Author Archives: Debbi Michiko Florence

About Debbi Michiko Florence

Author of children's books. Coming July 11, 2017, JASMINE TOGUCHI, MOCHI QUEEN and JASMINE TOGUCHI, SUPER SLEUTH (FSG).

Welcome to the Spotlight H.M Bouwman and A Crack in the Sea!

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Happy New Year! What a thrill to be able to start off 2017 with a shiny bright spotlight on an amazing middle grade novel, already garnering high praise. It’s also a Winter 2017 Kids’ Indie Next Pick! Stay tuned below to enter to win a copy of this amazing page-turner.

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A Crack in the Sea by H.M. Bouwman (Penguin Young Readers Group/2017)

In the Second World, Pip can speak to the fish, a gift the Raft King needs in order to get his people through the mysterious “door” in the ocean back to the First World. When the Raft King kidnaps Pip from the island to Raftworld, Pip’s protective sister Kinchen is determined to rescue him. Also intertwining with this story are the stories from the First World of Thanh and his family escaping to the seas in post-war Vietnam and from the past of Venus and Swimmer who escape a slave ship to come upon the crack in the sea into the Second World. A fascinating and gripping tale of friendship, love, adventure, and truth, sprinkled with a Kraken love story.

Spotlight on H.M. Bouwman:

Congratulations on A CRACK IN THE SEA! What an amazing tale – I don’t even know where to start with the questions, so I’ll start with my usual: What was the spark behind the idea for this book? And how did it grow into a full-fledged story?

For me the beginning of a story is always something small, a footprint on the ground or a broken twig, and it’s not until I follow the trail for a long, long time that it widens and I see what the story is really about. With this book there were two initial sparks: the image of a giant Raft big enough to hold a whole nation; and the story of the Zong slave ship, which I was researching for an early American literature class I was teaching. I wrote for quite a while—free-writing and individual scenes that popped into my head and images that stuck with me—until the story started to emerge. Even then I made a lot of wrong turns before I realized this was at heart a story about immigration and finding your home.

I’m fascinated by all of the characters in the story, from adventurous Caesar of Raftworld to brave Venus who escapes the slave ship and manages to save many others. But I have to say that Pip really caught my heart. I love that his sister wants to protect him, but that Pip figures out how to manage his disability AND his gift and grows from this discovery. Do you have a favorite character (I know it’s hard to choose from your babies)? How did you develop such distinct personalities and stories for each?

Ohhhhh, that’s kind of like asking which of my kids is my favorite. Or which of my cats. I love them all infinitely. However, there are days that I certainly feel more akin to one or the other of these characters. Kinchen feels injustice strongly; Caesar is determined to put her best face forward; Thanh feels like he does everything wrong; Pip feels like he doesn’t fit in; Venus, at points, just wants to be left alone; and so on. On different days I feel closer to one or the other of these characters. What I hope is that a reader might have some of those same moments of recognition and closeness.

Okay, I have to ask about the Kraken! How did they make their way into your story? I love them!

HAHA! The Kraken came into the story when I was drafting and ran out of options. I had a rough-ish outline, and it just…trailed off to nothing. Kinchen was standing on the beach, needing to chase after Raftworld and with no way to get there. I stared at the screen for a long time, typed “Add sea monsters?” into my not-really-an-outline and quit for the day. The next day: there the kraken were, waiting for me and waving from the bay.

I was teaching a creative writing class at the time, and when I showed my students what I was working on (we were talking about ways of drafting and outlining and prewriting), one of them noticed that note and started laughing. “Just add sea monsters!” became probably the most memorable advice I gave that semester. I won’t say it was the most helpful advice, but it was probably the most memorable.

About H.M. Bouwman:

H.M. Bouwman is the author of middle grade historical fantasy novels
The Remarkable & Very True Story of Lucy & Snowcap and A Crack in
the Sea, which publishes with Putnam/PRH on January 3. She lives with
her two kids in St. Paul, MN and teaches in the English department at
the University of St. Thomas.

For more  about H.M. Bouwman and her books, check out her web site and follow her on Twitter.

To win a signed copy of A Crack in the Sea for yourself, a young reader, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, January 7 by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, January 10 (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Cherilyn for winning a copy of A CRACK IN THE SEA!

Come back again for more interviews, buzz reviews, and drawings! Happy Reading!

