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The Sydney Taylor Book Award 2019 Blog Tour – An Interview With Rachel Lynn Solomon

 

graphic for Sydney Taylor Book Award 2019 Blog Tour

 

Welcome to day three! As one of the bloggers participating in the Sydney Taylor Book Award 2019 Blog Tour, I’ve had the privilege to interview author Rachel Lynn Solomon about her terrific debut novel You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, an honor award winner in the teen readers category. Find out more about this week of enlightening interviews at the Association of Jewish Libraries website and at the official Sydney Taylor site. The full blog tour schedule is posted on the AJL blog and below if you scroll down following the interview.

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PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY OF YOU’LL MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE
Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on hYou'll Miss Me When I'm Gone book cover image er path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters.

 

INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL LYNN SOLOMON 

Good Reads With Ronna: Please tell us what the source of your inspiration was for writing You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone (Simon Pulse, $17.99 + 12.99, Ages 14+)

RLS: Thank you for having me on your blog! As a kid, I remember watching a couple TV shows that centered on genetic testing, and the idea of being able to know your fate, to an extent, stuck with me. Years later in early 2014, I was doing some random Internet research, looking for something that might spark a book idea. I landed on a page about Huntington’s disease, which I knew a little about. What stood out to me was the fact that a child of a parent with Huntington’s has a 50/50 chance of inheriting it, and I wondered: what if twin sisters received opposite results?
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GRWR: Your bio says you write about ambitious, complicated, sometimes unlikable girls who are trying their best. Can you please expand on that in reference to your main characters, Adina and Tovah, the 18 year-old fraternal twin sisters who do not get along?
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RLS: Absolutely! I firmly believe we don’t need to like the characters we read about — we just need to relate to them. Likable characters, in fact, are often quite boring to read about. Rule-following characters who always make the right decisions, who never hurt anyone’s feelings…not realistic, for one, and not as interesting as a reader or writer. Furthermore, in fiction, male characters are often given much more “permission” to be unlikable. Their flaws are more easily forgiven.
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In YMMWIG, Adina and Tovah aren’t bad people, but they make mistakes, they hurt each other, and they occasionally sabotage themselves. But they’re trying, and they’re relatable (I hope!), and at the end of the day, those are the kinds of characters I’m always going to gravitate toward.
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GRWR: Do you share any qualities with your main characters aside from Adina’s love of Siren red lipstick? 
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RLS: There’s a bit of myself in all the characters I write. While I don’t play viola like Adina, I grew up playing piano and guitar, and in high school, I was a stereotypical overachiever like Tovah.
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GRWR: What are your thoughts about the need for Jewish authors to write about more than just Holocaust stories despite the need for those to continue being told? And what kinds of books would you like to see written? 
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RLS: My major thought about this is: YES. We need stories about all kinds of Jewish experiences. I’ve mentioned this in other interviews, but growing up, I truly believed we only had one story to tell, and that story was the Holocaust. And that’s just devastating, to think your entire culture can be summed up by a tragedy. It’s why it took me so long to write Jewish characters of my own — while YMMWIG was my first published book, it was my fifth completed manuscript since I decided to get serious about writing. It was also my first with Jewish characters.
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I would love to see more historical novels featuring Jewish characters that don’t center on the Holocaust. IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE by Susan Kaplan Carlton, which comes out in April, is a great example of this, and I highly recommend it! I’d also love to see more intersectional Jewish stories like YOU ASKED FOR PERFECT by Laura Silverman, coming out in March, and COLOR ME IN by Natasha Diaz, coming out in August. Aside from that, more contemporary stories about Jewish teens simply living their lives while also being Jewish — whatever “being Jewish” means to them.
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GRWR: Do you feel that books featuring Jewish protagonists and teens tackling illness fall under the diverse books heading since they are so underrepresented and often stereotyped? 
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RLS: This is a weighty topic, and one I’m still grappling with. Judaism occupies an interesting space in diversity discussions. I’m keeping a list of 2019 YA novels by Jewish authors and with Jewish protagonists, and I have only 14 books on that list. It’s so underrepresented in YA, and yet I’ve had a trade review insinuate Judaism isn’t diverse. Jewish friends writing Jewish characters have asked me whether their book “counts” as diverse. Conversely, one review told me I made my characters Jewish “for diversity points.” To me, Jewish books are diverse books, and I plan to continue advocating for them in the book community.
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GRWR: Your YA novel tackles a tough topic of a mother slowly succumbing to Huntington’s disease as her teen daughters witness the decline. Also, early on in the story, one of the twins will learn after genetic testing, that she will get the disease, too. Your second novel also deals with a character needing a kidney transplant. What compels you to write about characters coping with illness? 
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RLS: I’m drawn most to topics that interest me — with YMMWIG, I wanted to learn more about Huntington’s disease and genetic testing, and with OUR YEAR OF MAYBE, which deals with the aftermath of a kidney transplant, I was curious about organ donation. Curiosity is a huge part of my writing process. My background is in journalism, and I love research, and writing is such a magnificent way to learn more about the world.
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With regard to illness, specifically, I wanted to write characters who are not defined by their illness. In YMMWIG, Adina and Tovah’s mother is suffering from Huntington’s. It was important to me that Huntington’s was not her sole defining characteristic. She enjoys her job as a teacher, old movie musicals, and knitting, and she has a meet-cute backstory with the twins’ dad. In OUR YEAR OF MAYBE I focus more on the aftermath of the transplant and how it affects the two protagonists’ relationship. I aim to write sensitive portrayals of illness where the illness is a piece of the story but not the entire story.
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Author Rachel Lynn Solomon photo by Ian Grant

