I’m busy, busy, busy—trying to get as much writing done as I can in anticipation for a busy Fall 2020. But I did want to drop in to show off two new books—one already released, the other coming later this year (thus the busy Fall 2020).
Nerdy Book Club was gracious enough to host my cover reveal for my new middle grade, The Parker Inheritance. Please click-though to read more about my inspiration for the book!
The Westing Game meets The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 in a stirring mystery of past and present, as two kids search for a place in their families, their city, and their country with the help of each other.
The letter waits in a book, in a box, in an attic, in an old house in Lambert, South Carolina. It’s waiting for Candice Miller.
When Candice finds the letter, she isn’t sure she should read it. It’s addressed to her grandmother, after all, who left Lambert in a cloud of shame. But the letter describes a young woman named Siobhan Washington. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding the letter-writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle.
Grandma tried and failed. But now Candice has another chance.
So with the help of Brandon Jones, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues in the letter. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert’s history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter’s promise before the answers slip into the past yet again?
Okay, I’ll get to all the stuff in the title in a second. But first, a recap of 2015…
2015 was a weird, strange, amazing year. Thanks in much part to The Great Greene Heist, I was all over the place—Minneapolis, Phoenix, Chicago, North Texas, Houston, Los Angeles, etc. I participated in a number of national conferences and visited some great schools. A personal highlight was giving a keynote at the National SCBWI conference this summer.
I was in the big room, y’all. The big room.
A whole bunch of people and little old me at the 44th SCBWI Summer Conference (Photo by Paul O. Zelinsky)
I also sold a book–a stand-alone middle grade. It’s supposed to come out in 2017…if I finish it in time.
Friday, February 5 Visits w/ Anderson’s Bookshop (Chicago, IL) Saturday, February 6 @ 2:00 PM Event at Anderson’s Bookshop – La Grange La Grange, IL Monday, February 8 School visit with RJ Julia (Madison, CT) Tuesday, February 9 School visit with Parnassus Books (Nashville, TN)
Wednesday, February 10 School visits with Children’s Book Wold (Haverford, PA) Thursday, February 11 Scholastic Summer Challenge school visit at Lake Nona Middle School (Orlando, FL)
Friday, February 12 Visits with Watchung Books (Montclair, NJ)
This will be my first official book tour. I’m super excited, but it’ll be hard to be away from the girls for so long. (Especially considering that I’ll be participating in a week of visits in Hong Kong later this spring–my first international book trip!)
In addition, I’ve got another book coming out on April 26th. Here’s the cover for my Spirit Animals book, The Return:
Don’t Meilin and Jhi look fierce?
And that’s just through April. So all in all, there’s a lot going on in 2016. Hope to see you on the road!
Some background–in many ways, I see myself as the ideal purchaser of this book. I am African-American, with two picture-book age daughters. I grew up in South Carolina, about 120 miles from Charleston. I am descended from slaves from South Carolina (at least as far back as we can tell; history is not kind in that regard.) Most importantly, I love blackberries. (I even featured them in a YA novel, which is sadly out of print….)
So I was extremely excited when I first heard about this picture book. I was especially happy that the author and illustrator showcased a diverse set of people in the book. And then, very quickly, I learned of the book’s troubling content. What reviewers were saying made sense, but I wanted to read the book for myself before passing judgement.
I finally purchased A Fine Dessert. I read it. And read it again. And again. And studied each illustration.
And you know–it works. For me. What especially makes it work is the Author and Illustrator’s notes at the end. This book was made for discussion; more so, the creators seem to be urging forthat discussion to take place. (I wonder–should the creator notes be considered part of the “book”? A discussion for another day.)
I see why many people view the book as insensitive. The illustrations of the slave girl certainly made me pause. But I also see the illustrations of the slave family as a gateway for meaningful conversations with my daughters–about slavery, artistic choice, and finding joy in the midst of great sorrow. That being said, I don’t know if the book works for young readers without an adult there to facilitate discussion–which perhaps is a fatal flaw.
I understand why many people are upset about the book. And I don’t want (or have the right) to invalidate another reader’s feelings about the book.