Coming July 3rd! (which is kind of soon)

I can’t believe it is not even two months until Power Play releases!  How did that happen?  Pre-order today to make sure it is on your doorstep July 3rd. I can’t wait for this book. It’s a lot of fun – perfect for the beach, the lake, the backyard sprinkler, wherever summer might take you.

Pre-order: AmazonBarnes & Noble, IndieBound or visit your local bookstore.

 

“Once again, Abby’s cheeky, first-person, present-tense narration lends immediacy, realism, and humor to her well-intended penchant for precarious adventure.” – KIRKUS

Some questions for debut author Diane Magras, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter

When I was a kid, I wanted to be the girl version of Indiana Jones. And by girl version I mean, I wanted to be exactly like him but not be a boy. It made perfect sense. He had all the fun, the swashbuckling adventures, the near misses, and he got to save the world. What’s not to love?

So it’s been a thrill for me to see characters like Drest take their rightful place in the pantheon of action heroes. She’s smart, tough, loyal, determined but not without flaws. She can be a bit hot headed and doesn’t always make the right choices but her heart is in the right place and she will get the job done, even if it gets a little messy. Add in the compelling medieval setting and period details and The Mad Wolf’s Daughter will keep you up all night. (Buy the book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound)

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I’ve always been an avid reader. I grew up in a family where everyone read—there were books in just about every room of our house—and I started reading fairly young. My parents both loved reading aloud to me, but I didn’t make it easy for them: I often interrupted and told them how I thought the story should go. I wrote stories about my toys and their adventures, but really began taking writing seriously when I was 14 years old. I’d read Susan B. Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising, which inspired me to write longer stories about more complicated imaginary topics. And then my wonderful English teacher Ms. Plourde, who had always encouraged my writing, told me that people my age sometimes wrote novels. I decided that it was time for me to write a novel. And so I did.

The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is set in the 13th-century Scottish headlands. What research did you do to get a feel for the setting?

I’m a bit obsessed with medieval history, and I read a lot of that for fun. For this book, I focused on Britain and Scotland: David Santiuste’s masterful The Hammer of the Scots: Edward I and the Scottish Wars of Independence, which gave me a great picture of medieval Scottish politics, identity, and ways of thinking; Danny Danziger and John Gillingham’s 1215: The Year of the Magna Carta and Danny Danziger and Robert Lacey’s The Year 1000 for a broad look at Britain, social mores, and daily life during those periods; and Frances and Joseph Gies’s Life in a Medieval Castle and Life in a Medieval Village for more in-depth details. Then for a closer look at specific topics: Ewart Oakeshott’s A Knight and His Armor and A Knight and His Weapons and Malcolm Hislop’s How to Read Castles. Those were some of the most helpful books of my text-based research.

I also took research trips to Scotland in 2016 and 2017 to explore the castles and abbeys of the Scottish Borders. Wandering around those historical sites gave me a taste of what it was really like to be in the world I was describing—as well as to show me specific details that I’d read about but never seen, such as murder holes, arrow loops, and those wonderful narrow stairs that make it difficult to siege a castle. Historic Scotland Environment’s in-depth tourist guides and friendly staff helped me put these properties into context.

Drest is a hero for modern times, a girl rising to the occasion and stepping into a role more often filled by boys. What female heroes, fictional or real, were on your mind when you conceived Drest?

Philip Pullman’s Lyra—especially as she is in The Golden Compass: an independent, brave, mischievous, and intensely loyal girl—has always been a character I’ve admired, and I’m sure those qualities influenced Drest.

Gwynna, of Philip Reeve’s Here Lies Arthur, has also been an important character in my consciousness. I love the way she lived with Arthur’s war-band as a full member of its younger people (though her gender was a secret), and how she responded to the gruesome aspects of battle, then eventually made her own decisions about who and what she would be.

