Cover Reveal: HELLO FROM RENN LAKE, by Michele Weber Hurwitz

Have you ever heard a lake? Sensed its thoughts?

Might sound a little crazy, but twelve-year old Annalise Oliver, the main character in my upcoming middle grade novel, has.

Maybe it’s because she was abandoned near one when she was a baby. Or maybe it’s because when she’s next to that very same lake, her worries float away as she watches the water ripple and sway, sparkling when it catches the sun.

Whatever the reason, Annalise and Renn Lake share a deep, mystical, almost unexplainable bond. It’s been that way since she was three years old and first heard the lake say hello. And Renn has always been a source of comfort and calm for Annalise, especially when she’s upset or sad.

But this summer, when a small patch of algae quickly becomes a harmful bloom and the lake is closed, Renn goes silent.

Annalise is devastated. Her happiest times are working alongside her adoptive parents, whose family has owned and run cabins along Renn Lake, Wisconsin for generations. While the authorities debate and discuss and disagree about what to do, Annalise gets frustrated, and then angry.

Finally, she decides she can’t wait for them to act. After she and her friends – confident babysitter Maya and science nerd Zach – learn about an innovative treatment for harmful algal blooms, they take a risk to save their beloved lake. But this means that Annalise must confront her deepest fears and most troubling questions. There are secrets about the night she was left, and Renn Lake was the only witness.

This book, my fifth middle grade novel, is very close to my heart. I love lakes, and the entire culture that goes along with them – cabins and canoes and jumping off a rickety old pier into refreshing, cool water. As a lifelong Midwesterner never living near an ocean, I’ve spent many summers enjoying the lakes around me – in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. It’s been distressing to see the rise in harmful algal blooms in lakes and other bodies of water, which occur when blue-green algae grow out of control. Blooms can have many negative and sometimes dire effects on people, plants, fish, and animals, not to mention interdependent ecosystems and aquatic habitats. This past summer, some dogs died after swimming in lakes that had algal blooms.

Scientists think the increase in blooms is related to warmer temperatures, heat waves, and other extreme weather events. Runoff is a big cause too – rain or melting snow that picks up debris, chemicals and pollutants and flows over sidewalks, driveways, and streets into lakes and rivers. If an algal bloom grows large enough, it can create a dead zone, covering the surface of the water and blocking sunlight. No oxygen gets through and aquatic life disappears.

The impacts of climate change are terrifying. It’s clear to me that we need to address our environmental problems now, before it’s too late and the damage is irreversible. I’ve been impressed and heartened to see kids protesting, speaking out, and urging policymakers to act. Their signs have brought tears to my eyes: “There is no planet B.” “What future?” “Sea levels are rising, and so are we.”

Every single one of us can help in some way. We can do small things, big things, even just one thing. As the kids in my novel come to realize.

Not only is Hello From Renn Lake a story of community, the power of youth activism, and fighting for the things you love, it’s about the strong connection between humans and nature. I firmly believe that nature has a voice, and we need to listen to it. The bond between Annalise and Renn Lake is the emotional core of this story. The girl and the lake heal each other.

I’m thrilled to debut the cover on MG Book Village, one of my absolute favorite sites for all things middle grade. I love Celia Krampien’s illustration, with its nod to a vintage postcard. She beautifully captured the sentiment of the story as well as Annalise (front and center), Zach, Maya, and Annalise’s spunky little sister Jess. You can see more of Celia’s work here: http://www.celiakrampien.com/

Writing a novel is a leap of faith in so many ways – trusting yourself to tell the story that’s in your head, but worrying about getting it down and getting it right. Pushing away those constant doubts, and listening to your heart. I took a big leap in the narration of this book, which alternates between the perspectives of Annalise and Renn Lake. I think (I hope) I got it right.


Hello From Renn Lake dives into the world on May 26, 2020 from Penguin Random House/Wendy Lamb Books. Michele is also the author of Ethan Marcus Stands Up and Ethan Marcus Makes His Mark (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin) and The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold (Penguin Random House/Wendy Lamb Books). She lives in the Chicago area, near Lake Michigan.


HELLO FROM RENN LAKE is now available for preorder. Links to do so from your preferred bookseller are below!

