Author Interview (#2): Ame Dyckman

Ame DyckmanAme Dyckman returns to the blog today to talk about her Ezra Jack Keats award winning sophomore picture book: Tea Party Rules.

Miss Print (MP): How did you come up with the idea for Tea Party Rules?

Ame Dyckman (AD): I’ve adored tea parties since I was very little, when I first heard of… ya know, that particularly mad one. I was (and am!) crazy about Michael Bond’s Paddington, which taught me a little bear could drop into my life at any moment. And I really, really love cookies. I think all these things rolled about in my brain for a bit, finally bumped into each other, and said, “Hey! Let’s write a story together!”

MP: Who came first in this story? The girl or the bear?

AD: Cub came first. If there were no one to desire the cookies, it wouldn’t matter if there were no cookies, right? (I think I read this in philosophy class. Or in a fortune cookie.)

MP: Which part of Tea Party Rules was your favorite to write? Which was the hardest?

AD: My favorite part to write was Cub’s interaction with the teddy bear he usurps at the girl’s backyard tea party. It was the hardest part to write, too. How much did Cub understand about his new acquaintance? What would his reaction be? And most importantly (always!), would kids get it/love it/laugh? My Super Agent (Scott Treimel) and genius Viking editor (Leila Sales) were a huge help with this.

MP: Was there a particular part that you were particularly excited to see illustrated?

AD: I couldn’t wait to see Cub dressed up and miserable in the girl’s tea party finery. (Sorry, Cub! Way to take one for the team!) Illustrator Extraordinaire K.G. Campbell captured this scene perfectly. I still laugh out loud every time I see it, and it’s a riot at book signings! The kids crack up when I crack up!

MP: Would you consider yourself more like Bear or more like the little girl?

AD: I used to be more like the little girl, especially when it came to the way I thought something should play out. I’d get an idea in my head, and be terribly disappointed when the reality wasn’t as fun as I imagined it to be. But lately, I think I’m more like Cub, willing to roll with things more—at least until I hit my breaking point. (Like when I see cookies I can’t have.)

MP: Ending with a hard-hitting question: What is your favorite kind of cookie? What would you want served at a tea party?

AD: I have an absolutely-can’t-resist-zero-willpower weakness for Oreos. (The scene where Cub gobbles the cookies? I think someone slipped K.G. footage of me with a package of Oreos!) But for a tea party, you can’t go wrong with chocolate chip cookies, especially homemade ones. They’re bliss-inducing and fantastic for sharing down to the last cookie—so long as each half has roughly the same number of chips!

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

AD: My next book, Wolfie the Bunny, hops into bookstores everywhere on February 17th. It’s the funny sibling story of a baby wolf adopted by a family of rabbits. Mama and Papa are thrilled with the new addition to the family, but daughter Dot is certain, “He’s going to eat us all up!” It’s adorably illustrated by the amazing Zachariah OHora. I’m over-the-moon to work with him and the fabulous folks at LB Kids, and can’t wait for everyone to meet Wolfie and the fam!

Thanks again to Ame Dyckman for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find more information about her books on her website.

If you want to read more about Tea Party Rules check out my review!

Tea Party Rules: A Picture Book Review

Tea Party Rules by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by K. G. CampbellCub follows his nose through the woods all the way to a backyard party–with cookies! But this isn’t any party. It’s a tea party. A fancy one. And the little girl hosting the party has some very specific rules about how tea parties should go. Cub is willing to go through a lot for cookies. But how much can one bear take? And will the little girl realize a friend is just as important as a properly executed tea party?

Tea Party Rules (2013) by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by K. G. Campbell is a delightfully fun read about how sometimes breaking the rules can be just as important as following them. Both Dyckman and Campbell received the 2014 Ezra Jack Keats New Author and Illustrator Award for this title.

In her sophomore picture book, Dyckman once again uses sparse, well-chosen text to tell a whimsical story of two unlikely friends. Campbell’s detail-packed illustrations bring Cub and the little girl to life with vibrant colors.

You can also check out my interview with Ame Dyckman about this great book.

