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Review requests are currently closed, although interview, guest post, blog tour, and giveaway requests are still open through May. I will NOT be scheduling anything in June and July.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

(MMGM) Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose {interview}

Welcome to Day 29 of the 4th Annual March MG Madness! Today we are celebrating Caroline Starr Rose's 
Blue Birds...

Blue Birds
by Caroline Starr Rose
It’s 1587 and twelve-year-old Alis has made the long journey with her parents from England to help settle the New World, the land christened Virginia in honor of the Queen. And Alis couldn’t be happier. While the streets of London were crowded and dirty, this new land, with its trees and birds and sky, calls to Alis. Here she feels free. But the land, the island Roanoke, is also inhabited by the Roanoke tribe and tensions between them and the English are running high, soon turning deadly.
Amid the strife, Alis meets and befriends Kimi, a Roanoke girl about her age. Though the two don’t even speak the same language, these girls form a special bond as close as sisters, willing to risk everything for the other. Finally, Alis must make an impossible choice when her family resolves to leave the island and bloodshed behind.
A beautiful, tender story of friendship and the meaning of family, Caroline Starr Rose delivers another historical gem.

Praise for Blue Birds

Composed in varying formats, the descriptive and finely crafted poems reveal the similarities the two girls share, from loved ones lost to hatred between the English and the Roanoke to a desire for peace…Fans of Karen Hesse and the author’s May B. (2012) will delight in this offering.
— Kirkus
Rose skillfully paints the abject loneliness that primes both girls for friendship… Though the poems generally alternate between the girls’ voices, Rose occasionally combines both perspectives into a single poem to powerful effect… Rich with detail, it’s a memorable account of a friendship that transcends culture and prejudice.
— Publisher’s Weekly
With two compelling main characters and an abundance of rich historical detail, Rose’s latest novel offers much to discuss and much to appreciate.
— School Library Journal
The author skillfully builds conflict between the colonists and the Native Americans and between Alis and Kimi and their respective families… It is an excellent historical offering and belongs on public and school library shelves.
An imaginative historical novel with two sympathetic protagonists.

What three words best describe Blue Birds?

Worlds colliding. Secrets.

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give Blue Birds a try?

Two girls destined to be enemies choose forbidden friendship instead.

Grab a copy of Blue Birds and answer the following:

favorite chapter? 
Because it’s a verse novel, Blue Birds doesn’t have chapters. How about favorite poem? It’s short, so I’ll include it here:


I could not imagine going about
with my chest bare.
Never would I allow
others to ink my arms and legs.

Yet she is beautiful.


I would not wander unaware
as she does, unprotected,
loud and stumbling
through a forest
she doesn’t know.

Yet she is daring.

favorite page? 

favorite place/setting? 
The place Alis and Kimi meet secretly.

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:
For the first time since
my little sister’s death,
her memory brings
no stabbing pain.

What inspired Blue Birds?  How did the story come to be?

There are always a few things that lead to a book, but I’m not fully aware of them at the beginning. I was drawn to the Lost Colony story while teaching fifth-grade social studies. I hadn’t thought about those 117 missing people and their mysterious last word, CROATOAN, since my own school days. Coincidentally, our Scholastic book order had several books about the Lost Colony available at the same time. I ordered them and shared what I was learning with my students. This is where the seeds of the story began.

But I can look further back and see that Alis and Kimi’s friendship came from my own girlhood relationships. I relied a lot on those feelings of belonging, the intensity and sincerity of those early bonds to tell the girls’ story.

Can you tell us a bit about your two heroines, Alis and Kimi? What makes them special and sets them apart from other middle-grade characters?

Alis is from London but has learned to love nature through her uncle’s stories. Coming to Virginia is so satisfying for her. She really embraces her new surroundings.

Kimi has suffered loss at the hands of the British. Seeing them again angers her, but she can’t help denying she’s also kind of fascinated. Like Alis, she has an uncle that means a lot to her, but his new position as weroance (leader) has complicated their relationship.