Indie Bound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-A-Million


Book Trailer Premiere: THE HUMILIATIONS OF PIPI MCGEE by Beth Vrabel

If you’ve ever been bumped from the cool table in the cafeteria, suffered through an accidental mullet, shouldered an unfortunate nickname (ahem, such as … I don’t know… Beef instead of Beth), or otherwise were pelted by puberty’s relentless arrows, Pipi McGee can relate. But Pipi’s determined to use her eighth grade year righting the wrongs of her early education. She’s aiming for redemption but will take revenge. Take a look at this trailer to hear more about The Humiliations of Pipi McGee!

Click here for more information about The Humiliations of Pipi McGee!

Beth Vrabel is author of the Cybils’-nominated Caleb and Kit, ILA award-winning A Blind Guide to Stinkville, JLG-selection A Blind Guide to Normal, The Reckless Club, and the Pack of Dorks series. She is a former journalist so speaks from a very real point of reference and personal experience. She lives in Canton, Connecticut.

Cover Reveal: HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA, by Tanya Guerrero

Hey there, Tanya! Welcome to the MG Book Village! We’re thrilled to be hosting your cover reveal, and are grateful you chose us to host it! Before we get to all of that, though, would you care to introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi, everyone! I’m Tanya Guerrero, an MG author based in the Philippines. In my free time, I love to bake sourdough bread, grow my own fruits and veggies, and of course read. I also volunteer for an animal welfare organization, and have my own mini-rescue at home. Don’t ask me how many cats and dogs I have—though, I’m sure my 9-year old daughter would love to tell each and every one of you!

The book whose cover you’re here to reveal – HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA – is your debut, right? Can you tell us about your journey to the printed page?

Yes, it is my debut. Though, I have shelved a couple of YA books before it. Initially, I wanted to write stories for teens, but after an editor commented that my voice seemed more suited for a younger audience, I got to thinking. Why not MG?

Growing up, books were a huge part of my childhood, particularly MG books like Bridge to Terabithia, Where the Red Fern Grows, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, A Wrinkle in Time, and pretty much anything by Judy Blume. These stories were of solace to me, something I could escape to when times were tough. I was pretty much THAT kid who read way past her bedtime with a flashlight under the covers.

Reminiscing about those anxiety-filled middle school years, and how much I relied on those books for comfort, convinced me to shift my storytelling to focus on the upper-MG market. After all, I seemed to have a younger voice, anyway. So, that’s how I came to write, HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA, which thankfully, was acquired by FSG BYR/Macmillan very early into submissions.

Thank you for sharing all that. It’s great for others to hear about the road to publication — it’s almost never a quick or easy one! Now, let’s get to the book itself. What is HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA all about?

HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA is about a 12-year old boy named Pablo who finds himself moving from country to country with his single mom after his parents go through a messy divorce. With each move, his anxiety—more specifically, his aversion to dirt and germs, his obsessive behaviors, and his fear of the sea—are exacerbated.

When they move to the Philippines, where his mom is hired as a zoologist for a local wildlife refuge, things get way worse. His mom is too busy saving animals to notice that maybe Pablo needs saving, too. Then, unexpectedly, Chiqui, an orphaned Filipino girl with a cleft lip comes to live with them. At first, Pablo’s life is turned upside down. But as he gets to know Chiqui, he realizes that through being strong for her, maybe his own fears don’t seem quite as scary.

He might even find the courage to face his biggest fear of all…and learn how to make friends with the sea.

Is there anything about your own childhood that inspired HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA?

Definitely! In many ways, what Pablo goes through reflects a lot of the emotions I had as a child. When my parents separated, my sister and me moved to Spain to live with our grandparents. Although I’d been to Spain before on family vacations, it was a completely different story living and going to school there. I barely knew any Spanish, and had to learn quickly. And then there was all the anxiety related to missing my parents and my extended family and friends. After a few years in Spain, it was decided that we’d move to New York City. We had to start all over again. New place, new schools, new friends. Although I knew how to speak English, the American culture was quite new to me, other than what I’d already seen on TV. Even after I managed to assimilate, that feeling of being an outsider—an immigrant—never really disappeared. Then, several years later, when I was twelve going on thirteen, I moved back to the Philippines. A new start. Again. It was a strange time for me. I had been away for so long that I felt completely removed from my own culture—like a foreigner even though I’m half-Filipino.

