Author Archives: DEBtastic Reads!

About DEBtastic Reads!

Writer, reader, traveler, dog-lover, mom and wife. Author of two nonfiction children's books.

2013 Reading List

Standard

HAPPY NEW YEAR! In all, I read 75 books, not including manuscripts/WIPs by friends and books I put down after a few chapters.  Of these books, 44 were children’s books (picture books, chapter books, MG, YA, and NA), 28 adult fiction, and 3 miscellaneous (nonfiction/writing/spiritual). I re-read four books (by Ellen Emerson White), and fell in love with new authors (Rainbow Rowell, Jojo Moyes, and Joshilyn Jackson, to name a few).

Here is my list in full (with a scattering of notes – just know that if the book is on this list, I enjoyed reading it and recommend it). If you’ve read any of the same books, I’d love to have a conversation with you about them (my email address is shared in my contact info), or if you have books to recommend based on books I read/loved here, please let me know!

2013 Reading List

 1. THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Katja Millay

Atria Paperback (S&S)/2012    YA/NA fiction 

2. JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman

Dutton Books/2013   NA fiction

3. ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes

Viking/2012   Adult fiction

Kindle, January 16, 2013

4. THE CRIMSON CROWN by Cinda Williams Chima

Hyperion/2012   YA fantasy

5. DOUBLE CROSSED: A Spies and Thieves Story by Ally Carter

Hyperion/2013   YA novella

6. ART by Patrick McDonnell

Little, Brown/2006  Picture book

9780594469216_p0_v1_s114x166

7. THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER by Jojo Moyes

Penguin Books/2010  adult fiction

8. PERFECT SCOUNDRELS by Ally Carter

Disney Hyperion/2013      YA fiction

9. FRANCES AND BERNARD by Carlene Bauer

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/2012    adult fiction

10.  TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini

Simon Pulse/2012    YA fiction (paranormal)

11. THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS by Erica Bauermeister

G.P. Putnam’s Sons/2009   adult fiction

12.  JULIE AND ROMEO by Jeanne Ray

Random House/2000    adult fiction

13. THE LOST ART OF MIXING by Erica Bauermeister

G.P. Putnam’s Sons/2013

14.  EAT CAKE by Jeanne Ray

Random House/2003   adult fiction 

15. GHETTO COWBOY by G. Neri  (illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson)

Candlewick/2011        MG fiction

16. SHINE by Lauren Myracle

Abrams Books/2011   YA fiction 

17. CALLING INVISIBLE WOMEN by Jeanne Ray

Crown Publishers/2012   Adult fiction

18. THE UNDERNEATH by Kathi Appelt

Simon & Schuster/2008  MG fiction

19. THE ELEPHANT OF SURPRISE by Brent Hartinger

Buddha Kitty Books/2013   YA fiction

9781250012579_p0_v1_s114x166

20. ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell

St. Martin’s Griffin/2013  YA fiction

21. THE LUCY VARIATIONS by Sara Zarr (ARC)

Little, Brown & Co/May 2013

22. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Scribner/1925              Fiction classic