Finally, Kelly Barnhill’s Áine from The Witch’s Boy: a strong girl with her own moral code, determined to do what was right for her purposes, gradually growing to understand, accept, and work toward a greater purpose.

Those three protagonists no doubt influenced Drest, but so did all the fiction I read growing up. As you say, boys nearly always filled the role of hero and had the exciting adventures. As a child, I wanted to be like them—to still be a girl, but to be the one with the quest, the one in the armor with the sword, to be just as strong and tough as they were.

This novel is full of heart pounding danger, deception and adventure. I loved the mystery elements and the fast pace! What came first for you – character or plot?

The character of Drest came first, along with a situation—that she was in a family of bloodthirsty villains, and was going to learn about who they really were once she was separated from them. The rest of the basic plot came after that, and I introduced other characters and began understanding them as I went on with the story. I rewrote the whole novel about three times, honing in more and more on the strongest parts of the plot, each time discovering possibilities for secrets (and going back and editing those in throughout). As I rewrote, I also refined the characters—including Drest.

Writing for middle grade readers can be a challenge. What about this age range/genre appeals to you?

I love how smart, eager, and inventive middle grade readers are. They love books, and they take stories seriously. And they appreciate humor, heart, and action—as do I, in a very similar way. I also know from my own experience at that age how much books can make a difference. Being a middle grader isn’t easy, and the right book can be a friend or an inspiration or an escape—or all three. It’s an honor to write for this age group and try to write that book that will make that difference for a reader.

Who are your favorite authors?

I love Susan Cooper, in particular for The Dark is Rising series, which is rich with lore and filled with shivery moments that dig deep inside the reader. Also Philip Pullman, Philip Reeve, and Kelly Barnhill, with every work they write. I’m a huge fan of Katherine Langrish and reread her Dark Angels (published in the U.S. as The Shadow Hunt) each year; her historically accurate yet legend-filled medieval Britain and lovely, lovely story is such a pleasure. And I am grateful to Paul Durham for the Luck Uglies series, which awakened me to the lure of middle grade. (When I read the first book, I’d been writing adult historical yet reading middle grade to keep up with my son, and Luck Uglies was such a pleasure that it inspired me to write my own fast-paced middle grade adventure.)

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

I love to read fiction and nonfiction, both for pleasure and research. Also, to go outside and wander the woods with my family. When I’m in a country that has them, I’m always visiting castles, abbeys, and other heritage sites, looking for one more detail, one more story, one more fascinating historical fact.

What are you working on right now? Will we see more of Drest in future books?

I’m in the editing stage for the sequel to The Mad Wolf’s Daughter. I’m also working on a third Scottish medieval adventure that’s not a Drest book. It takes place in a different historical period with a different kind of strong female protagonist (and that’s all I can say until I’m done with it).

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

Twitter is my favorite social media platform and readers can find me there at @dianemagras. I’m also on Instagram (@dianemagras) and have an author page on Facebook (@dianemagrasbooks). Readers may also visit my website, www.dianemagras.com, and contact me through my form or email.

 

A chat with Sally Pla, author of Stanley Will Probably Be Fine

It was a thrill to read Sally Pla’s The Someday Birds when it came out last year so I was excited to dig into her newest novel, Stanley Will Probably Be Fine. And it lived up to expectations!

Stanley, suffering from a sensory processing disorder, lives in today’s new ‘normal’, dealing with lockdown drills at school, not to mention friend drama. But  his keen awareness of his own anxiety makes him relatable – elements of his struggles will resonate with almost everyone. Stanley escapes into comic books, where good and evil are often clear cut and logical.

I found this pivot away from a taxing reality both brave and heartbreaking.  Stanley reminds us that while the world may not make sense, we need strategies to live in it, and his journey toward doing just that will have you rooting for him all the way. And now, lucky us, some Q&A with author Sally Pla.

(Buy the book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound)

Who were your favorite authors as a kid?

