Posts Tagged magical realism

Naked Mole Rat Saves the World by Karen Rivers

Ever read the title of a book and know instantly that you must find out more about the story?

When I first saw the title of our next spotlight, I couldn’t help being filled with all sorts of questions. What’s up with this mole rat? Why did the day have to be saved? And how does he do it?

And wait! A mole rat?

Haha! I know. I’m being a little overly dramatic, but this goes to show how much value a title can hold. Let’s meet this mole rat.

Can Kit’s super-weird superpower save her world?

Kit-with-a-small-k is navigating middle school with a really big, really strange secret: When she’s stressed, she turns into a naked mole rat.

It first happened after kit watched her best friend, Clem, fall and get hurt during an acrobatic performance on TV. Since then, the transformations keep happening—whether kit wants them to or not. Kit can’t tell Clem about it, because after the fall, Clem just hasn’t been herself. She’s sad and mad and gloomy, and keeping a secret of her own: the real reason she fell.

A year after the accident, kit and Clem still haven’t figured out how to deal with all the ways they have transformed—both inside and out. When their secrets come between them, the best friends get into a big fight. Somehow, kit has to save the day, but she doesn’t believe she can be that kind of hero. Turning into a naked mole rat isn’t really a superpower. Or is it?

“A warm coming-of-age story populated with a cast of memorable characters.”
—Kirkus Reviews

The book releases on October 15, 2019 by Algonquin.

 

It’s wonderful to have you visit us here again, Karen. Welcome!

Kit is such an intriguing and endearing character. What characteristics did you know you had to include within her?

Kit, like most of my characters, came to me fully formed as herself, right from the beginning. I knew she had to be stronger than she knew, but I also knew that she was going to have occasionally overwhelming anxiety herself, that would be secondary (in her mind) to her mum’s more paralyzing version. I also wanted her to be brave, in particular brave to be herself, even when others might think it’s “weird” (to rollerskate, to believe in magic, to tie ribbons to trees in the park, to blow bubbles). And I knew she would be funny, of course.

Just hearing you describe her in your own words makes me like her even more.

We all know how important it is for young readers to relate to the characters they read. How will young readers relate to Kit?

I think a lot of kids around the age that kit is in the book are on the cusp of young adulthood, while also still wanting to stay kids. Kit very much wants to hold on to her kid-like qualities. I know some kids like this, who feel like they are being left behind because their friends are more like teenagers already, even when they aren’t quite ready.

That’s a very important reality during the transformation between tween and teen, and it’s not talked about enough. Glad you’ve mentioned it here. What is your favorite part of the world you’ve created for Kit and why?

I love the magic more than anything — all of it, from the literal to the metaphorical. I also love the way both kit and Clem find their power in surprising ways. Both of them are exploring the scarier, darker sides of their realities in these brave and surprising ways.

Was there anything about Kit that surprised you?

When I started writing, I didn’t realize that sometimes she was going to be angry or that she was going to show her anger on the page, that she could be unforgiving. I happen to have a twelve year old of my own now (although she was younger when I was writing this story) and this ability to flip back and forth between joy and fury turns out to be very real. It felt true on the page, too, but I hadn’t necessarily anticipated it.

Would you have been friends with Kit as a middle schooler?

Oh, definitely. She’s kind and fierce and funny and loyal AND she roller skates!

She definitely sounds like fun! What’s the most important element from this story you hope readers take with them once they’ve finished the book?

That everyone has something going on beyond the version of themselves that they present and that you see at school. You don’t have to scratch the surface very deeply to realize that we all have many, many layers. You never know what someone else is going through, and you definitely can easily underestimate what they are capable of if you forget to look beyond their outward appearance. And of course it’s also a book about forgiveness, about acknowledging that not everyone always does the right thing.

Another hidden truth during those middle grade years. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Kit and Clem’s story and for helping young readers explore who they are through them. All the best from your Mixed-Up Files family . . .

Karen Rivers’s books have been nominated for a wide range of literary awards and have been published in multiple languages. When she’s not writing, reading, or visiting schools, she can usu­ally be found hiking in the forest that flourishes behind her tiny old house in Victoria, British Columbia, where she lives with her two kids, two dogs, and two birds.

Find her online at karenrivers.com and on Twitter: @karenrivers.

 

Interview with Bone, Main Character of Lingering Echoes by Author Angie Smibert & a Giveaway!