Rachel Lynn Solomon Photo by Ian Grant

GRWR: Of the two sisters, Tovah is the practicing Jew who keeps kosher, studies Torah and observes Shabbat along with her parents. It was encouraging to read a YA novel featuring Jewish main characters and their perceptions navigating life in a predominantly non-Jewish school and world. Was this your experience too? 

RLS: Thank you! Yes — I was one of only a handful of Jewish kids in my Seattle suburb. I actually don’t remember meeting other Jewish kids outside of temple until middle school. And it wasn’t until college that I found more of a Jewish community — I took a year of modern Hebrew, I joined Hillel, and for a while, I attended services every Friday. These days, I am more secular, but I’m happy to say I have close Jewish friends for the first time in my life, which I’ve realized is so incredibly important, especially in a world that often makes us feel like outsiders.

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GRWR: Adina can be cruel, jealous, socially aloof and manipulative, often using her beauty to control guys. Is it easier to write a more likeable character such as Tovah or one who’s not so likeable? 
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RLS: That’s a great question. I’m not sure what this says about me, but Adina was much easier to write than Tovah! It might be that I’m more similar to Tovah, so writing Adina allowed me to get more creative. To this day, her voice is the clearest of any main character I’ve written.
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GRWR: Tovah is a neophyte when it comes to sex while Adina has been sexually active since age 14. Tovah myopically dreams of attending Johns Hopkins to become a surgeon while Adina dreams of playing viola in an orchestra. One incident four years earlier has shattered their tight bond. Sisters yet complete opposites and strangers. What would they or anyone for that matter have to do to become close again and repair the wounds? 
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RLS: I’ve never experienced a rift quite like theirs, but my sister and I fought constantly growing up. It’s hard to admit you did something wrong, but I think that humility is the only way to at least begin to repair a broken relationship. I’m not sure if it’s something that gets easier as we grow up and grow older, but I know it’s especially difficult as a teen.
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GRWR: The twins’ story is told through alternating POV which works so well. What do you like about this approach and what other YA novels using this dual POV have you enjoyed? 
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RLS: Thank you so much. I felt strongly that this was the only way the book could be told — each sister is a full person but only half the story. It was the same with OUR YEAR OF MAYBE. The book explores the aftermath of a kidney transplant, complicated by the fact that the donor is in love with the recipient. The book doesn’t work unless we have both POVs and understand both characters, whose arcs are so closely entwined. Some other dual POV books I love: I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson, JUST VISITING by Dahlia Adler, HOW TO SAVE A LIFE by Sara Zarr.
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GRWR: I found it hard to say good-bye to Adina and Tovah. How do you feel upon completing a book? 
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RLS: It’s been an adjustment! In the past, my manuscripts felt like living documents — I could open one up and tweak a sentence any time I wanted. But now, the book gets to a point where I have to be done messing with it. It’s hard for me to say goodbye, but it’s heartening to know that the book is done because it’s going out to readers who will be able to experience it for the first time.
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For anyone else who’s interested, I wrote a “five years later” short story about Adina and Tovah that originally went out as part of a preorder campaign. It’s available on my website here for anyone to read: https://www.rachelsolomonbooks.com/extras/. There are some sad moments, but I hope it provides a bit of additional closure!
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GRWR: What other irons do you have in the fire? 
RLS: My second book, OUR YEAR OF MAYBE, came out last month, and I have two more YA novels contracted through Simon Pulse. My third, a romantic comedy, will be out in the summer of 2020. It takes place in 24 hours on the last day of senior year, and follows two rivals who realize, as they reluctantly team up to win a senior class game, that they might be in love with each other. While it’s lighter than my first two books, the two main characters also confront anti-Semitism in a way I haven’t written about before.
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GRWR: Is there anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to mention or call to readers’ attention? 
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These questions were wonderful — thank you for again having me!

