Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Review: MELTDOWN by Anita Sanchez, Illustrated by Lily Padula

 

I don't know about you, but I'm worried about glaciers.

When I was a kid (back when the dinosaurs walked the earth) I was fascinated by these massive ice rivers that rolled through mountains I could only dream about. 

Eventually I grew up and got to visit the mountains, and finally, in 2014, got to set foot on the Columbia ice fields just north of Banff, Alberta in Canada. 

But when I drove past that same glacier just a few years later, it had shrunk considerably.

Which is why I jumped at the chance to read Anita Sanchez' s new book MELTDOWN: DISCOVER EARTH'S IRREPLACEABLE GLACIERS AND LEARN WHAT YOU CAN DO TO SAVE THEM.





Anita is an award winning author of environmental science and nature books for children and it shows in this book, which is clearly written and organized in a way that draws the reader in.

First we learn about glaciers and the role they play in our planet.

Then she explains how we know they are melting, which teaches the importance of data gathering and scientific techniques.

Then we learn why they are melting, which was way more complicated and interesting than I had anticipated.

There is lots of cool information about what scientists are finding and learning from our glaciers, and great information about plants and animals that rely on glaciers.

Then we reach the hard part: what will happen if all the glaciers disappear.

And finally hope: if we take action now, we may be able to mitigate some of the effects.

There's also tons of additional resources for more information, along with a bibliography and glossary.


What I thought

Books about climate change are never easy.

We are learning things we wish we didn't have to know. 

But it is especially important for kids to learn this information now, as they can help lead us into a brighter future. (And yes, Greta Thunberg is included in the book)

Sanchez explains things clearly and gives the reader hope, but is also very open about what's at stake.

Meanwhile, Lily Padula's illustrations are great and very evocative:





This book belongs in every home and library, and teachers need to use it to help explain what's happening.

Sanchez and Padula have issued a clarion call for action.


My hope is that tons of people read this book and do something about it.


5 stars!


Click on her name to learn more about Anita Sanchez and her environmental science and nature books!  



Friday, October 21, 2022

The Rabbit's Gift By Jessica Vitalis

 

I recently had the opportunity to chat with author Jessica Vitalis about her wonderful new novel, The Rabbit's Gift, which comes out October 25th! I loved this book so much!






What it's about:


Quincy Rabbit and his warren live a simple yet high-stakes life. In exchange for the purple carrots they need to survive, they farm and deliver Chou de vie (cabbage-like plants that grow human babies inside) to the human citizens of Montpeyroux. But lately, because of those selfish humans, there haven’t been enough carrots to go around. So Quincy sets out to change that—all he needs are some carrot seeds. He’ll be a hero. 

Fleurine sees things a little differently. As the only child of the Grand Lumière, she’s being groomed to follow in her mother’s political footsteps—no matter how much Fleurine longs to be a botanist instead. Convinced that having a sibling will shift her mother’s attention, Fleurine tries to grow purple carrots, hoping to make a trade with the rabbits. But then a sneaky rabbit steals her seeds. In her desperation to get them back, she follows that rabbit all the way to the secret warren—and steals a Chou.

Quincy and Fleurine have endangered not just the one baby inside the Chou, but the future of Montpeyroux itself—for rabbits and humans alike. Now, they’ll have to find a way to trust each other to restore the balance. 

Told from both Quincy’s and Fleurine’s perspectives, The Rabbit’s Gift will enchant fans of Katherine Applegate, Gail Carson Levine, and Anne Ursu.


The Interview:


1.     Hi Jessica! I absolutely adored The Rabbit’s Gift! It is one of the most creative fairy tales I have ever read!  Can you talk about your inspiration?


Absolutely! After writing The Wolf’s Curse, which I always thought of as my “death” book due to the Grim Reaper mythology, I really wanted to write a companion novel about birth, but for a long time I couldn’t think of anything appropriate for middle grade readers. Then a critique partner asked me if I was familiar with La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy), which is a short, silent film based on the French mythology that babies grow in cabbage plants. As soon as I watched the film (I highly recommend googling it!), I knew right away that I’d found the seed for my next story––one where human babies are grown in cabbage-like plants and delivered by rabbits!

