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  • Books

    An Interview with Author Megan McDonald

    Interview with Megan McDonald, author of Judy Moody

    By: Isabella León – Bella the Book Fairy  

    I recently had the honor of interviewing Megan McDonald the author of the Judy Moody book series. Ms. McDonald was a delight to meet and get to know. She was completely down to earth, funny, kind and by the end of the interview it felt like we were old friends. 

    Isabella: When did you first decide you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

    Megan: Wow. Well, I always loved to write, and when I was in 5th grade I got my first story published in my school paper. I thought it was exciting to see my name in print, but my first story was about a pencil sharpener! I didn’t really think that was something (a writer) you could be until I went to college and studied English literature and writing. After college, I worked in libraries and was always around books and always had the idea in the back of my mind that someday I really want to write my own book for children.

    Isabella: If you weren’t an author, what would you be?

    Megan: I would probably still be doing something with books. I would love to be a part of some unusual library. In Minnesota they collect all the original manuscripts and drawings of children’s authors. I often scribble my ideas on a napkin, so they have some of the napkins on display. I just think it would be cool to be part of a collection like that and be able to go through all the boxes and look at all the original things of an author.

    Isabella: Do you ever feel intimated by the blank screen?

    Megan: Well, I don’t start with the title, that’s last! You know those composition notebooks? The ones that are black & white and have those sorts of marble-y covers? I usually have one of those for each book. And I just start by brainstorming and scribbling ideas into the notebook. By the time I get to the computer— it’s so hard just staring at that blank screen, I mean where do I begin!? So, I usually start with sort of the beginning and end and then figure out what else could be in the middle. That’s how I do it so that when I get to the computer it’s not just this blank document staring at me!

    Isabella: What inspires your books?

    Megan: Well with Judy Moody I would say probably most of my books are inspired by family stories. I have four older sisters, and many funny things happened growing up with that many sisters! I did change it from my sisters to a brother— I changed it to Stink— I wanted also to be free to use my imagination and not have to have it be exactly like it was in real life. A lot of the stories in the first book are inspired by real life. Just funny things, like “The Toad Pee Club” was a real club, the fake hand in the toilet was a real joke I played on my sisters! So, it started with wanting to write down all those funny family stories!

    Isabella: What do you like to read?

    Megan: I like to read— wow, well I like to read everything— but I do like reading mysteries! I grew up reading Nancy Drew so that inspired that! I like to read fiction, I like to read poetry. So, I usually have a poetry book around so that when I get up in the morning, I can read a poem while I drink my coffee— but usually, books that my friends or other writers I know tell me about. I like to find out from other people what they are reading so that I know that it’s going to be a really good story that I can kind of disappear into!  But pretty much everything I’m game for! Except maybe science fiction. That’s really the only thing that I’m not into, I don’t know why!

    Isabella: Do you have a favorite book, something that you relate to well?

    Megan: Well, when I was a kid my favorite book was Harriet the Spy! I really admire the books of Katherine Patterson! She is one of my favorite writers! She wrote The Bridge to Terabithia (upon the mention of this fantastic book I started internally sobbing), The Great Gilly Hopkins, which is one of my all-time favorite books. So, I really admire her writing. I like to read Louise Penny, I am reading this one mystery book set in a little town in Montreal, so that’s fun! And right now, I’m reading a book called My Brilliant Friend, which is going to become a television series, so I wanted to re-read the book again! It’s about two girls growing up in Italy, who are best friends and about their coming of age. I like stories that sort of start in childhood and take you up into adulthood.

    Isabella: Are you planning on writing any more historical fiction books?

    Megan: I do love historical fiction! I wrote this one book about the liberty bell, during the American Revolution when the British were coming into Philadelphia. They were going to melt down the liberty bell, and a group of farmers went in there at midnight and took down the bell and hid it in the basement of this church to save it! So, I like anything that’s really exciting. I wrote another book that’s in a series called Dear America, and they were diaries from a time in history, mine took place on the Santa Fe trail. Also, I wrote a mystery for American Girl and it was set in James Town.

    I love digging into the research and what’s cool about writing historical fiction— and I’ll probably keep doing it— is that you find so many stories that are true, and with the mystery at James Town I didn’t even have to make some of those things up! So many things happened to them!! But I don’t have anything specific in mind at the moment, but that’s a big love of mine!

    Isabella: I also read that you once chased down a book thief! Could you tell me about that?

    Megan: [laughs] I can’t believe you found that! So, when I first moved to California, I worked at this one bookstore, and teachers would come into the store and buy books for their classroom or school library. So, this teacher, who had ordered a whole bunch of books, was coming to pick up her books, and I had stacked them up into two big piles and put them into the paper bags with the handles. I set them in the back of our book store where the office was, but I opened the back door to get some air, so the bags were sitting right there. And then this guy rode his bicycle past them— it was in this shopping center with all these shops — so he rode past them on the back sidewalk and must have seen these big shopping bags, and he came up and grabbed the bags!

