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


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 LIGHT IN THE LAKE, by Sarah R. Baughman

COVER_REVEAL

I am thrilled to welcome Sarah Baughman to the MG Book Village for the cover reveal of her debut novel, THE LIGHT IN THE LAKE.  Many thanks to Sarah for letting us host the reveal and for taking the time to answer a few questions about her novel.

~ Corrina

Corrina: Hi Sarah – welcome to the MGBookVillage! Before we share your cover, can you tell us a bit about The Light in the Lake?

Sarah: I’m thrilled that you’re hosting my cover reveal! Thanks so much. The Light in the Lake follows the journey of Addie, a 12-year-old girl who lost her twin brother when he drowned in a lake near their rural Vermont home. Addie has recently been accepted for a summer position studying water pollution, but she finds her scientific view of the world challenged by a notebook her brother left behind, filled with clues about a magical creature living in Maple Lake. The book is close to my heart, as the setting is strongly inspired by where I used to live in Vermont; I actually got the idea for the story while walking in the woods behind our old house.

Corrina: I’ve always been fascinated by the tension between a scientific view of the world and a magical view of the world.  Do you see them as compatible?

Sarah: This is a great question, and I actually do see them as compatible even though they might seem contradictory! One of my best friends in college was a chemistry major, and I have a distinct memory of walking back from cross-country practice with her on a foggy afternoon. I made some poetic comment about the fog looking otherworldly, and she said, “that’s funny; I was thinking about condensation.” I believe and find value in both perspectives. That said, I’ve always sensed magic in nature, and still do; so although I’m deeply committed to the science of conservation and believe we’re all in debt to scientists who continue to discover new information about how best to protect our environment, I also feel that noticing those touches of magic creates a kind of emotional connection to nature that’s very important.

Corrina: Let’s take a look at the cover!

tlitl cover

Corrina: That is gorgeous! Who is the artist that designed your cover?  And what did you think when you saw the final version?

Sarah: I’m so grateful to the people who created this cover: illustrator Ji-Hyuk Kim and designer Karina Granda. The final version absolutely took my breath away! I was amazed by how beautifully all the elements we’d discussed came together. The colors and light really capture the beauty of the setting, along with Addie’s sense of wonder.

Corrina: Sarah – thank you for letting us take a peek at the cover of The Light in the Lake! When can readers get it, and where is a good place to preorder?

Sarah: The book is scheduled for release on September 3, 2019! In the meantime, you can pre-order it on Amazon, IndieBound, or Barnes & Noble. You can also add it on Goodreads and stay posted for more retailers on the Little, Brown site. Thanks again for hosting this reveal, and for doing such a wonderful job of supporting and promoting middle grade books!

Corrina: Thank you!

srbaughman_authorphotocolorSarah R. Baughman grew up in Michigan, then taught middle and high school English on four continents. After living in rural northeastern Vermont for six years, she recently moved back to Michigan with her husband and two children. She now works as an educational consultant and author, and spends as much time as possible in the woods and water.

You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahrbaughman  , Instagram at @sarahrbaughman, or on her website www.sarahrbaughman.com

 

COVER REVEAL: DIARY OF AN ICE PRINCESS, by Christina Soontornvat

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I’m thrilled to welcome Christina Soontornvat to the MG Book Village today to reveal the cover of the first book in her newest series, DIARY OF AN ICE PRINCESS! Christina is also the author of THE CHANGELINGS series, which has been widely celebrated and which Booklist praised for its emphasis on “the importance of family, whether it’s the one you’re born into, the one you find yourself in, or the one you create for yourself.” If you haven’t checked out The Changelings and its sequel, In a Dark Land, hurry up already! But first read the interview below and get excited about what Christina’s got coming next!

~ Jarrett

. . .

First of all, Christina, thanks so much for choosing the MG Book Village to host your cover reveal! We’re thrilled to have you here! But before we reveal the cover, could you tell us a bit about DIARY OF AN ICE PRINCESS?

Princess Lina is a Windtamer, which means she has the magical ability to control the wind and weather – at least she’s supposed to. Somehow Lina’s magic always ends up a snowy, icy mess. Her grandfather (The North Wind) wants her to practice with him, but Lina just wants to be normal. That means going to school on the ground.