 

2016 Reading List

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Another year of reading fabulous books! I’m happy to share the list of books I read and enjoyed, but because I’m pressed for time this year, I won’t be providing my two-sentence summaries this year. I’ll provide links so you can see what each book is about and make purchases, though! And as always, I’m happy to hear your favorites from the past year.

By the Numbers:

77: total books

27: YA

21: chapter books/MG

12: picture books

17: adult

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UNIDENTIFIED SUBURBAN OBJECT by Mike Jung MG fiction

HOUSE ARREST by K.A. Holt MG fiction

SEE HOW THEY RUN by Ally Carter YA fiction

WEBSTER: TALE OF AN OUTLAW by Ellen Emerson White MG fiction

RHYME SCHEMER by K.A. Holt MG fiction

HOW TO PUT YOUR PARENTS TO BED by Mylisa Larsen (illust. by Babette Cole) picture book fiction

ECHO by Pam Muñoz Ryan MG fiction

KEEP ME POSTED by Liza Beazley adult fiction

THICKER THAN WATER by Kelly Fiore YA fiction

A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU (Firebird Book 1) by Claudia Gray YA fantasy/sci-fi

THE INCIDENT ON THE BRIDGE by Laura McNeal YA fiction

FOOTER DAVIS PROBABLY IS CRAZY by Susan Vaught MG fiction

THE MYSTERIOUS MOONSTONE (The Key Hunters Book 1) by Eric Luper chapter book fiction

TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU (Firebird Book 2) by Claudia Gray YA fantasy/sci-fi

THE SPY’S SECRET (The Key Hunters Book 2) by Eric Luper chapter book fiction

THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE by Pat Zietlow Miller (illus by Frank Morrison) picture book

23 MINUTES by Vivian Vande Velde YA fiction

THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE by Joshilyn Jackson adult fiction

SURF’S UP by Kwame Alexander (illus by Daniel Miyares) picture book

THE MEMORY OF LIGHT by Francisco X. Stork YA fiction

FOREST OF WONDERS (Wing & Claw Book 1) by Linda Sue Park MG fantasy

CALVIN by Martine Leavitt YA fiction

THE WAY LIFE SHOULD BE by Christina Baker Kline adult fiction

WHY NOT ME? by Mindy Kaling adult autobiography/humor

THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT by Luke Reynolds MG fiction

THE SUMMERTIME GIRLS by Laura Hankin adult fiction

NOBODY’S SECRET by Michaela MacColl YA fiction

COYOTE MOON by Maria Gianferrari (illus by Bagram Ibatoulline) picture book nonfiction

THE WINNER’S KISS (The Winner’s Trilogy Book 3) by Marie Rutkoski YA fantasy

ELIGIBLE by Curtis Sittenfeld adult fiction

FINDING PERFECT by Elly Swartz MG fiction

AMERICAN WIFE by Curtis Sittenfeld adult fiction

THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD by Siobhan Vivian YA fiction

RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE by Kate DiCamillo MG fiction

SWING SIDEWAYS by Nanci Turner Steveson MG fiction

OUTRUN THE MOON by Stacey Lee YA fiction

EVERY EXQUISITE THING by Matthew Quick YA fiction

SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY by Mary Robinette Kowal adult fantasy

FLAMECASTER (Shattered Realms Book 1) by Cinda Williams Chima YA fantasy

TWO SUMMERS by Aimee Friedman YA fiction

THE STORY I’LL TELL by Nancy Tupper Ling, illust by Jessica Lanan picture book

LOVE AND GELATO by Jenna Evans Welch YA fiction

THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST by Ann Hood adult fiction

THE SEVENTH WISH by Kate Messner MG fiction

BURN BABY BURN by Meg Medina YA fiction

TRULY MADLY GUILTY by Lianne Moriarty adult fiction

THE BEAUTY OF DARKNESS (The Remnant Chronicles Book 3) by Mary E. Pearson YA fantasy

