Welcome to the Spotlight Daphne Benedis-Grab

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I’m happy to welcome back author Daphne Benedis-Grab, this time to showcase her newest MG novel, just in time for the holidays! Stay tuned below for a chance to enter to win a copy of this fun book for kids!

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Clementine for Christmas by Daphne Benedis-Grab (Scholastic/2015)

In this heart-warming story set before Christmas, three 6th graders who don’t hang out at school together, end up together while volunteering on the pediatric ward at the hospital. Josie and her dog Clementine volunteer by visiting the patients and cheering them up with her singing. She especially loves Christmas and is looking forward to the annual holiday festival. Oscar ends up having to volunteer at the hospital after getting in a fight with another boy. He’s resentful and he is not particularly fond of Christmas, especially because his parents who argue all the time anyway, fight even more close to the holiday. Gabby ends up in the hospital as a patient, and wants so badly to keep the reason why a secret that she joins Josie and Oscar in hopes of keeping them quiet. When the Festival is in danger of being canceled, the three work together to try to save it. Sweet story that made me laugh out loud AND get teary-eyed.

Spotlight on Daphne:

Please share with us the story behind the story of CLEMENTINE FOR CHRISTMAS – what was the spark for the idea and how did the story come together for you as you wrote it?

I love Christmas and was excited to write another middle grade book with that setting (my first was THE ANGEL TREE which you were nice enough to feature last year!). I also really enjoy writing multiple characters who each have a different side of the story to tell. But what pulled it all together was the hospital setting- a place where Gabby, who is sick, must go, a place where Josie volunteers doing skits on the pediatric ward and for a Oscar, the place he must go as a consequences for fighting in school. Once I got all three kids in the same building, the story bloomed!

I adored all three characters – sweet and kind Josie, gruff on the outside Oscar, and popular but hiding a secret Gabby – and of course Clementine the dog. But I admit a soft spot in my heart for Oscar who was trying to protect himself and his feelings by putting up walls. Do you have a favorite? What was it like getting to know these characters?

This is a hard one for me because there are things I like about each character: Josie’s big heart and her holiday spirit, Gabby’s affection for her brothers and struggles with her past, and Oscar who acts tough but is covering sadness. Josie came to me first, probably because we share a deep affection for both Christmas and animals. Oscar wasn’t hard to get to know either- I’ve definitely walled off my own pain and put on a tough façade like Oscar does, plus he has a bit of a temper just like me. Gabby took the longest to get to know- I knew how she looked on the outside- pretty, popular- and that she was hiding a secret. But getting to know who she was behind all that took some time- the key was her family and how much she loves them, especially her mischievous little brothers!

Ah Clementine! I love animals, but I do love dogs best of all. Do you have a pet? What’s the best thing about your pet?

We have a glorious tabby cat name Tango whom we adopted from a shelter after he’d been living on the streets of Brooklyn for the first few months of his life. At first he was a feral street kitty and super skittish, kind of like Clementine when Josie found her as an abandoned puppy. But after a few years of being pampered, Tango is a big fluffy bundle of love, friendly and affectionate as can be. He was my model for Clementine with his sweet nature, loving manner and innate ability to know when his owners might feel a bit down and need some extra kitty kisses.

Debbi, thank you for having me on your awesome blog!!

Daphne is the author of the middle grade books The Angel Tree (2014) and Clementine for Christmas (2015). Her short stories have appeared in American Girl Magazine and she also published two young adult books, one of which was an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.  She earned an MFA at The New School and is an adjunct professor at McDaniel College, as well as a former high school history teacher.

For more about Daphne and her books, visit her web site.

For a chance to win a copy of this book, for yourself, a friend or child, or a library/school, just follow the directions below.

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, November 21st by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, November 24th.

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading! Thanks for stopping by!

 

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16 responses »

  1. Can’t wait to read this one. Love Daphne’s writing and love doggie books! Perfect combo! Plus, I’m writing a few doggie books of my own!

  2. Sounds like a wonderful story and the puppy on the cover looks just like my dog Shadow when he was a pup. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  3. I’m in love with Clementine–so adorable!! Huge dog fan here too! Looking forward to reading this! Thanks, Debbi & Daphne!!

  4. Adorable cover, great premise. Love the idea of building the story around these three characters. Thanks for the nice interview. Will have to look for this one. 🙂

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