23. GIRL PARTS by John M. Cusick

Candlewick Press/2010     YA fiction

24. UNREMEMBERED by Jessica Brody

Farrar, Straus, Giroux/2013  YA fiction

25. WEDDING NIGHT by Sophie Kinsella

The Dial Press/2013  Adult fiction 

26. GORGEOUS by Paul Rudnick

Scholastic/2013  YA fiction

27.  BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys

Speak (Penguin Group)/2011  YA historical fiction

28. FOX FOREVER by Mary E. Pearson

Henry Holt/2013  YA sci-fi

29. THE AMARANTH ENCHANTMENT by Julie Berry

Bloomsbury/2009           teen fantasy

30. THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH (Shades of London Book 2) by Maureen Johnson

Putnam/2013    YA paranomal

31. DIE FOR HER (A Novella) by Amy Plum

Harper Teen/2013   YA paranormal

32. ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell

Dutton/2011     adult fiction

9780778314950_p0_v5_s114x166

33. I’LL BE SEEING YOU by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

Harlequin Mira/2013     adult historical fiction

34. AMITY & SORROW by Peggy Riley

Little Brown/2013     adult fiction 

35. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning

Corgi Books/2011  (UK)    new adult fiction

36. IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT by Dianne Ochiltree (illus. by Betsy Snyder)

Blue Apple/2013   picture book

37. THE MOON AND MORE by Sarah Dessen

Viking/2013     YA fiction

38. ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card

1994   MG sci fi

39. FROGGED by Vivian Vande Velde

Harcourt/April 2013     MG fantasy/fairy tale

40. MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE BREAKING by Erin Dionne (ARC)

Dial Books/July 2013    MG fiction

41. SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS by Marisha Pessl

Penguin Books/2006    adult fiction 

42.  SEEING RED by Kathryn Erskine (ARC)

Scholastic/September 2013   MG Historical Fiction

43. COOPER & PACKRAT: MYSTERY ON PINE LAKE by Tamra Wight (Illus by Carl DiRocco)

Islandport Press/2013      MG fiction

9780545509893_p0_v1_s114x166

44. OPENLY STRAIGHT by Bill Konigsberg

Scholastic/2013  YA fiction

45. AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale

Bloomsbury / 2007   Adult fiction

46. SEATING ARRANGMENTS by Maggie Shipstead

Vintage Books (Random House)/2012   adult fiction

47. THE NEWLYWEDS by Nell Freudenberger

Vintage Book (Random House)/2012    adult fiction

48. SPIRITUAL SOLUTIONS by Deepak Chopra

Harmony Books/2012   spiritual

49. WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES by Karen Joy Fowler

G.P. Putnam’s Sons/2013                   adult fiction

50. BELLE EPOQUE by Elizabeth Ross

Delacorte/2013    YA fiction

9781440525889_p0_v1_s114x166

51. THE PLOT WHISPERER by Martha Alderson

Adams Media/2011    writing/craft book

 

52.  THE INFINITE MOMENT OF US by Lauren Myracle

Amulet Books/2013   YA fiction

53. THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND by Jojo Moyes

Viking/2013   adult fiction

9780763662806_p0_v2_s114x166

54. LIVING WITH JACKIE CHAN by Jo Knowles

Candlewick/2013   YA fiction

 

55. FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

St. Martin’s Griffin/2013   NA fiction9781250030955_p0_v4_s114x166

 

56. THE PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER by Ellen Emerson White

Feiwel & Friends/2008  YA fiction

re-read (third time)

57. WHITE HOUSE AUTUMN by Ellen Emerson White

Feiwel & Friends/2008  YA fiction

re-read

58. LONG LIVE THE QUEEN by Ellen Emerson White

Feiwel & Friends/2008   YA fiction

re-read 

59. LONG MAY SHE REIGN by Ellen Emerson White

Feiwel and Friends/2007                     YA fiction

re-read

60. THE PARTNER TRACK by Helen Wan

St. Martin’s Press/2013    Adult fiction

Side note: It’s so refreshing to read a novel about an Asian-American protagonist in a contemporary American setting. Race did play a factor in this story, but not in a “multicultural story” way. So much of what Ingrid experienced as an Asian-American in America rang true to me. I hope this is the start of a trend where we see main characters of color in contemporary stories.

61. JUST ONE YEAR by Gayle Forman

Dutton Books/2013    NA fiction

62. THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion

adult fiction

9780670786152_p0_v4_s114x166

63. ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME by Julie Berry

Viking/2013   YA fiction

64. ROOMIES by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando  ARC

Little, Brown & Company/2014       NA fiction9780316217491_p0_v3_s114x166-1

Side Note: Tag line: One summer. Two strangers. Sixty-five days until they meet. This books comes out this year so keep an eye out for it. It’s worth the read!

65.  SEND by Patty Blount

Sourcebooks/2012  YA Fiction

9780803735521_p0_v1_s114x166

66. CHIME by Franny Billingsley

Dial Books/2011   YA fiction (folktale)

67. ROOTLESS by Chris Howard

Scholastic/2012    YA fiction 

68.  WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart    ARC

Random House/May 13, 2013   YA fiction

Side note: Look for my interview with Emily Lockhart in a few months. This is going to be a much talked about book, one you will want to read before everyone else talks about it!

69. SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY by Joshilyn Jackson

HarperCollins/2013    Adult fiction

70. MIDNIGHT IN AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale

Bloomsbury/2012                   adult fiction

9780446694537_p0_v1_s114x166

71. GODS IN ALABAMA by Joshilyn Jackson

Grand Central Pubishing (Hatchett Book Group)/2005  Adult fiction

72. BACKSEAT SAINTS by Joshilyn Jackson

Grand Central Publishing/2010   Adult fiction

73. THE ISLAND by Elin Hilderbrand

Backbay Books (Hatchett Books)/2010  Adult fiction

9781416575658_p0_v2_s114x166

74. FOOD MATTERS by Mark Bittman

Simon & Schuster/2009   nonfiction food

Side note: This book motivated my husband and me to make some big lifestyle changes. I’m reading his book VEGAN BEFORE 6:00 next.

