Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure by Nadja Spiegelman & Sergio Garcia Sanchez

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Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure
Written by Nadja Spiegelman
Illustrated by Sergio Garcia Sanchez
(Toon Books; $16.95, Ages 8-12)
Also available in Spanish

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A Junior Library Guild Selection
Starred Reviews – Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal & Booklist

Ever gotten lost on a subway? In New York? I have and I’m from New York! But once you’ve navigated your way around and feel you’ve got the hang of the subway, it’s like you’re on top of the world, not 35 feet underground (like at the 42nd St. Station). You might never take the bus again.

intimageLostinNYC.jpgI’ll start this review by pointing out that a purchase of Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure, is like getting multiple books in one! First there’s the graphic novel adventure featuring Pablo, a boy new to both his school and to the city. Alicia, a classmate, volunteers to partner with him on a field trip to the Empire State Building using public transportation. At the uptown Manhattan subway station (96th St.), the pair get separated from their class and have to find their way alone. Eventually even Alicia and Pablo get separated which may seem frightening, but it’s never presented that way. In fact, it’s empowering for kids to see their peers commuting this way successfully. Demonstrating common sense, the two make tracks individually to the Empire State Building, one on foot, the other using a cross town train. Ultimately, across a crowded lobby, Pablo and Alicia are reunited in time to join the tour, running towards each other like in a scene from a film. They’re clearly overjoyed, but Mr. Bartles, their teacher, is not as impressed.

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Interior image from Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure by Nadja Spiegelman with illustrations by Sergio Garcia Sanchez, Toon Books ©2015.

In addition to the adventure, there’s the budding friendship story. As the bungled journey evolves, Pablo eventually comes to appreciate Alicia’s gesture of kindness to buddy up on the field trip which he so vehemently rejected at the beginning of the book.

“I was only trying help.” – Alicia
“Help?” – Pablo
“What makes you think I need help! I don’t need anything.” – Pablo
“I thought maybe you wanted a friend…” – Alicia

It’s through this friendship that Pablo is able to  look at New York with new eyes and begin to feel at home.

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Interior image from Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure by Nadja Spiegelman with illustrations by Sergio Garcia Sanchez, Toon Books ©2015.

Another draw is the NYC subway system, like an extra character, with its express and local lines, the colorful maps, and the various stops or stations in the city. I was delighted to see my old subway stop in Queens even made it into the book! Fans of transportation trivia will enjoy the enlightening repartee between Mr. Bartle and his students as he educates them on their subway knowledge. I lived in New York for 30 years and had no idea why the Y and U letters were never used. After reading the fact-filled end pages I learned it’s because the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) worried the public would be confused thinking they sounded too much like “why” and “you.”

Last but not least is the inclusion of archival photographs from old New York taking readers back in time to the 1800s and into the 20th century for a glimpse of what early subway stations and construction on them looked like. There are also more details about the Empire State Building and a Further Reading & Resources for those who, like me, cannot resist finding out more about the Big Apple’s history. Author Spiegelman has packed a plethora of interesting information into this engaging and extremely original book. I had no idea that the Empire State Building, where my uncle once worked, has its own zip code (10118) and had its grand opening on May 1, 1931, 84 years ago today! Lost in NYC closes with Tips for Parents, Teachers, and Librarians to make young readers’ experience of diving into a TOON graphic novel more pleasurable.

I have to give a shout out to the amazingly detailed illustrations by Garcia Sanchez. My favorite is the angled perspective of the Empire State Building as the school children zoom up to the observation deck in one of seventy-three elevators. Early on I noticed a man taking photos in almost every scene, but I didn’t notice the policeman watching him. Sanchez, while on a reconnaissance mission for the book, must have aroused suspicion. In a humorous touch, the artist has cleverly inserted himself and the cop who followed him into the story so be on the lookout!  Between the diverse cast of characters, the compelling storyline and the excellent artwork, I have to say I am very happy to have found Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure. 

Click here to download a guide for teachers.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel


Found by Salina Yoon

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Found by Salina Yoon is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Junior Library Guild selection for Spring 2014
✩Starred Review – Publishers Weekly

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Salina Yoon has created a wonderful story with Found (Walker Books for Young Readers /Bloomsbury 2014; $14.99, Ages 2-6. Bear finds a toy bunny in the forest and wants to find its owner, so he posts “found” flyers in the forest. Time passes and no one claims the bunny, and Bear becomes attached to it. It is, after all, “the most special thing he had ever seen.” But eventually Moose, the owner, spots Floppy, and Bear must prepare to part with his new, treasured toy. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it has just the right touch.