Afterworlds: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Afterworlds by Scott WesterfeldDarcy Patel has put everything on hold to be a writer. A real, published writer. She moves to New York City with a contract to publish her novel “Afterworlds” and its as yet unwritten and untitled sequel, part of her advance, and the dazzling title of soon-to-be debut author.

Darcy does not have plans for college. She does not have an apartment. She does not have any idea what happens next.

But somehow, in the world of writers–both seasoned and new–Darcy finds her people. Over the course of one tumultuous year in the city Darcy will learn about writing, publishing and even love. More than anything, she’ll learn if she has what it takes to really do this thing that she loves so much.

Interspersed with Darcy’s story is the story that brought her to New York in the first place: Afterworlds. After surviving an unthinkable attack, Lizzie realizes she has the ability to slip into the afterworld–somewhere that exists between life and death. With her new ability, Lizzie discovers that ghosts are everywhere as are other, darker things. Everyone seems to want something from Lizzie but even her new gifts might not be enough to keep those she loves safe.

Darcy and Lizzie’s worlds blend together in this story about facing your fears and finding yourself in Afterworlds (2014) by Scott Westerfeld.

The first thing to know about Afterworlds is that it reads like two books. Odd numbered chapters focus on Darcy’s “real world” story of moving to New York and revising Afterworlds. Even numbered chapters detail the “story within the story” of Lizzie and her journey into the afterworld. While this book clocks in at over 600 pages (hardcover) really it’s two stories–two books even–in one both told to excellent effect.

In addition this book features a truly diverse cast in a casual/accepted way. While it’s important to the story, the diversity never becomes the story.

The premise sounds too lofty. It sounds highly un-writerly. A novel about writing a novel? With the full text of that self-same novel? Surely it can’t work. Yet Westerfeld pulls it off beautifully. Although the story is highly self-aware (and often very meta), every detail works here. Darcy’s new experiences feed into her revisions of Afterworlds. Her growth as a young woman and author mirrors Lizzie’s growth. Both girls, in their respective arcs, accomplish great things.

While not for everyone, Afterworlds is astonishingly successful on every level. Sure to have high appeal for all aspiring authors or sci-fi/fantasy fans. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, The Strange Maid by Tessa Gratton, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

*This book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA14*

Can’t Look Away: A Review

Can't Look Away by Donna CoonerTorrey Grey has always wanted to be famous. But fame is a funny thing. You have to be famous for something. But that’s okay because Torrey found her calling at fifteen. As a beauty vlogger, Torrey is a taste-maker and a style guru with fashion tips and makeup tutorials to share. Thousands of people know about Torrey and her vlog, which also means thousands of people know when Torrey’s little sister Miranda is hit by a drunk driver.

Now Torrey and her parents have moved from Colorado to Texas. All three of them are lost in their own grief. Torrey also has to deal with backlash from her fans as details of the fight Torrey and Miranda had before the accident leak.

On top of bottling up her own guilt, Torrey also has to navigate a whole new high school. Smooth talking her way into the popular crowd and away from her chatty oddball cousin Raylene isn’t going to be easy. Add to that staying away from the oh-so-cute and oh-so-unacceptable Luis Rivera, while listening to everything he has to tell her about El Dia de Los Muertos, Torrey is going to have her hands full in Can’t Look Away (2014) by Donna Cooner.

Can’t Look Away is Cooner’s second novel. It follows Skinny which is set in the same town–readers of both will recognize familiar characters.

Conner offers a solid contemplation of fame in the modern age here as well as a moving story of grief and forgiveness. Luis and details about Dia de los Muertos customs add another dimension to this story and fit in well with the arc of Torrey dealing with her loss.

Although Torrey has stumbling blocks throughout the story, her growth from beginning to end is obvious and largely satisfying. Torrey’s early fixation on her relative celebrity is handled thoughtfully and emphasized with chapter titles and epigraphs quoted from Torrey’s vlog. Similarly Torrey’s worries over how viewers perceive her will ring true with anyone who’s ever posted a vlog (or blog) online.

Can’t Look Away is at times melancholy but it is ultimately a satisfying story about family and the strength that can come from finding yourself.