75. THE PATRON SAINT OF LIARS by Ann Patchett

Harper Perennial/1992    adult fiction

There you have it! I really enjoyed the books I read this year and wish I’d had time to read even more. There are so many wonderful books out there! I hope to read 100 books in 2014! Thanks for sticking around, I know I haven’t been blogging regularly, but I’ve been spending my time writing (and reading). I promise more great interviews and give-aways this year!

Please provide links to YOUR reading list in the comments. I’d love to check it out! Happy reading!

And The Winner Is…

Standard

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to shine the spotlight on Julie Berry and her incredible YA novel, All The Truth That’s In Me. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a mystery and love story and intriguing characters.

9780670786152_p0_v4_s260x420

Because of the upcoming holidays, and mostly because Trixie is snoozing so peacefully that I don’t want to disturb her to draw a winning name:

photo (9) copy

I used a random number generator to choose the winner of a copy of this awesome novel, along with some fun swag from Julie!

So, who is the lucky number? Commenter number five – Cindy Faughnan – come on down! Congratulations! Please email me with your mailing address and I’ll be sure to get your prize in the mail ASAP!

Thanks again to everyone for stopping by! Happy Thanksgiving! I am very thankful for great books, awesome authors, and you – my faithful readers!

Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight: Julie Berry and All The Truth That’s In Me!

Standard

I’m super excited to shine the spotlight on author Julie Berry and her amazing YA novel, All The Truth That’s In Me. I met Julie this past March when she did a presentation at the Vermont College Novel Writing Retreat. She is super smart and very talented. Stayed tuned below for a chance to win a copy of her novel.

9780670786152_p0_v4_s260x420All The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry (Viking/2013)

Judith Finch returns to her home town of Roswell Station, two years after her disappearance. Her friend Lottie is dead. Judith’s tongue cut out by her captor, no longer speaks. Her mother forbids it. The village folk who used to be her friends, shun her, all except for Lucas. She tries to live out her life, but can’t ignore the secret that her captor was Lucas’s father, long thought dead. When Roswell Station is about to be attacked, Judith returns to her former prison to seek help and receives it, but then receives further suspicion and malice from the town. The mystery of who killed Lottie haunts her, and as the town starts to come to wrong conclusions, Judith must choose to speak the truth, despite her fears of being called a liar. Lucas, Judith’s younger injured brother, the pretty Maria, and even Goody Pruitt come to support her and give her the strength and confidence she both craves and needs to speak the truth. A riveting, haunting tale that sparks with hope.

Spotlight on Julie Berry:

Can you share the journey of this story? From idea to publication – what was the spark, how long did it take you to draft the story, and what was the path to getting it published like?

The spark was rather mundane. I was reading some material in a craft book about point of view in preparation for an essay that I wrote for Vermont College of the Fine Arts, when I was pursuing my MFA. I read about second person and wondered if I could use it effectively. I reached for my computer and mulled a moment. Three words appeared in my mind: “You didn’t come.” From them a character and a scene soon emerged. In about 45 minutes I had written what is now the first chapter of the book (Note: my chapters are super short in this story. Chapter is probably the wrong word.) I spent the next six months or so writing the novel with the help of Tim Wynne-Jones, my final semester advisor. Then I sat on the manuscript for five years. (!) Based on some initial feedback I thought the market wouldn’t be receptive to a book like this at such an early stage in my career. When I finally brought it out to submit widely, it went to auction with several houses making offers. Clearly there are lots of lessons to be gleaned from that story about taking risks and believing in what you’re doing.

I’m curious about the setting for the story. Is Roswell Station a real place? How did you come to choose the time period?

Roswell Station isn’t real, but I hope it feels recognizable to readers as a small, foundling settlement reminiscent of America’s early Puritan colonial past. The time period was based loosely on the mid to late 17th Century, because that’s the world it felt like Judith would inhabit. The setting flowed around her like a cloak she was wearing. It wasn’t so much a conscious choice, although it was a conscious choice to keep hard details of place and time ambiguous, since I didn’t want the conventions of historical fiction to obscure Judith’s story.

