Interview & Giveaway with Amie Darnell Specht & Shannon Hitchcock!

Amie competing in the GUMBO Races (Games Uniting Mind and Body)

Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Amie and Shannon. We’re thrilled to have you here. Congrats on the launch of Dancing in the Storm. It’s so inspiring and powerful. I had never heard of Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP) before. I learned so much about it…and especially how it can drastically change a person’s life as Kate experienced it. She’s one of the strongest protagonists I’ve ever met. I know she’ll inspire so many people.

Huge congrats for being named a Junior Library Guild book! I’m sure there will be many other wonderful awards and lists coming your way. 🙂


What were the perks and challenges of co-writing Dancing in the Storm together?

Amie:  The perk for me was working with someone who had previous experience writing books, and who could guide me about making our book better.  The most challenging part was finding time to work together. We started right before Covid hit so almost all our communication was done over text, phone, or email.

Shannon: The perk for me is that I wasn’t starting with a blank slate– the characters and the story are heavily influenced by Amie’s life. As for the challenges, it’s a little slower to work with a co-author because two people weigh in on every sentence.


What surprised you the most while writing this book?

Amie: How much goes into writing a book. Shannon was very helpful through the process though.

Shannon: Amie’s positive outlook on life. I have far fewer physical challenges, but can be a lot grumpier. There’s a life lesson there, I’m sure.


Yes! Amie is so inspiring. I love her positive outlook, which reflects in Kate’s character.

I love how Kate has so many interests besides gymnastics, like baking with Mindy. I could imagine how much harder this would’ve been without her love of space, Broadway musicals, etc. What parts of this book relate the closest to your life, Amie—and what were made up or tweaked the most?

Amie at a dance recital

Amie: The biggest tweak is FOP showed up for me when I was 4 ½, not 12. I was already in gymnastics, but that is not what caused FOP to present itself. With that said, there are things in the book that happened when I was 16/17 years old, like managing the gymnastics team. We also didn’t add everything I was involved in, but tried to incorporate a lot of it.


Is there anything you wish you could go back and tell your younger self, Amie?

Amie:  Oh man! There is a lot. The biggest would be to listen when my parents told me not to do something. I didn’t care about my limitations. I climbed trees and rode kid four wheelers. I remember one day when we lived in New Jersey, we had ice on our driveway. My mom said we could go out, but that I was supposed to stay in the garage due to ice. Not ten minutes later, my brother had to get help because I had slipped on the ice and hurt my leg.


Aw, I’m sorry that happened. (((Hugs)))

I love how your book shows people they aren’t alone…and that becoming friends with someone in a similar situation can be helpful. But it also shows ways to feel less alone with people who aren’t disabled. And how to use meditation to stay as strong as possible. What do you think can help people the most, especially soon after a diagnosis or flare up?

Amie: I am all for seeing a therapist when big changes happen, and I have had to when certain flare ups changed me a lot. Also, know it’s ok to be upset and scared, but accept the change and figure out what needs to be done to get to your new normal. 

I love the way you phrased that—the new normal. Looking at the future vs. mourning the past sounds like it could help people facing all kinds of situations and disabilities.


Kate’s entire world feels like it changes in an instant…yet no matter how sad or shocked she is, her positive side always shines through. She’s so inspiring! Was it easy to write the book that way? What tips do you have for staying positive during tough times?

Amie holding Charlyze with husband, Matt, and stepchildren, Ashley and Greg

Amie: I’ve just always been a pretty happy person. I have my moments too, but I try to find something funny about the situation and that usually brightens my spirits.

Shannon: It was easy to write the book that way because that’s the way Amie portrays herself. Her positivity was evident in every interaction I’ve had with her. 


When Kate first shared her diagnosis and how it would change her life, things were awkward with friends. What can people do to help a friend through a time like this?

Amie and best friend Mindy

Amie:  If a friend is going through a tough time in their life, figure out ways to include them in normal activities. I’ve had moments in my life when FOP caused drastic changes, and I was embarrassed about it, or worried about how I would look. That’s when my friends made me feel less alone. A good example is the chapter in Dancing In The Storm when Kate and her friends eat popcorn with forks–that actually happened to me.


I love that scene so much! I’m so glad your friends joined you eating popcorn with forks. 😊

What are some of your favorite middle-grade novels—and why do you love them so much?