I am a huge history buff. I also love all things spooky, otherworldly, and magical. Oh, and book series. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about this book, LINGERING ECHOES by Angie Smibert. It’s the second book in her middle grade Ghost of Ordinary Objects series, set in the 1940’s that centers around a girl who can see stories in objects. How interesting!

Wouldn’t it be neat to chat with this girl?

Well, we’re in luck. Bone, Lingering Echoes’ main character, is here to visit with you!

Hi Bone! It’s wonderful to have you here. Before we begin, let’s share the book with our readers.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgTwelve-year-old Bone uses her Gift, which allows her to see the stories in everyday objects, to try to figure out why her best friend, Will Kincaid, suddenly lost his voice at age five. This supernatural historical mystery is the second title in the acclaimed and emotionally resonant Ghosts of Ordinary Objects series.

In a southern Virginia coal-mining town in October 1942, Bone Phillips is learning to control her Gift: Bone can see the history of a significant object when she touches it. When her best friend, Will Kincaid, asks Bone to “read” the history of his daddy’s jelly jar–the jelly jar that was buried alongside his father during the mine cave-in that killed him–Bone is afraid. Even before Bone touches it, she can feel that the jar has its own strange power. With her mother dead, her father gone to war, and Aunt Mattie’s assault looming over Bone, she can’t bear the idea of losing Will too. As Will’s obsession with the jelly jar becomes dangerous, Bone struggles to understand the truth behind the jar and save him Featuring a beautiful, compelling voice, this novel weaves a story of mystery, family, and ultimately, love.

Okay, Bone. You’re up! Tell us about yourself and what an average day is like for you.

I’m 12 years old. Daddy and me live in the boardinghouse in Big Vein; only Daddy is off to war.

Oh, Wow.

Uncle Junior is living there now—for the duration, he likes to say. Mrs. Price and Miss Johnson live there, too. She’s my teacher. She slips me the National Geographic to read when she’s done with it.

My day is none too exciting. I walk to school up the mine road, sometimes stopping at the parsonage to pick up my cousin, Ruby. At school, I sit at the back with the rest of the seventh grade. Not too many of us left. All sorts of folks have left on account of the war. Or like my best friend Will, they’ve gone down the mines to work. At lunch, I usually get asked to tell a story, like Stingy Jack or Ashpet. I know just about all of the stories from hereabouts.

After supper, Will usually stops by—unless he obsessing about that dad blame jelly jar again. (Don’t worry. I help him figure out the mystery.)

I can’t wait to hear more about that. What was it like when you first discovered you had this Gift?

Well, it about knocked the breath plumb out of me. I touched this arrow head Ruby and me found down by the river. And, wham, all of a sudden, I’m seeing that arrow strike a deer.

Oh my goodness! #yucky

That poor deer stumbled into the river and… Let’s just say I saw and felt it die.

?

Of course, this is your second journey seeing stories within items, so you’ve already gotten your feet wet. But could you ever have imagined that your friend Will’s jelly jar was more than a simple story? Were you more frightened or curious about it?

I could feel right away that jar was different, like it had its own gift or power. It pulled at me. And it was so powerful I could see things without even touching it. So yes, it scared me—but I was curious, too. I didn’t touch it, though, until I felt like I had to—to help Will.

Will is lucky to have such a wonderful friend in you. And I want to say how sorry I am about your mother and that your father is off to war.

Daddy got himself drafted a couple months ago. He couldn’t say in his last letter where they were shipping him to. Uncle Junior thinks it’ll be North Africa or Italy. I keep having this nightmare about him wandering around lost in the woods—just like Stingy Jack. You know, the fellow the Jack O’Lanterns are named after.

Hmm . . . no, I don’t think I’ve heard this. Please, share.

Folks say he wanders the woods around Halloween with an ember from the coal fires of hell in his carved pumpkin.

Well, that explains a lot. Thank you. How would you describe friendship?

A friend is there for you through thick and thin. And you’re there for him or her, too. Even if he’s acting like an obsessed fool.

Can you share a story about you and Will?

He’s kind like one of those big rocks out in the middle of the river that I like to sun myself on. He’s always there, steady and strong, no matter how high the water is. He also listens to my stories—and is a lot smarter than folks give him credit for.

Sounds like you and Will have true friendship figured out. Thank you so much for stopping by to share your story with our readers. Looking forward to seeing what comes next for you!