Possible Pairings: Now and Forever by Susane Colasanti, King of the Screwups by K. L. Going, Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Faces of the Dead: A Review

Faces of the Dead by Suzanne WeynMarie-Therese Charlotte is the Child of France despite never setting foot outside the palace. As the daughter of Louis the XVI and Marie Antoinette, Marie-Therese lives a life of luxury and isolation save for her dear friend Ernestine.

When the two girls realize they are strikingly similar in appearance, Marie-Therese hatches a plan to see the real Paris once and for all. But what Marie-Therese sees outside the palace is a shock. People are hungry and angry at the royal family. There is talk of revolution everywhere. After befriending a boy she meets in Paris, Marie-Therese is no longer sure who is right or even what to believe.

But as revolution rages and the Terror cuts a bloody path through Paris, Marie-Therese will be forced into hiding while Ernestine holds the princess’ place as a captive. Taking refuge with Henri at a well-known wax exhibit, Marie-Therese will learn that she is not the only one in Paris with a secret. Even the wax figures themeselves may be hiding something in Faces of the Dead (2014) by Suzanne Weyn.

Weyn delivers a powerhouse novel with high appeal and lots of action in a slim and easy to read volume. Although Marie-Therese often comes across as immature and naive, it generally makes sense in the context of the story and her origins.

A supernatural twist with wax figures and historical characters add a fun layer to this story as Weyn draws out real details to fantastical conclusions. Although the romantic element here is not always the most convincing, Faces of the Dead remains a solid story that serves as a fine introduction to both voodoo and the French Revolution.

An author’s note at the end of the story separates fact from fiction and highlights the real figures from history who feature in the story for further reading options.

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Week in Review: August 24

 

missprintweekreview

This week on the blog you can check out:

You can also enter my epic blog birthday giveaway all month!

(What to read after or instead of: The Fault in Our Stars was especially time-consuming so if you wanted to check it out, that’d be cool.)

Not much to report. I lost a day of my three day weekend to feeling sick but so it goes. No new books to report because I’m a boss with the discipline lately. And I’ve made it through all but two books I planned to read in August so I’m feeling rather smug.

I also made a comprehensive list of TFIOS read alikes. Maybe it’s of interest to you? I’m taking suggestions for my next list (in addition to planning to revise my Hunger Games and Twilight read-alike lists). ALSO do any of you have a better idea for how I can organize my book list index page? Let me know in the comments because I feel like there has to be a better way than the one I currently have.

This afternoon  I am going with Nicole to see If I Stay so expect more on that!

 

Let’s talk about book baggage (figurative not literal)

I’ve been thinking about books I didn’t enjoy. In particular two books I read last winter come to mind. (And I’m going to have spoilers below so if you see the book title and know you want to read it just skip the next paragraph.)

One book I know I didn’t enjoy because of personal hangups. Golden by Jessi Kirby is about a lot of things but the thing that felt most weighty to me was the fact that the main character was applying for a huge full-ride scholarship to a very expensive college. And she proceeded to sabotage herself at every turn up to and including the moment when she walks out of the big scholarship speech competition. At which point I was done with the book. I have no patience for certain things in books (one is reckless driving) and I was furious watching the heroine throw away this opportunity. Now, other people loved this book. And that’s fine. But as someone who struggled and worked really hard to get scholarships for college and grad school, I just couldn’t identify with the main character here at all.

The other book was Wither by Lauren DeStefano. I actually really enjoyed this book. But I read a good chunk of it while my mother was having her brain surgery for twelve hours last year. I finished the book after the surgery while I was commuting to and from the hospital and work. But every time I think about it now I get a horrible feeling which I recently realized stems from bad associations that have nothing to do with the book. I liked the book as much as I could in those circumstances. And I like the author. But I’ve been hesitant to continue the series because I don’t really want to go to that emotional place again.

Which brings me to the crux of this discussion post (which I’m calling Let’s Talk): How do you separate your own personal baggage from a book? Or is it something that does have to be separated? Do you think these kind of hang ups have to be disclosed or is the subjective nature of book recommending and reviewing implied?

Let’s talk about it in the comments.