Shannon: Blood Brothers by Rob Sanders, The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson, The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood, and Escape From Aleppo by N.H. Senzai.

I love realistic fiction that features protagonists with big hearts. Bonus points if it’s historical fiction!

I see a few books I love and others to add to my must-read list. Thank you for sharing, Shannon.


Can you share a writing exercise?

Shannon: I had met Amie, (my co-author), but we didn’t know each other very well, and yet we had decided to write a novel together. The novel would be inspired by Amie’s life growing up with Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva, one of the rarest genetic disorders in the world. We started by completing this character workshop together. It’s a great tool for collaborators who are developing characters together, but also for any author writing fiction. Give it a try!


Is there anything else you’d like us to know about FOP? I was thrilled to see there’s finally a treatment available! What can we do to help support those with FOP?

Amie: Yes! The treatment is very new and countries are still working on getting it approved.  FOP is a genetic disease and responds to any sort of trauma to the body. The biggest indicator of FOP is our toes, (big toes are short and curved inward), which is noticeable at birth. If more doctors and nurses knew about this, we could diagnose kids at a younger age and possibly prevent them from some of the trauma (like intramuscular immunizations).

To help support FOP, a person can go to and donate to their research efforts.  We have come so far and hopefully more treatments will start becoming available as well!


Thank you for sharing, Amie. I hope this amazing book will help make many more people, including doctors, aware of FOP and how to notice it earlier to help protect kids.

Now that your incredible book is out in the world…what’s next for each of you?

Amie: Dancing In the Storm has given me a platform to spread the word about FOP. Though my condition makes travel difficult, look for me on more interviews such as this one, and I’m working on a Pinterest board. For fun, I stream on the Twitch platform. Last year was rough, but this year I plan to be back. I stream a variety of video games.

Shannon: I have a picture book biography, Of Words and Water: The Story of Wilma Dykeman, Writer, Historian, Environmentalist forthcoming April 16, 2024, and I’m hard at work revising another middle grade that features a protagonist with a big heart!


That all sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to read more interviews and see future books from you both.

Thank you again for visiting the Mixed-Up Files. I love your inspiring book…and can’t wait for our readers to discover it. Thank you also for your generous giveaway!

Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of Dancing in the Storm (US only). The winner will be announced on this post and contacted via e-mail on February 13. Good luck!

Kate’s life in Baton Rouge, full of friends and family, gymnastics and Girl Scouts, is just plain great. But then, at the age of twelve, she suddenly develops a mysterious shoulder pain that won’t go away . . . and that will change her life forever. It turns out that Kate has one of the rarest genetic disorders in the world, Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva. FOP causes bone to form in places in the body where it shouldn’t, and there’s no cure yet. Kate will need to learn how to live with this difficult new reality, helped by those close to her and by a new pen pal named Amie, who has been living with FOP for years.

Drawing upon much of Amie Specht’s own experiences with FOP, she and esteemed novelist Shannon Hitchcock have created a poignant, eye-opening, and uplifting story of finding courage and joy in the face of adversity.

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Amie Darnell Specht worked in tech support for a large computer company for many years. She and her husband live in North Carolina with lots of pets. She has Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP), and this, her first novel, is heavily influenced by her story. Follow her on Twitter, Twitch, and Pinterest!



Shannon Hitchcock was born and still lives in North Carolina and grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is the author of four previous acclaimed novels for children, including Flying Over Water and Ruby Lee & Me. In addition, Shannon is the author of four picture book biographies, with the latest, Of Words and Water: The Story of Wilma Dykeman, Writer, Historian, Environmentalist, coming on April 16, 2024. Follow Shannon on Twitter and Instagram.



Some additional photos I think you’ll enjoy. 🙂

Amie with her beloved dog, Chloe

Amie managing her high school gymnastic team

Amie on her wedding day with husband, Matt


Author Spotlight: Landra Jennings + a GIVEAWAY


In today’s Author Spotlight, Jo Hackl chats with author Landra Jennings about her new middle-grade novel, Wand (Clarion Books, October 31). She’ll share her inspiration behind writing it, the works of literature that influenced it, and the surprising muse for the bird characters! Plus, there’s a chance to win a finished/signed copy of Wand if you enter the giveaway. Scroll down for details.


Book Summary:

A dazzling story of grief and found family wrapped in a spellbinding fairy tale, perfect for fans of Anne Ursu and Jodi Lynn Anderson.