 

 

2.     I love that the first time we meet Quincy, he’s sharing his perspective on heroes and villains and his realization that whether we considered someone (or ourselves!) one or the other depends on whose side we’re on. What made you want to state that up front?


When I first tried writing The Rabbit’s Gift, I thought I needed an omniscient narrator since that’s what I’d used in The Wolf’s Curse. But my critique partners kept telling me the voice sounded too much like Wolf, so I decided to write from dual points of view—a young male rabbit and a human girl. Rather than label one of them the protagonist and one of them the antagonist, I wanted to play with how perspective impacts the stories we tell. When I sat down to start writing, Quincy showed up and insisted on talking about heroes and villains, so I let him run the show!  


 

3.     An interesting through-line in the story is that both Quincy the Rabbit and Princess Fleurine are forced into roles because of circumstances beyond their control — his size, her being royalty. What message do you hope your readers will take away from their attempts to change that narrative?


One of the things I’ve noticed in my own life as a stay-at-home mom, writer, and introvert, is that when I spend too much time alone, my own problems or issues take on an oversized importance relative to the rest of the world. In The Rabbit’s Gift, Quincy and Fleurine are both so focused on their own unhappiness that they both make mistakes with grave consequences; it’s not until they start to put others first and think about the world around them that their lives start to change for the better. So I think one of the messages in this story is that true happiness rarely comes from trying to change things out of our control; rather, it comes from working to build strong relationships with our friends, family, and community, and by doing our part to try to leave the world a little better than when we found it. 


 

4.     One thing that you do so well is show how easy it is for the older generation (and some of the younger!) to say “Well, that’s the way it always is.” Change isn’t easy, but I hope this really encourages your readers to push for a better future!


I hope so, too! There is so much happening in the world right that that gives us all cause for concern; it can be easy to feel small and inconsequential when there are so many systemic problems that need addressing, but I hope young readers will grow up feeling empowered to ask big questions and search for big answers. 

 

5.     The need for cooperation is central to the story and brought to mind how much healthier our planet would be if that was happening more. Can you talk about that?


Absolutely! In The Rabbit’s Gift, human babies are grown in cabbage-like plants and delivered by rabbits. In return, they receive the purple carrots essential to their survival. This symbiosis is the theme upon which the whole story is built, and I hope it shines light on our own tenuous dependency on the natural world. Because the story was written in the first half of 2020, when our divides as a modern nation were coming into sharper relief than ever before, I also wanted to write a story that reminds readers that it’s not only our connection to the natural world that we need to mind, but our connections with each other—as family, as friends, as neighbors, but most importantly, as humans. 

 

6.     All of the characters are wonderful, but I adore Quincy!  How hard was it to write from a rabbit’s perspective?


On one hand, writing from Quincy’s perspective wasn’t all that difficult because I knew he needed to have the same type of character arc as all of my characters. And it was actually a lot of fun trying to envision seeing the human world for the first time from his perspective. On the other hand, I discovered while writing this story how little I actually knew about rabbits! For example, it wasn’t until I built their entire world around the rabbits needing nutritious purple carrots that I learned that carrots aren’t especially good for real rabbits due to their high sugar content. And I had no idea until after I’d already written certain scenes that rabbits are mostly color blind, are decent swimmers, and have an extra (clear) eyelid that allows them to sleep with their eyes open. Thankfully Angora Roux aren’t real rabbits, so I was able to take plenty of liberties for the sake of the story! 

 

7.     Finally: what’s next?

I’m glad you asked! My next book, Coyote Queen, publishes with Greenwillow/HarperCollins in the fall of 2023. Coyote Queen is the book of my heart, and the reason I set out to become a writer more than 15 years ago. It’s the story of a girl who enters a beauty pageant desperate to win the prize money to escape her abusive stepfather, only to discover that she’s turning into a coyote. Another (as of yet untitled) book will follow in 2024. 


Want to learn more about Jessica and her books? Click here!


