Posts Tagged Book Giveaway

Exploring THE PLACES WE SLEEP with Author Caroline DuBois

I have a new guest for you, today! She’s written a tender, moving tale in verse that journeys a young girl through everyday details while living during a time of national crisis. The first words of this story made me pause and take notice. And the rest, poked me right in the heart to the end. The writing is beautiful and real, the story is important, and the growth of the main character is hopeful. I’m very excited to share The Places We Sleep with you and welcome Author Caroline DuBois to share her thoughts about the book.

Hi Caroline! It’s wonderful to have you visit our Mixed-Up Files family. Let’s share your beautiful cover and story with readers first.

THE PLACES WE SLEEP

by Caroline DuBois

A family divided, a country going to war, and a girl desperate to feel at home converge in this stunning novel in verse.

It’s early September 2001, and twelve-year-old Abbey is the new kid at school. Again.

I worry about people speaking to me / and worry just the same / when they don’t.

Tennessee is her family’s latest stop in a series of moves due to her dad’s work in the Army, but this one might be different. Her school is far from Base, and for the first time, Abbey has found a real friend: loyal, courageous, athletic Camille.

And then it’s September 11. The country is under attack, and Abbey’s “home” looks like it might fall apart. America has changed overnight.

How are we supposed / to keep this up / with the world / crumbling / around us?

Abbey’s body changes, too, while her classmates argue and her family falters. Like everyone around her, she tries to make sense of her own experience as a part of the country’s collective pain. With her mother grieving and her father prepping for active duty, Abbey must learn to cope on her own.

Written in gorgeous narrative verse, Abbey’s coming-of-age story accessibly portrays the military family experience during a tumultuous period in our history. At once personal and universal, it’s a perfect read for fans of sensitive, tender-hearted books like The Thing About Jellyfish.

If you would, share with our readers one book from your childhood that has stayed with you, and how can children’s authors in today’s unsettled world achieve this same unforgettable feel?

Mary Norton’s The Borrowers sparked my imagination as a child. My librarian mom introduced it to me. Norton’s world-building of tiny people living in the walls and borrowing from the people with whom they lived was pure escape for me from the big complicated world.

Children’s authors in today’s uncertain world can achieve this same unforgettable feel by either delivering children to a rich land of imagination, or by providing children a story in which they can see themselves. Then they can envision and dream of ways they can be and all the things they can achieve.

What made you decide to write “The Places We Sleep” in verse?

Abbey’s story came to me naturally in poetry, perhaps as a lyrical way to process 9/11 and my brothers’ deployment, but also likely because I’d recently completed my MFA in poetry. It began as more of a character sketch through poems and eventually turned into a story. I wanted to write about how world events have rippling effects on individuals and familial relationships in unexpected ways. The snapshots or scenes that poems allow you to write provided me with the perfect medium.

Your description of poems being scenes is fascinating and also beautiful. It definitely worked. How much of the novel is inspired by your own experience growing up in the South in a military family?

Although I did not grow up in a military family, both of my grandfathers served in the military, as well as both of my brothers, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. Abbey’s story is about being a military child, but it’s also about many other things—identity, loss and grief, creating art in the face of tragedy, tolerance and acceptance, and friendship. It’s about how world events can touch individuals in large and small ways.

That they do. ♥ This couldn’t have been an easy story to write. What was the most difficult part?

I faced two specific challenges in writing this story. One was creating full, round characters through poems. And the other was making decisions about how to approach a national tragedy age-appropriately and sensitively. Having a great editor at Holiday House and a sensitivity reader helped with both.

Why do you think this story is important for the middle-grade audience?

Middle grade students I’ve taught often have had only a fuzzy understanding of the events of 9/11, and the nonfiction texts they’ve typically enjoyed the most in my classroom were almost always couched in a narrative story. I hope Abbey’s story will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy. I hope the book will leave readers with a memorable story about a girl who may not be all that different from themselves. Furthermore, I hope student readers are gently nudged to learn the names of others with whom they share classes and hallways and to act with kindness and dignity to those they may not know or understand. Maybe it will even inspire some young reader to choose to deal with life’s challenges through art or poetry or other forms of creativity.

Inspiring young readers to engage in conversation about the events of 9/11 is a wonderful.

How much research did you do for the story?

I lived through 9/11 and began writing and reading about it immediately thereafter. Additionally, I’ve had various family members in the military as well as taught students who experienced and still experience islamophobia. I conducted research as I was writing the story, as well as mined the living resources around me to create as authentic a portrayal of the historical backdrop to the story as I could.