Eleven-year-old Mira wishes everything could go back to the way it was. Before she changed schools and had to quit gymnastics. Especially before Papa died. Now she spends her days cooking and cleaning for her stepsisters and Val—who she still won’t call mom and still won’t forgive for the terrible thing she did.

When a mysterious girl named Lyndame appears out of the woods wielding a powerful wand, she makes Mira an offer she can’t refuse: she will grant Mira three wishes.

What if magic isn’t just pretend after all? What if these wishes could fix everything? But in the quiet town of Between, Georgia, where secrets lurk and rumors swirl of strange creatures, nothing is as it seems, and everything comes at a price.

Rising talent Landra Jennings weaves together an enchanting, modern fairy tale with eloquence and compassion about finding hope after loss—and finding belonging in the places we least expect.


Interview with Landra Jennings

JH: Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Landra! Thanks for joining us today.

LJ: Thank you so much for having me.

JH:  First I have to tell you how much I loved Wand. The story felt gothic and suspenseful, like your first book, and I loved the adventure. I enjoyed  the fairy tale elements. Can you please tell us about your inspiration to write it?

LJ: Thanks so much! You’re right about the fairy tale elements. I’d say I had three areas of inspiration. Firstly, this is my take on Cinderella for middle grade. I wanted to figure out what a happy ending looked like for eleven-year-old Mira, whose story starts in in modern-day Georgia. Her father has passed away, leaving her with a stepmother and two step sisters, and she’s still grieving. Similar to other modern interpretations of Cinderella, I wanted Mira to figure out her happy ending for herself versus finding a literal ‘prince.’ Secondly, I’ve also realized in the process of writing that I start stories with some big emotion and build from there. My first book was focused on the difficulty in detaching from that one friend (or sibling) that you’ve become too dependent on and learning how to become an independent person. Wand is about grief; how once we’ve experienced the pain of losing someone, whether it be through death or some other way, we can build those walls around ourselves to protect from future pain, and how that can isolate us from the world. We might really want something magical to fix everything and take our pain away versus facing the pain head-on. I wanted to explore the process of breaking down those walls from the perspective of a child. Finally, while I was editing Wand, I read The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, an amazing YA portal fantasy and that book started me on a binge of reading and re-reading portal fantasies, mostly middle grade works. So those other fantasies were also influential as I developed the plot.

Portal Fantasy Influences

JH: Why a portal fantasy? Please tell us more about that.

LJ: Portal fantasy is a very broad category, really. A character travels from one world to another through a “portal,” a passageway of some sort, whether it be a tornado as in L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, or a mysterious wooden door, as in Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.

Sometimes the characters stumble onto the portal as in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Sometimes they deliberately seek it out, as in the Hogwarts Express train in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Or sometimes (and this is really fun) they create the portal themselves as in Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife or in Kwame Mbalia’s Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky.

I’ve mostly been reading about portals where characters travel from our ordinary world to the fantasy world. Sometimes they’re escaping a bad situation or boredom, and other times they’re searching for something specific. As readers, a book can be an escape to begin with and I love the function of a portal in taking the reader that much further away from their reality. It’s a very different world readers enter and they can work out their big emotions in a place far removed from their own problems. In Wand, the portal to the other world is a pond. My main character, Mira, is searching for her true family and a place she can belong. Mira has built up those emotional walls, protecting herself. Leaving the modern world and going to a new one by jumping into the pond is a way of avoiding confronting her powerful emotions.

The Role of the Wand and Magic

JH: Let’s talk about the wand. It’s in the title obviously, and I noticed its significance in the story. What is the role of the magic wand in the book?

LJ: The wand in my book represents the wish to “magic away” your problems. And the use of the wand in the narrative tracks along with Mira’s journey of processing her grief. In many versions of Cinderella, like Disney’s version, the heroine does not have the ability to use the magic wand herself. She is dependent on powerful others, such as a fairy godmother, who can wield it. The fairy godmother character in Wand is a teen named Lyndame who offers to grant Mira wishes, misrepresenting the power of the wand and her purpose in offering the wishes. Once Mira figures that out, she does get the wand for herself and she can wield it. Even though Mira’s intuition tells her that she shouldn’t use it, she does use it, to disastrous effect.

Favorite Character

JH: Who was your favorite character to write?