Monday, September 5, 2022

Review: Ravenfall by Kalyn Josephson

 


In Ravenfall, the Ballinkay family lives in a magical inn with a mind of its own. Thirteen-year-old Anna Ballinkay can see death just by touching someone. But even in a family full of talented psychics, Anna feels like an outcast and constantly wonders how her powers might be useful to maintaining her family's inn. 

 

That is until fourteen-year-old Colin Pierce shows up on their doorstep in search of his missing brother after the death of their parents. Finally finding a use for her powers, Anna offers to help Colin track down the killer. 

 

As they struggle to understand who is behind the death and what they might want with Colin, the hidden secrets go deeper and deeper. And if they can't solve the mystery by Samhain (the Irish Halloween), the veil between life and death will be ripped open destroying their world before they can solve the murder.


Ravenfall is filled with Irish traditions and lore. Anna and Colin are the perfect pair to tackle this mystery as the story twists and turns. It's exciting to watch them both discover who they are and what their strengths are in the process. As they navigate a whimsical world with a quirky psychic family, a magical house that fixes and decorates itself, and a shapeshifting cat, they learn about the world of the dead all while finding their rightful place among those they care about. Ravenfall has the right touch of secrets and scary and is a perfect read for spooky season.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: ERIN ENTRADA KELLY, AUTHOR OF SURELY, SURELY, MARISOL RAINEY

 

You are in for another treat this week! 


Not only did I get a chance to read an advance reader copy of SURELY, SURELY, MARISOL RAINEY, but I got to interview Award Winning, Best-selling, author Erin Entrada Kelly!


You know her from her amazing books, including the following:






She's one of my favourite authors, so it was a real treat to ask her about her latest book, a chapter book that continues the adventures of Marisol Rainey, who is one of the most delightful characters you will ever meet.


About the book:






Everyone loves sports . . . except Marisol! The stand-alone companion to Newbery Medal winner and New York Times–bestselling Erin Entrada Kelly’s Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey is an irresistible and humorous story about friendship, family, and fitting in. Fans of Clementine, Billy Miller Makes a Wish, and Ramona the Pest will find a new friend in Marisol. 

Marisol Rainey’s two least-favorite things are radishes and gym class. She avoids radishes with very little trouble, but gym is another story—especially when Coach Decker announces that they will be learning to play kickball.

There are so many things that can go wrong in kickball. What if Marisol tries to kick the ball . . . but falls down? What if she tries to catch the ball and gets smacked in the nose? What if she’s the worst kickballer in the history of kickball? Marisol and her best friend Jada decide to get help from the most unlikely—and most annoying—athlete in the world: Marisol’s big brother, Oz.

Told in short chapters with illustrations by the author on almost every page, Erin Entrada Kelly’s stand-alone companion novel to Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey celebrates the small but mighty Marisol, the joys of friendship, the power of being different, and the triumph of persevering. Surely Surely Marisol Rainey is ideal for readers of Kevin Henkes, Meg Medina, Judy Blume, and Beverly Cleary.  


The Interview


1.     First of all, I adored SURELY SURELY MARISOL RAINEY!  It’s the perfect follow-up to MAYBE MAYBE  MARISOL RAINEY!

 

 

As a kid who often heard “Nice try”, I could one hundred percent relate to Marisol’s reluctance to participate in kickball!  For many kids who aren’t very athletic, gym class can be traumatizing. Did you pull on experiences of your own to make it feel so accurate?

 

Absolutely. Marisol is the closest autobiographical character I’ve ever written. Everything about her—except for some elements of her family dynamic—are all Erin. This includes the things she loves, like cats, silent films, and her best friend, along with all her fears and insecurities.

 

One of my biggest struggles growing up was being in the shadow of my older sister, who was more athletic and didn’t seem afraid of anything, much like Marisol’s brother Oz. With SURELY SURELY, I drew on my childhood fear of playing team sports. In my case, it was softball. I tried all these tricks to avoid going up to bat, like sneaking to the back of the line, but my time eventually came. I struck out the first time. The next time, I kept my eye on the ball and hit it. Not very hard, but I hit it. I made it to first base. Then the bell rang. I still remember what it felt like when the bat hit the ball. 

