A Teen Reader Interviews Gail Nall about Breaking the Ice


Ashley G. is a 7th grader at King Philip Middle School in West Hartford, CT. She recently read Gail Nall’s BREAKING THE ICE and had a few questions for the author.

First, here’s the official description of the book:

20662374Kaitlin has always dreamed of being a champion figure skater, and she’s given up a lot to pursue her passion. But after having a totally uncharacteristic and decidedly NOT figure-skating-approved tantrum after getting her scores at a major competition she’s dropped by her coach and prestigious skating club.When no other club in town will have her, she’s forced to join the ridiculed and rundown Fallton Club, jokingly referred to as the Fall Down Club. At first Kaitlin thinks this is a complete disaster, but after meeting some of the other skaters, including a boy (who happens to have the most perfect hair she’s ever seen) Kaitlin thinks it might actually not be so bad.

But when she’s tasked with learning a whole new program right before Regionals and figures out that almost all the other skaters target Fallton, she thinks joining the Fall Down Club may just be the second biggest mistake she’s ever made.

In this figure skating themed debut, Kaitlin learns that when you fall down, you have to pick yourself up – even if it’s in front of judges and a crowd

Ashley: Are you a figure skater? If not, how do you know so much about the life of a competitive figure skater who is seriously training and trying to get to Nationals and then the Olympics?

Gail: I am! I grew up skating. I still skate for fun now, and I teach learn-to-skate. I loved competing, but I was hardly competitive. Meaning, I was never anywhere near Kaitlin’s level. I was more like Miyu. 🙂  So, I filled in the gaps of my knowledge for this book with a lot of reading and research, IceNetwork-watching, and paying attention when I went to the rink. What I love about skating is that it’s something you can do your whole life, whether you make it to an elite level or not. My favorite jump is the flip, and my favorite spin is a simple, fast scratch spin. And spirals — I love spirals!

Ashley: In the beginning of the book, Kaitlin places 11th out of 13 girls at the Praterville Open Ice Skating Competition. She is extremely disappointed and has a meltdown in front of the judges. She then loses her coach and her club. If you were her coach, Hildy, would you have abandoned Kaitlin? If you were in charge of the decision, would you have kicked Kaitlin out of the Ridgeline Skating Club? Do you think Kaitlin deserved these consequences?

Gail: If I were Hildy, or were in charge of the club, I hope that I would’ve been a little more tolerant. I would’ve much rather talked to a student who acted so uncharacteristically to find out what was going on, and then figured out together how to work through it. Kaitlin definitely deserved some kind of consequences for her actions, but probably not as drastic as what actually happens to her in the book. However … it would’ve been an awfully boring book if all she’d gotten was a lecture and warning to never act like that again. 😉

Ashley: Do you think the mistake ended up changing Kaitlin in a good way?

Gail: Oh, definitely! Not only does she figure out when it’s good to speak up (and when it’s not), but she also learns what a real friend is. One of my favorite things about writing this book was showing how Kaitlin’s experience affected her skating. I won’t give away how that happens, but it was interesting to think about, and fun to convey that change through the skating descriptions in the book. I think it was also important to show how it is possible to get back up and keep going even after it feels as if your life has fallen apart. Through this experience, Kaitlin learns about her own inner strength.

Ashley: At Ridgeline, Kaitlin had top coaches and a great facility, but no real friends. The Fallton (Fall Down) Skating Club had a horrible reputation, but Kaitlin made friends there. If you were/are a skater, which would be more important to you: A good reputation as a skater and getting to skate at a prominent skating club, or having friends to cheer you on and support you? Which do you think is more important to the average skater?

Gail: This is a hard one. I think a lot of skaters would love that elite club with the excellent reputation, but if it came at the cost of never having real friendships, it would be hard to stay there and be happy. I would much rather have friends that I enjoyed seeing every day, whether that’s at an elite club or at some place more like Fallton.

Ashley: What is your favorite scene in the novel and why? Does it present anything that happened in real life?