There weren’t many books in my house when I was a kid. I remember an old copy of Hans Christian Anderson. There was a set of Dickens that my late grandfather found on a sidewalk (the story goes), and carted home in his wheel barrel. There was a beautiful 19th century copy of Tennyson on the shelf (I still have it), a circa 1910 medical book with nightmare-inducing photos, an encyclopedia, and an art book on German Expressionism which was almost as scary as the medical book.

Once I got old enough to bike to the library by myself, my world brightened considerably! Nancy Drew, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Laura Ingalls Wilder, E.L. Konigsburg, Aahhhhhh!!!! Also, animal stories! Misty of Chincoteague! Dr. Doolittle! I reread James Herriott’s “All Things Great and Small” series a million times and decided that when I grew up, I’d become a vet in Yorkshire.

Both The Someday Birds and Stanley Will Probably Be Fine deal with children suffering from anxiety. What process do you go through to make sure your depictions are accurate?

Charlie in The Someday Birds and Stanley in Stanley Will Probably Be Fine are indeed both anxious. This was no problem at all to write. I have been anxious my whole life. Every physical symptom, every awfulizing, catastrophizing thought those characters have, are thoughts and symptoms and feelings that I have had. They are me; I am them.

Kids deal with things like active shooter and shelter in place drills in school all the time these days. How did you decide this could work as the focus of a middle grade novel?

We had a school principal, when my three boys were in elementary, who had a peculiar code phrase for initiating a drill. He’d get on the intercom and say: “John Lockdown is in the building!”

Now, everyone thought that was kind of funny. At home, my boys would run around playing this James Bond sort of gun chase game, pretending to be “John Lockdown.” They weren’t freaked out by the drills, not really.

But I was. What kind of a world do we have, when school kids accept as normal the possibility of an intruder bursting in and shooting them in cold blood? When they come home and cheerfully play-act about it?

This really bothered me.

I got to thinking: What if we don’t become inured to it? What if we fight against this societal desensitization? And so, further: What kind of a kid would have a problem with the normalization of violence in his life? What would that kid look like, and act like? What could that kid teach us, if we slipped inside his skin for a while?

Stanley is so wonderful, genuine and relatable. Is he based on anyone you know? Where did he come from?

Stanley is just Stanley. He has many of the same issues as Charlie in The Someday Birds, but Stanley has a dark, sardonic little sense of humor about himself and the world. Now that he exists, I love him like my own kin. Thank you for liking him too!

Superhero comic books are Stanley’s escape from reality and you include multiple panels from Stanley’s own comic creation, John Lockdown. Loved these! Did you work closely with an illustrator to get them right or did you do them yourself?

I did do my own version of Stan’s comic panels, just to storyboard it and see what needed to go where. But thank goodness for artist Steve Wolfhard! Steve’s a veteran comic artist whose work can be seen, most notably, on Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. I think Steve’s art in the book (and on its cover) is just amazing. Originally, there were to be many, many more panels of Stanley’s comics. I so wish we could have included them all! Gosh darn!

Secondary characters can often feel cliché but yours, primarily Stanley’s messy family, provide depth and richness to the book. How much backstory do you create for them to achieve this, that never makes it to the page?

I write a lot of backstory, and take a lot of different approaches. At first, Stanley had two older brothers, not one. And he had both a dad and mom, but no grandpa… Things shifted a lot. What I like to do, repeatedly, is draw a bubble map with my main character in the center. Then I put each secondary character in a bubble around him. Each secondary character has to challenge the main character in a different, unique way, so the main character is always being tugged in different interesting directions. The bubble maps help me visualize this. Then, the supporting cast’s personalities grow from this. I also do a lot of journaling on each of them, until I can consistently hear their voices in my head.

What are you currently working on?

A love story between a big lonely girl named Alice Eugenia McMann and a woolly mammoth named Snowball, with a lot of cutting-edge genomic science – and an 85 year old best buddy — thrown in. It is not set in Yorkshire.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

Check out www.sallyjpla.com — there’s a “contact me” link! Or email sallyjplawrites@gmail.com.

