Meet The Dark Lord Clementine by Author Sarah Jean Horwitz

I love many elements of reading and writing middle grade literature, but one of my favorites is how creative and genius the titles are! And The Dark Lord Clementine is no exception.

Let me introduce you to the girl herself. *the bugle blares

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Isn’t she amazing?!!

Here’s a little more information about Clementine’s world before we meet her wonderful creator.

The new face of big evil is a little . . . small.

Dastardly deeds aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind when one hears the name “Clementine,” but as the sole heir of the infamous Dark Lord Elithor, twelve-year-old Clementine Morcerous has been groomed since birth to be the best (worst?) Evil Overlord she can be. But everything changes the day the Dark Lord Elithor is cursed by a mysterious rival.

Now, Clementine must not only search for a way to break the curse, but also take on the full responsibilities of the Dark Lord. As Clementine forms her first friendships, discovers more about her own magic than she ever dared to explore, and is called upon to break her father’s code of good and evil, she starts to question the very life she’s been fighting for. What if the Dark Lord Clementine doesn’t want to be dark after all?

Clementine is being published by Algonquin Young Readers and will meet bookshelves everywhere on October 1, 2019.

Let’s give a warm hello to the author of this wonderful book, Sarah Jean Horwitz.

It’s wonderful to have you visit us, Sarah. Now I was fortunate enough to read an ARC of this book, so I know Clementine is a strong and bold middle grade character  – loved her! – but she also has vulnerabilities that might surprise readers.

Clementine has had a very unusual and sheltered upbringing under her father, the Dark Lord Elithor. (Yes, readers, you read that correctly. He’s an Evil Overlord!)

Her upbringing is one aspect of her world that I felt very intrigued by. It drew me in.

She’s been raised with some pretty negative and unhealthy habits when it comes to interacting with others. She hasn’t learned how to trust people or foster any sort of compassion, kindness, or community. She’s been taught that she’s better than everyone else, and that the only way to survive in the world is to make people fear her. And so Clementine has a lot of privilege to acknowledge, a lot of unhealthy habits to unlearn, and a lot of healing to do as she discovers there’s a different way to be in the world.

What is your favorite part of Clementine’s world, why, and why do you think readers will relate to it?

My favorite part of Clementine’s world is the bureaucratization of the pretty traditional, Western fairytale and epic fantasy-inspired story world. For example, there’s an official Council of Evil Overlords that gives Clementine’s father his Dark Lord designation, and there’s open acknowledgement in the book of professional classifications of Heroes, Good Witches, etc. I love playing with tropes and (gently!) poking fun at genres I enjoy, and the idea of all this administration, standardization, and red tape functioning in a fairytale setting just tickles me. I hope readers will recognize all the fantasy tropes I’m playing with and get a chuckle out of it, too.

I also hope to draw a bit of attention to the ways in which evil is firmly embedded in our own institutions, and how we sometimes take that – and the suffering of others – for granted. When the oppression and pain of others is built into a system that benefits us, just as Clementine benefits from being a Dark Lord’s daughter, it can be easy to turn a blind eye, or to accept this as just “the way things are.” But just as Clementine realizes that her status quo situation is not normal and rejects the lies she’s been taught about how the world works…so must we.

This is so important! I’m glad you touched upon it.

Favorite thing about Clementine is and why? What’s your least favorite?

My favorite thing about Clementine is that despite her isolated childhood, the emotional abuse she’s been subjected to by her father, and the terrible lessons she’s internalized over the years about her place in the world…she is still able to make room in her heart for beauty, love, and forgiveness.

See . . . love her.🖤

She has to work at it, but she gets there, and she finds out a lot about herself along the way. That takes a tremendous amount of strength. Of course, my least favorite parts of Clementine are the behaviors she learned from the Dark Lord and relies on heavily in the beginning of the book – her tendency to use bullying, intimidation and snobbery to try and get her way. Fortunately, she learns those aren’t exactly the best ways to make friends!