Lina convinces her parents to let her go to Hilltop Science Academy on the condition that she keeps her magic a secret. That means no frozen water fountains. No snowball fights at recess. No icicles in the classroom. No problem! Lina just has to stay cool – ack! Not cool. Warm. That’s it. Warm. She just has to keep everything warm and under control…

Did you participate in the cover design process at all?

Yes, I did! The main character of the series, Lina, is mixed race Asian American and it was really important to all of us involved in the book to get her just right. My editor asked me to put together some character samples and notes, not just for Lina but for her entire family. That was really fun! It felt like I was involved in casting a movie. But the overall design, with the clouds and the palace in the background, all came from the design team. I had no idea what Lina was going to look like, or what style she would be rendered in until my editor sent the first image.

Okay, let’s take a look at the cover…

DiaryofanIcePrincess1.jpg

I love it! It’s getting me excited for winter and snow (but not the shoveling of the snow…). What was YOUR reaction to seeing the cover for the first time?

A gasp of delight at seeing Lina! I thought the artist, Barbara Szepesi Szucs, did an absolutely perfect job with capturing her personality. And it meant so much to me to see a character of Asian descent on the cover of a book – a magical princess book, no less! When I was growing up, I never found books with characters that looked like me on the covers unless it was a folktale. I do love folktales, and I do think books that address serious topics around Asian identity and history are important. But I also want the world to have books with Asian leads that are just pure, unabashed fun. That made this cover all the more meaningful for me.

So you loved the whole cover right away, without any reservations?

Ok, I do have to confess that one of my first reactions was…wow, that’s a lot of pink! I’m not a pink person! And here we’ve got pink font, pink spine, pink clouds. But then of course I realized that the pink thing was just my personal hang-up. The color and the aesthetic are perfect for this story. Lina and her best friend, Claudia, both have a love for science and math that plays into book’s plot. I am a big supporter of making STEM accessible for all children, including pink-adoring, tutu-wearing, princess-loving girls and boys. So I am a total pink convert now!

Plus, there’s a dog!

That would be Gusty! He was a late addition who has become one of my favorite characters. And wait until you see Book 2. He’s wearing a snow hat. The adorable factor is out of control.

I can’t wait to see it! And I can’t wait to read Snow Place Like Home! When can readers get their hands on the book?

June 25, 2019!

Soontornvat_24Sep15_Cathlin McCullough Photography.jpg

Christina Soontornvat grew up behind the counter of her parents’ Thai restaurant reading stories. These days she loves to make up her own, especially if they involve magic. Christina also loves science and worked in a science museum for years before pursuing her dream of being an author. She still enjoys cooking up science experiments at home with her two daughters. She is the author of THE CHANGELINGS series, as well as several forthcoming picture books and novels for young readers. You can learn more about Christina and her books on her website at www.soontornvat.com.

 

 

 

Cover Reveal: UP FOR AIR, by Laurie Morrison

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I am so excited to welcome Laurie Morrison to the MG Book Village for the cover reveal of her latest novel, UP FOR AIR. I’ve been a huge fan of Laurie’s work since her debut novel Every Shiny Thing, and I can’t wait to read this story!  A big thank you to Laurie for letting us host the reveal and for taking the time to answer a few questions about UP FOR AIR.

~ Corrina

. . .

Hi Laurie! Before we reveal the cover, can you tell us a bit about Up for Air?

Hi, Corrina! Thanks so much for having me on MG Book Village! Up for Air is a contemporary middle grade novel about self-esteem, swimming, summer, social pressures, shifting friendships, academic challenges, and an intense crush. Here’s the description from my publisher:

Thirteen-year-old Annabelle struggles in school, no matter how hard she tries. But as soon as she dives into the pool, she’s unstoppable. She’s the fastest girl on the middle school swim team, and when she’s asked to join the high school team for the summer, everything changes. Suddenly, she’s got new friends, and a high school boy starts treating her like she’s somebody special—and Annabelle thinks she’ll finally stand out in a good way. She’ll do anything to fit in and help the team make it to the Labor Day Invitational, even if it means blowing off her old friends. But after a prank goes wrong, Annabelle is abandoned by the older boy and can’t swim. Who is she without the one thing she’s good at? Heartwarming and relatable, Up for Air is a story about where we find our self-worth.

