Hello, friends! We're a group of middle grade authors who are passionate about great middle grade reads. Each month, we'll be sharing a variety of fun content to complement our chosen read, including recipes, activities, discussion questions, and even sometimes author interviews! This month, we're looking at
Middle Grade at Heart's own Amanda Rawson Hill's debut, The Three Rules of Everyday Magic.
Amanda Rawson Hill
Karen S. Chow
(Click on the image to go to the book's Amazon page!)
Magic doesn't work the way you think it will, but it's what Kate needs as she confronts friendship trouble, her parents' divorce, and Grammy's dementia in this lyrical middle-grade coming-of-age novel for fans of Half a Chance and The Same Stuff as Stars.
Kate has trouble believing in magic, especially since the people she loves keep leaving her. But when Grammy tells her the three rules of everyday magic--believe, give, and trust--Kate can't resist believing, at least a little. Following Grammy's advice, she tries to bring her father, her best friend, and even Grammy herself back to her. Nothing turns out as Kate expects, yet the magic of giving--of trusting that if you love and give, good things will happen, even if you don't see them happen--will change Kate and her family forever.
(Click on Amanda's photo to visit her website!)
What inspired you to write this story? Have you always believed in everyday magic?
I wrote the first draft of this story after my kids started playing with two imaginary friends that they dubbed their "old ladies." It was a story about a girl whose two late grandmothers come back as guardian angels to help her solve her problems. Only...the guardian angels got cut in revisions! So then I needed something else to replace them and that's where the idea of Everyday Magic came from. From the moment the idea of Everyday Magic came to me, I've believed in it and when I look for it, I see it all around.
Music is so important to Kate and her family. Do you play any musical instruments? What role has music played in your life?
I do play musical instruments. I took 12 years of piano lessons growing up and was in the All-State Orchestra all 4 years of high school with my french horn. I dabble in the guitar (Can't play a bar chord, so Kate is way better than me). And I love the ukulele because it is so easy to hop in and learn a song.
Music has always been the place I go to relax or to feel better when I'm sad. It is a safe place and a comfort. It helps me express things that can't be put into just words. It takes all the motions roiling around inside me and gives them a place to go.
We love your realistic portrayal of a middle school friendship. It's so important for kids to see an example of how people can grow apart and relationships can change. What's one piece of advice you'd like to give to readers who are going through a friendship break-up like Kate and Sofia?
Friendship breakups are hard and I had my fair share of them growing up. My advice if you are going through one is to always be nice and look for the best in people. When I was in elementary school, I let a friendship breakup poison me against a certain girl for years. And it was so silly, because when I finally decided to stop seeing her as an enemy (indeed, she was never mean to me) I realized that she was really nice and fun. (Duh! There was a reason I was friends with her in the first place.)
And when you are looking for the best in people, look around and see if there are any "Janes." A Jane is someone nice who could maybe use a friend, or even if they don't seem like they need friends, is friendly and kind. Another thing I realized in late elementary school was that I'd been so busy chasing after certain friends, I'd missed the one true one I'd had all along. So be more observant than I was.
This book was both hopeful and sad, and there were so many times where we felt (and wept) for Kate, her dad, and Grammy. Why do you think it's important for kids to read books that deal with heavy or sad issues?
There are several reasons.
1) Because there are lots of kids going through things like this. They need to see their life reflected in the pages of a book and they need to see that it's going to be okay. That there is hope.
2) Because the kids who are not going through these things need to develop empathy for those who are, and books are one of the best ways to do that.
3) Because kids need to develop healthy emotional skills and books are a very safe place to be introduced to disappointment, tragedy, grief, loss, etc. In effect, kids can "try on" these emotions. They can "practice" coping strategies along with the main character. They can process it on their own time by putting down the book when needed. They can see over and over again that it will be okay. That there is always hope.
Every writer faces rejection on their path to publication. Were you ever rejected? What advice would you give to aspiring writers about rejection?
Oh man. I was rejected over and over and over again. I was rejected so many times that when my agent sent me an email the night before Thanksgiving telling me an editor loved my book, I was so sure it was another rejection that I thought, "Why are you sending me a rejection the night before Thanksgiving?" I actually had to read the email three or four times to be sure it said what I thought it said. That it wasn't actually a rejection!
My advice for aspiring writers is to practice failing and being rejected and continuing to work hard anyway. Go try out for a part in that play that you know you won't get. But you love drama, so try out anyway! Go take that art class even though you know you're a terrible artist. You might be the worst in the class, but you want to learn, so do it anyway! It takes a lot of years of writing before you're actually good enough to get published. You have to keep writing, trying, getting rejected and bounce back anyway.
What are you working on next?
I'm actually working on a middle-grade retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac in verse! It is super fun and not sad at all but I'm really, really loving it.
1. Why doesn’t Kate wear pink? What does the color pink represent to her at the beginning of the book, and how does her view of pink change by the end of the book?
2. Kate’s karate teacher, Sensei, is a very wise character. What advice does he offer that especially helps Kate? Which piece of Sensei’s wisdom is most meaningful to you?