My absolute favorite scene is the one in which Kaitlin takes an ice dance lesson with Svetlana. That was the most fun to write because of awkwardness with Braedon, and, of course, Svetlana’s Russian accent and coaching style. I pulled the actual dance-related parts of that scene from real-life skating (because, wow, hitting that perfect position in dance can HURT!), but the rest is completely made up. (Thankfully. I’d have died of embarrassment if that scene had ever happened to me in real life!)

I have to mention my second-favorite scene too, which is the one where Kaitlin, Miyu, Addison, and Braedon are having a spin-off and jump-off. I played this same game with skating friends when I was that age, except we used to string together really bizarre, unrelated things — for example, a jump into a sit spin into a lunge into some weird move that someone would make up on the spot, etc. It was always hilarious watching everyone try to get through it all without falling over.

BREAKING THE ICE is out now and available wherever books are sold, including:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Gail NalGail Nalll lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She spends her early mornings writing, her days practicing law, and her evenings trying to stay up past eight o’clock. She chats about writing and figure skating on her blog Writing and Stuff, and spends too much time on Twitter. Her debut contemporary MG novel, DON’T FALL DOWN, will be out from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in Spring 2015.

A Teen Reader Interviews Krista Van Dolzer About The Sound of Life and Everything


Lauren M. is a 7th grader at King Philip Middle School in West Hartford, CT. She recently read an ARC of Krista Van Dolzer’s THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING and had a few questions for the author.

22521936First, here’s the official description of the book from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Ella Mae Higbee is a sensible girl. She eats her vegetables and wants to be just like Sergeant Friday, her favorite character on Dragnet. So when her auntie Mildred starts spouting nonsense about a scientist who can bring her cousin back to life from blood on his dog tags, Ella Mae is skeptical—until he steps out of a bio-pod right before her eyes.

But the boy is not her cousin—he’s Japanese. And in California in the wake of World War II, the Japanese are still feared and despised. When her aunt refuses to take responsibility, Ella Mae and her Mama take him home instead. Determined to do what’s right by her new friend, Ella Mae teaches Takuma English and defends him from the reverend’s talk of H-E-double-toothpicks. But when his memories start to resurface, Ella Mae learns some shocking truths about her own family and more importantly, what it means to love.

Lauren: Did the Clausens receive their son’s body? If so, why did they use the blood on the dog tags to attempt to bring Robby back if they had a whole person to work with?

Krista: This is a fantastic question, and if I’m being totally honest, I’ve never really thought about it. Many families never saw their loved ones again, but I do think Uncle George and Auntie Mildred would have gotten Robby’s body back. (I’ve seen pictures of the bodies of the Allied soldiers who died on Iwo Jima, and it looked like they were planning to ship them home.) I guess they used the dog tags because they were more accessible. Auntie Mildred wouldn’t have been able to keep what she was doing a secret if she’d exhumed her son’s body.

Lauren: How did you get your ideas for this book?

Krista: The first line came to me as I was falling asleep one night. The voice in my head intrigued me–though I didn’t know it yet, Ella Mae came to life at that moment–and I wondered what story she would tell. I started writing it down and didn’t stop for another 50,000 words. 🙂

Lauren: Why did you have Mildred Clausen change her mind about Takuma?

Krista: It was important to me to show that people can change their minds, that they can become better. Because Auntie Mildred was so dead-set against Takuma when he first came back to life, she was the perfect character to show this transformation.

Lauren: Did you have a hard time writing the book emotionally as you wrote how people reacted to Takuma’s ethnicity?

Krista: It did make me wince, especially as I tried to decide how and when to use the racial slur that appears in the book. But the whole point was to show how terribly some people treated Takuma so that readers could see how they grew and changed over time.

On a more personal note, my grandpa was Filipino, so I know that he experienced some of the same prejudices that Takuma faced. (The Philippines was one of our allies during the war, but when he immigrated to the United States, he found that the color of his skin still unsettled some people.) Despite the way he was treated, my grandpa never grew bitter, so I tried to draw on his example.

Lauren: How did Daniel die?

Krista: Daniel died in the Battle of the Bulge in January of 1945. The battle was fought in the Ardennes, a heavily forested region in northern France, and it was the last major German offensive on the Western Front. Daniel was part of the infantry, so he would have been exchanging rifle fire with his German counterparts. He died of a gunshot wound.