The magic of this picture book is its simplicity. The storyline is straightforward and the words are chosen perfectly for the young audience. My kindergartener greatly enjoys Found, and is transported into Bear’s world. When Moose arrives to claim Floppy, my little one’s thumb goes right in her mouth (nervous trait), and when Bear sheds a tear at the thought of parting with Floppy, my little one’s eyes well up, too. Children understand simple, pure emotion and Found presents that to them through the themes of friendship, sacrifice, and love.

The artwork is colorful and appealing. The characters are just adorable. Parents will appreciate the clever play on words and the cultural and historical references on the “lost” flyers. My favorites are “Lost Seasons 1-6,” Peter Pan’s “Lost shadow,” and “Lost my marbles! HELP!”

Your child will get lost in the world of Found, and that’s a good thing.

To read a review of Yoon’s Penguin in Love, click here and watch this space for a review of Penguin and Pumpkin.

 


Disney Never Girls #5: Wedding Wings by Kiki Thorpe

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Today, reviewer MaryAnne Locher weighs in on Wedding Wings by Kiki Thorpe.

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Disney Never Girls #5: Wedding Wings by Kiki Thorpe with illustrations by Jana Christy, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Believing in magic and fairies from the bottom of your heart can make extraordinary things happen. So, get out your fairy wings and fairy wands and get ready for an enchanting adventure!

The Never Girls are Gabby, Mia, Kate, and Lainey – four ordinary girls who have found their way into the magical realm of Never Land. In Disney Never Girls #5: Wedding Wings by Kiki Thorpe with illustrations by Jana Christy (Random House Books for Young Readers; paperback, 5.99; Ages 6-9) the fifth book in Disney’s Tinker Bell and Fairies series, Gabby has been asked to be the flower girl in her babysitter Julia’s wedding.

Gabby’s bubbling over with excitement so she puts on her dress-up fairy wings, breaks the pact she has with the other girls to never go alone into Never Land, and visits her fairy friends Tink, Prilla, Rosetta, Dulcie, and Bess to tell them her big news. The fairies are curious about what a flower girl does and what a wedding looks like. Gabby demonstrates how she’ll be throwing flower petals, but the fairies are less than impressed. Tink gives Gabby a thimble-full of fairy dust to take to the wedding so the petals will flutter and float to the ground. Gabby wants the fairies to come to the wedding so they can see her walk down the aisle, but the fairies haven’t been formally invited, so they decline. Bess can’t think of anything else she would rather do than go to the wedding. She sneaks out of Never Land and into Gabby’s room on the day of the big event. Gabby is delighted to see her, but knows she must hide her in her flower basket so no one else sees her.

What havoc can one little girl and one even tinier fairy create? Well…A LOT! Will they ruin Julia’s wedding day? Or will it be even more magical?

Although this chapter book is intended for early readers, even littler ones would enjoy the magic of having this read to them, too!

NOTE: Never Girls #6: The Woods Beyond (Disney: The Never Girls) and Never Girls #7: A Pinch of Magic (Disney: The Never Girls) will be released this April and July respectively.


Penguin in Love by Salina Yoon

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Looking for Love in All The Ice Places

Penguin in Love by Salina Yoon

Penguin in Love, written and illustrated by Salina Yoon, Walker Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Penguin in Love, written and illustrated by Salina Yoon (Walker Books for Young Readers, $14.99; eBook $6.99, Ages 3-6), is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

The adventures of penguins and puffins will warm your heart in this cozy, kooky story about a perfect pair of thoughtful friends. Fans of Yoon’s Penguin series (Penguin and Pinecone, Penguin on Vacation) will cheer with delight to read her newest yarn, spinning Penguin’s tale across oceans, ice floes and mountain tops.

When Penguin isn’t knitting, he is usually discovering curious objects and exploring faraway lands.  In this adventure, he finds a lost mitten on the ice, but cannot find its owner. He stitches up a new mate, but offers it to a chilled puffin. Then Penguin and his friend Bootsy begin giving away warm knitwear to various cold creatures until they run out of yarn. The puffins hatch a clever plan, leaving Penguin and Bootsy to follow a wooly trail of adventure.