3. Kate is very hurt by Sofia’s new friendship with Marisa. What advice would you give Kate as she watches Sofia and Marisa get closer? Do you think Kate and Sofia will be friends after the book ends?
4. Which of the three rules of everyday magic (believe, give, and trust) seems the most difficult for Kate to accept and follow, and why? Which of the rules is most challenging for you to accept in your own life?
5. Grammy knits special hats and bakes special cookies to give other people magic when they need it. What special thing would you make for someone who seems to need magic?
6. At the end of the book, Kate can finally see Jane, “Like she’s been in an old, fogged-up mirror all this time and I’ve just wiped away the steam.” What feelings, worries, and experiences have fogged up Kate’s view of Jane, and why is she now able to see Jane clearly?
7. Why does Kate write letters to her dad, and why does she choose to give him the letters? What impact do you think it will have on her dad if he reads them?
8. Why is it so hard for Kate to sing and play the guitar now that her dad has left, and how does music end up helping Kate and other members of her family? Do you have a hobby or passion that helps you or brings you together with your family like music does for Kate?
9. Kate’s mom, Grammy, and eventually Kate all say, “Family is family.” What does that phrase mean to them, and what kinds of things does it encourage them to do? What does that phrase mean to you?
10. The issues Kate is dealing with are not magically fixed at the end of the book. What aspects of her life are still filled with uncertainty and sadness? What relationships or moments give you hope that Kate will be okay even if parts of her life are hard?
|The Actual Better Homes and Gardens' Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe (found here)
Mom lays the piece of paper on the counter and reads the whole thing from start to finish. "All this time, I've been racking my brains to get my hands on this recipe," she whispers. "It was in a magazine."
"Not just any magaine," Grammy huffs. "
Better Homes and Gardens."
"Why?" asks Mom.
"Have you ever opened a
Better Homes and Gardens? They have recipes in every issue."
"No. Why are you giving it to me? I've been asking for it for years. Last time I asked, you said you'd die before you told me. I believed you."
Grammy slides the cookie tray in the oven, sets the timer, and slowly walks around the counter to where Mom is standing. "Family is family, Elizabeth."
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar or 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- In a large mixing bowl beat butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. If necessary, cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until easy to handle.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in additional granulated sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the tines of a fork, flatten balls by making crisscross marks on top. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Makes about 36 cookies.
Create Your Own "Where I'm From" Poem
Jane smiles. "Good. Then you'll be awesome at this. So now, all I have to do is look at that list of details about me and where I come from and make them more poemy."
"How do you do that?"
Jane hunches over and whispers like it's a secret. "You close your eyes and think about how all those things feel on your skin and in your ears and on your tongue, and you write it down."
. . . . .
In THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC, Kate and her class read George Ella Lyon's classic poem "Where I'm From" and then create their own poems describing the homes, values, and experiences they come from. Like Kate's class, MG @ Heart is going to be sharing some of our own "Where I'm From" poems this month, and teaching you how to create your own, too!
1. Visit this link to read George Ella Lyon's poem called "Where I'm From"—there's even an audio file where you can listen to the author read the poem herself! Pay attention to the kinds of words and phrases Ms. Lyon uses. What senses are described in the poem? What kinds of details does she use to create a sense of her home and upbringing?
2. Brainstorm! Using a blank sheet of paper, make a list of memories that are meaningful to you from your childhood. Some things you could choose to include: Names of relatives and friends; special foods your family cooks; family and community traditions; favorite songs or stories; phrases that get said a lot; values or ideas embraced by your family or community; images, scents, sounds, or emotions that are important to you; items that are significant to your family or community.
3. Now use your list to help create a poem in the style of George Ella Lyon's. Use as much sensory detail and specific imagery as possible to evoke what home means to you! It can be as long or short as you like. If you need more examples, look at Kate's poem on page 46 of THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC, and Jane's poem on page 59.
4. If you do this activity yourself or with a school class, we'd love to see what you come up with! Share your poem with us on social media @mgatheart, and use the hashtag #MGWhereImFrom.
. . . . .
Here are some "Where I'm From" Poems created by the MG @ Heart crew!
I am from red clay and lightning bugs,
silk sea-water and the tall creak of trees.
I am from days spent wandering the forest.
I am from butter beans and fire ants,
Scottish pride and Southern manners.
I am from "Life isn't fair
because a fair is where you take pigs—"
from siblings spilling through a house
all full up with laughter.
From steamy summer thunderstorms
and loud cicada song.
I am from masa and fresh-cooked pinto beans,
Sunday pancakes after church,
hot wheat bread with honey melting in.
I am from a line of women all named Cynthia.
I am from curling nebulizer mist and long doctor's visits,
scared hospital nights and laughter with the nurses.
I am from a whole teenage year spent
unable to leave my house—
imprisoned by a body I no longer understood.
I am from "average life expectancy"
glimpsed in a magazine at thirteen years old.
I am from the dusty scent of fairytales,
from the shine of stories flowing through my fingers.