2019 SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARD BLOG TOUR

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2019

Emily Jenkins and Paul Zelinsky, author and illustrator of All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah
Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Younger Readers Category
At Out of the Box at the Horn Book

Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPré, author and illustrator of Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall’s Life
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
At A Fuse #8 Production at School Library Journal

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2019

Jonathan Auxier, author of Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Older Readers Category
At The Prosen People at The Jewish Book Council

Jane Breskin Zalben and Mehrdokht Amini, author and illustrator of A Moon for Moe and Mo
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
At 100 Scope Notes at School Library Journal

The Sydney Taylor Book Awards at ALA’s Youth Media Awards
At the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) Blog

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2019

Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Teen Readers Category
At Good Reads with Ronna

Elissa Brent Weissman, author of The Length of a String
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Older Readers Category
At Mr. Schu Reads

Susan Kusel & Rebecca Levitan, leadership of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee
At The Children’s Book Podcast

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2019

Vesper Stamper, author of What the Night Sings
Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Teen Readers Category
At Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Erica Perl, author of All Three Stooges
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Older Readers Category
At From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2019

Blog Tour Wrap-Up at The Whole Megillah

Reflections on the 2019 Sydney Taylor Book Awards at ALA at Susan Kusel’s Blog

10th Anniversary of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour at The Book of Life

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PRAESA RECEIVES ALMA AWARD 2015

 

PRAESA accepts the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award
at the Stockholm Concert Hall

It was an emotional moment when, this past Monday, June 1st, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) was presented to PRAESA of South Africa by Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke. PRAESA (Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa), is the first laureate ever from the African continent.

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Malusi Ntoyapi, Ntombizanele Mahobe and Carole Bloch from PRAESA. Skeppsholmen May 25, 2015 [Source:Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award]

PRAESA, an organization working to promote reading and literature for children and young people in South Africa since 1992, is based in Cape Town. It was founded by the political activist Neville Alexander who was imprisoned on Robben Island during South African apartheid era as a fellow- prisoner of Nelson Mandela. The organization emerged from Neville Alexander’s struggle against the apartheid education, intending to document alternatives that had been tried out that could inform the new education process.

At the Stockholm Concert Hall PRAESA was represented by Director Carole Bloch, Training Coordinator Ntombizanele Mahobe and Programmes Support Officer Malusi Ntoyapi. In her speech, Carole Bloch emphasized how stories actually can change children’s and young people’s lives:

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Carole Bloch, Director at PRAESA. Skeppsholmen May 25, 2015 [Source:Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award]

“We believe that the stories we tell, write and read can change lives. Sharing stories inspire us all to struggle against becoming overwhelmed by the challenges we meet each day in our fractured and profoundly unequal society. This is also the impetus behind the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign PRAESA runs.”

The Minister for Culture and Democracy, Alice Bah Kuhnke, underlined the importance of culture for democracy:

“For me as a minister of both culture and democracy it is very encouraging to see PRAESA’s successful work using culture to strengthen democracy. A wide range of culture, arts and literature that reaches both adults and children is a prerequisite for democratic development and for preserving democracy.”

Artist Kristina Amparo performed her own songs during the evening, and Swedish rap artist Petter performed his own text Fäller en tår. The program also included a street dance performance inspired by the South African Kwaito music style. Host for the evening was Ingemar Fasth, Head of Literature and Libraries at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern.