Yoon’s simple text is perfect for the youngest listeners to follow. She blends short dialogue and humorous asides into the bright images. Parents could read these aloud as desired, thus breaking up the story narrative with a lighthearted tone.  

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Interior image from Penguin in Love, written and illustrated by Salina Yoon,
Walker Books for Young Readers, 2013.

The cuddly penguins and huggable arctic critters are thickly outlined in black with bold colored accents. The genius of Yoon’s illustration is the tiny clues and themes woven seamlessly throughout.  The penguins’ yarn swirls across the page in sweet heart-shaped loops: Bootsy in purple and green, Penguin in orange and yellow. They float out to sea, singing a silly shanty, atop a heart-shaped ice floe. Finally, a cover image reappears on the last page in a simple, satisfying argyle pattern that symbolically ties up every loose end.

If you have yet to discover the cozy charms of these friendship tales, I recommend that you scoop up the entire trio of Penguin and Pinecone, Penguin on Vacation (read Ronna’s review in the April 2013 issue of L.A. Parent here) and definitely this newest heart-warming delight, Penguin in Love.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher and received no other compensation.  The opinions expressed here are my own.  Disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller

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Sophie’s Squash (Random/Schwartz & Wade Books, ages 3-7) by Pat Zietlow Miller with illustrations by Anne Wilsdorf, and reviewed by MaryAnne Locher, is a perfect fall book.

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Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller with illustrations by Anne Wilsdorf, Schwartz & Wade, 2013.

As parents, we all hope our children will love vegetables, right? Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated in watercolor, Chinese ink, and ink by Anne Wilsdorf, gives a whole new meaning to loving your vegetables. I’m not saying that this book will help you get your children to eat their vegetables, but it might save you some money on toys. After all, who needs expensive toys, when a trip to the farmer’s market will get you a squash?

This book reminded me of how truly creative children are when we allow them to be. Sophie and her parents bring a squash home from the farmer’s market. Her parents intend to cook it for dinner, but Sophie has already drawn a face on it, wrapped it in a baby blanket, and named it Bernice. Like any good mother would do, Sophie’s mom orders pizza.

Bernice and Sophie are inseparable, doing summersaults in the garden, taking trips to the library, and visiting friends at the farmer’s market together. Though “love springs eternal,” nothing lives forever. Especially not a squash that has been bounced and tumbled and hugged. So, who do you go to for advice when your squash looks ill? Why, the farmer who sold it to you, of course. Sophie follows his expert advice, and with a little patience, gets a nice surprise from Bernice!

This is a great book of love, letting go, and renewal. I recommend it for youngsters with an appetite for imagination, and for parents to start a conversation about friendships in all its glorious forms.

Click here for a fun fall activity.


An Interview With Kate DiCamillo

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 HOLY BAGUMBA!  It’s An Interview with Kate DiCamillo (As of 1/27/14 the 2014 Newbery Medal)

About FLORA & ULYSSES: THE ILLUMINATED ADVENTURES

Image credit: Photo courtesy of Candlewick Press

Image credit: Photo courtesy of Candlewick Press

Good Reads With Ronna recently had the good fortune to meet multiple award-winning (including a Newbery medal) author Kate DiCamillo and illustrator K. G. Campbell at Vroman’s in Pasadena.  It was standing room only for DiCamillo on her extensive publicity tour for Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (Candlewick Press, $17.99, ages 8-12), now a New York Times Bestseller Today’s interview features DiCamillo and next Friday’s interview will feature Campbell. Please click here for Hilary Taber’s review of Flora & Ulysses posted here last month.

GRWR: You mentioned at Vroman’s that finding an ill squirrel by your front doorstep and your late mom’s love of her Electrolux vacuum cleaner were a serendipitous comedic collision  – is happenstance the genesis for many of your stories or do you usually begin with a plot outline or a character’s journey in mind?

KATE DICAMILLO: Oh, I never begin with a plot outline.  I never know what’s going to happen.  The origins of a story aren’t always as unusual as the collision of a vacuum cleaner and an unwell squirrel, but a story for me almost always begins with an image or two.  Or a voice.  Sometimes I hear a voice.  And then I just follow the voice or the image.

GRWR: In Flora & Ulysses you give a powerful voice to underdogs, outsiders, lonely and grieving characters by giving them hope, love, joy and friendship. Do you feel your books set out to honor these types of people?

KATE DICAMILLO: I set out to tell a story.  I set out to honor the world.  All of it.  All of us.  That said, I guess I am preoccupied about the miracles that can happen when we see each other.

GRWR: William Spiver’s character has so many unique traits. A lot of kids and adults who read Flora & Ulysses may know someone similar to him from school or in their family. Is he simply a socially awkward genius or does he have Asperger’s?

KATE DICAMILLO: I never thought about William Spiver having Asperger’s.  It is surely possible.  But to me, he is just William Spiver—irritating, wonderful, complex, tender-hearted, and yes, very, very smart.

GRWR: You are to children’s book writing what Monet and Renoir are to Impressionism. Your words are like brush strokes of pigment. Do they flow effortlessly out onto the page or is each sentence finely and laboriously crafted?

KD: What a lovely thing to say.  You are kind.  And would that the words flowed effortlessly.  Alas, they don’t.  I work and work and work.  I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.

GRWR: Can the two pages you write daily take two or ten hours or do you limit the amount of time you devote to a manuscript?

KD: The two pages usually take me an hour.  Sometimes a little more.  Sometimes less.  And I limit the time in the first stages of telling, but when I am working on rewrites for my editor, I will spend all day working—short sessions of two pages at a time.

GRWR: Have you ever liked a character you’ve created so much that it’s hard to say good-bye at the end of the book or series?

Kate DiCamillo's Flora & Ulysses from Candlewick Press with illustrations by K. G. Campbell.

Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses from Candlewick Press with illustrations by K. G. Campbell.

KD: I still miss Dr. Meescham.

And I miss Ulysses.  And Flora.

And William Spiver.

It’s hard to say goodbye.

GRWR: Light and dark play an important role in Flora & Ulysses. There’s mention of illuminated adventures, the stars, William Spiver’s temporary blindness, the shepherdess lamp called Mary Ann, the neon Giant Do-nut sign, Incandesto and his arch-nemesis, the Darkness of 10,000 Hands. Were these intentionally woven into the book?

KD: They weren’t!  I read through that list and I am kind of amazed because I didn’t know that I was doing that.  It’s this wonderful thing where the story is smarter than I am.

GRWR: Can you please tell us what books you’re working on right now?

KD: I’m working on some stories about the secondary characters in the Mercy Watson stories.  So: Leroy Ninker, Francine Poulet and Baby Lincoln are all getting their own stories, their own books.

I’m also working on another novel.

GRWR: It was wonderful to meet illustrator K.G. Campbell at your Pasadena signing. Although you did see illustrations in advance of publication, and made some alterations to the text to include both K. G. and the art director’s idea of comic strip-style artwork in the book, you never met or collaborated.  Is it a scary feeling as an author to know that your imagination and vision are in someone else’s hands?

KD: Yes, but I have learned to trust Candlewick so implicitly in this respect.  Art director Chris Paul’s vision of what the book should be is always something wonderful and astounding.

GRWR: Was the novel originally titled just Flora & Ulysses and, after the extra artwork, did The Illuminated Adventures get added or was it always intended to be The Illuminated Adventures?

KD: Originally, the book was entitled simply Ulysses, or the Squirrel.

I thought that this was very funny.  Other people were not quite as amused.  So, after many rewrites, the illuminated aspect came to the fore.

GRWR: I adore the bohemian look of Phyllis. Were you particularly fond of any character’s rendition more than others?

KD: I LOVE William Spiver.

Keith brings him to life so accurately and lovingly.

GRWR: On your website you advise aspiring authors to “Listen. Read. Write.” Do you have time to read as much as you used to and whose books are you reading now?

KD: I make time to read.  It is so important to me.  I can’t survive without a book.  Right now I am reading Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue.

GRWR: Could the book’s premise have worked with a dog or cat as a superhero instead of Ulysses, the squirrel?

KD: Well, I love the notion of vacuuming a cat.  I really do.  But as impossible as it seems to vacuum up a squirrel, it seems even more impossible to vacuum up a cat.  Or a dog.

But who knows?  Anything is possible, right?

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Lulu in LA LA Land by Elisabeth Wolf: Giveaway & Interview

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Lulu in LA LA Land (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, $6.99, ages 9 and up) by Elisabeth Wolf

I haven’t read a book so quickly in ages. Was it the fun script format or was it the main character? Both! In 10-year-old protagonist Lulu Harrison, author Elisabeth Wolf has created an immensely likable and relatable character despite her being the daughter of two Hollywood celebrities. Lulu narrates the story using a screenplay she has written rather than a traditional journal, but before that readers get a good feel for what Lulu’s all about in a prologue Wolf’s provided.