What can young readers expect from your main character Abbey?

I hope that young readers can see themselves in Abbey as she navigates challenging world events along with the struggles of middle school and adolescence. Currently, teens and children are facing their own difficult world events. I hope readers see how Abbey perseveres and strives to be a good friend, to be kind, and to express empathy and tolerance to others.

All extremely important traits, especially in today’s world. Do you have any advice for librarians and teachers on how to encourage middle schoolers to give in verse books a try?

Books in verse make great shared read-aloud opportunities. You’re never too old to be read to or to enjoy reading aloud to someone else. Another way to inspire and hook a child on the joy of reading is by giving a book talk. Where an educator may not have time to read an entire chapter, there’s always time for a poem or two. And once one student starts reading it, the likelihood is that his or her friends will pick it up too. Books in verse create more white space between scenes as well as playful or dramatic visual messages with syntax, punctuation, and form, which can motivate adolescent readers.

Circling back to my first question, what do you hope stays with your readers after they read this story?

Perhaps The Places We Sleep will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy. I hope student readers are gently nudged to learn the names of others with whom they share classes and hallways and to act with kindness and dignity to those they may not know or understand. Maybe it will inspire some young reader to choose to deal with life’s challenges through art or poetry or other forms of creativity.

Here’s a little bit more about Caroline:

Caroline Brooks DuBois found her poetic voice in the halls of the English Department at Converse College and the University of Bucknell’s Seminar for Young Poets. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, under the scholarship of Pulitzer Prize winning poet James Tate, among other greats in the poetry world.
DuBois’s writing infuses poetry and prose and has been published by outlets as varied as Highlights High Five, Southern Poetry Review, and The Journal of the American Medical Association and has been twice honored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her debut middle-grade novel-in-verse, The Places We Sleep, is published by Holiday House and to be released August 2020.
DuBois has taught poetry workshops, writing classes, and English at the middle school, high school, and college levels. In May 2016, she was recognized as a Nashville Blue Ribbon Teacher for her dedication to her students and excellence in teaching adolescents.
DuBois currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she works as an English instructional coach and sometimes co-writes songs for fun with her singer-songwriter husband. She has two teenage children and a dog, Lilli, and she enjoys coaching soccer and generally being outside.
WEBSITE | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

Thank you for sharing some of your writing journey with us, Caroline! All the best with The Places We Sleep.

Meet the Creators of DC’s Newest MG Duo: An Interview and Giveaway

AntiHero CoverWelcome back, Mixed-Up Filers.

Today, we’re chatting with the creators of the newly released Anti-Hero from DC Comics, authors Kate Karyus Quinn and Demitria Lunetta and illustrator, Maca Gil. Thank you all for joining us today!

My first question is for all of you. Can you tell us a little bit about Anti-Hero?

Kate and Demitria: Anti/Hero is the story two 13-year-old girls. Sloane thinks she’s a villain and Piper very badly wants to be a superhero. The girls end up battling over the same stolen object, an experimental scientific device. When the device accidentally powers on, the girls switch bodies. Now Sloane and Piper must learn to work together – or risk destroying each other.

Maca: It’s also super sweet but packed with fun and crazy action involving chases, drones and giant mutant creatures. It’s pretty cool.

Another question for the group. Hummingbird and Gray are completely new characters in the DC Universe? What was the process of creating them like?

Kate and Demitria: It was amazing! To add new characters to the DC Universe is a “when lightning strikes” sort of opportunity. How often does it happen? And to be able to add two new amazing female characters is even better!

When creating them, though, we weren’t really thinking about them as DC characters. Instead, we wanted two create two multifaceted girls whose problems our readers could relate to and understand.

 

 

Maca: I think if I ever see anyone cosplaying Piper or Sloane my heart is going to melt off of my chest. This has been an amazing opportunity and I’m so happy I got to do it with this team.

Kate and Demitria, what was the process of co-writing like? Did you each choose a character’s point-of-view to write from?

Kate lives in Western New York and Demitria is in Wisconsin, so we wrote long distance, communicating via text, email, and the occasional phone call. In between all

that back and forth we wrote the script by constantly passing it back and forth. Kate would write a bit then send it to Demitria. Demitria would tweak what Kate wrote and add a bit more. Then back to Kate, to okay or change again what Demitria changed on her stuff, read what Demitria added, and then add a bit more. In the end, both are our fingerprints are on every single sentence.