    He put them on his bike to steal them— and I’m sure he thought they were from Target or something— but they were so heavy because they were full of books that he couldn’t steer right because they were weighing him down! I hear all this noise, so I run out there and see him getting away on the bike! And I’m like “Stop!!! Thief!!!! Those are my books!!!!” And he dropped the books and we got them back! I don’t think he ever really got caught, but when the owner of the store came after I called her, she was like “Oh my gosh Megan! Next time just let them have the books! Don’t endanger your life for saving some books!” [laughs]

    Isabella: What’s next for you?

    Megan: Oh, good question! Let’s see— for two years I’ve been working on a new book that’s not Judy Moody. And it’s totally different— it’s fantasy! And for Judy Moody—Judy and Stink are going to be in a book quiz. So, they read a bunch of books and have to answer questions on the books, and face off against another team, and they find out who the other team is. They are in 2nd and 3rd grade and on the opposing team, there’s a 4th grader!

    She reads Harry Potter and her name is Mighty Fantaski! And they’re like, “How are we going to win against a 4th grader named Mighty?!?!” And right now, I’m working on another Stink book, and in that one there’s going to be a brand-new character called Lula. A South American Pink Toed Tarantula! So, Stink has to get over his fear of spiders to make friends with Lula!

    Read more reviews by Bella here.

     

  • Books

    Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

    Girlspring book review, a court of thorn and roses

    What do you get when you cross popular fairy tales with fantasy-fiction?

    You get a book series by Sarah J. Maas. She takes a new spin to classic fairy tales with her series A Court of Thorns and Roses. The first novel, A Court of Thorns and Roses, is based on the concept of Beauty and the Beast. The second novel, A Court of Mist and Fury, follows the story of Hades and Persephone. The third installment, A Court of Wings and Ruin, is based off the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

    As the first novel, A Court of Thorns and Roses, unfolds, the reader is introduced to numerous plot twists and heart-breaking situations.

    The story follows Feyre, a nineteen-year-old girl trying to live her life in the harshest of conditions.

    One morning, as she is trying to provide for her family, she shoots down a stray wolf. Something off about this wolf, but her need to feed her family took precedent as she pulled back the bow and arrow.

    After shooting the wolf, Feyre finds herself in a foreign land reigned by Fae. She spends months captive by the High Lord of the Spring Court, one of the many High Lords in all of Prythian. Maas uses mysterious beings in a way that makes them seem just as vulnerable as humans, despite their superior power.

    Feyre faces constant struggles with abuse, eating disorders, self-awareness, and bodily changes over the three-book series.

    You will not feel like you are being lectured on how these issues affect people, instead, you will feel as though you are suffering along with her. There will not be a moment where you do not relate to at least one of the characters and find yourself understanding all their feelings and actions.

    Sarah J. Maas has a way with character development that brought tears to my eyes more than once. I 100% recommend this book series to any book-lovers and book-haters alike. I think if you must endure reading a single novel for a book report, Maas should be your go-to author.

    This series is LGBTQ+ inclusive and has an air of horror, mystery, romance, and fantasy.

    If you need a good book for December break, I recommend this one. Check out a more in-depth synopsis here: http://sarahjmaas.com/court-of-thorns-and-roses/

  • Books, Confidence, Lifestyle

    Harness the Power of Your Inner Goddess!

    Harness the power of your inner goddess

    Harness the Power of Your Inner Goddess!

    Girl power author Ashley Holt shares her secrets on soul strong living for girls in her debut young adult book, I am Brave: Soul Strong Living for Girls. Boost confidence, develop self-esteem, and find your inner goddess! This would make an excellent gift for you or a friend!

    Link to the book, here! Ashley was also one of our Wonder Women! Learn more about the career talks here!

  • Books

    Les Miserables: An Honest Book Review

    Les Miserables: An Honest Book Review

    Set in the early 1800s of France, Victor Hugo crafts a moving tale about love and redemption, Les Misérables, which translates to “The Miserables.”

    Hugo was a highly influential novelist during the Romantic Movement in France. He published Les Misérables in 1862 to massive popularity and it is still beloved today. Hugo uses an elaborate plot, unexpected chance encounters, and hidden identities to spin a passionate tale. The novel focuses on Jean Valjean, a former convict, who struggles to escape from his past. The story follows the lives and interactions of several characters while weaving in historical events from France.

    The book is filled with dozens of wonderful, and not so wonderful, characters. Les Misérables challenges stereotypes of the rich and the poor, the free and the jailed, and the beautiful and the ugly. It also proves over and over again what the power of love for others can do. The story is used by Hugo to examine and criticize French society and law in the 19th century. He wanted to bring attention to not only the struggles of the poor but also their remarkable potential.

