Cici Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker by Kristina Springer

We’re pleased to welcome author Kristina Springer to the Mixed-Up Files today. She’s the author of several books, both middle grade and young adult. Her newest title, Cici Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker, released on April 19. We’re giving away one copy — info at the end of the post!

Cici is the cool, funny yoga girl that all the middle school girls rely on for advice. But after summer break, Cici is disconcerted when she sees that her best friend Aggie has grown up a little faster than she has. When she helps Aggie with advice on her crush, Drew, by going online and doing all the talking as if she’s Aggie, Cici starts crushing on him herself. And for the first time in her life, Cici Reno doesn’t have a clue.

Cici Reno SpringerQ: Welcome, Kristina! Tell us about your inspiration for Cici Reno and her story.

A: My first spark of inspiration for Cici (and the book itself!) happened in yoga class one day. We had this really cool, laid back teacher that day and I remember thinking, I bet her kids are so cool. Then it hit me to write a book about a cool yoga kid whose mom owned a yoga studio. I also drew inspiration from the Cyrano de Bergerac play as well as my own foray into middle school matchmaking in 7th grade. Of course back then we didn’t have the Internet so it was more three-way calling type of stuff.

Q: There are Twitter feeds and yoga poses interspersed through the book. How fun! Are you an avid Tweeter and/or yoga enthusiast?

A: I do love Twitter! I’m @TinaSpringer on there. And I love yoga! I first tried a yoga class one day a few years ago and fell in love with it. It really does make me feel tons better physically and calms down my racing mind. I introduced it to my two daughters (9 and 11) and they love it too and take classes with me.

Q: Cici likes to give relationship advice to her friends. Is this something you do as well? Or did when you were younger?

A: Oh yes. I loved giving advice to friends in school. I don’t think I was nearly as good at it back then as Cici though. I’m much better at it today. My four kids (7, 9, 11, and 13) are always running their school dramas by me and I do my best to give good advice.

KSpringer_ColorQ: Do you have a favorite character or moment from the book?

A: Yes! Cici is definitely my favorite and I don’t want to give away too much but I LOVE the hockey rink scene in Chapter 27.

Q: What was middle school like for you? Do you draw on your own experiences when you write?

A: Middle school was fun! I loved hanging out with my friends. I was in band (flute) and chorus and I worked on the school newspaper. And just like how Cici and her BFF Aggie spend lots of time at Cici’s older brother’s hockey games, I spent most weekends at my older brother’s soccer games. Which meant I was forever crushing on one soccer player or another. And a giant YES on the second question. I constantly draw from my middle school experiences for my books.

Q: You’re also the author of two YA novels, as well as the “Just Your Average…” series. What are you working on now?

A: I just finished outlining book 2 in the Yoga Girl series and I’ve written the first few chapters.

Q: You live in a Chicago suburb and often like to use a Chicago area setting in your novels. Have you always lived in the Chicago area?

A: Yes, except for when I attended Illinois State University — then I went a couple of hours south.

Q: Tell us about your writing routine. Do you outline? How do you get your ideas? Do you know how a story will end when you start to write?

A: I tend to be able to see the beginning and end of a book right away. So I always kinda know where I want to go with it. With this book I didn’t make a strict outline ahead of time but I would jot down scenes as I thought of them and throw all those notes into a Word file. Then as I wrote the book I’d read through all my notes for ideas on where I wanted to go with each chapter and loosely organized it there. The last thing I did was figure out the yoga poses that Cici would Tweet at the beginning of each chapter because I wanted the pose to help with a situation that happened in that chapter. As for how I get my ideas, sometimes it’s a memory from when I was in school that I spin into something else and sometimes a setting will spark an idea like being in the yoga studio.

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Back cover of Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker

Q: If you could eat lunch with anyone, would would it be and what would you eat?

A: I never got to meet my maternal grandmother so I’d like to have lunch with her and I’d eat any yummy Italian dish she cooked.

Q: Now for some fun stuff. What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? Where would we find you on a Sunday afternoon? And if Cici Reno became a movie, who would play her?

A: Cookie Dough. On Sunday afternoons, I’m either chilling at home with the family or at a family function. We have a big family so something is always going on! A movie, hmmm. Probably someone who looks like Rowan Blanchard from Girl Meets World but a whole lot shorter.

Thank you Kristina for joining us today! We are offering a GIVEAWAY of one hardcover book (U.S. and Canada residents only). Please comment below to be entered. Namaste!