TINY PRETTY THINGS by Sona Charaiportra and Dhonielle Clayton YA fiction

FALLING by Jane Green adult fiction

FLYING by Carrie Jones YA fantasy

A CRACK IN THE SEA by H.M. Bouwman (ARC – due out Jan 2017) MG fantasy

WISH by Barbara O’Connor MG fiction

MOO by Sharon Creech MG fiction

INK AND ASHES by Valynne E. Maetani YA fiction

LEAVE ME by Gayle Foreman adult fiction

BELGRAVIA by Julian Fellowes adult historical fiction

THE SUNDAY PHILOSOPHY CLUB by Alexander McCall Smith adult mystery

CRAZY RICH ASIANS by Kevin Kwan adult fiction

CLOUD AND WALLFISH by Anne Nesbett MG fiction

GERTIE’S LEAP TO GREATNESS by Kate Beasley MG fiction

SOME WRITER!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet nonfiction autobiography

MONSTER TRUCKS by Anika Denise (illus by Nate Wragg) picture book fiction

LUCY’S LOVEY by Betsy Devany (illus by Christopher Denise) picture book fiction

COMMONWEALTH by Ann Patchett adult fiction

THE NIAN MONSTER by Andrea Wang (illus by Alina Chau) picture book fiction

PARIS FOR ONE AND OTHER STORIES by Jojo Moyes adult fiction

LIKE MAGIC by Elaine Vickers MG fiction

SHADOW AND BONE (Grisha Trilogy Book 1) by Leigh Bardugo YA fantasy

SIEGE AND STORM (Grisha Trilogy Book 2) by Leigh Bardugo YA fantasy

RUIN AND RISING (Grisha Trilogy Book 3) by Leigh Bardugo YA fantasy

SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo YA fantasy

CROOKED KINGDOM (Six of Crows sequel) by Leigh Bardugo YA fantasy

BAKING DAY AT GRANDMA’S by Anika Denise (illus by Christopher Denise)  picture book

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING by Arthur Levine (illus by Katie Kath) picture book

THE YOUNGEST MARCHER by Cynthia Levinson (illus by Vanessa Brantley Newton) (ARC due out January 2017 picture book

LOU LOU AND PEA AND THE MURAL MYSTERY by Jill Diamond MG fiction

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon YA fiction

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I’d also like to thank each and every one of you for faithfully reading this blog. I know your time is valuable and I appreciate your time. I promise more give-aways in 2017! Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight Elly Swartz and Finding Perfect!

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I am over-the-moon thrilled to shine the spotlight on talented friend and debut author, Elly Swartz! I first read a draft of FINDING PERFECT before she sold the middle grade novel to FSG, and I fell head-over-heels in love with Molly. Stay tuned for a chance to win a signed copy below!

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Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz (FSG/2016)

Twelve-year-old Molly misses her mom when she moves out of the country to Canada for a job. Molly knows if she can win a poetry slam contest at school, her mom would come home and reunite with Dad and family. But, as the days go by with her older sister distant, her younger brother needy, and her father busy with work, Molly starts to notice certain habits are taking over – washing her hands over and over, lining up her glass animals perfectly with a ruler, making sure her homework is mistake- and smudge-free, and counting counting counting, until it’s all she can do to hide it from her best friends and family. In this touching story about trying to “find perfect,” Molly learns to let go of fear and finally get the help she needs.

Spotlight on Elly:

How did the idea for this story come to you, and what was your journey like from idea to sale?

One day, I woke with Molly in my head, and she wouldn’t leave until I told her story. At the time, I knew a number of adults and kids whom I was very close with who had OCD. I was awed by the disconnect between how they saw themselves and the world saw them. I then spent the next 7 years researching OCD, writing Molly’s story, and working with OCD pediatric specialists to authenticate the manifestation, discovery and treatment of Molly’s symptoms.

The journey was long, windy, and wonderful. Finding Perfect was originally written in alternating 1st person POVs between Molly and Hannah. It was a way for me to understand the vast discrepancy between how Molly saw herself and how Hannah saw her. Ultimately, I got to know Molly better, and rewrote the story from just her perspective. In doing so, I learned more about the dynamic between Molly, Kate and Ian, and Molly and her mom.

In the time between idea and sale, both the story and my love for Molly grew. She has stayed with me long after wrapping up my final draft. Truly, I think a piece of Molly will stay with me always.

Molly is struggling with a heavy burden, dealing with missing her mom, her parents’ separation, and feeling neglected/abandoned. What was it like researching for this book and getting to know Molly? What were the particular challenges and joys to writing this book?

Getting to know Molly was both inspiring and challenging. She was hiding in a dark place, and that is always hard to write. As the author, I had to get into her head, really embody her, and what she was experiencing to fully understand her feelings and write her story from a place of true authenticity. But, that’s what ultimately led to the greatest joy and inspiration. Molly’s acceptance of herself and recognition of her own strength.

