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#ALAMW19 Recap: Interviewing Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of Hey, Kiddo, 2019 Nonfiction Award Finalist

Cover of Hey, Kiddo
Image courtesy of Jarrett J Krosoczka

Graphic memoir Hey, Kiddo is a finalist for YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction Award, as well as a nominee for multiple other book awards. Author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka was kind enough to answer a few questions for The Hub.

Congratulations on Hey, Kiddo being nominated for multiple awards! As a reader, I particularly loved your chapter heading pages with all their fascinating details. As the creator, do you have a favorite page or panel in this book?

Thank you so much! My favorite aspect of an illustrated book is the page turn. It’s something that you really can only experience once the book is printed and in your hands. I just love that moment when you turn the pages and watch the story visually unfold. So…my most favorite page-turn in HEY, KIDDO is that scene when preschool Jarrett is struggling with the assignment to draw his family, and then in that moment when you turn the page, a  double-page spread reveals the portrait drawn in crayon.

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#ALAMW19 Recap: Interviewing Adib Khorram, author of Darius the Great is Not Okay, 2019 Morris Award Winner

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram follows Darius Kellner, tea afficionado, fractional Persian, and dedicated Trekkie as he travels to Yazd with his family to meet his maternal grandparents for the first time. Darius doesn’t know what his relatives will think of his limited Farsi or his medication and he isn’t sure what he’ll think of Iran. No one is more shocked than Darius when exploring Yazd and learning about his namesake with his new friend Sohrab finally give Darius permission to be entirely himself. Darius the Great is Not Okay is the winner of YALSA’s 2019 Morris Award. Today I’m thrilled to have Adib Khorram here to answer some questions about his debut novel.

Congratulations on Darius the Great is Not Okay’s selection as a 2019 Morris Award finalist! Where were you when you heard? Who was the first person you told about the big news?

Adib Khorram (AK): Thank you very much indeed! I was doing the dishes when I got the call from my editor—and the first person I told was my agent. (I think the text of the email just read AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!)

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2017 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Sonia Patel

Sonia Patel is a finalist for the 2017 William C. Morris YA Debut Award for her novel Rani Patel in Full Effect. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.


Rani Patel in Full Effect grabs the mic to tell a story of hip hop, healing, and the path to self-understanding. Set in the 1990s, Rani, a 16-year-old Gujarati Indian teenager, is growing up on the remote Hawaiian island of Moloka’i and is isolated from her peers. She also has a very complicated relationship with her parents to say the least. Her mother doesn’t seem to see her, and when her father gets a new girlfriend, things come out for Rani about her relationship with him that she hasn’t been to admit to herself. Her father’s betrayal has her feeling like widow, in a bold stroke, and like widows in India are often made to do, she shaves off her hair. Rani finds solace and power in writing slam poetry taking on the patriarchy in the island’s underground hip-hop scene as MC Sutra. She soon attracts the attention of the swoony Mark, who is much older than Rani. Even though there is plenty to warn her against him, she falls head over heels. This could easily be the undoing of Rani, but through pain and art, Rani is able to connect with parts of herself lost and unknown.

Sonia Patel is a Gujarati American and the daughter of immigrant parents. She lives in Hawaii where she works as a psychiatrist working mainly with teens and their families. You can follow her on her website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

Congratulations on your first novel and being selected as a Finalist for the William C. Morris Award for debut authors!

Thank you so much for reaching out! I am honored and grateful for being a Morris Award finalist and for the opportunity to be interviewed for the YALSA Hub!

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2016 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: An Interview with Nancy Plain

The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a Nov. 1 – Oct. 31 publishing year. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Jan. 11, 2015.

Nancy Plain is a writer for children and young adults. Her works include many books about the American West such as Light on the Prairie and With One Sky Above Us among others. Her most recent book, This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon, has been listed by Booklist as one of the “10 Best Children’s Biographies of 2015” and by Kirkus as “Nine Teen Titles That Adults Shouldn’t Miss.” The book tells the story of Audubon’s travels throughout the United States and his legacy of conservationism and art.

this strange wilderness

Nancy, Congratulations on your nomination for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award for the lovely This Strange Wilderness: The life and art of John James Audubon! You’ve written a lot about historical persons and especially American Indians and the American West. Why Audubon?

I began writing about the history of the American West mainly because during my travels to national parks and on a long-ago camping trip from Colorado to Alaska, I fell in love with the land–the magnificent mountains, plains, and forests.  And it was Audubon’s connection with the American wilderness that drew me to him as a subject.  That and, of course, his spectacular bird paintings.  As a member of the Audubon Society myself, I’d always been curious about the man who inspired a powerful movement to protect and preserve wildlife and wild places.

A book and bird nerd question: Did you get to look at the double elephant folios of Birds of America for your research? I bet they would incredible to see in person!