My heart ached for Judith and her struggles from her love for Lucas, to her painful memories of her abduction, to trying to fit back into her family and village life. All your characters feel very real to me. What do you do to get to know your characters?

In the beginning I pay close attention to how they feel to me, because characters begin as an impression. Then I try to spend time with each one, fleshing out their biography, their family background, their personality, their wants and needs, their flaws and sins, how others have perceived them, and how that has shaped them. I often talk about this when lecturing, because I firmly believe we must invest the same care and attention in getting to know our secondary characters as we do our main character. If we believe that all humans are of equal worth, then our writing should reflect that belief. Otherwise we write narcissistic texts without realizing we’re doing it, where the only human than matters is the one in the center. A full cast of full human beings will produce more authentic and surprising situations, I believe.

There are so many fascinating elements to ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME – love story, murder and abduction mysteries, secrets and lies. I was completely hooked and immersed! What were the biggest challenges you faced while drafting the story with so many intricate subplots? You did an amazing job of making it all come together!

Thank you. :) I did keep a notebook in which I attempted to isolate and trace all the threads that went into the story. The mystery elements made it doubly important that I get those details right. As for the characters and their secrets, each one came with such a clear (to me) identity and history. It made them distinct and memorable to me, so it wasn’t as hard as you might think to keep track of it all when writing. It was actually fun.

Judith finds solace in the company of animals. I love that. Do you have a favorite pet/animal?

As I write this, my cat Coco is curled on my lap. Our other cat, Athena, is sweet, and she likes me just fine, but Coco is devotedly mine. She baps me with her paw to tell me it’s time to go to bed each night. As soon as I lie down she flops on top of me, staking her territory. I don’t know what I ever did to merit such devotion. I grew up in a large family, and we always had oodles of pets, as well as farm animals. A life with animals is located deep in my sense of how the world ought to be.

About Julie: Julie Berry grew up in western New York. She holds a BS from Rensselaer in communication and an MFA from Vermont College in writing for children and young adults. She now lives in eastern Massachusetts with her husband and four young sons. All the Truth That’s in Me (September 2013, Viking) is Julie’s first YA novel. It has earned starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, BCCB, and the Horn Book. It’s been named a Junior Library Guild selection and been nominated for a YALSA BFYA award. It will be published in 12 international countries and territories. Julie is also the author of The Amaranth Enchantment and Secondhand Charm (Bloomsbury) and the Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys series (Penguin Books for Young Readers). A forthcoming middle grade release is The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (Fall 2014, Roaring Brook).  Julie’s works appear in audio and international versions worldwide.

For more about Julie and her books, check out her web site, follow her on Twitter, find on her Facebook, and on Tumblr.

Enter for a chance to win a copy of ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME! Just follow these rules:

1.  Comment on this post, and for fun, tell me about your favorite pet/animal. While I love all animals, I’m definitely a dog person. I adore my rat terrier Trixie – those of you who follow this blog know that she often helps pick the winning name for these drawings. I’ve had many dogs in my life, but Trixie, like Coco to Julie, is particularly devoted to me.

2.  Leave your comment and email address by midnight EST Friday, November 22nd.  The lucky winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, November 26th.

3. If the winner doesn’t respond with a mailing address in 7 days, a new winner will be chosen.

4. Entrants must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by! Happy reading!

And The Winner Is…

Standard

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to help shine the spotlight on Jo Knowles and her new YA novel, Living With Jackie Chan!

9780763662806_p0_v2_s260x420

I used a random number generator to choose a winner from the eligible comments from the interview. Who is the lucky winner of a signed copy of this awesome novel?

Drumroll please!

Congratulations Jpetroroy, commenter number 16!  Please respond by emailing me at just kid ink at yahoo dot com. Let me know to whom you would like the book signed and your mailing address and I’ll be sure your prize is on its way as soon as possible!

Thanks to everyone for stopping by! Please come back again for future book buzz, interviews, and prizes!

Happy Reading!

Welcome To The Spotlight: Jo Knowles and Living With Jackie Chan!

Standard

I’m so happy to be welcoming back frequent guest and friend of the blog, the talented and amazing author Jo Knowles! Full disclosure, Jo is a very good friend and she and I have been in the same writing group since 2005. But, even if I didn’t already know and adore her, she would remain one of my favorite authors. Today we’re shining the spotlight on her newest YA novel, Living With Jackie Chan, a companion novel to Jumping Off Swings. Stay tuned below to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of her new book!