Also for Kate and Demitria, there’s a lot of emphasis on family throughout the story. Was that something that you wanted to focus on early on? Or did it develop out of the body switching plotline?

We definitely wanted to focus on family, because it shaped so much of who the girls are and how they experience the world around them. Piper, despite her parents being absent, has a really strong and supportive family unit. Sloane, on the other hand, has a loving Mom, but because of work she isn’t around much. And Sloane’s grandfather…well, he’s definitely not the type of role-model you’d want a kid to have.

Maca, how did you come up with the costumes for each girl’s alter-ego?

Piper loves fashion and wearing crazy colors, she is strong and full of energy. The visual cues that represent her have to be dynamic and striking. Sloane, on the other hand, is a lot calmer and hates to stand out. Visually she has long vertical lines (her hair and her height help with this!) and she loves black. When I came into the project Kate and Demitria had written such rich and alive characters that designing them was a treat. They also get even cooler costume design as the story progresses; I can’t wait for you all to see.

Also for Maca, I saw (and loved) your Batgirl illustration on Burnside. Have you always been a DC comics fan? Are there any easter eggs that readers should keep an eye out for?

Thank you! Admittedly, I only started once I was out of college and a bit older, but so many women characters in the DC universe grew on me so much and so fast. Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Batgirl! There are so many amazing ones, and their designs and stories are so iconic. I would completely die for Piper and Sloane to have a crossover with some of them someday.

For Demitria and Kate, this is your first MG novel. How does writing for MG differ for writing for YA and adult audiences? Also, it’s your first graphic novel. So, how did that process differ?

Writing MG was so fun because we were allowed to really let our silly and playful sides let loose. Both of us tend to write YA with darker themes, so it was really fun to play in this world where even at their worst—things were a little lighter.

Is there anything else about the story that any of you would like to share?

Kate and Demitria: We had to come up with an MG safe expletive for Sloane to use and decided on Zooterkins. We would love to see it catch on!

Maca: So many pancakes get eaten throughout this story. I had to stand up and make some for myself a couple of times due to having to think about them so much.

(Honestly, same. I definitely made some pancakes after reading this.) What’s the best piece of creative advice that you’ve received that you’d like to pass on to other writers and artists?

Kate: Even when you want to quit—don’t. Just keep writing. Or creating whatever you create.

Demitria: Writers need to read! Anything you can get your grabby little hands on.

Maca: Copy and study your favorite artists, but do it properly! As long as you keep your inspiration sources diverse, your product will end up being uniquely yours because of your own sensibilities, strengths and limitations.

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?

Kate: I hate horror movies. They literally terrify me.

Demitria: I make no secret of my dorkiness, but sometimes it still surprises people.

 Maca: I have played over 400 hours of Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Who is your favorite DC character (apart from the ones you’ve created)?

Kate: Wonder Woman!

Demitria: Batman!

MeetMaca: Batgirl of Burnside <3

What are you working on next?

Kate and Demitria: Hopefully more MG graphic novels!

Maca: I’m currently storyboarding for a feature film, but I can’t wait to do more comic books.

How can people follow you on social media?

Kate: I’m @KateKaryusQuinn on both Instagram and Twitter or you can visit my website www.KateKaryusQuinn.com

Demitria: I’m @DemitriaLunetta and my site is www.demitrialunetta.com

Maca: I’m @macagil on Instagram!

Thank you so much for the interview!

 

AntiHero is out now! Get your copy here or try your luck in our give-away!

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Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour — Interview with Honor Book Award-winner Author Sofiya Pasternack and a GIVEAWAY

 

 

The Mixed Up Files Blog is proud to be a host for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries since 1968, the award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature. Gold medals are presented in three categories: Picture Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category.  To learn more about this prestigious award and to see a list of all of the winners, please visit this website: https://jewishlibraries.org

Today we are thrilled to introduce Sofiya Pasternack, author of the author of Anya and the Dragon  a Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the

Middle Grade Category. CONGRATULATIONS Sofiya!

 

 

In this book, headstrong Anya is the daughter of the only Jewish family in her village. When her family’s livelihood is threatened by a bigoted magistrate, Anya is lured in by a friendly family of Fools, who promise her money in exchange for helping them capture the last dragon in Kievan Rus.

This seems easy enough—until she finds out that the scary old dragon isn’t as old—or as scary—as everyone thought. Now Anya is faced with a choice: save the dragon, or save her family.