 

 

2.     I love the metaphor of a brain train — it’s the perfect way to describe how our thoughts can race and hurtle us down the tracks to places we really don’t want to visit. What I love about it especially in this book is that kids (and adult readers like me!) will really see themselves in Marisol. She’s a worrier, like so many of us. Why do you think it’s so important for kids to see beloved characters struggling?

 

We—and by “we,” I mean adults—often have an idealized concept of childhood. We grow up and suddenly all the problems we had as children seem small in comparison. But they weren’t small. And they certainly don’t feel small to the children experiencing them. Adults can be incredibly patronizing and condescending. When kids have crushes, we call it “puppy love.” When kids cry too easily, we say they’re “too sensitive.” We toss their problems aside and give them lectures about the “real world.” Their worlds may seem small and silly to us, but they’re very real. This includes their triumphs and their heartbreaks. Adults forget how difficult it is to grow up.

 

I still remember the first time I felt truly seen as a young reader—it’s when I read The Very Worried Walrus, which was part of the Sweet Pickles collection. I loved that Walrus. It was the first time I met a character who worried all the time, just like me. It made me realize I wasn’t alone.

 


3.     One thing I truly loved about the book was Marisol’s friendship with Jada. They so have each other’s backs, though they are human. How difficult is it to write realistic friendships?

 

If you’ve been fortunate enough to have wonderful friends, it’s not that difficult at all.



 

4.     Felix’s empathy for animals is both delightful and an amazing lesson in the book. As someone who is pretty sure the squirrel in her backyard understands her, inquiring minds want to know: do animals speak to you like they speak to Felix?

 

If I’m being honest, I do most of the talking. Ha!


 

5.     The illustrations are so good! Do you have a particular favorite?

 

My favorite is the final illustration of Marisol in bed with all her stuffed animals. It’s such an accurate depiction of how I fell asleep when I was her age. I slept with a mountain of them.


 

6.     When will we get to read more Marisol? She is a delight!

 

Yes! Another book will be out next year. 



Want to learn more about Erin and her books? Visit here!





Monday, August 22, 2022

Interview with Christyne Morrell, Author of TREX

 




Those of you who are fans of Christyne's last book, KINGDOM OF SECRETS,  are in for a treat! I had the opportunity to read an Advanced Reader's Copy and it is a PAGE-TURNER!


ABOUT THE BOOK


Trex’s experimental brain implant saved his life—but it also made his life a lot harder. Now he shocks everything he touches. When his overprotective mother finally agrees to send him to a real school for sixth grade, Trex is determined to fit in.


He wasn’t counting on Mellie the Mouse. She lives in the creepiest house in Hopewell Hill, where she spends her time scowling, lurking, ignoring bullies, and training to be a spy. Mellie is convinced she saw lightning shoot from Trex’s fingertips, and she is Very Suspicious.

And she should be . . . but not of Trex. Someone mysterious is lurking in the shadows . . . someone who knows a dangerous secret.


INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTYNE


Q:        First of all, I LOVED TREX! Can you share with our readers where the original idea came from? It is so good!

A.                  Thank you! This is a bit spoilery, but the idea came to me one night after a neighborhood party. I left early to put my daughter to bed and immediately fell asleep beside her. Being an introvert, all that socializing had worn me out! When people asked where I’d gone, my husband said I had to go inside and “recharge my batteries,” which got me thinking… what if I literally had to recharge my batteries? Then I took it a step further, envisioning a character who physically manifested the traits of an introvert. In addition to having to recharge, Trex is uncomfortable in social settings as a result of his condition, and because of his static shock, he keeps other people at a distance. The rest of the story came together from that initial spark (pun intended 😊). Needless to say, I’m so glad I ghosted that party!  

Q.        The characters of Mellie and Trex are so real. How much pre-work did you have to do before writing the book to really get your characters?

A.                  I didn’t do much character pre-work, unless you count awful early drafts! I’m a plot-first writer, so I always start by making detailed, beat-by-beat outlines of what’s going to happen. I know the basics about my characters when I start drafting, but I don’t really get them until I’ve had a chance to spend time with them, which usually happens around the third or fourth draft. Then, in drafts six or seven, I layer in all the little details I’ve picked up along the way, which hopefully make the characters step off the page. 