LJ: Lyndame, the antagonist. She’s so independent, yet so angry. She is processing her grief very differently than Mira, becoming a cautionary tale and demonstrating the emotional wreckage that can happen if an individual can’t work through grief and move on.

Favorite Scene

JH: What was your favorite scene to write?

LJ: I think one of my favorites is the girls together, upstairs in Mira’s bedroom. Mira’s been sent to her room without dinner and her stepsisters bring up a board game and some mushy microwave pizza. There’s not a whole lot of dialogue and it’s not a complicated scene, but there’s a lot of sub-text about demonstrating care for someone else.

Inspiration for the fascinating bird characters

JH: Can you tell us about the inspiration for the bird characters in the book? I noticed there are actually two in the main cast!

LJ: I love birds of all sorts. That love started as a child. I remember when I was 10 years old, using my last 50 cents to buy a used bird cage at a garage sale and begging my mother to let me have a parakeet. She didn’t! (I now recognize the wisdom of this decision). As an adult, I was finally able to get a parakeet: Momo. He became a tiny and beloved member of our family, moving with us from Chicago to Greenville, and living for 11 years.

Lately, I’m fascinated by wild birds, like hummingbirds and crows. I loved the idea of a crow to support Mira in her journey. As Bandit the crow is from the ordinary world, it was important to me that he be an ordinary crow. However, there’s no reason to enhance crows from the way they actually are. They are extraordinary to begin with, very intelligent, and there is so much research available from which to draw. I read about some crow species using found objects as tools and I knew I had to include that behavior in the book.  Source: I had a little more leeway with the character of Edwin, the golden bird who made it into the cover art. He’s from a magical land so I could make him a little more human-like. Overall, I enjoyed the parallel of having both the protagonist and the antagonist having bird companions.

To the Heart of Wand

JH: What would you most like for readers to take away from the book?

LJ: At its heart, the book is about family. However, you define family—whether it be the family you are born into or the one you find along the way. About recognizing that your family might not be perfect (can’t be perfect) but might be what you need to support you in your life, anyway.

Lightning Round!

No MUF interview is complete without a lightning round, so. . . .

Favorite cities (besides the one you live in):

Chicago. My kids were both born there.

 Scale of 1 to 10—How good of a driver are you?

Eh. Maybe an 8. I’m very cautious and slow (careful about distracted driving!) but my reflexes aren’t what they used to be.

Would you rather be able to speak every language in the world or talk to animals?

Talk to animals!

 Favorite ice cream?

Mint chocolate chip.

 Dawn or dusk?

Dusk. Such a gorgeous and mysterious time.

 Favorite childhood TV show?

Well, that really dates me. My favorite was Space Giants. When I look back on that now, it’s kind of an embarrassing choice because the scripts and special effects weren’t exactly top notch.

 What’s the best advice you ever received?

Be accountable. Follow through on what you’ve promised and if you make a mistake, apologize.


 JH: How can readers obtain a copy of the book? And for our educators and librarians, do you offer reading guides?

LJ: The book can be preordered at your local independent bookstores, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon, or any place books are sold. Personalized copies can be preordered at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC: And yes! I have an amazing curriculum supplement, with tons of fun and educational activities, to accompany my first book, and a curriculum supplement is soon to come for Wand. My multi-talented and multi-credentialed (EdS and M.Ed.) sister, Kinla Nelson, created both of these. And both will be available on my website.


And now. . . .


For a chance to win a signed copy of Wand, comment on the blog—and, if you’re on Twitter/X, on the Mixed-Up Files  Twitter/X account, for an extra chance to win!  (Giveaway ends September 18, 2023, MIDNIGHT EST.) U.S. only, please. Book will be mailed after publication. To enter, click here


About the Author 

Landra Jennings is a Greenville, South Carolina-based writer, author of middle-grade fantasy novels The Whispering Fog and the forthcoming Wand (October 31, 2023) published by HarperCollins Clarion Books. She holds an MBA from Northwestern University and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in Minneapolis where she won the Anne Tews Schwab Scholarship for Excellence in Critical Writing and the Walden Pond Press Scholarship in Middle Grade Fiction and Non-Fiction. She is passionate about encouraging a love of reading and writing in children. You can learn more about Landra on her website. You can follow her on Instagram and Goodreads.