 

Reviews:

Anya is a new and mem­o­rable Jew­ish char­ac­ter who has forged her way into fan­tas­tic literature. Anya and the Drag­on is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed, not only for chil­dren but also for adults eager to find high-qual­i­ty fan­ta­sy books with Jew­ish themes. — Jewish Book Council

With this clever, fast-paced debut, Pasternack draws upon the myth and folklore of Kievan Rus’ to deliver a delightful tale filled with supernatural creatures…a tale that never loses its sense of fun or wonder. –Publisher’s Weekly

An irresistible blend of moral quandaries, magic, humor, danger, and bravery. Imaginative details bestow a fairy-tale-like quality to the story, which will effortlessly ensnare historical fantasy fans.– Booklist

This delightful series opener is an exciting blend of Russian and Jewish traditions. –Kirkus

The plot keeps readers on their toes with skillful pacing … [it] puts a spin on the usual dragon story without losing its excitement. –Center for Children’s Books

 

 

Thanks so much for joining us today at the Mixed-Up Files, Sofiya

What inspired you to write this story?
One of my favorite fairy tales of all time is wrapped into this book, and I spent a long time trying to retell it for adults. Once I finally realized that it was a children’s story, it really started to flow.

 Why did you decide to myth and folklore of Kievan Rus’?
 Russian folklore is told largely in byliny, or oral epic poems. These were grouped into cycles depending on the area the stories took place, and all my favorites are in the Kievan Cycle. The general time period was around the reign of Vladimir I, who ruled Kievan Rus’ from 980 to 1015 CE, so that’s why I picked that era and those specific stories!

 

Your book has such a wonderfully well-constructed setting, do you have any tips for writers on how to world-build?

You boil some water! Seriously. A friend of mine introduced me to this method of worldbuilding and it’s been so amazing for really forcing me to think through the entire world. I just ask myself the question, “What has to happen to allow my character to boil some water?” That seems really simple, right? Put some water in a pot and throw it on a stove and turn the heat on. Okay. Where did the pot come from? The store? A blacksmith? Handed down through the family? How? From who? From where? What’s the water source? Is it safe? Was it dangerous to get? Are waterborne illnesses a concern? Why? Who made the stove? Is the stove gas? Electric? Wood? Nuclear? Magic? Where did the gas come from? The electricity? The wood? What’s the deal with magic? And so on. You just keep asking yourself questions, and you keep answering questions, until your world is fleshed out.

 

I love how you weave the magic throughout your story, and dragons! Did you do a lot of research on dragons before writing this book?
 I’ve kind of been a dragon nerd my whole life, so I didn’t have to do a ton of research. I knew exactly what kind of dragon Håkon was before I started: a lindwurm! And then I had to ask myself, “Well, if he’s a lindwurm, he must be Scandinavian, because that’s where lindwurms are from. Why is he in Anya’s Russian village?” And that’s why Kin is from where he’s from, why Håkon has a Scandinavian name, and why he has ties to Istanbul/Constantinople. Dragons are important in Russia, but I didn’t want Håkon to have multiple heads, as most Russian dragons do. I wanted him to be unique and unexpected, and I think a lot of people are pleasantly surprised by him.

 

 Kirkus said of your book, “This delightful series opener is an exciting blend of Russian and Jewish traditions.” How important was it to you to include your heritage in this book?
 I didn’t start this book out as a Jewish story. I was afraid to do that, because in my mind, who would want to read a fantasy about a Jewish girl that had nothing to do with the Holocaust or a specific holiday? So Anya and her family were incidentally Jewish in a way that maybe someone who was Jewish might pick up on. But then after some encouragement from people who knew much better than I did, I added more visible Jewishness to the book until it reached the point it is now. I’m so glad I did. I came to be very passionate about Anya being a visibly Jewish character who wasn’t defined by trauma: bad things happened to her (they happen to everyone!) and she used her unique perspective to manage them. I also wanted to include more Jewish and Russian folklore creatures than people are familiar with. Everyone knows what a golem and a dybbuk are, but do people know about helpful possession? Everyone knows who Baba Yaga is, but do they know what a leshy is? I love learning about the folklore of other cultures, and being able to introduce lesser-known creatures from my own background has been really great.

 

Anything you’d like to add?
 For all the authors out there who are struggling with their story, don’t give up! The world needs your unique perspective. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing!

 

Awesome! Thanks so much for joining us, Sofiya. Your book is amazing. Congratulations again on your award!

Sofiya has generously donated a copy of her fantastic book to be given away (US only). Please comment below to be entered. You can also tweet it out and tag us at @MixedUpFiles  or like our post on Instagram at @mixedupfilesmg