You’ve mentioned that this novel was inspired by your students. I’d love to hear more about that!

Yes! The short answer is that one student told me to write Annabelle’s story after reading a (now shelved) manuscript in which Annabelle was a secondary character. Then my conversations with several other students about the kinds of books they wished they could find convinced me to go for it.

The long version is this: I taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade English Language Arts for ten years, and it was a challenge to find contemporary realistic novels that felt geared toward my 11-14 year-old students. A lot of middle grade novels felt too young to them, so many of them (especially the 7th and 8th graders) read young adult books instead.

There was nothing wrong with that at all! Except that I wanted them to know that their current experiences were important and worth reading about, too. And I saw how much it meant to them when I could hand them a book that was about a 12, 13, or 14 year-old character they related to—one who was confronting some of the same pressures and changes they were dealing with.

But I couldn’t find many books that explored things like the attention some middle school girls started to get as their bodies developed—attention that was thrilling in some ways but scary and isolating in others. And I struggled to find books that delved into the way some of my students were ready for certain kinds of experiences, friendships, and flirtations, and others just weren’t yet…or some of them were ready for these things in one moment and then eager to retreat to something innocent, silly, and kid-like in the next.

I wanted to write an upper middle grade novel that would address topics like these and appeal to 10-14 year-old readers, but I’d been warned against writing something that would fall into the unmarketable gray area between middle grade and young adult fiction. So I wrote a YA novel called Rebound, which featured a fairly innocent teen protagonist I thought older middle schoolers would relate to…and that teen protagonist had a younger stepsister named Annabelle.

One of my 7th grade students read Rebound in 2014 and said, “I want Annabelle’s story next.” I loved that idea! I loved Annabelle and knew her story could explore many of the adolescent pressures and changes I saw my students confronting. But I was apprehensive about pouring my heart, time, and energy into something unmarketable, so I held onto the seed of her story but didn’t do much with it….until I shared Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger with a group of 7th graders the next year.

Goodbye Stranger prompted incredibly rich, passionate conversations. Students were so eager to talk about the storyline that features a 7th grade girl getting attention for her developing body. And then I led a book club group of 5th-8th graders who read Natasha Friend’s Where You’ll Find Me. That book was a hit with all of the participants regardless of their age, but the older readers in the group especially talked about how good it felt to read a novel about an 8th grade protagonist who “really felt like an 8th grader.” They wanted more books like Goodbye Stranger and Where You’ll Find Me. They wanted a story like Annabelle’s, and I wanted to write it.

And so, finally, I did. I’m so happy that my critique partners, agent, and editor believe in Annabelle’s story as much as I do, and I can’t wait for it to be out in the world! I’m especially excited to give an advance copy to the student who asked me to write about Annabelle back when she was in 7th grade. She’s now about to start her senior year in high school, but better late than never, I figure!

Who is the artist that designed your cover?  And what did you think when you saw the final version?

The cover artist is Nishant Choksi, and the designer is Hana Nakamura. And I was so thrilled to see the final version! I love the bright colors, the way the title looks in those bubbles, and the way Annabelle looks simultaneously grown up and kid-like. I think it’s really eye-catching and vibrant, and it captures the story so well.

Laurie – thank you for letting us take a peek at the cover of Up for Air!  When can readers get it, and where is a good place to preorder?

It’s my absolute pleasure! Up for Air will be out on May 7, 2019 from Abrams/Amulet Books. Readers can preorder on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or IndieBound.

Thank you! And now let’s take a look!

up for air correct cover.jpg

Laurie Morrison Headshot 1Laurie Morrison taught middle school English for ten years and is the author of two middle grade novels: Every Shiny Thing (Abrams, 2018, co-authored with Cordelia Jensen) and Up for Air (Abrams, 2019). She collaborates with other authors to run Middle Grade at Heart, an online book club and newsletter. Laurie holds a BA from Haverford College, an MA from The University of Arizona, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.  She lives with her family in Philadelphia, and she loves iced coffee, freshly baked pastries, the ocean, and (of course) books.

