• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Book Lists > Interview with Shana Burg, author of Laugh with the Moon
  • OhMG! News


    April 11, 2014:
    Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
    A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

    April 9, 2014:
    How many Newbery winners have you read?
    You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

    March 28, 2014:
    Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

    For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

    February 14, 2014:
    Cybils Awards announced
    Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

    January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
    Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

    November 12, 2013:
    Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

    Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

    November 9, 2013:
    Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

    Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

    October 14, 2013:
    Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

    Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
    Read more ...

    September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

    Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

    September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

    Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

    September 16, 2013:
    National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

    For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
    Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

    August 21, 2013:
    Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

    Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

    August 19, 2013:
    S&S and BN reach a deal
    Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

    August 6, 2013:
    NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
    NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

    July 2, 2013:
    Penguin & Random House Merger

    The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...


    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...


    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories,


    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...


    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...


    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…


    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...


    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...


    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...


    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...


  • Subscribe!

    Get email updates:

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

Interview with Shana Burg, author of Laugh with the Moon

Book Lists

Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Shana Burg, author of Laugh with the Moon.  Laugh with the Moon, is a fish-out-of-water story about thirteen-year old Clare, who after the death of her mother, has to travel to the African Jungle with her father for sixty-four days.  The story tells about the life-changing experience Clare has and how she adapts to a new culture, as well as how she helps heal herself and others after more heartbreak.  Kirkus Reviews called Laugh with The Moon, “A vivid work of art .”

First off, I have to say that I really enjoyed this book.

Thank you! I’m so glad to hear it! And thanks for inviting me to the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. I’m attaching some pictures I took in Malawi in case you want to use them.

And here’s a link to the trailer:  http://shanaburg.com/book-trailer-laugh-with-the-moon


Your own history is quite fascinating. I’m sure you’ve been asked this question many times, but for the sake of our readers, how much of your own experience in Malawi has been depicted in this book?


When I went to Malawi, I kept a journal. I referred back to that journal a lot while I wrote Laugh with the Moon. I never ate mphalabungu (caterpillars) or taught my own class of students in a Malawian school like the main character Clare does, but I did visit many schools in the bush and spent time in classrooms interviewing children, teachers, and parents. The characters in Laugh with the Moon are composites of friends I made during my visit and kept in touch with for many years after.



Death seemed to be an ever-present reality in the area. How important to you, was it to show this condition in the book?


Showing that death is everywhere was very important to me. Clare has just lost her mother, and when she’s still at home in Massachusetts, among other things, she worries that she sticks out like a sore thumb among her peers. Then she gets to Malawi and there are kids everywhere whose parents, brothers, and sisters have died. This is the reality of life in one of the poorest countries on earth. And to me, it is shocking.


The life expectancy of a person in Malawi is now 55 years old, while here in the U.S. we can expect to live until our 80s or 90s and beyond. I made three good friends in Malawi, and each one died before they turned 40 years old.


This all sounds depressing, right? So in the face of extreme poverty, it’s amazing to see people who are innovative, resilient, and even joyful, though of course, not all the time.


Your website has a link to an educator’s guide, which was very interesting. I know “message” is a taboo word, but besides wanting to entertain your reader, which you have done, what do you hope your readers get out of this book?


I wanted to show that just because people are poor and might need aid from other countries, that doesn’t mean they need our pity. The Malawians friends I made were stronger in many ways than me, and they had lots to teach me about love and life.

 Besides your travels there, how much research was involved for Laugh with the Moon and how did you come up with the name?


I spent a year studying the Malawian primary education system back when I was in graduate school for public policy in 1996-97. More than a decade later, when I decided to write this book, I knew I needed to update my research and find out how things had changed since I’d visited.


I had two AMAZING research assistants, Felicity Charity Mponda and Lovemore Nkhata, both of whom were living in Malawi cities and answered literally hundreds and hundreds of questions online. Also, Dr. Kevin Bergman of World Altering Medicine who works in Malawi helped me with the medical aspects of the book. And of course, I read books, blog posts, articles, and anything else I could find.



How receptive was your editor to the book?


My editor is Michelle Poploff of Delacorte Press, Random House. She absolutely rocks! I had a two-book deal. When I finished writing my first book A Thousand Never Evers, I wasn’t sure what to write next. She said, “What are you most passionate about?” Instantly, I knew I needed to write about the experiences I’d had in Malawi. She enthusiastically agreed.

What books and authors inspired you?


Alexandra Fuller is an adult author who writes memoirs about growing up in Africa. I love her books. Also, well into writing Laugh with the Moon, I read The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, which is set in Malawi and inspired me to make the final push to finish the revisions. And then to help me understand how girls process the loss of a mother I read an excellent book, Motherless Daughters, by Hope Edelman.


