands. The first book, THE LOST SCROLL OF THE PHYSICIAN, came out in January, and the sequel, THE DESERT PRINCE, comes out on September 19th. Can you tell us a bit more about the series, please?

The series centers around the adventures of a young scribe and healer named Sesha, her brother Ky, and her friends. In the first book, Sesha searches for a mysterious scroll her father was transcribing for the Pharaoh before his death. The Pharaoh needs the medical document to reduce the casualties of potential war with the rival Hyksos from the North and Sesha wants it because she believes there is a procedure in it that can save her brother’s life. The scroll in the book is based on a real-life artifact called The Edwin Smith Papyrus. The second book follows Sesha – who must leave her brother behind in Thebes – and her friends into the desert, in search of a hidden oasis. There, she ends up training as a spy, and learns that the very same scroll is at the center of a prophecy, which has far-reaching implications for the kingdoms and her world.

Ancient Egypt is such fascinating topic to so many kids. What is it about this time period that you think is such a draw, and what compelled you to write about it?

I think it’s such a fascinating period because of all the incredible things the Egyptians did and accomplished, so many thousands of years ago – many of which we can still see today! I’ve always loved the era and was compelled to write this story, particularly when I learned about the real papyrus and the time it is believed to have been written in: the Second Intermediate Period. It was long thought that Egypt fell into “disarray,” during this era, its power diminished as it was ruled by the Hyksos, “Rulers of Foreign Lands.” The Hyksos were originally thought to be invaders that took the land by force, when in reality, it’s been shown through recent excavations these people settled in the land over time and slowly gained prominence through marriage, trade and immigration. This whole series centers around the Hyksos enigma and is this author’s imagining of how things might have been back then, during this mysterious pocket of time which eventually led into the New Kingdom, Egypt’s most prosperous and well-known period (which in part, the Egyptians have the Hyksos to thank for!).

How much research goes into writing a historical fiction series like this one.

Several pyramids worth! (Sorry, couldn’t resist ;). Happily, I am an avid fan of Ancient Egypt and ancient civilizations in general, so I enjoy it, but it can be challenging at times, because compared to more recent past, there’s very little material to go on. I read a lot of academic papers and am always fact-checking as best I can, but research is one of those things that is in flux, as the more we discover, the greater chance our theories and assumptions might change. Overall, it’s worth it because I feel like these details make the story so much richer and the setting becomes a character in itself, which is an important aspect of my YA novels as well. One example of my nit-picky fact-checking is that I fully expected there would be camels in THE DESERT PRINCE, but it turns out (at that time) donkeys were more commonly used in caravan treks and so we have Nefer, the donkey instead of Nefer, the camel. 

Can you share with us three things about your upcoming book that you think will appeal to young readers?

Sesha and her friends free a Hyksos spy so he can help them escape into the desert and embark on a harrowing trek in search of a hidden oasis. There, she convinces the Hyksos to train her as a spy. Third, she finds out about an earth-shattering prophecy that could change the course of history, which also has enormous implications for her personally. So there’s plenty of non-stop action, intrigue and kick-butt characters! (That might be more than three 😉 

Our friend, Paul Coccia, created a wonderful video for your book. Let’s share it with everyone now.

What part of the writing process do you most enjoy? Is it the research, drafting, editing, or something else?

Each aspect of the writing process has its charms and frustrations. I definitely enjoy the research and the writing, but the editing is where I fine-tune each word so that the whole manuscript sings (hopefully) as one song. Definitely the most challenging part is after the book is written: the marketing and publicity, and trying to make your voice heard amongst all the other equally amazing voices out there. I have faith that this series will find its audience though, because there’s something in it for everyone! And come on, Ancient Egypt!

Are you working on another book at the moment?

I’m working on writing the third installment in the series, THE ORACLE OF AVARIS, which sees Sesha and her friends arriving in the capital city of the Hyksos. There, they try to find a mysterious oracle, learn more about the aforementioned earth-shaking prophecies, and try to save the land from all-out war. 

Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?

I love hearing from readers on Social Media, such as Instagram and Facebook, and also have my author website at alishasevigny.com. 

Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Alisha, and best of luck with your book’s release. I certainly look forward to reading it.

Thank you so much Kathie, it’s been a pleasure and I hope you and your readers enjoy the series!

Alisha Sevigny is the author of the SECRETS OF THE SANDS adventure series. featuring THE LOST SCROLL OF THE PHYSICIAN and THE DESERT PRINCE. She also has two published Young Adult novels, KISSING FROGS, an eco-retelling of The Frog Prince fairy-tale, and SUMMER CONSTELLATIONS, a CCBCs Best Book for Kids and Teens pick and NERFA 2019 finalist for North America. Originally from Kitimat, BC in the Pacific Northwest, she makes her home in Toronto with her family. 

Book Review: ALONE, by Megan E. Freeman

Set in Colorado, twelve year old Maddie and her friends hatch a scheme for a secret sleepover, but her friends suddenly have to cancel. Maddie decides to go ahead with her plans and enjoy an evening of snacks and solitude. But when she wakes up the next morning, she discovers she’s mysteriously all alone, left behind after her town’s been completely evacuated and abandoned due to an imminent threat.

Her only companion is the neighbor’s Rottweiler, George. Maddie must learn to survive with no power, no internet, and no way to communicate with the family that’s (unknowingly) left her behind. Facing natural disasters, looters, and wild animals, Maddie grapples with intense loneliness as the seasons pass and the thought of being rescued grows dimmer each day.

As a MG teacher, my readers love novels in verse. And they enjoy rereading them, piecing the storylines, characters, and words together that they might have overlooked on a first read. Maddie’s journey of strength and perseverance is one I think they’ll love.

The 4 star review was tough for me. I longed to give it a 5, but not knowing exactly what caused the massive evacuation left me yearning for more answers. While I know that’s not the purpose of the book, and realizing Maddie’s storyline did have closure, I wonder if middle grade readers will feel the same. (It made me think of the ending of Lisa Graff’s Lost in the Sun or Laurel Snyder’s Orphan Island in the same way).

Publishing in January of 2021, and I’ll definitely purchase to add to my MG classroom library.

*Thank you to Simon & Schuster/Aladdin for providing Middle Grade Book Village with an early copy of this novel in verse to read and review.*

Katie Reilley is a fourth and fifth grade ELA teacher from Elburn, Illinois, and a proud mom to two amazing daughters, ages 14 and 10 who has been married to a wonderful husband for 18 years. She’s a member of #bookexpedition, a group of teachers, librarians and authors who read and review ARCs and newly released middle grade books. She’s also happy to be part of the #classroombookaday community, and loves to learn alongside her students and fellow educators. She has been teaching for twenty-two years, and her passion is getting books into the hands of her students. You can find her on Twitter at @KReilley5.

Book Trailer Release with Jackie Yeager for POP THE BRONZE BALLOON

Hi Jackie! Thank you so much for allowing MG Book Village to host your book trailer release.

Hi Kathie! I’m so happy to be here. I should be thanking you, though. I’m thrilled and excited to have the book trailer released here today!  

POP THE BRONZE BALLOON comes out on November 10th from Amberjack Publishing, and it’s the third book in The Crimson Five series. Can you give us a brief synopsis of this story?

Yes, it’s coming so soon… now just two months away! 

Without giving away any spoilers of the first two books, here’s a short teaser: Pop the Bronze Balloon tells the story of Kia Krumpet and her teammates as they travel (literally!) through the final stage of the Piedmont Challenge… a year long, world-wide creativity tour! But the tour isn’t what Kia, Ander, Mare, Jax & Jillian are expecting. Besides inspiring kids around the world with their latest inventions and building a brand new invention, their team is challenged to work with two other international teams in an unexpected way. While traveling the globe, they discover that all their futures are at stake and risking everything they’ve worked so hard for may be the only way to finally make their dreams come true.  

It was such a fun story to write because it’s not just the futuristic inventions that are showcased in this third book, the incredible settings, notable places, and foods of eleven countries are as well. I’m really excited to take readers on this journey with the team.