The two most difficult scenes to write were Molly’s unraveling on stage during the slam poetry finals and her reunion with her mom. As a loving and affectionate mom of two sons, I wanted to protect Molly from hurt, sorrow, and fear. I wanted to wrap her in my arms and tell her it was all going to be okay. But, as the author, I knew that moment had to come later and it had to come from within Molly. She had to realize that she was going to be okay. That she was not OCD. That she was not one thing.

In the end, I was inspired by Molly’s courage, strength, and acceptance of imperfection.

Molly has a glass animal collection she cherishes. Do you collect anything? If so, what?

Unless you count all the books in my TBR piles, I don’t collect anything as an adult. As a child, I had two collections. A postcard collection – I think I just didn’t want to collect stamps or Wacky Packs like my older brothers. And, like Molly, I had a glass animal figurine collection. It started when my Great Aunt Ty took me to a museum and bought me a present on the way home. However, unlike Molly, I was way too sloppy to keep them neatly aligned anywhere!

Huge thanks for taking the time to get to know my journey, me, and Molly a bit better!

About Elly:

Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is a story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition determines everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. Through the years, Elly’s been a Sesame Place ride operator, messenger, lawyer, legal author, and college essay adviser. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

Curriculum Guide:

http://images.macmillan.com/folio-assets/teachers-guides/9780374303129TG.pdf

Website:

http://ellyswartz.com/

To win a signed copy of Finding Perfect for yourself, a young reader, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Monday October 31st, by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Thursday, November 3rd (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

EDITED TO ADD: Using a random number generator, the lucky winner is commenter number 2! Congratulations Melodye Shore! Please contact me with your mailing address and I will send out your signed copy of FINDING PERFECT asap!

Thanks to everyone for stopping by. Happy reading!

Mochi Queen Cover!

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Please indulge me once more as I share the cover of the first book in my Jasmine Toguchi chapter book series:

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Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen (FSG/July 11, 2017)

Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is a flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch mess-maker!

She’s also tired of her big sister, Sophie, always getting to do things first. For once, Jasmine wishes SHE could do something before Sophiesomething special, something different. The New Year approaches, and as the Toguchi family gathers in Los Angeles to celebrate, Jasmine is jealous that her sister gets to help roll mochi balls by hand with the women. Her mom says that Jasmine is still too young to join in, so she hatches a plan to help the men pound the mochi rice instead. Surely her sister has never done THAT before.

But pounding mochi is traditionally reserved for boys. And the mochi hammer is heavier than it looks. Can Jasmine build her case and her mochi-making muscles in time for New Year’s Day?

Big thanks and appreciation go to talented illustrator Elizabet Vukovic and awesome designer Kristie Radwilowicz! I’m so in love with this cover! The bright colors and overall design take me back to the manga I used to love to read as a child. And Jasmine – I just love her in her flamingo shirt and crown, holding a tray of delicious mochi.

Believe it or not, you can already pre-order the books!

Thanks for letting me share the joy with you all!

Thursday, stay tuned for my Spotlight on a debut middle grade author and a chance to win a signed copy of her book!

My New Newsletter

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Hello! Thank you for your continued patronage, for allowing me to share buzz reviews and author interviews and give-aways of some of my favorite children’s books. I look forward to continue to do so here. I’ve got some exciting interviews coming up of debut authors!

If you are an educator, parent, or a lover of children’s literature, I’m pleased to announce that I will be offering a monthly newsletter featuring activities, lessons, and crafts for my books, as well as highlighting other authors and books. I hope to integrate tidbits of personal info and Japanese culture and language, too.

If you sign up before October 15, 2016, your name will be entered in a drawing to win the full set of my Dorothy & Toto early reader chapter book series (paperback version). How do you sign up? Just go to my web site, scroll to the bottom, and enter your email address. Easy peasy!

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Thank you, as always! Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight Betsy Devany and Lucy’s Lovey!

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I am beyond thrilled to celebrate the book birthday of this awesome debut picture book, not only because the author is a dear friend, but also because this is a fantastic book with absolutely amazing illustrations. Stay tuned below to enter a drawing for a signed copy of this picture book!