Interview & Giveaway With Author Toni Buzzeo

I’m thrilled to welcome middle-grade and picture book author Toni Buzzeo to the Mixed-Up Files. Congrats on your debut MG, Toni. I’m happy dancing that it’s been chosen as a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. That’s fantastic! What inspired you to write Light Comes to Shadow Mountain?

I am thrilled to qualify at long last for MUF with my first MG novel!

As for inspiration, you’ll read in my Author’s Note that I had encountered two essential books. The first was Mary on Horseback by Rosemary Wells. I fell in love with that lyrical book with its musical language and stories based on the life of nurse-midwife Mary Breckinridge. I learned about the important work that Mary did in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky establishing the Frontier Nursing Service to bring medical services to those mountains and went on to do much more reading and research.

Then, three years later, Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer published Down Cut Shin Creek, about the intrepid librarians of the Pack Horse Library Project who delivered books to the homes and one-room schoolhouses scattered across those same mountains. Both the FNS and the PHLP were in operation at the same time in the same place!

Add in the fact that in 2011, I learned that the mountains of Eastern Kentucky were dark, without electricity until 1937, and I knew I had the makings of a powerful story. However, what I didn’t know was that the story I wrote—a picture book—needed a lot more words and space to tell it properly.

I’m so glad you expanded it into this amazing novel. After having 31 picture books published, what was it like writing your debut MG? Are there picture book skills that helped, or ones you had to push aside while writing this?

Economy of words, a skill I’d employed over the course of 31 picture books, was a skill I had to push aside. Many of my editor’s early notes and line-edits challenged me to expand on description. I had learned, especially as picture book texts became ever-shorter over the last two decades, that one should scorn the paragraph and use a sentence instead, scorn the sentence and employ a carefully crafted phrase, scorn the phrase and find a single word if you could!

Perhaps the most important skill that I did bring along from picture books to the MG novel was the use of lyrical language. I started my writing life as a teenage poet and the drive to employ poetic language has never left me. Given the MUCH broader canvas of a novel, I was able to employ so much more of it in telling this story. My favorites were similes, metaphors, and personification. I had to assume that most of my readers weren’t familiar with my setting, but I enjoyed sharing the minute details of that setting in this way.

A couple of my favorite similes from the novel:

“Now, our beechnut isn’t a practical tree to climb—silver bark as smooth as river rocks and no low-slung branches like the others nearby.” (Chapter One: In the News)

He [Pap] holds my gaze. “I think you’re near old enough to understand this, Cora. Your mommy is in a mighty struggle with a demon as fierce as that giant catfish folks say pulls people underwater.” (Chapter Four: Mommy Has a Day)

A couple of my favorite metaphors from the novel:

“I chew on Glenna’s words for a silent moment, trying to separate out electricity from Glenna’s description of a crowded, busy city.” (Chapter Eleven: Ready for the Bee)

“Cora Mae Tipton, the heroine of the day,” Pap says as I fling myself into his arms. “I hear you and Stormy flew down the mountain with the wings of Pegasus to save your sister!” (Chapter Thirty-Eight: The Interview)

And here are two of my favorite uses of personification, both from Chapter Eight: Pies, Pies, Pies:

“On the way down the path after school, the reds of the sourwood and sumac shout their glory.”

“It was the very isolation and the quiet darkness of Shadow Mountain that called to our Scots-Irish ancestors, Cora Tipton.”

I love these so much, Toni! Your language absolutely sings.

What tips do you have for people writing MG for the first time?

For me, the most important practice was immersion in the world of the novel. I read only books set in my geographic landscape (Eastern Kentucky) during the period of time I was writing about (the late-1930s). I watched (and watched and watched) films and shorter documentaries about the area. I sought out photographs from the area, especially portraits of individuals and families. I listened to so many interviews of people who had lived a childhood like Cora’s young life themselves. I mined all of those sources, not just for the volumes of notes I took, but for the bonus it gave me—a sense that I, too, was inhabiting Cora’s world.

I also learned a lot from three of my mentors, Donald Maass, Lorin Oberweger, and Brenda Windberg at the Breakout Novel Intensive (BONI) and the Breakout Novel Graduate Learning Retreat.

The most helpful craft book I read and employed was James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers, and Everyone in Between, recommended by my friend, novelist Dorian Cirrone, my chief plot brainstormer and multiple-draft reader.

