Posts Tagged Kristine Asselin

Celebrating Art Museums in Books

Did you know that today is National Go to an Art Museum Day—and more than 30,000 museums around the world are participating by holding special activities and offering discounts? No? Well then, it’s probably too late to call in sick or play hooky. But you can still celebrate vicariously by going to your library, bookstore, or favorite online site to pick up a great book about art museums. Here are a few suggestions:


From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Okay, you had to know I’d include this classic novel if you’re a fan of this blog. In E.L. Konigsberg’s 1968 Newbery winner, Claudia Kincaid decides to run away with her little brother to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. After spending their days wandering around the museum and their nights hiding in odd exhibits, the two become involved in solving a museum mystery concerning an angel statue, thought to be carved by Michelangelo himself. After some sleuthing, they track down Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the woman who sold the statue to the museum. Will she help them solve the mystery? You’ll have to read the book to find out.


Framed by James Ponti

Florian is twelve years old and has just moved to Washington. He’s learning his way around using TOAST, which stands for the Theory of All Small Things. It’s a technique he invented to solve life’s little mysteries such as: where to sit on the first day of school or which Chinese restaurant has the best egg rolls. But when he attempts to teach the method to his new friend Margaret, they uncover a mystery at the National Gallery of Art that involves the theft of three paintings. Will Florian’s skills help the FBI solve the crime and help him escape from the clutches of a dangerous crime syndicate?


The Art of the Swap by Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone

Hannah Jordan lives in a museum…well, sort of. She is the daughter of the caretaker for mansion-turned-museum The Elms in Newport, Rhode Island. Hannah is captivated by stories of The Elms’s original occupants, especially Maggie Dunlap, the tween heiress who was the subject of a painting that went missing during a legendary art heist in 1905. When a mysterious mirror allows Hannah and Maggie to switch places in time, suddenly Hannah is racing to stop the heist from happening, while Maggie gets an introduction to iPhones, soccer, and freedoms like exploring without supervision. Not to mention the best invention of all: sweatpants (so long, corsets!). As the hours tick away toward the art heist, something’s not adding up. Can the girls work together against time—and across it—to set things right? Or will their temporary swap become a permanent trade?


Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne

Moxie Fleece knows the rules and follows them—that is, until the day she opens her front door to a mysterious stranger. Suddenly Moxie is involved in Boston’s biggest unsolved mystery: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist. Moxie has two weeks to find the art, otherwise she and the people she loves will be in big-time danger. Her tools? Her best friend, Ollie, a geocaching addict who loves to find stuff; her Alzheimer’s suffering grandfather, Grumps, who knows lots more than he lets on; and a geometry proof that she sets up to sort out the clues. It’s a race against the clock through downtown Boston as Moxie and Ollie break every rule she’s ever lived by to find the art and save her family.


The Metropolitans by Carol Goodman

The day Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, four thirteen-year-olds converge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where an eccentric curator is seeking four brave souls to track down the hidden pages of the Kelmsbury Manuscript, an ancient book of Arthurian legends that lies scattered within the museum’s collection, and that holds the key to preventing a second attack on American soil. When Madge, Joe, Kiku, and Walt agree to help, they have no idea that the Kelmsbury is already working its magic on them. They begin to develop extraordinary powers and experience the feelings of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, and Lancelot: courage, friendship, love…and betrayal. Are they playing out a legend that’s already been lived, over and over, across the ages? Or can the Metropolitans forge their own story?


The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

Almost everybody who has grown up in Chicago knows about the Thorne Rooms. Housed deep inside the Chicago Art Institute, they are a collection of sixty-eight exquisitely crafted miniature rooms. Each room is set in a different historic period, and every detail is perfect. Some might even say, the rooms are magic. But what if on a field trip, you discovered a key that allowed you to shrink so that you could sneak inside and explore the secrets of the rooms? What if you discovered that others had done so before you? And that someone had left something important behind? Eleven-year-olds Jack and Ruthie are about to find out!


Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Stacey Dressen-McQueen

Fourteen poems on the many dazzling collections featured in museums. The art, artifacts, and anthropological treasures found in museum collections are coupled with stunning poetry by acclaimed writers Lee Bennett Hopkins, Jane Yolen, Myra Cohn Livingston, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and many more. The lively verse captures the wonder and amazement of the exhibition experience, from mummies to medieval relics, and from fine art to fossils.



The Art of the Swap Interview and Giveaway

Freaky Friday meets Downton Abbey in this middle grade mystery that features a modern day twelve-year-old switching bodies with a Gilded Age heiress in order to solve a famous art heist.

We are thrilled to have with us today Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone, authors of THE ART OF THE SWAP, which comes out tomorrow. I am gobsmacked to be able to report that Kris, Jen, and Simon & Schuster are giving to one reader of our blog an ENTIRE CLASSROOM OF HARD COVERS of this book! Can you believe that? It’s for classes in the U.S. only, and up to 25 books. To enter, leave a comment with your email address below by 5pm Eastern on Thursday. You can get an additional entry if you tweet about the giveaway (just leave a link to the tweet in your comment). If you aren’t a teacher, you can designate any school for the donation, or Jen and Kristine can suggest a worthy recipient.

What a fun story! Can you share with us the inspiration?

Kris: Thanks so much for having us here at the Mixed Up Files. We are so excited to have this book out in the world. We can’t wait for kids to read it!

The origin story: About four years ago, I was visiting Newport, Rhode Island, with my family. My daughter and my husband and I have always really enjoyed historical properties, and we tour them as often as we can. On this particular trip, we were on a guided tour and the tour guide pointed to a mysterious door as we walked by and said, “that’s the caretaker’s apartment.”