Cover Reveal: THE HUNT FOR THE MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER, by Diane Magras

COVER_REVEAL

A big THANK YOU to Diane Magras for choosing the MG Book Village to host the cover reveal for The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter, the highly anticipated sequel to her debut The Mad Wolf’s Daughter! If you haven’t read The Mad Wolf’s Daughter yet, I can’t recommend it enough. You’ll be torn between wanting to race ahead to see how each dramatic scene unfolds and wanting to linger to enjoy every one of the crisp, powerful sentences — and you won’t be able to get enough of Drest, the Mad Wolf’s daughter herself.

Read the interview below to learn about the new book and the creation of its cover, and stick around, of course, for the big reveal!

~ Jarrett

. . .

Thank you for stopping by the MG Book Village, Diane, and for choosing us to host the cover reveal for The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter! Before we get to the cover, can you tell us a bit about the new book? Does it pick up right where we left Drest?

The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter begins a few hours after the first book ends, throwing Drest into a very personal battle when she learns that a price has been put on her head. Sir Oswyn, who has taken over Faintree Castle, claims that Drest had murdered the young Lord Faintree. He’s singled out Drest as being more dangerous than even her brutal father and her fearsome brothers. She’s not proud of that, though; it’s a terrifying consequence of her legend. But being what she is, Drest doesn’t accept her father’s solution to run and hide. She plans to somehow gain back Faintree Castle for her friend the young Lord Faintree, who is the only one who can remove Sir Oswyn’s sentence. But she’s up against a whole castle army that’s after her and her family, and one of its knights is close on her trail, eager to win that generous price for her head.

Wow! I can’t wait! Had you ever written a follow-up novel before? Was the experience at all different from writing THE MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER?

This is my first experience writing a follow-up novel, which happens to be both a second and final book in a series. So I needed to not only draw upon the characters and conflicts of the past book, but conclude everything as well (leaving a handful of loose ends, just because that’s life!). This book could also be read as a stand-alone, so I needed to summarize what happened in the last book and who my enormous cast of characters are. I quickly realized that it’s just like starting a new novel of a new world, using the same techniques of summarizing past experiences amidst the action. And so I begin the story with a tense moment, swiftly capture the relationship between the first characters whom the readers meet (Drest and Emerick), and launch into the conflict at once.

Did the same artist do this cover as did the last?

Yes, I’m honored that Antonio Javier Caparo created the jacket art for this book too. I love how he captures the style of my storytelling with his own interpretations of Drest and her world. And I love his attention to detail. If you look closely at my cover, you’ll see the subtle touches that make the characters come alive and their clothes, weapons, and surroundings look so real.

Here at the Village, we’ve been trying more and more to give readers behind-the-scenes peeks of the book-making process, at all stages. Can you talk at all about the work of art designers, and in particular the work your designer did for your book?

The art designer for my covers, Maggie Edkins, was involved from the very beginning. She had a sense of the kind of feel that Penguin Young Readers wanted the art for The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter to have, and shared that with Antonio, who then sketched his vision for the cover. Then he and Maggie went back and forth over little matters up to the final sketch. Antonio performed his magic, added his signature details, and made the art come alive (I’ve watched a few of videos of his artistic process for other works, and I still find it staggering). Maggie also hand-lettered the title for both this and the previous book. I’m a big fan of her work too!

Were you at all involved in the process?

I’ve been a sidelines participant in the cover art process, suggesting details (such as dirt on all the characters’ clothes, and making sure that Drest is depicted as left-handed), and sharing my reactions. I’ve been very lucky to have the chance to look at each sketch. I’m grateful for this input (I know that keeping me in the loop was an extra step in a very busy process) because I pay a lot of attention to cover art. I regularly chat with kids and librarians about what attracts my readership and what doesn’t (I put together a focus group with questions like this for the first book), so my feedback isn’t just my personal feelings (though my personal feelings did sneak in now and then!).

What was your reaction when you saw the new book’s cover?

I was thrilled. Here’s my wee lass, out for another adventure, with that great defiant look in her eye. And I love seeing her friends on the cover with her, and the emotion that Antonio put in their faces and poses. He really nailed who these people are and even what they’re thinking in that scene. And the color scheme is beautiful. I know this cover will stand out. (By the way, there’ll be a surprise on the jacket’s back. It’s not going to be shared until the book is out in March, but I’m especially thrilled at what Antonio and Maggie have done. It may involve Drest’s family…)

Is there anything else you want to share about the role of covers more generally?

A middle grade cover is a reader’s first introduction to a book. It’s a book’s face, and also a visual representation of the story. Within seconds, it tells the reader what they’re about to experience. Cover art can be witty, humorous, beautiful, intense—and it’s art, just like what you see in a museum or in a frame on someone’s wall. But cover art needs to do more than framed art: It needs to not only grab the viewer but also turn that viewer into a reader. That puts tremendous pressure on cover artists. Their work serves as one of the most important pieces of marketing a book has, and can determine that our books are picked up in the first place—or not.

Thanks for the interview. I hope everyone loves my new book’s cover as much as I do!

Well, how about we let them see it?! Thanks again, Diane!

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Diane-Magras_ABOUT-DIANE

 

Diane Magras is author of the NYT Editors’ Choice The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, which came just before The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter. All things medieval fascinate Diane: castles, abbeys, swords, manuscripts, and the daily life of medieval people, especially those who weren’t royalty. Diane lives in Maine with her husband and son and thinks often of Scotland, where her books are set.

Cover Reveal: THE GEMINI MYSTERIES: THE NORTH STAR, by Kat Shepherd, w/ Special Guest Interviewer Elly Swartz

COVER_REVEAL

Elly: As we are celebrating the cover of your new series, The Gemini Mysteries, can you share your thoughts when you first saw your cover?

Kat: Before we even talked about cover design, they showed me work from the artist they had chosen, Kevin Hong, and I could not believe I had gotten so lucky. His work is beautiful and evocative, and having his art on my book felt like hitting the jackpot. When my editor sent me those initial drafts it was love at first sight, and it just got better from there. I love how moody it is; you can really feel the mystery, and then there’s that necklace. I’ve read this story at least a hundred times, and every time I see the cover I’m like, “Ooh, I really want to read that book!”

I remember that when you showed me the Smart Cookie cover, we were both thrilled with how it felt both perfectly Scholastic and perfectly Elly Swartz. It felt very distinct from Finding Perfect, which was published by FSG, but it also felt like it lived in the same world. When your readers talk to you about your books, do they talk about the covers?

Yes. Students are super curious and excited about both covers. With Smart Cookie, they love the cookies and the dog. And ask if it’s my beagle Lucy on the cover. (Spoiler alert – it’s not! But I love that they ask.) With Finding Perfect, they love how so many creative elements in the story found their way onto the cover. It’s like a story scavenger hunt. I am so grateful to the creative teams at Scholastic and FSG for creating such engaging covers that share the heart of the stories.

Have you always loved mysteries? If so, was that what prompted you to write in this genre?

When my editor, Sonali Fry, approached me about writing an interactive mystery series, I knew exactly what she wanted to do, because I had loved that type of book so much as a kid. I had always wanted to write a mystery, so this project was kind of a dream come true for me.

I have been a huge mystery fan for as long as I can remember; so much so, in fact, that I have a mystery-themed tattoo sleeve that continues to evolve as I add more favorites to it. One of the things I loved most about mysteries is the interactive experience of reading one. You’re constantly taking in information, evaluating, predicting, and then re-evaluating based on a changing landscape of clues. So much fun as a reader, and such a great tool as a teacher!

You know how thrilled I was when I read an early draft of Smart Cookie and discovered it was also a mystery! I love that you’ve woven a ghostly mystery in with Frankie’s hilarious and heartfelt search for the perfect family. Which came first, and how did you find those threads that tied the story together so perfectly?

For me, the character and the heart of the story always come first. But then this really interesting thing happened. Frankie’s search for her herd took me to a B&B in a small town in Vermont. And there the mystery came to life.

Do you have tips and strategies for writing a mystery?

Basically, I start by planning the crime first: the type of crime, the list of suspects, and the perpetrator. Then I begin to construct the rough plot structure. I like to break my books into three acts, and for mysteries I call it the Howdonit, the Whodonit, and the Whydonit. First the detectives have to figure out how the crime was committed, then they have to figure out who did it, and the last part is the denouement, where everything gets explained and revealed.

