DESERT GIRL, MONSOON BOY publishes today!

Cover of Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy by Tara Dairman and Archana SreenivasanToday is the day that Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy, illustrated magnificently by Archana Sreenivasan and written by me, releases into the world. It is intended for readers aged 4-8 (but, of course, readers older and younger than that are very welcome).

It is the first picture book I’ve written, and the best-reviewed book yet of my career, with two starred reviews so far and a glowing in-depth write-up by top children’s librarian Elizabeth Bird.

To me this only proves the great value (and joy!) of collaborating artistically with others. I’ve been so lucky to work on this book with so many talented, caring, and detail-oriented people over the past three years: the vastly gifted Archana, the team at Putnam/Penguin Random House–including editor Susan Kochan, designers Eileen Savage and Nicole Rheingans, and Executive Art Director Cecilia Yung–and the team at LPPS (read more about them below) that provided expert feedback on the book. Thank you all! And thank you also to my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, and Archana’s agent, Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, for your behind-the-scenes work in bringing us all together for this project.

Interior illustration 1 from Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy by Tara Dairman and Archana Sreenivasan

illustration by Archana Sreenivasan

To have a book come out during this strange and unprecedented era of global pandemic, is, of course, something none of us anticipated. There will be no bookstore launch parties, book signings, or in-person library story hours. But this is a book about people facing challenges—facing disaster, even—and coming out on the other side. If it finds its way into your home, I hope that it opens the door for discussion and reflection on the many trials we humans face, no matter where we live or what traditions or lifestyles we embrace.

Here is some more info about Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy:

Extreme weather affects two children’s lives in very different ways and shows how the power of nature can bring us together.

One girl. One boy. Their lives couldn’t be more different. While she turns her shoulder to sandstorms and blistering winds, he cuffs his pants when heavy rains begin to fall. As the weather becomes more severe, their families and animals must flee to safety–and their destination shows that they might be more alike than they seem. The journeys of these two children experiencing weather extremes in India highlight the power of nature and the resilience of the human spirit.

Buy your copy from…

Your local independent bookstore: find one here

Bookshop.org (which supports independent bookstores)

Or your favorite national or online retailer:

Penguin Random House * Powell’s * BAM * B&N * Amazon *  Indigo (Canada) * Book Depository (International)

illustration 2 from Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy by Tara Dairman and Archana Sreenivasan

illustration by Archana Sreenivasan

To celebrate release day, I am making a donation to Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan (LPPS), an organization that supports pastoralists in India like those featured in Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy. And I plan to continue to donate an ongoing portion of my royalties to organizations that do similar work in terms of both environmental and cultural sustainability worldwide. You can learn more about organizations that do this kind of work at pastoralpeoples.org/partners.

Thank you, friends, as always, for your support. I hope you will keep staying home if your work allows, keep reading, and be well.

 

 

 

#FCSDay and The Food Side of Things

ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman coverPeople who’ve read my novel All Four Stars and its sequels often ask me how I became a writer. Sometimes they also want to know where my book ideas come from. (Ha, if only I knew! I’d go back and grab a few more.)

But recently, a friend asked a different question: How did I get interested in “the food side of things”? Cooking, and eating adventurously, play a huge role in my books—and I bet a lot of readers assume that (like my foodie heroine, Gladys), I’ve been passionate about food since childhood. But they’d be wrong about that.

I don’t talk about my “foodie awakening” as much as I should. But here goes. Though I wasn’t like Gladys as a kid, my parents were in some ways like her parents. They weren’t cooks. They didn’t own any cookbooks, or clip recipes from magazines. And neither of them had been taught to cook when they were younger. It was a skill that had, between generations, slipped out of use in our family.

Stars of SummerAs a result, the kitchen was like a foreign country to them—and a kind of scary one. Sharp knives could cut you! The stove burned! They didn’t have experience using these tools, so they only saw the dangers. The microwave seemed safe enough, so they cooked pretty much anything they could in it (and some things that you probably shouldn’t). And when our freezer ran low on microwaveable meals, we ate cereal or got takeout.