9780763662806_p0_v2_s260x420

Living With Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles (Candlewick/2013)

In this companion novel to Jumping Off Swings, Josh leaves his home for his Uncle Larry’s his senior year, leaving behind his two best friends, his parents, and most importantly the reminder of what he did. Although he’s left and keeps busy taking karate lessons from his uncle, the memory of that one night with Ellie and the aftermath, her pregnancy, Josh’s avoidance, and the birth of his baby haunt him. Despite Larry’s encouragement to talk about it, Josh refuses. He focuses on his goal to study hard and get into a college far away. The bright spot in his life comes from Stella, the girl upstairs who takes karate with him. But they can only be friends in karate class because of her extremely possessive and jealous boyfriend. As the school year goes on, Josh struggles with his past and his present, and realizes that running away can’t make the pain go away. With the love of his uncle and the support of Stella, Josh starts to understand what he needs to do. A touching story about healing and learning to forgive yourself.

Spotlight on Jo Knowles:

What was the spark for the idea for LIVING WITH JACKIE CHAN? How did Josh’s story come to you and what challenges did you face as you wrote it?

After JUMPING OFF SWINGS came out, I started to get letters from readers asking me what happened to Josh, and if he was going to be OK. The more I was asked, the more I began to have this unsettled feeling. Was Josh OK?  Pretty soon, I was imagining various scenarios and slowly a story began to form. I could see Josh arriving at his uncle’s apartment feeling scared and ashamed and really lost. I knew I couldn’t leave him like that, so I started to write what happened next.

Josh carries a huge burden within him and the only way he can see to deal with it is to escape. You handle his journey brilliantly with much empathy and realism. Stella is an interesting foil for him, she who also has to deal with choices. How did Stella and her story come to you?

Aw, thanks Debbi. At first when Stella appeared, I wasn’t completely sure what her role would be. I just saw her there, pushing the stroller, and I let that first scene unfold. What Josh needed was a healthy relationship with someone his age. He needed to see that other people have problems and pasts and challenges, too. I think they ended up being kind of perfect for each other.

Uncle Larry is a hoot! I love his optimism and his wisdom. Karate plays a key component in this story. Why karate?

I think developing Uncle Larry is probably the most fun I’ve ever had with a character, so I’m glad you like him! I got the inspiration for Larry when I went to see my husband and son test for their first belts in karate. Chip, one of their instructors, was so full of positive energy and enthusiasm. And he was just really sweet and supportive. When I first pictured Larry, that’s who I had in mind. When they recited the words for “What is a true karate man?” I knew that would help form my story. I went home and wrote the words down and used them as a guide from that moment on.

Larry has hero-worship for Jackie Chan. Love that! Who is your celebrity (movie or TV) crush and why?

Other than Jackie Chan? Hmmm, Matt Damon? I don’t know what it is about that guy but he always seems so nice in the interviews he does. I’m a total sucker for the Bourne Identity series. Also, his mom was a teacher and he is a great supporter of teachers, which makes him a hero in my book.

Thanks for the chance to talk about LIVING WITH JACKIE CHAN, Debbi!

Thank you, Jo!

Jo Knowles is the author of Living with Jackie Chan, See You At Harry’s, Pearl, Jumping Off Swings, and Lessons from a Dead Girl. Some of her awards include a New York Times Editor’s Choice and Notable Book of 2012, An International Reading Association Favorite 2012 Book, an American Library Association Notable of 2012, two SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards, the PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery Award, and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. Jo lives in Vermont with her husband and son.

For more about Jo and her books, check out her web site, read her blog, find her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and for some fun, check out her Tumblr posts.

Enter for a chance to win a signed copy of LIVING WITH JACKIE CHAN! Just follow these rules:

1.  Comment on this post, and for fun, tell me your favorite celebrity crush! I have (too?) many. One is Colin Firth, not only because he looks amazing as Darcy (wet or dry) and is a talented actor, but because of an interview I saw of him once. He’s not only humble and gracious, but when pressed to talk about the gorgeous actresses he works with/gets to kiss, he mentioned his gorgeous wife. Nice!

2.  Leave your comment and email address by midnight EST Friday, October 11th.  The lucky winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, October 15th.

3. NEW RULE: If the winner doesn’t respond with a mailing address in 7 days, a new winner will be chosen.

4. Entrants must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by! Happy reading!

And The Winner Is…

Standard

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to welcome Kathryn Erskine to the Spotlight! Her newest MG novel, Seeing Red, is available for purchase! If you missed the interview, check it out here.