What is your writing routine like?


If only I had one! I work full-time in schools teaching kids about community service, so I squeeze my writing in on nights, vacations, and weekends. Also, I have summers off, so that’s my most productive time.


What are you working on next?


I’m working on a dystopian thriller. Stay tuned…


What advice could you give to aspiring writers?


A few things: First and most importantly, live life and have adventures. Meet people different from yourself. Learn new skills. You can’t just hole up in your room reading and writing all the time, or you won’t have anything to write about. Second of all, keep a journal. This will help you find a voice that is uniquely yours. Third, don’t feel like you need long stretches of undisturbed time in a villa off the coast of Italy to write a novel. You don’t, although it sure would be nice! So long as you are consistently grabbing bits and pieces of time when you can find it, eventually you will produce your masterpiece.


Ok, this will be my staple question and how lucky are you to be the first?? Now, who plays Clare in the movie adaptation?


I love it. Seriously, I’m going to cast an unknown. This year, my son switched to a new school. There is this girl in the school who, I swear, is exactly Clare as I picture her in my mind. I haven’t told this girl because I don’t want to freak her out, but I’m sure once I get the movie deal and I let her know she’s the star, she won’t be too disturbed. I just need the movie deal to come through in the next couple of months, before this girl goes off to high school and gets too old for the part. So readers out there, if you happen to know anyone in Hollywood, please tell them to get a move on already!


Thank you again, Shana and good luck with Laugh with the Moon!

You can catch more interviews with Shana Burg at:

7/17: Mr. Schu Reads

7/17: Sharp Read

7/20: Journey of a Bookseller

7/22: Nerdy Book Club

7/24: From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors

7/25: Read, Write, Reflect

7/26: The Musings of a Book Addict

7/30: The Pirate Tree

7/31: The Pirate Tree

One lucky person will win a copy of this book, by posting a comment about this interview below. The winner will be selected randomly or by who I think uses the best example of Times New Roman font.



  1. tricia  •  Jul 24, 2012 @3:13 pm

    I love the advice to aspiring writers! Thanks for such a thoughtful interview.

    JROSEN Reply:


    It’s always interesting to hear different perspectives about writing. Shana’s advice was defintely helpful.

  2. PragmaticMom  •  Jul 24, 2012 @5:45 pm

    I really like books that show a different culture and this one sounds great! Armchair travel is a great way to experience a new country especially one we don’t typically know much about here in the U.S.

    JROSEN Reply:


    Totally agree. For some, these books will be our only gateway to other places and it is always fun to read about different cultures.

  3. D.Lee Sebree  •  Jul 24, 2012 @6:08 pm

    A thoughtful interview and excellent advice. Sorry I have no movie connections! : ) I look forward to the book, whether I win it or buy it.

    JROSEN Reply:

    @D.Lee Sebree,

    Well, consider yourself officially in the running!

  4. Stacey  •  Jul 24, 2012 @6:23 pm

    Another great interview! In my classroom this year I want to challenge my students to “Read around the world”–thanks for constantly adding new titles to my list.

    JROSEN Reply:


    That’s a great idea. Your students will have a lot of fun with that. Well, other than assigning them all that reading of course.

  5. Betsy Byers  •  Jul 24, 2012 @11:23 pm

    This book looks really good! I definitely want to read it! I especially appreciated Shana’s comment ” in the face of extreme poverty, it’s amazing to see people who are innovative, resilient, and even joyful, though of course, not all the time.”

    JROSEN Reply:

    @Betsy Byers,

    I thought that was a great comment as well and the book really strikes that home.

  6. Sharon K  •  Jul 25, 2012 @8:58 am

    Just read this book this summer as it is a one of our school district’s ‘Battle of the Books” elementary school 40 books. I loved it! So many books have unlikeable characters who keep making the same dumb choices. I enjoyed Clare’s development and the way she longed for and found a friend.
    I had read how she researched and was very impressed with that. We get to chose one book to do a book talk on for our lit club, and this would be a great one – if it already isn’t chosen!!

    JROSEN Reply:

    @Sharon K,

    I agree. Clare showed a lot of development and growth here. It would be a perfect choice for your book talk. Use your influence to make it happen! :)

  7. Shana  •  Jul 26, 2012 @1:44 pm

    I so appreciate the comments. Would love to hear what your students think of Clare’s journey! Jonathan and Mixed Up Files, thanks for having me!


    JROSEN Reply:


    It was a lot of fun and our pleasure.

    Thanks again, Shana!