Both girls are lonely. Both are curious. It’s the perfect storm for what’s to come.

I think what sets them apart from other characters is the unique friendship they form. They share no language. They are meant to be enemies. And yet these things aren’t a barrier.

If you could switch lives with any middle-grade character, who would you choose?

I’m going to pick an oldie but goodie: Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series. Even in the midst of hardship Anne’s able to find a way through and have fun at the same time. She’s creative, joyful, and comfortable in her own skin. Sounds pretty good to me!

As a middle-grade author, why do think MG is so important and popular? What do you love about MG?

Middle grade novels are the first books independent readers connect with in a deeply personal way. These are the books that made me who I am, that filled me with wonder and showed me the world. I love how middle-grade honors childhood in its big and small moments. These books say “you matter”. And that’s everything.

What are some of your favorite middle-grade reads?

My childhood favorites include all of L.M. Montgomery books, such as the Anne books mentioned above; the Little House on the Prairie series; all of Beverly Cleary’s books (I think Ramona Quimby is the greatest middle grade character in existence); the Chronicles of Prydain books; and the Mary Poppins and Dr. Dolittle series.

Three more recent books that inspired me to write middle-grade historical fiction would be Catherine, Called Birdy; Our Only May Amelia, and Fever 1793 (which I just finished last week, for the third time).

Fill in the blanks:

I’m really awesome at Push ups. Or at least I’m trying to be. In January I did one on the first, two on the second, and on and on. That’s 480 push ups in all!

I’m really embarrassed to admit I’ve never read beyond the first Harry Potter. Don’t hate me!

The last great book I read was Wolf Hall. I’m finishing it up in anticipation of the new Masterpiece Theater series.

If you were to bake a cupcake inspired by Blue Birds, what would it look and taste like and what would you call it?

Its would be sweet and wonderful, as familiar as the friend who knows you best.

Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books, composed poetry on an ancient typewriter, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She’s taught both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom, she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, an enthusiasm to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past. Caroline lives in New Mexico with her husband and two sons. She is the author of Blue Birds.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

(MMGM) Sage Blackwood, author of the Jinx Series {interview and giveaway}

Welcome to Day 28 of the 4th Annual March MG Madness! Today we are celebrating Sage Blackwood and her 
Jinx Series...

Jinx's Fire
(Jinx #3)
by Sage Blackwood
Harper Collins
The young wizard Jinx concludes his suspenseful and dryly humorous adventures in the magical forest of the Urwald with this third installment in the series that ALA Booklist says "deserves a permanent place in the children's fantasy pantheon, with Narnia and Earthsea" (Jinx's Magic, starred review). This action-packed conclusion is perfect for readers of fantasy adventure series such as Septimus Heap, the Sisters Grimm, and Fablehaven.

The forest is under attack and its magic is fading. Can Jinx summon enough of his magic--the bright fire within him--to rescue Simon, defeat the Bonemaster, unite the Urwald, and fight off the invaders? He is the Urwald's only hope. . . 

The other books in this series
(click each cover to learn more)

Watch the Jinx Trailer

Praise for the Jinx Series

JINX is filled with real magic, not just the magic young Jinx learns, but the magic of a great book: memorable, engaging characters,humor that’s actually funny, an original, fantastic world, and real human feelings. I can’t wait for the next one.” (John Stephen, NYT bestselling author of THE EMERALD ATLAS)

 “Complex characters, compelling fun, a marvelously dastardly villain, all steeped in a tasty stew of mystery and magic. What more could a reader ask for?” (Bruce Coville)

“This series deserves a permanent place in the children’s fantasy pantheon, with Narnia and Earthsea.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Blackwood offers a story of enchanting texture and depth, and series fans will be elated to have another outing with the sweetly sardonic hero, whose conscience is almost as troublesome as his grasp of spells. Fans of Cornelia Funke should add this to their stacks.” (ALA Booklist)

What three words best describe your Jinx series?

