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Kids' Q&A

Claire Dean

Describe your latest project.
Girlwood was written for my daughter. As she headed to junior high, I hoped to pass down some of what I'd learned about nature's amazing ability to heal us and the strength and resilience of women and girls. Though we all grow up, we don't have to lose our belief in magic and love of the natural world, or our faith that everything will turn out well.

In Girlwood, a young girl struggles with her sister's disappearance and flees to nature and the safety of a sanctuary called Girlwood. Polly Greene has always been considered strange: a girl who can see a person's true colors; a 13-year-old more comfortable foraging in the woods with her eccentric grandmother than hanging out with friends. But all that is about to change when Polly's older sister, Bree, vanishes into the woods.

The only one who believes Bree can survive, Polly begins to leave food in the woods for her sister and finds a hidden grove where she believes Bree is burning a fire each night. Along with an odd but endearing group of friends, Polly clings to the hope that she can see her sister through the harsh, snowy winter. And, in the process, she discovers the cruelty, bounty and magic of the woods.

Will Polly save her sister? And even if she does, will Girlwood survive?

  1. Girlwood


    Claire Dean
    "Dean's first YA novel feels of-the-moment with its hopeful environmentalist message....[A] fast-paced story and sympathetic characters that eco-minded readers will appreciate." Publishers Weekly

    "[An] intriguing first novel....Dean's celebration of the earthy, living magic...will lure YAs, who may be especially fascinated by the deepened experience of the world Polly gleans from her ability to glimpse others auras." Booklist

What is your favorite literary first line?
My favorite first line would have to be from J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

How can you not love that? It tells you everything you need to know about Holden Caulfield in one gloriously revealing sentence.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands?
One of the great parts of writing young adult novels is that my young adult children always have book recommendations for me. After I watched my daughter devour East by Edith Pattou, I had to read it, while my son whizzed through the Underland Chronicles, with me just a book or two behind him. It's wonderful to be able to discuss great books at the dinner table, but I'll admit that my children have trouble not giving away the endings!

What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
I have to answer this one, even if it's embarrassing. It's Apple Jacks, I'm afraid. Or maybe Fruit Loops. I've never lost my sweet tooth.

What is your idea of bliss?
For me, bliss is simplicity: a warm fire, cool nights, the sound of crickets, a long walk, my children's laughter, my husband's smile, a crusty loaf of bread I baked myself, blue skies, autumn leaves, the smell of pine, slipping under the blankets after a long day.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Okay, this is weird because I have a real fear of flying now and am quite content to stick close to home, but I wanted to be a flight attendant. No one who knows me now can believe this, but it's true. I used to fly to my dad's house in Arizona twice a year, and the thought of zipping all over the world and being put up in hotels seemed very glamorous to me. Alas, there weren't very many women pilots at the time, so it never occurred to me that I could actually fly the plane. It's amazing how different my dreams are now, almost as if I became the opposite of who I thought I'd be. If it's possible for me to drive instead of fly, I'll do it, and preferably I'll walk. I know people who want to travel all over the world, and I think that's wonderful, but for me, the best vacation is one in a natural environment, usually in the mountains, and not too far from home.

Why do you write books for kids?
I only recently switched from writing for adults to writing for kids, and my one regret is that I didn't do it sooner. Even when I wrote adult fiction, my teenage characters stole center stage. They were better written and more interesting than anyone over the age of 18! There is such passion, curiosity and hopefulness in children that I can't help but feel energized when I sit down to create the ones in my books. Children are open to anything; their boundaries of what can and can't be are more fluid; they haven't closed themselves off from magic and wonder; they are more prone to joy. Even the people who work in children's fiction seem more hopeful and excited, so I doubt I would ever go back to writing books for adults.

Tell us about your pets.
I'm a dog person. When my husband I got married, we had a black Labrador named Cleo. At the time, we lived up in the mountains, and she owned our four acres, keeping us safe from the evils of big trucks and chipmunks. She was a great old dog, incredibly gentle when our children were born, and a true protector. After she died, I didn't think I'd ever be ready to have another dog, but about a year later, on a whim, I went to see a new litter of black Labs. Ten minutes later, I was bringing home our new baby, Luna the Lunatic. Unlike Cleo, she's hyper, goofy and part lizard, licking anything and everything in sight. One of my greatest joys is taking her hiking and watching her go into what we call "run mode." She'll charge around in circles, full speed, until she's put herself into some kind of dizzy, doggie bliss. We say we'll never get another dog after Luna, but you never know.

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Claire Dean writes from a bright green house behind an ever-growing garden in Idaho. She was inspired to write Girlwood for her daughter, who asked for a story about good stuff. "When I asked her what that meant, she said, 'You know, about hope and magic and fairies and girls.' Good stuff, indeed." Next up is a story for the author's son. To learn more about Girlwood and to find out what color aura you have, visit Claire Dean at spacer

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