So perhaps not surprisingly, I was not an adventurous eater when I was a kid. (I was a lot more like Parm in my books than like Gladys!) I hadn’t been exposed to a wide range of good-tasting food, so I didn’t like much of it. Finally, in high school, I started trying new cuisines, thanks to a club advisor who made it his mission to blow our minds with Indian, Ethiopian, Malaysian, and Japanese food.

STARS SO SWEET by Tara DairmanBut it wasn’t until much later—when I was a college student, on the verge of living on my own—that I took a hard look at my future as an eater. I could go the way of my parents, relying on frozen-meal companies and fast-food joints to feed me for the rest of my life, or I could roll up my sleeves and learn how to cook.

I bought a copy of Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, asked for a food processor for my birthday, and never looked back.

Those first days of cooking, on break from school at my parents’ house, were slow and a little painful—especially when I’d promised everyone dinner at 7, only to get it on the table at 9. But with practice, I grew more confident, and the results grew more delicious. My parents may not have cooked much for me, but they let me cook for them, and soon we were sitting around the table together, enjoying a homemade meal. I had turned a pile of raw ingredients into something nourishing for the people I loved—and I was truly shocked at how powerful that made me feel.

So, that’s my story about “the food side of things.” I kept enjoying new cuisines and making food for others. I finally got brave enough to attempt my dream of writing a novel, and I wanted to make my newfound passion for food a part of it. When I got the idea to write about a young girl whose parents ban her from the kitchen after a cooking mishap—a girl whose dream is to become a restaurant critic—I knew I’d struck gold.

When I meet readers today, some tell me that my books have nudged them to try a recipe out for themselves. It’s not often that we fiction writers get to hear about our stories affecting people’s real lives. But knowing that Gladys’s foodie adventures have inspired kids to develop a skill that I know will serve them—and others around them—for the rest of their days…well, I can’t help but weep salty little tears of happiness.

What “Dining In” looks like for me these days

Saturday, December 3, is #FCSDay, when tens of thousands of people commit to “dining in” with family and friends. To celebrate, the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (AAFCS)—with support from my publisher, Penguin—will be giving away several sets of the All Four Stars trilogy to participants as prizes. To learn more and sign up to “Dine In,” visit aafcs.org/FCSDay, and follow the #FCSDay and #healthyfamselfie hashtags on social media.

 

Creative Spaces!

SWEET blog button2Final blog tour stop!

Yes, the Stars So Sweet blog tour is wrapping up, and today I’m at Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s blog, showing everyone where the writing magic (and, um, laundry) happens in my Creative Spaces interview.

This is also your last chance to win a full set of the All Four Stars series!

(Also, if you haven’t read Jennifer’s NY Times-bestselling MG novel Book Scavenger, what are you waiting for??)

Though the virtual tour is ending, my real-life tour rolls on–I’ll be in Cedarhurst, NY today, Larchmont, NY tomorrow, and Colorado next week! Check out my events page for the details.

Happy release day, Stars So Sweet!

RSTARS SO SWEET by Tara Dairmanelease day is here, and the All Four Stars trilogy is complete. Stars So Sweet, the concluding volume of the series, is now out in the world! I’ll be celebrating tonight at Books of Wonder in NYC–I hope you’ll join me if you’re in the area.

You can find a link with info about that event, and all my upcoming appearances in the New York, Washington DC, and Denver areas, right here. (*Please note that the Denver event location has changed to Aspen Grove/Littleton.)

As Gladys might describe it, coming to the end of the series that made me an author is like a strong cup of tea with a splash of honey–bitter and sweet.

Two Julys ago, only a handful of people had read about Gladys Gatsby and her foodie shenanigans. Now, her stories have reached thousands of readers, young and old, all over the world.

Two Julys ago, I wondered if anyone beyond family and friends would find my writing worth reading. This year, I’m set to teach writing workshops at my first SCBWI conference and to present to students at my first book festival.

Two Julys ago, I wondered whether All Four Stars would sell enough copies to convince my publisher to put out a sequel. This year, booksellers have been tweeting me for months about their young patrons asking for the third volume.