Lauren: What is your favorite scene in the book and why?

Krista: I have several favorite scenes, but the one that immediately jumps to mind is the scene in which Ella Mae, her mama, and Takuma go shopping at a department store in Los Angeles on a Sunday. When their small-town reverend won’t allow Takuma to set foot in his chapel, Ella Mae and her mama storm off in a huff and go shopping instead, but they’re horribly self-conscious. I know exactly how they would have felt, since I believe in keeping the Sabbath day holy, too, so that scene was an easy one to write.

THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING releases May 5 and is available for preorder.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

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 the forthcoming THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, May 2015) and the forthcoming DUEL/DUET (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Fall 2015).

Q&A with YA Author Lee Kelly


In this week’s Q&A YA Wednesday, we’ve got, Lee Kelly, whose CITY OF SAVAGES is out February, 2015. You can see the blurb and Lee’s bio at the end of the post—but first, check out her clever answers to our quirky questions.

1. You wake up one morning and, OMG, you’re a __________ ! What’s the first thing you do with your new ability?

I find that I’m a superhero with (a long coveted ability) to teleport. Before the rest of the family wakes up, I teleport myself to this little chocolate croissant stand in Paris that my husband and I were in love with, pick up some pastries, teleport to New York for our favorite cappuccinos from Joe, and I’m back to set the table in minutes.

2. Turns out your parents aren’t happy with your change. What fictional character do you ask to help you get out of the bind, and how do they “fix” you?

I’m not sure what my parents are so upset about, seeing as I’ll be able to spend more quality time with them with less of a commute, but I respect their feelings and dial up my sole option in this situation: the Star Trek team.  We debate the pros and cons of using a transporter versus good old-fashioned superhero abilities, and I decide to retain my power in secret.  No way I am giving this up (pizza in Italy, hot chocolate in Switzerland… am I talking about food too much?)

3. Back to normal, you arrive at school and literally crash into your crush. He/she asks you why you’re shaken up. What do you tell him/her?

Perhaps it’s kind of creepy that both me and my husband are both still walking around high school searching for each other, but I ignore this nagging thought and tell Jeff how I’ve discovered a potential key to all of our time management problems and needless to say, he’s thoroughly intrigued.

4. He/she isn’t convinced you’re telling the truth — after all, it’s a pretty far fetched story. He/she suggests going somewhere to talk about it more. Where’s this dream date taking place?

I manage to teleport me AND him to this little church-converted-into-restaurant in Florence, Italy called La Giostra.  After a lovely dinner, we teleport to Big Sur and watch the sunset over the cliffs.

5. It might not be true love yet, but there is a Happily Ever After in your near future. As a Fearless Fifteener, your book is out this year. Tell us about it in 140 characters or less.

Two sisters and their mother attempt to escape a war-torn Manhattan, after the discovery of certain secrets throws their whole world into question.




After the Red Allies turn New York City into a POW camp, two sisters must decipher the past in order to protect the future in this action-packed thriller with a dual narrative.It’s been nearly two decades since the Red Allies first attacked New York, and Manhattan is now a prisoner-of-war camp, ruled by Rolladin and her brutal, impulsive warlords. For Skyler Miller, Manhattan is a cage that keeps her from the world beyond the city’s borders. But for Sky’s younger sister, Phee, the POW camp is a dangerous playground of possibility, and the only home she’d ever want.When Sky and Phee discover their mom’s hidden journal from the war’s outbreak, they both realize there’s more to Manhattan—and their mother—than either of them had ever imagined. And after a group of strangers arrives at the annual POW census, the girls begin to uncover the island’s long-kept secrets. The strangers hail from England, a country supposedly destroyed by the Red Allies, and Rolladin’s lies about Manhattan’s captivity begin to unravel.Hungry for the truth, the sisters set a series of events in motion that end in the death of one of Rolladin’s guards. Now they’re outlaws, forced to join the strange Englishmen on an escape mission through Manhattan. Their flight takes them into subways haunted by cannibals, into the arms of a sadistic cult in the city’s Meatpacking District and, through the pages of their mom’s old journal, into the island’s dark and shocking past.

Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and son in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker. CITY OF SAVAGES is her first novel.