ALL FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH GAYLE ROSENGREN, AUTHOR OF WHAT THE MOON SAID

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So excited to share our interview with OneFourKidLit author Gayle Rosengren, whose MG historical, WHAT THE MOON SAID, comes out today!

About WHAT THE MOON SAID:

WhatTheMoonSaidThanks to her superstitious mother, Esther knows some tricks for avoiding bad luck: toss salt over your left shoulder, never button your shirt crooked, and avoid black cats. But even luck can’t keep her family safe from the Great Depression. When Pa loses his job, Esther’s family leaves their comfy Chicago life behind for a farm in Wisconsin.

Living on a farm comes with lots of hard work, but that means there are plenty of opportunities for Esther to show her mother how helpful she can be. She loves all of the farm animals (except the mean geese) and even better makes a fast friend in lively Bethany. But then Ma sees a sign that Esther just knows is wrong. If believing a superstition makes you miserable, how can that be good luck?

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Gayle Rosengren Author PhotoKV: Congratulations on the release of WHAT THE MOON SAID! What inspired you to write it?

GR: Thanks so much, Krista. The release date seemed so far away for so long that I can hardly believe it’s really here!

The story was inspired by the sharp contrasts I observed between my mother’s and my grandmother’s parenting styles. My grandmother lived with us for most of my childhood and looked after me while Mom was at work, so in a way she was a part-time mother to me as well as a grandmother. And although she was never unkind, she wasn’t warm and cuddly either.

My mother, on the other hand, was generous with hugs and kisses and often said “I love you.” At some point it struck me that my mother’s frequent demonstrations of affection to my brothers and me were possibly a reaction to not experiencing these signs of love herself when she was a girl–and having missed them. l didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the first tiny seed of inspiration for WHAT THE MOON SAID.

KV: As a budding genealogist, I love how this story is a product of your heritage. Can you talk a little more about the influence that your mother and grandmother had on WHAT THE MOON SAID?

GR: My grandmother emigrated from Russia when she was eighteen and brought all kinds of superstitious beliefs with her, just like the character of Ma in my book. When I got older I came to realize that the often gruff and never cuddly grandmother of my childhood in truth loved her family very deeply. She was just unable or unwilling to show it. I wondered if perhaps her superstitions were what caused her to hold back. And that triggered the plotline for the story.

KV: Could you share with us the names of some children’s authors, and perhaps some titles, that you especially admire?

GR: There are many, but at very least my list would have to include Sharon Creech (Walk Two Moons and Wanderer are special favorites), Kate DiCamillo (I adore Because of Winn Dixie), Lois Lowry (Number the Stars, The Giver, and too many others to list), L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables), Louisa May Alcott (Little Women was the first book to make me cry!), Karen Cushman (Catherine Called Birdy is so unique and funny), Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan is sweet and amazing and important all in one) and Kathleen Ernst (Hearts of Stone–so moving and powerful!) Beautiful writers and amazing storytellers all!

KV: Esther is a sweet girl you can’t help but root for. Was her personality also inspired by your mother, or did you draw on other sources to flesh out her character?

GR: Esther is based on my mother’s character as I knew it–a kind-hearted lover of books with a great sense of humor. Of course, I didn’t know her as a child, so I had to imagine additional details–the cartwheels and love of make-believe for example. I couldn’t help slipping in some of myself here and there too (her love of horses and dogs), and more of Esther ‘s character developed as I saw her experiencing and reacting to the incidents within the story. Ultimately though, despite all obstacles, Esther always remains true to herself and follows her heart–just like my mother did.

KV: Esther’s mother is extremely superstitious. Are you superstitious, and if so, what about?

GR: It’s embarrassing to admit it but yes, even though I know absolutely that there is no truth to it…I still can’t help following the instructions that my grandmother ingrained in me as a little girl! If I spill salt, I toss some over my left shoulder. I never bring an open umbrella indoors. I absolutely will not under any circumstances put shoes on a table. And I never ever tell a dream before breakfast–unless I want it to come true. 🙂 Oh, and for good luck I always eat herring on New Year’s Eve or Day.

KV: Breathing life into a historical world is almost as difficult as breathing life into a made-up one. How did you go about researching the time period and bringing it to life?

GR: My research began with interviewing people who had actually lived during the same time and in the same places that the story occurs–in particular my mother, but others as well; then I moved on to reading books about the early years of the Depression; and finally I turned to the internet to seek out very specific details–from crop schedules to the price of a stamp to the storyline of the Rin Tin Tin serialized film that Esther watches in Chapter One of the book. (There’s actually a link to the film on my website so readers can watch the same episode that Esther did!)

KV: As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

GR: I’m afraid of flying (No amount of scientific explanation will ever entirely convince me that an enormous and HEAVY airplane should be able to stay in the air!) but I don’t let my fear keep me from flying–I just make sure I have a good book to read so I’ll keep focused on the pages and won’t notice the clouds outside the window.

Some things that I’m not afraid of are big dogs, hard work, and chocolate chip cookies–no matter how big they are! 🙂

KV: Thanks for joining us, Gayle! We wish you the very best of luck on your debut day.

For more information about Gayle and WHAT THE MOON SAID, including discussion questions and teacher resources, you can find her at her website, www.gaylerosengren.com, and on Twitter, @GayleRosengren.

Krista squaredKrista Van Dolzer is a stay-at-home mom by day and a children’s author by naptime. She holds degrees in Mathematics Education and Economics from Brigham Young University and lives with her husband and three kids in Mesquite, Nevada. She is the author of a forthcoming-but-as-yet-untitled debut (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015) and the forthcoming DUEL/DUET (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Fall 2015).
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One thought on “ALL FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH GAYLE ROSENGREN, AUTHOR OF WHAT THE MOON SAID

  1. Gayle’s What the Moon Said is a truly terrific Middle Grade historical fiction book, with one of the best main characters, vibrant & lovable Esther, in recent Middle Grade literature. And so skillfully written, with just the right voice for someone of Esther’s age, a perfect structure (flows seamlessly from scene to scene, chapter to chapter), and truly beautiful use of language. A great mother-daughter relationship book. Also, because it is written so well and at an age-appropriate level for Middle Grade minds, would be an excellent read out-loud book for home or the classroom. Teachers & Librarians will love this book, both as a teaching tool and as recommended reading. Terrific book!

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