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PRAESA

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) is the world’s largest prize for children’s and young adult literature. The award, which amounts to SEK 5,000,000 (or U.S. $602,177.50), is awarded annually to a single recipient or to several. Authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and those active in reading promotion may be rewarded. The award is designed to promote interest in children’s and young adult literature, and in children’s rights, globally. An expert jury selects the winners from candidates nominated by institutions and organizations worldwide. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is administered by the Swedish Arts Council. Last year’s winner was Barbro Lindgren.

 

 

 

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Children’s Book Week 95th Anniversary & Giveaway!

BE A READER AND BE A WINNER!
ENTER OUR PEACHTREE PUBLISHERS
GIVEAWAY TODAY!

CBW_Poster-small

We’re celebrating Children’s Book Week,
“the longest-running children’s literacy
initiative in the country” with a wonderful
picture book giveaway courtesy of
Peachtree Publishers. To find out more
about Children’s Book Week, please
visit their website here.

Here’s the beautiful poster that
FANCY NANCY illustrator,
Robin Preiss Glasser, designed
for the 2014 Children’s Book Week.

Today, May 12th, is the last day to enter your vote for favorite book, author and illustrator. Visit the voting page for the Children’s Choice Book Awards and the Teen Choice Book Awards to make your voice heard. Click here to vote.

WIN THREE FABULOUS PICTURE BOOKS!

Here’s a list of the three terrific picture books (worth a total of $49.50) from Peachtree Publishers that we’ll be giving away to one lucky winner. We’ve reviewed two of the three books on the blog so you’re likely to be familiar with the stories.

1. First, to be eligible, all entrants must first LIKE Good Reads With Ronna on either Facebook or Twitter.
2. Use the COMMENT box below to send your email entry privately.
3. Please include your contact info. No P.O. Boxes, and U.S. only. Good luck!

NOTE: This giveaway ends at midnight on Monday, May 26, 2014. One winner will be selected by Random.org and notified on Tuesday, May 27th.

cover-2Lost for Words
Written & Illustrated by Natalie Russell
Age 4-8
Hardcover: $16.95

 

 

 

 

 

 

cover-3Churchill’s Tale of Tales
Written & Illustrated by Anca Sandu
Age 4-8
Hardcover: $16.95

 

 

 

 

 

TJ61-9-2013 JKT 175L CTP_Layout 1The Grudge Keeper
Written by Mara Rockliff
Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
Age 4-8
Hardcover: $16.95

 

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Hilary Taber’s Top Ten Kids’ Books Authors

Here’s a different kind of list to kick off 2014. Please read what reviewer and bookseller Hilary Taber has entitled her Author Shout Out for Good Reads With Ronna.
We always look forward to Hilary’s take on what’s selling in her store and can just picture her standing up on a stage, behind a podium, announcing all these wonderful winners.

The Top Ten Authors That I Most Admire,

Why You Should Know About Them,

& Why I’m Giving Them a Coveted Bookseller Award

UnknownWell, folks, I’ve officially read over 400 hundred children’s books! This has given me a real perspective on the craft of writing, and what makes an author someone whose books I will recommend without hesitation. I’ve gathered together my top ten authors, and the reasons why I am their fan for life. Certainly, personal taste has a lot to do with it, but so does a winning streak of books. In each of these excellent books the writing (and sometimes the art as well) speaks for itself in terms of excellence. Each author, in their own way, has hit their stride with every book they write. So, from board books to young adult, here are my top ten author shout outs. I only wish I had a lovely statue with a bookseller on top in gold to give to each of you, but hope this star will suffice.

Best Board Books and Pop Up Books:

Winner: Petr Horáček

CBA - Coveted Bookseller AwardHis latest book, Animal Opposites, was a wonderful collection. Each illustration was so finely done.  There is pairing not just animals, but also opposite characteristics such as quiet and loud. Each pop up element was so beautifully done, and so pleasing to the eye. His board books are colorful, eye catching, and beautifully drawn. In this author and artist’s work, beautiful art meets a lively story. Strawberries Are Red remains my very favorite. Petr, you rock, and your books are this bookseller’s dream come true for the two and up set!

 

For more information, please visit this website – www.petrhoracek.co.uk

Best Picture Books:

Winner: Mo Willems

CBA - Coveted Bookseller AwardCan we ever have too much of Mo Willems’ books? I think not. Every book is so full of humor that appeals to both adults and children. Willems books are always story time hits. Do you know how rare that is? It’s very rare that I am able to sell a book that is more guaranteed to bring a smile and a laugh to the entire family. My favorite books are in the Pigeon series, but the beginning reader series of Elephant and Piggy has earned a special place in my heart for being such fantastically engaging beginning reading. Thank you so much, Mo, for your humor. Thank you for sharing it with us, and by sharing it you make reading so much fun!

