Happy Monday, friends! It’s the beginning of a brand new week filled with new possibilites and new opportunities and I feel extremely fortunate to have been offered a very special one of the latter. Today, I’m absolutely thrilled to host the exclusive cover reveal for author Ashley Herring Blake and her middle grade debut, Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter To The World. Coming to a bookstore and library near you March 6th 2018 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers, Ivy is the first middle grade novel penned by Blake, who is also the phenomenal talent behind the young adult contemporaries Suffer Love, How To Make A Wish, and the forthcoming Girl Made Of Stars (May 15 2018). The cover of Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter To The World was designed by Good Wives and Warriors. Please read on to learn more about what is sure to prove a powerful and poignant middle grade release, including the exclusive cover reveal and an interview with the author about the novel’s origins, inspiration and themes, as well as an opportunity for one lucky reader to win an advance reader copy of Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter To The World.
1. Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter To The World follows the story of twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen, who has to cope with the loss of her home after a devastating tornado and who is also in the process of exploring and better understanding her attraction to other girls. What inspired you to write this particular story? Can you speak a little about the representation in this novel, both in regard to the issues of housing insecurity and Ivy’s sexual orientation?
I think a lot about the kinds of novels I would have loved to have had as a kid. Not only loved, but needed. Teen me would have benefited so much from the ever-growing queer stories on the YA shelves today. But twelve year-old me…well, there are many books on the shelves today that she would’ve loved. Middle grade stories are how I first came to kidlit as an adult and these books are some of the finest on shelves in any category if you ask me. But there still aren’t that many that I can point to and say “That one. That is the book 12 year old me needed.” So I decided to write that book. Ivy is a girl who feels invisible in her family and is dealing with some pretty hefty family trauma. In the midst of all of that, she slowly starts to explore the differences in how she feels about her female best friend and a new girl in her life — what is the difference? Is there one? Where is the line between intense friendship and a crush? And, if she does have a crush on a girl…what then? Her insecurity stems, not so much that she worries she’s wrong, but that she simply doesn’t know. Until she does. But even then, I wanted to leave room for fluidity and growth and change, for growing up and further discovery. I don’t think we are ever too old for those things. When I was 13, I was feeling much like Ivy — confused, fluttery, and weird over a girl. Had I had a story like Ivy’s — at last, the kind of story I hope Ivy is — I might have felt more comfortable in my own skin a little sooner than I did.
2. As we mentioned, Ivy’s journey of discovery and acceptance regarding her sexual orientation is a significant narrative in the novel. If you could give any advice to queer children and/or teens still coming to terms with their sexuality, what would it be?
I love this question. I think first and foremost, I’d want them to know that they’re okay. They’re loved and worthy of loved and they are enough just as they are. I’d want them to know that it’s okay to not know. Being unsure of how you feel about a person or your own body or whether or not you’re even interested in things like romance or sex is okay. We are people and sometimes, that is all we need to sure of. On a practical level, I’d recommend finding other queer people to talk to, if possible. Peers, sure, but adults too. In Ivy, I really wanted to give her models of people — adults and older kids — who have lived this and are still living it. I know for me personally, just sitting with someone who has been where I am and listening to them was life changing. I know it’s not always possible to meet people in real life, but online friendships can be extremely influential as well. Just be sure it’s someone you can trust. And, hey, my email is always open!
3. This is your first middle grade novel. What about this particular story seemed best suited for this age group? How did the experience of writing for a middle grade audience differ from writing for a young adult audience? What was your favourite part of writing for middle grade readers?
I think I wanted to write this particular story for middle grade because that is the age that so many kids start thinking about things like romance and sex and identity, yet there is still a severe lack of books on the shelves that deal with this. As I wrote the book, I had been so entrenched in writing YA for so long, that it took me a while to get the tone right. I actually wrote the entire thing in first person, then changed it to third because I kept slipping into a too-YA voice for Ivy. I’m so glad I did, though, because I really fell in love with third person after that change. I’ve always loved reading middle grade books and in writing one, I found I loved many of the same things I do when I read them. There is a whimsy to them enamors me every time, an even deeper, more profound sense of hope than in YA. Being a middle grade person is such an awkward, confusing time, for anyone, and reading and writing these stories is almost therapeutic. It reminds us, all of us, that we are not alone.
4. If there is one theme or message you would like readers to take from Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter To The World, what would it be and why?
Be yourself and love yourself. Simple as that.
5. Finally, what are some of YOUR favourite middle grade novels?
Oh, wow, so many. One of my favorite authors is Erin Entrada Kelly. I will read anything she writes with gusto. Gusto, I say! I also adore Kat Yeh. The Truth About Twinkie Pie is middle grade perfection, in my opinion. I love Corey Ann Haydu’s two middle grades, Rules For Stealing Stars and The Someday Suitcase. Brooks Benjamin’s My Seventh Grade Life In Tights is pure, wise fun. And I could go on an don and on, but I won’t. I’ll just add that I love, love, love Elana K. Arnold’s Far From Fair and Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish. Okay, I’m done. I think…
About Ashley Herring Blake
Ashley Herring Blake is a reader, writer, and mom to two boisterous boys. She holds a Master’s degree in teaching and loves coffee, arranging her books by color, and cold weather. She is the author of the young adult novels Suffer Love, How To Make A Wish, and Girl Made Of Stars (HMH), as well as the middle grade novel Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter To The World (Little, Brown).
Title Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter To The World
Author Ashley Herring Blake
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
To Be Published March 6th 2018 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters
In the wake of a destructive tornado, one girl develops feelings for another in this stunning, tender novel about emerging identity, perfect for fans of The Thing About Jellyfish.
When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm – and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.
Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks – and hopes – that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter To The World exquisitely enriches the rare category of female middle-grade characters who like girls – and children’s literature at large.
As an extra, exciting bonus, Ashley has been kind enough to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win an advance reader copy of Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter To The World! This contest is open to residents of the U.S. and the prize will be distributed once ARCs become available. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter!