Monday, December 15, 2014

Stinky Socks Behind Louise Galveston's 'By the Grace of Todd'

What can happen when kids leave their socks under the bed for too long? In her clever middle-grade debut By the Grace of Todd (Razorbill, 2014), Louise Galveston tackles that (somewhat disgusting) question. Twelve-year-old Todd is really, really messy. He's so messy that his dirty sweat socks have spawned a civilization of ant-sized people called "Toddlians." When a malicious neighbor learns of Todd's secret, conflict ensues.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books says, "The gratifying conclusion sees the Toddlians to safety, and an epilogue that reveals that the whole story has been recounted by an elder of Toddlandia suggests that the Toddlians might return for future adventures, sure to be welcome news to the fans of both the smart and the gross that will take to this one."

Question: What inspired you to write your book?

Louise Galveston: I have five sons ages 17-5. They generate a lot of stinky sweat socks! When my editor pitched the premise of a boy who inadvertently grows a civilization from his lucky baseball sock, I felt like I definitely had the expertise to run with the idea! I was especially glad the book dealt with bullying and being true to yourself despite being mocked. I definitely dealt with that in middle school.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

LG: My first mission is to give kids (and boys in particular) a reason to read. Once they're hooked by the fun (and sometimes gross) stuff, I want them to relate to and care about the characters so that the lessons they learn along the way go down easily. But most of all I want kids to fall in love with reading!

Q: What are you working on next?

LG: The sequel to By the Grace of Todd–In Todd We Trust–comes out in March! In this book, the Toddlians (the tiny people that grow from Todd's sock and worship him as their god) decide they need to find a more responsible leader. It's full of first crushes and hair-raising adventures as the little people build an "ark" and attempt to sail to a new destiny.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Ghost Dogs, Magic Behind Edith Cohn's 'Spirit's Key'

Edith Cohn’s delightful debut novel Spirit’s Key (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014) weaves magic into an appealing girl-and-her-dog story. It tells of 12-year-old Spirit Holden, who lives among the islanders on tiny Bald Island. When dogs begin dying and the islanders become ill, Spirit's family is blamed. With the help of her ghost dog, Sky, guiding her, Spirit taps into her own power and finds a way to help.

Kirkus Reviews calls Spirit’s Key "an inventive story with a fresh setting and an upstanding moral compass." And Booklist, in a starred review, says, "Themes of belonging, standing up for what is right, and wildlife conservation pervade this strong debut." 

Question: What inspired you to write your book?

Edith CohnSpirit’s Key had several inspirations. The first was a dog named Marisol who went missing. She belonged to a friend of mine, and we searched the city for Marisol for months. I kept seeing her everywhere–even though it was never really her, and I got the idea about a ghost dog–about my friend never having closure. Later I decided I wanted the setting of the book to be an island, and I was deeply inspired by Ocracoke and the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which is a truly magical place. 

I was also inspired by my niece who went through a vegetarian phase, and I got to thinking about how kids that age are still figuring out what they think and still forming their beliefs. And then the idea that people's house keys can tell the future? That came from a handmade key ring I was wearing at the time.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

EC: This is terribly ambitious, but I hope to write books that inspire people to see the world in a slightly different way. I hope people might see how fear is the root of hatred and injustice. I hope they might be a little kinder to each other and to animals. 

Q: What are you working on next?

EC: I am working on two books. One is a middle-grade fantasy and the other is a slightly futuristic middle-grade. I'm in the early stages of both, so I can't say anymore about them. There's magic in keeping the writing secret for a little while.

Monday, December 1, 2014

First Families Inspire Behrens' 'When Audrey Met Alice'

Rebecca Behrens' When Audrey Met Alice (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2014) makes a great read for anyone with an interest in the First Family or the agonies of being a First Daughter (see Turkey Pardon). Rebecca has great fun with the juxtaposition of her character Audrey Rhodes, who finds life in the White House to be confusing and confining, with Teddy Roosevelt's wild-eyed daughter Alice. Only when Audrey discovers Alice Roosevelt's old diary does she begin to feel better about her arrangement at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A story of holding on to your sense of self despite the chaos around you, this story hits with readers young and old.

Question: What inspired you to write your book?

Rebecca Behrens: I was a tween during the Clinton administration, and I always wondered what Chelsea Clinton's life was like in the White House: making the Yellow Bedroom her own, dealing with Secret Service agents chaperoning her dates, and having the media report on her grades, hobbies, and appearance. I wanted to explore the awesome and awkward aspects of life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for an ordinary girl, in a very extraordinary situation. That inspired Audrey's character.

And I've always been fascinated by Alice Roosevelt, the spirited and sometimes shocking daughter of Teddy Roosevelt. I thought it would be cool to have a contemporary First Daughter interact with Alice through a fictionalized diary–and interesting for readers to see how a First Kid's life in the White House once was, and might be today.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

RB: First and most of all, I want to tell a good story! I'm always hoping that the book I write will be one that engages and entertains young readers. With When Audrey Met Alice, I also hoped that readers might be inspired to "meet" Alice Roosevelt and other First Daughters themselves by reading and researching after finishing the book. I like blending contemporary and historical fiction because I think it offers a window into the past–especially to readers who might be hesitant to try historical fiction. And, finally and hopefully without making it seem like my writing is didactic(!), I try to write about girls who are curious, smart, and resourceful–because those are the sharp-cookie heroines I loved to read about as a kid, and also because I think that's important for young readers.

Q: What are you working on next?

RB: My next book is Summer of Lost and Found, another middle-grade novel that blends contemporary and historical fiction. It will be released in early 2016 by Egmont USA. In it, a girl’s father mysteriously disappears and her botanist mother drags her to Roanoke Island for a research trip, where the girl decides to solve the mystery of the Lost Colony with the help of a peculiar local boy. I also have two historical short stories that will be published soon: Thatagirl! will appear in Scholastic classroom magazines in Fall 2014/Spring 2015, and A Piece of Cake will appear in Cricket magazine, in 2015 or early 2016 (date to be determined).