We’ve got a real treat for all our loyal MUF subscribers today: a peek into a brand new book: OWL’S OUTSTANDING DONUTS. And just because we’re so cool, we got special access–an interview with author Robin Yardi, a sneak preview of her fabulous book trailer for OWL’S OUTSTANDING DONUTS, and …. a 5-ARC giveaway! We must be doing something right! We can’t wait to see the video … but before that, we wanted to introduce you to Robin.
MUF: Congratulations on Owl’s Outstanding Donuts! Like you, I’m passionate about the environment, animals, and writing. I totally identified with your main character, Mattie. As a kid, I was always waiting for birds to speak to me when no one else was around. And having an owl’s perspective on human behavior was delightful!
Did you have a mission when you started out writing this book?
RY: Yes, but maybe not exactly in the way that you mean! My first mission when writing a book is always to create a story that I think a kid will enjoy reading.
- Will they think it’s funny?
- Will it be exciting?
And since this is a mystery, I wondered will my story stump kid readers in a satisfying way?
Not Just a Mystery
But the deeper things that are important to me, my internal missions, always show up in my stories too. I don’t have to consciously work to make that happen. So I’m always writing about the dynamics of friendships and siblings in ways that I think will help kid readers. I feed my characters delicious food, whether it’s tamales or donuts, and surround them with helpful grownups, because that’s what I craved as a kid reader. And I’m always writing about the natural world in ways that foster wonder and engagement, because it’s been one of the greatest joys of my life!
While drafting this book about an environmental crime committed near the Big Sur River, I was teaching school groups at our local natural history museum in what we call The Backyard. Kids would come and learn about the creek that runs through the museum property, test the water quality, meet our resident snakes, all while listening to our orphaned great horned owl hoot in the background.
It would make sense if I had set out to write OWL’S OUTSTANDING DONUTS seeing the connections between my budding story and my everyday mission of teaching kids about the environment and the natural world, but I honestly didn’t! A good story comes first and the mission just sneaks in.
Protecting the Environment
MUF: What can middle graders do to help protect the environment?
RY: An easy way for kids to be engaged environmentalists is by taking command of household recycling. Rinse it, sort it, and take it out! I also notice (in my house and in others) that kids can be an important voice of conscience. A new generation means new habits and new awareness. Mom, did you remember the tote bags? Dad, let’s use the water bottle instead! Um, should that go down the drain? Kids can and will speak up!
MUF: Can you tell us about an unusual wildlife encounter you’ve had?
RY: Well, my family recently lived with a bat for about a month! We sleep with the upstairs windows open and it was coming into the house, flying downstairs, and roosting on a grate in a powder room (the closest thing to a cave in our home). Finally, we called our local wildlife rescue organization and they sent someone to remove the bat. Apparently it’s not a good idea for humans to live with bats. At all. BUT IT WAS SO CUTE.
This summer I’ve also been enjoying watching a local mule deer tiptoe into our backyard to drink from our fountain… with three little fawns coming along with her. I’m not sure if they are all hers—that would be triplets—but I’ve loved watching them grow out of their spots over the summer.
Coping With Loss in Middle-Grade
MUF: Your main character, Mattie, is grieving over her mother’s death. You’ve included several elements in your book that might help with loss. What do you hope young readers who might be hurting will take away from this book?
I’ve given Mattie room to grieve and struggle and I think that gives readers the same opportunity. The book starts in a place where Mattie isn’t up to doing all the things she wants to do and that’s okay. It’s okay for things to feel hard.
Young readers need to read stories that acknowledge the parts of their lives that are hard—all the way from new school anxieties, to fighting with your best friend, to losing a family member—and those stories can show the reader a way to move forward. In OWL’S, Mattie learns to move forward in life surrounded by loving and helpful adults, great food, good friends, and the beauty of the natural world.
Young readers may not have all of those things all of the time. Not everyone can have a friendly mystery-solving owl in their backyard, but any kid can have Alfred and Big Sur and the redwoods and donuts when they read my book!
MUF: Thank you so much, Robin.
And Now …. the Video Reveal!
And now, without further ado, let’s take a sneak peek into your video trailer, a behind-the-scenes tour of one of Robin’s favorite places:
But that’s not all.. Robin is also offering a giveaway. FIVE lucky winners will receive an ARC of OWL’S OUTSTANDING DONUTS … so don’t delay …. enter the Rafflecopter below, and good luck!
Kirkus Reviews told readers, “Doughn’t miss this earnest tale.” Booklist called the book “quiet but quirky story about friendship, family, and of course, donuts.”