 

2017 Best Middle Grade Novels

When you think the world is falling apart and you just can’t take it anymore, I suggest a visit to your local bookstore or library. Browse the middle grade shelves. Pick up almost anything. What will you find?

Gold, pure gold.

Middle grade authors produce some of the best and bravest writing I’ve seen, no matter target audience or genre. Novels range from fantasy to contemporary to historical to completely silly and fun. (I have been known to shout “Funny or die!’ on occasion) These books embrace tough subject matter, not shying away from the difficulties of growing up in a complicated world. I appreciate, too, how girl characters are being elevated to positions of leadership and authority. It’s so important for girls to see themselves on the pages.

I say it all the time: what we read matters.

(Want a chance to win one of these titles? See details at the end.)

 

THE 2017 LIST

 

The Someday Birds, by Sally J. Pla (HarperCollins)

Authors talk a lot about ‘voice’ and how important it is to get it right. It’s hard to describe what exactly ‘voice’ is but when you encounter it, you know – you can feel it all the way down to your toes. You are with the character in his or her head, seeing the world through his or her eyes.The Someday Birds is a perfect example. Charlie struggles to fit in and understand the world around him and just when he thinks he’s got it nailed down, well, everything changes. I felt his pain and confusion and admired his passion. If this character suddenly walked into my living room, I would not be at all surprised. He is that real.

Read an interview with the author here.

 

 

The Countdown Conspiracy, by Katie Silvensky (HarperCollins) 

Holy cow, I loved this book!  Science, adventure, friendships, outer space, robots, bad guys. The stakes are high in this page turner and it will have you on the edge of your seat. Set in a future post war Earth, Miranda Regent is picked as one of six kids training to go to Mars. But things go immediately sideways and Miranda may be the only one who can herself, her family, her friends and, indeed, the world. Plus, this book has the best epilogue ever.

 

 

 

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, by Karina Yan Glaser (HMH Books for Young Readers)

I loved this big, warm story about siblings trying to save their sprawling home, a New York City brownstone about to be rented out from under them. It’s an important lesson for kids that they are not powerless and their actions can have an impact. The neighborhood setting brings home the notion that children can experience an expansive world without leaving their city block. I read it in one sitting and look forward to the sequel, due next year.

Read an interview with the author here.

New York Times Book Review here.

 

 

Click’d, by Tamara Ireland Stone (Disney-Hyperion)

Best selling author Stone delivers a fun read with tech savvy Allie Navarro at its heart. Allie develops an app at code camp that helps kids make friends and it’s a hit. It might even be enough for her to beat arch enemy Nathan at an upcoming coding competition. But a glitch might bring down more than her game. Allie has to work fast to save her friendships and her chance at winning the competition. Along the way, she learns valuable lessons about what matters most. This story has all the elements of middle grade – friends, family, school – but bundled with the idea that girls can code as well as anyone. And I hope they do.

 

 

Kat Greene Comes Clean, by Melissa Roske (Charlesbridge)

Author Melissa Roske expertly captures the feelings of a middle school girl who finds herself dealing with how messy life can be. Navigating divorce and her mother’s worsening OCD plus a best friend who’s changing before her eyes. Kat’s bravery in dealing with the chaos broke my heart a little bit – kids being strong in the face of adversity gets me every time. But the message that we should never have to face problems on our own and that help is there no matter what is an important one that Roske brings home beautifully.

Read an interview with the author here.

 

 

 

A Dash of Dragon, by Heidi Lang & Katie Bartkowski (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster)

The premise of this book is completely delightful: A thirteen-year-old chef has a lot to prove as she tries to run a five-star restaurant, repay a greedy loan shark, and outsmart the Elven mafia in this entertaining novel that combines all the best ingredients—fantasy, humor, adventure, action, cute boys, and a feisty heroine. And the authors (who are sisters – cool, right??) deliver. This is the kind of book I would have loved as a kid and stayed up, hiding under my blankets with a flashlight, to finish. Good fun.