Writing the Babysitting Nightmares series got me into the habit of always outlining before I write. However, when I started working on Gemini, I quickly realized that I needed to approach plotting in a completely different way for this type of story, because there were things that I needed to know that I didn’t want my readers to know. So in addition to my usual outline I made a second, super-secret timeline just for me that was color-coded by suspect. It included what each suspect was doing several months before the crime, just before the crime, during the crime, and after the crime. This helped me make sure I didn’t accidentally provide any alibis, and it also gave me plenty of folks with means, motive, and opportunity. Because good criminals plan their crimes carefully, I had to do the same!

I know that your writing process often starts with voice and character. Was that the same for Smart Cookie, or did the mystery element change your process for this book?

My process remained the same for Smart Cookie. The story began with Frankie’s heart and spunk. Then slowly the mystery unravelled one crumb at a time. While this required a lot of revising and plotting as the story unfolded, it also allowed me, as the writer, to discover along with my reader. However, next time I decide to write a mystery, I’m going to try your Howdonit, Whodonit, Whydonit approach! I love that!

Gemini Mysteries has such a unique way of storytelling. I love how the reader can discover clues in the both the text and illustrations. It’s like you left a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader. Can you talk about this style of storytelling?

Once I had my crime planned and my suspects in place, I started brainstorming what clues related to the crime could also be shown visually. Some clues needed to implicate characters, and others needed to exonerate them. And because there is a clue at the end of every chapter, I then had to figure out how to turn that brainstormed list into a series of sequential links that logically led the detectives forward to each new clue.  It required me to plan exactly how every single scene would begin and end. While that level of structure added an extra layer of challenge in the planning and plotting, it made things so much easier when I got to the writing, because I didn’t have to think about what was going to happen next. Instead I just got to enjoy letting the characters play out the scenes in my head.

I know that you have often described writing as your “happy place”, which is this beautiful idea that I absolutely envy! There are so many writing days when hitting my word count can feel like every single one of those words was pulled out of me like a tooth. But writing this book didn’t feel like that at all. It was really fun from start to finish, like solving the world’s most interesting logic puzzle.

Maybe you found your happy place in writing mysteries!

Sophia, one of the main characters in the story, creates a fundraiser to support gibbons at the zoo. Do you have a connection to zoos or gibbons, in particular?

Sophia’s dedication to protecting apes was inspired by a former student of mine, Emmie, who taught me about palm oil back when she was in fourth grade. I had literally never heard of it before, and this kid was already fighting hard to stop the terrible habitat destruction that comes from palm oil plantations. She gave me tools to change my own consumer habits and make more sustainable choices, and she also showed me how to be a better environmental advocate. I was very lucky to learn from her.

I have spent most of my own life working with animals in some capacity. I always loved caring for my pets as a kid, and when I got older I started volunteering in animal sanctuaries and zoos.

I am a passionate advocate for good zoos and responsible animal stewardship, and I love sharing the incredible work that’s being done to support animal care and conservation around the world. When I lived in Los Angeles I was a docent and major donor to the LA Zoo, and I also volunteered a bit at the Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita. Gibbons are rare and magnificent little apes, and their songs are some of the most haunting, thrilling, and truly joy-inspiring sounds you could ever hope to hear. I hope every one of my readers someday has the opportunity to sing with the gibbons!

And now . . . the cover!

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Kat ShepherdKat Shepherd is thrilled to write fast-paced series that are likely to engage reluctant readers because as an educator, she believes that reading should be a joyful experience for every kid. A former classroom teacher, Kat has also spent various points in her life working as a deli waitress, a Hollywood script reader, and a dog trainer for film and TV. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, two dogs, and a rotating series of foster dogs. She is the author of the BABYSITTING NIGHTMARES series (Macmillan/Imprint, 2018), a spooky series that follows the supernatural babysitting adventures of a group of four tween girls. Her second series, THE GEMINI MYSTERIES (Bonnier/Yellow Jacket) is an interactive mystery series that debuts in March, 2019.

IMG_9578Elly Swartz loves writing for kids, Twizzlers, and anything with her family. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG 2016) is about twelve-year-old Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. In her second book, SMART COOKIE (Scholastic, 2018), you meet the spunky and big-hearted Frankie. Frankie’s all about family with a dash of mischief and mystery! And then in 2019, say hello to Maggie in GIVE AND TAKE (FSG). Elly lives in Massachusetts with her family and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly, you can find her at ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz, Instagram @ellyswartzbooks or on her webseries #BooksintheKitchen with Victoria J. Coe.