Interview with Julie Sternberg, Author of Friendship Over

[caption id="attachment_6737" align="alignright" width="300"]Julie Sternberg photo Julie Sternberg photo by Meredith Zinner[/caption] Yesterday I posted a review of Friendship Over by Julie Sternberg and offered a chance for readers to win a copy of the book. Today, I'm Julie is stopping by for an interview. Here's her short bio followed by the interview questions. Julie Sternberg is the author of the best-selling Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie and its sequels, Like Bug Juice on a Burger and Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake. Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie is a Gryphon Award winner and a Texas Bluebonnet Award finalist; Like Bug Juice on a Burger is a Gryphon Honor Book, a Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards Nominee, and an Illinois Monarch Award Finalist. Formerly a public interest lawyer, Julie is a graduate of the New School's MFA program in Creative Writing, with a concentration in writing for children. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York. For more information about her life and work and to download free activity materials based on her books, visit her website: juliesternberg.com. You’ve launched a new series for young readers called The Top-Secret Diary of Celie Valentine. What do you like most about writing for kids? JS: I still have trouble believing that I get to spend my days in the world of children’s books. I’ve always felt so happy there, first as a reader and now as a writer. And sometimes I hear from kids who seem to feel about one of my books the way I felt about my favorite books. There’s nothing more rewarding. In this first book of the series, Friendship Over, Celie’s dad gives her a diary and a punching bag for her 10th birthday. Why do you think each of these things may be important for a girl her age? JS: Life can get so complicated for kids Celie’s age. Friendships can start to feel unsettled. Family dynamics can, too. Celie, for example, can’t understand why her best friend, Lula, has suddenly turned mean. Her older sister, Jo, has turned twelve and is making decisions that mystify and annoy Celie. And their grandmother’s health is starting to decline. It’s natural to feel scared, confused, frustrated, and maybe angry in the face of all that change. Punching bags are the perfect way for kids like Celie to take out their frustrations and anger, and diaries are the perfect place for them to try to sort out their feelings. Friendship Over is not only about Celie’s friendship with Lula, but also her sister’s friendship with Trina. Why did you decide to highlight two very different types of friendship issues in the book?   JS: Friendships can be challenging in different ways. Sometimes two friends are good together generally, but something goes awry. They need to work to get the friendship back on track. That’s the case with Celie and Lula. In other instances, friends are just not well matched. Celie senses immediately that Trina is bad for Jo, Celie’s sister. (Celie thinks Trina is bad for practically everyone.) I like considering a range of friendship problems and acknowledging that a solution that’s good for one might not work well for another.   Readers also learn a lot about Celie’s family, including some concerns about her grandma’s health. Why would you say it’s a good idea to include characters of an older generation in books for young readers?   JS: I like stories that feel real. And most kids in fact spend plenty of time interacting with adults—their own parents; their friends’ parents; grandparents; teachers; neighbors. A story without grownups wouldn’t feel true. And though a children’s story of course has to focus on the interests and concerns of kids, I think grownups qualify. Celie, for example, adores her grandmother. So she is absolutely interested in and concerned about her grandmother’s health.   Is there anything you can share about what’s next in the series?   JS: I’m just finishing the second book, SECRETS OUT, now! Celie is still struggling with changes around her. Her sister, Jo, is starting her first relationship with a boy—and being annoying as a result. Celie’s best friend, Lula, has become close friends with another girl in their grade, making Celie a little jealous. Celie behaves badly as a result, then tries to hide what she’s done. She’s keeping other secrets, too, about her grandmother’s troubling behavior. It’s been fun to write; I hope it’s fun to read. Is there anything else you’d like to say to readers at Mother Daughter Book Club. com?   JS: I love that you’re reading books together. I recently learned that a book I adored as a kid, HANGING OUT WITH CICI, by Francine Pascal, has been re-issued. I shared it with my older daughter, who loved it, too. We’ve talked about its strengths and weaknesses and our reactions to the characters’ decisions; we’ve both now read the sequels; and we’ve talked about them. I can’t think of a better way for mothers and daughters to connect.  