    In modern days, Les Misérables has been popularized through film, television, and stage adaptations. This classic and well-known story is still being told and read about around the world. Les Misérables continues to challenge people’s beliefs and shape their ideas. I highly encourage you to not only read Les Misérables but to understand and appreciate the themes and concepts present in this beautiful story.

    Need a copy? It’s easy to find for free at your public library, try setting up an account at Hoopla — https://www.hoopladigital.com/

    Looking for other great books? Check out this review of The Book Thief, http://girlspring.wpengine.com/tag/book-review/

  • Books, GirlSpring.com

    The Book Thief – Book Review

    Introducing, Bella the Book Fairy, our new contributor to GirlSpring. You can follow her on Instagram, @bellathebookfairy! Here is her book review of The Book Thief!

    The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak,

    is a beautifully written masterpiece, which I believe every human should read at least once in their lifetime. The Book Thief takes place in Molching, a fictional town in Germany during WWII, and it centers around a young girl named Liesel who lives with her foster parents and how she became the book thief.

    One prominent feature of this book is the fact that the narrator is Death himself. However, this is not as creepy as it may seem! Death is in no way the dark, menacing figure that we most often envision him to be, in this book he is droll and quite tender, showing sympathy towards the souls he carries away.

    Something I love about this book is how unique all the characters are and their relationships with each other. One relationship that I particularly love is between our main character, Liesel and her accordion-playing foster father, Hans Huberman. Firstly, Hans is one of my favorite characters in this book, his relationship with Liesel is very pure and sweet. He is extremely loving and patient with her and teaches her many things, but most importantly, he teaches her how to read.

    Other characters in our story include Rudy,

    Liesel’s best friend who has lemon-colored hair and is obsessed with the athlete, Jesse Owens. Rosa Huberman, Liesel’s foster mother, is loud, swearing, and stern. Rosa is a force to be reckoned with but despite her harshness, loves Liesel very much! Also, then there is Max Vandenburg, the Jewish man that the Hubermans are hiding in their basement, it’s wonderful to see how the relationship between him and Liesel grows and becomes quite endearing. Another character we meet is Ilsa Hermann, the mayor’s wife; the loss of her son has left her a mess, and it is something she is still trying to overcome. It is from her private library that Liesel steals many books.

    Zusak is wonderfully descriptive in a brilliant way, skillfully depicting each scene in such a way that you will always feel as if you are living inside the book.

    His writing draws you into the story, erecting intense sadness and joy in all the twists and turns, and attaches you to the lovable characters. The Book Thief is my favorite book, and I hope that you read it and enjoy it just as much as I did!

  • Books

    What’s on Your Book Shelf?

    What’s on Your Book Shelf?

    by GirlSpring intern Sarah Vice

    You may be exhausted from all the in-class readings that your teachers assign, but do you still take the time to read for pleasure? There are scientific studies that support the idea that reading for pleasure leads to higher reading levels. This also improves test taking abilities when a reading comprehension test is in question. If you have not taken the ACT yet, or exit exams for the school you are in, then there is still time to prepare. It does not all have to be literature books and academic journals. Try reading a fiction novel, a comic book, a murder/mystery novel, or something that might peak your interest.

    In turn, reading for pleasure can give you a boost in confidence to follow your dreams. It not only benefits your reading abilities, it also dips into your personal life. Some of my favorite book authors in middle school were James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer. Patterson always had a unique selection of stories to follow, one being completely different from the next. I would get so into the stories that I would finish one book in less than eight hours and be onto the next one.

    In high school, I became more interested in authors such as Sarah J. Maas, Suzanne Collins, and Becca Fitzpatrick. The stories were more for my age and delved deeper into the science fiction/fantasy genre. The leads in my favorite books were always female, and they gave me the courage to want to fight for what I believed in. The authors themselves had me pursuing a writing career of my own. I liked to look at the author’s biographies on the backs of each book and envision that I could some day achieve the same goals.

    Find an author or main character that gives you purpose. Try to imagine yourself in their shoes, then imagine what they would do if they were in yours. The kind of power it gives you to run free with your imagination is incredible. And while you are enjoying an entertaining story, with possible new role models, you’re improving your reading comprehension.

    If you are not into reading anything other than what is school designated, then check out these book recommendations and see if they might interest you:

    • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
    • Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
    • The Women’s Murder Club series by James Patterson
    • Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
    • Matched by Ally Condie

    Here is also a link to a description of how reading can affect your reading comprehension as well as your personal life:

    https://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-02-pleasure-life.html

  • Book Review, Books

    Fluent Forever – Book Review

    This is a fascinating, enriching book that teaches the reader how to teach themselves a foreign language. It explains how the brain works and retains information in an interesting, attention-grabbing way. The author uses several funny anecdotes about his journey in language learning, and how it shaped his own life. At first glance, it seems boring or uninteresting, but I was unable to put the book down. 9.5/10