If you could describe this book in five words, what would they be?

I guess I’ll use the tagline: 

Wonder. Question. Imagine… and Soar!

Who created the book trailer, and were you involved in the process?

I did! I created the book trailers for the first two books, Spin the Golden Light Bulb and Flip the Silver Switch as well. It was a fun process and a chance to be creative in a different way. 

Wow, good for you! OK, let’s share it with everyone!

Are there more books to come in this series?

Pop the Bronze Balloon is the final book. So, the Crimson Five books are soon to become a trilogy! It’s been amazing to write this series but at this point, I’m thrilled with the ending and happy to share this last story with readers. I hope they like how Kia’s journey wraps up and how she and her teammates end their quest to gain spots at the Piedmont Inventor’s Prep School. Never say never, but at this point, this is the last book.  

Where can our readers go to find out more about your and your writing?

My website is the best place to learn more about me, my writing, all book information, links to my social media handles, and to watch the other book trailers too! http:// swirlandspark.com

Thanks again for chatting with me today, Jackie, and best of luck with the book’s launch.

Thanks, Kathie. It was great talking with you too. And thank you so much to MG Book Village for hosting the Pop the Bronze Balloon book trailer release!  

Jackie Yeager is the author of the Crimson Five books, a middle grade series that inspires children to think more, work hard, and dream big. She holds a master’s degree in Education and spent several years coaching Odyssey of the Mind, where her team once-upon-a-time competed at the World Finals. She lives in Rochester, NY with her husband and two kids. When she’s not writing, she can be found conducting creative problem-solving workshops for kids, spending time with her family, and blogging at http://www.swirlandspark.com. You can connect with Jackie there, or on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Cover Release for ONE LIGHT with Anne O’Brien Carelli

Hi Anne, and welcome to MG Book Village. Congratulations on the upcoming release of your new MG historical fiction book, ONE LIGHT. Can you tell a bit about it, please?

Thank you! In One Light, twelve-year-old Eleanor, a descendant of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, joins the WWII French Resistance. She is responsible for a group of Jewish children hiding in a monastery cellar, and befriends feisty Shoshana, one of the fugitive children. When Shoshana is kidnapped by the Germans, Eleanor sets out on a dangerous quest to rescue her new friend. One Light is an action-packed story of friendship based on actual contributions of children to the Resistance.

I’m  curious to know the inspiration behind your story?

After the publication of my novel Skylark and Wallcreeper I had many requests from readers of all ages for another story about the French Resistance. I find the topic fascinating and have researched it for many years. I have piles of information! There was so much more to write about, so I happily wrote another book that can either stand alone or be a companion to Skylark. 

You went a different route with publishing this book. What were your thoughts?

I think that current events have really impacted the way people think about their goals in life. I had four books either with my agent or on submission, including One Light. The publishing process is very slow and became even more sluggish when the pandemic arrived. After considerable deliberation and consultation with my wonderful agent, I decided to release One Light instead of waiting a year or two for it to be published. I am not a spring chicken and entered the children’s publishing world at a later age than most writers, so I decided I couldn’t wait for the publication of books to be stretched out over a lengthy timeline. It was a scary decision but I’m excited about getting One Light out into the universe!

How do you fit writing into your daily life?

I would love to say that I block off a set amount of time and pump out a certain number of words every day. That’s never been my style, although I do tend to start writing a book and just keep on writing until it’s done. It may be a chapter at 3 a.m. or research at 10 p.m., grabbing chunks of time whenever possible in between. I have piles of post-its, notebook pages and backs of receipts with ideas and paragraphs scribbled in haste. The revision part is not the fun part for me, but as I tell students when I do Skype sessions, “Good writing is actually revising, revising, revising.”

OK, let’s talk about your cover. Did you have any input on it, and if so, what was the experience like for you?

When I reached out to the amazingly talented illustrator, Roberta Collier-Morales, to see if she would be interested in doing the cover for One Light, I was thrilled when she read the story and produced this cover. I had a couple of requests such as the Resistance flag, but I knew to leave her alone and let her do her magic. Roberta’s about to start working on the cover of my next middle grade novel, Beneath the Heart, which takes place during the Revolutionary War.

