3rd and 4th grade heard Roshani Chokshi and J.C. Cervantes speak about their books. Both authors publish their book series under the Rick Riordan Presents imprint with Disney publishing. If you don't know what that means, all the books under this imprint are going to be mythology-based adventures books that appeal to middle grades kids, much like Riordan's Percy Jackson books. In addition, they look for books that are about under-represented cultures and backgrounds and tell stories of their culture and heritage. Roshani's series is about a Hindu girl, Aru Shah, who accidentally releases a destruction demon on the world. She goes on a quest to find the descendants to the Pandava brothers of Hindu legend to stop this demon. Jenn's series is based on Maya culture, with a young boy, Zane, who is chosen to save the world from the Maya god of death. What I didn't realize about the books under this imprint is that Rick Riordan is an active editor and mentor to all the authors!
Roshani and Jenn were very entertaining and funny, telling stories about their own pets to the delight of the students. Roshani told the story of how the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha ended up with an actual elephant head. Of course the story involved a beheading, again to the delight of all the students. Both authors discussed that they were inspired to write based on family stories and culture.
During the book signing, they chatted with the students, making personal connections and making them laugh. I heard from a parent that they even remembered some of the students by name at the Book Festival the next day. We truly enjoyed meeting both authors, and I highly recommend both series to all students! Roshani has two books in her series out currently: Aru Shah and the End of Time, Aru Shah and the Song of Death. Cervantes also has two books in her series out: The Storm Runner and The Fire Keeper.
Kelly Barnhill had some fascinating insights into her writing process. One of the students asked where she gets her ideas from, and my favorite was how she came up with her novel, The Witch's Boy. She was hiking with her son when he was just a little kid and he got really tired, wanting to be carried. In an effort to distract him so she wouldn't have to carry him uphill for the next few miles, she asked him to come up with 3 things and she would turn them into a story. By the time they reached the car she realized she had started a new novel.
When asked about The Girl Who Drank the Moon, she said her goal was to write a book with a false narrative. Barnhill seems very influenced by her sense of right and wrong, by an internal activist, if you will. She said she sees people convincing themselves of stories that are simply not true to justify certain behaviors, and out of that grew this fantasy novel that is based about a false narrative. Of course, she said she also really wanted to write a book with a tiny dragon (she loves dragons!) and a swamp monster poet. Who wouldn't?! We were all rather stunned to learn that she had written over 100 drafts of this book before it was published. That is a ton of editing and revising!