Friday, February 28, 2020

Book Review, Q&A and a GIVEAWAY: A Trifecta of MG Goodness for Wendy McLeod MacKnight's, The Copycat!

What would you do if you could literally look like any living thing you wanted whenever you wanted…

I gravitate towards books with humor, heart and a bit of magic, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read The Copycat by Middle Grade Minded’s very own, Wendy McLeod MacKnight! (Make sure you enter our GIVEAWAY at the end of this post!)

Here’s what the publisher (Greenwillow Books) had to say:

A funny, unpredictable and heartfelt new novel from Wendy McLeod MacKinght, the author of The Frame-Up. Ali has always acted like a copycat to make friends, but when she unexpectedly inherits the ability to change her appearance at will, fitting in seems impossible! Luckily, with the help of her family, new friends, and touch of magic, Ali might just survive middle school after all. A great pick for fans of Dan Gemeinhart, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Diana Wynne Jones.

A Little Book Review...

Ali Sloane's family moves around. A lot! They've never had a lot of money, and now are living with great-grandma Gigi who's about to turn 100 in a place so shrouded in fog that it seems to shout out to the world, "We have secrets!" And Ali's family definitely has some of those. Ali's also starting 7th grade at her 10th school, which would be hard enough without having to worry about her family's special Copycat powers, a mysterious family feud, reuniting with estranged cousin Alfie, and making (and then saving) new friendships all while following the RULES. Because creating and following the rules for any situation is how Ali has survived her family's vagabond life. 

Ali's wise and often funny directives are interspersed throughout The Copycat, as are excerpts from a book Ali's Uncle Percy wrote about the fog in Fundy. These additions were welcome and original writerly devices that added depth, mystery and hilarity to the story. Still, Ali learns that sometimes the rules can backfire. Sometimes the rules can change. And sometimes the rules just don't apply.

This was a rich and satisfying story, filled with wonderful characters and so many layers that it kept you wondering and waiting until the very end. The Copycat is about all those things that middle grade readers care about; family, friends and navigating life...with a nice layer of magical possibility thrown in for good measure. I truly loved this book and can see MG readers finding a friend in Ali and her imperfect but loving crew. (Teachers and'll want to get this for your kids!)

A Little Author Q&A...

Q: Where did you get the idea for this story?

A: I moved around a lot as a kid and sometimes, I really struggled to fit in. On top of that, I often went through a few friends until I found 'my people'. My main character, Ali, is so stressed from having to do this once or twice a year that she actually has no idea who she really is. 

I've always loved books with shapeshifter characters, but I didn't want to write a typical one. Then it hit me: what if Ali, who copies other kids' behaviours and likes/dislikes in order to fit in, actually starts to change into other people? The family feud idea followed shortly thereafter, because it made sense to me that not everyone would be happy to have that kind of power.

Q: The setting of the book, Saint John and the Bay of Fundy, are so important to plot...which came first - the idea or the setting?

A: I wanted there to be some kind of device that set the shapeshifting off, and I’ve always loved fog, so it seemed natural to set it in a city not far from where I live, Saint John, New Brunswick, which is often socked in by fog. It’s also where my mom was born and a place I visited all the time when I was a kid. I even made my grandparents’ old house the house where Ali’s great-grandmother, Gigi, lives! It is truly a magical place and well worth a visit! And the high tides in the Bay of Fundy are amazing!!!!

Q: There are so many interesting characters in this book at all different age ranges (I'm thinking of great-grandma Gigi down to Ali and her group of friends). Do you have a favorite? Is there a character you are most like?

A: I like to have different ages in my stories, because that’s what real life is like! And I also like showing parents’ vulnerabilities. Even when we parents try our best, we don’t always succeed!

As for a favourite character, that is hard! I love Gigi, because she reminds me of my grandmother, but I have a soft spot for Murray [a new friend of Ali's], who steals every scene he is in!

Q: Can you give a timeline of your writing process with this book from idea to acceptance? 

A: This was the second book of a two book deal with Greenwillow Books and it gave me SO much trouble. Even though it is technically my third book, it felt like a sophomore experience! I’d say it took about 10 months to get it from first draft to acceptance by my editor.

Q: Is there anything you WISH someone would ask you about the The Copycat or your writing process?

A: I don’t know about other authors, but I seem to forget how to write a book every time I start a new project. That’s a bit of a gross exaggeration, but only slightly! I think every book teaches you how to write better, and every book has a way it wants to be written. For example, Uncle Percy’s Book about Fog in the Bay of Fundy wasn’t in draft one, but Uncle Percy insisted it be included!

In other words: we are always learning as writers!

And p.s. Who would I want to turn into if I was a Copycat? Either of my two childhood heroes: Wonder Woman and Batgirl!

You can find a list of places to pre-order The Copycat here!

Wendy McLeod MacKnight lives in New Brunswick, Canada and loves to read, write, cook, root for the underdog, watch movies and sometimes pretend she's living in the South of France. 

You can find her on Twitter, her website, and Goodreads. And, of course, blogging here on Middle Grade Minded!

And, a Little Giveaway... 

Be sure to enter below for your chance to win a signed copy of The Copycat! (And, we'd love to hear in the comments who YOU would turn into if you could be a Copycat for a day.) Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Unknown said...

Looking forward to reading The Copycat with my daugthers. They loved The Frame Up.

Erin Varley said...

If I could be a copycat for a day, I’d want to be someone who has a completely different life than me. Someone a different religion or who lives on the other side of the world. Knowing more about others can help us appreciate our differences.

Jennifer M said...

This is a hard question to answer. I would choose a woman that demonstrated perseverance and optimism in difficult times, two traits I strive to have as a teacher leader. There are so many women from the past I could learn from. I am leaning towards Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton. This will be a question I will continue to ponder throughout the day. I would also be curious as to how my students would answer the question.

Jim said...

I do like that the book has an author interview, it's always nice to get behind the scenes a bit. I'm glad you found a book that you enjoyed so much!

Amanda Hoving said...

Some great Copycat ideas here! Thank you for reading, everyone!

Amanda Hoving said...

Congratulations to Susan G., winner of a signed copy of THE COPYCAT! Author Wendy McLeod MacKnight will be reaching out to you shortly. Thank you to all who can grab your own copy of this wonderful book when it's out on March 10th!