Smibert is the author of the middle grade historical fantasy series, Ghosts of Ordinary Objects, which includes Bone’s Gift (2018), Lingering Echoes (2019), and The Truce (2020). She’s also written three young adult science fiction novels: Memento Nora, The Forgetting Curve, and The Meme Plague. In addition to numerous short stories, she’s published over two dozen science/technology books for kids. Smibert teaches young adult and speculative fiction for Southern New Hampshire University’s creative writing M.F.A. program as well as professional writing for Indiana University East. Before doing all this, she was a science writer and web developer at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. She lives in Roanoke with a goofy dog (named after a telescope) and two bickering cats (named after Tennessee Williams characters), and puts her vast store of useless knowledge to work at the weekly pub quiz. For more on Angie, follow her on social media: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Be sure to check out BONE’S GIFT, book one of Bone’s story.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgIn this supernatural historical mystery, twelve-year-old Bone possesses a Gift that allows her to see the stories in everyday objects. When she receives a note that says her mother’s Gift killed her, Bone seeks to unravel the mysteries of her mother’s death, the schisms in her family, and the Gifts themselves.

In a southern Virginia coal-mining town in 1942, Bone Phillips has just reached the age when most members of her family discover their Gift. Bone has a Gift that disturbs her; she can sense stories when she touches an object that was important to someone. She sees both sad and happy–the death of a deer in an arrowhead, the pain of a beating in a baseball cap, and the sense of joy in a fiddle. There are also stories woven into her dead mama’s butter-yellow sweater–stories Bone yearns for and fears. When Bone receives a note that says her mama’s Gift is what killed her, Bone tries to uncover the truth. Could Bone’s Gift do the same? Here is a beautifully resonant coming-of-age tale about learning to trust the power of your own story.

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The giveaway winner will be announced on Friday, April 19th via Twitter! Good luck!!!

 

Defining Magical Realism

I want to talk about magical realism, the genre that confounds so many authors and excites so many readers, publishers, and agents. What exactly is it, and equally important, what exactly is it not?

Perhaps the word “exact” is misleading, since “exact” is hard to pin down in this genre. The basic definition of magical realism is that it’s literary fiction grounded in reality – with elements of magic. But. There are conditions to that magic.

The magic in magical realism is characterized by the very real role it plays in the characters’ lives. Supernatural events are often so much a part of their world that they go unnoticed or unremarked. And if they are acknowledged, it is not with a sense of unfamiliar wonder or questioning, but rather an acceptance of this reality in life. A common example of this mystical-as-mundane phenomenon is in One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Ghosts are a common and accepted presence in this saga of a family and a town whose story parallels that of the emergence of modern, independent Columbia. In other genres, the ghosts would be identified, investigated, discussed, possibly feared. But in 100 Years, the ghosts are simply accommodated without any fanfare.

In Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel, Tita is born in a river of tears that literally floods the kitchen – a moment of extreme magic that is told with a perfectly straight face.

This distinction – that these mystical elements are a part of everyday life – is critical to understanding what the genre is and also what it is not.

Why do we care? Because of late, the publishing/writing community has allowed its definition to drift and encompass all realistic fiction laced with a dash of subtle magic. For example, Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me definitely has magic. But the stunning story of Miranda, some mysterious letters, and the laughing man on her New York City street is not magical realism. The same with Ask the Passengers, by A.S. King. Astrid, who’s struggling to define herself on her own terms, sends love to the passengers in the planes that fly above her. But Astrid never realizes she occasionally creates magic in the passengers’ lives, and never examines these supernatural events.The reason this still isn’t magical realism? The magic isn’t happening to her or her community and isn’t a natural part of the perspective of her culture.

So why does this matter? Isn’t it enough to acknowledge that there are many ways to embrace the fantastic in our fiction?

It matters because in addition to its unique structure, magical realism has important cultural significance. The literary giants who shaped and breathed life into this genre were Latin American – Isabelle Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. They wrote about surviving colonialism and a culture of oppression. Weaving magic through their stories accented their despair and was key to surviving and interpreting a world more destructive than nurturing.

The fact that magical realism is grounded in this history doesn’t exclude non-Latin cultures from writing it. But it’s vital we remember that the genre evolved as an art form that could explore and cope with oppression. Threading touches of magic or even outright in-your-face magic through a contemporary story about non-oppressed cultures is not magical realism.

I love this quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez from an interview in the New York Times from 1982, when he was preparing his speech to accept the Nobel Prize: “It has to be a political speech presented as literature.” Pretty much sums it all up.

Want to read more modern magical realism? Try Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers or Nove Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us.