9780545464406_p0_v1_s260x420

Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine (Scholastic Press/September 2013)

One lucky entrant from that blog post will win a signed copy of this awesome book! Ready to find out who it is?

First things first, I wrote all the eligible names for the drawing on pieces of paper. My rat terrier, Trixie, loves to help with the drawing.

photo 1

Here she is, waiting for me to finish crumpling the paper (she loves crumpled paper).

photo 2I give her the signal and she dashes to the pile, sniffing around till she chooses one.

photo 3I had to fight her for the paper, but she willingly gave it up when I offered her a cookie.

And the winner is (drumroll please)…

photo 4Lu!!!! Congratulations! Please email me at just kid ink at yahoo dot com (no spaces) with your mailing address and to whom you want the book signed.

To everyone else, thanks for taking the time to stop by and share your yummy dessert faves! Please come back again  - more drawings for more great books to come soon!

Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight: Kathryn Erskine and Seeing Red!

Standard

Happy book birthday to Kathryn Erskine! I am absolutely thrilled to shine the spotlight on this National Book Award winning author and her newest release, Seeing Red! Stayed tuned (below) for a chance to win a signed copy of this incredible novel!

9780545464406_p0_v1_s260x420

Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine (Scholastic Press/September 2013)

After 12-year-old Red Porter’s father dies suddenly, he’s left with an aching hole in his heart. He spends his time in the auto shop in Stony Gap, Virginia where he used to hang out with his dad, learning about cars and fixing things right. When Red’s mother wants to move to Ohio, he is determined to find a way to stay put, even going as far as to risk asking for help from his trouble-maker neighbor. This effectively ends his friendship with his best friend and starts Red on a path to solve a mystery, one that may not have the answers he’s hoping for. Set in 1972 amid a backdrop of racial tension, this story proves that no matter how old you are, you can change things you think are wrong.  A powerful story about making a difference.

 Spotlight on Kathryn Erskine:

What a truly gripping and powerful story! Can you please share with us the journey of this story? What was the initial spark?

I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s in the U.S. and other countries, including South Africa under apartheid.  I was always shaken to the core witnessing racism of any kind.  I wanted to write about the shock to a kid of systemic racism, of learning what your community has done and the role it has played and, by extension, the role you have unwittingly played.  And what you can do about it, how you can expose the truth and insist that something can be done.

For a more detail about Kathryn’s amazing journey with this book, click here.

You talk about your childhood observations of racial injustice and how clearly you felt it was wrong. Red has a clear sense of right and wrong, but also struggles with speaking up. He feels so very real to me. What were some of the challenges and joys you experienced in developing Red and his story?

I did identify with Red a lot and so it was difficult to let him act the way he did sometimes — not very supportive to his mom, less than enthused about his teacher, and behaving in a horrible way towards Thomas.  But he has a good moral compass inside that eventually rights his ways, even though he’s not perfect.  In the end it’s his complete and flawed character that I really love.

Which character in SEEING RED do you feel the most affinity for (outside of Red) and why? For me, it’s a toss up between Miss Georgia and Beau. Love the heart in both of them.

I love Miss Georgia and Beau, too.  Like you say, it’s their heart.  I could sit down and talk with them all day, or just spend time with them.  I also love Thomas, who is earnest and conflicted.  He has a tough role to play in the early 1970’s which is made even harder because he has an innate sense of fairness and justice.  It’s challenging to live in this world, especially his world, when you have that quality.

I understand both Rosie and Mama so well.  As always, there’s a little bit of me in every character, so I feel for them, too.  (I particularly identify with Mama’s frustrations and headaches!)

Finally (and I know you said “one” character–sorry!), here’s a character I really warmed to over the course of the book:  Sheriff Scott.  At first, I honestly didn’t like him. Then I softened him some and I softened toward him.  Like Thomas, he has an innate sense of what’s right but he has ignored that voice for a long time, at least when it comes to race relations, and it’s gratifying to see his gradual development over the course of the novel.

Red’s favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip. What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? What is your dessert weakness?

As a kid, mint chocolate chip was my hands down favorite.  Also, Reese’s peanut butter cups, which I managed to mention in the book.  :o)  Now I stay away from ice cream but I still love peanut butter and chocolate, or any kind of chocolate.  That’s my dessert — and my daily — weakness!