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of the forthcoming Makers Vs. Fakers, fall 2017 from Aladdin Books, as well as The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold, both from Wendy Lamb Books. Visit her at micheleweberhurwitz.com.

How do I find out about new books to read?

Unknown-1How do I find out about new books to read? Once upon a time, when I was in graduate school at Hollins University Children’s Literature Program, it was through the required reading lists. Sometimes those lists were, err, on the long side. Both the lists and the length of the novels. So it could be a full-time job getting through some of them, especially some of the 19th century books like The Wide Wide World by Susan Warner—608 pages of the smallest print imaginable. The edition I read had had me wanting to find my magnifying glass. But it was well worth the effort.

Post graduate school, I found my books as a reviewer. For several years, I reviewed children’s books for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The book editor would call me up and assign me a particular book, mail it to me, and I’d send him a review a couple of weeks later. I discovered many delightful middle grade books this way. One that comes to mind is Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye. It was a self-published fantasy about a mouse watchmaker who enjoys a fantastic adventure.

The book went on to be published by Penguin Putnam, and there were three sequels. I also reviewed books for 323152Children’s Literature, and I would be sent five books a month and through that relationship I was introduced to many books, including the work of Gail Carson Levine.

These days I have a tendency to find my books through word-of-mouth. Often when I attend Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators conferences, I’ll take the opportunity to purchase and read faculty books. I remember going to a conference and Cynthia Lord speak, and running to be first in line to grab Rules, which went on to win the Newbery Honor.

Or sometimes I will find out about at out about a book from social media. Just the other day, I learned about the release of Christina Springer’s newest middle grade novel Cici Reno #middleschoolmatchmaker. I can’t wait to read it since it’s an update of the Cyrano story. Plus, Christina’s middle grade books are so much fun to read. And the good news, you will be able to read an interview with Christina right here on April 27th.

And naturally, there’s discovering new reads from blogs, just like ours. Our own Mixed-Up Files site has plenty of book lists (click on “book lists” at the top of the page), as well as a list of sites that review middle grade books

There’s also just old fashion word-of-mouth were a friend or a new friend will tell me about a book. So feel free to tell me about your book. I’m all ears!

Hillary Homzie is the author of the newly released Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster MIX 2016), The Hot List (Simon & Schuster MIX 2011) and Things Are Gonna Be Ugly (Simon & Schuster, 2009). She can be found at hillaryhomzie.com and on her Facebook page.

Happy Earth Day! Green Earth Book Award Winners Announced

Happy Earth Day!

My father was the organizer of our town’s Earth Day celebration the first year it was held in 1970, so it holds a very dear place in my heart. I was smack dab in the middle, too, at 10 years old. With that in mind, here is a news release from The Nature Generation. I wish these books had been available for 10-year-old me:

April 22, 2016 — The Nature Generation, a nonprofit that inspires environmental stewardship, announced today the national 2016 Green Earth Book Award winners. The literature award is recognition of authors and illustrators whose books best inspire young readers to care for the environment.  Second graders from Culbert Elementary School helped unveil the winners during a nature field trip at the Chapman DeMary Trail in Purcellville, Va.

 “This year’s Green Earth Book Award winners are particularly poignant, introducing young readers to the vulnerabilities of humanity in terms of our connection to the natural world.  In these winning books, the adversity and  the struggles to make sense out of life lead to hope and beauty and lay the foundation for stories that inspire us to greatness. They will motivate young readers to view their relationship with nature differently, and to become future stewards of the natural world we live in,” said lead review panelist Dr. Ernie Bond, professor at Salisbury University and leading specialist in children’s and young adult literature.

 Picture Book

The Stranded Whale, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Melanie Cataldo (Candlewick Press)

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Honor winners:

Crane Boy, written by Diana Cohn and  illustrated by Youme (Cinco Puntos Press)

The Seeds of Friendship,  written and illustrated by Michael Foreman (Candlewick Press)

Young Adult Fiction

The Beast of Cretacea, written by Todd Strasser (Candlewick Press)

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Children’s Fiction

The Thing About Jellyfish, written by Ali Benjamin (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

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Honor winners:

Sydney & Simon Go Green!, written by Paul A. Reynolds and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (Charlesbridge)

The Order of the Trees, by Katy Farber (Green Writers Press)

Children’s Nonfiction

Mission: Sea Turtle Rescue, written by Karen Romano Young and Daniel Raven-Ellison (National Geographic Society)

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Honor winners:

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (Millbrook Press)

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, written by Anita Silvey (National Geographic Society)