Lulu in LA LA Land by Elisabeth Wolf from Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky.

Lulu in LA LA Land by Elisabeth Wolf from Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky.

In that prologue Lulu explains that she’s not your typical L.A. tween. In fact she calls herself a “Not Fitter Inner.” Despite living in posh Bel Air, California, Lulu says her life’s not all “pampering and parties.” This alone drew me into the story, but then what kept me reading was how genuine Lulu felt. Unlike her trend-crazed older sister, Alexis, Lulu really just craved her busy parents’ attention, the one thing she found most difficult to get. Certain to get even the most reluctant readers engaged, Lulu in LA LA Land is the kind of novel I imagine one friend passing along to another so they can share and discuss it like they do with an episode of their favorite TV program.

This delightful romp around L.A. includes lots of well-known boulevards and boutiques, perfect for locals and L.A. wannabes. The descriptions of shopping jaunts seem spot on although frankly, I’ve only ever been inside one of the “in” stores Wolf mentioned. I’m still traumatized by the memory of the three figure price for a t-shirt! What works with Lulu in LA LA Land is that Lulu is also not into all the glam of the Hollywood scene despite it being her parents’ profession. Instead, Lulu enjoys her garden, the simple pleasures in life like baking, devouring a delicious taco, and spending time with her best friend, Sophia.

The premise of Lulu in LA LA Land is that Lulu decides, on her sister’s urging, to throw a SPA-tacular birthday party for herself to get her parents interested in showing up. What Lulu didn’t plan on was her party’s date conflicting with the movie industry’s biggest event, the Oscars. Add in the fact that Alexis wanted Lulu to invite only a certain type of girl and that type did not include BFF Sophia and you have two major dilemmas Lulu must handle so her party doesn’t become a SPA-disaster!

Today’s interview is with L.A. local author, Elisabeth Wolf, who has also signed a copy of Lulu in LA LA Land for our giveaway. The giveaway begins today, Friday, October 11, 2013 and runs through Sunday, October 20th ’til midnight. One winner of (1) one copy of Lulu in LA LA Land  will be selected via Random.org and notified on Monday, October 21st. Send your name and address to Good Reads With Ronna by clicking here. Be sure to write Lulu Giveaway in the subject. For an extra entry, please LIKE our Facebook page by clicking here.

Q & A With Elisabeth Wolf 

GRWR: When did the story idea first hit you?

EW: The idea of writing Lulu hit me twice. First, during the countless hours reading to my children, I realized that New York had Eloise. Paris had Madeline. Los Angeles, however, didn’t really have anyone!  I checked in bookstores and only found a book about a dog in LA. Second time happened thanks to my daughter visiting the set of TV show Sonny With A Chance and watching an episode tape.  Before she left, the producer gave her a copy of the script signed by the actors. For the next week, she sat in bed reading and re-reading the script. Late one night, prying it from her hands, I had my Eureka moment!  What better way for a girl to write about her life in LA than to write it as a screenplay?!

GRWR: At your book launch you mentioned that you and Lulu Harrison, the book’s protaganist, shared some common traits. What are they and why did you choose those in particular?

Elisabeth-Wolf

Author of Lulu in LA LA Land,
Elisabeth Wolf.

EW: I made Lulu a little like me and, of course, a little better! Here’s what Lulu got from me:  love of gardening, especially growing native plants, fruits and vegetables without using too much water or any chemicals; love of nature, bird watching, protecting trees, and keeping beaches clean; love of spicy, cheesy foods, especially Mexican food; and a love of baking and experimenting in the kitchen. She also has a healthy disinterest in keeping her hair looking picture perfect (to put it mildly).  I chose those traits because gardening, nature, and creative cooking are all, actually, very LA; however, when girls hear or read about LA, it’s mostly focused on shopping, celebrities, Hollywood Boulevard, and grooming and glamming (which is, of course, why I had to add the part about never bothering to brush her hair).

GRWR: Have you always wanted to be a writer or did you do something else before you decided to write Lulu in LA LA Land?