Kathryn Erskine, a lawyer-turned-author, grew up in six countries, an experience that helps her view life, and her writing, from different perspectives.  Her novels include Mockingbird, a 2010 National Book Award Winner, The Absolute Value of Mike, Quaking, and her latest novel, set in Virginia, Seeing Red.  While covering weighty topics, her books have warmth and humor, making difficult issues approachable.  She is a writing instructor and frequent workshop presenter.

For more about Kathryn and her books, check out her web site and read her blog!

Enter for a chance to win a signed copy of SEEING RED! Just follow these rules:

1.  Comment on this post, and for fun, tell me your dessert weakness! Currently, mine is the chocolate bread pudding at a local restaurant called Bravo, Bravo. It’s amazing and chocolatey and moist, and just the right portion – no sharing! Mmmmm!

2.  Leave your comment and email address by midnight EST Friday, September 27th.  The lucky winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, October 1st.

3. Entrants must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

And The Winner Is…

Standard

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to help shine the spotlight on Tamra Wight and her new middle grade book, Cooper & Packrat: Mystery on Pine Lake!  If you missed it, you can still read the interview here.

PineLake350

Today, I used the random number generator to help pick the lucky winner of a copy of this fun-tastic adventurous mystery.

And the winner is….

number 10: Kathy Casey! Congratulations! Please email me at just kid ink at yahoo dot com (no spaces) to confirm. I believe you included your mailing address in your comment, but I’d like to double check before sending your prize off to you!

Thanks to everyone for stopping by! Stayed tuned for more interviews and give-aways and book buzz!

Welcome to the Spotlight: Tamra Wight and Cooper & Packrat!

Standard

I’m super thrilled to be shining the spotlight on Tamra Wight and her brand new middle grade book, Cooper & Packrat: Mystery On Pine Lake! Stay tuned below for a chance to win this fabulous book!

PineLake350Cooper & Packrat: Mystery On Pine Lake by Tamra Wight (illustrated by Carl DiRocco)

Islandport Press 2013

Cooper Wilder lives on his family-run campground. He doesn’t much care for cleaning bathrooms or doing trash runs, but he loves getting out on the lake and watching the loons. With his new friend Packrat (who wears a big trench coat with pockets full of cool things), Cooper sets out to protect the nesting loons and to solve the mystery of who is trying to scare them off. A mystery filled with adventure and heart. Each chapter starts with an interesting loon fact. I fell in love with Cooper and Packrat and hope to read more adventures about them.

Spotlight on Tamra Wight:

Okay, I love everything about this book! Cooper and Packrat are fun, brave, and caring boys. I’m a huge fan of the campground setting and the wildlife. What was the initial spark for this story? How did you come up with the mystery aspect?

Thank you, Debbi!  Cooper and Packrat are near and dear to my heart.  Nature geeks, like me.  But this book’s journey didn’t begin with them.

One really rainy spring back in 1997, campers reported the loons were trying to push the nest back, out of the rising lake water, but to no avail.  Their eggs were lost.  My heart broke as I listened to the pair wail that day.  A couple weeks later, campers happily reported the loons had gone on to re-nest.  I didn’t even know this was possible!  Two healthy chicks were raised that year.  The whole experience stuck with me, and I spent the winter writing a picture book based on it, in which a little girl and her grandmother help the loons re-nest on their lake.  It came close to selling several times over the next few years, but I heard over and over how quiet it was and how the story was bigger than a picture book format.  So I tucked it in the back of a drawer. Fast forward to 2006, when I’d been trying my hand at writing middle grade novels for a couple years.   I pulled out the picture book, dusted it off and tried to think of ways to take the basic storyline from quiet to exciting. I went from a girl character to a boy, just to help me transition from one storyline to another.  I used a campground setting, because it would be unique and could give Cooper many interesting friends and characters to work with.  I wanted a mystery as well, because I knew it would add tension and conflict, but what kind of mystery?  And then I overheard a conversation in a restaurant where the speaker was grumbling about the loons on their lake.  To think someone wouldn’t like the loons! It had never occured to me and was an  “ah-ha” moment.

As you know, I’m a big fan of birds. I don’t know much about loons and only saw my first one this past winter after we moved to New England. You share interesting facts about loons at the start of each chapter. Tell me about your experience with these birds. How much research did you have to do for this book?