Q.        The multiple points of view — including some adults — is so well done and really adds to the plot twists. Was that always a decision from the get-go?

A.                  I’m a sucker for a multiple-POV novel (or a glutton for punishment), so yes, the three narrators were present from the beginning. It was challenging to juggle all those perspectives, but I wanted to examine the secrets people keep and the lies they tell (to themselves and to others). To do that, I had to get into the characters’ heads and let each of them have their say. 

Q.        If someone asked me to describe the story, I’d say Mission-Impossible-Meets-Harriet-The-Spy, how would you describe it?

A.                  Ooh, I like that! I usually describe TREX as a sci-fi-adventure mystery, because it contains a little bit of everything. As I was writing it, I was reminded of the classic 80s movies of my youth, like E.T. and Flight of the Navigator - stories about outcasts with abilities being exploited by big corporations. Or, more recently, the series Stranger Things, with the appearance of a mysterious newcomer who has unexplained powers caused, again, by an evil corporation (but minus the terrifying demogorgon). I’d also compare it to my favorite books with unreliable narrators, like Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead. So some combination of all those things! 

Q.        There are a LOT of trust issues in this book and I love that, because learning who to trust and not, and learning to forgive others’ mistakes is so important for kids to learn.  Was that purposeful from the beginning or did it evolve as you wrote?

A.                  The trust element evolved organically as I wrote. From the beginning, I was focused on the twin ideas of secrets and lies, and I fleshed that out with three main characters who all have something to hide. I was particularly fascinated by Mellie, who “collects” other people’s secrets while simultaneously denying her own. That central theme naturally lent itself to an examination of trust and how it’s gained and lost - how being dishonest, even to protect yourself or someone else, can be harmful. I agree that this is an important topic for kids at this age, especially as it plays out in the parent/child relationship. There’s a line in the book that I wrote early on and kept returning to, which I think captures this concept well: “[He] has every reason to hate me. For all the secrets. For all the lies. And worst of all, for not knowing the difference between the two.” 

Q.        Likewise, anxiety is addressed so well. We really feel for Mellie. How much research did you have to do to get that so right?

A.        A lot! First, I read everything I could find about anxiety in kids; then I tried to balance the more clinical perspective with first-hand experiences - both my own and those that were shared with me. At the root of this story is my own background with introversion/anxiety, and as I began to circulate early drafts to friends and beta readers, I discovered that my experiences were not uncommon. The number of people who revealed that they and/or their kids mistook anxiety for gastrointestinal issues, or could otherwise relate to Mellie, made me more determined to get this book into the world. 

Interestingly, getting it “right” in terms of authenticity occasionally meant getting it wrong. At the beginning of the book, Mellie has a number of misconceptions about her anxiety and her medication. They’re corrected by the end of the story, but they reflect many of the personal experiences I heard. The same is true of the way Mellie’s parents approach her situation. They initially seek a quick fix for her anxiety but eventually realize that an honest discussion and acknowledgement of the issues are critical to a long-term solution. 

Q.        Tell me Mellie and Trex are going to be life-long friends!

A.              Absolutely! Mellie insists upon it, and she always gets her way. I picture them bickering and playing Alphabetter* for their entire lives!

*Alphabetter is a game in which you take turns naming your favorite things in alphabetical order, with extra points for multiple words starting with the same letter (e.g., chocolate chip cookies).   

Q.        Your first book, KINGDOM OF SECRETS, was a fantasy. TREX is a mystery/adventure story. What’s next?

A.        I’m working on a ghost story, believe it or not. My agent tells me I have “range,” which I think is a kind way of saying I have a short attention span. I love to explore new genres and styles with each book, but I try to incorporate a common spirit of adventure, friendship, and self-actualization into each one. Oh, and plot twists - those are my favorite! 

Thanks Christyne! 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Want to learn more about Christyne and her books? Visit here!





Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Interview with Mat Heagerty, author of Lumberjackula



What's it about:

Jack is in a pickle. His lumberjack mom wants him to go to Mighty Log Lumberjack Prep to learn how to chop wood and wear flannel. His vampire dad wants him to go to Sorrow’s Gloom Vampire School to learn how to turn into a bat and drink blood-orange juice. And Jack has a secret: what he really wants to do is dance.

When he finds out about Tip Tap Twinkle Toes Dance Academy from new friend Plenty, Jack feels he’s finally found the place where he can be his true self. But he’s too afraid of disappointing his family to tell them. What’s a half-lumberjack, half-vampire boy to do?

To summon the confidence to pursue his dreams, Jack will have to embrace every part of himself—his lumberjack toughness, his vampire eeriness, and most especially his awesome dance moves.


The Interview:


 

1.     First of all, congrats about Lumberjackula! I loved this book so much!  But before we get into specifics about the book, would love to know your path to becoming an author!  How did you break into writing comics and graphic novels?

 

Thank you so much, Wendy! Sam and I are so proud of how it turned out!

 

I’m dyslexic, and like many dyslexics, comics were a huge part of how I learned to read. The smaller text blocks and images to help with context clues where huge for me. After reading my first Calvin and Hobbesstrips, I started making my own comics and never really stopped. There were some years where making comics took a backseat to being in punk bands, but it’s never not been a part of my life. 

 

A big moment early on for me was when Andrew Clements (author of Frindle and a ton of other great middle grade books) visited my second-grade class that his twin sons were in. Seeing a real person who was telling stories for a living was massively impactful. 

 

For almost a decade, while bartending, I self-published, crowd-funded, and unsuccessfully pitched a ton of books to every publisher in comics with open submissions. I eventually got a miniseries published by this now defuncted and loathed small comics press-- it was a huge learning experience. Biggest lesson of all was that, as corny as it sounds, I found my voice. In that, the miniseries I made was not my voice at all. I realized that I really enjoyed writing for younger readers and that most of the stories I loved were lighthearted and goofy. 

 

So, I made a light-hearted and goofy pitch for a middle grade graphic novel and submitted it to just one published, Oni Press (a publisher who put out some of my favorite books) and they took it! From there, the doorway inched open a bit and I’ve been trying to force it all the way open since, now luckily with the help of my amazing agent Maria Vicente.  

 

2.     Is one genre easier than another, both to write and break into?

 

I feel like breaking in as a writer for either floppy monthly comics or graphic novels can both be equally soul-crushingly hard, hehe. As for me personally writing them, graphic novels are much, much easier. I like telling stories in big chunks with a beginning middle and end. The lack of pages and serialized structure of monthlies would be really hard for me, I think.

 

3.     How long does it usually take you to write a graphic novel? How much input do you get re: the illustrations?

 

It really depends on the project and how full my plate is with taking care of my young kids, but generally, I can have a book finished in about three months with my schedule. 

 

As for art input-- I’ve only made original books so far and not done any work-for-hire, so I’ve been lucky enough to have a say in picking everyone I’ve collaborated with. I’ll certainly write my ideas in a script and have some thoughts throughout the process of the book being illustrated, but I don’t get too involved because that’s not my job. I choose collaborators because I love what they do, so I try not to get in their way too much, hopefully!

 

4.     Team Marvel or Team DC (or maybe just Team Mat?)

 

Mat’s great for sure. He’s a nice dude. So, I’m Team Mat definitely, but I have lots of love for all comics! No one team for me! Marvel was a huge part of my childhood, specifically X-Men and Spider-Man, but DC was really big too with Legion of SuperheroesYoung Justice, and Batman: The Animated Series.

 

5.     Where did the idea of Lumberjackula come from?

 

It started with an idea I had for just a vampire in middle school called Backpackula. Then I just really liked the way that mash-up sounded, but the idea seemed too simple. So, I tried out others like Quarterbackula, Jetpackula, and Quackula, but they were either taken already or not fun enough for me. I landed on Lumberjackula and the visual just really made me laugh. The character for sure came before the story.