Yes!  This book and bird nerd did get to see the Double Elephant Folio and it was mind-blowing!  This was at the fabulous Audubon exhibit held at the New-York Historical Society, in New York City.  But even better than the folio were Audubon’s original life-size watercolors on display.  The New-York Historical Society had audio for each painting, so that when I stood in front of the great horned owl, for instance, I could press a button and hear its haunting call.  This was a very emotional experience, sort of like a visitation from a world that is normally hidden from us.

You have a Masters in Music Education and you write history books. What a fascinating combo! Do you have any plans to write about music or musicians?

I don’t have any plans right now to write about music or musicians, but I’m not ruling it out.  Aside from books, music was my first love.  I used to play piano and was quite a serious cellist for a while.  My first biography, however, was on the artist Mary Cassatt, and I found that I really enjoyed writing about artists.  Whatever I want to say about an artist’s work, the work itself says it better!

Your books are for children and teens. Is there a special appeal to you for writing for that age level or does it just happen naturally?

I love the challenge of writing for young people.  This is the goal always:  to tell the story of my subject’s life in an exciting way, to make a historical period come alive.  Sometimes when history is taught only from a textbook, kids can think that it’s deadly dull.  But history is really an infinite well of dramatic personalities and events–many are stranger than fiction–and I try to bring that to my reader.  I also enjoy introducing young people to a given subject; it forces me to write in a clear and simple way.
Do you have a topic or person that you are researching for a future book?​

Well, right now I’m immersed in editing a cookbook for my favorite organization, Western Writers of America.  I’ve been a member since 2008, and WWA is home to an incredibly friendly and talented bunch of people.  As for my next book, I haven’t decided on a topic yet, but I promise I’m going to do it soon!

Thanks, Nancy!

It really is a wonderful surprise that my book has been recognized by YALSA, and it’s a pleasure to be interviewed for The Hub.

— Anna Tschetter, currently between books

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One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Susan Juby

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

I’m pretty sure I originally picked up Alice, I Think because of the homeschooling angle.  There weren’t (aren’t?) many books about homeschooling back in 2000 and I was definitely interested, partly because the topic was rare, and partly because, while I had spent my requisite 12 years in the public school system, my seven siblings had been homeschooled.  (You can make of that fact what you will.  You’re probably right.)

I loved the book, of course, and Susan Juby became one of those authors I followed, anxious to see what was coming next.  Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be…more books that I loved.  Another Kind of Cowboy? Bright’s Light? The rest of the Alice MacLeod series?  Such great books.  If you haven’t already, you need to read The Truth Commission immediately.  Really.

Somewhere along the way I came across the essay she references below, “Directed Studies”, which tells a specific and highly personal story with which I totally connected, despite the difference in the details.  Like her books, the Susan Juby in that essay comes across as honest and funny, clear-eyed but optimistic, able to articulate and share painful, embarrassing truths in a single bound.  This is no small feat.  

Thank you, Susan, for talking truth, bad 80s hair, identity, and the danger of peach wine coolers with me.  If you wrote a “hauntingly elegiac volume that is mostly description of landscape” I would read it.


Always Something There to Remind Me

SJuby-7436-EditPlease describe your teenage self.

I find this hard and sort of painful because my teen years were, well, hard and painful. I think by the time I hit fifteen or so, I looked okay on the outside, at least by the low standards of the 1980s. But inside I was a churning mess of anxiety and insecurity. This situation was exacerbated by the fact I had developed a serious drinking problem by the time I was thirteen.

I was one of those people who never ever went in public without makeup and hair done, clothes carefully chosen. It was all a camouflage for what I saw as a deeply flawed self. I was convinced that if anyone saw the unadorned me, they would run away in horror.

On a lighter note, I was a serious fashion experimenter in a time and town where that was unexpected and not terribly welcome. Not one 1980s trend passed me by! I wore: Madonna-esque bloomers and puffy blouses, satin blazers that hung to my knees, perms, faux punk looks, heavy metal looks, prep looks. Fashion filled in all the blank spaces for me. In spite of how messed up I was then, my adult self looks back and applauds my teen self for having the guts to experiment in the face of quite a bit of despair.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

When I was very young, I thought I could be anything. As I grew, that confidence was pounded out of me by my peers, my schools and my own bad choices. Those bad choices were legion―making them was basically my superpower. But here are some of the things I dreamed of being before I stopped dreaming: writer, lawyer, zoologist, professional dressage rider, fashion designer. 

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2015 Morris Award: An Interview with Finalist Leslye Walton

Each year, YALSA’s Morris Award honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature. The award morris_seal_finwinner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. Join us for a live webcast of the YMA Awards press conference or follow I Love Libraries on Twitter or Facebook to be among the first to know the 2015 winners. The official hashtag for the 2015 Youth Media Awards is  #ALAyma.

Tava lavenderoday’s interview is with finalist Leslye Walton, author of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. I was so excited to ask Leslye some questions about magic realism…and baked goods, thanks to one of my students!