All these experiences inspired what Pablo goes through. I made his character half-Spanish and half-American to reflect my mom’s side of the family and the many years I lived in the US. The fact that he feels disconnected to his life in the Philippines mirrors the same feelings I had when I moved back. Through his character, I show what it was like to learn, to discover, to appreciate the Filipino culture, especially the Filipino people.

I felt it necessary to write about the experience of being an immigrant, and a third culture kid, because I’d never really seen any children’s books that reflected my own experience. And although not all kids will see themselves in Pablo’s story, I’m quite sure that there are many who will.

Though some of my childhood experiences were difficult, at the end, I think all the moving around definitely made me into a better person. That’s the kind of ending I want for Pablo, too. And I think, ultimately, readers will feel a lot of hope for Pablo’s future after they finish the book.

Were there any challenges associated with writing a story set in another country for a book primarily aimed at American readers?

Sure, there were some challenges, namely making sure that the foreign words and phrases (Tagalog and Spanish) would somehow not get lost in translation (or rather in non-translation). There were several instances where I didn’t want to offer many hints as to what was being said, because that’s a big part of being a foreigner in a foreign land. Not understanding the language can create a lot of anxiety and barriers for a child trying to fit in. Although, as an educational reference, we did decide to include a glossary of Tagalog words and phrases at the back of the book.

The other challenge was making sure that the place—the Philippines—would also be a character of its own. I felt it was important to describe everything as vividly as possible, to infuse as much of the culture as I could, through a variety of settings, food references, and especially Filipino humor, which is such an important part of everyday life in the Philippines.

Besides those challenges, I found it relatively easy to make my characters and story appealing to American readers. Having lived in the US for a large chunk of my childhood and adult years, I knew how to make certain aspects more relatable. I found the key was really in presenting universal themes that anyone could understand no matter where they came from.

What do you hope your readers—particularly the young ones—will take away from HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA?

For me what’s most important is that children, especially American children, open up their eyes to the world outside of their own country. I think now, more than ever, is the time for us, as humans, to try and connect, to find those universal themes of love, family, friendship, and home in one another, despite the borders and seas that separate us. It’s only then that we’ll realize that perhaps our similarities outweigh our differences.

Beautifully put. Now, let’s get to what you’re here to do – reveal your cover! Were you involved in the process at all?

Yay! To be honest, I wasn’t too involved in creating the artwork. I have a lot of faith in my editors Joy Peskin and Trisha de Guzman, especially since Trisha was born in the Philippines and only moved to the US when she was seven—so culturally, we had that connection. When they hired a talented artist, Christine Almeda, who is also Filipino-American, I knew that I had nothing to worry about. So I just let the professionals do their jobs and did my best to trust the process!

What did you think when you first saw the art?

What struck me the most at first glance were the colors! It was so spot on, because so much of the scenery in the Philippines is full of color, from the verdant foliage, to the bright tropical flowers, to the blues of the sea and the sky. I also loved how Christine made the plants so lush and distinctly tropical. It’s really obvious that it’s not a beach scene in the US.

I also thought that the body language was just right. Pablo holding his knees against his chest, his face without a smile, looking off into the distance, shows his fear and anxiety perfectly. His back is facing Chiqui, which says a lot about how he first feels when she enters his life.

I think the cover will really appeal to both girls and boys—a definite plus in my opinion, since I’m a huge advocate of gender neutral media for children.

I couldn’t be happier with the artwork and stellar book design by Aram Kim.

Okay – let’s see it!

Tanya! It’s FANTASTIC! Not that I’m surprised, with Christine and Aram behind it — but WOW. I can’t imagine anyone walking by this book and not picking it up to learn more.

Speaking of which — when can readers get their hands on HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA, and where can they learn more about you and your work?

HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA is available for pre-order now on Amazon, Book Depository and other outlets, but will release on March 31st, 2020.

https://www.amazon.com/How-Make-Friends-Tanya-Guerrero/dp/0374311994

https://www.bookdepository.com/How-Make-Friends-with-Sea-Tanya-Guerrero/9780374311995

Please make sure to add it up on Goodreads here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38724629-how-to-make-friends-with-the-sea

I can also be reached through my website:

https://www.tanyaguerrero.com/

Tanya Guerrero is Filipino and Spanish by birth, but spent her childhood living in three continents—Asia, Europe and North America. Upon graduating from high school, she moved to Boston and attended Boston University, where she studied screenwriting. Over the course of eleven years, she’s worked as photo editor in children’s educational publishing, operated her own photo studio and freelanced as a writer.​

HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA, her debut middle-grade novel will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers/Macmillan on March 31st, 2020. Currently, she lives in a shipping container home in the suburbs of Manila with her husband, her daughter, and a menagerie of rescued cats and dogs. In her free time, she grows her own food, bakes sourdough bread and reads lots of books.

Cover Reveal: THE WONDER OF WILDFLOWERS, by Anna Staniszewski

Hello, Anna! Welcome to the MG Book Village, and thank you so much for hosting your cover reveal here. We’re very excited! Before we get to all of that, though, would you care to introduce yourself to our readers?

Thanks so much for having me! I’m the author of over a dozen books for young readers, including the tween novels The Dirt Diary and Secondhand Wishes; the picture books Power Down, Little Robot and Dogosaurus Rex; and the forthcoming Once Upon a Fairy Tale chapter book series. I write a lot of different kinds of stories, but I think what they all have in common is a sense of humor and a touch of magic.

Now, can you tell us about the new book — THE WONDER OF WILDFLOWERS?

10-year-old Mira is an immigrant in a country that’s nearly closed itself off from the rest of the world in order to protect its most precious nature resource: a magical substance called Amber that makes people stronger and healthier and smarter. As Mira struggles to find her place in a community that shuns outsiders, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to fit in.

The book is a bit of a departure from your previous novels, correct? Would you care to talk about that, and what led you to write this particular book?

My family moved from Poland to the US when I was five, so—like many immigrants—I had to quickly learn a new language and figure out how to assimilate into a new culture.  I suspect this is why the thread of not fitting in is a common one in many of my books, but for a long time, I shied away from writing about my own experiences. I thought: “There are so many great immigrant stories out there. What do I have to add?” Then one day, I started to wonder what would happen if I sprinkled a touch of magic into my own story, and that turned out to be my “in” into writing this more personal novel. By setting the book in a slightly fantastical version of our world, I was able to tell a tale inspired by my emotional experiences of being an immigrant but focused on Mira’s unique struggles.

Okay — let’s get to the cover. Were you involved in the process at all?

My editor, Krista Vitola, and I talked about ways to convey a sense of magic through the cover, since that element of the story is only hinted at in the title. In our conversation, I mentioned a couple of book covers that I thought successfully highlighted that kind of magical feeling, including Savvy by Ingrid Law. My editor passed that info along to the art director, Chloe Foglia, and I was so excited to see that she and the illustrator, Julie McLaughlin, really took that inspiration to heart and ran with it.  

What did you think when you first saw the art?

I immediately fell in love with it. It’s so visually stunning and creates such a perfect blend of magic and mystery. I love that one of the Amber wells is front and center on the cover, since that’s such a huge part of the story, and that we get to see a hint of something brewing in the town in the background. The cover illustration exactly captures the feelings I was hoping to convey in the novel!

All right — let’s see it!

WOW! It’s FANTASTIC! I love all the movement of the rounded shapes and curves, and the hint of drama and even menace with the lightning bolts, dark clouds, and shadowy houses. When can readers get their hands on THE WONDER OF WILDFLOWERS, and where can they learn more about you and your work?

The Wonder of Wildflowers will be releasing in Spring 2020 from Simon & Schuster. In the meantime, I have a few other projects in the works. Readers can check them out at www.annastan.com.

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was a Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives south of Boston with her family and teaches courses on writing and children’s literature at Simmons College. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of several tween novels, including The Dirt Diary and Once Upon a Cruise, and the picture books Power Down, Little Robot and Dogosaurus Rex.