I am from oldies CDs and family duets,
from trading sheet music back and forth
and holiday nights around the piano.
I am from church on Sunday
and Jesus every day.
I am from genteel people
carving a place in the southern soil
to cradle all of us in love.
I am from a house brimming
with brothers and sisters at every corner
hiding and seeking and laughing
and shouting and fighting and crying they started it
I am from a house swirling
with flavors from my mother’s kitchen
kneading and chopping and frying
and brewing and yelling, quit fighting or else
my brothers and sisters and I
know very well what "or else" is
but still we never ever shhh... THEY STARTED IT! )
I am from a house quaking
with fireworks of squabbling and screaming and tattling
and in the middle of it all, the quiet
of my father keeping us together safe
I am from a house hushed
by children who left
crawling and walking and running
wondering and wandering and finding their own ways
I am from a house always
where I left it
when I need it
I can always come home
I am from potato fields and orchard rows,
and the sweet scent of Concord grapes.
From the skid of bicycle tires on gravel.
The warm, black fur of a pup in the sun.
From toboggan rides on crunchy snow,
stiff brown coveralls against my cheek
as I hug my daddy’s waist.
I am from Jesus Loves Me.
From standing on the baptismal steps
because I was too short
for my toes to touch the bottom.
I am from Christmas cookies at Grandma’s house.
From gingerbread men with cinnamon hearts.
I am from a shared birthday with my gray-whiskered grandfather,
missing him every year
I blow out my candles alone.
I am from two words
before hanging up the phone
or walking out the door
or saying goodbye.
I am from driving 3000 miles across the country
to a new home
under big skies
where coyotes howl
and goats bleat
and llamas kiss your nose if you sit very still.
I am from the click-clack-tap of typewriter keys.
From pencil sketches,
and library trips,
and stacks of books read well past midnight.
I am from a cardboard box
full of creased family photographs,
the black and white faded
but brimming with life in my hands.
I am from words and pictures.
and even still.
Enjoy this coloring page of a scene from THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC drawn by Remy Lai! What is your favourite scene from THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC? Tweet us @MGatHeart and let us know!
(Click on the image to download a high-res printable version.)
Our Twitter book club chat will be held on 11/6 at 8pm Eastern Standard Time, using the hashtag #mgbookclub. Hope to see you there!
Here's what we've been reading and loving this month! (If you'd like to follow what we're reading in real-time, watch the Instagram hashtag #mgbookclubreads.)
: I am listening to AMAL UNBOUND by Aisha Saeed, which is absolutely lovely. But this month I also read E. Latimer's THE STRANGE AND DEADLY PORTRAITS OF BRYONY GRAY, which is the perfect spooky Halloween read (especially if you're a fan of Oscar Wilde, because yes, there is a Dorian Gray aspect to this story!).
: I've read so many amazing books this month! SWEEP: THE STORY OF A GIRL AND HER MONSTER by Jonathon Auxier was amazing. I didn't realize how deep and moving it would be. I was also entranced by AS BRAVE AS YOU by Jason Reynolds, which was all about the things we allow to cage us in. (Especially the past.) And then I finished, CHASING AUGUSTUS by Kimberly Newton Fuscoe. It had a beautiful voice and was very reminiscent of BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE. Truly lovely.
I recently finished Lindsay Eager's newest middle grade novel, THE BIGFOOT FILES—a sweet, thoughtful meditation on mothers and daughters, and what it means to choose to believe in things that can't be proved. It made me want to hop in my car and drive up to Olympic National Park ASAP!
I've just read REAL FRIENDS by Shannon Hale which is absolutely heart-breaking and lovely. The illustrations by LeUyen Pham are impeccable.
This month I read two lyrical, lovely fantasies—FURTHERMORE by Tahereh Mafi and THE LAND OF YESTERDAY by K.A. Reynolds. Now I am dying to go to a magical land, so if you know of any portals, let me know!
My son and I just finished reading THE VANDERBEEKERS AND THE HIDDEN GARDEN by Karina Yan Glaser, further solidifying our love for the Vanderbeekers! This second book in the family's adventures is just as sweet as the first. Book #3 can't come soon enough!
I read ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY, which absolutely thrilled my 10-year-old heart. So many awesome puzzles combined with my love for libraries. Can't wait to check out the rest of the series!
Our book for November will be The Hotel Between by Sean Easley.
Be sure to check out our Flip Grid where you can interact with other educators, readers, and authors!
The MG@Heart Flipgrid is here.
Remy Lai has revealed the cover for her middle-grade prose-graphic novel hybrid PIE IN THE SKY over at Mr Schu Reads.
As always, don't forget to add our books to Goodreads:
The Three Rules of Everyday Magic
Where The Watermelons Grow
Every Shiny Thing
Up For Air
Pie in the Sky
Order Where the Watermelons Grow
Amazon, B&N, IndieBound
Order Every Shiny Thing
Amazon, B&N, IndieBound
Order The Three Rules of Everyday Magic
Amazon, B&N, IndieBound
Pre-order Pie in the Sky
Amazon, B&N, IndieBound, Macmillan