Book Giveaway & Review: Friendship Over by Julie Sternberg, Illustrated by Johanna Wright

Friendship Over cover imageToday I'm part of a blog tour to introduce a new series for young readers: The Top-Secret Diary of Celie Valentine and its first book, Friendship Over. As part of the tour, I have one copy to give away to a reader in the U.S. Just be sure to comment on this post and tell us something you appreciate about a close friend. Leave your comment by midnight (PDT), Monday, October 13. And check back tomorrow when I will feature an interview with the author, Julie Sternberg. Also, see a list of the other stops on the blog tour following my review. Review: For her 10th birthday, Celie’s dad gives her a punching bag and a diary, so she can take out her aggressive feelings on something other than her sister and write down her thoughts. Over the course of a few weeks’ time, Celie comes to value both gifts. Lots of big issues are on Celie’s mind. Her formerly best friend Lula isn’t talking to her anymore and her teacher refers them to a program to will help them work out their problems. Her sister Jo has a new friend that Celie doesn’t like. And her grandma may be experiencing a few health problems, which causes everyone in the family to worry. It’s a lot for a 10 year old to deal with. Friendship Over by Julie Sternberg is the first in a new series for young readers aged 8 to 11. The book explores not only issues of friendship, both Celie’s and her sister’s, but also issues that come up in families. Celie’s voice is fresh, honest and quirky. She likes to know what’s going on in her family, and she gets frustrated when adults think she’s too young to be clued in on important matters. Johanna Wright’s illustrations capture Celie’s spirit, which shows her at times defiant, puzzled, worried, angry, loving, happy, bored, and creative—in short, everything you’d expect from a young girl trying to make sense of life as she grows up. Friendship Over is a delightful first book for the series, and I highly recommend it for book-club readers aged 8 to 11 and their moms. The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Here are the other places you can find Julie Sternberg and info about Friendship Over on the blog tour:

Book Review: Belches, Burps, and Farts Oh My by Artie Bennett

Belches, Burps and Farts, Oh My cover imageThere’s no denying that gasses erupting from bodies fascinate little kids. Which is why Artie Bennett’s picture book Belches, Burps, and Farts Oh My! should be a hit with the younger crowd. Beyond the funny sounds and nasty smells, however, there’s a lot to be learned about these functions of the body that affect more than just people. Bennett, with the help of delightful illustrations by Pranas T. Naujokaitis, gives insight into some of the facts. For instance, did you know that we cannot burp while on our backs? Or that a few living things, like jellyfish, sponges, and anemones, can’t pass gas? There are more little facts such as these thrown into the narrative that will keep kids turning pages. The illustrations of bacteria, animated vegetables, farting termites, and people reacting to gaseous smells will keep them coming back again and again. There are also a couple of pages of “Fart-Tastic Facts & Burp-Tacular Bits” at the back. It’s a fun and funny, irreverent look at something we all do. The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review and Giveaway: Rory’s Promise by Michaela MacColl & Rosemary Nichols

Rory's Promise cover imageToday I'm taking part in a blog tour for a book called Rory's Promise by Michaela MacColl & Rosemary Nichols. This story, based on a particular incident that happened during the time of the orphan trains, is a great story of family loyalty, sticking up for friends, and doing what's right even when it means defying authority. I have one copy of Rory's Promise to give away. If you'd like to enter, just leave a comment below about why you enjoy reading historical fiction. Be sure to comment by midnight (PDT), Tuesday, October 7 (U.S. addresses only please). Also, you may be interested in a few other stops on the tour: Friday, 9/19          Kirby Larson's blog Mon 9/22             Middle Grade Mafioso Tue 9/23               Mother/Daughter Book Club (you're here!) Wed 9/24             Middle Grade Minded Thu 9/25              KidLit Frenzy Fri 9/26                Unleashing Readers Visit Michaela MacColl's website to find out more about her books for young readers and to see the trailer for Rory's Promise. Now, here's my review: At 12 years old, Rory is too old to still be in the nursery room with the young children being cared for at the Foundling Hospital in New York City. But she is indispensible to the nuns, helping to calm and care for the little ones who have been orphaned or abandoned. Rory in particular wants to stay with Violet, her five-year-old sister. When the nuns decide to adopt Violet out to a family in the Arizona territory, Rory is determined to find a way she can stay with her sister. Rory’s Promise by Michaela MacColl and Rosemary Nichols is a fictional story built around a real-life incident. Through Rory’s eyes, the historical events come alive, giving readers a glimpse of life in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century and two organizations that sent orphans by train to families out west. The Children’s Aid Society, which makes an appearance in the novel, took a very different approach from the Foundling Hospital, which chose appropriate families in advance of adoption. Knowing that what the nuns and their charges faced when they arrived in Arizona actually happened makes it all the more fascinating. It also provides a glimpse into the racially charged atmosphere that existed on the frontier at the time. Rory’s Promise is historical fiction at its best; I highly recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 12. The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Marina cover imageOscar lives in a boarding school in Barcelona, and while wandering the streets after school one day, he hears a melody that draws him to an old mansion overgrown by vines. Startled by the owner, he accidentally takes a watch. When he returns it, he meets, Marina, who lives alone in the house with her painter father and a prescient cat. As Oscar spends more time with Marina and her father, he realizes their lives are marked by the tragic death of her mother and a current illness. Marina finds solace in Oscar's company, and the two branch out to explore the city. While out, Marina leads Oscar to a cemetery, where she has noted a mysterious woman in a black veil leaving flowers on an unmarked grave. As the two delve into the mystery, they uncover a long-ago tale of madness and destruction that threatens their own safety. As with much of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s work, Marina creates its own genre. Part horror, part love story, part mystery, and more, Zafon weaves a tale that is both complicated and fascinating, hooking readers with vivid descriptions of crumbling mansions, dark streets, damp sewers, tragic lives. Characters from Zafon’s other novels make cameo appearances, tying in the stories of people readers may be familiar with. Marina is a dark tale well told that will keep you enthralled until the last word. The publisher provided me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: I Am the Mission by Allen Zadoff