If you haven’t read the book already, here is the publisher blurb:

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

Congratulations on your Morris nomination! I absolutely loved your book. It was just beautiful! I (and my colleagues and students) were struck by the multigenerational story and how adult the voice seemed. It felt more mature and reflective than your average YA protagonist narrating from a more immediate and younger perspective. Did you always think you were writing YA? Or did you just write and see which publishers were interested?

Originally, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender wasn’t intended for the YA market. I felt the writing was too lyrical, too chalked full of metaphors for the typical teenaged reader. But after a long, tough road of going-nowhere, my agent, the luminous Bernadette Baker-Baughman, reminded me of all the beautiful, highly literary YA novels out there. After I stopped resisting, I think we sold the novel in a week. Ava Lavender certainly covers some dark and tragic themes—as do so many other great YA novels out there—but it’s also very much a young adult book, and looking back, I wish I had recognized that a bit earlier than I had.

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2015 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: An Interview with Finalist Emily Arnold McCully

The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a Nov. 1 – Oct. 31 publishing year. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. Join us for a live webcast of the YMA Awards press conference or follow I Love Libraries on Twitter or Facebook to be among the first to know the 2015 winners. The official hashtag for the 2015 Youth Media Awards is  #ALAyma.

Emily Arnold McCully is a 2015 finalist for the Nonfiction Award for her biography of Ida M. Tarbell, one of the first investigative journalists.

How did you feel when you learned you were a finalist for Award for Excellence in Nonfiction?

I was stunned and thrilled when I got the news. Never had I dreamed that my book would be nominated. I am honored and very grateful!

What’s your favorite part of the writing process– research, outlining, first draft, revisions?

My favorite part of the process is research – hands down! I feel I’m doing research all the time, whether I am writing a book or not. Reading history is one of my greatest pleasures. Making discoveries and drawing connections that lead to a narrative is bliss!

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2014 Teens’ Top Ten: An Interview with Joelle Charbonneau

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Celebrate Teen Literature Day, the Thursday of National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year.

The votes are in for 2014, and the winners have been announced — and we’re featuring them here on The Hub. Today we bring you an interview with Joelle Charbonneau, who is on this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list for The Testing (first book of The Testing trilogy). The Testing is also a 2014 Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.


Joelle CharbonneauI really loved The Testing and the way that you so vividly described your novel’s dystopian society, main character Cia’s life in it and her experience during the testing process for university student candidates.  I wanted to ask you first about why you chose a dystopian environment to relate your story/themes, and whether there are any aspects of this environment which you see reflected in present-day society?

Thanks for reading The Testing! You have no idea how much I appreciate that. As for choosing the dystopian setting – to be honest, I didn’t set out to write a dystopian book. I teach voice lessons and have helped a lot of my students go through the college admittance process. Because of that, I’ve seen first hand how stressful the process has become and wanted to explore the stress of modern day tests and our society’s expectations for the next generation. However, as much as I wanted to set it in today’s world, I couldn’t find a way to up the stakes of the tests in the way that I wanted. So, I had to look to the future and a time where there is only one university and the expectation that those who attend it will be able to fix what is wrong with the world. That’s when the world of The Testing was born.

While The United Commonwealth and its issues are fictional, there are a great number of things about the world that do reflect our current society, especially in regards to our current education system. In the last fifteen years, our educational system has become very dependent on high stakes testing. So much depends on tests – school funding, teachers’ careers, and our students’ beliefs in their own abilities and futures. These tests were designed to strengthen our education system, but most teachers, parents and students would argue that it has done the opposite. While most would agree that the system needs to be altered, no one seems to know exactly how to make those changes or has the courage to say that the things we’ve been implementing over the past fifteen years are wrong. Cia’s journey in The Testing trilogy deals with those issues and explores what happens when people allow a less than ideal system to stay in place because it on some level appears to be working.

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An Interview With Alex Award Winning Author Lisa O’Donnell

The Death of Bees
Lisa O’Donnell is a 2014 recipient of YALSA’s Alex Award.  The Alex Award goes to authors who write books for adults that have a teen appeal.  I just read her book and loved it!  The story is told in three points of view, two of them are sisters who are in the process of burying their good for nothing parents in their backyard.  The third voice is the sexual predator neighbor who looks out for them.  O’Donnell agreed to be interviewed about her recent honor.

How did you choose the title, The Death of Bees?

In the first chapters when the girls are burying the bodies of their parents they go to a garden centre to buy lavender to disguise the graves and hide the smell. At the garden centre they meet a woman who scares Nelly about the possible extinction of honeybees. When the girls get home Nelly, who has Autism, obsesses over what the woman has said about the Bees. This makes Marnie angry because the truth is Nelly isn’t afraid of the Bees at all, she is afraid because they’re burying their parents in the backyard, the bees are simply where she projects her fear. Marnie knows this, but won’t acknowledge it either and also hides behind the subject of bees.

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