Read an interview with the authors here.

 

 

 

Ahimsa, by Supriya Kelkar (Tu Books)

As Ahmisa opens, it’s 1942 and Ghandi has asked families to give one member to the Indian freedom movement. In the case of Anjali, it’s her mother who steps up. As Anjali’s life changes, she’s forced to confront a new reality brought on my her mother’s commitment to the cause. I love stories where a girl is pushed out of her comfort zone and becomes a better, stronger version of herself. Anjali’s path is thrilling to follow and especially timely in today’s world.

Read an interview with the author here.

 

 

 

The Prisoner of Ice and Snow, by Ruth Lauren (Bloomsbury)

In order to rescue her sister from a maximum security prison, Valor needs to first be thrown in jail and then figure a way to bust out. The audacity of her plan tells us a lot about her character. She’s bold and daring and will stop at nothing to save her sister. I was taken from the start by Lauren’s intricate world building and edge of my seat pacing. There’s also a visual quality to her writing that had this tale unspooling like a movie in my head.

Read an interview with the author here.

 

 

Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy, by Gareth Wronski (Aladdin/ Simon & Schuster)

This novel has a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sensibility that I found irresistible. After a case of mistaken identity, Holly finds herself in outer space contending with bounty hunters, giant worms, perky holograms, cosmic board games, sinister insectoid librarians, and a robot who is learning how to lie. Things are complicated….and funny…but author Wronski never loses sight of Holly’s humanity and the struggles that abound in middle school.

Read an interview with the author here.

 

 

Karma Khullar’s Mustache, by Kristi Wientge (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

I loved the adolescent angst in this one because if felt so familiar! Twelve and thirteen year old self doubt is unique and this book offers kids a chance to realize they are not alone dealing with all the weirdness. Karma’s body feels a little bit alien and her best friend seems ready to trade up to a newer shinier best friend. Add in her dad as the new stay at home parent, a mom at work all the time and Karma is just confused. And alone. In true Judy Blume fashion, Wientge captures Karma’s emotions with honesty and charm.

 

 

Free Books!

What’s better than free books? Nothing. Duh. Sign up for my occasional newsletter and be entered to win one of these titles!

 

 

 

 

FREE Skype visits to celebrate the cover release of Power Play!

For a limited time I’m offering FREE Skype visits to your school classroom or library to celebrate the awesome new cover for Mrs. Smith’s Spy School 2: Power Play!

Visits are 20-30 minutes of Q&A about the books, writing or whatever reading related topics your kids are interested in.

Email me for details at Beth@BethMcMullenBooks.com

Order Mrs. Smtih’s Spy School for Girls on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Preorder Power Play on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

Reese Witherspoon agrees with me…

Coming July 3, 2018!

(sing up for my monthly newsletter here)

 

I’m super excited about two things right now – first, I get to paint my daughter’s lovely perfect face with bloody wounds and scratches for her Halloween zombie costume. Okay, maybe that’s a lie but I am excited about the cover art for Power Play (Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls 2), the next installment of the trilogy!  It’s as good as the first and fits perfectly with the globe trotting elements of the story. Abby is all in trouble again – click here for details…

I want to thank everyone who bought the first book. It was such a thrill to hear from young readers (and their parents) about how they connected with Abby. If you liked the book (or your child did) please consider leaving a review on Amazon. It makes a difference! Here’s the link so you don’t have to waste time searching.

 

 

Now on to the important stuff. Have you read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman? It’s a-Mazing. And Reese Witherspoon is turning it into a movie so I guess she agrees with me. It’s about a woman living a very small life, trying to contain the trauma of her childhood. As she begins to let people in, everything changes in ways that are heartbreaking and funny at the same time (tears, laughter, tears, laughter, tears AND laughter – I was a mess). Also, I accidentally took out the Large Print edition, which weighed forty pounds and gave me tendinitis in my wrist but you shouldn’t have the same problem. What is it they say – no pain, no gain? Probably they weren’t talking about reading.