Let’s show everyone what it looks like!

I love the suspense with the wire cutters! Can you tell us about the illustrator, and what you thought when you first saw the cover?

I am happy to sing Roberta’s praises. She is not only a brilliant artist, but very perceptive about conveying a mood. I first met her when I was doing a project for teachers of refugee children called Welcome to Our Schools, and I needed posters. She then illustrated my picture book Amina’s New Friends, a story about a Somalian refugee girl’s first day at an American school. I knew that she would capture the intrigue and suspense of One Light and I think she did that with the wire cutters and the car heading toward the village. By the way, I am also a quilter and have used fabric that Roberta has designed.

What do you hope young readers will take away from your story?

I remember so many times as a child when I looked up from a book and realized the real world had been going on around me and I was lost in a story. It’s always my primary goal to replicate that feeling. In addition, One Light has many messages, not only because it’s a story about bravery and friendship, but it’s meant to encourage thinking (and hopefully discussions) about secrecy and resistance. That’s why I added Discussion Questions at the end of the novel.

What is the release date for ONE LIGHT, and where can readers go to find out more about you and your writing?

Anne: One Light is now available now on Amazon Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HJSHR19. I decided to do an introductory rate of $2.99 and will move to the e-book price of $7.99 when it is released on October 6, 2020. Information about me and my books can be found on www.anneobriencarelli.com. I just added a free story for students called Not Right Now, Grace: The True Story of Susan B. Anthony’s Picture. Grace was a friend of Susan B. Anthony and was my ancestor!

Thank you for allowing us to be part of your cover reveal, and all the best with your book’s release?

Thank you so much and stay tuned for more books!

Anne O’Brien Carelli is the author of adult nonfiction, the Middle Grade books Skylark and Wallcreeper and One Light, and the picture book Amina’s New Friends. She has always been fascinated by the French Resistance, and studied history at Case Western Reserve University. For her PhD, Anne researched psychology of the gifted. Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Anne lives in the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York and spends any free time quilting and reading, reading, reading. 

Website: www.anneobriencarelli.com 

Website: www.aminasnewfriends.com

Twitter: @aobc

Instagram: @anne.o.carelli

Interview: Jamie Sumner

Hi there, Jamie! Thanks for swinging by the MG Book Village to talk about your new novel, TUNE IT OUT! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the book?

I am so very happy to be here, Jarrett! I’m a writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve written articles and essays for the New York Times and the Washington Post, but my heart lies in middle grade fiction. Before I was a writer, I taught high school English for over a decade and before that I worked in New York at a small publishing house in Chelsea. The love of language has carried me through all my jobs.

TUNE IT OUT is my second middle novel. My first, ROLL WITH IT, came out last year. TUNE IT OUT is the story of twelve-year-old Lou Montgomery who has the voice of an angel and a mother who wants to make her a star. The catch is, Lou also has an undiagnosed sensory processing disorder that makes performing nearly impossible. Sounds and crowds overwhelm her. When Child Protective Services separates the mother-daughter duo, Lou is sent to live across the country with her aunt and uncle. This is where she finally attends school regularly, makes her first real friend, joins the theater class, and begins to understand her SPD. This is Lou’s journey to find her own voice and take ownership of what she lets define her.

Music and musical theater play a big role in the book. Have they played a big role in your own life?

I love musical theater (she says with jazz hands)! It’s where I first found my home and my people in high school. I tended to stick backstage and worked as assistant director on all the plays. My senior year, I did an independent study where I wrote a one-act play that I was able to cast, direct, and put on for the entire school. It was epic. And it was all due to my theater teacher, Paula Flautt. She took a risk on me and I am so grateful. This book is dedicated her.

I think there’s something about music and theater both that open you up to parts of yourself you might never have recognized. They allow you to explain the unexplainable through movement and sound. Everyone has a favorite song that the minute you hear it, you think, yes, this is me, this is my experience and I couldn’t have said it better myself. I believe really great books do this as well. They make you feel a truth you knew deep down, but never recognized until the moment you read it on a page.