If you were Clementine’s sidekick what sort of things would you do? Talk about?

I’m pretty scared of heights, but just once, I’d like to hitch a ride on a broomstick. That seems like an opportunity I shouldn’t pass up. I’d probably make Clementine talk about her feelings a lot, because she’s got a lot of issues to unpack…which would probably annoy her enough to get me magically transfigured into something unfortunate!

Bahhh! So true.

One question for our reading-writers out there – The book is written from different and alternating perspectives. How did you go about organizing all the information you knew readers would need to keep reading?

I make detailed outlines before I start writing any project, so that helps. Sometimes I color-code them by point of view to keep things straight. Then as I revise, I try to read as if I’m just another reader who knows nothing about the book, and that helps me see if I’ve planted enough information in the correct order. Of course, lot of stuff still slips through the cracks, and so my great critique partners and editor will point out any slip-ups I missed.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing this book?

I learned that my sense of humor is even darker than I realized (seriously – a few jokes got cut from the book because they were just a bit too much!) and that I tend to write about characters with chosen families. I also learned a lot about the medical consequences of getting sideswiped across the face by a unicorn horn! Yikes.

*Oh, the visuals.*

What do you hope young readers take with them from Clementine’s journey?

As cheesy as it sounds, when I think of Clementine’s journey, I think of that famous Tennyson quote, “’Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.” It’s often quoted out of context and used to talk about romantic relationships, but the poem is actually about the death of one of Tennyson’s close friends. And I just think the sentiment from those two lines is very applicable to this book. Clementine puts her heart on the line (literally, at one point!) and takes a risk by trusting people and building new relationships. And it doesn’t 100% work out! She gets hurt, and she hurts people, and none of it is perfect. But the rich rewards of opening her heart to love are worth the possible disappointments. I hope that’s something readers remember.

Sounds perfect! Thank you for stopping by and for sharing Clementine’s wonderfully fantastical story with our Mixed-Up Files readers. 

Sarah Jean Horwitz grew up next door to a cemetery and down the street from an abandoned fairy-tale theme park, which probably explains a lot. She currently lives near Boston. Find her at

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Dear Readers, are you ready for The Dark Lord Clementine?

Book Spotlight: Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis & Traci Sorell is an exceptional and unique middle-grade historical fiction set in Oregon and Southern California in 1957-58. It’s an entertaining and realistic look at 10-year-old Regina Petit’s Umpqua Nation life on their Grand Ronde reservation in Oregon and their eventual termination. 

After the Umpqua’s termination by the government, the story follows Regina’s extended family’s exodus from Grand Ronde to Los Angeles after the Umpqua termination to begin life, as her father says, as Americans. Regina experiences the trials and tribulations of trying to fit into her new Los Angeles neighborhood where nothing is familiar while navigating three big questions: Am I Indian? Am I American? Am I both?

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Indian No More gives the reader an important glimpse into what it was like to be a member of a tribal nation targeted by the government for termination. Among other things, the termination policy ended the government’s recognition of tribal sovereignty, allowed the government to step away from their financial commitments from previous treaties, and established themselves as custodians over their land. Those native peoples affected, mainly against their will, were thrown into a mainstream society they really didn’t want to be thrown into and generally weren’t prepared to handle. For more background on U.S. Termination Policy, check out the wiki and the reference resources listed

The switch from the relative comfort of the Umpqua Grand Ronde reservation to the discomforts at the house on 58th Place in LA is emotionally felt as one reads the book. Both places have similar fundamental issues of poverty and racism, but one is home and the other is completely foreign to Regina. Falling back on her own Umpqua experience and move to Los Angeles, Charlene Willing McManis masterfully takes us on a journey of family, friendships, and fitting in among an often cruel racial backdrop of late 1950s America. 