 

For more information, please visit this website – www.mowillems.com

Best Junior Fiction:

Winner: Kate DiCamillo

CBA - Coveted Bookseller AwardKate, how can I tell you how much your books mean to me, and to all the children to whom I’ve sold them? Your books are so full of hope at an age when children are just beginning to learn that the world needs their hope. I’ve never met a child who wasn’t just in love with your work. The care you put into each book makes it shine like stars in the night sky. When I read a book written by you, I admire the effort you put into each book, and also the love. God bless you, Kate! My favorite titles include Because of Winn-Dixie, and Kate’s latest book, Flora and Ulysses about a girl named Flora who discovers a new best friend in the form of a squirrel, named Ulysses who has super powers, can write poetry, and can type!

 

For more information, please visit this website – www.katedicamillo.com

 

Winner: Jeanne Birdsall

CBA - Coveted Bookseller AwardWill I ever tire of reading about the charming Penderwick family? I really don’t think so. Every book is filled with adventure, and the reassuring presence of family. I’ve loved seeing each character grow and change to become the person that they can most fully be. Plus, there’s Hound, the Penderwick’s dog! I adore Hound. Little Women comes to mind as a possible “ancestor” of the Penderwick series. I so appreciate that every child can recognize some part of themselves in each of the sisters in the family, just as you can in Little Women. There’s something for everyone here in this lovely series of the changing lives of this most eccentrically beloved family.  This is a family who affirms that the person you are is fantastic. This type of personal affirmation is present throughout the books. In fact, you should be free to be yourself!

For more information, please visit this website – www.jeannebirdsall.com

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I’m Very Versatile!

Several months ago for National Women’s History Month I reviewed a new children’s book by a very talented author.  I chose They Stood ALONE!: 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference by Sandra McLeod Humphrey because it stood alone amongst the abundant amount of books available.  I also remembered her name from a fab book about bullying she penned that I had never had a chance to review called Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-downsI’d held onto it because a gut feeling told me I’d find its approach useful. And indeed it was. When my young son became the unfortunate victim of bullying at his school, Hot Issues, Cool Choices was the most appropriate book for us. If you visit her site, http://www.kidscandoit.com/blog/ I am certain you, too, will get hooked on Ms. Humphrey!

I was “gobsmacked” as the British say when recently Sandra nominated my blog, https://www.goodreadswithronna.com, for the cherished “Versatile Blogger Award.” How lucky was I?!!  It is with heartfelt thanks to Sandra that I can now pass along this honor to bloggers I feel deserve this award, but not without a huge internet hug to Sandra.

Instructions for the Award:
1. Thank the person who gave you the award
2. Include a link to their blog.
3. Paste the award on your blog.
4. Share 7 things about yourself.
5. Pass this award on to as many as 15 blogs you enjoy reading and let them know about the award!

Seven Things about Me:

1) In addition to getting lost in books, I love getting lost in antique markets.
2) My husband and I grew up 5 miles apart, but never knew each other.
3) I ADORE all things standard poodle.
4) I have an innate love for Breyer’s chocolate ice cream rivaled only by gelato.
5) I speak French and German.
6) I am writing a picture book and chapter book.
7) I cannot ever keep a list down to 7, though a lucky number it may be, so …
8) Paris is my favorite city in the world with Prague and London close seconds.
9) I’ve been to Russia 4 times, pre- and post-communism.
10) I have an 11-year-old-son with Sensory Processing Disorder.

Bloggers Who Are Versatile:

Debbie @ http://smartpoodlepublishing.com/blog/ (Smart Poodle Blog)
Kathy @ http://www.kchblog.com/  (Random Musings)
Shannon and Alysia @ http://oxygenmaskproject.com  (The Oxygen Mask Project)
Deborah @ http://deborahblum.blogspot.com (The Wandering Wallflower)
Kelly @ http://kellybarnhill.wordpress.com  (Kelly Barnhill)
Jess @ http://adiaryofamom.wordpress.com (A Diary of a Mom)

Find out the origins of this awesome award by clicking here.

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