Cover Reveal: PIXIE PUSHES ON, by Tamara Bundy

I am thrilled tell you that I got to work with the legendary Nancy Paulsen again for my next middle grade novel. That novel, Pixie Pushes On, publishes on January 14, 2020, and tells the story of a young girl in the 1940’s and the bittersweet lessons she learns from farm life as well as life without her sister who is hospitalized with polio.

But don’t think for a minute it’s all doom and gloom. I’ll leave that explanation up to these phenomenal authors who were kind enough to read my novel and give me a blurb:

“Pixie is full of heart! A laugh-out-loud book that also wades into poignant life lessons. A must read!” — Lynda Mullaly Hunt, author of Fish in a Tree.

“Pixie has bad luck–and is bad luck if you ask her. But she also has grit and gumption, so when her bad luck doesn’t let go, she opens her eyes and her heart wider. Her world changes when she changes how she looks at her world. I loved Pixie and her story — a story filled with humor, hope, and everyday heroes.” — Lynn Plourde, author of Maxi’s Secrets.

My head is still spinning at being on the receiving end of those amazing comments from two writers I respect and adore.

Writing Pixie Pushes On was so special to me. You see, my mom and dad both grew up on farms and would tell me stories about their childhoods. From my perspective as a city-kid, I was amazed at these tales. But it wasn’t until I was writing this story that I sat down and asked them detailed questions I never thought to ask before about the logistics and particulars of their lives during that time. This coincided with my dad being in the hospital and I swear I could see both him and my mom grow visibly younger while recounting the long-lost days of their childhoods. It was such a gift to us all. And now that my dad has since passed away, those days, those memories are more precious than ever.

And today, I am so happy to share with you the beautiful cover for Pixie Pushes On. It warms my heart. The illustrator, Matt Saunders, captured so beautifully the nostalgia of the novel. I hope you agree. Thank you, MG Book Village, for hosting my reveal — and thanks for all you do for the writing/reading community.

I can’t wait for everyone to meet Pixie. I hope she means as much to you as she means to me. In the meanwhile, I’ll tell you what I always tell my students during a school visit — if you are lucky enough to have a grandparent, great-grand parent — or any older person in your life — ask them about their childhood — and listen — really listen, before it’s too late. I promise you won’t regret it.

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A young girl learns bittersweet life lessons on the family farm after her sister gets polio, in this poignant and funny novel set in the heartland in the 1940s.

Pixie’s defenses are up, and it’s no wonder. She’s been uprooted, the chickens seem to have it in for her, and now her beloved sister, Charlotte, has been stricken with polio and whisked away into quarantine. So it’s not surprising Pixie lashes out. But her habit of making snap judgements–and giving her classmates nicknames like “Rotten Ricky” and “Big-Mouth Berta”–hasn’t won her any friends. At least life on the farm is getting better with the delivery of its newest resident–a runt baby lamb. Raising Buster takes patience and understanding–and this slowing down helps Pixie put things in better perspective. So too does paying attention to her neighbors, and finding that with the war on she’s not the only one missing someone. As Pixie pushes past her own pain to become a bigger person, she’s finally able to make friends; and to laugh about the fact that it is in places where she least expected it.

The End Is (Probably) Near: Cover reveal and sit down with middle school teacher and author Matthew Landis

Here is a truth: I love doomsday stories. I’ve always wanted to write one. Think a teenage version of The Road, maybe with zombies. Definitely motorcycles. A couple years ago I stumbled upon Charlie Higson’s The Enemy series and sobbed for days that he beat me to it. Then I binged a season of The Walking Dead and felt better.

I needed to forge my own direction—end the world my way. For a while, I wasn’t entirely sure what that was. I kept reading scary doomsday books (if you want to live in eternal dread, read One Second After by William Forstchen). And then this really interesting question floated up from the Ether: What if the apocalypse didn’t happen? What an epic letdown that would be, right?

This seemed funny—a reverse engineering of the whole thing. I was hooked. My brain went into overdrive with possibilities. I envisioned a kid convinced the world was ending only to find out (awkwardly) that the doomsday predictions he believed so completely turned out to be bogus. It felt ironic and weird and yet also sort of deep, the type of story that could explore some other stuff that was on my heart. It felt like me.