I turned to my daughter. “Wouldn’t it be cool to live here and take care of all of this?”

She replied, “That would be a great story, mom. You should write that.”

When I got home, I did a bit of research and found out that The Elms (the house in our story) had a real life caretaker who raised his daughter in the house. He’s still there, in fact. His name is Harold Matthews. I was immediately intrigued.

About a year later, Jen and I were carpooling to SCBWI New Jersey and got to talking about our works-in-progress. When I mentioned this middle grade idea of a caretaker’s daughter, we began to brainstorm. Through the course of our drive, it became this amazing dual voice, Freaky Friday, time travel story that we absolutely had to write together.

I love getting to see what it is like for girls from two different centuries, living in the same house. What kind of research did you do for the book? 

Jen: Kristine had a lot more experience doing research since she also writes nonfiction titles for the school/library market, but my fiction research to date had been more along the lines of “Where are all the penny press machines in NYC?” and “How much paper mache would it take to build a 50-foot hedgehog float,” so this was a new and welcome challenge for me. The best was our in-person research—we made visits to The Elms together and solo, and spent an amazing day trailing the caretaker, Harold Mathews, into spots not normally accessible to the public and listening to him speak about his adventures as a single dad raising his young daughter in the converted servant quarters-turned-caretaker apartment. That was magical insight we couldn’t have gotten from any textbook (though we relied on those plenty as well). Most fascinating to me was a mysterious opening ¾ of the way up a wall between the furnace rooms and the coal tunnel (pictured here). Harold told us they once filmed a Victoria’s Secret commercial in this space, but that in the 30-plus years he’s managed the property he’d never once investigated that space. Kris and I were dying to pull a ladder right up to it! Alas… he didn’t offer.

Kris: The Elms was a private home until the early 1960s when the Newport Preservation Society saved it from the wrecking ball and turned it into a museum. It’s still hard for me to believe that someone actually lived in the house, it’s so huge. It truly has its own story! It was one of the first properties saved from destruction by the Preservation Society—and today it looks a lot like it did in the early 1900s.

You can visit The Elms and tour it–so if you’re ever in Newport, you can actually see the places in the house where Hannah and Maggie live!

You two have created a fabulous Educators’ Guide for Art of the Swap that is Common Core-aligned for grades 4-7 and includes special activities for Women’s History Month. Can you tell us some about what you’ve included?

Jen: Thank you! Maggie’s character arc was always focused on the differences between how girls are treated in her time (1905) versus in Hannah’s modern day, but after participating in the Women’s March last year, we revised the manuscript to make some big changes to Hannah’s character arc that allow her to realize there are still many strides to be made in the fight for true equality. We’re hopeful the book can be a springboard to classroom conversation about this! Our Educator’s Guide offers several discussion points on this topic, as well as focused activities, such as a timeline of events in the women’s rights movement between the two time periods highlighted in the story. 

My daughter and I are in a book club together, and so I was thrilled to see the Activities Guide for Troops, Book Clubs, and Organizations, as well. What are some of those activities, and why did you decide to create that guide?

Jen: Both Kristine and I are moms to young girls (my daughter is eleven and Kristine’s is fifteen). As we took a deeper dive into feminism with this book, we were also doing the same in our personal lives. We wanted SWAP to be a starting point for discussions on equality, but we also hoped those discussions would lead to action. We created this Activities Guide for Young Activists to offer a script for ways tweens and teens could turn awareness into activism. We have a series of experiments kids can conduct to see where imbalances still present. For example, one has them watching commercials and tallying lines of dialogue and examining the roles in which women were cast. Did you know the average girl has seen 77,546 ads by the time she turns twelve and only 5% of those ads feature women without a man present? Men speak seven times as often as women in commercials and are 62% more likely to be shown in an intelligent role, such as doctor or scientist. From this awareness-building, we offer suggestions for concrete action steps to bring about change—with the idea that girls (and any boy allies who want to join in!) can do most of them in a fun group setting and benefit from that bonding time too. I think every author wants their stories to put more good into the world, even if that’s by simply offering a few hours of escape to our readers, but this book’s subject matter, coupled with our passion for the topic, really made us want to go bigger here! We’re including a sample exercise from the guide below, and it’s available for download on our author sites and on We’d love to contribute to the movement!

Can you describe the process of writing collaboratively? How did you share ideas and writing?

Kris: First and foremost, we were (and are!) both super excited about this story. Our love for our characters and the themes in the book really drove the process. Once we realized we were actually going to do this, we started by brainstorming most of the plot in one sitting back in August of 2015. We created a very detailed outline which included almost every detail of the plot. This was important because each of us were writing a different voice and character arc, so we needed to have an outline to keep us on track. Can you tell which girl each of us wrote?

As far as nuts and bolts, we had a shared Google Doc in which we wrote the whole story. We would meet (or talk on the phone) periodically to share ideas, but we each wrote our own parts.

Once we had the words in the Doc we could critique each other’s work and then revise. It worked out really well, I think!

We agree! Thanks, Kristine and Jen, for the interview. Now, dear reader, go enter to win all those awesome books!

Kate Hillyer wants to move to an old mansion in Newport, R.I. In the meantime, you can find her in our nation’s capitol, where she reads and writes middle grade, wrangles three kids, and is sure she’s going to start training for that 10k she signed up for any second now. She blogs here and at The Winged Pen, and is a Cybils judge for Poetry. She’s online at and on Twitter as @SuperKate.