Sadly, author Charlene Willing McManis passed away on May 1, 2018. She left the revision responsibility and the publication journey in the capable hands of her friend and talented author, Traci Sorell. To get an idea about who Charlene was as both a writer and a human, Traci agreed to answer a few questions about her and the process of directing Indian No More to publication. 

Charlene Willing McManis

How and when did you first meet Charlene?

I first met Charlene at Kweli’s Color of Children’s Literature Conference in April 2016. All of the Native writers attending sat together at lunch and marveled to be at a kidlit conference where there were so many of us. That never happens! So we all said we’d be back again the following year.
Charlene and I became fast friends that day and stayed in touch after the conference. She got cancer after that and could not attend the 2017 Kweli conference, but she received treatment. I interviewed her for Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations blog when Charlene sold Indian No More to Tu Books that fall. All the Native writers cheered when they heard the news!



Traci Sorell

What was the process of taking over Indian No More after Charlene’s much-too-early passing in May of 2018?

In late January 2018, Charlene posted on Facebook that her cancer had come back and could not be cured. She did not have long to live. I sat there in shock for a few minutes. Then I immediately reached out to her. I cried the rest of the day, not wanting to accept that my joyful friend and her family had just received such devastating news.
In early March, Charlene emailed that her publisher, Stacy Whitman, asked if Charlene could recommend anyone to finish the revisions needed to get Indian No More published. Charlene wrote and said that she immediately thought of me and sent me the manuscript. While honored and humbled, I felt overwhelmed at the thought of revising a historical fiction middle grade novel in prose. I knew it was not autobiographical, but it was informed by her childhood and that of the experiences of her fellow tribal members. It seemed way out of my league. I had only written picture books and poetry to that point. And I’m from a completely different Native Nation with a different language, culture and history.
I quickly sent Charlene’s novel to my agent, Emily Mitchell, without reading it. As a former children’s book editor, I knew she could evaluate whether I would be able to pull it off. She responded that I could absolutely do this. I then read it and fell in love with the voice of the main character, Regina. I wanted to finish this book for my friend.

The responsibility of guiding this important story to publication must have been difficult. How did you manage and find the proper footing to continue Charlene’s vision of the book? Did you have any members of the Umpqua turn to?

I’m not going to lie. Very difficult. Normally when you co-author a piece, there is someone there to ask questions to, throw ideas out with and take turns drafting or revising sections. I only had her written words. Thankfully, the voice of Regina captivated me as soon as I started reading. I felt like I could write in Regina’s voice. I understood each character’s back story enough that I was able to revise and not lose their essence on the page. But I needed a lot of help and I got it.

Lee & Low, the parent company of the Tu Books imprint, supported my trip to visit the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (CTGR) in early January of this year. This Native Nation is comprised of 29 tribes that were removed to the Grand Ronde reservation in northwest Oregon from their own tribal homelands. Charlene’s tribe, the Umpqua, are part of CTGR. The Cultural Resources Department staff, led by David Harrelson, were top notch. I had full access to their archives and museum including a new exhibit of their cultural items on loan from the British Museum. They helped me ensure we used the correct Chinuk Wawa words in the book, which Regina’s grandmother speaks and teaches her granddaughters. The book would lack so much without their input.

My husband and mother also helped me fact check all late 1950s pop culture and daily life references in the book. They also read it out loud for me so I could hear what the prose sounded like, which greatly helped my revision process.

The termination policies of the United States Government were damaging, to say the least. Many of the terminated Native Nations, against all odds, recovered and re-established themselves. What message do you think this perseverance of heritage speaks to future generations who may have to deal with these issues again?

Yes, it was devastating when Congress passed the termination resolution stating it would be their policy to cease having a government-to-government relationship with some Native Nations that they had signed treaties and entered into other legal agreements with to uphold. Through a series of statutes that followed, the federal government terminated one hundred and nine tribes. They sold off the land and resources of these tribes. It led to many tribal citizens being displaced because they could not afford to buy the land they lived on outright at the marked-up prices. That’s what the main character Regina, her family and the Grand Ronde tribe experience in the story.