 

6.     One of my favourite things about this book is that even though Jack’s parents are trying not to pressure him into favouring their choices over the other parent’s, he still feels pressure to please them both. That’s a thing that every kid goes through. Why was that important to you to show that to your readers?

 

When I was just starting Lumberjackula, I found a picture I had drawn when my wife was pregnant with our first kid. It was of what I thought my daughter would look like as an adult. Even though both my wife and I have always made it a priority to encourage our kids to be whoever they are, I realized I was still putting pressure on my daughter unknowingly. In the drawing, she dressed and looked like my wife pretty much and had a Star Wars shirt on and was holding a guitar. Even as well-meaning and innocent as that was, I realize if she saw the sketch, she would internalize that and think that’s what I want her to be. When the truth is, I want both my kids, or any kid, to be whoever they want to be. 

 

After that, I thought about how my big excitement when my kids express interest in drawing or music puts a pressure on them too. So, I really wanted to work out my thoughts on all that in the story, for young readers, but also hopefully for some parents reading along too. I hope a parent or two realizes, even if they aren’t forcing their kid to be on the football team, they can still be unknowingly pressuring them down a path they aren’t comfortable with.

 

7.     Jack’s mom is a lumberjack, his dad a vampire, so clearly he is a product of a mixed marriage, an issue you handle with sensitivity and creativity in the story. Can you talk about whether that was a conscious decision from the get-go?

 

First of, I’m so glad to hear you feel it was handled sensitively. It was for sure a major concern for me. Even though it’s a fantasy story, I see that the correlation is very easy to draw.

 

When I started, everything was simply, I think Lumberjackula is fun to say and I wasn’t giving the idea of that he was the child of a mixed marriage much thought at all. But as the story shaped it became a very clearly part of everything. As I’m not a member of a mixed family, I made sure to share my work along the way with my friends and extended family that are to make sure I was handling everything with the proper respect and authenticity. My editors were also massively helpful with this too. 

 

Also, I really tried more than anything to focus on Jack’s parent’s interests being different. Something I can relate to in my own family. While I have lots of crossover with my wife of course, there are some things we are both very passionate about that the other doesn’t have much interest in. So, I viewed Jack’s conflict a lot through that lens instead, if that makes sense? 


Totally does!

 

8.     Jack has a special calling all of his own, one he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing with people, even though it fills him with joy. We all want to feel seen, even as we all want to belong. How hard was that to write? You did such a great job!

 

Thank you so much! It wasn’t too hard to tap into at all. While there isn’t much that I’ve ever really felt I needed to hide, I certainly can relate to Jack’s anxiety and fear of disappointing people. I’ve struggled with confidence most of my life and have a pretty unhealthy need to be liked. Well, at least by folks I think highly of. So writing an nervous, insecure kid was all too easy for me!

 

9.     Just as his family makes mistakes, so does Jack. Can you tell our readers about how you decided what and where to include those mistakes in the story?

 

The mistakes Jack and his folks, and his grandparents all make just all seemed so natural for the plot to me. I think pretty much everyone has lied at one point or another to avoid difficult talks. Jack’s biggest mistakes—lying and his treatment of his new buddy Plenty—both just felt needed for conflict in the story. There’s one particular mistake in the third act, where Jack keeps up his lie even though it’s really obviously time to come clean. My editors suggested that in the last round of edits, and I’m so happy they did. I think it just felt there needed to be one last hurdle, the flow was off.

 

10.  Finally, I am in LOVE with Jack’s world! Any chance of more books? 

 

Oh man, I really, really, really hope so! I have ideas for so many more books. I have a pitch for a sequel that should be going out any day now that I’m very proud of. Fingers and toes majorly crossed that our publisher is interested!

 

11.  What’s next?

 

I think the next book to come out will be, a middle grade sports fantasy graphic novel I’m making with Lisa DuBois called Indoor Kid. It’s being published by Oni Press. The dates are moving still on a few books, so maybe something else might be out first. But besides that, I’m pitching and hoping folks let me make more books!

 

Thanks Mat! 

 

Thank you so much, Wendy! This was a lot of fun!


Want to learn more about Mat? Go here!