 

 

 

Is the weather where you are finally turning? In my ‘hood, we get excited when it drops below ninety. People put on sweaters and down jackets. I used to make fun of these people, the east coast transplant that I am, but now….well, let’s just say I’ve lost my credibility. As soon as I can turn on the oven without cranking up the AC to compensate, I bake. And these cookies are to die for. Make them and eat them while you read Eleanor Oliphant! I’m jealous already.

 

 

Okay, one last thing before I go. Have you tried Lore yet? Did you know that the saying ‘saved by the bell’ originated in the 1800s when people were occasionally buried alive (by mistake) and a bell was built into coffins so the victim could alert the living that he or she was six feet under and getting a little uncomfortable? No, me neither! I’ve also learned about the origins for vampire stories, silver bullets and that rampant consumption created a lot of terrifying superstition among the unenlightened folks in the early days of our country. The podcast is also a creepy six episode Amazon Prime show. Do not watch before bedtime

 

 

The Cover Art is Here!

PowerPlay (Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls 2) has the best cover! What do you think? Keep reading if you want to know what sort of trouble Abby is up to this time….

Abby and the rest of her friends go international as they embark on their first “official” Center mission in this second book in the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls series.

After discovering the truth about her spy school/boarding school—and her super-spy mom—Abby Hunter is ready for her next adventure, but what’s about to happen is something she never would have guessed…

Everyone at The Smith School is obsessed with Monster Mayhem, the latest reality video game craze. But when Drexel Caine, the mastermind behind the game is suddenly kidnapped, it becomes clear that the kidnappers are playing for more than just special badges.

After Drexel’s son—who is Abby’s friend, Toby—receives a cryptic message, Abby and her friends discover the kidnapping is part of a bigger scheme that could take down The Center for good.

With the help of Abby’s frenemy (and reluctant mentor), Veronica Brooks, the group tackles their first official Center Mission. They tangle with the world’s most notorious hacker, get in trouble for the possible theft of the Mona Lisa, and prepare for the ultimate showdown in London. But not before they have to contend with one more hurdle: the agonizing Smith School Spring Formal. Along the way, they discover they are much stronger as a team they can ever be alone.

And with a little luck, they might just save the world.

An interview with Supriya Kelkar, debut author of AHIMSA

As Ahmisa opens, it’s 1942 and Ghandi has asked families to give one member to the Indian freedom movement. In the case of Anjali, it’s her mother who steps up. As Anjali’s life changes, she’s forced to confront a new reality brought on my her mother’s commitment to the cause. I love stories where a girl is pushed out of her comfort zone and becomes a better, stronger version of herself. Anjali’s path is thrilling to follow and especially timely in today’s world. This title is a valuable addition to any home, school or public library. (And the cover is so gorgeous!)

And now, the author answers our questions…

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I grew up surrounded by books thanks in part to a book-of-the-month club membership my aunt and uncle had given me for years. I also grew up watching lots of Hindi movies, and my father had written a couple Hindi movies as well. The combination of the exposure to books and Bollywood made me want to become a storyteller.

AHIMSA was inspired by the life of your great-grandmother. In the research phase, did you learn things about her that you didn’t know before?

I did! I actually didn’t know much about her at all except that she was a freedom fighter, had been imprisoned, and became a congresswoman after independence. It wasn’t until I read her biography, written by my great-grandfather, that I learned the details of her work. One thing that was really fascinating to me was after she was arrested for leading a protest, the government sent word to her husband that if she would just apologize, they would let her go. But she refused because she knew what she was doing was right and so she remained in jail until a pact Gandhi had made with the viceroy of India freed political prisoners who were not violent.

Even though AHIMSA takes place in 1942, the issues of social justice in the book feel incredibly timely. Did you have the current climate in mind as you wrote?