And so began the origin of my third novel, It’s the End of the World as I Know it. Like it’s predecessor, The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody, the story is set at the fictional Kennesaw Middle School—a virtual copy of the school I teach at in the Philly suburbs.

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Yet unlike that book, it has zero to do with social studies. Nor are there zombies or motorcycles or long, dangerous roads to the sea. Just an 8th grade kid, Derrick, who’s been turning his backyard shed into a doomsday shelter for the better part of a year. Convinced the Yellowstone super volcano is set to blow on September 21st (nineteen days from the book’s opening), Derrick will not be caught off guard. He will survive The End, due in no small part to his not surviving the other apocalypse in his life: his veteran mom’s death in Iraq.

In my twelve years of teaching middle school, I’ve had many kids with parental death. Too many. I don’t honestly know how they bear it—but they do, and it is quite something. I wanted to tell you about them, let you imagine the trauma of sudden and permanent loss they endure—“doomsday” if there ever was such a thing. I wanted to sketch the supporting players: the surviving parent and other sibling. The guidance counselor and therapist. The friend.

I’ve also had a student, equally amazing, who endured a potentially fatal illness. What was that like, I wondered—to have survived this “end”? How does peeking behind the curtain change the way a kid lives? This inspired Derrick’s foil and friend in the novel, Misty, fresh off a kidney transplant that nearly took her off the map before the game really got going. I pictured her just getting started with life as Derrick was getting ready for The End—her trying to cram it all in while he was packing it in. The intersection of those paths became the arc of this book. There’s also some poop jokes, a python that gets loose, and Pop-Tarts. Lots of Pop-Tarts.

I still love the gritty survival story set in a world-gone-to-hades (should you also, go read American War by Omar El Akkad, it’s fantastic). But that is not this book, because I’ve been learning that real life has plenty of actual apocalypses. It’s The End of the World As I Know It is about two kids surviving their own doomsdays and facing the changes it wrought in them. It is a story of friendship, grief, and the many ways the world can end—and begin again.

CoverFinal - Derrick.jpg

author_1.jpgMatthew Landis teaches 8th grade social studies outside Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife, two kids (soon to be four, pray for us), some chickens, and a boxer that acts like a forgotten eldest child. He is the author of the YA thriller LEAGUE OF AMERICAN TRAITORS (Sky Pony), and the MG contemporary school narrative THE NOT-SO-BORING LETTERS OF PRIVATE NOBODY (Dial/Penguin). He hopes to attain whatever level of literary fame allows a person to summer in Cape Town and go on endless safaris. This is his third novel.

 

Cover Reveal: A TIME TRAVELER’S THEORY OF RELATIVITY by Nicole Valentine

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Hello, Nicole! Welcome to the MG Book Village, and thank you so much for hosting your cover reveal here. We’re very excited! Before we get to all of that, though, would you care to introduce yourself to our readers?

Sure! Thank you for having me on the blog.

My name is Nicole Valentine and I’m a children’s book author, educator and technologist. I have an MFA in Writing from VCFA and I’ve been teaching writing at The Highlights Foundation for seven years. I was the Chief Technology Officer of several internet start-ups, my first being Sally Ride’s Space.com and my last being Figment.com, a website for teens to share their own writing (purchased and re-branded by Penguin/Random). I love all things science, but you can find me writing about that fascinatingly fuzzy area where science and magic meet. I live outside of Philadelphia with my human family and all the animals: our two dogs Merlin and Arthur, and our cats, Pickwick and Tink. One day we would like to add a falcon or hawk to the mix.

Whoa — those are some SOLID pet names. Bravo. Now, moving onto the book: can you tell us a bit about A TIME TRAVELER’S THEORY OF RELATIVITY? The novel is your debut, correct?

It is and I’m so happy it will soon be in the hands of kids. It’s about a very practical, science-loving boy who discovers all the women in his family can time travel. I have been fascinated with time travel since I was a child and this story explores not just the adventurous side of being able to travel in time, but all the emotional and moral conflicts that would arise. I describe it as A Time Traveler’s Wife meets Tuck Everlasting. While there is plenty of page-turning adventure inside, it is also a heartfelt story about family and loss.

