I really love the book blog Pop! Goes the Reader. It’s beautifully designed and illustrated, and Jen’s coverage of MG/YA books is so inclusive, thoughtful, and creative. So I was thrilled to partner with her to discuss Alone in the Woods. Check out our conversation to learn more about the inspiration behind the book, including my love for Wisconsin wildlife, and how my personal experiences with a fractured friendship helped me write this story–along with my advice for any readers going through something similar.
And earlier this fall, Jen compiled a fantastic list of 25 MG and YA survival stories to give young readers hope. If you enjoyed Alone in the Woods and The Disaster Days, check out the list to find other adventurous books!
To say 2020 has been a challenging year for us all is definitely an understatement. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to write an article for Karen Jensen’s SLJ blog, Teen Librarian Toolbox, about resilience–one of the themes of my latest MG novel, Alone in the Woods:
Check it out to learn more about real-life sisters who survived being lost in the woods, as well as tips to encourage resilience, preparation, and community engagement in your own family!
It took me years, and four other books, to find the right story, but now I can finally answer: Yes!
My latest middle-grade novel, Alone in the Woods—which releases today!—is a thrilling survival story about Jocelyn and Alex, two former best friends who must work together to stay alive after getting lost in the Nicolet National Forest. But in some ways, it’s a love letter to my beautiful and ecologically rich home state. Set in both Madison—where I was born and raised, and still spend much of my time—and the Northwoods, I hope I captured the magic of a Wisconsin summer in its pages. From tubing on a river (my family used to go up to Twelve Foot Falls on the Pike River in Marinette County), to hiking in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (the Cathedral Pines is one of my favorite spots—the old-growth trees are mesmerizing), to enjoying a buttermilk doughnut at Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty—those cherished experiences all helped inspire the book’s setting.
However, the girls’ harrowing adventure—in which after a tubing mishap, they wander off a trail and find themselves hopelessly lost, wearing only swimsuits and water shoes and with just the contents of their backpacks to help them survive the elements for days and nights—is thankfully not inspired by my own experiences exploring Wisconsin’s wild places. Well, except for all the bug bites. Those mosquitoes and deer flies can be vicious!
I was thrilled to read Booklist‘s review of Alone in the Woods–especially because they highlighted the “moments of peril and bodily danger,” but felt that “but the most tender wounds here are the emotional ones nursed by the two girls.” That’s exactly what I was going for! It’s really special to read a review that “gets” what you were going for as the author. 🙂
I got a fun surprise in the mail the other day–a big box of books. Not just any books, though–advance reader copies of Alone in the Woods!
Of course I had to take them out to the park for a proper photo:
Here’s a sneak peek at the interior design (photo taken while I was reviewing the final pages):
This story is told in two points of view, and I love how the designer found subtle ways to distinguish those sections.
Alone in the Woods will be out in October 2020, and I can’t wait to share it with readers. 🙂
I’m thrilled to share that The Disaster Days is an official 2020 ILA Teachers’ Choices Selection. From ILA’s website:
Our Choices reading lists, shaped by thousands of students and educators across the United States, serve as a valuable resource—particularly in these times of remote and virtual learning. They bridge the distance by connecting us with stories that kids, teens, and teachers find inspiring, comforting, and empowering. . . . Teachers’ Choices identifies approximately 30 books rated by teachers, librarians, and reading specialists as outstanding for curriculum use.
I’m honored! You can view the whole list here. Also, the release of the Choices lists coincides with Children’s Book Week–an annual celebration of reading with tons of fun resources for kids, families, and educators. Check it out!
Need something new to listen to?
I researched and wrote the script for this Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls podcast about Hedy Lamarr. Maybe you know of her as a famously talented and beautiful actress–but did you know she was an inventor whose frequency-hopping technology allows us to send secure texts and emails today? Hedy’s even known as the “Mother of Wifi”!
Listen and learn all about Hedy’s incredible life and legacy. The podcast is read by the acclaimed actress Tatiana Maslany(!) and the whole series is entertaining and inspiring. I’m excited to be part of it!
I’m really excited to share that The Disaster Days was selected by Bank Street College of Education as one of its “best books” of 2020. From Bank Street’s website:
[The 2020] edition includes more than 600 titles chosen by the Children’s Book Committee as the best of the best published in 2019. In choosing books for the annual list, reviewers consider literary quality and excellence of presentation as well as the potential emotional impact of the books on young readers. Other criteria include credibility of characterization and plot, authenticity of time and place, age suitability, positive treatment of ethnic and religious differences, and the absence of stereotypes. Each book accepted for the list is read and reviewed by at least two committee members and then discussed by the committee as a whole.
Awesome! You can view the whole list here and grow your reading list 🙂
The scariest thing about writing The Disaster Days was realizing how the heightened scenario I put my characters in–which really felt like capital-F Fiction when I started working on the book, despite all that research–was, actually, pretty realistic. Natural disasters do happen, and when they do, they turn our worlds upside down.
As we all understand now, pandemics also happen, and they are just as unsettling and devastating.
Readers have reached out to me over the past couple of weeks to share how The Disaster Days has some new layers of resonance and relatedness now that most of us are hunkered down at home. And I started to think that maybe readers–especially young readers–might enjoy discussing Hannah’s story of resilience right now. But, of course, we all need to practice social distancing! #flattenthecurve
So I’d like to host virtual video book club discussions for any interested readers–of all ages, including kids, educators, and parents–on Google Hangouts. Up to 9 readers* and I will discuss the book for a half hour, and there will be time for an open Q&A. The first is scheduled for Thursday, April 2, at 3:30 PM EST–but I’ll keep scheduling sessions if more readers are interested.
How to join? Send me an email and I’ll add you to the list. You’ll receive an email a few days beforehand to confirm. If you’d like to think up some questions or discussion ideas ahead of time, check out the book club discussion guide and other resources.
Hope to see you there, and be well!
*I think Hangouts can only handle 10 email addresses in one video chat. If I’m wrong and the max is higher, there can be more. And please feel free to attend as families, siblings–whoever is in your shelter-in-place pod!