EW: I just talked to the librarian at Warner Avenue Elementary School to arrange a visit. She and I chuckled because I attended that school, but spent most of my time there daydreaming about being a writer. The problem for me, however, is that I really never knew how to be one.  So, I worked for many years in politics and government as a communications director and press secretary. Finally, one day I decided, “Hey, if I could write for politicians, I’ve got to also have the ability to write for children.” Both types of writing require clear, straightforward ideas, simple sentences, and a point of view.

GRWR: Is it hard to pick out all the different names of the characters and their hobbies or jobs?

EW: Actually, it wasn’t hard.  I read lots and spend time listening to children and grown-ups from all backgrounds and places. I store up information from conversations.  Things like names and activities or hobbies that make people happy or sad, swirl around my head all the time.

GRWR: When you were growing up, did you know any kids who felt ignored by their parents and who tried outrageous ways to get their parents’ attention like Lulu has to do to make her parents stop and take notice?

EW: Sadly, I knew lots of kids whose parents were too busy doing things to notice when their son or daughter needed more than superficial parenting.  Once I was at my friend’s house, and she suggested that I cut her hair.  I told her I didn’t really know how (I’d only given my dolls haircuts), but she said it didn’t matter. I thought she better check with her mother, who was home though we had not seen her all afternoon. My friend came back after a few minutes and said that her mother said, “fine.” I snipped per my friend’s instructions and the result was a botched bob. Needless to say, her mother had never approved the plan and the mother’s first look at her daughter’s new hair got her full attention.

GRWR: What part of the book did you enjoy writing the most? Which was the hardest part?

EW: Actually, the part I liked writing the most was when Lulu repairs her relationship with her best friend. Apologizing is difficult at any age so learning how to say you’ve done something wrong when you’re young is important. I had fun figuring out how Lulu should apologize, but not make it so heavy that fixing a mistake was something kids wouldn’t ever try.

The hardest part to write was making a mean girl turn nice. Writing about children acting unkindly to each other is difficult but necessary because it happens daily. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Turning a bully into a buddy took some reorganizing of plots and scenes. It also required me to think very hard about why children act in mean ways to each other.

GRWR: Did your daughter help you get a lot of the tween vernacular correct?

EW: One afternoon I was driving my daughter, Emmie, and my friend’s daughter, Amelia. I asked them for words and expressions they used at school. They hurled so many at me, I had them stop and start texting them to me asap!

There is NO way I would know the expression, “Totes Adorbes” without their help.

GRWR: Who were your favorite authors when you were a kid?

EW: My favorite writers then are still among my favorites now. I would still read any of their books. Enid Blyton. She wrote the Famous Five series. The fact that the stories took place in the wild English countryside made them even more fantastic. E.B. White. His imagination and his language made me want to be a writer.

GRWR: Which of your contemporaries is your go-to author today?

EW: Jeanne Birdsall. The Penderwicks Series. Sheryl & Carrie Berk. The Cupcake Club.

GRWR: How long did your entire writing and publishing process take from concept to finished book?

EW: At first, everything took a LONG time. I did not treat writing like my job. Once I decided to focus on this project and really work, everything went quickly. It was about a year from the time Sourcebooks wanted Lulu to the when they released it.

GRWR: What is Lulu’s next adventure?

EW: Lulu in Honolulu.  Her parents are making a movie on location and Lulu just may have to save the entire production.

GRWR: What tips can you share with kids interested in writing, but with no story idea in mind? How do they choose what to write about? Where should they look for inspiration?

EW: Deciding what to write can be so hard it keeps you from starting to write. Either you have too many ideas or none at all. If you have NO ideas for a story, come up with a feeling. Mad. Scared. Fun. Sad. Think about that feeling. Think about what causes that feeling in you or others.  Doing that, can help you come up with a story idea.

I have always had the opposite problem. I have too many ideas floating around. Always was and always will be a daydreamer.

For a long time I wanted to write a story about a girl who sells make-up in New York. Her brother is a spy and is kidnapped in India. She goes to rescue him. I could never start. I realized the problem was: I’d never been to India. I’d never lived in New York. My brothers are the most honest, open people and couldn’t spy a sleeping puppy without giggling. Oh, and when it comes to make up, I don’t know the difference between blush and eye shadow. One day, rather than linger over a story based on things I knew nothing about, I decided to write what I knew:  being a girl in LA can be tough for the Not-Fitter-Inner.

– Review and interview by Ronna Mandel