I actually wrote the first draft of the book back in 2003. It wasn’t until I was working on the edits in 2016 that it dawned on me how timely the novel was.

How did you settle on a middle grade novel as the best way to tell this story? Was it your first choice?

It took a few stages to get there. I first tried to write Ahimsa as a screenplay about my great-grandmother. I don’t think I even managed to write a word of it. I just couldn’t figure it out. I then decided to write it as a fictional script, and thought rather than the protagonist being the freedom fighter, it might be more interesting to see the story through the eyes of the daughter of a freedom fighter. When I got stuck on that script, I decided to give novel-writing a try and thus the first draft of the book was born.

Who are your favorite authors?

Growing up I was a huge Ann M. Martin fan. I also really loved re-reading books by James Stevenson, Nancy Carlson and Holly Keller.

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Besides hanging out with my family and friends, I’d have to say binge watching TV shows. I just love immersing myself in a new world this way.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a few pictures books and middle grade novels.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

I have lots of information about the book at my website www.supriyakelkar.com and they can e-mail me at supriyakelkarbooks@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karina Yan Glaser, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. The Interview!

When I lived in New York, a million years ago, I used to take the train fairly regularly through Harlem,  the setting for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. As the story unfolded I could see it happening. I could imagine the places. I wanted to crawl right inside and hang out with Vanderbeekers.  Not many books have me wishing for that. I’m feeling lucky I got to ask author Karina Yan Glaser a few questions. Have a look…

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember. I was the kid who brought books with her to recess and kept a book in my lap during dinner so I could sneak read while I ate. When my kids were born, I started a blog where I wrote hundreds of blog posts about being a new mom. I found out I loved telling stories, and when my second daughter started preschool I began writing The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street in a coffee shop.

What was the best part of writing The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street?

I loved revising and polishing, inserting wording or paragraphs that pulled me more and more into the story. For me, writing a novel is like putting together a puzzle. It doesn’t all come together at the first go; the full picture gradually reveals itself with time, patience, and diligence.

Your novel centers on a possible eviction from a beloved Harlem brownstone. Did you have a house in mind from your own past when you began writing or one in your current neighborhood?

The brownstone setting idea came from lots of walks around my current Harlem neighborhood. Thankfully I have a few friends who live in brownstones, so my familiarity with the buildings come from visiting and spending time in their brownstones. One day, if The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street sells a bajillion copies, I hope to move my family into a brownstone!

Both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus use the term ‘old fashioned’ (as in charming and lovely!) to describe this book. Did books you read as a child influence the tone of this work?

Definitely. I loved books like Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family­, Eleanor Estes’s The Moffats, and Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays. All of those stories were about big families, and All-of-a-Kind Family and The Saturdays were set in New York City. I’m honored that reviewers saw glimpses of that sensibility in The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street!

Writing for middle grade readers can be a challenge. What about this age range/genre appeals to you?

Oh, I love everything about middle grade books. That eight-to-twelve age range was when I fell in love with reading, and I love the themes of growing up and discovery that comes during that age. The best thing about having kids who are currently seven and nine is that I can share my favorite middle grade books with them!

Who are your favorite authors?

So many! Katherine Paterson, Jason Reynolds, Ashley Bryan, Grace Lin, Linda Sue Park, Louise Erdrich, Jack Cheng, Gary Schmidt, Cynthia Voigt, Elizabeth Enright, Richard Peck, Janice Nimura, Holly M. McGhee, Jacqueline Woodson, Sydney Taylor, Joyce Sidman, Eleanor Estes, Laurie Halse Anderson, Melissa Sweet, Jacqueline Kelly, Kelly Barnhill, Ada Calhoun, Ruta Sepetys, Jeanne Birdsall… those are just some!

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Reading! Hiking! Eating chocolate!

What are you working on right now?

I am finishing up illustrations for the sequel to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. I’m also starting my third book.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

I’m reachable through most social media outlets and by email!

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