I Am the Mission cover imageThe last person anyone would suspect of being an assassin is a teen, which is why Boy Nobody is usually so successful on his missions. He goes into a situation, eliminates the target, and moves on. But he found himself getting involved with a girl on his last case, and took some time off afterward without letting The Program know where he was. His superiors aren’t sure if they can trust him, so his next mission is a test in more ways than one. It should be straightforward: get close enough to the head of a military training camp for teens to assassinate him while making it look like an accident. But when plans go awry, Boy Nobody must rely on all his training to avoid suspicion while completing his task. I Am the Mission by Allen Zadoff is the second in The Unknown Assassin series. Like the first book I Am the Weapon (originally released as Boy Nobody), this story is likely to keep you up all night reading it. The thought of teens training with military weapons is as unsettling as the idea of teen assassins, and the scenario in I Am the Mission seems uncannily plausible. It’s a thrilling read. The publisher provided me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Just Call My Name cover imageSam and Riddle are finally feeling safe after they spent years moving from place to place with their paranoid schizophrenic father. Their dad is behind bars, and they have found a home with the family of Sam’s girlfriend Emily. But trouble still dogs the boys as Emily’s younger brother isn’t sure he wants Riddle being part of the family and Sam struggles to become independent while proving he’s worth the confidence the family places in him. Neither knows that true trouble is brewing as their father is determined to have revenge on his sons and the family that helped them. Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a fast-aced story of unconventional relationships. Sam wants to do the right thing, but since he didn’t grow up with guidance from a loving parent, he’s not sure he knows how to recognize what the right thing is. Emily wants to believe in Sam, but she’s not sure she will ever really know and understand him. Riddle wants to make everything work out so he can catch up on so many of the things he missed when he was on the road. In the end, they will all have to dig deep to find the courage to face situations they never imagined. I loved reading Sloan’s previous book with these characters, I’ll Be There, and while this is a follow up, it can be read and appreciated on its own. Just Call My Name is a satisfying continuation that delves more deeply into the main characters and their motivations. The publisher provided me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

I Kill the Mockingbird cover imageWhen Lucy, Michael and their friend Elena are talking about how people don’t read as much as they used to, they come up with a plan to make Lucy’s favorite novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, red hot. The three of them reason that if they make it seem like the book is unavailable, people will want to read it. What they don’t figure in is how a little publicity combined with the Internet can quickly turn into a situation spiraling out of control. I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora is a tribute to readers everywhere. Lucy has plenty to worry about over the summer between 8th and 9th grade, including a mother who is recovering from cancer and the fact that she may be feeling like more than a friend to Michael. The plan she and her friends come up with to create buzz around Lucy’s favorite book starts out simply before it goes viral. By the time the three of them figure out how to end it, they have learned a lot about the value of honesty, relationships, and taking chances. This is a great book for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 12 to read. It delves into issues of friendship, teens’ relationships with their parents and other adults in authority, religious faith, and the things we learn from reading books. I highly recommend it. I checked out a copy of this book from my local library.