The neighborhood at 58th Place is so full of life, positive and negative, good and bad, kind and mean-spirited. It felt so incredibly real to me as I read the book and I think many readers will be like me and be completely immersed in this setting. How did Charlene and you go about crafting this “feel”? (It’s masterfully done, by the way.)

That was really all Charlene. I certainly crafted some scenes that needed to be fleshed out more, but because she had grown up there, her descriptions of the place are spot on. Her husband sent me photos of her in that neighborhood, so I had those around me as I worked. I visited with him and found out her entire block of 58th Place had been torn down to build a large supermarket mall. But the rest of 58th Place still remained. The three-story red brick school building had been replaced, but I got a black and white photo of it from the Los Angeles School District. So I felt like I was there as I revised the story. This summer when I attended the SCBWI summer conference in Los Angeles, I went to Charlene’s old neighborhood and saw how close the houses are with their postage stamp yards, more concrete than grass, just as she describes.

The cover art is spectacular! Can you shed some light on the details of the cover art and design?

My editor, Elise McMullen-Ciotti, and the Tu Books publisher, Stacy Whitman, asked if I had any additional Native illustrators they could add to their established list. I gave them Marlena Myles’ name as she illustrated Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, a picture book poetry anthology, edited by Miranda Paul and published by Millbrook, in which I have a cinquain poem. I took a lot of photos when I visited Grand Ronde in Oregon from Spirit Mountain and the community plankhouse to their iconography in the art, museum and books I viewed there. I shared all of that with Marlena who is based in St. Paul, Minnesota, so she could take what she found useful to create the cover. Beyond that, she and the staff at Tu Books made the magic happen!

What do you think Charlene would say about the finished product and all the well-deserved accolades that Indian No More has garnered?

I assure you that Charlene would be smiling profusely as she always did. She would also thank so many people: her family for their support, her fellow Grand Ronde tribal citizens for sharing their termination and relocation experiences, all those who had helped hone her craft including her critique group, her mentor Margarita Engle, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Supriya Kelkar, those at Tu Books – Stacy Whitman, Elise McMullen-Ciotti – along with the rest of the Lee & Low staff, and the readers who have already said how much they enjoyed and learned from the book.
Charlene wanted to shine a light on a period of US history that is not taught in schools. Until now, there has not been a story for young people that shared what many Native Nations experienced at the same time as the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War. This book is now part of her legacy and I am grateful for that.

Author Katherine Quimby wrote an exceptional memorial tribute following Charlene’s death on the Cynsations Blog.

Final Note

One of my greatest hopes for this book is that educators, librarians, and adults who work with kids, will carefully read the chapters in Indian No More about media representation and the Pilgrims & Indians “First” Thanksgiving pageant at Regina’s school. After reading, look at what we are still doing in 2019 at schools all across this nation to continue the harmful representation built into these false mythologies. It’s time to find a better and more accurate way to celebrate both Thanksgiving and the Native American Heritage Month in our classrooms. 

As we plan for November and Native American Heritage Month, let’s not only bring more of these great Native & Indigenous works into our libraries, curriculums, and bookshelves but let’s expand this to a 365-day celebration, year after year after year. Because not only are books like Indian No More great examples of the work produced by Native authors, they’re just plain great books. So many stories from the past, present, and future are being produced by Native creators it’s a shame to confine the spotlight to only one month a year.


Native writers at Kweli in 2016 photo: First row: Charlene Willing McManis, Andrea Rogers, Marcie Rendon Back row: Natalie Dana, Laura Kaye Jagles, Traci Sorell, Joseph Bruchac, Kevin Noble Maillard



OWL’S OUTSTANDING DONUTS: Interview with Robin Yardi

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.”

Rafflecopter Giveaway – 5-ARCS of OWLS OUTSTANDING DONUTS

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