Author Archives: Debbi Michiko Florence

About Debbi Michiko Florence

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

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.)

My Book Birthday!

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Hi! I’m throwing myself a book birthday party to celebrate the release of the early reader chapter book series I wrote for Capstone, and one lucky winner will receive the birthday gift!

There are four books in total: Dorothy & Toto: What’s Your Name?, Dorothy & Toto: The Hunt for the Perfect Present, Dorothy & Toto: The Disappearing Picnic, and Dorothy & Toto: Little Dog Lost. For story summaries, click here. The paperback versions are currently available for pre-order (although some people have said they have received their pre-orders already). If you’d like to buy these books, order them at your favorite indie bookstore, or order online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound.

For more information and to enter to win a set of the hardcover library edition for yourself, a child, or a school or library, click here to enter by commenting on the post of my web site.

Next time, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled Spotlight interviews and giveaways!

Welcome to the Spotlight Nancy Tupper Ling and The Story I’ll Tell

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A warm wonderful welcome to picture book author Nancy Tupper Ling and her newest book baby! Stay tuned below on how to enter for a chance to win a signed by the author copy of this sweet book.

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The Story I’ll Tell by Nancy Tupper Ling, illus. by Jessica Lanan (Lee & Low/2016)

A mother imagines the story she’ll tell her son about how he came to be a part of the family — from a branch on a tree to snagged from a dragon queen. But by the story’s end, the mother tells the true story of how he was brought home on a plane, to be loved and cared for as their son. Touching and sweet with lovely illustrations.

Spotlight on Nancy Tupper Ling:

Please tell us the story of how THE STORY I’LL TELL came to be.

The idea for The Story I’ll Tell was one of those rare gifts that come out of the thin air. The inspiration happened as I was driving home from a trip to Connecticut (plug for my home state). As I was day dreaming, this image popped into my head—a baby arriving on a couple’s doorstep. Then I envisioned the father telling his toddler all these fantastical stories about how she came to be in their lives. (I’m always on the lookout for “good father” stories). The one line that kept repeating in my head was “Still, there are times when I think I will tell you the truth, for the truth is a beautiful story too.” In 2013 my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, sent my manuscript out into the world, and we waited. Ironically I was in the middle of a writers’ conference when I received the “Happy Dance” phone call. The Story I’ll Tell had been accepted by my dream publisher, Lee & Low. Of course, there are always more stories to tell.

What was the biggest challenge to writing this story? Did it change much from your original draft?

I wrote The Story I’ll Tell as a poem first. I often start my stories that way. Surprisingly I didn’t have to revise too much along the way (miracles happen) but plot is always my weakness. Making sure the various stories flowed smoothly from one to another and that there was a momentum was what took the most finagling. Still, it was definitely the manuscript that required the least amount of revisions (so far, shh). My book Double Happiness took ten years and those revisions fill a 3-inch binder. The biggest change suggested by Lee and Low was to make the main characters a mother and son, which isn’t typical when it comes to Chinese adoptions. I think it works nicely in The Story I’ll Tell, though. To think that my wee daydream become a reality in between the covers of book still seems pretty unreal.

The illustrations are so lovely, such a perfect compliment to this sweet story. What surprised you most about the illustrations? Do you have a favorite?

It’s always such a surprise when an author sees the final illustrations. Jessica Lanan’s work blew me away. The spreads are dreamy, like my original inspiration. My favorite page is the one where the parents are walking on the beach at night and the child floats in on a wave. Knowing this, my parents surprised me with the original piece for my 50th birthday this year. How cool is that?

About Nancy: Nancy Tupper Ling is the winner of the prestigious Writer’s Digest Grand Prize and the Pat Parnell Poetry Award.  She draws her inspiration from the multicultural background of her family and the interwoven fabric of familial culture which is, on the surface, seemingly everyday.  She is the author of My Sister, Alicia May (Pleasant Street Press), Double Happiness (Chronicle Books), The Story I’ll Tell (Lee & Low Books) and the founder of Fine Line Poets (www.finelinepoets.com), Currently she resides in Walpole, Massachusetts with her husband, Vincent, and their two girls.

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

The author has generously offered to send a signed copy to a lucky winner. To win a copy of The Story I’ll Tell for yourself, a child, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, July 30th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, August 2nd (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Rachael who is the winner of this drawing! Please contact me at just kid ink at yahoo (no spaces) with your signing instructions and US mailing address.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!