Sentient magic forest.

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give this series a try?

In the Urwald you grow up fast or not at all.

Grab a copy of Jinx’s Fire (book 3) and answer the following:

favorite chapter?
Chapter 23, “Bonesocket From Within”

favorite page?
Well, there’s a bit I quite like that runs from the bottom of page 251 onto page 252

favorite place/setting?
Tough choice. But I’ll go with the Elf Princess’s garden of gems.

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:
“Actually, I can get us home pretty quickly,” said Jinx. “But I have to let the trolls eat my arm first.

What inspired the Jinx series? How did the story come to be?

Well, I was sitting on my front porch, drawing pictures, and I drew a boy and a wizard and a mean-looking guy in a forest, and then I wondered who they were.

Or I was walking through the forest, and I noticed that forests feel different from non-forests, that there’s something going on in them… you can almost hear the voices.

Or I was reading Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade, and I realized that intuition is something we evolved to protect us from violence.

Or I read the surviving extant scraps of the legend of Simon Magus, and I started to wonder what the guy was really like.

Or I drew a picture of a little girl in a red hood walking through a forest to visit her grandmother, and the forest got bigger, and bigger, and bigger….

I can’t remember which of those things happened first.

Can you tell us a bit about your hero, Jinx?

Jinx is not a Chosen One, nor is he a long-lost heir to anything. But at a very early age, he learned to read emotions… a little better than most of us do. And he learned to listen… so well that he can hear trees talk. He has trouble with the magic Simon Magus tries to teach him, but he’s quite good at discovering his own.

He’s sarcastic and impatient, and he sometimes sulks. But he has a good heart and he tries to be kind, even if he doesn’t always succeed. He makes the right choices when it matters.

If you could switch lives with any character in the Jinx series, who would you pick and what would you do as them?

Dame Glammer, probably. I’d hop around in my butter churn and cackle. Come to think of it, that’s what I do now.

As a middle-grade author, why do think MG is so important and popular? What do you love about MG?

MG stories capture a character at a moment of change, when s/he is in the process of deciding what kind of person to become. And MG novels don’t (usually) end in a place of despair. Life is worth living.

And I love the challenge of writing for a dual audience. To really work, MG has to be appreciable at different levels, by children and by adults. I trust my reader to pick up on nuances. And to get my jokes. If they don’t, that’s okay. The story still works. (I hope.)

What are some of your favorite middle-grade reads?

  • Anything by Diana Wynne Jones, but especially Homeward Bounders, Cart & Cwidder, Drowned Ammet and The Lives of Christopher Chant.

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (That being arguably the last book in the series that was MG rather than YA.)

Fill in the blanks:

I’m really awesome at thinking of things to do instead of write.

I’m really embarrassed to admit that I’m too embarrassed to admit to things I’m embarrassed to admit to on the internet.

The last great book I read was Days of Rondo: A Warm Reminscence of St Paul’s Thriving Black Community in the 1930s and 1940s by Evelyn Fairbanks.

If you were to bake a cupcake inspired by Jinx’s Fire, what would it look and taste like and what would you call it?

 Well, let’s see. It’d be chocolate, to represent the earth into which Jinx descends, and inside would be a filling of icing to represent the Path of Ice, and cinnamon red-hots to represent the Path of Fire. And the frosting ought to be hummus to represent humus, but that would be kind of yuck, so let’s go with  a coconut frosting. Some rock candy to represent the Glass Mountains, and some candles shaped like trees, which we would then have to burn. And we’ll call this cupcake Worst Case Scenario.

Sage Blackwood lives at the edge of a large forest, with thousands of books and a very old dog, and enjoys carpentry, cooking, and walking in the woods of New York State.

Win a Jinx Series prize!
Sage Blackwood has generously offered up either a) the first two Jinx books in paperback or b) the third book in hardcover...whichever the winner prefers.
-US only
-ends 4/3
-one winner will be able to choose prize a or b
(please read rules below rafflecopter)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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