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Lucy’s Lovey by Betsy Devany, illust. by Christopher Denise (Christy Ottaviano Books/2016)

Lucy has seventeen dolls, but Smelly Baby is her favorite. Lucy takes her everywhere and Smelly Baby is well-loved; a little raggedy and a little smelly. Lucy’s older sister Ivy complains, but when Smelly Baby is lost, Ivy and the family come together to try to first find Smelly Baby, and then to comfort Lucy. Will Lucy get her favorite lovey back? Sweet story with sweet illustrations!

Spotlight on Betsy Devany:

What was the spark behind the idea for Lucy’s Lovey and how did it grow into a story?

The spark that most likely launched me into first drafting Lucy’s Lovey was a charming, dolly-obsessed girl who visits the Toy Soldier fairly frequently, and with whom I’ve had many dolly conversations. One particular Sunday, her description of a recent dolly party ignited my imagination and led me to writing Lucy’s Lovey.

Beyond working at the toy store, which offers endless inspiration, once I’d completed a few revisions, I realized two life experiences had unknowingly found their way into Lucy’s story: 1) My niece, Sofi, used to line up all of her large collection of stuffies and dollies, calling out each of their personalized names. 2) When I was four, my beloved Little Bear got lost. Like a dog, Little Bear loved to feel the breeze when he’d hang out of the window of a vehicle, and in this case it was a taxicab. The dialogue exchange between my mother and I at the time is mirrored in Lucy’s Lovey. “Be careful with Little Bear,” my mother had warned. “I am,” said my four-year-old self seconds before Little Bear sailed away on the breeze.

Lucy is independent and loving, even when it comes to dealing with her grandma’s doll-snatching dog and an older sister who doesn’t quite love Smelly Baby. I adore Lucy! Is she based on anyone you know?

I see a lot of myself in Lucy, and though I didn’t meet her until after the ms was sold, Christopher’s youngest daughter Esme reminds me of Lucy. She, too, has a rich imagination, a positive sense of self, and a delightfully spunky personality. My two daughters also had special loveys, and they are still as independent and loving today as they were as kids. One carried a sea otter around, the other was obsessed with Figment.

Lucy has many dolls, but one true favorite. Do or did you have a favorite lovey? What was it?

My childhood lovey was Little Bear. After Little Bear left on a long trip, from which he has yet to return, I transitioned to a tinier mohair bear by Steiff, who I also named Little Bear. 12 cm tall and five-way jointed, Little Bear played with other Steiff bears, Cousin Bear and Grandpa Bear. I remember making tiny felt vests and teeny tiny newspaper hats for them to wear. I also loved dolls, mostly baby dolls. I spent hours playing house with them. My brother and I especially enjoyed winter, when we would bundle up our make-believe families and pretend we lived under our front yard pine tree.

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Thank you so much for featuring me and Lucy’s Lovey on DEBtastic Reads!

Thank YOU, Betsy!

Betsy Devany has been writing for all ages of kids for over twenty years. Aside from being a first-time author, she loves reading, photography, birding, acting silly with her grandkids, and working at an old-fashioned toy store in Mystic, where she delights in meeting rag-tag (sometimes smelly) loveys.

For more about Betsy and her books, check out her web site, friend her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

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To win a signed copy of Lucy’s Lovey for yourself, a child, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Sunday, Oct. 2nd, by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, Oct. 4th (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading!

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Valarie Giogas who won the signed copy of LUCY’S LOVEY! Thank you to everyone for stopping by! Stayed tuned for more interviews and give-aways!

Win an ARC of A CRACK IN THE SEA

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I just finished reading the ARC of A CRACK IN THE SEA by Heather Bouwman (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/January 2017). I loved this amazing MG novel so much I want one of you to be able to read it well in advance of the pub date. What’s it about? Hmmm….there are three stories interwoven: a boy with a gift for speaking with the fish is kidnapped from his island home by the Raft King, a slave ship full of sick slaves including the heroic and courageous Venus, and a boy and his make-shift family escape war-torn Vietnam – and a crack in the sea. Oh…and did I mention a Kraken love story? Leave your name in the comments section and I’ll draw one name at random tomorrow morning and send the ARC to a lucky winner. (I’m also posting this on my personal FB page so you’ll have some additional competition.) You must have a U.S. mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading!

EDITED TO ADD: The winner is Kristen W. Nitz! (Names were also drawn from comments made on my personal Facebook page. I normally don’t do that, and in the future will revert back to only choosing names from this blog.)