I was 29 years old before I saw a loon; when I moved to Maine in 1992 to begin my new life as a campground owner.  Their call fascinated me.  To this day, it can pull me lakeside.  I began to research them, and became obsessed with catching a glimpse every time I could get myself down by, or on, the lake.  I saw their nest flood.  I watched as they turned their eggs, switched places on the nest to keep the eggs protected and warm, carried their chicks on their backs and taught them to fly.  I started with binoculars, but now I document what I see each year with my large lens and post updates on my blog so everyone can see what a wondrous creature a loon is.  I didn’t set out to make Cooper and Packrat a “learning book”.  But when I shared chapters of it in my classroom, I found students were curious and wanted to know more about loons.  They asked questions like, how far can they dive?  Can they really see underwater?  Where do they go in the winter?   That’s how I hit on the idea of starting each chapter with an interesting fact.

In addition to what I’d seen first hand, I also researched through books such as Loon Magic by Tom Klein and Loon Song by Paul Strong.  I read the Maine Audubon Loon Project and New Hampshire’s Loon Preservation pages on-line. And I watched Larry’s Loon Cam to get a feel for a real, on-the-lake loon raft.

Re-reading that last paragraph, it all sounds like hard work, but it wasn’t.  I love to research!

Like Cooper and his family, you run a campground. What’s the best part about it? What’s the most challenging part? Any funny stories to share?

Challenging things?  The long work days.  Only having seven full days off between May and October.  Not being able to camp ourselves.  And of course, grumbly campers!  ;)  Luckily, there’s not too many of those.

But there ARE so very many cool things about running a campground!  My family and I meet interesting people from all over the world. It’s like having 100 families as company every weekend.   Dave and I work side by side, from home and office, with our kids underfoot. Then as my son, Ben and daughter, Alex grew, they began working with us.  It really is a family business.

I must say I enjoy my young campers the most!  They are so full of wonder.  They bring me interesting things all the time, like the dripping fish they’ve just caught, a flower they want to know the name of, turtles, frogs, salamanders, and once, what we think was the jaw bone of a young deer.

One of my favorite campground-owner stories to tell is from our early years of living in the campground, before we were wicked busy.  A gentleman who’d been working for us for three years or so, was grumbling good-naturedly one day about never having seen a moose.  So he asked for some time off, threw his overnight bag and camera in his car, asked us to watch his trailer and he drove north to Rangely to search for one. Two mornings later, a moose walked right down our main street and literally through his campsite.  We took photos of the hoof prints under his camper window as proof.

Tamra Wight lives in Poland, Maine where she runs Poland Spring Campground with her husband and two children.  Every summer she meets interesting families from all over the country.  In the winter, she’s a teaching assistant at Whittier Middle School.  Between the two, she has more writing inspiration than she knows what to do with.  She is also the author of The Three Grumpies, illustrated by Ross Collins.  Tamra also enjoys hiking, geo-caching, snowshoeing, power-walking, wildlife watching, and most of these with her faithful lab, Cookie. You can also see her wildlife photos on her website.

For more about Tamra and her books, check out her web site and blog and find her on Facebook. You can also check out her campground website.

Win a copy of Cooper & Packrat: Mystery on Pine Lake! Just follow these rules to enter the drawing:

1. Comment on this post, and for fun, tell me your favorite camping story! I’m not much of a camper at all, but I do recall camping on the coast of California as a young adult. The rocks poking my back and strange noises kept me awake. Plus I was worried about bears or having to go to the restroom in the middle of the night by myself. (Yes yes, I’m a city girl – you’d never guess that I was an outdoor educator for awhile.) But I will never ever forget the spectacular sight of all the many stars twinkling and shining in the night sky. That was breathtaking!

2. Leave your comment and email address by midnight EST Friday, August 23rd.  The lucky winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, August 27th.

3. Entrants must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address.

Thanks for stopping by! Good luck and happy reading!

And The Winner Is…

Standard

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to help shine the spotlight on Dianne Ochiltree and her newest picture book It’s A Firefly Night!

9781609052911_p0_v3_s260x420

Trixie was unavailable to help draw a winning name today, so I used the random number generator to choose the winner. The winner of a free signed copy of this fun-tastic picture book is number 6. Because one of the entrants opted out of entering, the winner (entrant #6) is:

Drum roll please….

Nancy or Njsanti3! Please email me at just kid ink at yahoo dot com (no spaces) and give me your mailing address so I can share it with Dianne. She will then send you your prize!

Thanks to everyone for playing! Be sure to stop back soon for the next fun interview and give-away!