Do you listen to music when you write? Or do you need quiet? Or can you listen to music during some parts of your creative process, but not others?

I need quiet while I write. Well…I’m home writing with three kids, so I need whatever level of quiet I can get. However, I listen to music as I’m plotting and also when I get stuck. I have certain songs and styles of music that I associate with each of my characters and if I don’t know where to go next or I start to feel disconnected from a character, I’ll put something on that reminds me of them. Lou’s music was an eclectic mix of Patty Griffin, Dolly Parton, and Pink. She’s tough and also heartbreakingly vulnerable and these women know how to rock that complexity.

Lou, TUNE IT OUT’s main character, has a sensory processing disorder. Can you share with us exactly what it is?

Thank you for asking this. The best way I can explain it is to think of a sensory processing disorder as a traffic jam of the senses. Sounds and touches and tastes, even light, collide in a way that overloads the brain. It’s too much to process and can make the world feel unbearably overwhelming at times. Each case is different. Some people have difficulty with certain fabrics on their skin. Others are sensitive to loud or sudden or specific sounds. Some need firm versus light touch, like a hug or a handshake instead of a pat on the shoulder. Unfortunately, as is the case with many invisible disabilities, SPD is often misdiagnosed or misunderstood. I hope this book can spread some understanding of it.

Can you discuss your relationship with sensory processing issues, and why you were compelled to create and write about a character like Lou?

My son, Charlie, has both cerebral palsy and a sensory processing disorder. The SPD diagnosis came later in his life when we noticed his sensitivity to particular sounds. Vacuums, hair dryers, razors, lawn mowers – they all brought him to tears. He was terrified of them. It wasn’t something you could rationalize him out of because this is how his brain works and his brain is wonderful and he deserves to be understood. As a teacher, I also came into contact with students with sensory issues and I watched them struggle to explain something that no one else could see. In TUNE IT OUT, I wanted to create a character that might help bring awareness to and empathy for their situation. Lou’s story is ultimately about how she grows brave enough to speak her truth to the people in her life who need to accept her for who she is. I think middle school kids are so much better and braver than adults at this and I hope they cheer her on as the story unfolds.

What sort experiences did you call upon and what sort of research did you do before and while crafting Lou’s story? Did you use sensitivity readers?  

My priority in writing Lou’s story was to portray her experience as authentically as possible while fully acknowledging that is not my experience. To do that, I called upon sensitivity readers with sensory processing disorders as well as occupational therapists who work with those with SPD. A judge and a social worker also read early drafts to make sure Lou’s experience with Child Protection Services was accurate.

What do you hope your readers – especially the young ones – take away from TUNE IT OUT books?

Middle school is tough. You are just beginning to peel yourself away from the identity your parents and teachers place upon you and figure out who you really are apart from those labels. I hope this story helps readers feel brave enough to voice their wants and needs and to dive headfirst into who they want to be, no matter what anyone else says.

When can readers get their hands on TUNE IT OUT, and do you have any other exciting appearances or events around the release?

TUNE IT OUT is available on September 1st, 2020 wherever books are sold! Personally, I’d say order it from your favorite independent bookstore, because they need us as much as we need them right now. I’m having my launch party/live Facebook chat with Parnassus Books here in Nashville on September 2nd at 6 p.m. (CST). If you want to “tune in” (pun intended), you can find all the info here!

Where can readers find you online, and how can they learn more about you and your work?

The best place to find me is my website: www.jamie-sumner.com. If you’re a teacher and looking to schedule a Zoom/Skype visit, this is the best place to contact me!

I’m also on:

Facebook: @jamiesumner.org

Instagram: @jamiesumner_author

Twitter: @jamiesumner_

Jamie Sumner is the author of the acclaimed middle-grade novel, ROLL WITH IT (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, October 2019). Her second middle-grade novel, TUNE IT OUT, which has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and the School Library Journal, will be coming out September 1st, 2020. She has written for the New York Times and the Washington Post as well as other publications, and is the reviews editor at Literary Mama. She loves stories that celebrate the grit and beauty in all kids. She and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. Connect with her at Jamie-Sumner.com

Interview: Fleur Bradley

Thank you for joining me today, Fleur. I’m really enjoyed your upcoming MG novel, MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL (releases August 25th with Viking Books for Young Readers). Can you tell our readers what it’s about, please?

MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL is the story of JJ, Penny and Emma, three kids who think they’re tagging along with their respective grownups for a fun weekend at the (reportedly haunted…) Barclay Hotel. Only when they arrive, the butler announces to the guests that hotel owner Mr. Barclay is dead, and that he orchestrated for the adult guests to be there as suspects.

JJ in particular is shocked, because his mom is a suspect in Mr. Barclay’s murder too—and all he really wanted to do was spend the weekend ghost hunting. Now, with the help of his new friends, Penny and Emma, JJ has to track down a killer, clear his mother’s name… And he even meets a ghost or two along the way.

I’ve heard your book compared to THE WESTING GAME meets ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY meets the CLUE movie. Are these the types of books you liked to read when you were younger, or where did the inspiration from the story come from?

Actually, I grew up in the Netherlands, so the books I read were different ones. But I was such an avid reader, by age twelve or so, I’d worked my way through most of the children’s department at my library. And there was no YA section at the time… A nice librarian (I wish I could remember her name) pointed me toward the mystery section—Agatha Christie in particular. I started with the ABC Murders, and I’ve been hooked on mystery ever since.

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel is a bit of a nod to Agatha Christie. I love the quirky characters, the slight sense of humor, and the twisty mysteries she wrote.

Can you tell us 3 interesting tidbits about this story or its journey to publication?

1. The Barclay Hotel is modeled loosely after the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado—of the Shining. I visited the hotel and even went on one of the ghost hunting tours, that was so fun. The Barclay Hotel is an over-the-top fictional version of the Stanley: it has a carousel, a bowling alley, a pool… All fun stuff I imagined loving as a kid.

2. It took a long time to find a home at Viking Children’s! But my editor Aneeka Kalia really understood how to make the story better. I’m lucky to be there.

3. I was not expecting the book to be illustrated, so when the illustration came in, I was floored. It was like the illustrator (Xavier Bonet) looked right into my brain and put the characters to the page.

How did the process of writing this book differ from any of your previous books?

My previous books (the Double Vision trilogy, a spy adventure series) were all sold based on a partial, so I worked together with my agent and editor(s) to develop the books very early on. For Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, I wanted to take the time to develop the book, characters, and story so it was exactly where I wanted it to be before sending it out into the world.

It took me about a year to feel like the book was ready, then once it was acquired at Viking, I had to trim the book from 50K words to about 35K…! The original manuscript had many chapters written from the adult characters’ perspectives—I think the book is more accessible now, with the illustrations and tighter narrative.

It was a long process, but I’m really proud of how Midnight at the Barclay Hotel turned out. I can’t wait for the kids to read it!

Which character was easiest for you to write, and why?

Penny, without a doubt. Penny is a bookworm, but wants to be brave. She’s smart, kind to her grandpa (the detective in the book), and is a little bit of a sceptic when it comes to the existence of ghosts.

Penny is probably the closest to a twelve-year-old me.

Are you currently working on another writing project?

Ah, it’s top-secret! Well, not really, but it’s still in the early stages of writing and plotting. All I’ll say is that it has a cool setting, a mystery, and some spooky stuff. Stay tuned…

Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?

My website: www.ftbradley.com. There’s more information on author visits, a teacher guide, downloadable activities… And pictures of me when I was a kid, and of my cats, of course.

Thanks for dropping by the Village today, Fleur, and all the best your book’s launch.

Fleur Bradley is passionate about two things: mysteries and getting kids to read. When she’s not active in her local SCBWI chapter, she’s doing school visits and is speaking at librarian and educator conferences on reaching reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, Fleur now lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and two daughters, and entirely too many cats.

For more information on Fleur and her books, visit www.ftbradley.com, and on Twitter @FTBradleyAuthor.