The official description:

Twelve-year-old Finn is used to people in his family disappearing. His twin sister, Faith, drowned when they were three years old. A few months ago, his mom abandoned him and his dad with no explanation. He clings to the concrete facts in his physics books and to his best friend, Gabi to cope with his sadness. But when his grandmother tells him the family secret: that all the women in their family are Travelers, he realizes he has to put his trust in something bigger than logic to save his Mom.

It sounds excellent. Have you always enjoyed science fiction?

Yes, but I didn’t always realize it was science fiction. The kind of sci-fi I loved was very close to magical realism and fantasy, and what we now call speculative. I was in love with Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time (I still think Charles Wallace is the most fascinating character in all of children’s literature). I devoured all of Ray Bradbury’s stories and would take his books out of the library and keep them so long that I had to take a job at the library to avoid late fees. I fell hard for the subtle realism of Jack Finney’s Time and Again and read it over and over. I was deeply moved by the short stories of Charles DeLint and soon became an Ursula LeGuin devotee. I think my first introduction to the fact that I was reading sci-fi was when my uncle gave me his old issues of Omni Magazine and my favorite authors were inside. I have to credit both Omni and William Gibson with steering me towards a career in both writing and technology from a young age. Did you know the word cyberspace first appeared in Omni Magazine? I didn’t know any other teenage girls who were reading Omni and it was obvious that I wasn’t the intended demographic as a thirteen-year old girl, but it didn’t stop me. It’s funny how I can look back now and identify all the influences that steered my life.

Why do you think you are drawn to writing science fiction, particularly for young readers?

I can’t think of a better genre for kids in our current world. They have far more stress to cope with than we did and science fiction is a unique coping tool. Recently I’ve been reading about the psychology of awe and have delved much deeper into what captured my own young mind and why. I was twelve when my father suddenly passed away and like most children dealing with grief, I desperately wanted everything to return to normal. Being the grand thinker that I was, I dove headfirst into books about time travel. It seemed like the most logical solution: go back in time and warn my father about his undiagnosed heart problem. I didn’t discover how to time travel in the stacks of the New City Library, but I did discover awe in those pages. They filled me with wonder and gave me hope. Psychologists are just now beginning to study the emotion of awe and its benefits on the human brain and body. Subjects in psychological studies report a feeling of having more time available, increased generosity, and decreased aggression. Awe both generates empathy and combats stress in an empirical way. I know it was awe that saved me as a child. We need more books that bring hope through inspiring wonder.

That’s fascinating, and I relate to that a lot as a science fiction-lover myself. Okay, onto the main reason you’re here: your cover. Were you at all involved in the process?

I was given several sketches to look at early on. I’m afraid I wasn’t much help in the elimination process because I loved them all! I don’t know why, but I was surprised to find secret tells in the art that came from deep within my text. Alice Brereton took a nuanced, careful approach and I couldn’t be more grateful.

What did you think when you first saw the cover?

When I saw the full-color final choice I was blown away. I think I had to sit down. It’s a big moment seeing your book come bursting into reality in full color like that. It’s the perfect cover for this book. It captures all the magic and wonder I wanted and more.

All right — let’s see it!

Time Traveler's Theory of Relativity_C.jpg

Wow! It’s gorgeous. I love all the detail and different textures. I cannot wait to get my hands on it on October 1st! Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

You can find me at nicolevalentinebooks.com where you can also sign up for my quarterly newsletter. You can also find me blogging at steaMG.org – an alliance of middle grade authors working to bring more sci-fi and science-inspired fiction to the shelves. I’m on twitter at @nicoleva and my book is available for pre-order now at Indiebound and Amazon.

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 8.13.20 AM.pngNicole writes science fiction and magical realism for middle graders. She follows awe wherever it leads her. In her past life, she was a Chief Technology Officer for various internet start-ups. She began her career at CNN, moved on to work with Sally Ride at Space.com, and then helped found Figment.com, a website for teens to share their own writing. She has a Masters in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches writing at the Highlights Foundation. Home is just outside of Philadelphia where she lives with her human family, two large dogs named Merlin and Arthur, and two small cats named Tink and Pickwick. You can find her and subscribe to her newsletter at www.nicolevalentinebooks.com and on Twitter at @nicoleva.