What an honor it’s been to work with my brilliant editors, become involved in the kidlit community, and bring Gladys’s stories to readers! I hope that you enjoy the conclusion of her story as much as I’ve enjoyed writing each book in this series.

The STARS SO SWEET blog tour kicks off!

SWEET blog button2After so many years writing about Gladys (I started the first draft of All Four Stars in 2005!), it’s hard to believe that the final volume of her adventures will hit the shelves in less than two weeks.

But Stars So Sweet is coming, and a bunch of terrific book and food bloggers are on hand to help celebrate. The official blog tour kicks off today over at The Daily Dahlia with a guest post that’s very important to me. I hope you’ll check it out.

The series’s publisher, Penguin Books for Young Readers, is also generously providing several sets of ALL THREE Gladys Gatsby books as prizes for blog tour commenters, so definitely check out the tour posts over the next few weeks if you’d like to enter. (Even if you already own the books, they’d make a great gift for a local school or library!) I’ll be linking to tour posts here as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Read deliciously!

Všechny čtyři hvězdicky (All Four Stars in Czech!)

Czech it out (yuk, yuk): Author copies of the Czech translation of All Four Stars–Všechny čtyři hvězdicky–arrived on my doorstep this week!

Všechny čtyři hvězdicky - All Four Stars in Czech!

Všechny čtyři hvězdicky – All Four Stars in Czech!

The book was published by Albatros in 2016, with a new cover by Eva Chupíková. The cover was a glorious surprise to me, because the last I heard, the publisher was planning to use the American art. What a treat to see a different artist’s interpretation of my beloved Gladys! A few friends have commented that she has an “Amelie” vibe, which I love. You can see more of Eva Chupíková’s book covers here.

The translation was done by Alžbĕta Kalinová, and I’ve already heard from one Czech reader that it is excellent.

And the book itself is beautiful. It’s paper-over-board (basically, hardcover without a dust jacket), which is one of my favorite formats, and it even comes with sewn-in ribbon bookmark.

In short, Albatros did an amazing job. Thank you to them, and to the foreign rights team at Penguin! Here’s hoping Czech readers enjoy Gladys’s adventures as much as I’ve enjoyed perusing this new edition.

Dobrou chuť!

 

A whole new format for Gladys in 2016!

All Three CoversAs this year draws to a close, I’m thrilled to share one more very nice piece of news for the All Four Stars series…

THERE WILL BE AUDIOBOOKS!

My publisher, Penguin, has licensed audio rights to Ideal Audiobooks for All Four Stars, The Stars of Summerand Stars So SweetI don’t have all of the details yet, but I believe that they will all be recorded and released in 2016.

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On a personal note, I love listening to audiobooks, so this is a dream come true/author bucket list item for me. On a more practical note, I love that this new format will give kids with learning differences who need or prefer to listen to books access to Gladys’s adventures. And I think it’s great that families and groups of friends will be able to listen together if they want to, too.

I’ll share more news about the audiobooks here when I have it. In the meantime, dear readers, I hope that you’re having a very happy holiday season. This news has certainly made mine a little sweeter.

We’ve got winners!

Thanks so much to everyone who helped celebrate the cover and title reveal for Stars So Sweetthe third volume in the All Four Stars series. Your enthusiastic comments, Tweets, Facebook posts, and e-mails really made this author’s week!

(As did the package I received in the mail yesterday from my publisher, containing these beauties. Great timing, because now I can ship two off to the winners right away!)

ARCs of STARS SO SWEET by Tara Dairman

 

So now, without further ado, the two randomly selected winners of signed advance copies of Stars So Sweet are… jpetroroy and LMcCJ! Congratulations, and read deliciously!

I wish that I had enough advance copies to share with everyone who wants to read them. Rest assured that there will be some more giveaways as the publication date gets closer, and I’ll make sure to post about them here and on my Twitter and Facebook pages.

In the meantime, here’s a list of some of my favorite recent middle-grade reads. If you read one of these books and enjoy it, make sure to let me know!