And perhaps most importantly, I’d advise you to join a critique group of really smart, really dedicated, really talented writers. I’m lucky enough to have two groups. (If you peek into the acknowledgements in my novel, you will see the members of both groups named.) To employ an overused phrase, it really does take a village!


Yes! It definitely takes a village. And having trusted critique groups and mentors is a huge help. I’ve heard amazing things about the Breakout Novel events. And I absolutely love the Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. It’s helped me have so many amazing ‘aha’ moments.  

How did you make Cora’s world so vivid? The neighborhood map is helpful and gave me a glimpse of the setting immediately. Did you use a map or other methods while drafting and revising? 

Well, as I’ve said, I dug deeply into details of the place. What animals lived there? What was the weather like? What were the most beautiful aspects of the geography? What were the harsh geographic challenges? And for so many scenes, I worked to imbue them with these details (often expressed lyrically as you’ve seen).

As to that wonderful map, no, I didn’t work from a paper map of Shadow Mountain and Spruce Lick. It was 100% in my mind. I did, however, know every inch of that mountain. So when Kelly, my editor, asked if she could draw the first draft of the map (it was eventually rendered by the cover illustrator, David Dean), I said sure. But honestly, I think the story did such a good job of describing the place that Kelly’s hand-drawn map got it almost entirely right—just as I’d pictured it in my mind.


Can you share a writing exercise with everyone? 

Picture the main character of your picture book or novel. What pose are you seeing them in? Get a clear picture of them–standing, seated, reclining–and imagine the position of each of their limbs, of their hands, of their feet. What does this pose, with its details, reveal to you about their core personality? Now ask yourself how this core trait will be/is revealed in your story. How will that trait play out in the outer story arc (external journey) and inner story arc (internal journey)?


I love this, Toni! I’ve never seen this exercise before, and will definitely use it on my novels and picture book main characters in the future. Thank you!

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?  

I write in a fairytale writing cottage that my late husband Ken built for me when we lived in Maine. I moved to Massachusetts after his death, but I brought the cottage with me and did much of the work on Light Comes to Shadow Mountain right in that cottage. There’s even a video of it being built on my website.

I’m currently working on my second MG novel. It’s a Colonial time-travel novel set in contemporary Maine and 1770 Maine Territory, Massachusetts, on the cusp of the Revolutionary War. I wrote the first draft 37 years ago when I really didn’t know a thing about writing a novel. Now I hope to employ my mad skills and those of my brilliant editor to bring it to print!

Your fairytale writing cottage looks amazing! I’m so glad you were able to bring it with you to Massachusetts. Your second MG sounds fantastic. I hope it will be out in the world soon.

Thank you so much for stopping by the Mixed-Up Files—and for your generous book giveaway. One lucky reader will win a copy of Light Comes to Shadow Mountain. U.S. only. Enter the Rafflecopter below.

It’s 1937 and the government is pushing to bring electricity to the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. It’s all Cora can think of; radios with news from around the world, machines that keep food cold, lightbulbs by which to read at night! Cora figures she can help spread the word by starting a school newspaper and convincing her neighbors to support the Rural Electrification Act.

But resistance to change isn’t easy to overcome, especially when it starts at home. Cora’s mother is a fierce opponent of electrification. She argues that protecting the landscape of the holler—the trees, the streams, the land that provides for their way of life—is their responsibility. But Cora just can’t let go of wanting more.

Lyrical, literary, and deeply heartfelt, this debut novel from an award-winning author-librarian speaks to family, friendship, and loss through the spirited perspective of a girl eager for an electrified existence, but most of all, the light of her mother’s love and acceptance.

*A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

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The winner will be shown here and contacted on Thursday, July 20. Good luck. 😊


Toni Buzzeo is a New York Times bestselling children’s author of thirty-one picture books and board books, and her first middle grade novel, Light Comes to Shadow Mountain, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection. A former librarian and writing teacher, Toni and her books have won many awards, including a 2013 Caldecott Honor for One Cool Friend, illustrated by David Small. Her fictional characters sing with her deep understanding of human emotion. Endlessly enthusiastic, Toni draws on her career experiences as a school librarian in crafting her books and speaking with young audiences in schools and libraries. Toni lives in Arlington, Massachusetts just downstairs from her two lovable grandchildren (endless sources of inspiration!).